Narratives, bogus claims spread: Yesterday evening, America's three "cable news" channels turned their airwaves over to President Trump, as they do every single evening.
Last evening, Trump was especially busy attacking the World Health Organization, which seems to be his new favorite target. One exchange went like this:
REPORTER (4/7/20): Mr. President, when you talk about the WHO being China-centric, what exactly are you talking about? Is it because China has underplayed how many victims they’ve got?"They must have seen it, but they didn’t report it!" So the commander said.
TRUMP: I don’t know. They seem to come down on the side of China. "Don’t close your borders to China. Don’t do this." They don’t report what’s really going on. They didn’t see it, and yet, they were there. They didn’t see what was going on in Wuhan. They didn’t see it. How do you not see it? They didn’t see it. They didn’t report it. They must have seen it, but they didn’t report it.
In fact, the WHO declared a “public health emergency of international concern” on January 30. In an earlier diatribe, Trump seemed to say that the WHO didn't report the problem as early as they should have.
Who knows? That could even be accurate! Of course, careful assessments of this matter will be seen by very few, and Trump's diatribes last nights were seen by many.
When the cables turn their airwaves over to Trump, they're deeply involved in the spreading of narrative, misinformation and blatant campaign propaganda. The average viewer will have little way to evaluate these several hours of bluster and self-praise.
As an example of what we mean, consider actor Dennis Quaid, who is likely a very good person.
In this interview with The Daily Beast, Quaid presents himself as an independent who isn't a pro-Trump partisan.
We know of no reason to doubt what he says. But he clearly seems to believe every word the president has ever said about the current pandemic:
He has internalized Trump's monologue about the way Governor Cuomo should have bought all those ventilators when he had the chance.
He has internalized Trump's monologues about his amazingly early, prescient ban of travel from China.
He has internalized the claim that each state should have amassed its own stockpile of ventilators just in case a global pandemic ever did break out.
He seems to be fairly sure that President Trump is doing the best he can.
Trump's monologues on these topics have been grossly misleading, often absurdly so. But he recites his monologues every night, and he's being given several hours of free prime time to do so.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep. Our public discourse has long been a very bad joke.
The cable nets don't know what to do. In all honesty, it's been a long time since any of them tried to make a real decision about any serious topic.
The "cable news" nets air TV shows. It seems to be all they know how to do. "They must have seen it, but they didn’t report it!"
So the commander said.