BY: SHREEYA ARANAKE, CONTRIBUTOR
The phrase “alternative facts” was basically the campaign slogan for the Trump campaign. Because of statistics and facts, we know that most of his statements just aren’t true. We know that global warming isn’t a hoax. We know that millions of people didn’t vote illegally. However, there are a lot of people who simply don’t care. Trump doesn’t have a war on media so much as an implicit war with facts and the reality of his crowds. But, there are a lot of people whose rising distrust in the media lead them to believe most of what Trump puts out as well as what fake news puts out. This shouldn’t just frighten the media in the loosening of its grip on what the American people see, hear, and believe. It should force media outlets (particularly broadcast media) that wield significant power and credibility to rethink their role and how they are perceived among people who don’t necessarily rely on credibility. The problem isn’t that they aren’t providing viewers with credible facts, but rather that the type and content of the facts need to be revised. Otherwise, with a whole other world underneath real news, and a whole lot of people who read “fake news,” it may as well lead us into a post truth era.
Let’s define post-truth; According to the Oxford Dictionary, post truth politics is defined as relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. Basically, we choose what we want to believe. If I don’t like the president, he’s lying. He’s a terrorist. He’s a communist. Now, that’s not to say that that hasn’t been true in the past, but in a world where whatever we want to know, whatever we want to say, is at the tip of our fingers, it is easier to believe one source as opposed to another.
Unfortunately, we are at a time in history where freedom of the press isn’t the problem; it is the too much freedom of the not so much the press that threatens our ability to agree on facts (or rather the lack thereof) such as Hillary Clinton’s criminal past and President Obama’s religion (what else is the middle name “Hussein” supposed to make us think?).
With Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway spewing “alternative facts,” we need credible media that debunks the theories that Trump wants us to hear – but more importantly, those facts need to reach those who don’t necessarily agree. Of course, this is easier said than done – presenting facts to people who label credible sources as untrustworthy, is difficult. But, what the media needs to start doing is to focus solely on reporting the content of Trump’s actions, not the content of his words or demeanor.
This “war on the media” that the President has not so implicitly declared is terrifying to all those who believe that an accountable press is necessary for a well functioning democracy. In order to fight this mentality, the media cannot just put their heads down and comply. But they also cannot fight the White House. What renowned media outlets such as CNN and NBC must do is stop talking about what the “war on media” means, who it matters to, and why it shouldn’t be there. They should be solely reporting the facts, and making each and every story that concerns the White House and Trump about the legislation he passes, the executive orders he signs, and what it means for the country in terms of the economy, foreign policy, and how it will directly concern the American people. By simply talking about how the media is not the “opposition party,” as Steve Bannon calls it, they are simply losing more and more trust from people whose trust in them is low to begin with. I agree that the point of media isn’t to gain trust; it is to notify the public in a simple manner about how things are playing out in our government. But, if they simply ignore Trump’s inflammatory comments concerning crowd sizes and how terrible media is, and rather focus their broadcast time on what policy choices he and his party are making, then they will be fulfilling their duty as an unbiased source of information that all Americans will come to respect. This will in turn allow the two parties to pass more and more bipartisan legislation that will progress the state of our Union, instead of blocking anything the other party has to offer.
The media also needs to question not Trump, but institutions that surround him – continuously. Due to the nature of this administration and their disdain with the media, mainstream media outlets must question a plethora of senators and congressmen and women, both Republicans and Democrats, solely on policy.
At the end of these four (or eight) years, I personally hope that the media will survive this war and gain the trust of most Americans, regardless of political affiliation. Finally, I implore the media to focus on its job: taking as much information as it can out of our highest institutions, holding those in power accountable, and unbiasedly explaining legislation and executive orders (meaning not just the commentary our president provides, but his actions) and their respective repercussions on the economy and our nation’s foreign relations.