Lesley Stahl: Trump told me he attacks the media so that people won't believe us when we report bad news about him

I mean, obviously. A scandalized shiver runs through the room in the clip after Stahl says this but nothing about Trump is as transparent as his strategic goal in gaslighting people about “fake news.” Here’s something I’ve linked before, written two days after his inauguration and attempting to explain why Sean Spicer held that embarrassing “these were the biggest inauguration crowds ever!” press conference. Among the suggested reasons:

The point of carping about “fake news” isn’t to discredit the stories that are false, it’s to discredit the stories that are true. It’s the same as the “witch hunt” rhetoric about Russiagate, which has already produced five guilty pleas and 17 indictments. Any politician pinned to the wall by damaging news would kill to have a reservoir of suspicion about the media among their base that they can call on in a pinch to defuse that news. The goal isn’t necessarily to get people to disbelieve a story but to stoke enough doubt about the reliability of its narrators that the public will conclude there’s no way to know what’s truth and what isn’t. That’s the art of the gaslight. And the author I quoted above also anticipated that:

If ever there was a “tell” about Trump’s strategy, it was this tweet posted 17 days after he was sworn in. It’s one thing to claim that reporters are slanting their coverage to disfavor him, as that obviously does happen. It’s another to suggest that pollsters are engaged in willful fraud, en masse, to make him look bad by manipulating their data and willing to risk their professional reputations in doing so:


Everything that’s bad for him is “fake” and you shouldn’t believe it, and if you do you’re siding with Them over him. He’s not coy or in any way subtle about this. This is a guy, remember, who back in the day used to dial up reporters posing as his own PR flack to tout his wealth or his womanizing or whatever. Subtlety’s not his thing, certainly when dealing with the media. The reason there are murmurs in the room after Stahl tells her story, I think, is just because he’s willing to cop to the gaslighting openly, even to a member of the media itself. It’s all just a game, played to a strategic end. Why pretend otherwise?

In lieu of an exit question, something unrelated but fun. Apparently Trump’s inimitable Twitter style is, in fact, imitable:

“West Wing employees who draft proposed tweets intentionally employ suspect grammar and staccato syntax in order to mimic the president’s style, according to two people familiar with the process,” the Boston Globe’s Annie Linskey reports.

The details: “They overuse the exclamation point! They Capitalize random words for emphasis. Fragments. Loosely connected ideas. All part of a process that is not as spontaneous as Trump’s Twitter feed often appears.”

That’s GOP-style populism in microcosm. You’ve got one guy, the populist-in-chief, whose grammar and spelling are not the best but whose style is “authentic” and “relatable.” And then you’ve got a coterie of well-educated phonies and cronies mimicking him, pretending to be stupid in the same way because that’s what he wants and they’re convinced that that’s what the people want. No one has any incentive, political or financial, to be better. Sad!