Freezing out the media, then and now

Are Trump and his press secretary Sean Spicer tearing up the First Amendment? They are certainly playing favorites regarding media outlets, but is this truly abridging the freedom of speech or the press?

“Fake news” is the term people are throwing around to disparage the major media. Is it fair? And are there any examples of it? Well, yes, there are examples, but the term “fake” is up to you.

These questions and listener feedback on this episode.

Mentioned links:

White House blocks news organizations from press briefing

16 Fake News Stories Reporters Have Run Since Trump Won

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Show transcript

Listener DocH wrote in the comment section of the last episode regarding the leaks from the intelligence community that were designed to harm the Trump administration. Here’s what he said. [My comments are in square brackets.]

You said,

“… but that doesn’t excuse these BANANA-REPUBLIC-TYPE ACTIONS.”

by the now dead and/or dying Democratic Party Liberal-atti.

Yes! That is exactly (EXACTLY) what it is. (surfer dude voice) – I love you man.

These demonstrative liberal inculcations are classic guerrilla / gorilla [as in the tactic and the animal] warfare tactics right out of the (Chinese, Vietnamese, Cuban, North Korean, Nicaraguan, Venezuelan, etc…) playbook, and are not only wrong for this ‘representative republic’, but are seditious, slanderous, libelous and treasonous to boot. What needs to happen are punitive arrests followed by extreme rendition to GITMO/Guantanamo Bay to fill the kennel stalls that President Obama Sin Baldwin recently vacated. (Who let the dogs/thugs out?)

But I am only a cross-party moderate by nature, not a henchman. A few hundred deposits in the abysmal Pelican Bay State Prison in California may be motive enough to stop the anarchy being inflicted on the wholesome 90% ‘heart of this great country’.

Oh, don’t mince words, Doc. Tell us what you really think.

Indeed, this is not a good precedent to be setting so early in a new administration. Thanks, Doc, for writing in.

Wow. When an untelevised press briefing was held, and some media outlets weren’t invited, you’d think we were having a Constitutional crisis.

Let me explain. Sean Spicer, Trump’s press secretary, held an off-camera press briefing in his office on Friday, February 24th. In press parlance, this is known as a “gaggle”. You know, like a gaggle of geese. (Their word, not mine.) However, when reporters from the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Politico, BuzzFeed, the BBC and the Guardian  tried to enter Spicer’s office for the gaggle, they were told they could not attend because they were not on the list of attendees. Conservative news organizations, like Breitbart, the Washington Times and One America News Network, were let in. This, of course, sent the anti-Trumpers into full outrage mode (which they seem to be in 24/7, so it was hard to tell).

So consider this: I agree that this was probably not a good idea. The press has been very consistent in staying unified when one organization is being treated unfairly. When Obama froze out Fox News and wouldn’t give it interviews, the press corps would not stand for it and complained loudly. Yes, even for Fox News. In this case, reporters from The Associated Press, Time magazine and USA Today walked out of the meeting in protest, and the Wall Street Journal – generally a right-leaning paper – complained loudly. This is as it should be. Yes, all the news organizations would still get the same information ultimately, but boldly playing favorites is not presidential. Yes, Presidents of the past from both parties have played favorites and manipulated the press, but this isn’t something we should encourage.

At the same time, the patented Outrage Machine™ turned things up to 11, once again. Some thought this was a permanent ban. It wasn’t; it was just the one briefing. Some claimed it was a First Amendment issue, regarding either or both the freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Nope, not that either. The press is still free to say what they want, like, oh, criticize the government for this very action. Freedom of speech is not freedom of access. There is no constitutional right to be a part of a gaggle, even if you self-identify as a goose.

Speaking of media geese, the whole “fake news” thing has really been quite the buzzword. I don’t like that term exactly. It assumes that the major media outlets are creating their own news like some of those click-bait headlines you see on social media from places like Buzzfeed. Oh, wait, they were one of the organizations frozen out by Sean Spicer. OK, well, anyway, the implication is that these stories were made up just to get clicks and shares, and I don’t want to paint the entire major media with a broad brush.

However, there are people who have been chronicling all the stories from the major media, either during the Trump administration, or even prior to that, where Trump or Republicans seem to be to blame, that have turned out to be false. Daniel Payne, writing at the Federalist, is one such person. He lists 16 separate news stories that were either poorly sourced or based on untrue claims. The issue is, as they say, was that the lie went halfway around the world before the truth was able to put its shoes on. And in the day of social media, the lie goes around the world 10 times before the truth even knows the lie is out there.

So then Mr. Payne lists news stories like these:

  • After Trump’s election, there was a spike in transgendered suicides.
  • Trump’s pick for secretary of the Treasury, Steve Mnuchin, had overseen a company that foreclosed on a 90-year-old woman after a 27-cent payment error.
  • Trump’s pick for secretary of Education, Betsy DeVoss, thought that all schools in America should have guns in case grizzly bears attack.
  • Trump threatened to invade Mexico.
  • The House of Representatives voted to scrap background checks for gun ownership.

There are 11 more. Some are just mistakes that I think are honest ones, and some are more egregious. The big thing is, the false story was shared all over the news media and social networks, but the correction, if one was even issued, didn’t get nearly the same play.

Are these items “fake news”? I’ll let you decide, but this reminds me of another story topic that seems to attract a lot mistakes; the Israeli and Palestinian issue. It seems like whenever the press makes a mistake, it’s always in the same direction. The mistake always makes Israel look bad, and it always does the same for Trump.

It’s almost as if the media are ready to dump all objectivity if it fits their narrative. But it’s not “fake news”. Is it?

Filed under: Free SpeechGovernmentMedia