Guest Notes

US notes

14 December 2019

9:00 AM

14 December 2019

9:00 AM

Fake news outs itself

Credibility used to matter to the media, but in these days of fake news and media bubbles, maybe not so much anymore. Facts? Who cares! It’s all entertainment now.

How else to explain an hilarious case in which left-leaning US TV network MSNBC is saying its own top-ranked news anchor doesn’t mean what she says?

Rachel Maddow is a household name in the States, her namesake show generally in the top three cable news and opinion shows and occasionally knocking Fox News’s Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson from their No 1 and 2 perches. An Australian equivalent would be a Virginia Trioli or Fran Kelly.

In July, Maddow got stuck into conservative news network, One America News (OAN), for having a staffer who also filed stories for Russian outlet Sputnik. Maddow, who rode the Russia collusion hoax to her highest ratings, stamped down hard by saying: ‘The most obsequiously pro-Trump right-wing news outlet in America really, literally, is paid Russian propaganda.’

OAN, which is owned by San Diego’s Herring family, and which separates news from opinion, sued for defamation – for $10m. Unable to argue that the network was either Russian-owned or funded, her MSNBC-provided lawyer, one Ted Boutrous Jnr, told the court in a defence statement that Maddow was offering up her ‘own unique expression’ of her views.

‘Her comment, therefore, is a quintessential statement “of rhetorical hyperbole, incapable of being proved true or false,”’ he said.

Basically, this is saying, no facts here, Rachel’s full of it, everyone knows that, so no need to take it seriously. Which would be fine if she wasn’t billed as a news show anchor, and if ‘really, literally’ doesn’t mean ‘really, literally’, what does it mean? Like Bill Clinton’s infamous dodge that ‘it depends upon what the meaning of the word is, is’, Maddow is now just spewing word salad, unmoored from facts – and that’s according to her own lawyer. Which leaves her looking rather like Humpty Dumpty in Alice in Wonderland: ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’ Which La Belle Maddow can do, but she cannot also claim a credible news crown at the same time. Whether OAN will prevail against America’s pro-free speech laws, who knows, but it is telling to see a network’s own assessment of their top star’s credibility.

At a think tank address in New York City in 2017, the speaker (and also, in US usage, Speaker) Newt Gingrich was asked what would be the key to Trump’s re-election in 2020. ‘In one word,’ he replied, ‘Jobs, jobs, jobs’. And so it is that the blockbuster recent jobs report on the US economy describes both a booming US economy – on Main Street, rather than Wall Street, which is also nonetheless at record highs – and may portend Trump’s re-election in 2020. Critics outdid themselves reaching for superlatives to describe the report, and instead of caveats later emerging to undercut the main story, the report’s details only painted a more extraordinary picture of prosperity for those who had previously been left behind. Wages rose especially for the lowest-paid in the labour force, blue-collar wage growth outperformed white-collar, non-college educated grads outperformed those with degrees. Trump’s derided economic strategy of tax cuts, new trade deals, lower immigration, cheap energy and deregulation is paying big dividends. Trump assistant and trade commissar Peter Navarro said last weekend that Trump had lied when he said he would repeal two regulations for every new one – in fact he had repealed more like eight regulations for every new one. Black and Hispanic unemployment is now at record lows, and two recent polls have put Trump’s approval among blacks at 34 per cent. When elected he received only around 8 per cent of the black vote. It’s game over for the Democrats if Trump gets one-third of the black vote in 2020. And influential black American figures, such as iconic rapper Kanye West and the eloquent young firebrand Candace Owens, are lending their shoulder to the wheel of the Trump revolution, and will lead at least some black Americans away from their traditional Democrat allegiance.

Of course Trump is unlikely to get 34 per cent of the black vote in the election, and economic news can turn bad overnight. The election is still a year off, after all.

But it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the stars are aligning for Trump’s re-election. The current impeachment inquiry is a tacit recognition of the pitiful state of the Democrats’ presidential contenders; were any of them remotely capable of igniting serious opposition to this fascinating, irritating, and streetsmart Colossus, the House Democrats would not have had to fall back on second- and third-hand DC corridor gossip about Trump’s Ukraine-related behaviour. Their impeachment case, like Maddow’s misstatements, begs to be dismissed from serious consideration, but will soon provide an opportunity for the Senate Republicans to hold an impeachment trial – and air the Democrats’ own dirty laundry.

Yet more ducks are falling into line for Trump 2020: a lengthy investigation into intelligence agency spying abuses on the Trump campaign, Inspector General Horowitz’s report, will be out by the time you read this, and will further erode both intelligence agency and media credibility. A more significant report into the origins of the Russia collusion hoax is also not far off and, unlike the IG’s report, it can file criminal charges and will reach back into the CIA and potentially the Obama Administration. Given the evidence that has come out so far, neither report will make comfortable reading for Democrats and their fellow-travellers in the media and the DC elites.

And if the mainstream media continues to trash its reputation, treating facts as disposable items, even they won’t be able to save the Democrats in 2020. As usual, the betting agencies are on the money; Trump at two to one is looking pretty safe.

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