Herd journalists: The most deplorable in Trump’s “basket of deplorables” (Updated September 16, 2016)

Updated Octrober 8, 2016


Gunda Trepp, “Wahlkampf in Amerika Die Medien haben ihren Auftrag vergessen; Im amerikanischen Wahlkampf kommen viele Journalisten ihrer Sorgfaltspflicht nicht mehr nach. Sie setzen die erfahrene Clinton und den politischen Dilettanten Trump gleich. Doch diese Komplexitätsreduktion gibt es nicht nur in Amerika. Ein Gastbeitrag,” Freankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 8. Oktober 2016.

Updated September 16, 2016

See Margaret Sullivan (Media Columnist), “It’s time for TV news to stop playing the stooge for Donald Trump,” Washington Post, September 16, 2016 (1:46 p.m.)

Voters in the United States must make a momentous choice on November 8, when they choose a president. The issues that face the nation and that must be  decided by the next president are daunting.

For the last two days great media attention has been given to Hillary Clinton’s comment at a fundaising event that half of Donald Trumps supporters come from the “the basket of deplorables”. She has since walked back the “half” word in the comment, but not the thrust of her remark.

Donald Trump is a master at throwing bait to the nation’s herd journalists.  Here, he launched an ad deploring Clinton’s comment. This ad came from the same man who has made so many despicable comments himself, about John McCain, about the Muslim parents of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq, about his intent to torture detainees in the future, and the list goes on.

He continues to repeat the assertion that he opposed the invasion of Iraq, when the evidence shows he did not. Last week on a nationally televised foreign policy forum, Matt Lauer, one of the highest-paid TV jounalists in the U.S., allowed the false assertion to go unchallenged.

This is what the campaign coverage has been like in the U.S. this year.

The real story, however, is not about Trump, or Clinton.  Rather, it is about a lazy press corps and media that prefer to report the “he said, she said” story of the day, instead of digging into the issues–every day, in every story–that define the differences between the candidates.

Investigative journalism, where the jounalists and their editors set the agenda, seems to be largely a thing of the past.

To be sure, some newspapers and new organizations do engage in investigative journalism from time to time. Yet such journalism is so unusual that it is usually newsworthy in itself, whereas an element of investigative journalism should be a part of every story.

Every story should be written from a “critical” point of view, and never merely repeat factual assertions that are untrue without citing the contrary evidence.

Among stories published recently was one about Trump donating $25,000 to a state prosecutor who was deciding whether or not to prosecute Trump and one of his enterprises.  It was a great story, but one whose follow-up has been obscured by stories like the one on Clinton’s comment about “the basket of deplorables”.

Trump is allowed by the press to question the activities of the Clinton Foundation when Hillary was Secretary of State, over and over, endlessly it seems.

Despite the fact that no malfeasance has ever been found, the press dutifully raises this dead horse every time Donald Trump mentions it, giving further life to a charge based solely on unfounded innuendo. Meanwhile, stories such as Trump’s apparent attempt to improperly influence a prosecutor deciding on a matter affecting him directly are allowed to fall by the wayside.

Jounalists know they are not serving the public interst when they run after Trump’s bait, but they cannot resist the instinctive reaction of runnng with the herd.

Indeed, the worst “deplorabls” in Trump’s “basket of deplorables” are the herd jounalists who are too lazy to write about substantive issues, or too afraid to not come up with the most recent statement by one of the candidates in the latest cycle of “he said, she said” excitement.

If ignorance of substantive issues and positions, or of questions of character and honesty, remains amidst the obscuring fog caused by this herd jounalism, it is clear who the most consequential ” deplorables” are.

They are the herd journalists themselves.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.