Opinion: Russian Hacks and Alternative Facts – by Yosef Stein

ysThe mainstream media is biased against Republicans. This simple fact has been true for decades, and it remains true today. Ronald Reagan was a regular victim of the media. Media lies about George W. Bush nearly cost him re-election. Both John McCain and Mitt Romney suffered from heavy media bias during their respective campaigns against Barack Obama. And Republican elected officials – especially conservative ones – are forced to grapple with the dishonest liberal media on a daily basis.

The 2016 election cycle was no exception. Over the last year, mainstream media outlets have covered Donald Trump’s many scandals, gaffes and missteps with far more vigor than those of his corrupt opponent. Time and again, Hillary Clinton’s supporters in the media glossed over or ignored unfavorable stories about the Democratic nominee while playing up every story indicating that Donald Trump was unfit to be president.

In response, Trump began to wage war against the media. He banned several news organizations from covering his campaign events. He tore into the media in interviews and speeches. And ever-so-effectively, he turned the mainstream media’s bias into one of his greatest weapons – a tool to win sympathy from undecided voters and unify Republicans behind him. If there’s one thing that unites Republicans and conservatives of all stripes, it’s their shared disdain for the liberal media. And it was very clear that the media was trying to anoint Hillary Clinton president, just as they had previously tried to do for Democrats Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry and Barack Obama, with varying levels of success.

However, Trump did not simply do battle with the media. As the campaign went on, it became increasingly clear that Trump had another target in his sights, one very much connected to the media’s stated mission, which is to objectively report the facts. (Ha!) Donald Trump had declared war on the truth.

From the very first day of Donald Trump’s improbable run for the highest office in the land, reality and facts were far from the center of his mind. Declaring his candidacy at Trump Tower on June 16, 2015, Trump posited that the Mexican government is deliberately sending criminals to the United States – a preposterous notion which was debunked immediately by independent fact-checkers. Several months later, Trump claimed that on September 11, 2001 he had “watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of [Muslim] people were cheering as that building was coming down.” There is literally zero evidence of anything like that happening. Public safety officials in New Jersey say it never happened. Because it never did. But already early in his campaign, Donald Trump was sending signals that the truth simply did not matter. It was becoming clear that to many of his diehard fans, it actually didn’t.

Trump would go on to disseminate many more fabrications and falsehoods throughout the course of his campaign. He tweeted wildly inaccurate statistics about black-on-white crime and claimed, laughably, that the national unemployment rate could be as high as 42%. He falsely asserted that the federal government was sending Syrian refugees only to states with Republican governors. Later in the campaign cycle, he would dispute U.S. intelligence assessments that Russia was attempting to influence the presidential election through targeted hackings. And the list goes on and on and on.

Members of the media, who were diligently reporting on Trump’s false statements one after another, grew frustrated and baffled as his support refused to fade in spite of their attempts to expose him as a liar. (As a side note, one reason why they were so woefully ineffective is because they had lost all credibility due to unjustified media assaults on past Republican candidates like Mitt Romney.) Trump, who correctly felt that the media was disproportionately focusing on his missteps while largely giving his Democratic opponent a free pass, began to attack the media more and more. As the feud with Trump became increasingly personal to those in the mainstream media, their Trump-bashing only intensified.

Many of Trump’s supporters brushed aside concerns about Trump’s tenuous relationship with reality, insisting that the brash businessman would be more responsible once he won the election. Trump himself made this assertion last April, claiming that he would “be so presidential that you people will be so bored.” Presumably, being presidential would include not lying to the media and the public on a daily basis.

On November 8, Donald Trump shocked the pollsters, pundits, and political observers (myself very much included) by prevailing over Hillary Clinton to win the presidency. However, it soon became clear that little had changed inside Trump’s head. Because he had lost the popular vote by a significant margin of 2.8 million votes, the president-elect almost immediately began to question the results of the election, claiming that 3-5 million people had voted for Hillary Clinton illegally. First of all, the foolishness and immaturity of the winner of the election questioning the results cannot possibly be overstated. More importantly, however, Trump made this claim in spite of the utter lack of evidence. Members of the media asked Trump to share proof of voter fraud, which of course he could not do. Instead, the president-elect cited a Pew study that did not say anything even similar to what he was claiming, as the author of the study noted. And of course, Trump continued to bash the media. Until this very day, Trump maintains that there was massive voter fraud in the election that he won.

If only that was the only instance of Trump ignoring the facts after his election. He argued with the unanimous assessment of all US intelligence agencies that Russia had attempted to sway the results of the US election. He asserted that “they have no idea if it’s Russia or China or somebody” who hacked the Democratic National Committee, when in fact US intelligence agencies have identified exactly which Russian officials orchestrated the hackings. He lied about a controversial phone call with the president of Taiwan, claiming that President Tsai Ing-wen had called him unexpectedly, when in fact the call had been planned far in advance. And since Inauguration Day, President Trump and his White House have been sparring with reporters about the size of Trump’s inauguration crowd, which was significantly smaller than those of Barack Obama. Trump has claimed that his inauguration drew up to 1.5 million people, a ludicrous claim which has been debunked by crowd scientists and photographs. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer falsely claimed that his boss had drawn “the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration.” Pressed by NBC’s Chuck Todd about this blatant lie, Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway said that Spicer had simply used “alternative facts.” I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds like a fancy, very politically correct way of saying that Trump and Sean Spicer are liars. In other words, nothing has changed. Donald Trump’s ascendance to the presidency has done nothing to change his inherently dishonest nature.

This brings me back to President Trump’s war with the media. The way I see it, it is the media’s job to comprehensively report on candidates and public servants, especially when they are dishonest and/or corrupt. Over the course of 2016, the media held Donald Trump to a high standard (which he obviously could never meet) while failing to hold Democrats like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to the same standard. That was wrong, and it is therefore accurate to say that the media was – and still is – biased against Donald Trump. However, media bias does not excuse Donald Trump’s penchant for dismissing any fact that strikes him as inconvenient. It does not excuse his thuggishness, immaturity, and many other widely-known character flaws. If Donald Trump wants to be taken seriously – if he wants people to stop thinking of him as “The Donald” and start thinking of him as “President Trump” – he needs to start acting like a president. And more than anything else, that entails not lying to the public every time he doesn’t like the truth.

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  1. I don’t agree with everything you say, but you sure are articulate. Is it true that your great skills are attributable to the great general studies program at emek?

  2. A great article as usual!
    Trumps tweet today couldn’t possibly have brought out your point more clearly.
    Yes, this is from Donald Trump at 7:01 am this morning. “Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election. Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting.”
    That’s right people. Any negative polls are just fake news. If I don’t like something, it just isn’t true. After all, we have “alternative facts”.

  3. Great article. A president who isn’t scared of the media, and doesn’t bow to political correctness would be a great opportunity to articulate the common sense ideas of conservatism. Instead, he obsesses over inauguration attendance, the popular vote, and anything else related to his ego.

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