Critical Thinking: Fox News And The Mainstream Media

By, Jason Taylor 

I just want to start with a word to Trump voters. If you voted for Trump and are not a billionaire (which I suspect means most of you) then you lost the election just like those who voted for Hillary Clinton lost. Had Hillary won, we would all be losers as well because this election cycle represented a choice between two really poor candidates.

There is this belief that Americans are capable of determining what is legitimate and true. The data says they cannot. Take the article on the front page of the New York Times yesterday about Carrier employees voting for Trump because they wanted to save their jobs and he said he would. While I understand the fear and wanting to believe that the jobs can be saved, it is obvious that even if Donald Trump cared about anything other than more power and wanted to save those jobs, he can’t.

Hypothetically, let say Trump works some backroom deal in which he pays Carrier to stay. Is he going to do that in every state for every company that seeks to outsource jobs? No. It can’t be done. The presumes that Trump actually cares. Let me humbly suggest that a man who sits on a golden toilet and uses his donations from his charitable trust to pay for giant paintings of himself, is not really that concerned with poor people.

Was Hillary Clinton the solution? No. The point is that there is no easy solution. Americans need to develop an adult perspective on what presidents can actually achieve.

In a country where folks know more about the latest Kardashian escapade than they do about the 13th amendment, the natural extension is President Trump. There is no solution; nothing the media can do to repair the damage. America has become a reality show. The viewers want instant gratification and rapid solutions to our problems. Donald promised it will all happen “very, very quickly. As we have learned, many Trump supporters are less educated than Clinton supporters. That helps explain why they believe things that aren’t true. But educated Democrats have satirical sources that regularly distort the truth. There is the Onion, the Daily Show, Colbert, and Saturday Night Live, among others. Many clips from these sources are posted to Facebook and many educated Democrats take the satire for truth. I have spoken to plenty of young people who used to say they got their news from the Daily Show.

The advertising and marketing worlds have been hammering away to soften the American brain for decades. Our educational institutions fail to teach critical thinking, logic, clear reasoning, and the value of the scientific method. Panicked by the failure of its business model, the media has retreated to the days of yellow journalism. Meanwhile, the world is becoming increasingly complex and mastering knowledge in any specialized area requires an ever deeper commitment to constant learning to keep up. The post-truth phenomenon is real and it is going to cost us.

Claiming the election would be rigged, Trump not only fired up his base — but deflected suspicion from anyone thinking the “surprising Nov. 8th outcome” would be due to Republicans and their usual dirty tricks. The republicans have waged aggressive vote suppression tactics since 2000 and the only reason they didn’t work in Obama’s case was because of massive voter turnout and early voting; though they gained 660 state seats.

Republicans have corrupted the system with gerrymandering, the overthrow of the Voting Rights Act, outright voter intimidation and repressive ID rules that target and work against the poor, elderly, black, Hispanic, etc.. reduced voter poll hours, broken machines, not enough machines in democratic-leaning districts. And especially insecure and hackable electronic voting software (as documented in “Hacking Democracy” and “Stealing America: Vote by Vote”). Comey’s thumb on the scale also had an impact but polls and the data still predicted a clear Clinton win. Rather than conduct a rigorous investigation, the news media swallowed this mass deception as did Democratic leaders when in essence the majority who voted for Clinton “got played.”

The problem is most people who rely on mainstream media sources have no idea what the other crowd is reading. Ever been on the Trump sub-reddit? Ever been to Breitbart? The wild headlines, often racially-tinged, filled with conspiracies and paranoia, and at a minimum taken out of context, might amaze you. And for tens of millions of people, this is their truth.

How do you even bring facts to this crowd in an effective way? How can the mainstream media combat the constant lies disseminated through rightwing sources if Trump supporters wouldn’t read or believe what the media says?

The framers of the Constitution made freedom of the Press their most important protection, placing it front and center in the First Amendment. It achieved this primary because the Founding Fathers believed that a Free Press was the only vehicle available to expose the lies and corruption of politicians and government.

The Press failed in its responsibility. It failed to expose the corruption of Trump: his abuse of bankruptcy laws, his repeated scamming of naive people through Trump University and his refusal to pay for services rendered by countless small businesses. Where were the stories about white men who were ruined or nearly so by Trump’s shortchanging them? Where were the stories about the trusting people defrauded by Trump University? In the news for two or three days and them banished to the dustbin.

On the other hand, hardly a day went by without a headline about emails or the Clinton Foundation, headlines based on partisan accusations that never had merit.

Facts matter. At the same time, people will believe anything. Trump knew he could manipulate a deeply misinformed public whose views were based on distortion, misinformation, and outright lies. He tapped into people’s fears, anger, envy, resentment; he started with innuendo; moved to small lies; then brought it home with constant lies and big crazy whoppers. By then the lies felt truer than real life. It’s like living in an increasingly imaginative fantasy novel and loving every second of the wild, outlandish landscape.

Yes, the mainstream media must do a better job presenting the truth/facts and exposing the lies. And for God’s sake, stop the patrician balancing act.

One comment

  1. it’s scary how people rely on one “news” source more often than not or what friends say, then pass them off. Not so surprising that a certain candidate used the phrase “I heard…” so often–there’s nothing to check if one’s mind’s already made up. I do my best to look at several news sources to get the story (when I have the time, which isn’t as often as I’d like, I’ll admit) because they’re all going to portray a different slant if not outright get it wrong. I’m a researcher at heart, and learned years ago to never merely consult one source…and yet, so many do. I hate cable news because you don’t learn anything new. People go to the channel that will validate their opinions, not enlighten. I get very annoyed at the whole thing. There’s a reason I haven’t watched t.v. in weeks.

Share Your Thoughts?