Americans still trust Trump more than the media—and they’re right to. Wow! from financial Post, honest journalist.
Lawrence Solomon: Americans still trust Trump more than the media—and they’re right to
Lawrence Solomon | February 23, 2017
The Trump administration is more trustworthy than the media, according to a Fox News poll released last week. That judgment by the public is perfectly understandable, because the Trump administration is more honest and better intentioned than most media, as any objective person can discern.
Not Democrats as a rule. Only eight per cent of them agree with the question posed, “Who do you trust more to tell the public the truth — the Trump administration or the reporters who cover the Trump administration?” But Republicans by a factor of nine to one (81 per cent to nine per cent) and Independents by two to one (52 per cent to 26 per cent) side with the Trump administration.
Trump’s reference to refugees in Sweden at a Florida rally Saturday illustrates why the press is so distrusted. “Trump Alludes to Terror ‘Last Night in Sweden’ That Never Happened,” ran the Vanity Fair headline. “’Last Night in Sweden’? Trump’s Remark Baffles a Nation,” said a bemused New York Times. “Trump’s invention of a Swedish terrorist attack was funny. But it likely comes from a dark place,” decided VOX. “Baffled Sweden asks Trump to explain terror remarks,” ran the Los Angeles Times.
From the headlines — literally hundreds were like these — you’d never know that Trump didn’t invent a terror attack. The press invented it by jumping to an erroneous conclusion. Trump was referring to a TV interview he had seen the previous night on Fox News that described the refugee-related crime wave that hit Sweden. The transcript of his Swedish rally-reference mentions “problems,” not terror attacks: “We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this. Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible.”
The public knows he gets details wrong but doesn’t hold that against him
Why wouldn’t the press have investigated precisely what Trump meant by his reference to Sweden? Partly because journalists are mean-spirited towards Trump.
- They’re more interested in discrediting him than in understanding his statements.
- Partly because they’re lazy and subject to groupthink, lacking curiosity and parroting their collective sentiments.
- And partly because the press was clueless as to the mayhem caused by refugees in Sweden in recent years, because the press doesn’t report news that doesn’t comport with its narratives.
Coincidentally, while the press was still mocking Trump for holding up Sweden as an example of refugee-related chaos, a riot broke out in a Muslim suburb of Stockholm when police tried to arrest a drug dealer. The press — true to form — all but ignored the riot.
It’s true that Trump’s reference to “last night” was highly imprecise. He meant to say something like “look at what I saw happening in a TV documentary on Sweden last night.” But people often misspeak. When they do, a responsible journalist seeking to inform his readers will ask for clarification. In Trump’s case, the issue wasn’t so much his misspeaking as his speaking in Trumpese — his everyday, spontaneous style marked by the casual rather than the precise.
No other politician speaks in Trumpese, but many speak in bureaucratese — they fudge their meaning with insider jargon and code — or in legalese, as when Bill Clinton said “it depends on what the meaning of ‘is,’ is.” The honest journalist will seek clarification and then translate the statement, the better to inform his readers. When the politician is Trump, honest journalists are in rare supply.
The public understands that Trump doesn’t guard his language, and that he will often get the details wrong. They don’t hold that against him because they trust his sincerity and his message is clear — Trump sees the forest, not the trees.
The press, in contrast, focuses on the trees — Trump mistaking a red pine for a white — and sees great significance in trivial errors of fact. The triviality then becomes its headline. The press fails entirely to see the forest.
This press failure extends beyond Trump. Because it is ideological and blinkered, its credibility in general is low. According to Pew, “Only about two-in-ten Americans (22 per cent) trust the information they get from local news organizations a lot, whether online or offline, and 18 per cent say the same of national organizations.”
Little wonder that the media is in freefall, little wonder that when Trump claims the media, rather than the Democrats, are his opponents, it rings true with the public. According to a USA Today poll taken just before the presidential election, the American public, by a margin if 10 to one, believed that the press wanted Trump to lose.
To earn the public’s trust, the press needs to resemble advocates less and impartial investigators more. The first step in its road to rehabilitation would be taking Trump seriously. Maybe even by learning Trumpese.