How can the press fulfill its role of speaking truth to power when the White House traffics in misinformation? In the second installment of our series on “The Emotional States of America,” we evaluated the utility of the popular journalistic practice of fact-checking.
Masha Gessen, the Russian and American journalist who chronicled Vladimir Putin’s rise to near-absolute power,pulled no punches and argued that fact checking “won’t cut it,” when President Trump “‘lies 90 percent of the time.”
According to Gessen, Trump’s supporters are clustered in a “Breitbart Universe” and won’t hear views that differ from their own.
Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a professor at NYU who studies authoritarian rulers, fascism and propaganda, said Trump’s followers “have forged an emotional bond with him” and accept his personality. “They don’t care if he’s speaking the truth,” she told To the Point.
She said that when Trump supporters are confronted with his falsehoods, they justify the president, saying things like, “oh, he’s just playing with people’s minds.” “They like him for it,” she said.
\Eli Pariser, co-founder of Upworthy and author of “The Filter Bubble,” said journalists need to learn that “most people don’t think in terms of rational arguments and facts.”
Pariser said that Trump is “a marketer” who understands what “rationalist” journalists miss: Trust is not built on someone being factually correct. “People trust you when they believe you have their best interests at heart,” he said.
Rather than spending too much time tracking the veracity of Trump’s early morning tweets, mainstream journalists may want to follow Gessen’s advice and focus more on how Trump “uses language, and how he uses power.”