"There is nothing the president takes more seriously than the security of the American people. The story that came out tonight as reported is false." - National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, May 15th, 2017.
"The Fake News media is officially out of control. They will do or say anything in order to get attention - never been a time like this!" - via Twitter, President Donald J. Trump, May 4th, 2017.
"Don't believe the main stream (fake news) media.The White House is running VERY WELL. I inherited a MESS and am in the process of fixing it." - via Twitter, President Donald J. Trump, February 18th, 2017.
"Understand that many in the media colluded with HRC, many have reported "fake news". Accuracy ahead of speed vs a destroy Trump media." - via Twitter, Conservative Commentator Sean Hannity, May 15th, 2017.
"The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!" - via Twitter, President Donald J. Trump, February 17th, 2017.
Not even twenty-four hours have passed since the Washington Post's bombshell report, that President Donald J. Trump shared classified information with the Russian delegation, yet we have already come to witness the predictable, partisan divide of the public's response.
"For a president who was so critical of his opponent over this issue, it is mind-boggling that he would do such a thing, if these reports are accurate. We will just have to figure out how to mitigate the damage." Democratic Representative Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, was sure to express a number of his concerns regarding both the severity and the hypocrisy of Trump's information leaks (1). Susan Rice has expressed her great concerns, specifically following yesterday's information leak, "If we cannot find our way to put country over party, and democracy over demagoguery, even in the face of such a dangerous external threat, then we might as well hang up our leadership cleats and resign ourselves to becoming a second-rate power," and assured that she feels that our country's "single greatest weakness," is its heightening polarization. (2) Predictably, the right, yet again, does not fail to rush to the defense of their Supreme Master's legitimacy, integrity, and ego, always eager to dismiss any negativity against their deity as 'fake.'
"Looks like more 'Fake News,'" Sean Hannity was fast to address his personal opinion on the matter, not failing to continue his well-established role as the President's unofficial, unpaid, cheerleader, all while the Drudge Report enjoys headlining "MORE LEAKS SMEAR PRESIDENT," in response to a determined Breitbart response, which was fast to remind us that any such leak of 'classified' information would be legally within the President's privilege (3, 4). What is perhaps more striking about the right's response is not their haste to come to the President's defense as his impromptu legal counsel, but their attempt to instead redirect media attention, rather unsuccessfully, to two other headlines and developing stories.
1. The first certainly pertains to the same story, but addresses it from an entirely different, blame-changing, angle. The cited Breitbart article headlined, "Deep State Leaks Highly Classified to Washington Post to Smear President." Rather than credit the President with having irresponsibly exchanged national security information from our Middle East allies to the Russian delegation, the blame, in the eyes of the right, should rather be given to the individual leakers whose efforts have produced the current media frenzy. Rather than blame the President for his own potential mis-action, the right insists that legal consequences ought to hammer down on those in the information chain who are responsibly doing their job. Of course, however, as we all know, to the right, any information that could potentially jeopardize their beloved cult-figure is both fake, and anti-American. The right, proudly relishing in the taste of their eternal Kool-Aid, would rather prioritize the ego and authoritative privilege of their beloved incompetent than care for the American people's right for information and government transparency. This situation cannot be understated. "I think the real issue and what I would like to see debated more is that our national security has been put at risk by those violating confidentiality, I think national security is put at risk by this leak and leaks like this." Our today-famous, National Security Advisor, H.R. McMaster, contributed to this notion that media attention and condemnation ought to redirect itself from the actions of the White House toward those who seek to reveal them (5). Cheeto-in-Chief of course had only earlier reaffirmed this, tweeting, "I have been asking Director Comey & others, from the beginning of my administration, to find the LEAKERS in the intelligence community.....(6)" The idea that the White House is actually insisting that we collectively punish those who do their job to keep their authority in check is rather mind-boggling, and the fact that such of a proportion of his blind-supporters simply agree is what's even further insane, almost too dystopian to be true.
2. The second headline being pushed by the conservative media as an 'alternative' news agenda to what is currently threatening their beloved leader is actually a much more provocative story. Hannity was fast to use his twitter to push another story, all while the WaPo bombshell was continuing to accelerate and gain traction, this time regarding the suspicious August 2016 death of DNC staffer, Seth Rich. The story insists that Seth Rich, the 27-year-old DNC staffer who was murdered in D.C. last summer, had communication with Julian Assange, the infamous face of Wikileaks, clearly insisting that he was plainly murdered by Hillary Clinton and her campaign in order to shut him up and control the outbreak of the then damaging information against her and her presidential efforts (I'd like to remind everyone how the right was then okay with security leaks, even cheered them, when they clearly benefitted their efforts against the left...but now it's not, of course) (7). The headline was certainly of considerable weight, and even dragged me into further curiosity until I quickly learned the family's response: "It's sad but unsurprising that a group of media outlets who have repeatedly lied to the American people would try and manipulate the legacy of a murder victim in order to forward their own political agenda. I think there is a special place in hell for people like that (8)."
All in all, such predictable divide in response to this latest, but perhaps more significant, Trump Administration controversy is simply telling of our currently national reality that we already know too well, diagnosing the more than evident strife within our civil culture, the polarization that Rice cites as potentially fatal.
Our country is in an all-out information civil war. Its factions: we already know. Fox News, Breitbart, and other conservative media outlets simply act as reinforcing soldiers for the dauntingly ambiguous, if not misinformative administration, together most appropriately understood by the Kellyanne-coined, faction Alternative Facts. Its mirror-counterpart, the right-hated 'mainstream media' including the Times, the Post, ABC, NBC, MSNBC, and almost all other professional media outlets not belonging to NewsCorp, with CNN seemingly at the forefront of the battle, may as well be titled with the right's preferred term of use, faction Fake News.
The roots of such conflict might require some more homework to fully understand. Perhaps it begins with CNN's debut as the first cable news network? Perhaps it was worsened with the rise of FOX, providing a right-wing, conservative angle in protest of mainstream, 'liberal' media? What is certain however, is that the election of our Idiot-in-Chief, a long-time contributor to FOX News and their legacy of rich, illustrative, alternative reality, has given the right the power punch it needed to come face-to-face to with their information-adversaries, and bring our nation to a grinding cultural collision in a way FOX had never been able to do quite before on its own. It's a total war of whose information is truth, and whose information is lies, in a way I can never recall having seen before in my lifetime, and it feels rather dangerous.
The fact that the President of the United States openly discredits media outlets whose work is not favorable to him, going as far as to label them 'enemies of the American people,' is something that we may be tempted to find funny, simply another facet of his demented humor, but in reality ought to be understood as much more alarming, concerning and frankly terrifying.
Before I continue to advocate that the sky is falling, and eagerly welcome myself to the beloved "snowflake," and other such name-calling from any Trumpies reading this, let's first examine the situation this information war presents. Let's consider what exactly our options are, the options of the American people, in understanding what exactly is the truth beyond the media's façade. We essentially have two ways of understanding this all, but we can only pick one.
1. The White House, together with conservative media outlets, must discredit all professional media and journalism against it as false in order to protect its dark, oligarchic, realities inherent in its agenda. The current government is against us, and the media is fighting for us.
2. The mainstream media (CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, NYT, WaPo, etc...) is vehemently out to take down the current President of the United States so that the dark, oligarchic, realities inherent in its agenda can thrive. The mainstream media is against us, and the current government is fighting for us.
Which theory do you choose? Better yet, how can the American people truly know which is right, without being able to access the root of all information ourselves? It is impossible for a country of 330 million people to each discover geopolitical information on their own, and never be dependent on anyone else. Thus, we might think of ourselves as perpetually doomed in this limbo, this bitter trust war between the media and the current Presidency. What is the truth? Who is the truth? I certainly have picked my side.
While media and information sources should always be critically examined for the veracity of their information, the fact the President of the United States has openly declared information war against this country's prominent voices of news, is eerily dangerous. The all-too-familiar, 'us versus them,' dialogue that our President has so naively constructed is pretty straight out of a dictator's playbook. How do the Fidel Castros, the Hitlers, the false-messiahs of the world come to their level of authority, come to earn the trust of so many in the early stages, without first discrediting all information against them, all information that is not directly produced or checked by they themselves.
"Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future "press briefings" and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy???" - via Twitter, President Donald J. Trump, May 12th, 2017.
This current administration has openly attacked information sources critical of it. This current administration has proposed reducing access of information to all sources, not just those critical of it. This current administration has even proposed shaming and punishing those who then seek to leak such information. The math is incredible, and incredibly alarming.
I rest assured that I personally believe DJT is simply too stupid, too ego-obsessed to understand the implications of his actions. I rest assured that the design of our constitution is strong enough to control this idiot when need be, as long as each facet of such design is willing to play its part. However, the fact this administration is even able to push this limited-information narrative, and the fact that so many of his unfortunate supporters are simply too naive, uninformed and partisan to call him out, is what is truly disturbing.
Yes, naive, uninformed and partisan are all correct and appropriate terms. And no, I will not be apologetic in calling out the millions of people who choose to act as if such narrative isn't directly threatening to our core American-values- it is absolutely absurd. I will not pretend to tolerate a large percentage of our country who has decided to hail a selfish, pride-driven, cult of objective stupidity above the values of this country and it constitution, despite how hard they claim to be in support of it. We all know very well, if it were Obama or Hillary making such exact headlines today, the conservative reaction would sound very different.
Yet, it's equally important, that we as liberals find fault in ourselves for our own hypocrisies so that we may best move forward. While we should not hesitate to accept the arguments of math, science and history that are so easily supporting contemporary journalism in their responsibility to keep this insane administration in check, we should not blindly accept a media narrative the way many Trumpies blindly accept the decrees of their asinine figurehead. We should not forget those few months ago when many of us felt that the same mainstream media had so differently covered and treated Hillary from Bernie during the primary season. We should never accept the mainstream media as a universally true point of information, if we are to hold ourselves to the same standard of which we hold the right.
I find it a little hard right now, perhaps still unfortunately too early, with more drama yet to unfold, on how exactly to move forward as a nation and suture our increasingly separating cultural factions. It's not an easy task, and will certainly require equal effort on both sides. As explained, we must always hold our own information accountable, before expecting the other half to do the same (and with Fox News, accountability might still be a long, long shot).
Penn State College