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The media is down in the gutter with Trump

Ted Rall on

How you respond to an attack defines you. Keep your cool, remain civil, and others will respect the way you handle yourself, even if they disagree with you. Lower yourself to your assailant's level and -- at best -- spectators will dismiss your dispute as a he-said-she-said between two jerks.

So much has been written about President Donald Trump's debasement of rhetorical norms and his gleeful contempt for truth that there is no need to cite examples or quote studies that count the prolificacy of his lies. Trump's attacks on journalists -- "fake news," mocking a disabled reporter's body movements -- are contemptible. They undermine citizens' trust in news media, a serious menace to democracy and civil society.

Less noticed is how major news organizations, incensed by the president's trolling, have debased themselves to Trump's moral level.

American journalism used to adhere to strict standards. Though impossible to achieve, objectivity was paramount. At bare minimum, reporters were expected to project an appearance of political neutrality.

Truth only derives from facts -- verifiable facts. Not conjecture and never wishful thinking. Sources who wanted to be quoted had to go on the record. Anonymous sources could flesh out background but could not be the entire basis for a story.

From the start of Trump's run for president, Democratic-leaning media outlets abandoned their own long-cherished standards to declare war on him. Every day during the 2016 campaign, The New York Times led its coverage with a forecast of Hillary Clinton's supposed odds of defeating Trump. Setting aside the Times' embarrassing wrongness -- the day before Election Day, they gave Clinton an 85% chance of winning -- the paper led with odds rather than polls. Maximizing a sense of Clintonian inevitability was intended to demoralize Republicans so they wouldn't turn out to vote. The two figures might mean the same thing. But 85-15 odds look worse than a 51-49 poll.

 

It's downright truthy. And when truthiness goes sideways, it makes you look really, really dumb. A 51-49 poll could go either way. The reported 85-15 odds? Not so much.

The impeachment battle marks a new low in partisanship among media outlets.

After Trump's surprise-to-those-who'd-never-been-to-the-Rust-Belt win, outlets like the Times declared themselves members of a so-called resistance. Opinion columnists like Charles M. Blow pledged never to "normalize" Trumpism. What this has meant, ironically, is that Blow's essays amount to rote recitations on the same topic: normally, about the argument that Trump sucks. Which he does. There are, however, other issues to write about, such as the fact that we are all doomed due to climate change. It would be nice to hear Blow's opinions about taxes, militarism and abortion.

Next came years -- years! -- of Robert Muellerpalooza. Russia, corporate media outlets said repeatedly, had "meddled" in the 2016 election. Vladimir Putin installed Trump; Hillary Clinton's snubbing of her party's 72%-progressive base had nothing to do with the loss of the most qualified person to an inductee in the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame.

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Copyright 2019 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
 

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