It’s hard to tell just how pervasive this all is. But one imagines that more reporting in coming weeks will flesh out just how far the reach of this alternative information ecosystem extends. The story of the rise of Fox News and the right-wing media — particularly the talk radio universe — is an old one, of course. But one has to ask whether this is all creating new levels of information polarization, particularly given the president’s unprecedented demonization of the mainstream news outlets and his ongoing efforts to actively promote pro-Trump propaganda outlets like Fox News and others.
This directly intersects with several big ongoing stories in our politics right now. The first is the basic question of whether mainstream journalists are adequately reckoning with just how hostile Trump — and many of his allies and supporters — are to their fundamental institutional role, their values and their mission. The failure of many reporters to admit that Michelle Wolf was absolutely right about this White House’s level of bad-faith dishonesty, and about the challenges that creates for good-faith journalism, revealed that in many respects they are not adequately reckoning with the real problem here, which is that in the Trump era, their mission of objective truth-seeking is inevitably going to be divisive and alienating to millions of his voters.
After all, majorities of Republicans now see the media as “the enemy of the American people.” And as Fischer’s reporting indicates, this alternate information ecosystem is actively amplifying Trump’s efforts to obliterate public faith in the media’s institutional mediating role in our democracy. If we learn more about its reach, that should shed more light on that deeper problem.
That's the big one. The absolute best case scenario from the Mueller investigation is "President Mike Pence", guys. Keep that in mind. The worst case, well, I don't want to think about it, but we should.
The second big story this intersects with is the coming confrontation between Trump and Mueller.
Interestingly, last night’s focus groups outside of Milwaukee found that while Trump voters think Mueller is conducting a witch hunt, they nonetheless don’t think Trump should try to remove him. So there are at least some limits to the clout of this alternate media universe’s persuasive powers. But if Mueller finds serious or even criminal conduct, it is extremely likely that this alternate information ecosystem will play a critical role in Trump’s efforts to rally his supporters on his behalf and against Mueller and his findings. That could in turn make it less likely that Republicans act on them — and more likely that Trump escapes accountability.
In that coming confrontation, Trump’s ability to rely on an extensive media network that will back him to the hilt no matter what gives him an advantage that President Richard Nixon did not have during the climax of Watergate. As Fischer’s reporting indicates, we don’t really have a clear sense of just how extensive or influential that network really is. And we don’t have any idea yet what this really means for the country over the long term.
Yeah, so that worst case is Trump gets away with it, Republicans stay in power, and then they rain down vengeance upon Democrats. And it gets worse from there.
The right-wing noise machine has never been more dangerous.