In an ironic turn, President Donald Trump barred CNN White House Correspondent Jim Acosta on account of supreme insolence. Silly though it may be, the danger of a disconnected post-truth politics, where emotional appeals supersede facts and reason, is that a free society cannot long survive untruth and rampant distrust.
Here, the administration’s warring approach to the press is worrisome. And not just for the deadline artists who report current affairs. Truth, as a concept, has atrophied.
“CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them,” the president said in a post-election press conference last Wednesday. “You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN.”
This, amusingly, uttered by the figure head whose jests include “Grab them by the pussy” shows the present’s absurdity. But the disconcerting spectacle is Acosta’s revoked press credential — for drawing Trump’s ire no less — and the White House’s unabashed deception.
In a series of posts on Twitter, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders specified that Acosta’s “hard pass” was suspended until further notice. Afterward, she alarmingly released a doctored video of an interaction between Acosta and a young female intern prompted to wrest his microphone.
The attempt was unsuccessful as Acosta continued to probe about the Mueller investigation. The CNN correspondent, however, did not inappropriately touch the young woman, despite Sanders’ claim to the contrary. In quintessential post-truth fashion, the footage was sped up to make Acosta’s gesticulations appear more violent.
Not surprisingly, CNN filed a suit against Trump and leading White House aides for violating Acosta’s First Amendment right to report on the government without recourse and his Fifth Amendment right to due process.
Though it’s not a criminal offense to be half as smart as appearance suggests, the administration’s deceit should be considered criminal for anyone who values veracity. To observe the White House’s attempt to control the frame is a somber exercise in recognition: The Oval Office is where truth goes to die.
However, demeaning Trump and his ilk for their “alternate fact” escapades are cheap, and this critic, despite his short constitution, prefers not to limit himself to the displeasures of low hanging fruit. Or, for that matter, of being ungenerous.
In this regard, let it be said that President Obama’s transgressions on the fourth estate were far worse. Sure, Trump talks a mammoth game (though that’s changing) and he’s often horridly boastful. But Obama, for all his finesse and swagger, was insidious.
Consider, for example, that Fox News reporter Chris Wallace was banned from a roundtable discussion of Obama’s healthcare reform in 2009. Or the bogus reinstatement of the Bush-era subpoena against New York Times’ journalist James Risen — who was later spied on by the Justice Department in 2011. Or then-Fox News reporter James Rosen, who was dubbed a “criminal co-conspirator” under the Espionage Act for using a State Department contractor as a source for a story.
Then, in 2013, the Justice Department monitored Associated Press reporters’ and editors’ personal and professional phone calls for two months.
So though the champion of “Hope” is frequently absolved of his misdeeds, Obama’s trespasses cannot be relieved of their “precedential” effects. In this way, Trump is merely following his lead.
Still, Trump outplays the former president in at least one area: dishonesty. Here, post-truth, a moniker originally ascribed to Ronald Reagan’s Iran Contra Scandal, resurfaces.
The post-truth politician repeatedly issues talking points that are disconnected from relevant policy details because sentiment trumps logic, evidence, and coherent argumentation.
Unfortunately, the empirical successes of the past and present have, ironically, pushed statistics and expert testimony to their near breaking point — the infrastructure of “facts” has grown beyond our capacity to create factual consensus.
This gives credence to the person who scoffs at the notion of objectivity, of stable observations which serve to settle disputes between combative perspectives.
Regardless, it cannot, in fact, be the case that truth does not exist, even if it is elusive. The matters of the case need to be publicly teased out by inquisitive watch dogs and intellectuals.
Journalists, as the proverbial referees of statecraft, aren’t likely to receive adoration for their toils. They are, however, requisite. Here, Acosta’s tiff displays the hazards of an era characterized by doubt, executive overreach, and relativist proclivities that undermine sound discourse. This is perilous territory.
Democracy, as the Washington Post proclaims in their daily periodical, dies in darkness. Its luminesce, however, survives by prudent and assertive enquiry.
Christopher Salazar PZ ‘20 is a philosophy major from La Verne, CA. He’s not one to proselytize, but he believes whiskey on the rocks is sacrilege.