When the Press Cry Wolf, People Stop Listening

September 8, 2020 Updated: September 8, 2020

Commentary

A reliance on illusion, convoluted logic, and outright falsehoods plays a significant role in the practice of personal destruction that has become part and parcel of modern political campaigns.

In the age of Trump, such malicious tools of deception have been employed at levels that make it almost impossible for rational observers to believe anything they hear in the news. Cynicism abounds, and citizens are learning to rely on their own judgement over the tendentious reporting of hyper-partisan reporters.

Nevertheless, the danger of our susceptibility to the plausible lie remains. In his 16th century masterpiece on human intrigue, “The Prince,” Florentine political philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli reminded us that the practice of deception in political affairs has been with us for centuries. Machiavelli’s observation that “men are so simple and so much creatures of circumstance that the deceiver will always find someone ready to be deceived” should continue to caution us against taking anything we hear at face value.

A Blatant Example of Deceitful Journalism

Last week, a particularly blatant example of deceitful political journalism appeared in The Atlantic. The headline read: “Trump: Americans Who Died in War are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers.’” The subheadline went on to declare that: “The president has repeatedly disparaged the intelligence of service members, and asked that wounded veterans be kept out of military parades, multiple sources tell the Atlantic.”

Where did this come from? When President Donald Trump canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018 wrote the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, “he blamed rain for the last-minute decision, saying that ‘the helicopter couldn’t fly’ and that the Secret Service wouldn’t drive him there.”

Goldberg contended that Trump’s claims were untrue. He said the president “rejected the idea of the visit because he feared his hair would become disheveled in the rain, and because he did not believe it important to honor American war dead.” He went on to report that in a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump is said to have referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed.

Goldberg’s account was said to be based on the testimony of four people with firsthand knowledge of that day’s events. But none of them were prepared to come forward and identify themselves. The public was provided with no names, no attributions, and no opportunity to examine the credibility or motivations of the accusers. The editor of the Atlantic maintained that Trump’s accusers could not come forward because they might become the target of mean tweets from the president.

The president categorically denied the anonymous allegations. Nearly a dozen witnesses came forward to refute The Atlantic’s story. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, former White House Press Secretary, wrote on Twitter: “The Atlantic story on @realDonaldTrump is total BS. I was actually there and one of the people part of the discussion – this never happened.”

Others who supported the president included former Deputy White House Press Secretary Hogan Gidley, White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Dan Scavino, personal aide to President Trump Jordan Karem, and former acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

Even John Bolton, former National Security Adviser, who has broken with Trump and called him unfit for office, said he was on the trip in question and never heard Trump make such remarks.

This week, The Epoch Times reported that nearly 700 American veterans signed a letter condemning the “recent baseless media attacks against President Trump from anonymous sources.” Epoch Times contributor Roger Kimball rightly pointed out that “the truth doesn’t matter to the anti-Trump machine. A talking point is a talking point, however groundless, however absurd.”

Nevertheless, Trump’s alleged comments were predictably confirmed by the Associated Press, the Washington Post, and other outlets, including Fox News, which has developed an unmistakable Trump disapproval cohort among featured anchors and favorite pundits. The story was immediately used by the Biden campaign as evidence of the president’s moral turpitude.

Fox News correspondent Jennifer Griffin reported that two anonymous former Trump administration officials had confirmed “key parts” of the Atlantic’s story about the president, but could not confirm “the most salacious” part. Even this somewhat tepid affirmation made her an instant heroine among the Trump-despising legacy media. She maintained that the anonymous sources for the story were not anonymous to her, and presumably that should be good enough for the rest of us.

The Press Who Cry Wolf

Epoch Times readers may be familiar with the famous collection of children’s stories known as Aesop’s Fables. One tale concerns a shepherd boy who repeatedly tricks nearby villagers into thinking a wolf is attacking his town’s flock. When a wolf actually does appear and the boy again calls for help, the villagers don’t believe him and the sheep are eaten by the wolf. In later versions of the fable, the wolf also eats the boy.

The mainstream media has been crying wolf about Donald Trump from the early months of the Russia collusion hoax in 2016, to the phony impeachment proceedings that dragged from December 2019 through January 2020 and tragically diverted everyone’s attention from the impending CCP virus pandemic that Beijing unleashed on the world early in the present year.

The tightening of the 2020 political campaign has only served to accelerate the preposterous daily condemnations of the president levied by an overwhelming majority of the world press corp.

But stubborn facts prevail. Under the Trump administration there was an enormous improvement in the economy. The president’s policies led to rising wages, renegotiated trade deals, the return of manufacturing jobs, criminal justice reform, the curtailment of illegal immigration, the rebuilding of the military, the development of opportunity zones, and successful crisis management policies initiated by the Coronavirus Task Force.

These facts cannot be kept entirely hidden from ordinary Americans. The truth is like toothpaste. Once it’s out of the tube even the media can’t just push it back in.

The moral of Aesop’s famous fable about the shepherd boy who cried wolf is this: Liars are seldom rewarded for long. If they persist in spreading falsehoods and exaggerations, eventually few will believe them.

Whether or not some of the shepherd boys in the world’s progressive newsrooms will ever learn this lesson is an open question. Recently, the new BBC director general, Tim Davie, spoke about the need to “renew our commitment to impartiality.”

It’s an encouraging sentiment, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it ever happening.

William Brooks is a Montreal writer and educator. He currently serves as editor of “The Civil Conversation” for Canada’s Civitas Society and is an Epoch Times contributor.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.