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Opinion: Shouldn’t there be somebody to defend Donald Trump?

Opinion page editors have been wrestling that question for over a year. A good opinion editor, you see, prides herself on ideological balance, mixing and matching pundits who reliably leave the conservative right gnashing its teeth with those who routinely leave the progressive left rending its garments.

But Trump has thrown that balance into disarray.

It’s easy to find progressive writers willing to lambaste him. But as more than one editor has lamented, when they look for balance to writers on the right who can usually be depended upon to defend a conservative Republican, it turns out they view him with similar scorn.

I once heard an editor muse about maybe making a concerted effort to find new voices willing to stick up for Trump, but to me, that smacks of false equivalence — and obscures an important point. If writers who unstintingly praised George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney are unwilling to champion this guy, is that not visceral confirmation of what an outlier he really is?

The Trump question, though, is just a subset of a larger one. Namely, how should mainstream news media deal with the fever swamp of conspiracy, lies and hogwash that produced and sustains him? To put it another way: should crazy have a place in the public square?

USA Today says yes. A few days ago, it published a column that raised eyebrows — and blood pressures — among progressives. It wasn’t the writer’s opinion — teachers should be armed — that rattled them. It was, rather, the writer himself.

Jerome Corsi is a birther who heads the Washington bureau of InfoWars, the conspiracy theory empire of Alex Jones. He’s the guy who says the Newtown massacre never happened and who once promoted claims of Hillary Clinton running a child sex ring out of a pizzeria. As Media Matters put it, “No serious outlet should elevate Corsi’s opinion.”

But USA Today did. In a statement to the Daily Beast, editorial page editor Bill Sternberg defended his decision: “USA Today’s Opposing View shows readers more than one point of view on an issue. Our signature debate format reinforces our reputation for fairness, which is one of our core values.”

Which is disingenuous on two counts: One, it’s not really the “point of view” people are objecting to, but the author thereof. Two, while fairness is, indeed, a core value, nothing about fairness precludes the obligation to use judgment.

Sternberg implicitly pretends otherwise, but ask yourself: If the paper ran a piece condemning child molestation, would it feel compelled to offer an opposing view from a pedophile?

Of course not. Journalists like to pretend judgment is not part of what we do but it is, in fact, at the heart of it.

This is not an abstract argument. Mainstream news media have been frustratingly slow to realize that we are under attack. A recent Washington Post story documents how, just 47 minutes after news broke of the shooting in Parkland, online conspirators were already building their “crisis actors” narrative. Forty-seven minutes. There were still bodies on the floor.

“There’s a war going on outside,” one anonymous poster wrote, “...and it is only partially being fought with guns. The real weapon is information and the attack is on the mind.”

So yes, this is coordinated. It is intentional.

That’s why USA Today’s decision to legitimize Jerome Corsi is appalling. He represents forces that threaten not simply news media, but ultimately, the nation. Yes, fairness is one of our core values.

But isn’t common sense one, too?

— Leonard Pitts is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Miami Herald.

Comments

Stacey Bichelmeyer Anderson

"to me, that smacks of false equivalence — and obscures an important point. If writers who unstintingly praised George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney are unwilling to champion this guy, is that not visceral confirmation of what an outlier he really is?"

There lies the problem - the news and the media consider those who voted for Trump to be "outliers" in "flyover states." The "uneducated country folk." The "false equivalants!!!" The media does seem to consider well over half of this country to be "falsely equal." Yet - we're allowed to vote. Imagine that! Perhaps if the newspapers and the news stations would listen to what those who voted for Trump have to say, you would realize that we've had it with the Bushes and the McCains and the Romneys - AND the Clintons and the Obamas and the Gores. "False equivalence" or not - those who defend Trump may very well defend him all the way into the white house yet again. Listen to them, or don't - you'll be listening to their votes on election day.

If you all would have listened to the people prior to the last election, Bernie would be president.

3 months, 3 weeks ago

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Brock Masters

You’re deplorable LOL but exactly right.

3 months, 3 weeks ago

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Kendall Simmons

"The people" didn't WANT Bernie...no matter how much you want to fantasize. Hillary didn't cheat him out of the presidency. He won small caucuses. She won large primaries.

He's a career millionaire (yes, he is) politician who may "talk the talk" you like to hear, but he doesn't "walk the walk". He plays people like you with idealistic "plans" that just sound good. But if you look at and think about the "details", you realize that there really aren't any. At least not realistic ones. And what has he accomplished in his years and years in Congress? Very, very little.

I remember back in the late 60s Bernie telling a group of us "What you ladies need to do is..." when he'd never asked us if we wanted his advice...or even if there was anything he COULD do to help. He just mansplained.

And I have NEVER forgotten Sierra Blanca...which, to me, sums up who Bernie Sanders REALLY is in a nutshell.

3 months, 3 weeks ago

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Dorothy Hoyt-Reed

So you don't think that Sandy Hook really happened and that their is human trafficking in a pizzeria and that Obama was born in Kenya, because if you do, you are an "uneducated country folk", whether or not you vote. It's as simple as that.

3 months, 3 weeks ago

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Paul Beyer

People like you who wasted their votes on the so-called other candidates are why trump was elected. Clinton and not the P.O.S. currently in the White House.

3 months, 3 weeks ago

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Bob Smith

Clinton lost because she was the worst major party candidate in 100 years.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Kendall Simmons

Not even close.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Ray Mizumura

If true, you just admitted that DT didn't win because of any merits that he might have. What you say isn't true, of course, but there's a case to be made that DT won because he appealed to the worst in America's voters.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Brock Masters

I don’t watch infowrs because I don’t find it credible, but I do follow and listen or red Walter E Williams and Thomas Sowell. These men are brilliant and while I’m not sure they would write an article praising Trump I do believe they would offer a fair assessment of him - good and bad.

There are others out there who would do the same, it is just that the media prefers not to seek them out.

Walter E Williams would be a great counter point to Leonard Pitt´s column here.

https://www.creators.com/read/walter-...

http://walterewilliams.com/immigratio...

https://www.creators.com/read/thomas-...

3 months, 3 weeks ago

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Dorothy Hoyt-Reed

Good to know you don't follow infowars, Brock.

3 months, 3 weeks ago

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Brock Masters

Yes, watched an episode and found it lacking in credibility.

3 months, 3 weeks ago

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Bruce Weber

The Corporate Overlords sure like it when we are all to busy argueing,fighting and hateing each other to see what they are doing. The notion that my side are all Saints and your side are sinners, tRuth is there are very few saints and the rest sinners and their all mix up. The issues of inequality, gun, opioid and all the rest, we're not going to fix them fighting each other and ignoring the elephant in the room

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Bob Summers

Trump does not need defending.

Leave it to the emotionally hypersensitive Liberal to ask the question.

Liberals need defending.

Is it odd that Liberal's have to defend one another? No. They have to defend one another to have any self worth.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Kendall Simmons

What on earth are you babbling about?

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Ray Mizumura

Whatever it is, it certainly has nothing to do with the editorial. That not only applies to Bob Summers, but to several others on this thread, including the first commenter, who seized on what LP said about outliers and took the whole damn editorial as an attack on Trump voters. LP is critiquing the media in the editorial, specifically USA Today, but a person would have to read the entire article to know that--not such an unreasonably demanding thing to do.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Bob Summers

You're still caught up in rubrics.

Try to look beyond your obvious.

Good day Larryvillager.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Bruce Weber

More vile drivel , 2 bobs are happy spring is here, they are getting low on snake oil

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Bob Summers

Steady Bruce.

Bruce.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Bruce Weber

2 bobs never have anything positive on any of these topics, always snarky at best, mean,rude,insulting,condescending at their worst, here for 1 reason. but it's your 1st amendment use it how you choose.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Bob Smith

Motes and beams, Brucie, motes and beams.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Steve Hicks

Pitts is right.

The intent is to be "fair," so the media always tries to give the "for" and "against" factions an equal chance to speak: a "conservative," and a "liberal," and so on for every issue (or alleged issue).

It's wasted effort. A review of comments on ljworld.com clearly shows that some commenters hate anything "MSM" (main-stream media) does or says, across the board. No attempt at "fair" presentation of opposing views carries any weight, except with people whose criteria is "fairness."

Pitts is right to question that criteria. "Fairness" is always relative, balancing opposites. That may work for opinions. It doesn't work for fact: and the media's traditional, long-established, job is presenting facts.

We know "the media" is comprised of human beings, and that there's a human-error factor in their presentation of facts. The same applies to the third-party material they are given to report: an eyewitness' statement, a police-report, or a politician's statement, may be slightly or greatly wrong...for a variety of human reasons.

Rational and fair-minded people know that. They understand that a forecast for sun and a high of 52 degrees is honest, even if a few clouds cross the sky, and the temperature tops out at 50 degrees. And they'd consider an attempt to report weather "fairly" by providing an "alternative" forecast of 17 degrees and snow, on the idea people could triangulate the truth as somewhere between the two, as ridiculous.

The problem is that some people want snow. Want it so strongly they won't admit the sunny cloudless day they see outside their window is reality. Hate "MSM" for affirming the independently-verifiable reality they don't WANT to see. And consequently believe only "media" that tells them it's snowing.

"Balancing" reality and unreality for "fairness" is wasted effort with the willfully self-deluded. It also confirms them in their delusion that their opinions carry the same weight as fact, and should be accorded the same respect as fact.

Pitts is right. Honest media isn't required to play the "fairness" game about facts, and shouldn't.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Greg Cooper

Stunning way of describing what science declares: some folks will not be swayed from their beliefs regardless of whatever facts they might be shown. Thanks for putting it in such understandable terms, Steve.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Steve Hicks

Thanks, Greg.

It really does seem that, more than differences about anything strictly political, the national debate today is about reality (or as I'd put it, "truth").

There are thousands of illegal aliens registered to vote in Kansas. Obama was born in Kenya. If corporations pay no taxes, they'll create more jobs and make our economy boom. Global-warming is a myth. Every nation in the world has been taking economic advantage of America. Hilary was running a child-porn ring from a pizzeria. Russia didn't do anything to disrupt American elections. If we have more guns, we'll all be safer from gun-violence. A massive increase of the national debt will make America's economy stronger.

Quite amazing that one political faction has latched onto unreality (or as I'd put it, "lies") as a winning "issue." But they have.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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