While speaking at my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, I was asked by several students how to restore faith and trust in media.
The big picture: Here are four fairly provocative ideas to tackle that issue — one each for politicians, social media, reporters and individuals.
- Politicians: Stop using the term “fake news.” The worst thing for a country is having people believe lies, or trust nothing. One day soon, something bad will happen, and it will take faith in information to fix it. You erode trust at our collective peril.
- Media: News organizations should ban their reporters from doing anything on social media — especially Twitter — beyond sharing stories. Snark, jokes and blatant opinion are showing your hand, and it always seems to be the left one. This makes it impossible to win back the skeptics.
- Social media companies: Radically self-regulate, or allow government regulation to stanch, the flow of disinformation or made-up news. Maybe it takes a new FCC of social media to force the same standards as expected from TV stations and newspapers. One thing is for sure: The current self-policing isn’t cutting it.
- You: We all want to fault others, but each of us is very much to blame. Quit sharing stories without even reading them. Quit tweeting your every outrage. Quit clicking on garbage. Spend a few minutes to verify the trustworthiness of what you read.
The documentary filmmaker also blamed the media for putting more importance on being entertaining than in delivering facts and news.
Michael Moore presented the Italian premiere of his new film, Fahrenheit 11/9, about the current state of American politics, at the Rome Film Festival on Saturday. Earlier in the week, he met briefly with Pope Francis, at the Vatican’s weekly public address.
The Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker engaged in a “Close Encounter” conversation with the festival audience, where he compared Donald Trump’s America to the current government in Italy, which now has far-right, anti-immigration Lega Nord’s Matteo Salvini and the populist Five Star Movement’s Luigi Di Maio serving as deputy prime ministers.
Moore was surprised to be asked if having Trump as president makes him miss George W. Bush.
“We will always, always, always hold George W. Bush responsible for war crimes for invading Iraq, a country that did nothing to us,” said Moore. “He’s a criminal and I think there’s a reason why he and Cheney stay away from Europe because they’re afraid of being arrested.”
Referring to them as “these two disasters,” Moore spoke of the similarities of Bush and Trump coming to power. “Bush and Trump both lost the election. Both got the least number of votes. Al Gore won by a half a million votes. Hillary Clinton won by 3 million votes,” he said. “If we were a democracy, they should have been the presidents.”
“The left, the Democrats, the liberals after Gore was denied the White House, should have fought to remove that clause of the Constitution that allows the loser to sit in the White House,” he said. “We should have done that 16 years ago.”
Moore also said the popular narrative of Trump winning the working class vote in 2016 is wrong. “A better way to put it is he won the white vote,” he said.
“What you need to understand about the U.S. now, is that it is changing very quickly. Right now a little over two-thirds of the country who are eligible to vote, are either women, people of color, or young adults between 18-35. That’s the majority of America right now,” he said.
“And they will determine the direction of the country,” he continued, without referencing the fact that only a little more than half of eligible voters came out to polls in 2016. “These are the last days of the dying dinosaur, the old white man who has been making the decisions since the beginning of our time.”
Moore also blamed the media for “dumbing down” America by turning news into entertainment. “If you allow rich corporations to buy up and control most of the media, and then put things on the media that are intended to appeal to the stupidity that’s in all of us, you will have a dumb-downed nation,” he said.
He referenced schools and libraries in America closing, and said those who are lucky to get a college education most likely will be in debt until their 40s. “The more you dumb [America] down,” he said, “the more likely you are to end up with a Donald Trump.”