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Trumps Legacy to the Press: a Rare Gift from an Evil Man

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Above: Photo Collage / Lynxotic / Adobe Stock

Witnesses of Evil and survivors deserve a decompression phase

For nearly all of 2017 the word “lie” rarely if ever appeared in an article written about the president. The reasons for this are more complex than it would first appear, and relate to the history of political journalism reaching back at least 50 years. The reason why, beginning in 2018 and early 2019, “lie” became a daily and oft used word in connection with this lying-president is a more subtle and interesting story. 

As of this writing it is 100% clear that Trump has lost the election (odd to even have to say that, considering how obvious it is to any sane, rational observer) and that, ultimately, we will all benefit from forgetting about this attention-addicted-sociopath. However, with regard to something we all experienced, witnessed and endured over a period of four plus years; before forgetting there must first be a remembering.

Read more: Trump Demands “Proof” of votes: Do 80 Million need to Visit Him at his Residence?

 And, for the benefit of those of us who have various forms of PTSD as a result of what he perpetrated and what we had to witness, that remembering is a healthy, necessary step. 

For nearly all of 2017 the word “lie” rarely if ever appeared in an article written about the president. The reasons for this are more complex than it would first appear, and relate to the history of political journalism reaching back at least 50 years. The reason why, beginning in 2018 and early 2019, “lie” became a daily and oft used word in connection with this lying-president is a more subtle and interesting story. 

As of this writing it is 100% clear that Trump has lost the election (odd to even have to say that, considering how obvious it is to any sane, rational observer) and that, ultimately, we will all benefit from forgetting about this attention-addicted-sociopath. However, with regard to something we all experienced, witnessed and endured over a period of four plus years; before forgetting there must first be a remembering.

Read more: Trump Demands “Proof” of votes: Do 80 Million need to Visit Him at his Residence?

 And, for the benefit of those of us who have various forms of PTSD as a result of what he perpetrated and what we had to witness, that remembering is a healthy, necessary step. 

Perhaps rushing forward to “fix” everything he broke, destroyed or tried to destroy must be combined with looking back.

Seeing some of the events that shaped the last four years through the eyes of the media and the press

The public perceptions and reactions to history during significant and extreme events are shaped over time, and meaning are not always clear until we look back. If this article was a typical “2020 Looking Back” year-end recap, and did not run 5000 words or more it’d be about the coronavirus, the election, and a skim through the various events on the periphery. Instead, we must begin on June 16th, 2015 when Donald J. Trump began his assault on America. 

And, as we all remember, it started with “Mexicans”:

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best, they’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us [sic]. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Donald J. Trump, as he descended on his golden escalator

This technique of viciously attacking a particular ethic group, generally, and pandering to negative stereotypes was just getting started. 

Also couching broad statements, that often included boldfaced lies, within statements that could have a tiny sliver of truth would also be a propaganda technique he would use, sometimes dozens of times in a day, over the next nearly 4.5 years. 

Read more: Trump Transition Chaos is subject of Obama produced ‘The G Word’: Netflix Comedy

Then came the nicknames. Again, maybe “little Marco” was not the tallest guy and “Low-energy Jeb” was not the most exciting. But Trump’s character traits that would later expand and multiply were not pretty, and were on full display even during the initial phases of the election. 

Belittling opponents in an ugly personal way, pushing all dialog away from substance and toward personal attacks of the lowest form was standard operating procedure. All the signs were there of a mental sickness, one that we would all later experience more intimately, but at the time it was all an amusing diversion, since most believed he had “zero chance” of winning the 2016 presidential election. 

Phase 2, 3, 4 and beyond: testing the limits of outrage

Just making a laundry list of outrageous and disgusting behavior by this man is easy, but of little value, beyond our mutual sharing of “I was there” recollections publicly. More interesting, it seems, would be an exploration of how “we”, the media, and the public, reacted and adjusted to having such a malignant presence in the White House. 

It’s easy to forget that, around the time of the 2016 inauguration, many in the media went on and on about how the outrageous tactics were just a ploy, and a successful one at that, for him to get elected, and now that the election was over, Trump would magically become “Presidential”.

Then the lies began to multiply. All during 2017, however, it was very difficult to find the word “lie” in any article from a mainstream outlet that was about Trump, well, lying. The lengths that journalists went to avoid that word was, in a word, incredible. To look further into the history of not saying the word “lie” when a president lies, this Politco article from 2017 is a great deeper dive.

In the final paragraph summation the overall view at the time was encapsulated:

“Using the word “lie” promiscuously may, in the short term, score a point against a president who has shown a contempt for the facts. But over the long-term, the authority and credibility of aspirationally objective mainstream news organizations like the New York Times are best served by scrupulously trying to report the news in ways that can be trusted by readers of any political viewpoint. And it’s by upholding and reinforcing that authority and credibility that the Fourth Estate will best guide readers to the truth amid the misinformation, propaganda and lies produced by the administration of Donald J. Trump.”

David Greenberg, a professor of history and media studies at Rutgers in Politico Magazine

This viewpoint, ultimately, disintegrated and was abandoned, generally, by the middle of 2018 into the beginning of 2019. Trump literally bashed down that wall of civility with thousands and thousands of lies. 

Read more: 20,000 of Trump’s false claims plastered for display on ‘Wall of Lies’

Terms and phrases like “decorum”, “deference”, “non-partisan” and “civilized discourse” became meaningless in the endless assault of lies, hate speech and outrageous acts. At Lynxotic, we made a decision fairly early that this was not a “normal” president and these were not normal times. We seriously had to ask ourselves, if this was an emerging danger to this country and to democracy itself, who would we be serving by mincing words?

And further, the news has always been, to a certain degree, opinion infused facts with a, sometimes, thin veneer of artificial authoritative eminence. And wasn’t the media often guilty of using “impartiality”, similarly to an arms dealer, selling ammunitions to both sides in a civil war?

As time went on, the incredible border “cages” scandals, then the impeachment drama came and went and on and on, until Trump’s massive coronavirus failures, and finally the election madness. 

In the end all pretense of, and use for civility, any belief that a non-corrupt outcome was possible, revealed a truth that the choices for the nation were, and are, to jail the man famous for chants of “Lock her up” or let him continue until he destroys the democracy and possibly, ultimately the country itself.

The good thing that was bestowed upon all of us by a bad man

Of course, in all of this, he did do one good thing for the media and journalism. Not “ratings” or prosperity through scandal. No, what he did was to help us to remove the hypocrisy of the long standing “deference” to any and all sitting in the White House, just because they are there. 

“When he “won” in 2016 it was on the shoulders of Russian hackers and social media “bots” that influenced the thinking of real, living, breathing humans. In 2020 those real humans showed up, 80 million strong, and took back the country.”

D.L.

The blurred lines between observation, opinion, facts and fiction are ones that have, in reality, always been blurred. To face that fact, and to grapple every day with the issues of how to communicate the hard truth, is also a legacy of this evil man. 

When he “won” in 2016 it was on the shoulders of Russian hackers and social media “bots” that influenced the thinking of real, living, breathing humans. In 2020 those real humans showed up, 80 million strong, and took back the country. 

That is also a lesson we owe to “The Donald”. That, if a pretender rises up, the rest of us have to rise up as well, to put him down. 

The favor he did us all was to force us to examine the real facts, and make the real news and not the fake news matter, even if that news is that he is a liar, a grifter, a cheat and a criminal. And if any of his ilk come to power again, or continue to remain in power, they should be treated the same way, as needed. 


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