The Reality of Fake
After reading Trump's boneheaded tweet over the weekend (Thanksgiving weekend, no less) about his fantasy competition for a "Fake News" Trophy, which the King of Flim-flammery then followed the next few days by yet more tweets about supposed "Fake News", I was mid-gnashing my teeth when a calming realization occurred to me.
It's one thing to call something "fake" and create controversy and uncertainty. But it's something else entirely when you call things "Fake News" regularly, unceasingly for an entire year -- because during that long period the public has the chance to put your unending charges up against reality. And Real Life over the past year has shown that pretty much all the news stories Trump has called "Fake" have turned out to be completely true.
Not everything. The news media of course sometimes get facts, details and quotes flat-out wrong -- but not often, because it's quite easy to grasp that if a reporter get the foundation of a story demonstrably wrong too often (and "too often" is herewith defined as more than once every 5-10 years), you'll be out of a job -- though on those rare occasions when a story is just out-right factually inaccurate, professional press issue corrections.
But that's a general observation. The specifics with Donald Trump are another matter entirely. And that's because the fullness of time has shown that news reporters have gotten most everything spot-on correct that Trump has called "Fake news" for the past year. Day after day, week after week, month after month. All the time. For a year.
I suspect that in his previous, three-ring circus business life Trump could call things "Fake" with impunity because the entire world (almost literally) was not focused on him, and he only made the news every once in a while, so he could get away with it like a criminal hit-and-run driver. By the time you fact-checked something, everything had long-since moved on and earlier lies were likely even forgotten. But when you're president, all that changes. Everyone is watching, not not paying attention but paying meticulously close attention. Everything is on the record. And people keep records. In fact, it's the law to keep records of everything the president writes. And the reality of it all builds up until you get to the point where you become the foolish Boy Who Cried Wolf, and every time you cry "Fake News" up against the year-long record of you being demonstrably wrong, it only serves to shred any sense of credibility that those in the undecided middle might have had for you. And your words become meaningless and disbelieved and dance on the edge of irrelevant.
I'm sure that Trump thinks all his repetition about "Fake News" has a cumulative impact on tearing down trust in the press. And I'm equally sure that it has had an impact among his base, though they came to unthinkingly believe him on this long ago, so repeating it endlessly hasn't made them believe it more. It only reinforces what is long-since solidly locked into their unquestioning minds. But there is a far-larger reality that it seems Trump has profoundly overlooked. And it's that as much as he maniacally craves world attention, people are now actually paying that full attention And your empty lies and your cries of "Fake news" for stories that repeatedly turn out to be completely true add up. Being cumulatively wrong for a year compounds itself. And you ultimately become discredited and a laughingstock to the world. Albeit a dangerous one with nukes.
And that's the sinkhole where Trump sits now. Yes, his base believes his cries of "Fake news." But his base is 20%, and if you have a foundation that low, you are sunk. And more to the point, to most everyone else, every whine of "Fake news" has become one more nail that has pounded him towards oblivion. Nothing more than mere "white noise."
Which, this being Trump, is the perfect description of the man.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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