Commentary

Trump's $1B Attack On Truth

Newspapers have a long history of owners who held specific political positions. Hearst, Pulitzer, even Benjamin Franklin were newspapermen who enjoyed the power of the pen.

Franklin actually began as a newspaperman. In 1731 he wrote in his "Apology for Printers," "That the Opinions of Men are almost as various as their Faces. . . . Printers are educated in the Belief, that when Men differ in Opinion, both Sides ought equally to have the Advantage of being heard by the Publick; and that when Truth and Error have fair Play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter."

William Randolph Hearst was a newspaperman who grew his political power as he grew his chain of media outlets. "In the 1930s, one in four Americans got their news from Hearst, who owned twenty-eight newspapers in nineteen cities," wrote Walter G. Moss on History News Network.org.

But it was Rupert Murdoch's Fox News, as founded and driven by Roger Ailes, that turned the corner and created a media network whose founding and mission was from its launch a political one. Fox News trumped its "Fair and Balanced" franchise as a shield, but Ailes’ history with Richard Nixon would quickly convince anyone who chose to explore the Fox News mission that it was anything but.

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Instead, Ailes believed that other media and news outlets were biased and left-leaning, using their fairness and objectivity as convenient fiction. Fox would embrace the same illusion but with alternative outcomes. 

And while Murdoch's founding of Fox News was left-leaning, those who knew him back then suggest that the political slant of Fox News was more about finding an underserved niche in the market than any political objective.

But Trump's new organization is different than anything that comes before it. Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG) has already raised $1 billion in funding to build and launch a company called Truth Social.

The name is far more than word salad. By leading with "Truth," the media company is claiming ownership over a concept that is already complicated.

CNN isn't named TNN -- Truth News Network -- for a reason. Truth is complicated, it's nuanced, and when it comes to the blurry line between news and opinion, Truth Social is poised to make any attempt to define objective truth a hopeless exercise.

Keeping in mind that Trump has already made his definition of “truth” clear: It's whatever he wants it to be. From his early claims of the size of his inauguration crowd to his endorsement of bleach to cure COVID, to his relentless promotion of false claims of election fraud, Trump Truth doesn't have to have any coherent relationship to facts or evidence. It just needs to be an option, backed by a powerful media megaphone to amplify it to his followers. The social media echo chamber does the rest. 

"TMTG will be in a stronger position to fight back against the tyranny of Big Tech," said Trump in a press release announcing the funding. It's clear that Truth Social is a battleship with its guns already loaded targeting current media outlets and tech platforms.

For a media company to be funded and launched on the basis that it will provide "truth" that will correct the untruths distributed by big tech and mainstream media should alone be enough to raise alarms. For a politician to claim to be the rightful owner of truth is a damaging claim. 

But for Trump, his record for distributing and amplifying fictions and labeling them facts is already a matter of public record. The Washington Post  chronicled the false claims in a public database that can be seen here.

So, looking ahead to the future of truth as defined and controlled by Donald Trump, philosophers and scholars say the damage may already be done. "You can mitigate the damage, but you can't bring it back to 100 percent the way it was before," Lee McIntyre, the author of "Post-Truth" and a philosopher at Boston University, told The New York Times. "And I think that's going to be Trump's legacy. I think there's going to be lingering damage to the processes by which we vet truths for decades....The confusion between skepticism and denialism, the idea that if you don't want to believe something, you don't have to believe it — that's really damaging, and that's going to last."

Truth is complicated, especially in this digitally connected and increasingly blurry world. But there is no more direct attack on the objective truth than Donald Trump, and the fact that investors are willing to put $1 billion  in the hands of an anti-truth activist is cause for concern.

Who are these investors? What are their names? What money are they spending? These are questions worth getting answered -- and quickly. 

9 comments about "Trump's $1B Attack On Truth".
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  1. Francis Friedman from Time & Place Strategies, Inc, December 13, 2021 at 1:38 p.m.

    Certainlty we also need to look at the NY Times, NBC, CNN, Hillary Clinton, et al for other definitions of truth. Possibly this author can honor us with similar stories of thes other "truth tellers".

  2. Steve Rosenbaum from NYC Media Lab replied, December 13, 2021 at 1:51 p.m.

    Hi Francis  -

    Here are a few links to News Standards - 

    NY Times Standards. https://www.nytco.com/company/standards-ethics/

    ABC News Standards  https://about.abc.net.au/how-the-abc-is-run/what-guides-us/abc-editorial-standards/

    I wasn't able to find one for Fox, but maybe you have a link to share? 

  3. tyler lubbers from clench Media, December 14, 2021 at 9:14 a.m.

    What a absolute joke. Total propoganda. Do you now remember the Russia Hoax? Or how about the Kavanuagh hoax? I am not saying Fox is truth, far from it. But NYT, CNN, WAPO are absolute frauds. And everyone knows this who was paying attention.

  4. Dan Ciccone from STACKED Entertainment, December 14, 2021 at 10:42 a.m.

    "Truth is complicated, it's nuanced, and when it comes to the blurry line between news and opinion..."


     


    I had to read that three times to make sure I was reading in context.  Truth is comlicated?  There are blurry lines between news and opinion?

    While I wholeheartedly disagree, that is why journalism is supposed to focus on facts and opinion is to be relegated to the OP-ed page or pundit shows.


    The fact that MediaPost is totally consumed with Trump's behavior, even post-election, and completely ignores flat-out falsehoods reported by CNN, NYT, MSNBC, etc. just illustrates that MediaPost has lost all objectivity as well.  There has been no other time in MediaPost's history where so much editorial has been dedicated to politics - and with an uneven hand at that.


    Please get back to reporting facts (aka "truth") and give the American public and your readers some credit.

     

  5. Artie White from Zoom Media Corp, December 14, 2021 at 2:14 p.m.

    Good to see the comments from the pro-Trump crowd are reliably typo-ridden and/or laden with the usual whatabout-isms. Great job, you staunch defenders who are not at all predictable and cult-like. 

  6. Gordon Borrell from Borrell Associates, December 14, 2021 at 3:23 p.m.

    Don't underestimate the intellect of the American public, unless of course you subscribe to P.T. Barnum's assessment. Call it Truth or call it News, it's all tainted by what the owners, editors, and writers believe. All of it. Smart people (the mainstream population) see that.  Even CNN, NYT, PBS, and The Washington Post are pushing an agenda. The informed public isn't fooled by it because they are ingrained with independent thinking.  And that's where most politicals fail. In case you're confused, I'm calling BS on you.  And by the way, I didn't, and never will, vote for Trump. Smart people see part of what Mr. Trump says as truth, and part as ridiculous hyperbole. And they're right on both counts.

  7. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, December 14, 2021 at 4:23 p.m.

    As I wade through these heated political discussions and the articles which provoke them I keep wondering what the great mass of MP readers think about them. I come to this venue primarily because its about advertising, media, marketing and reasonably related matters, however on many days its mostly about Trump, the GOP vs the Dems, etc, etc. and, not surprisingly, advocates of both sides weigh in, often trading barbs and insults, which I suspect is a turn -off for those, like myself who would rather discuss the business we are in or assocated with. I also suspect that the political bomb throwing is stiffling discussions of said business stuff---but I could be wrong. On other forums I participate in---mainly about some of my hobbies---this problem---if it is seen as one---is dealt with by creating a special section where the politicals can slug it out without being so visible to the others. Maybe that's a good idea for MP---maybe not. Without coming to any conclusions I wonder if MP would consider doing a confidential poll of its members and see what they think as well as any ideas they might offer on how to deal with the "problem". Perhaps I'm the only one who sees this as an issue and, in any event, MP need not reveal its findings. Maybe some worthwhile ideas that do not stifle the editors or writers but turn down the heat might come of it. Just a suggestion.

  8. Dan Ciccone from STACKED Entertainment replied, December 15, 2021 at 8:44 a.m.

    Well said, Ed. 

    You and I have been reading MP for many years and there has never been a time where so much MP content is dedicated to politics. While MP does offer some informative and objective reporting on our industry, it is obvious that there is an elevated political agenda that is weeding its way through editorial and reporting alike.  It's too bad.

  9. Dane Claussen from University of Idaho, December 16, 2021 at 1:04 a.m.

    If you believe that Trump has raised $1 billion, you have learned nothing about his presidency or post-presidency, let alone his previous business career as a lifelong conman. Trump has even lied publicly at least four times about where his own father was born (Trump said Germany rather than the USA), and for decades before that lied to say his father's family was Swedish rather than German. The Washingtoin Post counted more than 30,000 public lies during the four-year presidency. One billion dollars raised? This is a guy who can't sell more than a smattering of tickets in Florida to elderly people to show up and listen to him and Bill O'Reilly talk about history, the guy with almost no one at his departure from Washington, the guy whose inauguaration could have included cannon balls flying but not hitting anyone.

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