Why should Meet The Press in 2017 be any different than it has been for over a decade now? The man who never wants to anger his guests by holding their feet to the fire, Chuck Todd, is as deferential as ever to people who sanitize news like the WSJ's Gerard Baker, the editor of the Rupert Murdoch-owned paper.
When Donald Trump says things that are undoubtedly lies, not even just hyperbole, Mr. Baker is of the opinion that calling a lie a lie will alienate readers, as if "readers" are also Trump supporters. You are also forbidden to have any controversial opinions, no matter how factual you are, because certain people don't like the truth. Being honest in a way they perceive as derogatory will cause them not to 'trust' you.
Merriam Webster defines the noun lie as: something untrue that is said or written to deceive someone. Gerard Baker believes that the entire Birther nonsense should be labeled as proven false, but you can't say it's a lie? Saying President Obama was not born in the U.S. with no evidence is something the reader or viewer should decide is a lie or not, even if it is 100% proven to be a LIE. This sounds like the ultimate euphemism issued by a 'Nanny State' indeed.
BAKER: It's about trust. If our readers see that you're saying scathing things about Donald Trump on Twitter or they hear you on TV saying things in a commentary way that appear to be very critical and hostile to Donald Trump, they're not going to trust what you write.
Even when you're writing, absolutely write fairly, you report fairly. But if they think that you are coming from a position, they're not going to trust you. So I was very concerned that we be seen to be fair.
Of course, the definition of what he thinks is fair shouldn't be up for debate, but we are living in the post-factual Trump world now, right? Baker believes that if you are brutally honest and call a lie a lie, when there are people who don't want to hear the truth, you too will lose credibility and their trust. Isn't that the equivalent of too much 'political correctness' or the dreaded 'Nanny State,' they claim exists only on the Democratic side? They can't see that the idea of sterilizing the news to make the ignorant self-loathing voters happy is a form of coddling those who can't handle the truth? Obviously not.
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TODD: The issue of facts. We don't -- people always say, "You've got to fact check, you've got to fact check." There isn't an agreement on what the facts are. And this is yet another challenge for you and everybody here. Do you feel comfortable saying so and so lied? You know, if somebody says just an outright falsehood, do you say the word, "lie"? Is that important to start putting in reporting, or not?
GERARD BAKER: You know it's a good -- I'd be careful about using the word, "lie." "Lie" implies much more than just saying something that's false. It implies a deliberate intent to mislead. I think it's perfectly -- when Donald Trump says thousands of people were on the rooftops of New Jersey on 9/11 celebrating, thousands of Muslims were there celebrating, I think it's right to investigate that claim, to report what we found, which is that nobody found any evidence of that whatsoever, and to say that.
I think it's then up to the reader to make up their own mind to say, "This is what Donald Trump says. This is what a reliable, trustworthy news organization reports. And you know what? I don't think that's true." I think if you start ascribing a moral intent, as it were, to someone by saying that they've lied, I think you run the risk that you look like you are, like you're not being objective.
And I do think also it applies -- this is happening all the time now, people are looking at Donald Trump's saying and saying, "This is false. It's a false claim." I think people say, "Well, you know what? Hillary Clinton said a lot of things that were false." I don't recall the press being quite so concerned about saying that she lied in headlines or in stories like that.
Oh, thanks Gerard. We almost went into the forbidden realm of finally calling out the liars in the GOP, as usual, and that is verboten. Both sides, I say, both sides are equal dammit! I almost forgot, the media's manufactured hoaxes and lies about Hillary Clinton deserve equal merit, and disproportionately higher condemnation, so what if the truth indicated otherwise? So what if we've now got a man with the IQ of dandelion greens as the POTUS? As long as these returning champions come back every Sunday, it's okay to sugar coat lies as something the consumer decides is true or false, because you gotta get those advertising dollars.
Thanks to the legitimizing of a fallacy-driven agenda that emanates from the Tweets of a crazed megalomaniac, we now have an obfuscation of the truth in fear it will be labeled 'fake news.' Thanks to this failure to call a lie exactly what it is, Trump's supporters believe the most outlandish fallacies to be true and by golly, no one will convince them of the facts without being labeled something awful, like 'educated' or 'intellectual elitist' or a 'thinker.'
Trump supporters are also likely to ascribe to any number of falsehoods: 67 percent of Trump voters think that unemployment increased during the Obama administration (it decreased), and 39 percent think the stock market went down during Obama’s time in office (it went up). Thirteen percent believe in Pizzagate, the bizarre conspiracy theory that alleges that Hillary Clinton has ties to a child sex trafficking ring run out of a local DC pizzeria (there is absolutely zero credible evidence that the pizzeria is anything but a pizzeria).
Some of the more radical lies these people believe to be true include the idiotic notion that the election was wrought with voter fraud. They don't see the danger in believing that Russia had nothing to do with the hacks in our election or that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. Now we'll simply let Russia decide our fate. Why not abandon science while we're at it? Climate change attributed to the actions of human beings is something we should deny, and frankly who cares if the sea level rises and puts large coastal cities under water. Just don't call lies what they are.
Unquestionable loyalty given to those who deserve no trust whatsoever is what creates autocratic tyrants. History has shown that too many times. The press should be able to portray the truth without worrying about hurting people's feelings. Lord knows they didn't fear any loss of revenue when they purported the many Clinton rumors to be factual and skewed public opinion in a very dangerous way. But then again, the media has treated Clinton with a disgusting double standard.
The Daily Kos sums it up perfectly here:
It is incomprehensible that so many Americans can be so plainly and dangerously ill-informed. It doesn't bode well for 2017 and beyond as the Trump administration begins to put its imprimatur on the country. But this epidemic of ignorance was not accidental. It was a deliberate act of disinformation by Trump and the Republican Party. And the media bears its share of responsibility for putting ratings and profit before journalistic ethics.
Sadly, they will continue this delusion as long as it brings in revenue. Long gone are the days where Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley would debate without fear of offending people with the truth, and calling a lie out for what it is.