Trump Uses 80-Year-Old Playbook to Discredit the Media

Donald Trump, press conference
Lügenpresse Photo credit: DonkeyHotey / WhoWhatWhy (CC BY-SA 2.0) See complete attribution below.

The agitated man accused the press of lying. He pointed out that reports claiming that the administration wanted to keep its people uninformed were incorrect and came from a “small group of intellectuals and professional naysayers.” The purpose of these false stories was to drive a wedge between the people and their leader. Furthermore, the man ranted, if one were to believe what the press wrote, it would appear that another world war was imminent. Nothing could be further from the truth, he added.

That man was German Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels and the date was February 25, 1939. World War II began just over six months later.

Somebody was clearly lying back then, but it wasn’t the “Lügenpresse” (lying press) that Goebbels was referring to. Fast forward to today and the term is being used again — this time by the alt-right, i.e., the ideological descendants of the guy Goebbels worked for.

Make no mistake, the German propaganda chief saying Lügenpresse (he was referring to US, French and British news outlets) and President Donald Trump calling the media “fake news” has the same purpose — to discredit one of the institutions that stands between them and unchecked power.

To be clear, we are not comparing the current administration to the one Goebbels worked for. The White House, however, is using a similar playbook to try to sideline the press.

It should also be noted that there is plenty to criticize the corporate media for — and we frequently do. It is very rare, however, that any journalist working for any of the reputable news outlets simply makes something up. The ones who do usually get fired, even though there are a few exceptions.

Calling outlets like CNN and The New York Times “fake news” is not just incorrect. It is also dangerous, especially when the person who does it is the president of the United States. In doing so on Thursday (as well as on previous occasions and almost daily on Twitter), Trump is undermining a free press — a cornerstone of US democracy.

That is why, even though we often disagree with what the corporate media covers or how they cover it, we at WhoWhatWhy stand with them against this unfounded attack.

Trump’s performance Thursday was clear evidence of the need for a free press, as he made several statements that ranged from outright false to gross exaggerations. The difference is that the media tries to get things right — and issues corrections or clarifications when they don’t. Trump and his team, however, double down on even the most egregious falsehoods.

This administration’s willingness to try to strong-arm the press should make reporters much more careful in how they handle information coming from the White House. Journalists have to be extra cautious in what they write. Anything that is not absolutely correct will be used by Trump to show that the “fake media” is out to get him. Therefore, reporters have to resist the urge of rushing out news in order to be first.

They should also be very aware that the administration might feed them false information to bolster its claim that the corporate media peddles fake news. We understand this is a difficult balancing act. The public has a right to know what the White House is up to. On the other hand, the media has to be wary of being deliberately misled.

Some reporters have already recognized this danger. It appears as though the White House often does not respond to requests for comment on certain stories but will cry “fake news” as soon as the information is made public.

When dealing with this administration, all journalists have to be mindful at all times that they are being viewed as the enemy and the opposition party, and that every misstep will be used to characterize them as Lügenpresse. And when that happens, we all lose.

The cartoon above was created by DonkeyHotey for WhoWhatWhy from these images: Donald Trump caricature (DonkeyHotey / Flickr – CC BY 2.0), background and front page panorama from (The White House / YouTube) and podium (Obama White House / Flickr).

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18 responses to “Trump Uses 80-Year-Old Playbook to Discredit the Media”

  1. ConnieHinesDorothyProvine says:

    How ironic that Drumpf, one of the most dishonest people on Earth, would label someone else a liar.

  2. Charles Balter says:

    While I think it’s fair to assail the media for their many failures and shortcomings, it makes no sense to whine about the NYT and CNN if you’re just going to listen to Breitbart and Fox “News” Channel, instead.

    What’s so irritating is watching these fake patriots wrap themselves in the flag while supporting the Nazi, fascist Trump Reich, holding the conservative media to no standards whatsoever, while simply accepting whatever Rush Limbaugh, Breitbart, and the NY POST have to say about things.

    But that’s what it has always been like dealing with conservatives. We must understand that most conservative voters lack conscience or reason. They’ll be completely outraged over something on CNN or something from the NYT, but if a Republican politician or a conservative media outlet does something a million times worse, these people will either ignore it, or contort themselves into the wildest positions to excuse the unacceptable.

  3. Shooter2 says:

    Trump is super ignorant and way too stupid to have any play book against the media and press.

    The dude behind the scene and ran the show is Steve Bannon. Bannon appeared at CPAC denouncing and slamming the news media and globalists and labeled them as “fake news”. Bannon is the president and Trump is a puppet.

    Trump got very thin skin and would not take any criticism against him. Trump is a parrot and just borrowed Bannon’s “fake news” and attacking the press.

    Bannon is the brain behind the immigration and border security, deregulation and bringing jobs back to the United States.

    Trump is a dumb snake-oil salesman and just follows Bannon’s advices.

  4. Scott says:

    “Calling outlets like CNN and The New York Times “fake news” is not just incorrect. It is also dangerous, especially when the person who does it is the president of the United States. ” Wait a second, here. It was the press that released a story with no verified facts and anonymous sources claiming Russia had a dossier about Trump saying her hired prostitutes in Moscow and engaged in unseemly acts involving urination. Calling them out for reporting such damaging lies isn’t dangerous. Calling them “Fake News” when they are spreading propaganda lies is not dangerous. A person certainly has the right to defend himself against hurtful libel and who else is going to hold the press accountable? The Press fact checks Trump with every word he says. Can’t the press take a little criticism and be held accountable? It is a free press. They can print what they want, but certainly the public has a right to be skeptical of what they report. It is NOT incorrect to call out propaganda as “Fake News”.

  5. Midwesterner says:

    Trump didn’t start the “fake news” meme, the fake news media did that all on their own.

  6. KellyIsh says:

    If truly false or malicious or agenda driven stories are being cooked up, and that leads to changes in US policy, then Trump is right by definition. It shocks me how WWW could possibly come to the defense of MsM. After all, Russ has suffered from their corruption.

  7. Derek Edmonds says:

    Trump is correct if he is specifically referencing the mainstream media. That should be painfully clear by now.

  8. Marko says:

    Trump isn’t criticizing the “press” , broadly speaking , he has repeatedly limited his attacks to the major print and tv outlets , e.g. , :

    ” The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People! ”

    He’s talking about the media “borg” , the 6-7 big corps and their assorted holdings that always perform as mockingbirds for the establishment narrative. Real or fake is not really a concern on critical topics – the desires of the borg direct all editorial decisions. What would you call this kind of ( corrupted ) output ? Trump , in a masterstroke , turned the ” fake news ” phrase back upon the MSM. As a shorthand , it’s good enough – for Trump and for the rest of us , as long as we make the effort to understand the history. And Trump’s exactly right – they are the peoples’ enemy , of the very worst kind.

    • gustave courbet says:

      If only Trump were as articulate as you. Those of us who can’t “correctly” intuit the specific meaning of his vague verbiage are left to project our fears on his ostensibly authoritarian language.

      I’d add that his opining that US libel laws should be more restrictive would harm ALL news outlets, not just the big corporate outfits (in fact, it would likely effect alternative media much more, as they can’t afford expensive legal battles).

  9. Mackenzie says:

    “The difference is that the media tries to get things right — and issues corrections or clarifications when they don’t.”

    The above certainly seems inconsistent with Who What Why’s “our story” link:

    https://whowhatwhy.org/the-project/

    Over the years, however, I have learned how the media gatekeepers, both “mainstream” and “alternative,” will not allow the biggest, most disturbing revelations to see the light of day.

  10. Mackenzie says:

    It’s interesting to me that Klaus Marre (not Russ Baker) is the one speaking on behalf of Who What Why (saying “Calling outlets like CNN and The New York Times “fake news” is not just incorrect. It is also dangerous…” and “The difference is that the media tries to get things right — and issues corrections or clarifications when they don’t.”)

    It seems “inconsistent” (to say the least!) that WWW would defend the MSM. I know WWW doesn’t allow links but hopefully it will make an exception for links to WWW’s own articles. Below are examples of WWW calling the media out. I realize one can say “but the MSM was simply reporting the bad info it was given” but, at some point (crossed long ago), it becomes more-than-reasonable to question their sincerity. This does NOT, however, mean that we don’t need a free press (obviously we do). However, it is absurd for WWW to portray the MSM as being “well-intentioned” when it is CLEARLY propaganda.

    —–
    EXAMPLE 1:

    https://whowhatwhy.org/2016/09/07/glenn-beck-ordered-reveal-fed-boston-bombing-disinfo/

    Journalists and media outlets should and do get plenty of the blame for reporting misinformation from “off the record” sources. But it has become so commonplace that nobody bats an eye at the constant stream of leaks spread around unless one is later claimed by authorities to be “wrong.”
    —–
    EXAMPLE 2:

    https://whowhatwhy.org/2013/05/23/officer-collier-shooting-rosebud-moment-of-the-boston-bombing/

    Nine days later, on April 28, we see this from the Boston Globe’s mega-narrative of the sprawling affair:

    Authorities say video from a surveillance camera shows the suspects approaching Collier’s car from the rear as he sat in his cruiser. Collier was shot five times, including twice in the head, officials said.

    “The suspects.” In a long article about the Tsarnaevs, it is reasonable to conclude that the Globe means the Tsarnaevs.

    It is all much more unclear. On April 25, several days before the Globe published the bit above, the New York Times offered a crucial but underplayed distinction:

    While there is video of two men approaching Officer Collier’s car, three law enforcement officials said, it does not clearly show their faces. But investigators now believe the brothers killed the officer to get another gun.

    The Times reports that the video does not establish with certainty the identity of Collier’s murderers. Yet the next sentence accepts as a certainty that it was the brothers.
    —–
    EXAMPLE 3:

    https://whowhatwhy.org/2014/03/13/something-dead-wrong-investigating-mysterious-central-character-danny-part-2-2/

    John Miller, PR Man for the FBI, Among Other Things

    Fox was hardly the only well-situated figure who moved to promote what looks like an agreed-upon “consensus narrative.” Consider CBS’s John Miller, one of the TV reporters who got access to Danny.

    That’s the same John Miller who reported the strange and long-delayed (May 16) exclusive about how Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, grievously wounded and bleeding badly, nevertheless managed to pull himself up and scrawl a confession-cum-manifesto on the wall of the boat in which he was hiding.

    That’s the same John Miller who left journalism in 2002 and spent the next eight years in government national security posts, including helping Chief William Bratton establish counterterrorism and criminal intelligence bureaus at the Los Angeles Police Department, serving as the top spokesman for the FBI, and then going to work for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees both the FBI and CIA.

    Thus, John Miller has close relationships with key people at the very agency whose actions call everything into question about this story.

    Thanks to the media’s consensus narrative, we think we saw or heard proof. But we didn’t. We heard people saying there is proof, and we saw ambiguous footage that we were told established proof.
    —–

  11. oller says:

    I am sure that the current administration will do what they can to get the upper hand concerning information. That is normal and natural not least considering how the Operation Mockingbird has been making its way into the media for the last 50 years.

    Also considering the way CNN and NYT were handliing the issues preceding the election, it is far from understandable that the Empire strikes back.

    From the public´s point of view, we need to sort out some of the bad habits that media have facilitated. In order to make that happen, some of the fat lies or obfuscations have to be dug up and examined. In all the fake news; wherever they come from: we the public need to have some confidence in the accuracy of the real news. The truth is a good start!

  12. Marko says:

    ” Calling outlets like CNN and The New York Times “fake news” is not just incorrect. It is also dangerous….That is why, even though we often disagree with what the corporate media covers or how they cover it, we at WhoWhatWhy stand with them against this unfounded attack….”

    So , WMD in Iraq wasn’t fake news ? Incubator babies wasn’t fake news ? Saddam being implicated in 9/11 wasn’t fake news ?

    Every war is preceded by and proceeds with fake news up the wazoo. We’ve bombed multiple countries back to the stone age , killed many hundreds of thousands of civilians and sacrificed thousands of our own soldiers , all in wars in which public buy-in was secured using fake news. And the MSM purveyors knew it was fake the moment it was published , if sometimes not at the beat reporter level , ALWAYS at the top exec / editor level.

    If Donald Trump somehow puts a stop to this evil process via his scathing attacks on the MSM , he’ll be a freakin’ hero , deserving of a real Peace Prize , not the phony one they dish out to the likes of Kissinger and Obama.

    If he can’t completely stop the fake war news , at the very least he’ll have awakened more of the public to the unreliability of the MSM as a sole information source , which would also be a major accomplishment.

    I’d like to see him ramp up the attack , not dial it back.

    Thanks for this though. Seeing how you close ranks with your mainstream colleagues , now I know that WWW is , in effect , just more MSM.

    • geirgo says:

      Did the “fake news” originate with the media or from the political class that Trump is now so much a part of? How much BS do Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage, and the rest of the right wing media spew over the air waves every day?

    • Marko says:

      You’re getting warm.

      It is all about class , but not political class. Right / left only divides the masses – it’s a tool of the ruling class.

      So , yes , Fox is also fake news.

      Happy ?

    • Mackenzie says:

      Marko – I just want to thank you for your post and give support for what you wrote.

      Side note: I have to believe WWW has been co-opted as these articles seem on the opposite end of the spectrum from FOS.

  13. Chuck (Smithfix) Smith says:

    “Calling outlets like CNN and The New York Times “fake news” is not just incorrect. It is also dangerous, especially when the person who does it is the president of the United States. In doing so on Thursday (as well as on previous occasions and almost daily on Twitter), Trump is undermining a free press — a cornerstone of US democracy.

    That is why, even though we often disagree with what the corporate media covers or how they cover it, we at WhoWhatWhy stand with them against this unfounded attack.”

    Wow! “Unfounded attack”, REALLY?
    What next? Are you going to defend the ‘Deep State’?

    This from a recent article in ‘The Boston Herald’:

    “Kucinich went on to say that The Washington Post — the paper that first published the story on Flynn — may have gained the intelligence through ties its owner, Jeff Bezos, forged while working as CEO of Amazon. The online retailer, he noted, sealed a multimillion-dollar cloud computing contract with the CIA around the same time he bought the Post.”

  14. Paul Wilson says:

    Here is a rhetorical question: What then was the danger of the relationship of the Press with Obama Administration…especially as he went unchallenged by the Press Machine regarding the increased use of Executive orders?

    The Executive Order trend laid the groundwork for Trump to do the same but exponentially so. THE MORE THINGS CHANGE…THE MORE THINGS STAY THE SAME FOR THE FOLLOWING REASON:

    Take a look at the outing of the CIA by Fletcher Prouty after he went about doing the will of Allen Dulles, which was to plant CIA personnel in all branches of government including The White House so the CIA “could get things done”.

    The key aspect of planting CIA in all branches was that was that the elected chiefs, leaders, and top brass left office or moved on fairly rapidly, while these CIA plants did not. So, very quickly, the incoming leader, chief, etc assumed such plants were just your typical personnel there to do his/her bidding, but not at all… they were there to execute the will of the CIA. Those planted personnel positions are there to this day, to do the bidding not of Donald Trump or any head chief, but of…you guessed it…the CIA.