With Donald Trump’s Electoral College victory on December 19, the last hurdle to his inauguration as the 45th president of the United States has been cleared. After protests and riots and chants of “He’s not my president,” things should start to settle down–well, maybe.
The Electoral College vote came despite demonstrations appealing to the electors to “vote their conscience” and refuse to cast their ballots for Trump.
They even ignored a video made by very famous folk like Martin Sheen, Debra Messing, and other Hollywood sages. These celebrity multi-millionaires pleaded passionately with the Electoral College to reject another celebrity multi-millionaire in favor of their preferred celebrity multi-millionaire.
It seems, at least to me, that those alarmed and depressed intellectuals, Nobel laureates, and doctors of economics – like Lady Gaga, for example – were all very sincere.
Yet they kept repeating that they were not asking the electors to vote for Hillary Clinton (their preferred celeb multi-millionaire, by the way, in case – as their video suggested – your IQ has slipped to numbers below that of an amoeba).
But that is, of course, precisely what many of them were doing.
In my previous column I predicted that the losers would turn their anger loose on social media, which allows voters to bypass the mainstream media and share stories directly with one other.
“Fake news” has become the day’s buzz phrase and a campaign was launched to chastise and chasten Facebook, Twitter, at al.
ABC News, the Associated Press, and others have apparently agreed to help make good on promises Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg made about fighting fake news. Facebook, it seems, will see to it that fake news posts are less visible, will append warnings from fact checkers to fake news, will make reporting hoaxes easier, and will disrupt the financial incentives of fake news spammers.
Now that certainly sounds like a good idea; after all, false new is a bad thing, right? Right! Until you consider the track record of some of those intent on “helping” Facebook.
Do you recall someone called Sam Bacile? It rhymes with “imbecile.” He produced a film in California titled “The Innocence of Muslims.” It called Islam a “cancer” and made offensive statements about the religion’s founder, inflaming Muslims all over the world and sparking demonstrations and riots. It was claimed the film led to the killing in 2012 of four Americans in Libya, including the U.S. ambassador there.
Who was Sam Bacile? The Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal, and other media outlets reported that Bacile was an Israeli-American and that the incendiary film had been financed with money culled from “about 100 Jewish donors.”
Aha! The Jews again! I guess you knew it was them all along.
The outlets that reported or blithely repeated the story soon had to issue retractions when it turned out to be a total fabrication.
The producer was in fact an Egyptian Coptic Christian, with a significant criminal record. Remember Journalism 101? Check your facts before you print a story, not afterward.
Or how about the terrible rape of a woman in a University of Virginia frat house, as reported in Rolling Stone? The story caused an eruption of outrage across liberal media outlets, which parroted the details without doing any investigative reporting of their own. Threats were directed against fraternities across the country. But that story too was a lie.
If only the aforementioned were rare exceptions to the rule. But it’s becoming harder and harder to trust the media, and that distrust is helping to fuel anger and fear throughout the country.
A (true) story that appeared recently on the BBC website began with the headline “Why US liberals are now buying guns too.”
Some relevant snippets from the article:
The election of Donald Trump has prompted some left-wingers to join gun clubs – and even start preparing for the collapse of society.
…. Clara, a 28-year-old nursing student, grew up in the Midwest…. Since the election of Donald Trump in November she has started going to a gun range for the first time and is shopping around for a semi-automatic pistol…. She foresees a wide-ranging struggle between the Trump administration and the left over issues such as immigration and racial politics.
But won’t buying a gun just increase tensions?
“Things are already escalating and they will continue to do so and me not engaging or being prepared to defend my friends by force… isn’t going to stop people from being attacked or harassed,” Clara says.
Whoa! Assuming Clara and her friends aren’t simple nut-jobs, it looks like liberals aren’t really ready to settle down just yet.
Some on the Left say they fear Trump’s victory threatens democracy. I believe it too – but to be specific, I believe Trump’s win threatens the template of “democracy” long promoted in mainstream media by exposing the abysmal failure of American journalism, specifically its inability or unwillingness to report objectively.
The press has to perform the essential role of exposing wrongdoing. And it has to be credible when it does so. The Washington Post and, to a lesser extent, The New York Times did exactly that with Watergate. Now, sadly, any headline they publish looks more like propaganda than the result of the kind of dogged reporting that made Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein so admired.
In our highly polarized times, no one listens to or hears what those on the other side are saying. Those on the Right don’t believe what news channels of the Left are reporting. Those on the Left don’t believe what news channels of the Right are reporting. And those in the middle believe neither the Left nor the Right.
There is a solution. Having broadcast for the BBC for some twenty years, I can attest that no BBC news producer would dream of airing only one side of any argument while denying the other side a voice. But in the U.S., particularly on television, that is the norm.
There was a time, not too long ago, when broadcast impartiality in this country was protected by law.
The Fairness Doctrine was a policy introduced in 1949 by the Federal Communications Commission. It required the holders of broadcast licenses to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was, in the commission’s view, honest, equitable, and balanced. The FCC eliminated the Fairness Doctrine in 1987.
Moves to reintroduce versions of it have been attempted since then, only to be attacked as partisan attempts to silence the other party’s broadcast allies, usually Democrats trying to silence conservative talk radio.
I think it is time to examine this once again. The idea will only be taken up by the bravest of both sides who are wise enough to look beyond party loyalties and see a country more divided and fractured than ever before.
It will require people who have lived in the media bubble, sometimes all their lives, to step outside and realize that a country that no can longer rely on or trust its news media is a country in real danger.
When people no longer hear or listen to those on the other side of America’s great political divide, and instead go shopping for guns, it’s clear that something in America is broken – and that what’s broken is the nation’s media.
Rabbi YY Rubinstein