By Josh Hughes | United States
By now, just about every American has heard the president’s favorite line, “Fake news,” many times. Yes, the divisive rhetoric, which he mainly directs at traditionally “left-wing” news outlets such as CNN, the Washington Post, MSNBC, and others, has become an everyday phrase.
Yelled vehemently by Trump’s supporters at rallies or at journalists, said as a joke between friends, or used as a new slang of declaring something as untrue, you name it: this mantra has become something of a pop culture expression. What implications does this have on America? As it turns out, they are mostly negative.
Trump’s Media War: Part “n”
On Monday, Trump told a reporter from ABC, Cecilia Vega, that it’s okay she wasn’t thinking because she “never thinks.” On August 30, Trump tweeted that the Press was the “enemy of the people.” He has, as previously stated, said the phrase “fake news” countless times. These are just a few of many examples. The more Trump makes these comments, the more he desensitizes the American people.
The Main Issue
While some claim they don’t care about or even support the President’s rhetoric, they often fail to realize how drastic this is. There are people who devote their entire lives to giving reports and analyzing key issues. To write an entire group off as “fake” is not only disrespectful, it’s frightening.
Through normalizing the disregard of every report that goes against him, Trump is trying to pit the people against the media. Repeating the phrase “fake news” has a strong cognitive effect, and eventually, those who hear it will believe it. Scientists recently dubbed this idea “The Illusory Truth Effect.” Basically, it states that when people hear a lie enough, even when they are knowledgeable about a particular subject, they will begin to believe it to be true. Of course, it is true that news sources, including the ones above, do show bias. Some display this considerably more than others. However, dismissing entire organizations, or worse, the industry as a whole, as fake sets a dangerous precedent.
Like it or not, the President of the United States is the most powerful person on the planet. Without a doubt, the things the president says carry a lot of weight. Thus, his constant, deliberate attacks on the media can pit tons of people against each other.
In extreme cases, this division can actually lead to incidents of violence. One such case of this occurred after Trump’s August 30th “enemy of the people” remark. Just hours later, police arrested a man for making threatening phone calls to the Boston Globe. Due to the tense divisions and mob mentality, this man threatened to kill every last one of them for their criticism of the President. Of course, this man’s actions are solely his responsibility, and neither Trump nor the Globe is at fault. Nonetheless, it is clear that this environment stirs up major controversy and even violence.
President Trump is playing a dangerous game. Nobody truly knows the final goal of these endless attacks, but there are a number of possibilities. First of all, he may be attempting to become more immune to criticism. If enough banter from the president will lower the popularity of major opposing news outlets, Trump can control his image by attacking outlets he opposes and praising those he supports. Of course, this is much easier said than done, but in the days of massive mob mentality centered around the media, is far from an impossibility.
How America Can Avoid This
There is bias everywhere. That is an undeniable fact. The best way for people to not get trapped in this situation is to not listen to a lone side. There are times when both the media and the president will lie. It is important to fact-check and gain information from diverse sources. Also, it is essential to know when and how to question media and other suppliers of information. A free press is a precious American right; allowing the president to attack it is unacceptable. All citizens, in search of a better world and country, should strongly oppose this media war.
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