Prosecutor firings controversy a real example of “fake news”

5 April 2017
Trenton Gibbons, Variety Editor

Media outlets aren’t addressing context when covering the Trump administration’s firings, which are actually a standard move for power changes.

When the New York Times ran the article “Trump Abruptly Orders 46 Obama-Era Prosecutors to Resign,” its headline failed to convey an integral truth: that abruptness was in fact the only unique facet of this occurrence. Then picture this — and a myriad of similar articles run by other media sources — paints is a familiar one. It depicts Trump as something more of a tyrant than a democratic leader. The scandals, both the innumerable real ones and innumerable fabrications, that have dotted his campaign and now his term have followed this pattern. In other words, it’s in many ways an image he’s earned. In other cases where the media accuses him of such practices, however, it’s “fake news,” a term whose usage I’ll attempt to justify later.

So why, then, is Trump’s firing of 46 attorneys “fake news”?” The practice of purging US attorneys in a presidential transition is standard and furthermore sensible. Presidents rely on federal attorneys to uphold their policies, so it is only natural that presidents would want to rid their administration of federal attorneys with an ideological or professional connection to previous administrations.

Bill Clinton fired 93 US attorneys in a single day. Bush similarly fired nearly every one of his attorneys upon taking office. When Obama took office in 2009, a writer for Politico ran an article accompanied with the headline, “Obama to replace US attorneys.” Now the same writer runs an article titled “Trump team ousts Obama-appointed US attorneys.”

In this particular instance President Trump has made headlines, as he doubtlessly will for years to come, by deploying a normal presidential power in a hurried, disorganized way. Many of the prosecutors who had been fired had been told, or so they claim, that the new administration would be keeping them. Many of these same prosecutors have been rightfully reluctant with their resignations, creating more frustration for the administration and fodder for the media. Still, the scandal here is not so grand as some might have you believe. Trump’s presidential term is bound to be plagued by a number of scandals brought on by his megalomaniacal behavior. But that doesn’t mean the media should go out of its way to exaggerate or fabricate any. In other words, I am in fact accusing this piece of being, at least in the manner many publications covered it, fake news.

The term “fake news” has been the source of much contention in domestic politics as of late. For one thing, it was coined by a megalomaniac who meant to dismiss most, if not all, news sources that took up issue with him. He’s used it as an excuse to blatantly lie to the public, to ban news sources from covering executive actions and to increase the public’s mistrust in any institution not under his control. It’s for this reason that I hesitate greatly to say, let alone put in print, the term “fake news,” especially when I consider journalism an important part of any functioning society.

More important, however, is that these news sources be unbiased and honest in their reporting, and this is not the case. So I use “fake news” to spite anyone whose opinions and viewpoints are reinforced by the current media leanings, and who are quick to dismiss the idea of a dishonest media as some false construct of a crazed president.

You can watch compilations online of reporters from CNN, supposedly one of the most trustworthy mainstream news sources, cutting off interviews whenever the interviewee says something that might run against their narrative. Among these are a man providing statistics on immigrant crime, another who referenced wikileaks, and even Bernie Sanders, who dared to even joke about “fake news” live on the air. This isn’t some a crackpot conspiracy theory, it’s blatant bias in the media, an effort by news reporters to shape public opinion to fit their normative truths.

I suppose I must follow this problem closely with some sort of solution. I would suggest skipping one step here entirely, the period of disenfranchisement in which one might learn to hate both the biased media and their effectively brainwashed audience. I try to read every article with a sense of skepticism, to research the precedent or context of an event. It’s especially important to filter out the editorializing these papers once considered bad journalism, but now publish en masse.