In 1960, Richard Nixon narrowly lost his first bid for the presidency. Then he lost the 1962 California gubernatorial election.
Feeling extreme bitterness over the loss, he lashed out at the media, blaming his defeat on the negative coverage of him and his campaign.
“You don’t have Nixon to kick around anymore,” was his famous retort to the press of that day.
Till death, he and his defenders maintained that voter irregularity in Chicago under Mayor Daly’s influence and questionable vote-counting in south Texas overseen by Lyndon Johnson sealed his fate in the presidential race.
His later iniquities were, in his own mind, justified by his contention that his enemies – the media and the Washington establishment – were corrupt and had stolen that election.
Hindsight would tell us that this was the moment when the media turned on Nixon, and years later during his second term of his successful presidency they gleefully delivered their coup de grâce over obstruction of justice for a third-rate burglary of which he knew absolutely nothing.
The evil of his detractors would be used by Nixon to absolve himself of the later crime of obstruction of justice. In his mind he was no more, no less a “crook” than his peers.
Fifty years hence, with print journalism on the decline and electronic media access on the ascendancy, Internet sites have become the preferred news sources of the young, and talk radio relieves the boredom of a long commute.
Information that may have taken days or weeks to disseminate now arrives at our retinas and falls upon our ear drums in mere seconds.
And now we find ourselves once again embroiled in another Watergate scenario abetted by a president who, like Nixon, believes he is unfairly treated by the Fourth Estate and further thinks that impulsively vomiting his thoughts on Twitter is an effective tool to bypass the biased filter of his media detractors.
He fancies himself as a Don Quixote, tilting at never-ending windmills, and seems curiously oblivious to the truth that he is merely poking a sharp stick in the eye of a dangerous chimera of gargantuan proportions. His verbal missiles simply give the beast more grist for its anti-Trump mill.
The analogies between Trump and Nixon are too delicious to be ignored by the media, and so we seem doomed to repeat another tragic and unnecessary wound on the “Corpus Americanis.” This will provide untold opportunity for new Woodwards and Bernsteins to investigate a virtual flood of leaks of dubious motives from the countless deep throats imbedded in the Deep State.
It is said, and it is indeed true, that our democracy is not possible without a free press. We delude ourselves if we think that we are witnessing new lows in journalistic miscreancy; it has been like this and worse from our country’s inception.
What is different now, however, is the sheer volume of opinion, speculation and innuendo thrown at us on a continual basis. Americans are either intellectually unprepared for, or uninterested in, digesting a virtual avalanche of information.
Worst of all, there has been a successful blurring of the line between opinion and fact. Facts seem rare, opinion omnipresent.
The latest appellation is “fake news,” an extremely virulent designation which attempts to use with premeditation Occam’s razor as a diametric to cut away or slice a host of competing conclusions (in this case innuendo dressed up as fact), leaving behind the simplest and most likely conclusion in place (in this case falsity).
I, for one, and I suspect more like me, would implore the Fourth Estate to cease the deluge of unsourced and salacious fragments of information designed to confuse, put down their razors, and simply present facts!
The writer lives in North Augusta, S.C.