Fascism and the free press

Let’s take a look at a couple of concurrent things …

First: Many news organizations have fought back against Trump’s anti-journalist incitements. 

A Poynter roundup opened with a good statement of purpose. Yes, the Trumpistas will simply yell and scream bloody murder. But this is an important reminder for everyone else, says Miami Herald editorial page editor Nancy Ancrum.

“This initiative is not designed to change the minds of the most rabid Trump supporters,” Ancrum tells me, hours before deadline Wednesday. “This is for people who take the First Amendment for granted, who must be more engaged … no matter where they fall on the political spectrum.”

The Denver Post had a great first few paragraphs:

Journalists in The Denver Post newsroom spend their days in pursuit of the truth.

There’s no political filter or agenda belying their printed words, just a desire to inform the public.

It’s true that sometimes a news story leaves much to be desired. Larry Bailey recently told us he has been a longtime subscriber to The Post but feels there is a slant against Trump. “If you haven’t told the whole truth then you haven’t told the truth,” he said.

Bailey reached out to The Post when he learned this board was participating in a nationwide campaign among more than 200 editorial boards to publish editorials Thursday decrying Trump’s attack on the press.

He’s right — errors of omission do occur. Sometimes there’s simply not space to print all the news or time to get all the reporting done. And yes, sometimes stories or facts are bypassed due to the natural bias that everyone carries with them. Journalists are fallible, but the reporters and editors who work to bring you your news are not conspiring to misinform.

And they followed up with a terrific call to action …

We are also encouraging our readers to point it out when we are missing the mark of telling “the whole truth.” We are listening and capable of self reflection.

Put a pin in that. The argument here is not that the media are infallible. From The Providence Journal:

This is not to say that the news media have been perfect. Given the need for ratings and clicks, some in the media have seemed more interested in fueling public hysteria and advancing story lines than in calmly and accurately presenting both sides.

Journalists are under a ton of pressure right now, and that would be true even if Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders or Marco Rubio or Jill Stein had been elected president. Some news organizations have responded better than others. Clickbait-ism is on the rise. We could blame readers who click on it. But we also need to do better.

Generally, though, journalists do indeed try. We make honest corrections.

To see dishonest corrections, look to … you guessed it … Fox.

We’ll start with the funny part:

Yeah, you’ve been pwned, Person Who’s Not Yet Ann Coulter or Laura Ingraham or Tomi Lahren. So how do you respond?

“I was never implying that conditions in Denmark were similar in any way to the current tragedy on the ground there in Venezuela,” she said, explaining that the whole point of her segment was to show that “socialism is not the way.”

I know, I’ve drifted into opinion pieces here rather than actual news. But her selective defense — “oh, I was just saying this, and these other sources agree with me” — isn’t just a weak opinion. It’s inaccurate. It’s misleading. Because she insinuates that the “Denmark = Venezuela” was the only part of her alleged argument that our Danish friend tore to shreds. And that’s simply not true.

(Watch her clip if you dare.)

As we know, Fox isn’t “news” in any sense. Nor is its analysis fair or balanced. (“Balance” is actually overrated — if one side is lying and the other isn’t the “fair” thing to do is to say so.) It’s propaganda, and it shares its attitude with …

Second: Overlooked in Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ tortured “I can’t guarantee the president didn’t use the N-word” comments (see The Daily Show for a definitive take on that) was her outright lie about African-American jobs under Obama and Trump.

This is yet another case in which the lie is so ridiculous — and so unnecessary! And as Slate points out, her clarification simply digs things deeper.

Third: The crusade against the media isn’t even all of Trump’s anti-fact activity.

Consider the security-clearance revocation of former CIA director John Brennan, which probably backfired because Brennan immediately went on full blast in the New York Times on Trump-Russia collusion.

The good news here is that the business community, traditionally the GOP stronghold, is paying attention …

To wrap up, consider who led this “Free Press” effort.

The Boston Globe.

Which led an effort to shine a light on abuse in the Catholic Church.

Which has been shown, time and time again, to be necessary and eternally timely.

Demand more from journalists. Always.

Then make sure you’re on their side in the never-ending battle against authoritarianism.

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