Mr. President, I don’t know how else to say this besides bluntly: You are wrong.
From this tweet alone, it’s not entirely clear what the “FAKE MSM” — meaning the “fake mainstream media” — actually is, since after you decried the “FAKE NEWS media” as the “enemy of the American People” in February you then insisted that you didn’t mean the whole media, just the “fake” media.
Happily, you quickly clarified the constituents of that group:
Sorry folks, but if I would have relied on the Fake News of CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, washpost or nytimes, I would have had ZERO chance winning WH
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 6, 2017
It is The Washington Post’s inclusion in that esteemed group of outlets that allows me to be forceful in response to your original tweet. The media is, in fact, very happy to have you tweet what you’re thinking at any given moment. It offers a fascinating glimpse into your presidency and your train of thought and allows us to flesh out other stories about your administration with first-person reflections from the chief executive himself.
The media — that nebulous, sprawling, poorly defined entity that is so reviled in the abstract even if individual outlets themselves may not be — does tend to take issue with what you say on social media, though, since often what you say is incorrect, misleading or false. The Post created a tool to fact-check the tweets right on Twitter, simply because it was faster than writing lengthy responses to all of the ways any individual tweet might have been incorrect.
But we’ve also been tracking your claims cumulatively, documenting literally hundreds of false or misleading claims since you took office, including scores on social media. It’s the media’s job to validate claims and present accurate information, and your Twitter account gives us a great deal to work with.
That said, though, you’ve figured out a weakness in the system. You say things that are incorrect so often, and repeat them over and over despite having had those inaccuracies pointed out, that we’re constantly having to note new or recurring falsehoods. And that can make it seem like we’re badgering you, treating you unfairly by constantly offering critical analysis of the incessant flow of inaccuracies.
You’ve seized on that, cleverly enough. You insist that only you are offering the truth about your administration, and you position your tweeting as the balm to the dishonesty of the press. You argue that we’re terrified that you’ve figured out a way around us, revealing us as naked emperors parading in front of the online crowds.
The real effect of this argument is not to chasten us (we are aware that we are clothed). It is two-fold. First, it reinforces the us-versus-them sentiment about the media that you’ve encouraged in your supporters from the outset (in part to blunt the effect of our calling out your dishonest comments). And, second, it pushes away those within your camp who are certainly arguing to you that your social media use does more harm than good.
Americans, including your own voters, say over and over and over and over that they wish you’d put down your iPhone — on which Twitter is reportedly the only app — and, for once, keep your thoughts to yourself. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), briefly in the running to serve as your new FBI director, pointed out last week that you were creating problems for yourself through your unrestrained tweeting.
How? Well, your tweets about the travel ban, for example, have been greeted with open arms by the ACLU, which has so far been successful in blocking the ban in the courts.
Yes, we may incorporate @realDonaldTrump's tweets about the ban into our Supreme Court argument.
— ACLU National (@ACLU) June 5, 2017
When your adviser Kellyanne Conway lamented the rigorous coverage of your tweets in an interview with the “Today” show on Monday, she hit a little too close to the truth. Why, if this is the “honest and unfiltered message,” would Conway be concerned about the media amplifying what you were saying? If the goal is to share that “honest” message with the world, wouldn’t the press reporting those tweets be a good thing? Conway’s husband made clear why there was some exasperation in her comments, as he explained (on Twitter, naturally) why you were doing yourself no favors with the travel ban tweets. You make your staff’s job harder with your tweeting and, by extension, your own.
But that’s not our problem. The goal of the news media is to share and amplify the truth, a goal toward which we strive with admitted imperfection. Your tweets are a constant fuel supply for analysis, fact-checking and insight into your administration.
So don’t stop tweeting for our sake if you’re not going to stop tweeting for your own.