Is this surprising? Probably not, but seeing the numbers is a bit jarring.
Via a Politico poll, 46% of Americans think the media makes up stories about Donald Trump. That’s not a majority at least, right? It is a plurality though as only 37% think they don’t while 17% remain undecided.
Just 37 percent of voters think the media do not fabricate stories, the poll shows, while the remaining 17 percent are undecided.
More than three-quarters of Republican voters, 76 percent, think the news media invent stories about Trump and his administration, compared with only 11 percent who don’t think so. Among Democrats, one-in-five think the media make up stories, but a 65 percent majority think they do not. Forty-four percent of independent voters think the media make up stories about Trump, and 31 percent think they do not.
Keep in mind, this isn’t just a poll about bias but the percentage of people who think they actively make things up.
There’s a bit of a conflict in this as our human instinct is to find the good guy when given two choices. That doesn’t really exist here.
Not everything the media reports is false. In fact, most of it has some vein of truth even if they purposely forgo context or omit details. Meanwhile, Donald Trump has a habit of making things up, especially about things that are pointless to lie about.
So why go after the media, who do sometimes stumble into accurately reporting on Trump? Are they the good guys in the equation? Not really.
The simple reason people are taking this out on the media is that they’ve blown their credibility. There have now been dozens and dozens of stories, many of them petty in nature to begin with, that have been shown to be false about the President.
There was a time when you’d never run a story that has only one or two anonymous sources. Those days are gone. The media have their mission and they’ve thrown all their inhibitions to the wind in pursuit of it.
Aside from the types of stories that can only be described as pointless gossip (i.e. Mattis now denying Tillerson called Trump a “moron”), which usually pop up and fade away without any real confirmation, their biggest sin has been their overzealousness to pounce on any Trump-Russia angle they can find.
The Washington Post has had to retract two such stories about Russian servers and the power grid. CNN was caught with it’s pants down when they asserted the FBI’s funding for the Russia probe had been cut. They were again forced to correct themselves when they breathlessly reported that Comey would contradict Trump’s account of being told he was not under investigation. CNN also had to completely retract a story (see a pattern here?) about a Russian investment fund being tied to Trump.
NBC News got in on the act when they claimed Putin “did not deny” having compromising information on Trump. A few hours later, the actual interview was released and NBC had to print a “correction” for mis-representing their own interview.
I could keep going but you get the idea.
There’s also been many instances where the media will take a clearly partisan source (i.e. a former Obama official) and print their assertions as fact. Several times, major outlets have had to ad addendum at the bottom of articles to reveal the conflicts of interest.
Then of course there’s the active and passive bias of the media. Whether it’s always describing a story as if the DNC wrote their script for them, the fact that they often show bias by omission, or out and out direct bias as we often see from reporters on Twitter, the media consistently shows itself to be a sympathetic to the Democratic party and overly hostile to Republicans.
Take the story that Betsy Devos as an example of bias by omission.The AP first reported a salacious headline that the Secretary of Education used private jets for her official travel. What’d they fail to mention? That she pays for it herself.
All of this has added up to a complete distrust of the media among a large portion of the country. Even when they tell the truth, how do you know they are telling the truth? If you lie to me 15% of the time, I’m going to suspect you 100% of the time.
That’s the conundrum. It’s not that the media never report honestly. It’s that they’ve gotten caught pushing untrue stories too many times and are now the boy who cried wolf. I can’t blame anyone who looks at CNN now and dismisses them outright despite the fact that they have done good reporting in the past.
It may not be fair to call all news media “fake news,” and it’s certainly a simplification of the issue, but can anyone really say they haven’t earned the level of distrust they now live with?