Why is President Trump making such a big deal about fake news, and specifically targeting reputable organizations like The New York Times and CNN?

  • The Trump administration has been targeting reputable news organizations like The Times and CNN, calling them "fake news".

    What is this administration trying to accomplish here?

  • Venture2099

    Venture2099 Correct answer

    5 years ago

    TL;DR I have been as bi-partisan as possible.

    President Trump is attempting to discredit the media as they attempt to expose aspects of his administration they find worthy of journalism. Some may be driven by editorial bias however the majority are reporting genuine news-worthy stories, often using direct statements and quotes from the Trump administration or Donald Trump himself.

    Due to the lack of experience of the administration they have made clumsy mistakes which look, at first glance, to demonstrate a lack of understanding of the US Constitution, political affairs, legal structure and general all-round US civics. This is extremely embarrassing and de-legitimizes President Trump. In response to being unable to prevent this, the President has attacked the media directly trying to erode their credibility and trust.

    The situation is made worse by the epidemic, as described by Trump, of information leaking to the Press from the judicial and law enforcement agencies, from the intelligence community, from the legislature and from Trump's own administration.

    When questioned, anonymous staffers have said that the leaks must continue as they uncover more and more information they believe should be in the hands of the populace. Reports are that Admin staff are now using an encrypted chat platform called Confide to leak material freely.


    His primary method of attack is to use the repetition of a simplistic phrase

    Fake News. You are Fake News. Failing Fake News.

    which plays well into the demographics of the voter base he is targeting; many of which distrust the Government or any suitably large organisation (which can be warranted given that the US Government engineered the biggest gold theft in history from the US populace) and ongoing cultural divisions between North and South USA. The Trump rhetoric is a lesser version of the message distributed by media outlets such as InfoWars. They share the same demographic and espouse conspiracy theory, paranoia and fear of Government, which Trump alludes to frequently with the qualifier

    We don't know. We need to find out what's going on.

    In addition Trump uses the propaganda technique, what-about-ism which is a common tactic for deflecting criticism or oversight.

    Whataboutism is a term describing a propaganda technique used by the Soviet Union in its dealings with the Western world during the Cold War. When criticisms were levelled at the Soviet Union, the response would be "What about..." followed by the naming of an event in the Western world. It represents a case of tu quoque (appeal to hypocrisy), a logical fallacy which attempts to discredit the opponent's position by asserting the opponent's failure to act consistently in accordance with that position, without directly refuting or disproving the opponent's initial argument.

    Many of the media outlets targeted by the Trump administration are labelled as liberal which is a term used in the USA as a pejorative by non-liberal voters. Some are, admittedly, outwardly liberal (CNN, Guardian) whilst others are attempting to strike a completely non-partisan reporting platform (BBC) although conspiracy theorists would argue otherwise.

    This is part of a wider trend showing that Democrats are becoming more liberal and Republicans are becoming more Conservative with the USA becoming more polarised.

    Fake News

    The Trump administration, and the President, have also sought to pivot the label "fake news" from referring to largely fabricated reports describing fantastical and untrue events which veer often into paranoid, anti-authority conspiracy theory to a more insidious label applied to the press corps as a whole; but also specifically any press institution classed as critical of the Trump administration.

    This approach allows the administration to avoid direct criticism of individual events and policies by simply labeling the entirety of the press fake and thus, anything they print or investigate is fake by proxy. In doing so any nuanced investigation into any aspect of the Trump Presidency is smothered and overwhelmed as a figment of the fake news.

    There is a discernible pattern and correlation showing that fake news is primarily endorsed, shared and buoyed by right-wing voters. Fake news / conspiracy theory often centers on anti-governance and dovetails with ideological views of Trump and right-wing voters meaning they are more susceptible to considering fake news websites as legitimate.

    known false news stories that appeared in the three months before the election, those favoring Trump were shared a total of 30 million times on Facebook, while those favoring Clinton were shared eight million times;

    "Pope backs Trump", "Hillary sold weapons to ISIS", "FBI Agent Suspected in Hillary Email Leaks Found Dead" - these fake headlines all went viral on Facebook in the run up to the election, gaining such high engagement that BuzzFeed published an analysis on how they had outperformed real news on Facebook.

    Donald Trump also courted conspiracy theories. Initially, he suggested Ted Cruz's father was involved in the assassination of JFK, perpetuated the myth of Obama not being born in the United States (which he later conceded) and repeatedly claimed climate change as a hoax all of which are the preserve of fake news websites.

    Trump's unpredictability and his fueling of distrust of his opponents led to a growth in fake news that was supportive of him which now flames a cycle of de-legitimizing the established press making the term fake news essentially meaningless and more of a stick to beat the mainstream press with than a phenomenon in itself. Donald Trump said recently that "any negative polls are fake news".

    Wider Pattern

    There is considerable historical precedence to suggest that Trump is engaging in a wider de-legitimising of the Press in preparation for a wider assault on the Constitution, of which a free press, is a cornerstone.

    Trump has continually referred to Fascist rhetoric directly (Drain the Swamp was from Mussolini) and he refers to the "lying press" daily which was also an early tactic of Adolf Hitler. In additional, many of his policies have been echoed in Fascist leaders throughout history but that deconstruction is for another post.

    Mussolini established a High Commission for the press in the spring of 1929. Insisting that the Commission would not interfere with the freedom of the press, Mussolini’s Keeper of the Seals, Alfredo Rocco, nevertheless maintained an exception for “any activity contrary to the national interest,” “faithfulness to the Fatherland” naturally assuming the position of ultimate importance.

    Journalists were, like all other professions, encouraged to see their occupation as one of many forms of service to the nation, to participate actively in the education and inculcation of the Italian people.

    Right now, it is clear that far from embracing a transparent White House administration and striking a conciliatory tone with the free press of the world, Donald Trump is doubling down on his attacks and is taking punitive measures against what he considers to be a hostile actor in the 2017 United States of America.

    Whether you consider the press hostile to Donald Trump or hostile to the USA is largely a question of your cultural upbringing and voter persuasion but a case to suggest Breitbart is a better custodian of Democratic First amendment rights rather than the BBC or the New York Times is nonexistent.

    For instance, the New York Times, established in 1851, continually printed in New York, has won over 120 Pulitzer Prizes; more than any other newspaper organisation. It is considered a "Newspaper of Record" along with the LA Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

    One whose editorial and news-gathering functions are considered professional and typically authoritative.

    However, a number of historians and commentators have begun to draw parallels and conclusions from the timing of Donald Trump's outbursts and attacks. It appears that the most memorable attacks, often considered buffoonery, are synchronised with serious legislative events and revelations which become buried behind the latest "tweet-rage". This is speculation but not unprecedented.

    Psychological Suitability

    There is a growing trend in reporting questioning the mental health of Donald Trump. Supporters of the President claim this is a distraction and unprovoked attack however in recent weeks more and more psychiatric and psychologist specialists have been speaking up using various news agencies and platforms to express alarm at his erratic behaviour. For instance, in a letter to the New York Times, 35 mental health professionals warned that the "grave emotional instability" indicated in Mr Trump's speech and actions made him "incapable of serving safely as president".

    But the majority of mental health professionals have refrained from making public statements, following a self-imposed principle known as the "Goldwater rule", adopted by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in 1973.

    His attacks on the press are held as further indicators that he takes negative reporting about him or his administration extremely seriously and he cannot refocus on his task at hand until he has launched a counter-offensive against the aggrieving party. This is further evidence from mental health professionals that Donald Trump may lack the restraint required for the Commander in Chief role, a situation exacerbated by his continued endorsement of ideas which are best labelled as conspiracy theory.


    So far, Trump's approach to the media, labelled as the MSM (Mainstream Media) by predominantly right-wing and/or libertarian demographics has played well with his core voter base who believe that the media bloc are part of a larger coordinated conspiracy against him and the right wing in general.

    For instance; the Financial Times reports

    Mr Trump’s most recent Gallup approval rating was 88 per cent among Republicans, which is historically normal, or even good, for a president within his own party. Even after a chaotic first month characterised by protests, the shambolic rollout of a travel ban, cabinet shake-ups and allegations of contacts with Russia, a dedicated core of US adults continues to approve of the job the president is doing.

    This has culminated in the Republican Party releasing the "Mainstream Media Accountability Survey" which asks a series of questions focusing on the alleged shortcomings of the press, naming some media outlets.

    Unfortunately for the President, his attacks are having the opposite effect as intended in the wider USA. Voter trust in the media is rising, almost daily, and the Legislature are becoming increasingly alarmed at his rhetoric.

    Though he is polling better among his own party than some predecessors were at the same time including Bush and Reagan, Mr Trump’s overall approval rating remains lower than that of every other president soon after inauguration, at least since polling data became available in 1945. The main difference is that Mr Trump’s approval ratings among non-Republicans are much lower than other presidents.

    Most tellingly, his daily claims that media outlets are failing (NYT especially) is being soundly rebutted by business reports showing the New York Times is showing rapid growth in subscriber numbers and quarterly profitability as well a stock price surge to the highest in 2.5 years.

    His refusal to accept even basic facts is not helping his image as balanced and able to accept criticism; in fact, it paints a picture of a man creating his own reality around him in direct opposition to facts, truth and empirical evidence.

    Addendum Content & Quotes for Further Reading

    Part of the left and right divide comes from where Americans get their information. Last year, Fox News, the top news choice for Trump voters, became the most-watched cable news network on US television, surpassing the sports network ESPN for the first time. Nearly nine in 10 consistently conservative respondents told Pew they trusted Fox News, while only 6 per cent of consistently liberal respondents said the same.

    Mainstream news outlets reported on Mr Trump’s low inauguration turnout compared to Mr Obama’s 2009 inauguration. According to a poll that week, fewer than a third of Trump voters agreed that Mr Obama had a larger turnout.

    This information gap translates to tangible differences in the opinions US voters hold. In early February, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway mistakenly said that two Iraqi refugees perpetrated “the Bowling Green massacre”. No Bowling Green massacre ever occurred, a fact that many mainstream news outlets reported, but a majority of Trump voters still told pollsters that the non-existent massacre is why the US needs Mr Trump’s immigration executive order.

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    This is a good answer but I am not sure about the Impact part. One question is the impact on **Trump voters** which may be completely different than the impact on non-Trump voters.

    "The Gold Reserve Act outlawed most private possession of gold, forcing individuals to sell it to the Treasury... The act also changed the nominal price of gold from $20.67 per troy ounce to $35." That's an interesting definition of "theft".

    While this is a great answer, I should point out one somewhat hyperbolic argument: "the New York Times [...] has won 119 Pulitzer Prizes; more than any other newspaper organisation on earth" -- the Pulitzer Prizes are awarded only to entities that are located in the USA, so the implicit suggestion that this makes the NYT the most respected newspaper worldwide is not substantiated by this.

    `A majority of Americans, 52%, said they trust the news media over Donald Trump to tell the truth about important issues. Only 37% said they trusted Trump more.` is 37% not an extremely high number? I don't know that I have ever trusted the head of a government more than the media. Were the media not always seen as a "neutral-enough" judge? (I could not find the historical numbers on POTUS trust. I only found that trust in media is at a 20 year low.)

    "I have been as bi-partisan as possible." That's a really big statement... to the point where it sounds like overcompensation. This answer is very biased, and I'm appalled (but not surprised) it is upvoted so highly.

    while I completely agree on the authoritarian tendencies of Donald Trump, there is really no such thing as non-partisan journalism. Otherwise, there would be no difference between Fox news and CNN.

    @JustSomeOldMan: Could you please explain how this answer is biased, and which other answer would be more balanced? Your comment basically just reads like "Fake News!".

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM