Longtime readers know that I’m a big fan of Scott Rasmussen’s Number of the Day feature on Ballotpedia. These pithy daily posts give a snapshot of the nation’s mood, occasionally with some historical content or relevant tidbits tossed in for good measure.
This week, Rasmussen highlighted two poll figures regarding Americans’ distrust of national news media. On May 1, Rasmussen reported that only 38% of Americans consider national political news accurate and reliable. On May 2, he reported that 66% of voters believe national political reporters often get the story wrong.
These figures will come as no surprise to conservatives, who have long distrusted the mainstream media, or “MSM” (Rush Limbaugh calls them the “drive-bys,” for their tendency to spew disinformation before fleeing the scene, then burying corrections or mea culpas on the back pages or in thirty-second sound bites). The “Great One,” Mark Levin, ran through just a handful of the most recent media hoaxes on his radio program one night this week, and it’s astonishing how frequently the media is either wrong (as in the “hands up, don’t shoot” Michael Brown myth) or outright mendacious.
Indeed, CNN essentially traded its reputation as the “centrist” news network to indulge in anti-Trump hysteria, trumpeting every crumb of the Mueller investigation as manna from impeachment heaven. The results speak for themselves: its credibility is utterly in tatters.
The very same media decries President Trump’s attacks on “fake news”—itself a clever appropriation of a slur the MSM attempted to apply to Trump—as an assault on the First Amendment. Such concerns are hysterically overwrought. President Trump has done nothing to curtail press freedom; he’s merely had the temerity to call out bad reporting. The First Amendment is not a magical talisman that protects media outlets from criticism, even from elected officials.
Indeed, that same amendment protects the president’s right to denounce media outlets. Unless and until he uses the power of the government to silence the media—and he won’t—President Trump is entirely justified in labeling bad, inaccurate, or outright false reporting as “fake news.”
The real danger is that ostensibly objective journalism is anything but. If anything, opinion programming on the major television and cable news networks is more authentic and reliable, as it doesn’t seek to hide the hosts’ views behind a smokescreen of presumed neutrality. When biases are stated outright and upfront, it allows viewers to assess a host’s claims in that light.
Of course, increasingly we can’t even agree on the facts, or we’re not allowed to express certain facts aloud. That’s the real threat to free speech, not President Trump blasting CNN for negative coverage.