Okay, I get it. Much of America hates us.
By “us” I mean that hydra-headed beast known as the media, and the deep-seated lack of trust that has been building for decades and has been turbo-charged during the Trump era.
And I am the first to say that many of these wounds are self-inflicted, the product of too many years of bias, sensationalism, superficiality, elitism, mistakes and misjudgments. I’ve spent a good part of my career documenting all of these and more.
I understand all too well that President Trump has whipped up a fervor against the press, with his constant attacks on “fake news,” and that the MSM’s overwhelmingly negative coverage of POTUS has cost them a whole lot of credibility with his supporters.
But for all of that, I wasn’t prepared for this Ipsos poll.
No less than 26 percent of Americans say they agree that “the president should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior.”
To shut them down. To put them out of business. Just like in a totalitarian society.
How much do you have to despise the media to believe that a president should have the dictatorial power to disband a company?
Fifty-three percent disagreed, and here’s the partisan breakdown:
Some 43 percent of Republicans say yeah, let the president shut down media operations he doesn’t like.
And 12 percent of Democrats agree, along with 21 percent of independents.
Now this is a theoretical exercise. The First Amendment protects even the worst media offender from government interference (though not from being banned by Facebook and Twitter). In fact, there are laws that would prevent a president from shutting down any private company by fiat.
But I guess many of the respondents are voting based on disgust.
I would ask the 43 percent of Republicans: How would you feel if Barack Obama was still president and wanted to shut down media outlets he didn’t like? Wouldn’t you be screaming bloody murder?
So is this just your way of affirming that you love Trump, detest the media and just wish some of these outlets could be made to disappear?
And, uh, whatever happened to conservative passion for the free market?
A caveat about the poll: The Ipsos methodology, involving online panels and statistical adjustments, is not as reliable as a random telephone survey. But even if the numbers are somewhat off, they are still troubling.
The survey also included other questions. “News and reporters are necessary to keep the Trump administration honest”: 57 percent agree.
Most news outlets have a liberal bias: 48 percent agree.
The mainstream media treat President Trump unfairly: 43 percent agree.
The news media are the enemy of the American people: 23 percent agree.
There is, again, a huge partisan gap on such questions. For instance, 79 percent of Republicans, 41 percent of independents and 11 percent of Democrats say the media treat Trump unfairly.
Even the pro-shutdown caucus shrinks when the question becomes more specific.
Overall, 13 percent say Trump should shut down mainstream news outlets like CNN, the New York Times and Washington Post. That’s 23 percent of GOPers, 10 percent of indies and 8 percent of Dems.
A reasonable reaction by journalists would be to engage in a little self-reflection about these numbers. The more likely reaction is to dismiss those who challenge their right to exist as uninformed bozos.