Some people think the role of the press is to inform. Others appear to think its role is to propagandize. We do live in an era of fake news, typified by internet sites such as InfoWars, but there is a far more nuanced form of fake news that is even more dangerous.
Case in point, this article in this mornings New York Times, in which we learn that Donald Trump was motivated to bomb Syria by the workings of his heart, which was bleeding for the children who were victims of chemical weapons:
The images were heartbreaking: Children gasping and choking for breath, their mouths foaming. A grief-stricken father, cradling the lifeless bodies of his two children, swaddled in white blankets. But they were also familiar, a harrowing flashback to 2013, when the Syrian government unleashed the last major poison gas attack on its own people.
This time, though, a new American president was seeing the pictures and absorbing the horror.
Donald J. Trump has always taken pride in his readiness to act on instinct, whether in real estate or reality television. On Thursday, an emotional President Trump took the greatest risk of his young presidency, ordering a retaliatory missile strike on Syria for its latest chemical weapons attack. In a dizzying series of days, he upended a foreign policy doctrine based on putting America first and avoiding messy conflicts in distant lands.
Could it be that the Times or its reporter is not aware of Donald Trump’s mental illness, one symptom of which is his complete lack of empathy for all other human beings? His entire history is replete with instances of his utter disregard for the rights, needs or happiness of other people. It has always been about him. If he tells the press that he is acting out of regard for his fellow humans, shouldn’t an informed reporter think twice before passing on such an obvious lie? Under the circumstances, shouldn’t he or she look beyond Trump’s propaganda to see if, just possibly, there’s another story here? The Times is not alone in swallowing this guff, but it is representative.
I often tell my clients that part of a lawyers job is to be paranoid on their behalf and to anticipate the worst. Part of the media’s job is to be cynical on our behalf. That cynicism is not non-existent, but it does tend to disappear when the subject is a Republican.
One possible alternative explanation for Trump’s action pops up immediately to my cynical mind. It appears to be a perfect way to both divert attention from the Russia scandal and to plant the idea that Trump couldn’t be in Putin pocket, as he is bombing Putin’s ally.
In this instance, it turns out that a healthy dose of cynicism would have been appropriate, since, as it turns out, Trump gave a heads up to the Russians, and by extension, the Syrians. Both the Syrians and the Russians removed themselves and their equipment from the bombing site. The entire exercise was an $80 million PR stunt.
And let us not forget that the Trump administration is acting in a way that is inviting a terrorist attack upon this nation (or a Trump branded property overseas). As the Bush folks proved, a terrorist attack is the perfect way to divert attention from the misdeeds of an incompetent, pro-corporate, anti-people administration. When that attack comes, it will take years for the media to acknowledge that the attack was invited, by which time the damage will have been done. A Democratic Party committed to either helping the country or itself would be warning the nation about this danger right now.
Epilogue: After I wrote the above, my wife showed me this, which shows that some members of the fourth estate have a proper amount of cynicism.