OK, which is it?
On one hand, Trump supporters repeatedly and gleefully point out that a majority of Americans distrust mainstream media. While in 2000, about 50% of Americans harbored skepticism, today mainstream media has sunk to the lowest approval rate of all our once-respected institutions. On the other hand, these same Trump followers often blame the distrusted mainstream media for all false or objectionable opinions to which they claim Americans fall prey.
For example, a recent letter-writer has argued, without a scintilla of evidence, that mainstream media is/was solely responsible for many Americans’ belief that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in 9/11. According to them, American attitudes about Saddam were not at all negatively affected by the 1st Gulf War (initiated by his August 1990 invasion of Kuwait) or by his brutality and bellicosity toward the U.S. They say it had nothing to do with Bush Administration and Dick Cheney’s lies, or Fox’s relentless campaign to tie Saddam Hussein to 9/11. Evidently, entirely forgotten is FOX News’ blistering attack on mainstream media for publishing 9/11 Commission findings and highlighting the statement that Saddam Hussein was not involved.
Similarly, Trump devotees charge that mainstream media was solely responsible for Michael Brown’s un-uttered, yet viral, words: “Hands Up-Don’t Shoot.” According to them, the proliferation of that slogan had nothing to do with protesters making these words their rallying cry, nor oft-broadcasted images of L.A. Rams and four Black Caucus members with hands raised. Neither did T-shirts, banners and other popular props emblazoned with these words sold at rallies throughout the country have any effect, nor the explosive influence of social media exposure. Further, Trump supporters never mention the media’s published skepticism on the subject, exemplified in a Washington Post ranking, which gave the “Hands Up-Don’t Shoot” mantra one of 2015’s biggest “Pinocchio” (untrue) scores.
In the same vein, the same letter-writer proclaims, “The mainstream media has zealously elevated a politically-motivated conspiracy theory (Trump/Russia collusion) even after the two-year Mueller probe “did not establish that the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” Well, if the mainstream media actually tried to subvert this finding, it failed abysmally. In fact, according to a Harvard CAPS/Harris national poll conducted in June 2019, only 35% of those queried believed that Mueller found evidence of Trump campaign collusion.
Trump supporters like to make contradictory statements simultaneously. Example: “mainstream media is broadly distrusted by the American public,” vis “mainstream media intentionally and successfully infects broad swaths of American opinion with false information.” Okay, which is it? Is mainstream media impotent or omnipotent? A failure to answer this question clearly exposes bombastic, specious criticisms about mainstream media for what they are: self-indulgent, revisionist, self-contradictory expressions of personal biases, not of reality-based facts.