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Nevada Today

Nevada Today is a nonpartisan, independently owned and operated site dedicated to providing up-to-date news and smart analysis on the issues that impact Nevada's communities and businesses.

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Fake News, Real Danger

Who do we trust? This question has increasingly become another of a long list of political fault lines in this country. And this isn’t just me lamenting the lack of trust in “the fourth estate”. I’m also concerned about nefarious forces who are taking advantage of the proliferation of “FAKE NEWS!” to undermine the foundation of this country.

Heller goes into hiding (again)

Yesterday, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R) not only refused to answer any questions from CNN reporter Manu Raju. Heller shut the door on him.

Perhaps he feels uncomfortable with any questions about the Mueller investigation and anything else Trump-Russia related. But you know what? He’s a Member of Congress, and a United States Senator at that. Congress has a responsibility to check and balance the executive branch when that branch is hellbent on obstruction of justice.

Just this week, President Donald Trump begged Attorney General Jeff Sessions (again) to end the Mueller investigation. Coincidentally, this came on the heels of Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump himself letting slip that Trump may have committed crime(s) by moving to obstruct justice. And yet, even with Trump casting doubt on his own alibis while simultaneously calling for an end to the investigation into his campaign’s relationship with the Russian government, Heller still can’t say whether he finds this behavior acceptable, whether he will support any legislation to protect Mueller and his team from White House retaliation, and whether he will support any legislation to protect our elections from further Russian interference.

What’s the Mueller with Trump?

Let’s make this crystal clear: This goes far deeper than one Senator refusing to answer a CNN reporter’s questions. Earlier this week, another CNN reporter was verbally attacked at a Trump rally in Tampa, Florida. And not only that, but Jim Acosta was accused by Sarah Huckabee Sanders of “lowering the conversation” at her press conference earlier today.

Also, this came just a day after Sanders attacked both the Mueller investigation and the media. And of course, this is just one week in a long, extensive history of Trump attacking the media for daring to report any truth about him. It’s as if he wants to undermine the credibility of “real news” media by constantly labeling them as “FAKE NEWS!”

Hmmm, I wonder why that is.

Danger at our doorstep

For years, Trump has embraced conspiracy theories and weaved them into his ideological platform. As a result, many of his supporters have embraced a wide range of conspiracy theories, from the downright absurd to the delusionally dangerous. QAnon is head-deep in the former with its assertion that Trump and Mueller are secretly working together to take down a “deep state” full of pedophiles and murderers, and it’s quickly become an alarming example of the latter as a “citizen army” of conspiracy theorists have decided to take action into their own hands.

We’ve already experienced one QAnon induced incident in June, when a Henderson man formed a barricade at the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge near the Hoover Dam, halting traffic in both directions and forcing Nevada and Arizona authorities to evacuate the bridge as they apprehended this man. Authorities later searched through his homemade armored car and discovered an AR-15 assault weapon, a handgun, multiple magazines of ammunition, and a flash-bang explosive device.

So why would someone form a barricade on U.S. 93 and halt traffic near the Hoover Dam? This man has justified his actions by citing the very conspiracy theories pushed by QAnon and claiming his blocking of traffic was a message to Trump demanding the release of the inspector general’s report on Hillary Clinton’s emails. QAnon has asserted the existence of a “secret report” that will send Clinton and nearly every other high-level Democrat to Guantanamo Bay upon its release, and Trump himself continues to peddle long-ago debunked claims of Hillary Clinton being involved in criminal activity.

What does all of this mean?
Photo by Andrew Davey

Let’s review the facts at hand here: Trump attacks the media, especially when they report on his Russia scandal. Other Republicans repeat or defend Trump’s attacks on the media, then attack the investigation into Trump’s Russia scandal. Trump continues to peddle a wide variety of conspiracy theories, and his supporters interpret this as a much wider conspiracy involving an entire “deep state” that’s working against him. And as Trump works to undermine the credibility of the press, his supporters state they trust Trump and “friends and family” over the “real news” media.

All in all, this is a recipe for disaster. As Trump attacks the media and undermines our credibility, he’s signaling to his base that “the fake news media can’t be trusted!” He then creates a void of trust, and a host of actual fake news operators rush to fill that void with outlandish conspiracy theories. As Trump declares the media “the enemy of the people”, he declines to debunk the conspiracy theories fueling QAnon and other far-right extremist movements. Regardless of whether or not Trump actually intends to do this, he lends credibility to these extremists by declining to condemn them as he repeatedly condemns the media for debunking his and his supporters’ conspiracy theories.

Whether it’s Dean Heller closing the car door on one reporter or his Florida colleagues maintaining their silence while another reporter is attacked, they’re not helping anyone but Trump. And with journalists facing a growing threat of violence, the nation facing the growing threat of far-right extremists turning violent, and the nation facing more Russian meddling in our elections and government, the last thing we can afford is further silence. It’s time to speak up, and speak on the record.

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