One of my favorite reporters, Matt Taibbi, has a great article in Rolling Stone, titled “America Is Too Dumb for TV News“. The article (and I highly recommend you read it) discusses how Trump has finally trumped reality. Even in the age of video on everyone’s phone and the Internet, Trump can largely get away with a baldfaced lie, claiming:
Hey, I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.
Trump’s statement is preposterous, of course:
Does nobody remember how people felt that day? If there had been such broadcasts, there would have been massacres – angry Americans would have stormed Jersey City.
In fact, police had to be deployed to places like Paterson anyway to protect immigrants from exactly that sort of mob violence. This is one of the reasons we know Muslims weren’t dancing en masse in the streets, because police were parked on those streets in huge numbers to keep people out.
The Newark Star-Ledger did a report in the weeks after the attacks from Paterson showing the city in “virtual lockdown,” with police camped in Muslim neighborhoods for the protection of the locals.
And yet, Trump not only keeps claiming it happened, but anyone who disagrees with him is part of an ongoing conspiracy against him. Trump even tweeted, “I want an apology! Many people have tweeted that I am right!” – as if a few people agreeing with him makes it true.
Rush Limbaugh backs him up, saying that “regardless of the specific details” [Wow!] Trump is right, because “The bottom line is that a lot of Americans are well aware that Muslims were cheering.”
Because America “knows” this, it now expects the news media to deliver that story. And if reporters refuse, it can only be out of bias.
Politicians have figured out that (with the cooperation of the media) that they can say anything they want and get away with it. Even if they get called on their lies, they can “Blame the backlash on media bias and walk away a hero.”
And it isn’t just Trump. Carly Fiorina claims to have watched a nonexistent video, and keeps using a false claim that 92% of the jobs lost under Obama belonged to women. Ben Carson tells stories that don’t bear scrutiny. Democrats do it too, but not to the same extent – perhaps because they don’t have anything like the right-wing media backing them up.
If our reality can be rewritten by an unholy alliance between politicians and media, how can we be trusted to vote for our leaders?