Why Americans Distrust the Press More Than They Distrust Trump

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org

A Morning Consult poll published on April 28th showed that “roughly half (51 percent) of Americans said the national political media ‘is out of touch with everyday Americans,’ compared with 28 percent who said it ‘understand the issues everyday Americans are facing’.” Plus: “Thirty-seven percent of Americans said they trusted Trump’s White House to tell the truth, while 29 percent opted for the media.” So: the U.S. ‘news’ media are widely distrusted by the American people.

Among Republicans, 72% trusted “Trump’s White House” over (or more than) “National Political Media,” and 10% trusted the media over Trump, and that’s a ratio of 7.2 to 1 trusting Trump over the media. Among Democrats, however, 54% trusted media over Trump, and 12% trusted Trump over media, and that’s a ratio of 4.5 to 1 trusting media over Trump. So: Democrats there were far more trusting of the media than were Republicans.

The big turning-point on the trust of U.S. ‘news’ media was 2003. Americans had trusted the media not to be mere stenographers for the George W. Bush White House back before we invaded and wrecked Iraq on 20 March of that year, and Americans gradually discovered that the media instead had been mere stenographers, not authentic journalists at all — not journalists in any genuinely democratic country. (In any country where the newsmedia can’t reasonably be trusted, and this must include any stenographic press, no real democracy is even possible.) Other studies have shown that Republicans trust Fox News and other Republican Party organs the most as ‘news’media, and that Democrats trust CNN and other Democratic Party organs the most as ‘news’media. Practically everyone seeks ‘news’ that ‘confirms’ his/her particular political myths.

And Gallup has found that during 1997 to 2005, Democrats’ “Trust in Mass Media” gradually rose from around 60% in 1997, to a peak of 70% in 2005, as Democrats’ suspicions of the Republican White House after Bush’s invasion of Iraq soared when no WMD were found there and the ‘news’ media were by now blaming the ‘errors’ upon allegedly ‘faulty intelligence’, instead of upon America’s real dictatorship — the actual regime in power and its stenographic ‘news’ media. From 2005 till now, that 70% figure among Democrats has declined to 51%, as increasing numbers of Democrats come to recognize that we live in a dictatorship. Meanwhile, Republicans during the period 1997 to the start of 2003, trusted the “Mass Media” at percentages ranging in the 40s, but this figure suddenly plunged down to 31% after the invasion of Iraq when the ‘news’ reports from Iraq disconfirmed all of the Republican regime’s allegations — Republicans distrusted the press the more, as the truth started to be reported the more. By the start of 2015, those Republican percentages were still around 31%, and Republicans were still trusting the most, the Republican news network Fox News, which had cheer-led Bush’s invasion of Iraq. But then, on 14 September 2016, Gallup headlined “Americans’ Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low”, and reported that the main reason for the new low was that now only a record low of 14% of Republicans still trusted the “Mass Media.” It had plunged more than half since the prior year’s 32% figure for Republicans. And, at that same time, 51% of Democrats still trusted the “Mass Media,” which was a record-low percentage for Democrats too, but still remained higher than every Republican percentage for trusting the media except for the 52% Republican trust in the “Mass Media” back in 1998, when the Democrats’ Lewinsky affair and impeachment of Bill Clinton dominated the ’news’.

In other words: people trust the media if and to the extent that the media are confirming their suspicions. American politics is two imaginary ‘realities’, both controlled by the same aristocracy: the Republicans’ ‘reality’, and the Democrats’ ‘reality’ — and both ‘realities’ are dominated by the same lies, but different bumper-stickers representing them. (These shared bipartisan lies are the falsehoods that are essential to supporting the entire oligarchy, and they mainly concern international relations.)

Trust in the ‘news’ media is sinking, but remains unrealistically high, unrealistic especially amongst Democrats (since they still overwhelmingly trust the ‘news’); and this trust is the chief thing that keeps the U.S. regime — both the “Democratic” and the “Republican” wings of it — in power, as a two-Party dictatorship, both of whose Parties represent the same aristocracy.

During the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaigns, it was clear to any intelligent American that neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton was at all trustworthy, and so the country split even more sharply than before along purely partisan lines. There was really nothing else for voters to go on; it was just a selection between two competing psychopaths. Not voting at all in such an ‘election’ is to allow all other voters to make the choice instead; and this can be an efficient thing to do in such a desperate situation, if both of the psychopaths are approximately of equivalent evil — just letting everyone else do the ‘coin-tosses’.

The least intelligent Americans chose instead the inefficient way to allow everyone but oneself to make this political choice: these were the voters who cast ‘protest’ votes for third-party candidates whose only real participation in the contest was to draw off more voters from one major-Party candidate than from the other and so to throw the ‘election’ to the one whose lying rhetoric sounded the more different from that given third-party candidate’s political rhetoric. This ‘symbolic’ act (third-party voting) was merely enhancing the prospects that a minor-party candidate could become a ‘kingmaker’ between the two real candidates, and thus adding still further to the pervasive corruption. It happened with Nader in 2000 (who was crucially funded by major Republican donors), but that was the only successful recent third-party Presidential candidacy up till then — Bush v. Gore would never even have been possible, and both Florida and New Hampshire would have incontestably gone to Gore, if Nader hadn’t thrown that ‘election’ from Gore to Bush, but Nader was the only recent successful “spoiler.”

In an oligarchy, public politics is always a choice between two evils (not really more than that). It’s an attempt to select the lesser evil. What protects the oligarchs the most, is whatever sustains the lie that the nation is (or that it remains) a democracy — in other words: the longer that the myth of there being (or still being) a democracy can be sustained among the public, the safer the oligarchy will be. Maintaining this lie is maintaining the existing dictatorship.

However, it’s not only the ‘news’media that serve this essential function for the aristocracy. For example, Google, now officially known as “Alphabet Inc.,” is a major determinant of the ‘news’ that the public receives from web-searches; and in order for Google to be able to shift blame onto “an error by one of our contractors” whenever an online site that Google wants to bury discovers that Google has been hiding the given site from the public, Google has selected contractors who understand the objectives of the people who control Google; and, when those contractors then suppress a site, they cite the best-sounding excuse they can, so that the company that’s paying them, Google, will always have some excuse for its (contracted-out) censorship, and can always override the contractor’s decision as having been a mere ‘mistake’ if ever the suppressed site is already big enough to be able publicly to embarrass Google for having censored it out. Thus, for example, as “Business Insider,” one of the aristocracy’s ‘news’media explains it, “A vendor hired by Google employs contractors to rate the websites that appear in its search results — the rating is used to improve search quality, helping Google’s automated search algorithm prioritize higher-rated, reliable information.” And, after the large anti-Establishment InfoWars site complained, “Google said Monday that a vendor mistakenly told staffers working for the search engine that InfoWars should be ranked as a low-quality site.” In other words: the censorship then can be described as having been a “mistake.” (But, of course, the contractor doesn’t usually get fired for a ‘mistake’ — unless it really was that, which rarely is the case.) And, so, “Google’s representative distanced the company from the contractor’s instructions, telling Business Insider that it does not instruct quality raters how to grade specific websites.” “Quality raters” — as if Google really cares about quality, instead of about its own bottom-line, which depends not upon quality, but upon satisfying the rest of the aristocracy (which means to provide low quality, deceiving the public in the ways that the aristocrats want).

More commonly, Google’s “quality raters” target little-known, truly independent, sites, which have no allegiance to any Party but only to truth. (Some people care about truth, no matter how unprofitable it might be.) For example, when Google threatened one of my publishers, RINF, it was over a specific article, which Google (probably actually one of their “contractors”) demanded the site to remove. The site refused to remove it. No issue of “quality” was even involved, merely a demand, and an implicit threat. The site’s owner ultimately decided that he’d rather just quit than participate in Google’s censorship of the web; and so he instead chose to ignore the threat. These are small sites, anyway; so, almost everyone who goes there is a repeat visitor, and becoming rich isn’t such a site-owner’s chief objective. These are individuals who really do care about democracy, and this means also about truth.

Incidentally, Google was deeply committed to Hillary Clinton’s becoming America’s President, and also participated importantly in her State Department’s successful coup in Ukraine, and in its (as-yet-unsuccessful) effort to overthrow Syria’s Russia-and-Iran-allied government and replace it with one that allies instead with the owners of Saudi Arabia and of Qatar, and with their allied governments, which control the U.S. and Israel. 

So, international affairs are a rich thicket of deceptions, and of power; and the largest international corporations are intimately involved in it. Trump’s voters thought that he would resist that, but instead his international policies (and also many of his domestic policies) seem to be just continuing those of his predecessor, whose international policies he had intensely condemned. Mass-deception is at the basis of this ‘democracy’. But it’s not only the media, and it’s not only the government; it is the whole corrupt system, and especially the coterie of perhaps as few as a hundred people (perhaps most of which are hidden from the public, and there is no guess here as to whom are at the very top) who collectively control it.

The higher one gets, the darker it gets, but this is the only thing that’s clear, about the system. The ‘news’media serve that system, and cast any light they shed, only downward from it — below and away from it, where the stage is, not where the scriptwriters and directors and producers are, which can be very different places.

It’s all just a show, even if it’s not an entertaining one. It’s where the public are, split into various prejudices, and the prejudices that are their opposites. It’s organized truth-evasion, on ‘both’ sides.


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.