As someone who watches from afar, I find US politics fascinating. I’ve noted previously some of the (very broad) similarities between Donald Trump and Clive Palmer. This piece by David Roberts over at Vox on how the US media struggles to deal with Trump’s outright lies is insightful.
As everyone acknowledges, politicians have always lied. So what’s going on here? How are Trump’s lies different? Are they just more voluminous, more flagrant? Or is there something deeper going on that has unsettled the media establishment?
He argues (persuasively, I think), that there are several important factors about why the media is reacting. His main arguments are that:
- Trump’s odds of being a serious contender are increasing as he continues getting closer to the early primaries, which means he’s being taken more seriously. [Personally, I’m persuaded by FiveThirtyEight’s analysis that the early polls aren’t strong predictors].
- Trump does represent a broader trend, of politicians casually disregarding the truth. I’m glad, though, that he doesn’t false into false equivalence.
- Non-partisan media organisations have lost their power to censure or fact-check as an alternative media ecosystem has emerged, one with a different slant in how news is approached.
- Trump has disregarded what might be thought of as ‘conventions’ for political lies: Don’t tell easily falsifiable lies, provide a supporting source, and retract a portion when fact-checked.
Interesting, Roberts argues that these factors and how they’re playing out around Trump aren’t idiosyncratic, reflecting the (admittedly unique) personality or context for Trump’s run. Instead, he argues that it’s reflective of broader trends, and that Trump is opportunistically playing the media game well.