One of the issues we face in this new world of fact-less political diatribe is the unfortunate side-effect that those who still care about the truth are now being attacked by propagandists as “hyper-partisan” or “biased” simply because those individuals choose to believe in or peddle fiction.
Donald Trump is a perfect example of what I mean.
This is someone who lies so frequently that debunking his endless stream of bullshit can make any journalist, blogger or website that dares to do so appear to lack impartiality or integrity. When the truth is, his lies are so ridiculous that they would have to literally ignore doing their job ethically just so that they can present themselves as a more impartial source of information.
This country has never dealt with someone who lies as often as Donald Trump. We’re not dealing with someone who simply twists facts to push a particular agenda, Trump’s someone who just makes things up. He’s a person who’ll deny saying or doing things when there is indisputable video or audio evidence proving that he did, in fact, say and do those things.
Sadly, this has made many journalists afraid to be absolutely honest about Trump’s pathological dishonesty.
Which is what I’m assuming prompted Dan Rather to post a fiery response to Wall Street Journal‘s Editor in Chief Gerard Baker’s claim that journalists need to be carful about using the word “lie” when covering Trump unless they can prove an “intent to mislead.” Baker’s theory is that the media should simply present what Trump says, explain their “side” that may or may not counter his claims, then let the people decide for themselves what is or isn’t true.
Well, here’s what Dan Rather had to say regarding Baker’s comments:
A lie, is a lie, is a lie. Journalism, as I was taught it, is a process of getting as close to some valid version of the truth as is humanly possible. And one of my definitions of news is information that the powerful don’t want you to know.
It is not the proper role of journalists to meet lies—especially from someone of Mr. Trump’s stature and power—by hiding behind semantics and euphemisms. Our role is to call it as we see it, based on solid reporting. When something is, in fact, a demonstrable lie, it is our responsibility to say so.
There is no joy in taking issue with the Journal’s chief editor. His newspaper is a publication for which I have deep respect for the overall quality of its reporting. But, as I have said before and will say as long as people are willing to listen, this is a gut check moment for the press. We are being confronted by versions of what are claimed to be “the truth” that resemble something spewed out by a fertilizer-spreader in a wind tunnel. And there is every indication that this will only continue in the Tweets and statements of the man who will now hold forth from behind the Great Seal of the President of the United States.
Some journalists and publications will rise to the occasion. Some will not. You as the paying, subscribing public, can use your leverage and pocketbooks to keep those who should be honest brokers of information, well, honest.
I couldn’t agree more.
This notion that members of the media have some sort of responsibility to present themselves as impartial by not doing their job simply because Trump’s the most dishonest person to ever be elected president is absolute insanity. Nor should the media not call a lie exactly what it is just because our next president might very well be too ignorant to even know some of the things he’s saying aren’t true. Especially in a world where millions of people seem to believe that things like “facts” and “truth” are a “matter of opinion” simply because they don’t want to believe in them.
But as Dan Rather said, it’s the duty of the media and credible journalists to make sure that people are factually informed. If some don’t want to believe those facts, that’s one thing, but it’s asinine for Gerard Baker to essentially say that because people would rather believe in myths than facts, the media should then cater to that ignorance.
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