By Hermes and Aristophanes
President Donald Trump has never been afraid to confront his detractors, whether real or perceived. On Tuesday, however, the nation’s chief executive took his knee-jerk impulsivity to an entirely new level, lambasting the tech industry for allegedly suppressing conservative news in favor of mainstream media in online search results.
First off, Google isn’t suppressing “conservative” news, but rather conspiracy-ladden sites, such as Alex Jones’ InfoWars.com, that peddle false stories that often demean and ridicule marginalized populations. Mainstream conservative material, such as articles from Fox News or the National Review, still feature prominently in internet search results.
Secondly, Google’s search algorithm automatically elevates popular content above lesser-read fare — and the outlets Trump decries, such as the “failing” New York Times and “fake news” CNN, simply pull in more readers than most of the competition. It’s not Google’s fault the Washington Post is more widely read than Breitbart News. To say internet search results for something as common as “Trump News” should cater toward conservative outlets is to deny the reality that most people prefer to get their news from broad, established sources.
The marketplace of ideas doesn’t need affirmative action for conservative thought, yet that’s exactly what the president is calling for in his tweets.
And please don’t try to tell us Trump has never Googled himself before. He’s one of the most ego-driven men alive. He knows what comes up when you type “Donald Trump” into the search bar.
There’s a bit of betrayal in the president’s tirade against Big Tech. Recently, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have come under fire for their role in facilitating the spread of pro-Trump fake news during the 2016 campaign. Trump doesn’t seem to mind when online media is actually biased in his favor, as is often the case.
As Hermes has previously remarked, it seems the president has no desire to promote objective truth. Trump knows the facts are against him, so he will do anything he can to push a false narrative.
Trump’s reign would simply be an amusement if it weren’t for the frightening fact that millions of Americans would rather believe his version of the truth over the reality before their eyes.
Currently, the presidency is rocked by scandal, with the ship of state beginning to list. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was convicted of eight fraud-related crimes in federal court on August 21. That same day, Michael Cohen, the president’s former personal lawyer, pleaded guilty in a separate case to breaking campaign finance laws at the direction of then-candidate Trump. The latter development is the more significant of the two, as Cohen’s plea directly implicates the president in a felony.
Trump is now an unindicted co-conspirator, yet many voters are unaware. Our country’s media landscape has shattered. Many citizens — mostly Trump supporters, but some liberals as well — only read stories they want to hear. So while the United States was abuzz with news of the Manafort sentencing and Cohen plea, those who only watch Fox News or read Breitbart may have no idea that either have occurred.
That protects Trump from political pressure. And that’s worrying, for two main reasons: (1) Justice Department precedent says a president cannot be indicted by federal prosecutors, and (2) impeachment, the only other remedy for removing an unfit chief executive mid-term, is an inherently political process.
For a large section of the population, Trump controls the truth. His dismal approval rating of near 41 percent is still more than 15 points higher than President Richard Nixon’s during the depths of the Watergate scandal.
If Fox News had existed then, things may have been different. Nixon could have survived. Trump, a likely criminal with a corrupt administration, has an entire media ecosystem that rallies to his defense at any sign of a threat. His crimes could be far worse than Nixon’s, and it might make no difference at all.
Google’s search algorithm isn’t politically biased, and Trump is clearly deluded for claiming that it is. The main problem with today’s media environment isn’t that it’s overly dominated by mainstream outlets, but that an entire section of the population has decided that “true news” just isn’t for them. ■