Trump discrediting of the media doesn’t just serve to discredit media institutions, but to discredit all political discourse. Whether by intention or unintended consequence, Trump undermines the credibility of his own supporters. He undermines his supporters’ trust in news and fact-checking organizations, and posits the idea that the only credible source of information is him and those who agree with him. This in turn undermines the credibility of his supporters to the people who recognize these institutions as trustworthy and relatively neutral.
There has been a lot of focus on the dangers of undermining the mass and mainstream media. To suggest that news that doesn’t immediately confirm one’s previously held beliefs as fake shields people from having to second guess their beliefs. Most frightening is that many (if not all) beliefs are emotional rather than logical. Trump and his team want to suggest to their supporters that if they hear something that doesn’t feel correct, dismiss it as fake (hearkening to Colbert’s idea of truthiness). Even worse, they suggest that, “if you want to know the truth, look to us: we’ll provide you with the truth.” This has always happened on a small scale, there have always been groups that believe they have divined the truth and either everyone else is fooled or part of some major conspiracy to cover up the truth or push their agenda. But, to have the leader of the most powerful country in the world start suggesting these sort of things is profoundly dangerous.
If the argument is that the media and scientist and unions and teachers and the university system, and park rangers, etc. is conspiring to push a liberal agenda, then equally valid is the argument that the Trump administration is pushing a conservative (or worse) agenda. But, who should we question more? We should obviously take heed of Trump’s assertion, but what is more likely to be of an immediate threat? I would argue that the people in charge of the executive and legislative branches of the federal government with the confirmation of a new justice tipping the judicial branch in their favor as well, is the greatest immediate threat. We should question power first before we question narratives of those in lesser positions of power.
Again, many other people have been talking about this, we see it, but what’s equally important is that Trump and Co. are actively undermining the credibility of their own supporters. They are making their supporters look ignorant, because simply dismissing something as fake is just that, ignorant. It fails to even consider the other point, and therefore refuses to address it; which means that they don’t even need to be knowledgeable about something to talk about it, and that by nature is ignorant. When you dismiss information, you don’t learn about it, and ignorance is not knowing about something. Trump and his administration are telling their supporters to be ignorant, to actively refuse to be informed.
I didn’t start writing this with the intent of attacking or insulting Trump supporters, they are no different from the rest of us. It is Trump and his team that are working to create a rift between his supporters and everyone else. This means discrediting media that disagrees with him, and discrediting his supporters in the eyes of everyone else. When both sides dismiss the other as fake, false, ignorant, stupid, brainwashed, or any other reason, the discussion breaks down completely.