Waters: Who you gonna trust?

When it comes to politicians and the media, politicians seldom win.

So let me get this right.

U.S. President Donald Trump, the most powerful politician in the world, says he doesn’t like U.S. mainstream media because it reports, what he calls, “fake news” i.e. stories he doesn’t like being reported.

And by doing so, the news outlets are “the enemy of the American people.”

But he continually makes statements that are not true, or accusations with no evidence to back them up, and expects the media to report those utterances verbatim. That information, in his mind, is not “fake news,” despite the fact it’s not true. Am I missing something here?

Seems to me, the information Trump and his spokesfolks are spouting is what’s fake, while the reporting that it’s being said is news.

It takes “spin” to a whole new level.

But it’s not just at the upper end of the U.S. political system where spin is substituted for fact.

Politicians at all levels, in all jurisdictions and in all countries have been accused of doing the same thing at one time or another.

In a business where you are the ultimate in contract worker—politics—spinning a line to either make yourself look better than you are, more in touch with the public than you are, more compassionate than you are or just plain more honest than you are is a time-honoured tradition.

I knew a former attorney-general of this province who once told me in politics you get elected to get re-elected. Coming from someone I thought of at the time as the most-straight-laced, honest politician I had ever met, I was taken aback by the cynicism of his statement.

Here I was—albeit much earlier in my career as a reporter—thinking politicians got into this business for far more altruistic reasons. And, after nearly 30 years, I’m a lot more cynical and ready to believe it. But I would also like to think that some politicians do at least start off with the right intentions. But the stone-cold reality is being in power doesn’t mean much, at least in the big picture, if you can’t stay there.

Sure, you may get somethings done in the short-term. But real change takes times and that time can only come with re-election. In the U.S., a one-term president is seen as a bit of a failure. Sure,they are limited to only two four-year terms, but if they can’t win re-election, they are seen as children of a lesser god. Just ask Jimmy Carter or George Bush Senior.

In Canada, we tend to let our politicians, especially those at the top, linger far longer. The rule of thumb here seems to be a government has a shelf-life of about 10-12 years. That’s at least three elections.

And during that time, the politicians and the spin doctors alike produce plenty of “fake” news to keep the support up and the political donations rolling in.

But no other politician, despite their disdain for the reporters, has attacked the media like Trump has in the U.S. That’s because most are too smart for that.

And that’s because no mater how low we in the media fall in the estimation of the public, there’s always one group we surpass when it comes to the public’s choice for who to believe—politicians.

Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News.

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