January 27th, 2017

The press and the president: fooling some of the people

It’s one of the most famous saying in American history (whether Lincoln said it, as reported, or not):

You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.

True, and wise.

However, if you stop to think about it, the success of a “fool the people” gambit rests on how many of the people you can fool how much of the time. And—unless you can fake sincerity very well—to be really, really good at it, sometimes it helps to be able to fool yourself.

The press coverage of Trump’s first week as president (seems like a lot longer, doesn’t it?) has been an almost unrelieved litany of horrors. There are certainly things to criticize; for example, I think Trump would have done much better to have talked with the Mexican leader before taking a hard line in public. But—as someone who’s been hard on Trump myself—I find the coverage to have been abysmal and deceptive way too often (here’s a pretty good Vox analysis of one example).

The press has often been able to fool enough people enough of the time to make them want to continue doing so. What’s more, some of the people fooled work for the press. In other words, to someone with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. To those who think Trump is evil incarnate, everything he does is evil.

But at a certain point people get tired of it. At a certain point, the “some” of the people you can fool may start to be a smaller number. Has that point been reached?

Two pieces today at Powerline by John Hinderaker make an interesting juxtaposition on the subject. First we have a post entitled “Press pretends to fact-check Trump, but only misleads readers.” It’s about exactly what the title says it’s about. The second is entitled “Voters like what Trump is doing, and they can’t stand the press.” An excerpt:

Despite the Left’s howls of outrage, or maybe in part because of them, voters like what President Trump is doing so far. Rasmussen currently finds 59% of likely voters approving of Trump’s performance. That is a Reaganesque level that he won’t be able to sustain long-term, but it suggests that most voters are comfortable both with the direction of Trump’s policies and with his iconoclastic style…

During the eight years when the notoriously dishonest Barack Obama was president, did the Times ever characterize anything he said as a lie? Not to my knowledge. Why not? Because he is a Democrat, and the Times is a Democratic Party newspaper. I’m not going to spend my time searching the archives, but I would be surprised if the Times has ever referred to anything said by Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi as a lie, either.

Steve Bannon is right. The Times, the Washington Post, the Associated Press, and so on, constitute an opposition party when a Republican is in the White House. That is their prerogative, but they should stop pretending to be shocked–shocked!–when people notice.

The press is indeed shocked when people notice. They are used to their bias not being noticed, or used to its being noticed only by “some of the people” constituting a smaller group than at present, and a group that is quite conservative.

Once this distrust of the press hits the mainstream middle-of-the-roaders, watch out. You mmight get something like a President Trump. And you might even get a President Trump about whom the press can weep and wail and not get much traction with the public.

That’s not necessarily a good thing, by the way. It would be a far far better thing if the press covered all politicians well and covered them fairly. But at the moment, that’s merely a dream.

15 Responses to “The press and the president: fooling some of the people”

  1. parker Says:

    I think it is impossible for the msm to divorce the dnc. They are in a “until death do we part” relationship. Only a steep decline in revenue will make the msm change its partisanship.

  2. Lurker Jean Says:

    I cannot see the comment on this subject – or any subsequent ones, either. I am using Firefox as a browser, and frequently encounter this. It usually resolves the next day, but a simple refresh doesn’t work. (By the way, your blog is loading faster.)

  3. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    The Left and its propaganda organ the MSN know that they can’t fool all the people but without publicized rebuttal, they can fool enough people enough of the time. The internet, more than any other factor is what has led to the MSM’s decline in trust. The Left is well aware of this and has and will continue to attempt to censor it.

    I agree with parker that the msm and dnc are wedded, I disagree that financial concerns will change that, as evidence I point to CNN.


    I’m using a notebook and an android tablet. Both use chrome. No problems on the notebook, a few on the tablet…

  4. Griffin Says:

    One of the things that has really shown up the last week has been the tendency of one media member/organization to tweet some hot new story and then it is immediately retweeted by dozens of other media types before it is then clarified or proven just plain false. We saw this with the State Dept. moves and then today with bogus hands photoshopping story.

    These media people are so hysterical that they just unquestioningly repeat any anti Trump story before even thinking about the veracity of the story.

  5. AesopFan Says:

    Not directly about the press, but reveals their puppeteers:

  6. AesopFan Says:

    It would be a far far better thing if the press covered all politicians well and covered them fairly. But at the moment, that’s merely a dream. –neo
    * * *
    I think I linked this from Glenn Reynolds before, but he says exactly the same thing:

    “The killer counter-move for the press isn’t to double down on anti-Trump messaging. The counter-move is to bolster its own trustworthiness by acting (and being) more neutral and sober, and by being more trustworthy. If the news media actually focused on reporting facts accurately and straightforwardly, on leaving opinion to the pundits, and on giving Trump a clearly fair shake, then Trump’s tactics wouldn’t work, and any actual dirt they found on him would do actual damage. He’s betting on the press being insufficiently mature and self-controlled to manage that. So far, his bet is paying off.

    That’s too bad. If we had a better press, we’d be much better off as a nation, and Trump’s strategy of capitalizing on the press’s flaws is good for Trump, but will probably make that problem worse, if such a thing is possible. But the truth is, we don’t have a better press. And as long as the press is mindlessly partisan and bereft of self-discipline, capitalizing on that is just good politics.”

  7. blert Says:


    Not even that.

  8. AesopFan Says:

    parker Says:
    January 27th, 2017 at 3:21 pm
    I think it is impossible for the msm to divorce the dnc. They are in a “until death do we part” relationship. Only a steep decline in revenue will make the msm change its partisanship.
    * * *
    If it declines enough they might go out of business (Newsweek for a buck again?), which at least relieve of the burden of their partisanship masquerading as news.


  9. Lizzy Says:

    Thought the DNC and Podesta email leaks very clearly illustrated that the MSM is part of the DNC; the lines have been completely erased. Just ask Ben Rhodes!

    Crowning themselves “fact-checkers” now isn’t going to erase this revelation. I don’t know how they recover the public’s trust, but what they’ve done in the past week is making things much, much worse.

  10. CV Says:

    Again, Mollie Hemingway at The Federalist has been doing outstanding analysis of press bias and the media meltdown over Trump.

    Here, she comments on how the press immediately jumped on Bannon’s recent comment that the press should “shut up” (paraphrasing) while completely ignoring the rest of his remark: “and listen more.” Hemingway also links to a female, liberal (redundant, I know) NYC photographer who photographed and quoted several brave female Trump voters…great example of listening first, THEN reporting:


  11. Ray Says:

    “Because he is a Democrat, and the Times is a Democratic Party newspaper.”
    Don’t these people know the difference between democrat and democratic? One is a noun and the other an adjective. I see this grammar mistake all the time. I’m giving them the benefit of a doubt and assuming a mistake and not dishonest.

  12. Vanderleun Says:

    In realpolitick: “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”… and that should be enough for most purposes.

  13. huxley Says:

    VDL: Not bad!

    But I’ll bet you’ve used that one before.

  14. Big Maq Says:

    It seems many have it backwards.

    The msm bias exists largely because they have an audience for what they produce.

    If the audience didn’t exist, doubtful they’d sell adverts and make any money.

    Yes, they are losing share, but what is happening is, with a much larger variety of media sources, the audience is selecting their sources, be it mother jones or breitbart.

    If the majority of people were to become nazi sympathizers, the media, in a free market, would see a domination of that type of bias.

    Yes, doubtful there’d be a free media market in that scenario. Maybe today’s russia is a better comparison? If not, Argentina? venezuela?

  15. AesopFan Says:

    The public isn’t stupid; some may have been willing useful idiots for awhile, under the illusion of ending racial strife by electing a black president, but eventually the hypocrisy takes its toll.


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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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