A well done report detailing the frontal assault on our media and democracy.
This is how we can fight Donald Trump’s attack on democracy
By Rob WIJNBERG, February 3, 2017 • Reading time 14 - 19 minutes
The news provokes outrage every day, but it rarely inspires sustained resistance.
Now that Donald Trump has launched a frontal assault on democracy, the press needs to fundamentally change tack.
Journalists have to beat historians to the punch and write history – before it repeats itself.
Our news system has fundamental weaknesses, and we’re paying the price like never before. In the past, we could afford to watch the nightly headlines, give a slightly cynical shrug, and then get on with our evening.
Today, though, the price of our media-cultivated apathy has grown dangerously high. Our hard-won fundamental rights and freedoms are in peril. If we aren’t careful, the news could be the burial ground for democracy. And the epitaph will be “We could have known, if journalism had only told us.” …
In a changing climate, news is a weather report
The eternal question: How did we miss this?
The deadly event that’s happening now
Right now, one of those slow-mo events is under way. It’s appearing in too fragmentary a form on our screens to truly worry many people. But historians will describe it as the steady demolition and ultimate fall of every democratic institution in the West. ...
Step 1: Threaten the free press and sow doubt about what’s true
During his campaign, Trump openly kept a blacklist of news organizations
“Trump Has a Media Blacklist. If You’re a Journalist, You Should Get on It,” advised The Huffington Post. and threatened to toughen laws which could muzzle critical media outlets.
Yes, the threat will be hard to carry out, but the fact that Trump’s voiced it is highly worrisome, The Nation argued. He hasn’t dialed back the threats since the inauguration. ..
Step 2: Dismantle the government and install a kleptocracy
A society permeated by mistrust of “the media” and devoid of belief in a shared reality provides the perfect conditions for dismantling democratic institutions. And all the indications are that that’s what Trump is doing.
Rick Perry, Trump’s appointee for Energy secretary, promised to abolish the department he will now control.
Scott Pruitt, Trump’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, is a climate denier who’s suing the very agency he’s being put in charge of, in an effort to reverse environmental regulations.
Ben Carson, tapped to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, called the job HUD was created to do “not the government’s responsibility.”
Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick for Education secretary, gave $1.5 million to a lobbying group that favors deregulating education in Michigan and is one of the country’s foremost ideological opponents of public schools.
Jeff Sessions, Trump’s attorney-general and the person in charge of safeguarding civil rights, allegedly called a white lawyer who represented black clients a “disgrace to [his] race” and said he had no problem with the Ku Klux Klan “until I found out they smoked pot.”
Steve Bannon, the top advisor in Trump’s cabinet, is a self-described Leninist and open advocate of the destruction of the US state.
“Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal, too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment,” aldus Bannon.
Dismantling the government would deliver two overarching advantages for a kleptocratic autocracy –
the term for a society in which state power is appropriated for the self-enrichment of an authoritarian leader and his inner circle.
First, the availability of the facts relied on by scientists, journalists, and other professionals working on behalf of the public will further decrease. ...
How the news cycle keeps us numb
Every one of these signs of a dawning kleptocracy
Political scientist Yonatan Zunger sounds the alarm in an excellent piece on Medium. has been in the news.
But almost all of them have appeared in separate reports by different media outlets.
So it’s hard to descry the connection between them, and it’s still easy to silence critics who cry “coup” with a bland,
“Wait and see.”
After all, any individual report can be qualified or seen as “not that bad.”
In a similar vein, the rise of fascism in Germany didn’t seem acute enough to cause widespread alarm
until it passed the point of no return.
News produces a serial, short-lived outrage at best – a daily dose of “WTF?!”
that quickly ebbs away until the next news cycle rolls around. ...
Four ways we can make journalism serve democracy
First, the business model. As long as news outlets keep depending on ad revenue,
they will continue to function as purveyors of human attention, essentially selling their readers to advertisers –
and the basic product won’t ever truly change. ...
Second, competition. As long as the news media keep seeing each other as opponents in the war for attention,
deep-rooted reflexes – like the drive to be first, to keep scoops to yourself, and a general mistrust of cooperation – will endure. ...
Third, objectivity. As long as the news media cling to the idea that “staying neutral” and “not taking a position”
are the journalistic holy grail, they’ll leave the judgments on current events to the historians.
Instead, the media should practice reverse historiography.
That is, we should formulate hypotheses for things we see strong but not-yet-definitive indications of,
and we should use those hypotheses to attempt to link the puzzle pieces we call news reports into a larger whole. ...
Fourth, formats. As long as news outlets continue to think in terms of traditional genres like spot news, editorials,
and features, the information they produce will stay fragmentary instead of adding up to form a bigger picture.
We need a way of making news cumulative. Instead of separate reports of individual events,
we need to think in terms of a documentation process that will eventually allow patterns to be identified. ...
Food for thought, perhaps even engagement.