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What if the News Reported Only Facts? - Dilbert Blog

What if the News Reported Only Facts?

The common view we see from the mainstream media is that President Trump is a monster and there is no doubt about it. In support of that view, they offer plenty of evidence. And by evidence, I mean they hallucinate they can read minds.

Pundit creates news by reading minds

One of the biggest illusions of life is that we humans are good at deducing the inner thoughts of both strangers and loved ones based on observing their actions. The truth is that we are terrible at knowing what others are thinking. We just think we are good at it. No one is good at it. No one.

Need proof of that claim?

Think about the last disagreement you had with a romantic partner. There’s a high likelihood that one of you was incorrectly interpreting the thoughts of the other. And a big cause of that wrongness is the illusion that people make decisions based on one variable. We don’t. Our decisions are based on lots of variables — so many, in fact, that often we are not entirely aware of why we make our own decisions, much less why others do.

The business model of the news media has moved away from hard reporting and toward punditry and opinion. Viewers enjoy opinion-driven content and it costs a lot less to produce than hard news. And that means the news industry has moved from factual reporting to — for all practical purposes — some form of imaginary mind reading to fill the hours.

I’ll need some examples to make my point. Below I will imagine how several headline stories about President Trump could have been reported factually without the mind reading. I include the mind reading interpretations for contrast.

Birtherism

  • Factual Report: Donald Trump exploited doubts within the Republican base about President Obama’s birth certificate to gain a political advantage. This is a common political tactic. Candidate Trump used the same strategy against Ted Cruz, who was born in Canada but is an American citizen.
  • Mind Reading: We can read Trump’s inner racist mind and we know the real reason he was involved with birtherism is to send a silent dog whistle to the racists in the Republican party.

Some illegal Mexican immigrants are criminals and some are not

  • Factual Report: Donald Trump announced his candidacy for President with a speech in which he noted that some illegal immigrants from Mexico are criminals.
  • Mind Reading: Candidate Trump secretly believes all Mexicans are rapists. We know that to be true because he said “some” illegal immigrants from Mexico he assumes are “good people.” That is a clear sign that he is thinking no one from Mexico is a good person, even though “some” is not an indication of percentage.

Charlottesville

  • Factual Report: President Trump said there were “fine people” on both sides of the Charlottesville protests. When asked to clarify if that meant the racists with tiki torches were fine people, the President clarified that he disavowed that group and was talking about non-racists who might have been there to support keeping historical Civil War statues that many believe are offensive.
  • Mind Reading: Even though President Trump clarified that he disavows the racists, we can read his inner thoughts and it is clear he thinks racists are fine people because he knows he is one.

KKK Disavowal

  • Factual Report: In a CNN interview with Jake Tapper, candidate Trump did not take the opportunity Tapper repeatedly gave him to denounce the KKK and David Duke. President Trump said he had some audio problems and didn’t hear the question properly. He clarified the next day that he does disavow the KKK and David Duke, as he has several times in the past.
  • Mind Reading: President Trump is secretly fond of the KKK and David Duke and was sending a secret dog whistle to racists. That’s why he refused to disavow them until he was badgered into it. But his disavowals were dishonest because he secretly supports them.

Judge Curiel

  • Factual Report: Candidate Trump employed a common legal strategy by questioning the objectivity of the judge for the Trump University trial. The strategy was a solid one because it biased the judge to rule favorably for Trump to avoid the appearance of bias. As it turned out, the judge scheduled the trial for after the election, which was unnecessarily generous to Trump. A more normal schedule would have put the trial before election. The potential bias Trump called out was that because of his immigration plan, Trump was deeply unpopular with Americans of Mexican heritage. Lawyers routinely consider that sort of potential bias.
  • Mind Reading: Trump is racist against people with Mexican heritage and believes they can’t be good judges.

Shithole Countries

  • Factual Reporting: In a non-public meeting with other politicians, President Trump used strong language (shithole countries) to question why our immigration policies allow in so many people from economically disadvantaged countries instead of economically advanced countries such as Norway.
  • Mind Reading: President Trump called black and brown countries “shitholes” because he is a racist.

My interpretation of what we all have watched for the past two-and-a-half years is that the anti-Trump media created the “monster” version of Trump based on mind-reading punditry. Factual reporting would not have created that impression in the public’s mind. The public had to be primed, and it had to be reminded every day by the mind-reading pundits that Trump was a monster.

The mind-reading pundits have done a horrible disservice to the country, although I suspect most were operating under the illusion they can accurately read the mind of strangers. And in one of the most successful persuasion plays in history, the anti-Trump media pinned the blame for rising racial tensions on Trump. To be fair, he made it easy. Even I graded him an F in race relations. But not because I can read his mind. I just think he could have done a lot more to persuade-away the Trump-monster illusion created by his detractors.

I started a Patreon account to fund — via micro-donations as low as one dollar — the expansion of my Periscope content on the topic of persuasion, usually about politics. Step One involves converting my Periscope videos into audio-only podcast form for greater reach. That work is in progress. I’ll work on topic indexes next, and perhaps topic summaries in text form. YouTube is a lower priority because fans already post my Periscopes there. At some point I might do that myself.

Patreon funding will motivate me to express my opinions as often as practical without worrying about the sensibilities of sponsors, advertisers, or corporate bosses. I appreciate all of you who are making this happen.

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