By the final days of the 2016 presidential campaign, every form of media communications was under attack. No one escaped. Mainstream media, remote news outposts, noted commentators, and popular sensational blogs were all involved in the wreck. Donald Trump may have instigated it but he couldn't have imagined that he would jolt the entire media world.
In a previous article, I spotlighted Donald Trump's use of armed propaganda --- namely, the tactic, used by armed insurgents, to incite an opponent's overreaction. In the process, unmask the enemy's deviousness, injustice, and some cases, brutality. Trump relentlessly attacked mainstream media, and they counter punched. That was Trump's precise intent: to demonstrate that mainstream media is not impartial.
I made this point in mid-September.
Much has occurred since then.
The boundary between news and propaganda has been shattered. It's become unclear what we we're reading or viewing -- news reports, opinion masked as news, outright false fabrications, hard core propaganda, or campaign messaging swirling within a carefully devised social media echo chamber.
In response to Trump' attacks, mainstream media fought back. It assaulted ancillary news and commentary websites that supported Trump. 'Fake news' was uncovered. Stories like pizza gate were exposed. Wikileaks releases were condemned, characterized as Russian cyber operations intended to influence the election.
Then it was over. Trump won, and media cleansing began.
For example, the left set siege to the Breitbart News website, causing major advertisers, like BMW, Kelloggs and Allstate, to cancel ads. The right battered the major press for failing to see Trump's victory and recognize the millions of voters that delivered his victory. Even self-cleansing occurred. The Washington Post admitted problems with a story about Russian efforts to affect the election.
Media cleansing must continue.
All actors on the media stage must self-police.
Mainstream media must separate solid news from commentary. The alternative press must screen stories more carefully, and separate investigative reporting from fake news. And the government must not be allowed again to use Obama advisor Ben Rhodes tactic of generating social media propaganda masked as background briefings.
The greatest challenge is ours -- as readers, viewers, and news consumers. When a story spreads to our liking, we cannot rush to post it, share it, or like it.
I plead guilty.
When Eric Tucker, a 35-year-old co-founder of a marketing company in Austin, Texas, tweeted about paid protesters being bused to demonstrations, he included a photo of a long line of white busses on an Austin street. I posted the picture and story on my Facebook page. Tucker's post was shared 16,000 times on Twitter and more than 350,000 times on Facebook. That was November 9th. It took almost 48 hours for the true story to emerge.
There were no buses packed with paid protesters. A spokeswoman for Tableau, a software company, issued a statement to the local press, saying that the buses were connected to the company's conference.
Trump used armed propaganda to cripple mainstream media. Let's hope that mainstream and ancillary media have learned a lesson. So that real news is not restricted to just sports scores, car accidents, and the closing stock market prices.
In the end, though, we are the final news editors. We have to do our job.