Find Walter or Bait Donald: Media’s Play to Beat Fake News

July 5, 2017

While real business gets done at the G-20 summit this week, the press might study its amateur defense of Donald Trump and his fake news media war.

Cronkite WaldoWhat’s clear in the fracas is that neither party has the credibility or public trust to win the war outright. Normally, Trump’s call outs and labels would fall flat and his incessant red herrings would be exposed.

But the institution he’s targeting — the 4th Estate — has no Walter Cronkite. And the president knows it. Were an Edward R. Murrow figure in place, the question of media’s fakery would have to go through that oracle. Safe to say, it’s neither an old-school Carl Bernstein, cable news anchor Jake Tapper, Morning Joe pundit, nor new media mogul Jeff Bezos…not yet.

What might produce such a figure is a tragedy, an event that makes someone in or near the news a martyr. And, with Trump’s repeating incitements to media violence that is possible. For now, Trump knows he has no equal of celebrated rank nor sufficient moral authority to quiet him. Until he does, or until he goes too far, the play for the press to run is a counter-intuitive bait.

As I’ve written on three occasions, a key to defeating Donald Trump is in strategies of counter intuition. The conventional framing plays — to recast, filter, screen…anything that works as a reaction to Trump — is sure to fail because the moves are defensive and thus confirm Trump’s upper hand. These three scenarios, all based on the overt strategy of taunting, are high-risk, but high-reward for journalism:

  • How to Beat The Donald: Encourage HimNov. 30, 2015. Instead of mocking [Trump’s] expansive ego it should be flattered. Instead of protesting his prejudice it should be ignored. Instead of criticizing vapid policies they should be treated as vetted… The more we get from Donald, in other words, the quicker he sets and springs his own trap.baiting-trump

  • Rx for Trump Haters: Help Him, Jan. 21, 2016. Showcase Trump’s supporters. Animate the angry people that love him. Show America who’s vaulting Trump to the top. It’s a picture that might give new meaning to Trumpism.

  • It’s Counter-Intuitive: Four Plays to Stop The Donald, March 10, 2016. [Ask Trump], Tell us more about the wall? Tell us about your friends? Are any Mexican, Muslim or gay? Tell us about the women you’ve hired? Tell us about your boyhood? Your dad? Tell us about your first fist fight? Did you win or lose? Tell us about abortion? Did you ever pay for one? Explain three tenets of Obamacare? How do you define conservatism?

Post by Alan Kelly

Photo credit, with apologies to Martin Handford