Wednesday, August 17, 2016

"Where Do We Go To Have Any Sense of Truth?"

Remember "the Fourth Estate"?   The U.S. Constitution established three branches of government (an elected legislature that makes laws;   a judiciary that interprets the laws and settles disputes;   and a chief executive in the form of a president and his administration to execute the laws).

And then, in a free society, there is the unofficial, but necessary, fourth estate:   a free press, which is considered necessary so that the people can make informed decisions in electing congress and the president.   Another function of a free press is to investigate and expose wrong-doing in elected officials.

Lately, with the explosion of talk radio (mostly exploited by the right wing), Fox News, and then the nuclear explosion of the internet and social media, the lines and authoritative voice of the fourth estate have become very blurred.

The great progressive and intelligent blogger, "digby," has written on this in an article in Salon, excerpts of which is quoted here:

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"Where Do We Go To Have Any Sense of Truth?"

"Back in the early 2000s right wing talk radio was a juggernaut that influenced American politics so thoroughly that all mainstream GOP leaders genuflected to their power. Rush Limbaugh was, of course, the king . . . .   Combined with the ascendance of Fox News, Drudge and total Republican control of the government, right wing media completely dominated the political landscape.

"This phenomenon had a number of bedrock assumptions but the first, and most important, was the notion that the mainstream media suffered from a liberal bias so extreme that it was completely untrustworthy. Now this idea had . . . .  been an article of faith among conservatives since the 1960s when the right began to rebel against the civil rights movement and the Vietnam and Watergate coverage.  It later became a more cynical . . . exercise in which their constant accusations of liberal bias kept reporters and editors constantly on the defensive and ended up tilting much of the coverage their way. . . .

"There was even a famous quote from a Bush official [who] said that reporters like Suskind lived in the "reality based community" which was made up of people who believe 'solutions emerge from a judicious study of discernible reality.'   He and his cohorts on the right, however, were not constrained by such restrictions: "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality" . . . . 

"The rise of social media turned it into an even louder megaphone that simultaneously blocked out any competing information. It was this environment that has made it possible for Donald Trump to emerge. . . .  And it's no mystery where Trump got his increasingly unhinged rap about the press either, is it? . . . 

"[T]oday, for the first time, some conservatives in the #NeverTrump camp are seeing where their decades long attacks on the mainstream media and the "reality based community" have led.  Right wing radio talk show host Charlie Sykes from Wisconsin [one of the more thoughtful ones, who is often a guest on MSNBC to comment on news from the conservative position] said this:
Over the years conservative talk show hosts, and I'm certainly one of them, we've done a remarkable job of challenging and attacking the mainstream media. But perhaps what we did was also to destroy any sense of a standardWhere do you go to have any sense of the truth? You have Donald Trump come along and the man says things that are demonstrably untrue on a daily basis. . . .  we live in an era when every drunk at the end of the bar has a twitter account and maybe has a blog and when you try to point out  'this is not true, this is a lie and then you cite the Washington Post or the New York Times, their response is 'oh that's the mainstream media." So we've done such a good job of discrediting them that there's almost no place to go to be able to fact check
"Welcome to the reality based community.

"The right is in disarray, to say the least, and that includes their media. Fox News is in crisis . . . .  Conservative radio is losing listeners. It would be nice to think that this fever has broken and we can get back to a point where people can at least agree on a certain set of facts even if we have disagreements about how to proceed from there. But it's a long road back.

"And social media is not going to be helpful. The next phase I'm afraid is rampant conspiracy theories on all sides of the political spectrum. Indeed, all we have to do is look at the Trump campaign for a preview of where that's headed too. But the great Right Wing Wurlitzer is finally sputtering out. The damage it's left in its wake is incalculable."

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That how digby responded to one of conservatism's own -- a conservative talk show host -- voicing his feeling that they have gone too far and destroyed the credibility of what we used to rely on as "the newspapers of record" that could be relied on as grounded in fact.

What will happen to this right-wing, disinformation machine when Donald Trump leads the Republican Party to a landslide defeat? -- and very likely with loss of the Senate and, at least, a reduced margin in the House?

First, they will claim, as Trump is already signalling, that the election was rigged.   Knowing his predilection for tying things up with lawsuits, let's hope Clinton's electoral victory is so massive that any conceivable court challenge will be thrown out.    But how difficult will it be for her to govern?   Will Congress oppose her as they did Obama?   How will the angry, working-class, white men of Trump's constituency react to such a massive repudiation?

It won't be pretty.   But maybe . . . just maybe, it will be the beginning of a corrective.   Wouldn't it be great to live again in a world where facts matter?   Where evidence is the basis for evaluating what works?


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