The political fact-checking organization Politifact recently published an article that compares its use of the term “fake news” to Donald Trump’s.
In the article, the group claims that it uses the term to call out fabricated news stories that intentionally “masquerade as news coverage.”
However, when Donald Trump uses the term, he’s simply referring to any news coverage that is “unsympathetic to his administration and his performance.”
According to a count compiled by Politifact, Trump has used the term over 152 times in interviews, Twitter and press conferences alone. It begs the question: what happens when a president does not deal with dissenting opinions professionally?
First, there could be first amendment implications. In one recent tweet on October 11, Trump hinted that due to the large amount of “fake news” coming out of NBC, it might make sense to question their licensing as an organization.
This prompted a Republican senator to ask Trump if he was recanting his January 20 oath to protect the first amendment.
A professor of law at the University of Georgia featured in the article called Trump’s actions of “waging war on the press in an effort to delegitimize it” profoundly disturbing. Still another commentator added that Trump, as president, is better placed than anybody else in America to counter misinformation with correct information.
The fact that he simply slaps it with a the “fake news” label “undercuts a central feature of our democracy and places the larger First Amendment framework at risk.”
Second, the president is historically supposed to be a role model for American citizens.
What does it show the rest of us when the person who attained the highest office in the land can’t professionally handle, or even accept for that matter, any kind of criticism? It tells us that we don’t have to either.
There’s a reason it’s called constructive criticism–it helps you grow. Think of what you’d be like right now if, when any of your teachers ever told you what you did wrong on a paper, what you screwed up on a homework assignment or what you could do to fix your grade in her class, you just ignored her.
Chances are you wouldn’t have even made it to college, or would be doing pretty poorly when you got here.
Therein lies the issue with Trump’s behavior. He’s uncoachable.
He doesn’t listen to constructive, critical feedback, doesn’t appear to educate himself in depth on any of the global issues he’s dealt with since January and doesn’t seem to care what others think of him.
I’m all for the “don’t listen to the haters” mentality. But in high stakes, bipartisan politics, they aren’t haters. They’re constituents who need to be treated as such, regardless of Trump’s opinion of their statements.
Third, Trump’s behavior makes me question the reality in which he’s living. Each week he calls fake anything that’s critical of him. Almost never does he give specific plans on any topic, choosing instead toss us vague, open statements like “you’ll see, it’s going to work. It’ll be huge.”
From an outside observer’s perspective, that doesn’t sound like somebody who’s living in the here and now. Promising empty statements that don’t put any responsibility on himself?
Ignoring inquiries about any specific subject matter? Sounds like somebody who’s picking and choosing the facts he wants to believe make up his world. And if our president is purposefully living in another reality, it can’t bode well for the rest of us he so kindly left behind.
In his TED talk, Bill Eckstrom famously told the audience “What makes you comfortable can ruin you. What makes you uncomfortable is the only way to grow.”
Think of a time you took a class that required nothing of you but to show up, stay awake and maybe take an exam or two with questions ripped right off the homework.
How much do you really remember from that class? How much did it help you grow as a student?
Now think of a class that forced you to show up every day with your brain firing on all cylinders, constantly pushing you to solve more complex problems and delve into increasingly convoluted material?
I bet you went to office hours, didn’t you? I bet you studied harder for that midterm than you thought humanly possible, didn’t you? Now the same question: how much did that course help you grow as a student?
In the end, it’s the same analogy with Trump, except on a larger, more dangerous scale.
He treats everything about the presidency as if he doesn’t need any counseling, any advising or any actual education to the issues.
He’s like the kid in class who sat in the back, struggling daily while never asking for help, putting up the front that he knew what he was doing, acting baffled when he failed the midterm.
Except Trump can’t push himself to admit failure. I have yet to hear him utter the phrases “I was wrong” or “I apologize.”
Part of the human experience is learning from your mistakes and becoming a better person from them.
But when somebody can’t admit that he made a mistake, can’t even physically admit that he may have been in the wrong, all of that growth potential just becomes another batch of “fake news.”