Combating the Power of Media Lies

By | 2017-05-23T21:48:59+00:00 May 19th, 2017|
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In the last few days two supposed revelations  have shaken Donald Trump’s Presidency. The first, the May 15 Washington Post claim that in a meeting with Russian officials the previous week, President Trump “revealed to them highly classified information.” The Posts’ anonymous sources, went on to assert that “Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.” As if to make certain that that fear was realized, the New York Times the following day asserted that this intelligence “was provided by Israel,” likewise quoting ”a current and a former American official.

Then, on May 16, The New York Times reported that in a conversation in February, the day after General Michael Flynn resigned as National Security Advisor, President Trump asked then FBI director James Comey “to end the Flynn investigation.” The Times acknowledged that it “has not viewed a copy of the memo… but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of it to a Times reporter.”

These are both bombshells, giving new life to the allegations of collusion with Russia or improper Russian influence on President Trump. These two stories raise the most serious questions about Mr. Trump’s judgment, and the Comey memo story has been interpreted as “the smoking gun” that Mr. Trump committed the impeachable offense of obstructing justice. The Justice Department has appointed a special prosecutor, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, to look into the charges of Russian Collusion with the Trump presidential campaign and all issues arising from that investigation.

If these two stories are materially true then everything has played itself out as the Trump-haters and never-Trumpers have foreseen. Mr. Trump, as they have told us all along, is on some days a loose cannon, on other days a crook, every day a traitor in Putin’s service, and the only real question is whether enough Republicans will join the Democratic minorities to impeach and remove the scoundrel from office, or if the country will have to wait  until the Democrats regain control of both houses of Congress in the 2018 midterms to be saved from him.

But what if these stories are both false? Both are exceedingly poorly sourced and have been contradicted on the record. The “leak to the Russians” story is attributed to anonymous “former officials” who would have no lawful way to know what Mr. Trump said to the Russians. Everyone who has gone on the record about what transpired at that meeting, including Secretary of State Tillerson and National Security Advisor General McMaster―both participants in the meeting―has said that the story,  “as reported, is false.

The Comey memo is contradicted by Mr. Comey himself. Mr. Comey’s testified before Congress in May that he had never in his career been pressured to drop an investigation for political reasons.  “I’m talking about a situation where we were told to stop something for a political reason. That would be a very big deal. It’s not happened in my experience.”

A journalist is now regarded by his peers and bosses as professional to the degree to which he elaborates upon the narrative of Mr. Trump’s vileness, and sources are regarded by journalists as credible to the degree that they corroborate that narrative. You might think that all this would hurt these media outlets in some way, but both the New York Times and the Washington Post are gaining subscribers even as they are sacrificing their integrity.

So let us assume, just for the moment, that these stories are materially false, merely part of what Victor Davis Hanson has called the “big lie” of Trump collusion with Russia. The Special Prosecutor will do a thorough investigation, and find nothing. We can safely predict that Mr. Mueller will find nothing because the FBI has been investigating the Russian collusion story since at least July 2016 with all the resources of US intelligence and has found nothing, or at least nothing that the Obama administration thought was worth leaking. The Comey memo either does not exist as reported or does not actually provide a “smoking gun.”

 

After all, we have seen this before: In 2004 CBS’s Dan Rather wrecked his career by reporting on the basis of forged documents that President Bush had evaded his Vietnam-era military service obligations. CNN reported in January 2017 that a memo had been compiled by “a former British intelligence operative, whose past work US intelligence officials consider credible” alleging that the Russians “have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump.” The memorandum, which did exist, turned out to be a farrago of nonsense and lies, reporting, to skip the salacious bits, on August trip by Mr. Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen to Prague to conspire with the Russians at a date when Cohen was in California.

We don’t need fancy explanations for why respected media outlets and reporters would run with this stuff. A journalist is now regarded by his peers and bosses as professional to the degree to which he elaborates upon the narrative of Mr. Trump’s vileness, and sources are regarded by journalists as credible to the degree that they corroborate that narrative. You might think that all this would hurt these media outlets in some way, but both the New York Times and the Washington Post are gaining subscribers even as they are sacrificing their integrity.

But suppose, still, that the two bombshell stories of May 2017, are false. Where do we go from here? The actual investigations will piffle out, just like the case against George Zimmerman, the Ferguson narrative, or the charges against Baltimore police officers in the death of Freddy Gray turned out to be false when they were put to the test by the ordinary procedures of the law.  But Ferguson and Baltimore still burned, and Black Lives Matter orthodoxy still forcibly stifles debate on policing and prevents a constructive response to the problems of law and order in African American communities.

If the allegations against Mr. Trump made by his enemies are true, he should resign. But what should he do if they are false?

Similarly, the Comey memos (if they exist) will turn out to bear out Comey’s sworn testimony in May of no political interference. Meanwhile, the “intelligence leak to the Russians” will never be confirmed on the record. But how much of this will matter if “present and former officials” will continue to elevate the war against Trump over the war against ISIS and their sworn obligation to keep the secrets of the United States? These officials will tell the media true things and false things that paint the blackest picture they can conceive of Mr. Trump. The media will print the false and the true because, unlike General Motors or Pfizer who have to pay damages when they are proven negligent, the Supreme Court in Times v. Sullivan granted the media immunity for anything they say about a “public figure” as long as the reporters and editors can provide a colorable claim of mere incompetence.

If the allegations against Mr. Trump made by his enemies are true, he should resign. But what should he do if they are false? How does he go on with his job of keeping the nation safe when too many of his underlings regard betraying him and U.S. national security as the highest form of patriotism? When the media will continue the witch hunt against him as long as he holds his position, in much the same fashion that the media hunted Ferguson policeman Darren Wilson, who did nothing other than his unfortunate duty when attacked by Michael Brown? What should Mr. Trump do? What should the American people do?

Mr. Trump will be visiting Israel next week. Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has weathered the enmity of the media and much of the Israeli “deep state” and a constant stream of accusations and investigations regarding his personal and political life. He has weathered this every single day since he first put himself forward as a candidate to lead the country in 1992. All turned out to be the mixture of the irrelevant and the false that this week’s two anonymously sourced bombshells will most surely turn out to be. Mr. Netanyahu has served as Prime Minister for more than eleven years, and Israel, thank God, has never been so prosperous or so safe.

Trust in God, Mr. Trump, trust in the support of your family and the ordinary men and women of America who got you where you are. In the synagogue, the congregation reads Psalm 20 every working day:

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,

but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

They are brought to their knees and fall,

but we rise up and stand firm.

Some trust in the Post, some trust in the Times, Some trust in lies, some trust in slander. Mr. Trump, trust in God, and do your best for America. That is all He wants from you, and all we ask.

About the Author:

Michael S. Kochin
Michael Kochin is Professor Extraordinarius of Political Science at Tel Aviv University. He received his A.B. in mathematics from Harvard and his M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago. He has held visiting appointments at Yale, Princeton, Toronto, Claremont McKenna College, and the Catholic University of America. He has written widely on the comparative analysis of institutions, political thought, politics and literature, and political rhetoric. Kochin has published two books: Five Chapters on Rhetoric: Character, Action, Things, Nothing, and Art (2009) and Gender and Rhetoric in Plato’s Political Thought (2002). He is currently working with the historian Michael Taylor on a book on the rise of the United States from independence to great power, entitled An Independent Empire: Diplomacy & War in the Making of the United States, 1776-1826.
  • Panope Vreeland

    What many are seeing is this IS spiritual warfare. Trump is taking on demons and a Satanic putsch over the entire planet. He invokes God for a reason.

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  • RJones

    I disagree that Trump should resign if any allegations are true. None of comey, lynch, clinton or obama resigned on spite of overwhelming evidence. If trump colluded with russian the result was the release of true information, not a pack of lies like that released daily by nyp and wp. Its time to play by their rules.

    • Rightway

      As far as the colluding with the Russians, Podesta emails released by Wikileaks dated in Spring 2016 detail a strategy of attacking Trump for having a “bromance” with Putin. And this strategy was put into effect in Summer 2016 as a pretext to put the Trump campaign under electronic surveillance.
      The whole plan is laid out in the Pedestal emails–that the LeftMedia won’t print or comment on.

  • Mitchell Rapoport

    IF these allegations are true, Trump should resign? I hope the author understands Israel better than the US.

    • Russell Steadman

      ”what Victor Davis Hanson has called the “big lie” of Trump collusion with Russia.” I’d trust VDH sooner than the NYTimes or WAPo. The whole liberal media-shere is suffering from stage 4 Trump derangement. It’s really something to witness.

  • joinamerica

    Excellent Mr. Kochin. Thank you.

  • Rightway

    Trump needs to kick the WH press corps out of the White House and over to the Executive Office Bldg.
    For their flagrant Fake news, he needs to pull WaPo’s press credentials for 30 days in give them a “time out.” Next time it will be 60 days, and third time will be permanent.
    Stop the daily meetings with the press.
    Fire or reassign any WH staff that are Obama holdovers. Fire a few of his own appointees to let them know that they aren’t immune either. He doesn’t need proof of their leaking. They serve at the pleasure of the President.

  • William Di Gennaro

    Someone needs to step up and take the lead in combating the power of
    media lies. We must not underestimate the hate of the leftist media.
    The media has become the alpha male in the leftist pack of rabid
    wolves. If we don’t combat the media lies, we will be savaged.

  • Arrest-George_Soros

    The ownership of the Russia collusion lie belongs to both John Podesta and Hillary Clinton.

    In my humble opinion, they need to be put on trial and forfeit their lives for what they have done.

  • conservative_302

    Amen. I will wear my Trump t shirt every weekend everywhere. He, myself, and his supporters are not going away. We exist. Our vote counts. Trump is kust the messanger. Who they really hate is us conservatives. Let the world see everywhere and be heard. I am no longer afraid of the backlash. I live in a free country and that includes supporting the president I prayed for and voted for.