Why the Trump attacks on the media sells
Donald Trump tells us that journalists "are the most dishonest people" and are "sleaze." This is silly.When Trump attacks reporters he already knows they are all Democrats, who are trying to get Hillary Clinton elected. They see their job as defeating him. So he has nothing to lose by hitting them on their bias. The current controversy over Couric's unfair editing only adds proof to his point.
But if my fellow journalists wonder why he gets away with his attacks and obfuscation towards the media, Katie Couric provides a good explanation.
Couric, who spent three decades as a supposedly straight-news reporter, this year narrated an anti-gun documentary. As a fig-leaf of balance, she included in the documentary an interview with Virginia Citizens Defense League. She used this as an occasion to "demolish" the gun nuts.
Reviewers got the message. The Hollywood Reporter wrote: "A group of blustery members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, however, suddenly remain painfully quiet when Couric asks them the hard questions."
Indeed it's painful to watch, or glorious to watch, depending on your perspective. The topic was background checks. Under current law, gun stores cannot sell a gun without conducting a background check on the buyer. If a gun owner sells his gun, however, he is not required to conduct background checks. Some gun-rights defenders oppose any mandatory background checks. No matter what, though, felons may not own guns.
"Let me ask you another question," Couric says, as the gun-rights supporters look on, "if there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from purchasing a gun?"
One gun-defender blinks, an uncomfortable grimace on his face, as he looks to a compatriot at the table. The camera cuts to another man, quietly staring down at the table. A third man, bearded, glares without saying a word before turning his eyes down. Eight seconds of awkward silence greet Couric's question.
But of course, that's not what happened. Couric's victims produced the audio from the meeting and published it online last week. In real life, Couric prefaces the question with "I know how you all are going to answer this, but I'm going to ask it anyway."
The eight seconds of silence in the video? That was B-roll: footage filmmakers use to add interest to voice-overs, or to show interlocutors listening. In effect, they filmed people listening to other people talk, and then plugged that footage — and some ambient noise — into the film after Couric's question.
Countless journalists have taken a subject's words out of context. But Couric deliberately took her subjects' silence out of context. And it was all to aggrandize herself, make ideological enemies look bad, and make her own questioning seem so incisive as to stump all comers.
So when Trump says the media lies, is it any wonder people believe him? And it's dangerous to give Trump credibility on this.