What Trump's tax story says about media manipulation | Eurasia Diary - ednews.net

23 April, Tuesday

What Trump's tax story says about media manipulation

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The first hint came about a month and a half ago.
A well-connected Democrat laid out a new scenario to me. It went something like this:
“Democrats will take over the House and possibly the Senate after the midterms. We’ll demand that Trump release his tax returns. He won’t do it. The fight will become a legal battle. It’ll go to the Supreme Court. We’ll impeach him over it. That’s how we’ll finally get Trump.”
I had a few reactions to this stated strategy. First, I can’t imagine that such an effort would reach fruition before 2020, when President Trump’s first term ends. Second, I can’t help but be reminded of how none of the best-laid plans for Trump’s political demise have gone according to plan. (In case you haven’t noticed, he has a way of throwing a monkey wrench into this sort of thing.)
But more significantly than any of that, I told my friend: “What I’m hearing you say is, you’re giving up on Trump-Russia collusion.”
“What do you mean?” he replied.
“All I’ve heard you talk about for almost two years is how Democrats were going to impeach Trump over his Russia ties,” I explained. “You haven’t even mentioned that in this conversation. Sounds like you’re changing strategies. That’s a pretty big development.”
I’m not sure he entirely got my point.
“But taxes is how they got Al Capone,” he retorted. “It’s always the taxes, in the end.”
It’s like I was seeing the future. Shortly after that conversation with my friend, many in the media began refocusing on — you guessed it — Trump's elusive tax returns. Prior to that point, little had been said on the topic for many months. If taxes had been raised at all in recent press reports, more often than not it was a criticism of Trump’s tax-cut plan, not a demand for his tax returns.
Then, in late September, it was front and center again. Newsweek reported: “Democrats plan, using an obscure law, to get Donald Trump’s tax returns if the party retakes the House.”
Suddenly dozens — hundreds — of news articles began discussing Trump’s tax returns:
“Pelosi on Trump’s tax returns: ‘One of the first things we’d do’”
“Leading Democrat on House Ways and Means would ask for Trump’s tax returns”
And the New York Times: “Donald Trump tax records show he could have avoided taxes for nearly two decades,” followed by a special investigation: “Trump engaged in suspect tax schemes as he reaped riches from his father.”
What does this tell us — and what’s the point?
It’s not as if there aren’t legitimate questions to be asked. After all, Trump is the one who began promising as early as 2014 that he’d hand over his tax returns. “If I decide to run for office,” he stated in May of that year, “I'll produce my tax returns, absolutely.”
Further, I’m not arguing that the press should dismiss or ignore Democrats’ efforts to hit Trump on the tax-return issue.
What I am saying is that there’s a difference between reporting on these developments — and letting political interests drive the news narrative in such a way that they’re calling the shots.
As I wrote in “The Smear,” all sides do it, some more successfully than others. But I think we should be paying more attention to the idea that any group — whether the state, a political party or corporate interest — can devise a plan about how and when to make headlines, execute their strategy, deploy their emissaries and talking points and, like magic, determine what we report and when.
They’ve figured out how to use us. How to pull our strings. All while making us believe it’s our idea. We’re too easily manipulated.
I can see the future.  
Politicians increasingly will raise the issue of Trump’s tax returns on Capitol Hill, in news programs and on talk shows. Selected reporters will be leaked carefully timed and chosen documents. Anonymous tips will be received and reported. The ever-present pundits on cable news will begin shaping the conversation to encompass the desired talking points.
It’s not supposed to be this way.
I think journalists should take great care to look behind the efforts to shape our stories. When any narrative is pushed, we should remain mindful that there’s always a reason. Sometimes that’s the more interesting and important story.
Yes, look at the tax return issue. Fairly, from various views.
But also ask who and what are behind the media campaign to put that front and center. What’s behind the timing? What does it say about the Trump-Russia collusion question? Is Trump’s refusal to give over his tax returns an important disqualifier? Or might it be a means to set up an argument to reach a goal?
If we fail to understand when we’re being used, we risk becoming little more than a propaganda arm for political and corporate interests. That’s a bad place for our media to go.

The Hill

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