The Robert Mueller Report is coming out next week. It will indicate if there is a there, there. From multiple court filings, there is a there there. Precisely what is a good question. Mind you, most of the country is not paying close attention to every turn of the crisis. Like Watergate, this is not in the radar, because most Americans do not have time to follow the deep details of the crisis. Most Americans have jobs, and issues with healthcare, making flat wages go far, try to save in an increasingly precarious economy, and the cost of college.
This is why in places like Iowa and Ohio, far away from the media centers, the Mueller probe is barely registering. It is not because they are Trump strongholds, though some counties may be. It is simply life is hardly permissive of the ins and outs of an extremely complex investigation.
However, we are in a deep crisis of both democracy and institutions. Which brings me back to the core Trump supporter. Humans are particular and hate to admit that they were wrong. This is why by the end of Watergate you could barely find a Nixon supporter. I did, in 2002, and his reason was the opening of China. Admittedly that is a critical part of the Nixon legacy.
But there are critical differences from the Nixon years. For starters we had three news networks. All three covered the same information during the evening news. News papers also covered the matter in depth, with the Washington Post and to a lesser extent the New York Times, doing the lion’s shares of the work.
The attack on the media started during the Barry Goldwater campaign in 1964. And it has grown from there.
Also in 1969, a Federal Reserve economist named Reed Irvine founded “Accuracy in Media,” aiming to expose liberal bias. Irvine won the support of the billionaire hard-right crusader Richard Mellon Scaife (whose Pittsburgh Tribune-Review later promoted the falsehood that the Clintons were responsible for what he claimed was the murder of White House Deputy Counsel Vince Foster). In 1971, the TV Guide writer and Ayn Rand acolyte Edith Efron published a pseudo-scholarly book, The News Twisters, purporting to demonstrate that network news followed “the elitist-liberal-left line in all controversies.”
The charge against “liberal media” helped the right explain to itself why it had not prevailed in public opinion — not yet, at any rate. Having begun showing up in books in 1964, according to Google Ngram’s database, the phrase “liberal media” flourished during the Reagan presidency. From 1985 to 2006, it jumped twentyfold before declining. Meanwhile, the phrase “fake news” began to climb. (Unfortunately, the data run no further than 2008.) “Liberal media” still predominated. “Fair and balanced” was Fox News’s clever riposte, a doublethink claim of objectivity. If you disagreed with Fox News’s take, you were ipso facto biased. But the term “fake news,” which had shown up here and there in the American press of the 1890s, took off.
This matters because the road to information silos accelerated during the ronald Reagan, when the Fairness Doctrine went away. The other thing that ended was the prohibition against owning multiple news outlets in the same market. This is why we have a problem agreeing we are deep in a constitutional crisis.
The attack on the media from thePresident’s men is quite aggressive. The founders believed it to be essential for the nation and democracy, as faulty as their definition was. This is. why hard core supporters of either side, consume news from partisan silos that agree with their views.
The case, from all court filings, against Donald Trump and the president’s men is serious. However, most Americans are consuming news that either interpret these filings in a way that covers the matter, or simply ignore it.
The true test will come with the Michael Cohen testimony. It may reveal the depths of the crisis.