On Monday, Goucher College journalism professor and longtime Baltimore Sun media critic David Zurawik accused President Donald Trump of using a dictator tactic — telling so many lies as to exhaust the free press into silence.
“He says something that’s really offensive about immigrants, and then Tucker Carlson says immigration makes us a dirtier country,” Zurawik said. “That is really destructive to American life.”
He urged journalists to fight back. “We have to denounce it, but every time we do that, every time we chase that down, he is setting the agenda for what we cover, and none of us, I don’t think any of us have figured that out yet,” the professor argued.
Yet the free press can’t stop fact-checking Trump either, Zurawik argued. “He drives us to exhaustion. If we quit fact-checking him, if we accept this, he wins. That’s the way dictators win, they drive the free press almost to exhaustion with this.”
David Zurawik says Trump drives the press to "exhaustion" with all the fact-checking they have to do: That's the way dictators win. They drive the free press almost to exhaustion with this. pic.twitter.com/DIi2eWf3m3
— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) April 7, 2019
If Trump’s need for fact-checking drives fact-checkers to exhaustion, how do they find the time to fact-check satire sites like The Babylon Bee?
In March 2018 and in February this year, Snopes “fact-checked” The Babylon Bee, which never claims to report news. In fact, a search for “Babylon Bee” on Snopes brings up four pages of results. In March 2018, Facebook took up the call, threatening The Babylon Bee with demonetization if it continues to post “fake news.”
So, if Trump is driving media fact-checkers "to exhaustion," why do they fact-check satire sites like @TheBabylonBee? Here's a @snopes search for Babylon Bee: it brings up FOUR PAGES. pic.twitter.com/Qa7RXumtlM
— Tyler O'Neil (@Tyler2ONeil) April 8, 2019
FactCheck.org fact-checked the Babylon Bee in 2017.
When it comes to Trump in particular, reports have consistently slammed Trump’s video mocking former Vice President Joe Biden’s uncomfortable physical touch with women as a “doctored video.” The video is a parody. Just like the Babylon Bee, Trump’s video was not posted to convince people of something, but to make a humorous point.
PJ Media’s Patrick Poole got a laugh out of Zurawik’s remarks. “Undoubtedly, fact-checking Babylon Bee satire articles must be grueling, as was the effort put into the ‘Joe Biden video doctored’ analysis in recent days,” he tweeted.
Undoubtedly, factchecking Babylon Bee satire articles must be grueling, as was the effort put into the “Joe Biden video doctored” analysis in recent days. https://t.co/9VzArHKeFS
— Patrick Poole (@pspoole) April 8, 2019
How dare he make light of the serious business of fact-checking! Were it not for Snopes, everyone would believe the Babylon Bee’s report on CNN buying a washing machine to spin the news! Were it not for Time, the Associated Press, and so many other outlets, Americans would never know that Trump’s mocking video of Biden wasn’t real!
In all seriousness, Donald Trump is not a dictator silencing the media, and many of the fact-checks the media rushes out against Trump amount to little more than virtue-signaling. Yes, Trump lies, but most of his lies are so bald-faced that no one takes them seriously.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.