By Michael Drohan
It has become a cliché to say that democracy is under attack on multiple fronts. It is hard to know where to begin, as the topic is vast. A good place might be with what is denominated as “fake news”. This term was introduced to our lexicon largely by Donald Trump and his trumpeters in the media and the political establishment. In essence, it was introduced as a label for dismissing what was unfavorable to team Trump, or for press and media organs that the same team disliked intensely. The New York Times and the Washington Post in particular became the butt of Trumpian anger and wrath.
The most profound upshot of this development has been to sow doubt and distrust of even the most committed sections of the investigative media. Furthermore, it has seeded the idea that truth is unattainable, fungible, or maybe a fiction. In particular, it has called into question the very concept of science and scientific investigation. When the honest and sincere findings of scientists are dismissed as fakery we are in deep trouble. The question of challenging the climate crisis that we are experiencing is perhaps the clearest example of the consequences of truth denial.
It would be a great mistake to declare that Trump invented the concept of fake news and that it will go by the wayside with the demise of Trump. It is often said that Trump gets all his opinions and convictions from Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and the multiple organs of a similar nature. So in a sense, Trump policies and tweets are a creation of Fox News and its multiple clones. Fox News preceded Trump and after him it will create more clones if society does not wake up to the reality of mind manipulation by mass media owned and engineered by the billionaire Rupert Murdochs of the world.
While it may seem easy to identify the dangers that media outlets like Fox News, Breitbart News, Rush Limbaugh and Info-Wars present to democracy, the danger is that one might assume that the liberal media such as the New York Times, CNN and MSNBC present us with the unadulterated truth.
A good example of this danger would be the reportage on the relationship between the United States and the Russian Federation, and the allegations of Russian interference in US elections and politics that these sources pedal. All the liberal organs mentioned above give a daily drumbeat of how nefarious Russia is and how it is undermining US democracy. They seem to be still caught in the cold war mentality, when Russia was a communist country devoted to the destruction of capitalism. It has not dawned on them that Russia is now an uber- capitalist state and scarcely registers as a world economic or political power. If they paused for a moment they might realize that Israel and Israeli interference in US elections and democracy presents a far greater threat. Just imagine that under the presidency of Obama, the Prime Minister of Israel was invited by the united US Congress to address them, against the will of the then President of the US.
The present Democratic Presidential debates and electioneering illustrate yet another severe danger to democracy from the liberal media. Take the example of Chris Matthews from Hardball on MSNBC. After Sanders’ victory in the Nevada primary on February 21, Matthews compared the victory of Sanders to the Fall of France to the Nazis in 1940 and likened Sanders to Adolf Hitler. Although he apologized later for this extraordinary outburst of anger at Sanders’ recognizing the good outcomes of Cuba’s revolution, it was clear where his heart and politics were. Although Matthews represents the most extreme reaction to a truly progressive agenda, he has many like-minded companions in the liberal media. It looks as if they will collude with the Democratic Party machine to assure that Sanders will not be the general election candidate, as they instill fear of “socialism” in the population.
On March 6, the New York Times entered the Sanders bashing stakes with an article entitled “Soviet Papers Recount Ties with Sanders.” The page-and-a-half article recounts Bernie Sanders’ work as Mayor of Burlington, VT, to establish a sister city agreement between Yaroslavl, Russia and Burlington in 1988.
Sanders was no doubt trying to tap down the hostility between the then Soviet Union and the US during the glasnost program introduced by Mikhail Gorbachev. The Times went to great lengths to investigate this story, examining “89 pages of letters, telegrams and internal Soviet government documents.” But one has to ask the question of why this article now. The answer is clear: make sure democracy does not run amuck and let Bernie Sanders become President.
Michael Drohan is a member of the Merton Center and of the Editorial Collective.
NewPeople Newspaper VOL. 50 No. 3. April, 2020. All rights reserved.