The media should stop playing dumb about Trump

You surely heard that Trump recently lamented a non-existent terror attack in Sweden. Much mockery ensued, with Swedes responding with viral videos. As the fact-checking website Snopes pointed out, however, no such attack happened.

But here’s the thing: Trump was asserting that immigration in Sweden was a disaster. He was mixing together the European migrant crisis and terrorist attacks like the one in Nice and a segment he watched “last night” on Fox News in a water-muddying way. But it takes a weird kind of dishonesty to believe that he was asserting that a terrorist attack had occurred. Again, the media failed at a relatively easy comprehension test, and again we got self-righteousness, misinformation, and silliness instead of interesting questions. Because, guess what, a lot of very sober people do have very serious concerns about Sweden and migrants. What’s more, there’s an important critique of Trump’s nationalism here; the fact that Trump was essentially mixing together immigration and terrorism as near-synonymous threats is not self-evident and deserves questioning. But that would mean correctly reading what he said and noting that he wasn’t just talking about terrorism, but terrorism and immigration.

Trump frequently lies. He makes things up. But he isn’t always lying or making things up. Sometimes he’s just saying things in his very strange speaking style. And usually in such cases, it’s pretty easy to tell what he’s talking about, if you really listen and think. Instead, the media plays dumb and scores cheap points that ultimately undermine the press. It’s bad journalism. Stop doing it.