“Fake news” is a rather ubiquitous term that has come to be used in US and international media. This term is mainly attributed to President Donald Trump, in reaction to false media narratives about him and his campaign, and after his election to the Presidency, fake news became the modus operandi by which the media establishments sought to destroy the Trump Presidency by inundating the American populace with information that would serve to discourage them from supporting him.
In terms of domestic policy, the assault has not been able to do its dirty work, as it did with President George W. Bush, for example, who had such a withering press drive that his approval ratings were driven into the high 20% range during his term. Part of that was the Mr. Bush’s steadfast refusal to play dirty, even though the media did at every turn. History has not caught up to this yet, but eventually it probably will note that George W. Bush was the last of the US’ “gentleman Presidents”.
After Bush 43 and his legacy were successfully driven out of office (John McCain and Sarah Palin were especially easy pickings for the rabidly liberal press), they had eight years of “Hope and Change” to praise with President Obama, praising the man to the point where he received a Nobel Peace Prize without actually having done anything. Just because you are who you are, man! seemed to be the message that the segment of the population that issues the news wanted to say.
The newscasting industry leaders thought more and more that the way they saw things was the way everyone else saw them too. Even though the rise of AM-radio based talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh and strangely conservative Fox News were attracting a significant listenership and viewership, the mainstream press had the advantage of numbers and “respectability” among the majority of the American populace which really does not care too much about what is going on in the world or in the US government anyway. The advent of the 24-hour news cycle may also have helped numb the media consumers, because the narrative of the news never really changed, though the players in that narrative often did.
However, that narrative has served largely to insulate Americans from finding out what is really going on in the world.
While the narrative was only challenged domestically on talk radio and Fox, the media curtain was pretty impregnable. American citizens were informationally locked in a fishbowl of only getting the news the media thought they deserved. This was actually reinforced by the stubborn belief that the First Amendment’s protection of the free press and freedom of speech would not be trampled on by the government, nor, could they be, because such actions would be detected by the general population if they actually happened.
The narrative wall was almost perfect. Then 2014 happened.
Dissatisfaction with the excessively liberal policies under President Obama had already lost him the House of Representatives in 2010, but Mr. Obama was still getting his way pretty consistently just the same. The resistance appeared to be growing to the “fundamental transformation of America” that turned out to be quite far from what many Americans thought Mr. Obama meant.
The 2014 midterm election placed Republican majorities in both houses of the US Congress, predicated on no particular party-wide platform, but only on the promise made by the winning candidates that they would “stop Obama.” This was not an organized GOP tactic, but every GOP candidate that offered this service to the constituents in his or her area won their race.
But, in 2015, the GOP-majority Congress showed no such change, capitulating to Obama’s agenda over and over again, all the while promising that they were “giving a little here to get more back later.”
Later never came, until June 16, 2015.
On this day, “Later” finally arrived, in the person of one Donald John Trump, a Queens born real estate tycoon whose flamboyant lifestyle was reflected in wild and risky – but successful! – dealmaking for decades. A billionaire, largely self-made, Mr. Trump had been asked for years to run for President, but always deferred, saying he was not the man for such a job.
With his announcement of running, the press was most likely terrified. This man could crack the walls they had built.
And, he did crack them. The fact that his approval ratings have actually been on a steady state or even a slow climb shows this. President Trump fights the fake news press and takes very positive actions that help break the hammerlock the mainstream press has had on American domestic affairs. While some people will never be convinced that this is so, there are many that got wise to the lies of the press and to the professional political class at home and they simply will not have it any more. For them, Mr. Trump is the sole hope at times, and for them, every time he takes a shot at the media narrative, it is like a breath of much needed fresh air.
Fake News took a hit at home. But on foreign affairs it is still very strong.
But what the President has accomplished with domestic politics has not yet been extended to geopolitical realities. Here the Western media, not just the US media, but the European sycophant outlets like Reuters, the London Times, The Daily Mail, CNN International, and many others, all know that in order to maintain the present geopolitical reality, the narrative must be consistent all the way around.
Therefore, the narrative throughout the West about Russia, China and Iran is remarkably consistent. Russia, under President Putin, is trying to take over the world again, China already is moving to do the same, and Iran is just a nation of reprobates. The only change recently on the geopolitical stage has been with the status of North Korea, which admittedly was a stereotype largely broken by President Trump’s endlessly derided “tough guy” campaign against Kim Jong-un, which actually succeeded and has brought about quite a different sort of relationship between the two countries, at least for the last year or two.
But the media lock on Russia has been almost impervious. Part of the reason for this is that Russia does not have anything the US wants, but it is a very large and powerful country with its own interests, which is (deliberately) portrayed as a “threat” to the American way of life. Just for existing!
The dangerous thing about this is that the constant rhetoric coming out of the press about Russia is so close to unanimous in its message that Americans and Westerners believe it. In a sense, they have little choice in the matter. Alternative media outlets like The Duran and Russia Today (RT) are categorized by the West as purveyors of fake news. Some, such as USA Really, are even blocked by Western censors, such as Facebook, although the content on all three of these networks is actually ideologically quite free, with people writing from all points of all ideological spectra.
This reveals a characteristic of Western censorship that differs from that of countries that have “State-run news media”, such as Russia. The US Constitution forbids a state-run media, guaranteeing freedom of the press as a protection against government tyranny.
But this guarantee is not enough to ensure a free press!
In the next part of this series we will examine the problem with Fake News and US – Russian relations more closely.