Mr. Trump and company seem to be betting that much of the electorate will not care if the president tells demonstrable lies, and will pick and choose whatever “alternative facts” confirm their views.
The next few years will be a test of that thesis.
In the meantime, we must recognize the magnitude of the challenge. If we want to restore respect for facts and break through the intellectual ghettos on both the right and left, the mainstream media will have to be aggressive without being hysterical and adversarial without being unduly oppositional.
Perhaps just as important, it will be incumbent on conservative media outlets to push back as well. Conservatism should be a reality-based philosophy, and the movement will be better off if it recognizes that facts really do matter. There may be short-term advantages to running headlines about millions of illegal immigrants voting or secret United Nations plots to steal your guns, but the longer the right enables such fabrications, the weaker it will be in the long run. As uncomfortable as it may be, it will fall to the conservative media to police its worst actors.
The conservative media ecosystem — like the rest of us — has to recognize how critical, but also how fragile, credibility is in the Orwellian age of Donald Trump.
Charles J. Sykes, “The Right That Cried Wolf”, The New York Times (5 February 2017), SR4-5.