If there was a single propellant behind the election of Donald J. Trump in November 2016, it was a desire to punish the elites.
Voters residing in Middle America seized the opportunity to stick it to the coastal privileged whose degrees and lifestyles differ so much from their own. As a resident of a flyover state, I could empathize with the fire behind their political support for the outsider. However, my conservatism kept me from casting a vote for someone whose best quality was and continues to be engaging and enraging voters with superficial appeals to emotion.
During the campaign season and into the first year of Trump’s presidency, the penchant for seeking out, consuming, and spreading “fake news” has remained high. Despite claims to the contrary, this type of propaganda is popular on and emanates from both sides of the political aisle.
As we are well aware, President Trump often makes statements on social media about the “fake news” outlets and their laser focus on him and his administration. The very ones who are often called out by the president respond in kind. Last fall, CNN began airing a new ad indirectly addressing the president’s claims that the news channel is an arbiter of fake news.
On January 5th, author Michael Wolff’s supposed bombshell of a book, “Fire and Fury”, was released to the dismay of the White House and the delight of The Resistance. Since then, Wolff and the tenuous contents of his work have been called into question. An author with serious credibility issues should not be given any leeway simply because his subject is one of the most despised men in the world at present. Wolff’s claims are not made more factual by Trump’s own inappropriate behavior. Wolff himself stated “if it rings true, it is true.” This is a very dangerous precedent to set. Wolff (who recently hinted that Ambassador Nikki Haley may have had an affair with President Trump) excels at the explosive and the false, and does it all for fame.
It is important to remember that being anti-Trump does not necessarily mean someone is pro-truth.
More recently, The New York Times reported that President Trump ordered the firing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller last summer, but then backed off. After the story broke, the president dismissed it as “fake news” and cheerleaders at Fox News followed suit.
Fox & Friends on Trump trying to fire Mueller: "Well, the president says it's fake news, that happened last June, it's something we have to tell you about because it's a headline on the NY Times. What do you think about that? Do you even care?" pic.twitter.com/4nPB5sv6Fs
— Matthew Gertz (@MattGertz) January 26, 2018
Never mind the fact that Ed Henry, a well-known journalist at Fox News, had confirmed the story with actual sources. The president called it “fake news” and it had come from the NYT, so therefore, it could no longer be questioned by torchbearers on the Right.
Along with this never-ending drama, of which both sides partake, is a binary attitude that has taken hold in nearly every corner of the electorate. This mindset says that one side is always right and one side is always wrong. Such thinking is not only factually incorrect, but in the Fake News Era, it is dangerous.
Because of the political environment that we find ourselves in where we are surrounded by the unsubstantiated and entirely erroneous, it is necessary that we begin adopting a new approach; soft elitism.
“Hard elitism” says that upbringing, education, wealth, or location automatically qualifies one for that selective upper tier where few reside. Here, the fortunate can look down on the lessers and judge them as they wish. This often-purchased favor is open to those who were born into wealth, attend celebrated schools, and grew up in the correct families. On the other hand, “soft elitism” is available to all of us. This is a healthy skepticism and questioning of both those in power as well as those tasked with observing them. It is never a blanket acceptance or dismissal of a person or media outlet.
Soft elitism is all about mindset, not circumstance.
Since Trump came to power, the phrase “now more than ever” has been echoed by many in the media as sort of a call to arms. Suddenly, searching for and reporting the truth is of the utmost importance. This is a highly suspect phrase because it essentially states that previous years and past presidencies did not require the same level of scrutiny. It is a flat-out admission of bias dressed up as very serious concern for the events at hand.
Soft elitism never alters with the changing of the guard. It is a constant in an ever-shifting political reality.
I know the term “elitism” instantly turns many away because of its implication that one group of individuals is better than the other. It is a stark admission of dominance.
However, in a time when each side is fighting to chip away at others’ relevance and reputation, choosing to possess a mental superiority that is critically observant of all is actually a healthy trait to have.