How Journalists Are Still Getting Punked By Trump

It has officially been a month since Trump tweeted what everyone knows was nonsense.

Yet we are still getting stories attempting to “investigate” whether there was any truth to his claim. The latest one explores the idea that the same Ezra Cohen-Watnick who called Rep. Devin Nunes to a clandestine meeting at the White House has now suggested that Obama’s national security advisor, Susan Rice, requested the “unmasking” of people associated with Donald Trump whose communications with foreign targets had been collected incidentally.

Kevin Drum noted how far down the rabbit hole we’ve traveled from the original claims in Trump’s tweet.

  1. Obama became some part of the executive branch.
  2. Wiretap became surveillance of some kind.
  3. Trump Tower became Trump.
  4. Trump became anyone associated with Trump.
  5. Surveillance became criminal investigation of Trump campaign team. Oops. Wrong turn. Let’s ditch that one.
  6. Second try: surveillance became routine monitoring of foreign officials that happened to include Trump officials on the other end.
  7. Routine monitoring became unmasking of Trump officials.

Even though we’re now in territory that has zero resemblance to Trump’s claims, the president and his supporters take these stories as validation that he has been right all along.

All of that provides the perfect backdrop to this explanation from Carlos Maza about why comedians do a better job of covering Trump than a lot of journalists and political commentators.

Sophia McClennen points out that the media feels the need to take Trump’s claims seriously in order to be taken seriously. When it comes to his allegations about wiretapping, Maza says “they spent hours fixating on whether there might be evidence at some point down the road maybe that shows Trump wasn’t just making it up.” In other words, they are taking bulls*t way too seriously.

If you remember, Trump’s pattern is to lie, distract and blame when he feels challenged. That’s exactly what he did with these allegations. The media’s fixation on them — even as they keep pointing out there is no evidence to back them up — plays right into Trump’s hands.

But beyond playing into Trump’s hands, that kind of coverage “rots our brains” and makes us “less likely to think that we can figure out the truth,” which is the whole point of this kind of propaganda.

Maza goes on to explain why comedians have become our truth-tellers. Primarily it is because satire trains our brains to be skeptical…to ask questions and think critically at a moment when the bulls*t is flying fast and loose.

Journalists don’t need to become satirists in order to tell us the truth. They just need to notice the bulls*t and not take it seriously.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.