A friend of mine posted a link on Facebook yesterday to an excellent PressThink post from Jay Rosen titled “A miss bigger than a missed story: my final reflections on Trump and the press in 2016”. Rosen starts out:
We lack any common language for talking about press performance at the level where Trump eluded it. So this essay will have to roam a bit. If it doesn’t cohere in the end— well, neither do we. We who care about news, truth, factuality, and democracy. We don’t know where we are with Trump and the depiction of reality in an election contested this way. We have lost the plot.
This is my attempt to restore one. But it probably won’t work.
Rosen details at some length the sorry history of this erosion of facts and evidence over the last fifteen years. The piece is worth a read for that aspect of it alone.
Later, he goes on to talk about Trump’s utter disregard for facts and his imperviousness to fact-checking as a power play, citing Jason Stanley’s excellent New York Times essay from a week ago. One thing that stuck in my head as I was reading Rosen’s post was how to reconcile Rosen and Stanley’s notion (which I believe) with Josh Marshall’s theory of Trump’s Razor (which I also believe).
If you are not familiar with Trump’s Razor, it goes like this: “Ascertain the stupidest possible scenario that can be reconciled with the available facts and that answer is likely correct.” I have found it to be an very useful heuristic for explaining nearly everything that has happened with Trump’s campaign. Are Trump’s crazy tweets an elaborate ploy to get inside Clinton’s head and rattle her campaign? Nope, it’s actually him, insecure and flailing about in the middle of the night. Is Trump’s entire campaign a convoluted false-flag operation planned by the Clintons, the DNC, and Goldman Sachs to throw the election to Hillary? No, Trump is just as shallow, stupid, and craven as he seems, and the Republican Party is desperate enough to fall for his latest brand-pumping scheme. The list goes on.
Given that, though, how do we explain Trump’s flagrant disregard for the truth and his campaign’s construction of a totalitarian alternate reality? It seems like it would be an operation rather too complex to be planned undertaken by Trump and his disorganized circle of sycophants and hangers-on, none of whom seems to be particularly bright.