Sputnik: Trump and the mainstream media have been “at war” ever since the beginning of his presidential campaign and there was virtually not a single day when Trump was not in headlines. Who is fighting whom essentially? Who cast the first stone, so to speak?
Peter Kuznick: Trump has some seriously demagogic tendencies and does not seem to have much respect for the US constitution or for freedom of the press. We’ve seen it during most presidencies; most presidents view the press in antagonistic terms, most have some strong criticism of the press; but we’ve never seen any president openly demonize and vilify the press the way that Trump has done.
This month in Pennsylvania he talked about the ‘fake disgusting news’ that was being published. He’s used the term ‘fake news’ we know in his tweets at least 281 times; this is something that has happened systematically. We also know that the overall majority of his followers agree with him.
Sputnik: Do you think that there has been an upsurge in what could be considered fake news?
Peter Kuznick: Perhaps there has been [an upsurge], but the press has always had a spotty record in that regard. As much as I use the mainstream media as a source in my writing, I’m also very critical of the role that the media has played. For example, look at the Iraq war; the media was cheerleading that.
The media does have a certain bias; the bias is toward the establishment, the status quo or the military industrial complex. So, I am critical of the press. But there’s a difference between being critical of the press and trying to tear down the institutions of democracy as we’ve seen Donald Trump do, the obsession that we see in the US media with the Russia investigation, for example.
The problem is not that it covers these topics which it should cover, the problem is that it never puts them in context. So, when we turn on CNN or MSNBC they’re always decrying the collusion or the Russian meddling. They don’t make the point that the US and Russia have been doing this to each other for a hundred years; they don’t make the point that the US meddled in other people’s elections on a regular basis; they don’t make the point that the US meddled openly in Russian elections.
This is part of what countries do to each other, but you never get any context from the media. It’s the tyranny of now; it’s everything without any historical background or context.
Sputnik: What do you think is behind the media’s tendency to cast things in a specific light or to have a sway? Is there a problem with media ownership in the US? Is the person who pays salaries the person who decides what’s news and what’s not? What’s the problem with the media in the US?
Peter Kuznick: The ownership and the financing are certainly relevant to consider, but the problem with the media is more the mindset of the US. There’s a narrow band of acceptable views and acceptable wisdom and if you’re going to challenge the prevailing assumptions then it’s going to require much more explanation and analysis.
What you find in the media is that they go for the soundbite; they don’t have a long discussion like we’re having about the nature of the media; what they go for is a quick soundbite. If you’re going to have somebody make a quick soundbite it’s got to reinforce the prevailing assumptions because it takes a lot more explanation and a lot more analysis to question that.
It’s always the assumption that the United States has the moral authority to be critical and to judge every other country. But you never see the journalists holding the same mirror up to the United States and judging the United States by that same context and by the same values, and I think that’s the problem.
Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.