I will not be held like a drunkard/ under the cold tap of facts… — Leonard Cohen
The news today is Donald Trump. The news every day is Trump. One day he’s lying about Dianne Feinstein as his fans chant “Lock her up!” Then he’s smiling for the cameras as borderline psycho Kanye West raves his praises in the Oval Office. Never has the news cycle been so dominated, day in and day out, by the whims and follies of such a relentless phony.
Part of the blame for Trump’s ascendancy has to go to the news media. He’s made more than 5,000 false of misleading statements thus far in his presidency, but the media continue to pretend his pronouncements might be fact-based. By the time they refute his recent lies, he’s already telling new ones.
“Think of the irony,” I said to Swamp Rabbit. “Trump claims the media reports fake news. He’s right, but it’s his fake news. By treating him as credible — by reporting his lies as facts and his trashy behavior as normal — the media become his accomplices.”
“I don’t follow,” the rabbit replied while staggering onto the porch of my shack in the Tinicum swamp.
“That’s because you’ve had too many whiskeys,” I said. “That story in USA Today is a good example of what I’m talking about.”
In an op-ed last week, Trump or his ghostwriter attacked Obamacare and the concept of Medicare-for-All. Every sentence in the piece contained false or misleading information, but there it was in print, presumably because USA Today didn’t have the guts to make corrections before publishing it.
All around us, the swamp frogs croaked. I reminded the rabbit that we’re bludgeoned 24/7 with unfiltered information — infotainment, most of it — to the point where the media, hiding behind false notions of objectivity, have stopped trying to separate the real news from the fake. To the point where many readers and viewers throw up their hands and accept reality TV as reality, and reality TV stars as real-life leaders.
The rabbit told me to hush up, I was shouting. “Get down off your soapbox,” he said. “Ain’t nobody can hear you ‘cept me and them frogs, and frogs don’t vote. ”
Footnote: This is a sort of addendum to “The Times’s Trump story is a few years too late.” I’m sure whole volumes will be written about why Trump was never held accountable, by the media or anyone else, for a lifetime of lies. Unless Robert Mueller catches up with him.