But the opening paragraphs of this article by Rick Perlstein are worth considering:
I was curious, so I did a bit of research on theories about why great civilizations fall. Some scholars point to the danger of overextended militaries, others to overwhelmed bureaucracies. Sometimes the key factor is declines in public health, often caused by agricultural crises. Political corruption is another contender, as are inflated currencies, technological inferiority, court intrigue, rivals taking control of key transportation routes, or an overreliance on slave labor. Others point to changes in climate, geographic advantages won and lost, or the ever-popular invasion by barbarian hordes.
None I could find, however, mentioned what may become future historians’ most convincing explanation for America’s fall, should [T—p] end up her author and finisher: bad journalism.
It’s fitting when you think about it, however. Deep thinkers (and shallow thinkers too) have been saying for years that we live in the Age of Information. Now, thanks to the internet, we also live in the Age of Misinformation.
We have crackpots with keyboards (looking in the mirror here) who publish whatever they want online. We have the “fake news” phenomenon in which rumors, lies, conspiracy theories and government disinformation are gobbled up and shared worldwide.
Mr. Perlstein reminds us that, when asked to identify the most important issue in the recent campaign, 17% of voters picked “government corruption”, even though the last eight years of Democratic government have been the least scandal-plagued in recent American history. Furthermore, “voters trusted [T—p] over Clinton … on the issue by a margin of 48 to 39 percent, her worst deficit on any issue”.
The reason, of course, for this bizarre state of affairs is that professional journalists made Clinton’s emails the biggest campaign story of the year, while the monster’s documented history of fraud and corruption and his incredible array of pending conflicts of interest were downplayed or ignored. They also made millions of voters think the Clinton Foundation, which saves lives, was corrupt, even though the Trump Foundation is nothing more than a tax scam.
Bad journalism, even from reputable media companies, contributes to the flood of misinformation every day. One reason is that “news” comes at us in shorter and shorter bursts, more quickly all the time. What used to be called “sound bites” are now more likely to be a few words on a screen without any context or room for explanation.
The problem is much more serious now that we have a mentally ill businessman/TV personality/politician whose every thought instantly becomes “news”. Just in the past few days, he announced to the world that he had saved “over 1,100” jobs in Indiana. That number immediately became front-page news all over the country. Now it turns out that 730 jobs are staying in the U.S. but 550 jobs are going to Mexico. A union leader later said T—p “lied his ass off”. And 700 jobs from one of the company’s other facilities are still going to Mexico.
Yesterday, T—p declared that “Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!” Again, the “news” was suddenly everywhere. Boeing’s stock price dropped and gullible people proclaimed that T—p is already getting tough on government spending. In reality, Boeing hasn’t built anything yet. They don’t even have the government contract to build something. In fact, they are the only company willing (partly for the publicity value) to build two extremely high-tech, nuclear-war-resistant planes to replace the ones that are now almost 30 years old. The government estimates that each plane will cost $1.6 billion. One aviation analyst said that anyone who thinks they should cost less is “completely ignorant”.
It’s been said that this election killed journalism. It looks like journalism, abetted by the internet, may have killed us first.