Amendment 1: Congress shall make no laws… abridging the freedom… of the press…
(Satire Alert: My 7th grade social studies teacher said you can’t trust anything you read)
Candidate and now President Trump has accused the press of misrepresenting his ideas. He has demonized selected new agencies are publishers of fake news. This is consistent with the long espoused view from right-wing thinkers that the media is mostly liberal leaning, therefore biased against their positions.
I believe that longer trend issues have eroded the freedom of our press, both from those opposing major new agencies, as well as from within the print, radio, TV, and now internet new sources (full disclosure, I am not a news agency, just some 400-pound guy sitting in my recliner hacking the internet…).
Several probable trends have contributed to the decline in the congenial interactions between reporters and public leaders. Changes in media outlet revenue sources and staffing; the ability to research topics on one’s computer or phone rather than developing information sources; the merging of news and entertainment such that morning shows are considered news; comedy programs give better analysis of issues; afternoon talk and judge shows use closed-ended, leading lines of inquiry; and the loss of clarity between reporting events/facts, analyzing what these mean, and providing editorial opinions. All of these contribute to Gottcha-Journalism and No-Ya-Don’t evasive responses to questions.
A recent radio interview on PRI’s The World program exemplified how journalists and information sources spend more energy trying to out-smart each other, rather than informing those of us who are listening. I’m sure that each side would point the finger at the other for being rude in this case.
PRI interivew with Sebastian Gorka, a deputy assistant to the president, PRI – The World interview 2/7/17
The interview started off benignly enough with PRI providing some family history about Mr.Gorka: His parents escaped from Hungary when the Communists came to power. They moved to the UK where Mr. Gorka was born and raised. Then the interviewer said:
PRI: So refugees from the Soviet crackdown and now their son, you, work for a president who puts American on the same moral political plane as Vladamir Putin’s Kremlin. That’s ironic.
Gorka: Are you serious? That’s really, really disappointing from a channel like yours.
PRI: It’s just probing. I’m just curious…
Gorka: I hope it’s ironic, because it’s pathetic if it isn’t.
PRI: I said its ironic.
The interviewer stumbles at the start for making a glib and irrelevant observation. Informality and the desire to act as if news were a bunch of friends chatting over coffee, or bantering over a beer, does not serve the process of gathering and reporting information. The rough start to this interview continued on, giving the interviewee the high position of being offended… or was he standing there with is tongue out on the road waiting for it to be run over?
PRI: “The contradiction on Crimea. That is clear.”
Gorka: “I dont’ see it. I dont’ see any formal recognition of what Russia did. The media has been generating stories from whole clothe. I come in every day and with my colleagues we have a good-old laugh because we open the newspapers, the ones that are supposed to be the leading authorities in America, and they write about issues where we were in the room the day before, and their reportage has absolutely no resemblance to what is actually happening inside the White House”
The interviewer makes a statement, followed by a closed-ended comment. This is a leading questions style of interview, leaving the interviewee little room for discussion. He can only agree or disagree with the statement. By disagreeing, he has the opportunity to discredit the news and nullify the interview.
PRI: “There are people in Washington and around the country who are concerned that President Trump might be trying to emulate President Putin. Are you concerned?”
Gorka: “If you’re really going to ask really churlish and childish questions like that, then there really is no point to the interview.”
Again, a leading and close-ended question, lets the interviewee essentially say, “Stick it up yours”.
PRI: “What if the next terrorist attack happens on US soil and the attackers are not from one of these seven countries? Will Americans then be surrendering civil liberties in the name of national security?”
Gorka: “…Democracy is inherently susceptible to extremist, whether they are the members of KKK, communist, or jihadists… The only nations that do not have terrorists are dictatorships.”
The interview had moved onto to discuss the President Trump’s executive order regarding banning travel from 7 named countries (e.g. The Travel Ban according to right-leaning news outlets, or The Muslim Ban according to left-leaning news outlets). Again, he uses leading and closed-ended questioning.
This time rather than just dismissing the interview process, the interviewee picks up on the theme of governance style and the presence of terrorist. Of course, I see irony in that the way his boss is behaving, we will soon not have terrorist because we will be a dictatorship. Ooop, I’m editoralizing.
PRI: “That’s assuming that those promises don’t continue to anger large parts of the country who are still protesting and still very angry.”
Gorka: “Go to Montana. Go to middle America. Go to the backbone of this nation that voted in Donald Trump. I’m not interested in the chattering classes, in the social justice warriors… When you say ‘large parts of America’, I’d like to see your data because it’s not true.”
The interviewer has given up on even suggesting a questions. He just make statements, which the interviewee can ridicule and challenge as not being factually based.
The underlying theme of this interview is who is in control of our government. The interviewer implied that President Trump and his advisors are running-amuck, possibly being directly or indirectly influenced by Russian idealization or ideologues. The interviewee countered that the media wanted to run the country.
Out of curiosity, I wanted to find Mr. Gorka’s nationality, given that he was born and raised in the UK. His Wickapedia chronicles quite an active political and academic career, in the UK, USA, and his ancestral Hungary. He did become an US citizen in 2012.
Hmmm, I guess when he cautions how easily a terrorist can infiltrate our nation, he ought to know, as he knows how easily an US citizen for only 5 years now advises the President. Guess, I show follow that up with a closed-ended question.