By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: Onslaught corroding every form of trust

It’s working: Too often, my internal response to political debate is a mixture of skepticism and outright disbelief.

It’s working, but for whom? Consider this definition from the National Endowment for Democracy:

Whatchamacolumn

Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

> See his column

“Disinformation — the use of half-truth and non-rational argument to manipulate public opinion in pursuit of political objectives — is a growing threat to the public sphere in countries around the world. The challenge posed by Russian disinformation has attracted significant attention in the United States and Europe; over time, observers have noted its role in ‘hybrid warfare,’ its use to degrade public trust in media and state institutions, and its ability to amplify social division, resentment and fear.”

Last year, journalist/author McKay Coppins, a staff writer for The Atlantic, took a deep dive inside the Donald Trump social media campaign.

Coppins, a veteran of 2016 campaign clashes with Trump, thought himself immune from the insidious impact of disinformation. However, as he reported this month in an Atlantic article titled, “The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President”:

“I was surprised by the effect it had on me. I’d assumed that my skepticism and media literacy would inoculate me against such distortions. But I soon found myself reflexively questioning every headline. It wasn’t that I believed Trump and his boosters were telling the truth. It was that, in this state of heightened suspicion, truth itself — about Ukraine, impeachment, or anything else — felt more and more difficult to locate.”

Coppins portrayed an alarming strategy being orchestrated by Brad Parscale, 2016 digital director for candidate Trump and a key player in the reelection campaign.

“Instead of trying to reform the press, or critique its coverage,” wrote Coppins, “today’s most influential conservatives want to destroy the mainstream media altogether … Parscale has indicated that he plans to open up a new front in this war: local news. Last year, he said the campaign intends to train ‘swarms of surrogates’ to undermine negative coverage from local TV stations and newspapers. Polls have long found that Americans across the political spectrum trust local news more than national media.

“If the campaign has its way, that trust will be eroded by November.”

We notice some subterraneous attacks on this newspaper similar to the kind of campaign Coppins described.

A little bit of paranoia? Perhaps, but like I said, it’s working!

People say politics today is all about the weaponization of information. More to the point, disinformation.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

Comments

Jim

Jeb the problem with National News is instead of just reporting the facts every journalist seems to have to put their political twist on it. I’ve tried to watch everything from Fox News to CNN and none of it is just factual but reported with a political undertone. It is hard to believe anything that is even remotely related to politics.

PAO

Sorry for the double post. Freezing computer this morning...

Jeb Bladine

Agree with both of you ... twice with PAO!

Most people writing about politics need some basic editing: 1) Eliminate unnecessary adjectives and adverbs where the nouns and verbs can stand alone; 2) Eliminate subjective labels; 3) cut out the "buzz words" that create unnecessary backlash.

RobsNewsRegister

Sure wish they'd take your advice Jeb. I think the world may be all about getting the clicks now though.

treefarmer


Jeb – I was sincerely grateful to read this column, although I seriously doubt that those who most need to contextualize it will be able to recognize the clear and present danger you have presented. (I watched an interview with Mr. Coppins last week and his observations were chilling.)

Many of our fellow citizens have been successfully inoculated against the truth by “alternative facts,” the Fox propaganda machine, and a cult-like devotion to their leader. Up to now that has resulted in denial, rationalization, or outright celebration of the dismantling of American democracy. (For some, Trump is payback.) This week it has become alarmingly obvious that lies and misinformation have life-and-death implications for our national health. Perhaps the faithful will finally have to come to terms with the consequences of gross mismanagement and willful deception - unfortunately the rest of us will suffer those consequences along with them.

I acknowledge that I hold strong opinions, and while I am often called out for posting facts (and once for “trying to be so articulate”) it is gratifying to know that our trusted local news source continues to provide ethical journalism as well as a forum for the voices of your readers. (I too have observed contributions here that read like propagandized assaults on truth but at least we can continue to argue the facts and hope for a return to reality)


Food for thought, old and new:

“The truth still exists, the truth still matters... Roger Stone’s insistence that it doesn’t, his belligerence, his pride in his own lies are a threat to our most fundamental institutions, to the foundations of our democracies."

Judge Amy Berman Jackson
2020


“When you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice - you may know that your society is doomed.

Ayn Rand
Atlas Shrugged,
1957