When propaganda is presented as news

Statements this week by our slick salesman President shine a light on how obsessed the man is with the destruction of the profession created to be a check on his behavior in and out of the White House. Unless some serious remedies are found, he and his followers will make it impossible to judge between what is news and what is propaganda, and the very future of our democracy is at stake.

To a group of veterans in Kansas City on Tuesday, he criticized the press and made this remarkable statement:

“Just remember, what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening. Just stick with us, don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news.”

Many observers responded with fear and noted that the statement was eerily similar to Orwell’s dystopian 1984. That’s a problem, because the press seems to have no response to the corner into which they are being painted.

At the same time, Trump’s FCC took steps to block the merger of Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media, which enraged the President. Tuesday night he tweeted: “So sad and unfair that the FCC wouldn’t approve the Sinclair Broadcast merger with Tribune,. This would have been a great and much needed Conservative voice for and of the People. Liberal Fake News NBC and Comcast gets approved, much bigger, but not Sinclair. Disgraceful!” Very briefly, local news groups have so far escaped the claims of bias and are trusted a great deal more than the national press. Sinclair owns more TV stations than anybody else. They’re famous for forcing anchors to read conservative scripts and editorials penned by Sinclair managers. One day they’ll destroy that trust between viewers and local news, but that’s downstream a bit. The point is that the President of the United States has called the move “disgraceful” in his attempts to control the Washington narrative.

One of the roles of journalism is to write the first draft of history, including all the stuff taught to our children. Without the chronicles of observers — professional observers — where would we begin in drafting the various narratives that make up the grand narrative that is certified as history? Much of my writing life has been dedicated to understanding this process, and we’ve now entered a new era where political propaganda has replaced professional journalism in a bold, manipulative, and dangerous plan to capture the minds of the masses.

My book, The Gospel of Self, is largely about how I helped Pat Robertson produce a form of point-of-view journalism in my substantial role at The 700 Club during the 1980s, up to and including Robertson’s run for President as a Republican in 1988. We literally wrote the book on presenting a politically conservative form of “news,” and as I’ve said many times, long before there was Fox News, there was The 700 Club. The most visible fruit of this unholy snow job today is Donald Trump, President of the United States and a master of propaganda as news.

What’s lost is the need of free people to access truth in current events and thusly our writing of history. News organizations aren’t politically liberal just because their product is often progressive. That’s because news is “new,” not only in its name but also in its mission to report what is new. It is not now, nor was it ever birthed as a form of political propaganda, but the same cannot be said for so-called “conservative news.” I know, because I was there when it was created.

The press simply must stop playing defense in all this and go on the offensive, which should include the use of its own facilities to educate the masses about journalism. All who carry the banner of “professional press” should join together in this process, for the Trump right takes advantage of the ignorance of the masses in this area.

We need to do this now, before this mischief is dragged into yet another presidential election year.

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