Having endured the verbal assaults of President Donald Trump and his supporters for almost two years, elements of the legacy media finally may have given up on their rejection of the term “fake news” and decided, instead, to embrace it. To this end, The New York Times now openly has turned to fiction writers for its political commentary. On Oct. 23, 2018, the Times published five very short stories under the collective title Five Novelists Imagine Trump’s Next Chapter. Each story portrayed the fate of the Trump presidency following the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on alleged Russian collusion. Unsurprisingly, not one of these authors imagined a positive next chapter for the president.
Three of the five tales portrayed the end of Trump as president, following the report’s release, and one even described his assassination at the hands of a Russian agent – with help, no less, from the Secret Service.
Fake News’ Power of Persuasion
Beyond the juvenile prose and bland, unimaginative scenarios of the stories themselves lies two issues that should not be taken lightly: The first is that America’s most famous, once-venerated newspaper can print a story depicting the assassination of the president and yet wholeheartedly indulge the political left’s collective wailing at that same president’s supposedly “violent rhetoric.” If the United States has now gotten to the point where a sitting president’s critics can openly ponder his murder while accusing him and his supporters of fomenting political violence and still be taken seriously, it may be time to ditch the Constitution and return to the Articles of Confederation so that Americans with differing political views no longer have to share the same country.
The second issue concerns the dangers of negatively influencing public opinion, with no consequence whatsoever – and no requirement to consult the truth or the facts – merely because the influencers do not like the president’s political agenda.
The New York Times is clearly engaging in subliminal persuasion.
As often as the term fake news is heard these days, it should always be remembered that the press – known more commonly today as the news media – has never been trusted by the well-informed. To be blunt, only imbeciles believe what they read in a newspaper or see on television news without consulting additional sources for corroboration. Unfortunately – at any given period of time – there exists a sufficient number of imbeciles to facilitate the spread of fake news. Compounding the problem, many people who are not imbeciles still allow themselves to be convinced, even subliminally, by something they read or hear that neatly confirms their own biases.
With this in mind, a newspaper that prints fiction but presents it in the context of real-world events cannot simply hide behind the defense that it clearly labeled the writing as fiction. Four of the stories published in the Times share two common themes: Trump is portrayed as a vain, self-absorbed, dictatorial figure and the Russian collusion – or other illegal activity related to Russia – is a fact that will be proven by Mueller’s report or by new evidence. Here, The New York Times is clearly engaging in subliminal persuasion: Under the guise of publishing fiction, the paper tells its readers that Trump is a dictator and a criminal and that he did, indeed, engage in nefarious activities and should be removed from office.
Third-Rate Fiction as News
In one of the stories, the president – in order to avoid indictment – signs a document invoking the 25th Amendment, thus agreeing to be removed from office. In another, he survives impeachment when the Senate declines to convict him but then has to resign when evidence surfaces of illegal financial transactions with Russian oligarchs. In another story, by Zoë Sharp, everyone around the president is being indicted and, in the midst of this, a Russian agent arrives in the United States to assassinate him. When the agent takes his shot, the weapon jams. At that moment, an agent on the president’s Secret Service protective detail approaches the Russian and hands him his own service pistol. “Here,” the Secret Service agent says to the Russian assassin, “Use mine.…”
It is worth mentioning that the stories themselves are utterly dreadful and could have been written by ten-year-olds, working on an assignment given them by some crazy, progressive teacher. One would expect, of course, that a newspaper employing mostly third-rate journalists would commission third-rate novelists to write something for it.
Clearly, the writers were all hopelessly out of their depth, in terms of subject matter. In the 25th Amendment story, Trump ponders pardoning himself, and his attorney, Emmet Flood, tells him: “Sir, the Constitution says expressly that the president can be indicted after impeachment …. “ Author Scott Turow should perhaps try giving the Constitution a read one day; it says nothing of the sort. Sharp imagines her Russian agent toting a bottle of Stolichnaya and a Makarov pistol, but no self-respecting Russian agent today would be in possession of either one.
What the Times Taught Us
Frivolity aside, it is worth reflecting on the message the Times puts out by publishing Sharp’s story. The message is that when (for the paper tells its readers that the revelation of Trump’s guilt is a matter of when, rather than if) the Russian collusion is proven, it would not only be acceptable to assassinate the president but also a patriotic duty, demonstrated by the Secret Service agent providing his own weapon so that the assassin could complete his mission.
With the publication of these five, thankfully short but still excruciating, pieces of fiction, The New York Times has proven two things: that fake news is now, indeed, its stock in trade and that its owners and editors – like many on the left – not only fantasize about political violence and a coup d’etat but are actively attempting to incite such things.