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Is It Time for Twelve Steps for the Legacy Media?

(Photo by Marija Zaric on Unsplash)

The Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve Steps are a famous method for people to deal with addiction, or with the consequences of addiction in their families. While it’s sometimes controversial, there’s no real argument that the Steps haven’t helped millions of people through AA, NarAnon [corrected], and similar groups.

For many people, the hardest step is the First Step: admitting they have a problem. Addicts develop amazing expertise in finding reasons to deny that they have a drinking problem, to the point that they’ll sacrifice their jobs, their relationships, their families to maintain their relationships with the substance they abuse.

I thought about that today when I saw this tweet from Matt Laslo, linking a story in NBC’s Think section.

“With 9 in 10 Republicans reporting having lost faith in the media (because Trump’s rhetoric has worked), I argue it’s time for newspapers to rethink their relationships with readers and end endorsements now,” he tweeted.

I don’t think anyone disagrees with the basic statistic that 9 out of 10 Republicans report losing faith in the national media — although I think to be fair he might have mentioned the similar, if less extreme, results from other demographics — but what struck me was his explanation: “because Trump’s rhetoric has worked.”

I’ve written about the record of unreliability, mendacity, and flat-out lies by the media about Trump, going back to my first “Stop Making Me Defend Trump” article on Inauguration Day to my recent VIP article “Why Don’t Americans Trust the Media?” There are too many examples to enumerate here, from the Times‘ report that Trump “lied” about being “wiretapped” when they had reported the wiretapping on the front page, to the 111 examples Sharyl Attkisson has accumulated over the last three years. (It’s 111 at last count — it was only 106 when I wrote the “don’t trust the media” piece in December.) Many of these were reports of blockbuster sure-to-be-the-end stories that proved to be false. A good number of them, like BuzzFeed’s story on Michael Cohen, were quickly disproven, but remain uncorrected.

Along with “I can stop any time I want” and “it’s nobody else’s business,” one of the most pernicious lies addicts tell themselves is “Hey, I can handle it” or even “I’m a better driver when I’m drunk than a lot of people when they’re sober.” Too often, this lie ends when they’re in an Emergency Room or a morgue — along with innocent bystanders.

I think the legacy media is getting to the “I can handle it” stage. They want to blame “Trump’s rhetoric” without realizing that Trump is telling them: “You’ve got a problem. You need to do something about it.”

But one of the sayings of AA is that you can’t recover for someone else. The truth is that recovery is, first of all, a personal process; no matter who you are trying to blame, you have to realize that it’s first of all your problem and that you have to be the one to act. You have to make that First Step of admitting that you have a problem.

The legacy media is still in denial; until they admit that Trump is not their problem, they won’t take the steps they need to recover.