Wants prime-time TV shows aired: In last Monday's New York Times, Charles Blow's column appeared beneath these headlines:
Stop Airing Trump’s Briefings!One fact is plainly true. It's true that Trump's prime-time "briefings" have spilled with mis- and disinformation.
The media is allowing disinformation to appear as news.
That said, something else is true. No president has ever been handed such an arrangement, in which he's given two hours of TV time, every night, to peddle self-serving narratives, whether they're false or they;re true.
Should cable channels be airing such nightly sessions—sessions which involve very little new information?
Blow said no, but New York magazine's Olivia Nuzzi disagrees.
In a new opinion piece, Nuzzi says the nightly sessions should be aired in full. As she starts to lay out her case, her reasoning goes like this:
NUZZI (4/29/20): Can the press protect the American people from the president? Should we?That initial reasoning is rather slender. In the following passage, Nuzzi puts meat on the bones:
NUZZI: What a lot of Trump critics miss is that the biggest threat to his presidency isn’t the pandemic and the collapse of the global economy. It’s Trump. The more we see him—rambling, ranting, casually spitballing about bleach and sunlight—the clearer that becomes. But that’s not the media’s problem, and taking the spotlight off of him as he displays the full extent of his inadequacies would only serve to help him and to make the public less informed about what the federal government is doing—or not doing.Nuzzi explicitly says that these sessions provide little new "factual" information. Even so, she thinks it's informative for people to see what Trump is saying and doing.
Watching Trump dangerously improvise is, in itself, information. It’s pure access to his thoughts and ideas and emotional state, presented to the world in real time. Trump’s presence at the briefings is not valuable if what we hope to get from them is factual information about the pandemic. But if we want to learn more about what the government is doing, and why it’s doing what it’s doing, what could be better than this?
In one sense, that's certainly true—but what about all the mis- and disinformation the president spews at such times? Like so many others in the upper-end press, Nuzzi doesn't seem to have an especially strong focus on matters like that.
What about all that misinformation? Consider one example, of many:
At Monday's session, President Trump delivered the familiar monologue about the brilliant success he's engineered with respect to coronavirus testing. For perhaps the ten millionth time, viewers saw him say such things as this:
TRUMP (4/27/20): We've launched the most ambitious testing effort, likewise, on earth. The United States has now conducted more than 5.4 million tests, nearly double the number tested in any other country, more than twice as much as any other country. Think of that!For unknown reasons, Nuzzi thinks that provided viewers with a chance to "access Trump's thoughts and ideas." In fact, it merely gave viewers a chance to hear his claims—and very few viewers would have a way to evaluate the accuracy of his presentation.
We know of no major news org which has adopted the burden of fact-checking this disordered man's endless repetitive claims. Viewers of his daily programs hear all sorts of songs of self-praise—but are they hearing accurate claims?
How is a viewer to know?
As almost anyone can see, these prime-time programs have served, in the main, as propaganda sessions. As Nuzzi herself concedes, little information is conveyed. But all sorts of claims get made.
Those claims are repeated, day after day, as our journalists sit and stare. The New York Times is too lazy and too indifferent to create a daily page dedicated solely to fact-checking these endless, repetitive claims. But then again, so is Nuzzi, and so is New York magazine itself.
Should cable channels broadcast these prime-time sessions? That is a matter of judgment. But if they do, we think, at the very least, that they should do two things:
First, corporate bosses should explain why they're doing so. No information is being conveyed. So why are they airing these shows?
Their second responsibility would be this. If they're going to air these sessions, they need to create high-profile, full-length programming dedicated to fact-checking the endless array of claims aired by these endless programs.
People watching President Trump don't know if his statements are accurate! They don't know if his endless claims are technically accurate but grossly misleading.
So Nuzzi, how about it? How does American testing compare to that in other lands?
Please come back with detailed information about world testing and the president's claims. Be prepared to post your info, in a high-profile way, every freaking day!
Trump has been using the children as props. The cables have been letting us watch.