America cannot see how stupid President Donald J. Trump (R-New York) is because of the dumbness of our media.
The media’s refusal to expose the stupidity of past leaders; and their policies, paved the way for the complete stupidity of the Trump administration. Revealingly, this pattern of behavior has occurred in other countries.
In particular, the Trump phenomenon mirrors the Brexit debacle in the United Kingdom. Interestingly, Oxford Professor Simon Wren-Lewis blames the British media for Brexit in an interesting New Statesman column.
How the Media Wrecked Britain
Wren-Lewis thinks the British media made Brexit by not reporting he failures of the British government’s austerity program. To explain, under austerity various administrations cut government services to the bone.
Critics such as the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) thinktank allege austerity did vast harm to Britain. In fact, the IPPR claims austerity is responsible for over 131,000 deaths, The Guardian reports.
For instance, the IPPR alleges austerity makes kids unhealthy by eliminating school gym programs and cutting school health services. In particular, Her Majesty’s government cut funding for physical education from £451 million to £100 million a year, the IPPR alleges.
The Lies that Led to Brexit
Wren-Lewis blames the media for austerity in his book The Lies We Were Told; Politics, Economics, Austerity and Brexit.
“The UK convinced itself that austerity was the only way forward, despite most academic economists saying otherwise,” Wren-Lewis writes in The New Statesman. “It was the media that promoted claims that governments were just like households, even though first-year economics students are taught why this is not true.”
“And then it was the media that pushed (or left unchallenged) the idea that austerity was the result of Labour profligacy: it was a straight lie but it played a critical part in the 2015 election,” Wren-Lewis alleges.
Wren-Lewis’s belief is that the same media perpetuated a similar series of lies about Brexit. In particular, the British media oversimplified Brexit and under-reported on its potentially catastrophic effects. To elaborate, the economic hardship caused by austerity, made ordinary Britons so desperate they were wiling to vote for any change of status quo such as Brexit.
The Lies that Led to Trump
Likewise, the American media created Trump by swallowing over a decade of lies from U.S. leaders.
America’s equivalent of austerity was the Second Iraq War. In the run up to the Second Iraq War the George W. Bush (R-Texas) administration spread several lies that the media left unchallenged.
In particular, the Bush administration spread the lie that Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD). To clarify, weapons of mass destruction means chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. Tellingly, US troops found no examples of those weapons when they occupied Iraq.
Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and the Bush evidence for those weapons was questionable. Yet, the media swallowed the weapons of mass destruction lies completely.
In fact in 2015, The Intercept’s Jon Schwarz complained: “Twelve Years Later, U.S. Media Still Can’t Get Iraqi WMD Story Right.” Schwarz alleges that 12 years after the war, the US media was still spreading false narratives about the Iraqi WMD.
Moreover, the media perpetuated the lies that the United States was promoting democracy, fighting terrorism, and creating regional stability by fighting in Iraq. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The High Cost of Media Lies about Iraq
Iraq is in complete chaos, but Americans do not know it. 16 years after the U.S. invasion the major U.S. media pretends Iraq does not exist. However, what little reporting there is, shows Iraq became a living hell because of the American invasion.
For instance, American Conservative Executive Editor Kelley Beaucar Vlahos writes: “For ordinary Iraqis, their ‘liberation’ turned out to be a purgatory, with a corrupt authoritarian elite at the helm.”
Furthermore, the U.S. media routinely ignores and suppresses evidence of the catastrophic failures of the foreign policies it promotes. For instance, only fringe outlets; such as The American Conservative, noticed a Brown University study that claims the US wars in Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq could cost US taxpayers $6.4 trillion.
Yet only one Presidential candidate; U.S. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) challenges the stupidity of regime change, The American Conservative’s Doug Bandow notes. Gabbard is paying a terrible price for her honesty. Former Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton publicly calls Gabbard a Russian agent, while Saturday Night Live mocks her as a Disney vilianess.
Nor did the media notice that the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs horrific casualty estimates for U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere. The Watson Institute estimates America’s endless “War on Terror” has killed over 801,000 people since 2001. Those causalities include over 335,000 civilians, the Institute notes.*
Fifteen years after the media falsely portrayed the invasion of Iraq as a 21st Century World War II, the lies continue. As with British austerity the costs of the lies are high and mounting. Yet the falsehoods continue.
Media Lies that Led to Trump
The media performance in Iraq; which continues in the coverage of ongoing military operations in Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere, laid the groundwork for Trump.
Trump’s 2016 campaign rested on a series of blatant lies that the media either ignored, or worse spread. For instance, the lies that Trump is a brilliant businessman and a wealthy tycoon.
In reality, Trump’s “business career” was an almost endless string of failures. Glaring examples of Trump failures include the United States Football League, Trump Casinos, Trump University, Trump Steaks, the Trump Steakhouse, Trump Mortgage, and Trump Airlines. Yet the media let Trump’s blatant lies that he was a brilliant businessman go unchallenged.
Instead, almost none of the failures made it into media coverage of Trump’s presidential run. Instead, the media only focused on the colorful character with the private jet. As in Iraq, the American media was unwilling to let ugly facts ruin a good story.
How the Media Perpetuates Trump lies
The mainstream media still takes Trump seriously when it the man is obviously a bad joke. Even Fox News star; and lukewarm Trump supporter, Tucker Carlson admits Trump is a “full-blown bull shit artist.”
Sadly, Carlson himself perpetuates the lie Donald J. Trump got rich in real estate. In reality, the Donald’s father; Fred Trump, got rich in real estate. The Donald inherited most of his fortune from Fred, whose existence the media ignores. Bizarrely, Trump even spreads the falsehood that his father was born in Germany, USA Today notes.
Since his election, the media keeps getting shocked by the corruption and incompetence in the Trump administration. They should not be. Trump’s business career offers many examples of the Donald’s incompetence and corruption most of which are public record.
Additionally, the media refused to report on Trump’s racism, the fraudulent birther lies, and Trump’s past as a centrist Democrat. As with austerity and Iraq, journalists focused on a simple, satisfying and entertaining story; the outrageous billionaire with some crazy followers and ignored the ugly and complex truth.
Did the Media Elect Trump?
Finally, the US media enabled Trump by spreading the lie that Hillary R. Clinton (D-New York) was winning the 2016 presidential election. For instance, National Public Radio (NPR) reported “Hillary Clinton Is Winning — And It’s Not Close” on 18 October 2016.
Perhaps Clinton could have done better if the media honestly reported on her campaign’s failures. For instance, Clinton could have fired the incompetent strategists who were leading her to defeat. Ideally, honest reporting could have forced Clinton and her team out of their fantasy world.
Disturbingly, journalist and author Matt Taibbi alleges reporters had serious doubts about Clinton’s effort during the 2016 campaign but kept the skepticism to themselves in a 16 November 2019 chat with Joe Rogan. Hence, reporters knew what they were saying was wrong but said it, anyway.
Where do We Go From here?
Everybody needs to keep the stories of Iraq, Austerity, Brexit, and Trump in mind going into the 2019 General Election and the 2020 presidential election. Events in the U.S. and the UK show the media will turn complex truths into satisfying stories by dumbing them down.
Ordinary people can fight such media dumbness by treating the media with skepticism and remembering any story that sounds too good to be true probably is. Other ways to avoid being deceived are to read alternative media and foreign media.
For instance, I remember seeing foreign stories noting how well Trump was doing in September and October 2016. In addition, Wren-Lewis notes that most people outside Britain think Brexit is stupid. Largely because the many shoddy deceptions about Brexit never made it outside the British press.
Perhaps the best place to start is to stop paying attention to certain kinds of media. For instance propaganda TV networks such as MSNBC and Fox News. Beyond that consume a wide variety of media; including liberal and conservative, American and foreign, and mainstream and alternative.
There’s no guarantee you will get the truth that way but at least you’ll have an easier job seeing past the media stupidity.