The opinions stated in this article are solely those of the author and not of The Davis Clipper.
Entering the 34th year of writing this column, I was asked by a reader to name the major change. The answer is easy: the distrust of the media due to the Trump presidency and the rise of online “news” reports.
Along the way, our divided nation has also led to a decreased civility (“If you don’t agree with me, you’re a traitor,”) and politicians have not helped out by disenfranchising voters through gerrymandering districts to ensure that Republicans or Democrats have easy wins.
The worry about “fake news” on the Internet has drawn the attention of online pioneers as well as corporate CEOs. Vincent Cerf, a 73-year old who worked with another electrical engineer to design the Internet (sorry, Al Gore!), is concerned that his invention has “attracted people who do not have other people’s interests at heart, running scams and doing all kinds of things that are harmful. We really have to accept responsibility in this online environment to think critically about what we are seeing and reading, and deliberately pay attention to the other side of the argument.”
Tim Cook, CEO at Apple, puts it more bluntly: “(Fake news) is killing people’s minds.”
Instead of reading newspapers and news magazines, Americans are relying on partisan websites and talk radio hosts to “explain” the news. This is how “Obamacare” became a swear word even though a majority of Americans agree with some of its major provisions. This is why some radical liberals still believe that the Russians hacked the polling sites and swung the election to Trump. In contrast, this is why a significant portion of U.S. conservatives still believe that Trump won the total number of votes since millions of illegal aliens cast phony ballots.
Trump’s bellowing about “fake news” and ousting major news outlets from his press conferences has certainly ramped up the mistrust of media even though the majority of Americans only snicker at his idea of “alternative facts.” His abuse of the media stirs cheers from his most loyal supporters; the problem is that according to a CBS survey, his “true believers” only account for 22 percent of the electorate (compared to 35 percent who “strongly resist” him. A slim majority of Americans are taking a “wait and see” attitude, but a mid-February Gallup poll found that Trump is not seeing the traditional “honeymoon” presidents feel in their first 60 days, with 53 percent disapproving of his job performance.
Lampooning the news media won’t boost his presidency; that will only come when he begins acting like an adult instead of a vaudeville performer. And blaming CNN for his problems will take a backseat to Saturday Night Live’s satirical spin. (The widely-seen Melissa McCarthy impersonation of press secretary Sean “Spicey” Spicer was the show’s most-watched episode in six years – and among the 18-49 age group, it scored higher ratings than any prime-time programming that week.) That is not good news for a Trump re-election in 2020.
Thirty-four years ago when this column first appeared, Americans had a greater sense of humor and presidents regularly joked about themselves; we didn’t refuse to watch the Academy Awards because a talented actress might make a comment we didn’t agree with; we didn’t base our political views on the rantings of TV and radio performers.
Thirty-four years ago, we were a more decent people.