The pot calling the kettle black — Trump and the irony of the real fake news

Everybody who knows me knows I staunchly believe in and defend everyone’s right to hold their views and freely express their opinions. Red, blue, liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican, whatever — I don’t give a hoot about any of that. I will always encourage you to speak your mind and have your say, even when I disagree with you.

Sadly, we live in what some journalists have dubbed “the post truth era” — a time when conspiracy theories, opinion and gossip rise to be called “news” as our phones and computers urgently demand our attention every time somebody somewhere posts something on social media — be it true or false.

I’ve thought about this dreadful situation long and hard, and frankly, I can’t come up with a good solution. Despite my failure in that regard, I can say the last thing I want is the government getting involved and trying to regulate our free speech in any way. I don’t want any stinking fact checkers making decisions that regulate our public discourse. Here’s the rub. We the people, the consumers, ultimately bear the responsibility to consider the source and validity of the information we digest. It’s up to us. We’re the only ones who can do it.

So I humbly ask you to consider these words from Adolf Hitler, the all-time master of propaganda, to give you a perspective on how easily our opinions can be managed, manipulated and controlled by some of those who seek to turn our hearts and minds in their direction, and the high esteem and regard such influencers hold for us, the people.

“The art of propaganda lies in understanding the emotional ideas of the great masses and finding, through a psychologically correct form, the way to the attention and thence to the heart of the broad masses … The receptivity of the great masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan … The function of propaganda is, for example, not to weigh and ponder the rights of different people, but exclusively to emphasize the one right which it has set out to argue for. Its task is not to make an objective study of the truth, in so far as it favors the enemy, and then set it before the masses with academic fairness; its task is to serve our own right, always and unflinchingly.”

I hope you can recognize Hitler isn’t talking about journalism which strives to report all sides of story. I hope we may at least consider the difference between journalism and propaganda as we form our opinions. It’s hard to imagine anything more important as we try to find our way through the maze of today’s tribal political turmoil.

Testimony this week by David Pecker in former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial revealed the non-journalistic practices followed by the National Enquirer regarding which stories it would publish and which stories it would withhold. Pecker testified the tabloid told Trump it would be his eyes and ears — and it would squash any stories that would hurt Trump’s election campaign and publish stories that would benefit Trump and hurt his opponents. Many of these stories were completely false fabrications.

I am not an attorney. I am not on the jury. I honestly don’t know about the legality of  paying hush money to a Playmate of the Year and a pornstar and then calling it a legal expense. Seems shady to me, but in the end, I have to believe in the rule of law and trust our legal system to sort this stuff out in a just and fair way.

The obvious irony of Pecker’s testimony is the profound statement it makes about the former president’s connection to and participation with the National Enquirer during his election campaign and its deliberate publication of real fake news. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.