Catholic Social Teaching Supports Trump’s Challenges To the Media…


From
Crisis

It is not an overstatement to say that the time of the Trump presidency has been one of protracted struggle between the national administration and most of the media. To be sure, the press and the electronic media have faced off with presidential administrations for a long time. Actually, the press has had their political and ideological biases since the beginning of the Republic. After all, weren’t the Federalist Papers originally articles in newspapers that wanted to support the proposed U.S. Constitution and influence the crucial ratification debate in New York State? Don’t historians write about how “yellow journalism” helped lead to the Spanish-American War? Still, when one looks at the behavior of the media in recent decades, the argument can easily be made that as far as concerns political bias, lack of concern for fairness and objectivity, separating out reporting from commentary, a willingness to dig for the facts instead of just reporting what someone claims, journalistic professionalism, and even attention to whether something reported on actually even happened, we are at a historic low.

While Republicans have probably borne the brunt of harsh presidential media treatment since LBJ, the level of vituperativeness directed at Trump is perhaps unparalleled—even surpassing what Nixon, who was known for his long chilly relationship with the press, faced. Certainly, the media’s unremitting pounding of Trump, beginning even well before Inauguration Day, is unprecedented in these recent decades. Some might say that Trump has invited it, with many questions about his background before coming into office, the attention to the ongoing investigation of “collusion” with Russia during the campaign (although this may actually be an example of the “fake news” that the president criticizes), and Trump’s constant sniping at the media with his regular barrage of tweets. Still, it’s hard to make the case that the media has given any breathing room to Trump anywhere along the way.

Most people would probably say that a president is justified in calling out the media and challenging their misconduct. Other presidential administrations have done it, although probably not as regularly and publicly as this one—nor has the president himself usually been the point man, as is the case with Trump. Despite plenty of grounds to challenge the media, Trump was recently attacked in a manner that surely seemed “over the top” by two senators from his own party. Senator Jeff Flake, who has repeatedly tussled with Trump, first conceded that presidents can surely criticize the press but then equated Trump’s actions with Stalin and seemed to suggest that the media can almost unquestionably be relied upon to present the truth. Flake’s fellow Arizonan, Senator John McCain, who has also had a strained relationship with the president, wrote an op-ed arguing that Trump’s criticism of the press is having the dangerous effect of discrediting it and so was emboldening foreign despots to suppress journalists.

All the while, Trump has not threatened the press with anything like censorship, or prior restraint as in the Pentagon Papers case, or imposing a special tax on oppositional newspapers like Huey Long did, or imprisoning journalists as various judges have done for not revealing their sources. Neither senator had much to say about journalistic responsibility or about whether the media—and what we’re mostly talking about here is the mainstream or “big” media—has in fact been discrediting itself by its actions, the most egregious of which has been reporting on stories that have no factual basis (“fake news”).

One wonders if the senators have any sense about the need to confront adversaries, even when they royally deserve it. Their response to Trump was a particularly striking example of what the Republican “establishment” in Washington has been consistently criticized for: routinely conceding to the other side, a “go-along, get-along” attitude that results in the left advancing its agenda even when it loses elections.

The strikingly uncritical and almost apologetic attitude about the media of Senators Flake and McCain is not something that Catholics should countenance, whether or not they like Trump’s approach or manner—that is, if they think he doesn’t act in a way that is “presidential”—or even if they think he carries it too far. Untruthfulness and wrongdoing—and imperviousness to propounding untruth certainly qualifies as wrongdoing—need to be challenged. Let’s remember how Christ had little reluctance about confronting the errant Jewish authorities of his time and that admonishing the sinner is a spiritual work of mercy. It’s especially necessary for top leadership to do it—both for the greater effect they can have and to inspire others to do the same in their own little arenas. Recall what St. Thomas Aquinas said about how those who rule set the norms for their people.

Moreover, when we talk about the media and calling it to responsibility, Catholics need to be particularly attentive to what the Church has said about this. In his social encyclical, Pacem in Terris, Pope St. John XXIII set out his famous listing of human rights and stressed that rights always have corresponding duties. So, while there is a right to express and communicate one’s opinions, to freedom of speech and publication—which certainly includes people acting in the context of the formal organs of communication, like the news media—the people on the receiving end have “the right to be informed truthfully about public events” (#12).

Vatican II’s Inter Mirifica (The Decree on the Means of Social Communication) stresses that while the media has rights it also has the duty to uphold the moral law, which certainly includes the obligation to report truthfully so that this right of people, the citizenry, to be truthfully informed is realized. It also asserts that civil authorities have a duty “to ensure … that public morality and social progress are not greatly endangered through misuse of these media” (#11-12). The Church here is not saying that government should or that it’s desirable for it to impose censorship, or even that it’s mostly government that should be the vehicle to promote this grave journalistic responsibility. She just says that government has or may have a role of some kind in this. That, of course, may involve nothing more than “setting the record straight” or challenging the media when it puts out false or biased information.

Recently, Pope Francis scored the media’s reporting of “fake news,” saying it always has bad effects, and emphasized the obligation of journalists to report the truth.
From a Catholic standpoint, then, while Trump’s confronting the media about ideological bias, reporting “fake news,” and the like may not be elegant and may even seem excessive sometimes, it is warranted as a means of prodding then to act rightly and be more responsible. As such, it certainly may help the cause of promoting the common good. While scrutiny and challenges of the media’s errant practices should come from many sources, to be sure, when the highest American public authority is willing to take it on it especially highlights the problems and may have the most effect. Again, as St. Thomas said, rulers or leaders shape the course of things. Further, the way Trump is doing it is entirely in line with American constitutional principles. Contrary to what Senators Flake and McCain may think, the First Amendment is in no way being trodden upon. [Stephen M. Krason: A Catholic Reaction to Trump and the Media]

Comments invited…  

23 responses

  1. Well here in Europe we have Angela Merkel arranging for the closing down of Facebook pages of those critical of her. Macron is going in the same direction and the Conservatives are talking about a department to respond to fake news.

  2. I know Tucker Carlson is popular here on this blog (as in the USA, LOL!) so I thought it would be interesting to find out what he thinks about fake news. This clip is very interesting indeed.

    • Fidelis,

      Tucker is great. That’s a new one, calling their fake news stories just “mistakes” LOL!

      The point is well made that the “mistakes” are always about Trump being a bad guy never anything good “by mistake” – that’ exactly right.

    • Fidelis,

      Loved the bit where it says you are regarded as a “heretic” if you work for the media and support Trump. I bet that’s the very same here in the UK. It’s like they are programmed to be anti-Trump. They can’t hide, it, it’s very blatant. Yet they shut their eyes and fail to investigate Hilary Clinton who is obviously crooked. It all beggars belief.

    • I just love Tucker Carlson! This video is no exception. He sticks to the hard facts. “Mistakes” – sounds like they’ve given up denying the obvious!

  3. Unfortunately it’s not just the US MSM who hate President Trump with a vengeance the BBC most certainly tops the list in this Country. It has gotten to the point that the only Newspaper I read is the Daily Mail. Being an ex Labour Supporter nearly all of my life at one time it would have been something I wouldn’t have allowed into my home; my how things have changed. President Trump is far from being a paragon of Virtue but I would take him over The Clintons and Obamas any day. He at least spoke to the American People on The March for Life last week. Something that Clinton believes should be exterminated up until 9 months. Also as regards Francis meddling in US politics and taking Clintons side from a Pontiffs view was abysmal. Then of course there is the Hypocritical Hollywood Mob who have put the boot in at every opportunity. As it’s been said on here before thank God for Tucker Carlson . One of the worst things to come out of all this is the silent majority in the US who see this Press Persecution of Trump and some have even come out Praising ANTIFA . In bygone years a Democracy although we didn’t vote for the person or the subject that won a Vote or an Election we accepted grudgingly but accepted. This doesn’t seem to be the case nowadays. Just a wee photo of Mr Obamas Principles. Behind him is a covered up Crucifix which he ordered to be https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DT-sQKlX0AAj-oq.jpg A picture paints a thousand words as they say . There wasn’t very many complaints if any from the MSM over this .

    • Faith of our Fathers,

      Do you where that photo with covered crucifix is from? I thought the writing seemed like Arabic, so would wonder if it was a crucifix. I would like a bit more detail, if you have it, thanks.

  4. The Crisis article is very good indeed and it was good to read the quotes from important saints like St Thomas Aquinas to support Trump’s challenges to the mainstream media outlets.

    It’s actually amazing to listen to most people, including Catholics, calling out Trump and assuming that he’s wrong about fake news. They have a blind trust, most people, in journalists, that really can’t be justified if you look at the facts and what we are NOT being told. That’s where the likes of Tucker comes in handy because we don’t get that perspective at all in the UK. I wonder if the UK journalists watch him. He’s intelligent and balanced, so they should be taking his perspective and comparing it to the hate campaign from the Clinton side.

    It’s good to know that Catholic social teaching is behind Donald Trump. That will not please his enemies over there (or here, for that matter!)

  5. St Thomas Aquinas is clear that there is a relationship between law and reason, that laws are there for the greater good and so it stands to reason that if the means of communication from legal authorities (i.e. governments) cannot be relied upon to report the truth, the law is failed.

    When governments are unjust and lie to the people, instability through to anarchy occurs.

    My message to the USA msm is to get their act together and start reporting only the facts about Trump. They might be pleasantly surprised at the results.

  6. I’ve been following the “memo” scandal in Washington – clear evidence that the FBI were acting to stop Trump winning the election! The first video is Tucker (of course!) The second one is Hannity, another good journalist in the USA

    • Fidelis,

      Enjoyed the videos.

      I think, though, that Hannity is a modernist Catholics – not sure but his name rings a bell of the warning kind!

  7. Obviously, this news proves beyond doubt that just about everything in the news about Trump is fake news. I hope the culprits are brought to trial.

    • Fidelis,

      Thank you for both videos. Dynamite. I’ve not had a chance to watch today’s news properly, but at a skim, there doesn’t seem to be anything remotely revealing the gravity of what is/has been going on in the USA, if the videos are reliable (and I’m certain they are).

      I thought we might have to wait much longer for the truth to come out about Comey & Company, not to mention Hillary Clinton, but maybe not. Truth will out in the end.

  8. Having finally read the introductory article, I’m not so sure this piece is a “Catholic” reaction to Trump and the media. I think it is more of a “Vatican II” reaction to Trump and the media. For example:

    -Quoting Pacem in Terris, which apparently set the stage for Dignitatus Humanae in terms of the false definition of religion freedom. The writer claims that “…while there is a right to express and communicate one’s opinions, to freedom of speech and publication…”

    No there isn’t. There is no such thing as a “freedom of the press/speech/publication” which undermines Catholic teaching.

    -Quoting Inter Mirifica as follows: “It also asserts that civil authorities have a duty ‘to ensure … that public morality and social progress are not greatly endangered through misuse of these media.'”

    Really? You mean the duty to preserve public morality (i.e. Catholic teaching) is now reduced to a negative precept, so that as long as public morality is not “greatly endangered” by statements of civil authorities, those statements are perfectly fine?

    Hogwash. This is nothing more than setting the stage for “nuancing” (as the Jesuits like to put it) public morality into the wastebasket.

    Yes, untruthfulness and wrongdoing certainly need to be challenged, as this author says, but certainly not by quoting the fatally (and deliberately) flawed documents of Vatican II, which are a disguised surrender to the world.

    The whole question of why the media have laid siege to President Trump can be answered easily: it is because the mainstream media are owned and controlled by globalists, lock, stock and barrel, and Pres. Trump’s nationalist and populist agenda is a threat to their plans.

    • RCA Victor,

      But isn’t that the point – that you can read orthodoxy and liberalism into the documents of Vatican II? The fact that we don’t live in Catholic countries means that we have to use those bits of V2 that serve the traditionalist purpose? As long as they dovetail with Aquinas at some point, that’s good, isn’t it? Or am I being silly, LOL?!

  9. Michaela,

    I don’t think you’re being silly, but I also think negative precepts – that is, the citation of worst-case scenarios as a substitute for general rules – aren’t worth a hill of beans (or a bowl of haggis) when it comes to serving Tradition. Quite the contrary, I think they are an open door to the morally bankrupt realm outside Tradition.

    For example, what if the “greatly endangered” rule was applied to abortion? What if some forked-tongue politician decides that abortion is fine as long as the life of the mother is not “greatly endangered”? (in other words, the reverse of the standard leftist baloney that abortion is necessary if the life of the mother is endangered) In fact, this is a variation of the Masonic/Wiccan code that you can do whatever you like, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. Notice the missing definition of “hurt.”

    Also, notice the interesting juxtaposition of “public morality” and “social progress” quoted above. What exactly is “social progress”? Sounds to me like a code phrase for loosening Catholic morals. One stitch at a time….

    • RCA Victor,

      You are SO right about the piece not being truly “Catholic”. I ignored the Vatican II stuff in the “Crisis” article and focused only on the reference to St Thomas Aquinas for the “Catholic bit”. Nobody else seems to have noticed, so kudos to you…

      I also ignored the reference to “Pope St. John XXIII” 😀 A common theme in all of the “modern traditional” publications and sites is to acknowledge the Vatican II “pope saints”.

      I think it’s fair to say that nobody could accuse “Crisis” of being a genuinely “traditional” site. I think of it as a site presenting a typically modern mish-mash, trying to be “traditional” in their desperation not to appear “liberal”, if you get my drift.

      Still, I thought the piece would spark a discussion and you have proven me right! For which, thank you!

      In due course, if nobody beats me to it, I’ll try to find another piece on the topic, which omits all mention of Vatican II and its dubious “saints” 😀

      • This editorial in Christian Order is a first class expose of the bias against Trump and the truth of his claim to be a victim of fake news. I wanted to copy the whole thing, but it’s too long so here is a section, with link to the actual editorial which really does repay the time spent reading the whole thing. It was published this time last year, but nothing has changed, it still is an accurate description of what is going on right now:

        MSM: Fake News Inc. : 1
        THE EDITOR
        Pro.pa.gan.da : noun

        1. The spreading of ideas, information, or rumour for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person.
        2. Ideas, facts or allegations spread deliberately to further one’s cause or to damage an opposing cause. Also: a public action having such an effect.

        “You could get a journalist cheaper than a good call girl, for a couple hundred dollars a month.” — ex-CIA agent

        “Rank deceit

        During the presidential campaign, CNN epitomised the pervasive dishonesty decried by Trump and Kessler. Among its armoury of dirty tricks, all geared to inverting the reality of events to manipulate public opinion, was the constant rigging of their own polls.

        For example, after each of the three presidential debates, in order to convey the false impression that Mrs Clinton was streaking away with the race, CNN sampled more Democrats than Republicans to produce a post-debate poll that handed Clinton big victories. This mattered because its official CNN-ORC poll was cited as the definitive post-debate poll by talking heads, as well as by liberal newswires feeding foreign headlines, despite its results being contradicted by the vast majority of other polls.

        Take the final debate on 19 October. CNN reported that its post-debate poll found Hillary won by 52%-39%. This mirrored their polls after the first debate, which found that Hillary won 62%-27%, and the second debate, which trumpeted a 57%-34% victory. However, in each poll CNN deceitfully sampled more Democrats than Republicans — e.g., after the final debate Democrats accounted for 36% of the 547 registered voters surveyed, while only 29% of respondents were Republicans.

        Similarly, in the first and second debates, CNN sampled 41% and 36% Democrats respectively, compared to just 26% and 27% Republicans. Out of those respondents, 58% already supported Clinton before the debate! No wonder CNN found that Hillary won all three encounters by wide margins.
        Yet Trump himself was able to claim victory and provide numerous different polls to prove it, as he did after the final debate, citing: CSPAN: Trump 68% – Clinton 32%; Washington Times: Trump 77% – Clinton 17%; Fox 61 CT: Trump 60% – Clinton 36%. These were not results that adorned your daily paper or made the nightly news.

        This is just one factual glimpse of the “totally rigged system” Trump denounced throughout his campaign (which blasphemous accusation convulsed the sacred Establishment). Along with rigged polls, Hillary was fed questions prior to debates and interviews; the record crowds that flocked to Trump all over the country were constantly played down or ignored, while the often trifling numbers who attended the Clinton rallies were inflated by flattering camera angles that suggested far greater numbers. Meanwhile, sexual abuse scandals and all kinds of business and financial improprieties were fabricated or exaggerated to make Trump look even worse than the depraved and criminal Clintons. (Since his victory, note how the headline abuse allegations against him have miraculously disappeared from view.)

        Amid Hillary’s disastrous campaign, this blitzkrieg of disinformation fermented an illusory brew she herself fully imbibed. On 21 September, clearly intoxicated by the MSM Kool-Aid, she wondered out loud: “Why aren’t I 50 points ahead?” .
        http://christianorder.com/editorials/editorials_2017/editorials_feb17.html

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