News outlets have struggled with how to report on a president who constantly says things that are foolish, childish, dangerous, and false. Are the old ways of writing news stories still adequate?
Occasionally I’ll hear a suggestion that the news should stop covering Trump’s statements entirely, or else relegate them to minor headlines. I understand that desire, but I don’t think it’s the right path. Ordinary celebrities may fade to obscurity if we ignore them, but that tactic doesn’t work on somebody who controls the executive branch of the US government. We need to know what Trump is saying, not because it’s good or sane or true, but because it has consequences for our nation.
I was pondering all this today, and I had an idea.
In the Trump era, report on politics like you report on the weather.
Hurricanes are big, slow, mindless, and dangerous, but we don’t ignore them. Instead …
- We gather as much data as we can.
- We keep track of where they’ve been and try to predict where they’re headed.
- We record the damage they’ve caused and we rate their destructive power on a scale.
- We issue warnings and advise ordinary people in the storm’s path about how to prepare or rebuild.
- We promote the groups who work to limit the destruction and save lives.
- Afterward, we figure out what we’ve learned and how we can do better when the next storm hits.
What would such a news story look like?
Maybe something like this.
Level 4 Press Conference Event rains down hazardous disinformation — caution advised
WASHINGTON — Another Press Conference Event manifested in the nation’s capital yesterday, pelting an already weary population with further truth distortions, narcissism, and chaos. Although the Event was localized in Washington and emanated directly from the Chief Executive, its effects will be felt throughout the nation, and likely around the world.
As usual with such occurrences, experts say it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what triggered this disaster, but the underlying cause is the same as with other recent events: an unstable and underdeveloped Executive operating at the center of a high-pressure system. The Governmental Disaster Relief Organization (GDRO) is categorizing this event as Level 4, recognizing it as both destructive and needless.
Links to a video and full transcript of the event will be posted here shortly. But readers are urged to use extreme caution when viewing such material, as it may damage the retinas or optic nerves. This event in particular contains 9 objectively false statements, 16 misleading or questionable statements, 3 false equivalences, 28 non sequiturs, and 45 separate instances of gratuitous self-aggrandizement. If possible, do not read more than 3 to 4 consecutive paragraphs without taking a break. Remember to stay hydrated.
For maximum protection, citizens should stay informed, remain open to dialogue, and exercise the rights of speech, assembly, and petition for redress of grievances guaranteed by Amendment 1. Where possible, read the Constitution before engaging in debate. To help mitigate the damage in your area, contact your representatives in Congress.
You can also donate to relief organizations such as ProPublica, which deliver badly needed fact supplies in areas of the country hardest hit by the truth drought.
Above all, remember that such disasters are largely preventable. In November of both 2018 and 2020 the government will open the question of whether to reduce the frequency and intensity of such events, or continue them unabated. Your opinion is welcome. A simple majority will suffice.