President Trump and his party have released an online survey about the media. It is very slanted in the way its questions are formulated, and does its best to lead respondents to criticisms of the media that will justify Trump’s anti-media stance. As a propaganda piece this survey is interesting enough. What the administration plans to do with it may be even more interesting.
(Here is the link to the survey- https://action.donaldjtrump.com/mainstream-media-accountability-survey/)
Trump’s survey, question 1: Do you believe that the mainstream media has reported unfairly on our movement?
First of all, what ‘movement’? The Republican Party is one of the two dominant parties in the US, and has been for a long time. Calling Trump’s regime a movement suggests to me that Trump’s version of the Republican Party is not a continuation of that party and what it has represented in the past. Ok, but it is not the job of mainstream media to promote or defend either/any party’s platform. That is the job of the party.
It has always been the job of the free press to not just report on what politicians are doing, but to analyze, criticize, and provide context, other perspectives, and additional supporting or conflicting information. There is no single ‘mainstream media’, and media sources do cover Trump’s regime differently, so when they mostly agree in their analysis, that may be a sign that they have been doing their homework and have enough facts to back up their analyses. If their facts are incomplete or wrong, the solution is to provide more, better facts, using good data that can be independently verified.
Questions 2, 3, 4, 6, 7: Do you trust MSNBC to report fairly on Trump’s presidency? Do you trust CNN to report fairly on Trump’s presidency? Do you trust Fox News to report fairly on Trump’s presidency? Which television source do you primarily get your news from? Do you use a source not listed above?
First, does anyone really only get news from one source anymore? Ok, I don’t ‘trust’ Fox News’, because I’ve seen too many instances of horrible news coverage from them on a variety of stories. But I’d never rely on any one source for all my information on any major story. Also, I (like many people in my generation) do not get my news from television. In fact I do not own a television. Even if I did, I would not expect to get a full picture of news events from CNN or MSNBC or Fox News. That does not mean I need the government to attack these news companies for the way they cover the news.
As a modern news consumer, I use Facebook, Twitter, and Google to crosscheck information on any major story. Regardless of where I initially hear about new events and issues, I rely on Internet sources for my news. My sources include Reuters, Associated Press, BBC, The Guardian, New York Times, Washington Post, individual reporters on social media, politicians on social media, and experts from academia on social media and in person. There are also lots of other trustworthy sources available online for more in-depth analysis depending on the story. In my experience, no one source is sufficient to get a clear, accurate, and reasonably picture of any story.
When a new story pops up, I find the twitter hashtags that connect to that story, and follow those hashtags. When particular reporters or publications prove particularly informative and reliable, I follow those people on twitter. I also follow several major news agencies on facebook, so I see major news reports while browsing my social media. And, if I find that I need more background to understand the events I am seeing reports about, I use Google to find more information, preferably crosschecking all new information as I go along. I also am always reading and learning as much as I can about stuff, so I have sufficient background to understand the stories on the news.
Questions 5 and 9: On which issues does the mainstream media do the worst job of representing Republicans? (Select as many that apply.)** Do you trust the mainstream media to tell the truth about the Republican Party’s positions and actions?
(*wincing at the bad grammar in question 5*)
I am not sure the Republicans are all on the same page about what the Republican Party’s positions are. The actions of Trump’s regime so far seem to support a sort of Republican-flavored libertarian position of limited government, mixed with crony-capitalism and curtailed Constitutional rights for anyone who disagrees with the regime. But I’m not sure. So far the Trump regime really looks fascist and disturbingly corrupt, and I do not trust the propaganda coming from the White House to accurately reflect the actual agenda of our current ruling party.
As far as Republicans more generally, and I’ll get into this more in later questions, I really hope there is dissension within the party and that there are many perspectives and interests subsumed under the Republican umbrella, because that means we still are looking at a democratic party system.
Question 10: Do you believe that the mainstream media does not do their due diligence fact-checking before publishing stories on the Trump administration?
I’ve had my complaints in the past about the mainstream media not fact-checking before publishing stories, especially after domestic terrorist attacks. But I’ve been impressed with how major media companies have acknowledged the need to be more careful about checking their facts over the past year or so. I still always cross-check everything I can, and I think a lot of younger news consumers do the same. I suspect that many media companies are aware that the Internet generations know how to cross-check news stories, and perhaps we are part of why the news is becoming more reliable.
I think the Trump administration is doing its best to limit access to facts and information, in an attempt to control the flow of information to the public. Many regimes throughout history have tried to control information like this, because knowledge is power, after all. So, sometimes the media is working with limited information where the current administration is concerned. They may have plenty of propaganda to work with, but propaganda is not the same as facts.
Also, I suspect, by the way, that while the Trump administration seems to be naive or uneducated when it comes to facts about science, international relations, history, and global cultures, this is just a facade. I don’t think there are as many unintended, unfortunate consequences to Trump’s actions as the media seems to suggest, because those unfortunate (and very real) consequences were intended and serve a longer-term purpose we have yet to be fully informed about.