The Media's Mass Delusion About Donald Trump

The Washington Post wrote off Donald Trump this way. The headline from the Post’s Chris Cillizza was as follows on June 17, 2015, a total of two days after Trump rode into the GOP presidential race on a Trump Tower escalator:

Why no one should take Donald Trump seriously, in one very simple chart

Wrote Cillizza, who pens the paper’s “The Fix” column:

There’s a tendency when someone like Donald Trump announces that he is running for president to view — and analyze — him through the same lens that we do for the other men and women actively seeking the presidency. What’s his policy vision? Who’s in his political inner circle? What would a Trump presidency look like?

Asking any of these questions gives Trump a benefit of the doubt that he simply doesn’t deserve: That a path exists for him to be president.

It doesn’t. Not even close.

Cillizza fixated on polls that showed Trump’s popularity was in the tank with a net negative at 42%.  He went on:

And it's not even (or only) his brutal image problems that doom Trump.  Just one in ten Republicans (11 percent) have no opinion of him. So, Trump is both extremely well known and extremely disliked by the members of the party he is running to represent.

You cannot and do not win anything when your numbers look like Trump's.  I can't say it any more clearly than that. There's nothing you can say or do -- not that Trump would ever even consider going on an image rehabilitation tour -- to change how people feel about you.  Republicans know Trump. And they really, really don't like him.

Trump, of course, knows this. His goal is attention, not winning. And  in truth, even that would be fine if Trump had an issue (or issues) that he cared about and wanted to draw attention to via his presidential bid.

….Trump has every right to run. This is a democracy after all. But  what he should not get is covered as though this is an even-close-to-serious attempt to either win the Republican nomination or influence the conversation in GOP circles in any significant way.  It's not.

In fairness, Cillizza was not only not alone, he was part of a chorus of journalists in the mainstream liberal media who not only dismissed Trump out of hand but mocked the idea he had even a ghost of a chance to win the White House. Worse, when Trump actually did start winning primaries and went on to clinch the GOP nomination media institutions like the Post lost their minds when it came to reporting on the GOP presidential nominee.

Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times summed up the media’s view of Trump perfectly. The headline:

Trump Is Testing the Norms of Objectivity in Journalism

Wrote Rutenberg:

If you’re a working journalist and you believe that Donald J. Trump is a demagogue playing to the nation’s worst racist and nationalistic tendencies, that he cozies up to anti-American dictators and that he would be dangerous with control of the United States nuclear codes, how the heck are you supposed to cover him?

Because if you believe all of those things, you have to throw out the textbook American journalism has been using for the better part of the past half-century, if not longer, and approach it in a way you’ve never approached anything in your career. If you view a Trump presidency as something that’s potentially dangerous, then your reporting is going to reflect that. You would move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional. That’s uncomfortable and uncharted territory for every mainstream, non-opinion journalist I’ve ever known, and by normal standards, untenable.

But the question that everyone is grappling with is: Do normal standards apply? And if they don’t, what should take their place?”

Got that? Journalist Rutenberg is actually postulating that journalists should abandon their “objectivity” in covering Trump, blithely saying of Trump that he is “a demagogue playing to the nation’s worst racist and nationalistic tendencies…”

This pitch for journalists to throw objectivity to the wind was eagerly seconded by Hillary Clinton, who spoke to the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists at their joint gathering in Washington, saying: “Now I think journalists have a special responsibility to our democracy in a time like this.”  That “special responsibility”, of course, meaning these journalists should use their reporting to attack her opponent. (And note well the irony: Trump was accused by Rutenberg, the Times and the Post among many, many other others of being a racist. The fact that Clinton addressed not one but two groups of journalists who quite openly divided themselves into racial groupings of “black journalists” and “Hispanic journalists” caused no one to blink, much less think twice.)

The fact of the matter is that millions of Americans think the liberal media doesn’t need Donald Trump to tilt its coverage. Which is exactly why so many of those Trump rally goers would frequently turn their wrath on the attending media.

But well beyond liberal bias, the media has another problem here - and a big one. The fact of the matter is the media got this election so wildly wrong because they operate in a self-contained ideological cocoon. Over at CNN, where I hang my hat as a commentator, my colleague Brian Stelter gets it and in a remarkable opening to his Reliable Sources show, after saying that this was “one of the biggest media failures in many years” went on to say:

This was a collective failure. A failure of imagination. In some ways, a mass delusion. So now it’s time for some serious soul searching.

Brian Stelter has it exactly right. As one mainstream journalist after another - the Post’s Chris Cillizza, again, was only one example - so vividly illustrated, the media collectively was indeed suffering from a “mass delusion.” They were utterly clueless about the rise of Donald Trump.

The question now is what will they do about it? 

Tell the Truth 2016

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