President Donald Trump is continuing his assault on the mainstream media, calling them “fake news.” The media are chafing at Trump’s description, even suggesting he is attempting to suppress the operation of the “free press” which is, of course, laughable. What the media are calling an attack is, in reality, a counter punch.
Is President Trump’s assessment of mainstream media as “fake news” really legitimate? Perhaps it would be more accurate to say a great deal of media coverage during the Trump era has been one-sided, ambiguously sourced, politically biased and demonstrably inaccurate. In Trump tweet shorthand, all those adjectives boil down to “fake news.”
Take, for example, the misleading edit of the video showing Trump feeding coy fish with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The edited clip attempted to show our president as a disrespectful boob when he dumped his whole box of food into the pond after just a few scoops. The unedited version showed the Japanese prime minister, who fed the fish first, had done exactly the same thing!
Whatever happened to the media’s role as the Fourth Estate? The “free press” used to be an honorable and unbiased entity invaluable in facilitating “the public’s right to know.” Not too long ago, the press was about keeping the public informed. And, in order to do so, they maintained a posture of objectivity and attempted to tell all stories from all sides. That objectivity has been lost. Need another example? MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt recently called a physical assault on Republican Senator Rand Paul one of her favorite stories!
If the media were objective, they could hardly blame the president for fighting back against their coverage. In fact, President Obama set that precedent when he lashed out against Fox News for what he perceived as one-sided coverage early in his tenure. On the other hand, Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, silently endured media abuse.
The media are already in a tricky position by the very nature of their business. They deal in words, and as the book of Ecclesiastes tells us, “many words mark the speech of a fool.” (Ecc. 5:3b)
President Trump seems unwilling or unable to extend the grace exercised by President Bush. Perhaps he doesn’t want to look weak. Instead, he seems to be operating under Old Testament rules. “Fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury.” (Leviticus 24:20)
Of course, we can’t expect the media as a group to adhere to Scripture, so it’s no use to talk about specks or planks here. But it is reasonable to expect a once proud industry to honor their implicit pledge to uphold the truth. And as Christians, we should be praying for all the major players in our country… including the press.