Turn on CNN at any hour of the day and there will be frowning talking heads reading teleprompter conspiracy theories about President Trump.
Where do all these theories even come from?
Some of them are generated by the small number of media outlets, CNN, the Washington Post and the New York Times, that still have enough staff on their payrolls to carry on their mockery of journalism.
But mostly they come from Twitter.
If you’ve seen one self-righteous tantrum about the sacred fire of journalism, you’ve seen them all. The dirty truth is that the media mostly just puts a professional gloss on trending Twitter topics. That’s why CNN did a story about a dog whose ear, according to the nation’s top news network, looks like Trump’s face. (Yes, this really happened.) It’s also where a lot of the media’s political stories come from.
When President Trump recognized Jerusalem, the mainstream media take offered ‘expertese’ twaddle about it being a rash move that will destabilize the process by giving Islamic terrorists the idea that they can’t get everything they want by killing Jews and walking away from peace negotiations.
But lefty Twitter, a boiling cauldron of frustrated celebrities, conspiracy theories and seething rage, wasn’t looking for policy critiques. It trained its hate laser on the announcement, noticed a few slurred words and decided that President Trump had dementia and should be removed from office.
A day later the media was on it.
The media’s experts had once again been made irrelevant. Their spin was sidelined for a Twitter conspiracy theory that showed how the centers of power in mainstream media journalism had shifted.
The rash of media stories speculating about President Trump’s health shows not only how biased the media is (we already knew that), how unprofessional it is (we knew that one too), but that it spends most of its time pandering to its own social media echo chamber. The media repackages conspiracy theories from Cher, Debra Messing or Mark Ruffalo so that a #Resistance celeb will retweet them.
The same strategy has made the Washington Post and the New York Times into profitable operations as the media’s social media strategy has narrowed down to making stories go viral in a leftist echo chamber. And that means playing into their obsessions and conspiracies about President Trump.
The transformation of a Twitter conspiracy theory into a mainstream media news story is a big part of why the Russia theory continues dominating the media. The Hillary campaign lit the fuse, but it couldn’t have kept it going without the #Resistance social media’s obsession with the Russia conspiracy and the eagerness of big papers with shaky financials and poor social media skills to pander to it for profit.
The latest fake news shows how quickly a Twitter conspiracy becomes mainstream media news. The usual vector for Trump fake news is Morning Joe. And experts like Joe Scarborough (a former Congressman), Steve Schmidt (a parasitic member of the consultant class), Mika Brzezinski (the daughter of a disgraced Carter administration figure) and Mike Barnicle (a disgraced Boston journalist) all endorsed the conspiracy theory. It was official, according to Joe, it just might be dementia.
The only evidence for any of this was that President Trump had slurred some words in a speech. I slur words in speeches all the time. And despite Twitter conspiracy theories, I probably don’t have dementia.
It might be because I’m a fast-talking New Yorker. As is Donald Trump.
But the media had journa-washed a Twitter conspiracy theory. Now it had to find some relevant experts to affirm its finding that slurred words meant that President Trump could have dementia.
The country had already witnessed the sad spectacle of lefty psychiatrists remotely diagnosing President Trump as mentally ill. It violated the Goldwater Rule, but the media happily gave them with a platform. The insanity reached its climax when 125 meant health experts marched through Manhattan banging on drums and demanding that Trump resign. Never had the words, “Physician, heal thyself” rung truer.
But now it was time for the lefty neurologists to disgrace their profession.
Stat, a site that had become notorious for promoting the mental illness attacks on Trump, found experts willing to remotely diagnose President Trump without ever interacting with him.
Ford Vox, a doctor whose priority seems to be getting on CNN, claimed that "Trump's overuse of superlatives like tremendous, fantastic, and incredible" suggest he might have a "neurocognitive disease". That was followed by “experts” diagnosing Trump based on Letterman and Larry King interviews. The technical term for this is, “tremendously, fantastically and incredibly unprofessional”.
Why is Stat doing this? Like the rest of the media, it’s cashing in on Twitter conspiracies. Medical sites don’t usually get much play. But throw out some red meat (or soy) to the left and it’s another story.
This sort of disgraceful behavior by the left isn’t new.
In ’04, the Boston Globe ran a virtual carbon copy of the same conspiracy theory claiming that President George W. Bush was suffering from an early onset of Alzheimer's. A doctor in Michigan diagnosed the same supposed “decline” in his speaking style as Trump.
“The only way you can explain that is by being Alzheimer's," the doctor had declared. That is exactly the kind of malapropism that will get you diagnosed with Alzheimer’s by your political opponents.
The Bush dementia conspiracy theory had a brief life before being shelved. And it never spread very far into the mainstream media. It was mostly limited to the fever swamps of Salon or Truthdig. Back then, even during the worst days of Bush Derangement Syndrome, the media didn’t just casually mainstream every single crazy leftist conspiracy theory the way that it does now.
Revisiting the Bush dementia fake news is striking because it shows that the left has no new attacks. The Bush and Trump cognitive decline conspiracies both explained the cognitive dissonance of the left from contrasting their “stupid” Republicans foes with their successful careers by blaming dementia.
As is so often the case, the left was actually rationalizing its own contradictions with a conspiracy theory.
But in ’04, the Bush dementia conspiracy never got past the letters column in The Atlantic. Now it’s the focus of an Atlantic article that clearly exists to be retweeted by likeminded lefties who haven’t read it and don’t realize that it’s trying to avoid unambiguously endorsing their conspiracy theories.
The Huffington Post is much less subtle. It conducted an interview with a real expert on the subject of whether President Trump had dry mouth or dementia, director Judd Apatow.
“I work with people and watch them speak all day long, people of every age. I’ve seen people with all sorts of levels of dampness and dryness,” Apatow said. “That’s not dry mouth.”
And so, Judd Apatow became America’s expert on dry mouth. He does watch people speak all day with “all sorts of levels of dampness and dryness”. Much like every other human being who isn’t a hermit.
There are plenty of jokes here. And unlike Apatow’s, they’re actually funny. But the real joke is that a fake news site is interviewing a celebrity about a conspiracy theory in order to get retweeted by him.
And the joke here is the media.
HuffPo is just being more honest about it than MSNBC. If Morning Joe really wanted to get it on, he would invite Debra Messing, Rob Reiner and Judd Apatow to discuss whether Russian mind-control rays are slurring Trump’s speech. And they would do it while wearing tin foil hats.
If the media is going to let the celebrity #resistance drive its news coverage, why not be open about it? And then they can stop pretending that it’s about journalism, when it’s really about getting 3 million clicks when Rep. Ted Lieu and Cher retweet your fake news story that Trump is really a space alien.
The media occasionally interrupts its torrent of fake news to stop and wonder why people don’t trust it. And then it goes back to turning a conspiracy theory about Trump slurring words into a news story.
This isn’t journalism. Not biased journalism. Or any kind. It’s conspiracy theories.
That’s all the media is anymore. It’s either mainstreaming Twitter conspiracy theories about Trump. Or it’s generating them so they can be retweeted. And it doesn’t even believe they’re true.
Why does the Trump dementia conspiracy theory exist?
The celeb #Resistance is obsessed with removing Trump from office by using the 25th Amendment. After the media got tired of pandering to the Twitter conspiracy theory that Pence would remove Trump for reasons of mental or personal unfitness (occasionally it stills puts out a Pence dog whistle, but much less often), the echo chamber has moved on to a neurological 25th Amendment removal fantasy.
The agenda of all these fantasies is to remove Trump from office. The media’s experts spinning Jerusalem as a bad policy move didn’t interest the social media echo chamber because it wouldn’t remove him from office. Lefty Twitter doesn’t want policy debates. It wants Trump out.
The media knows that it won’t happen, but it panders to the toxic fantasies of powerful people who can keep its dead business model alive by driving traffic and money to dead tree and dead wire media. It sneers at conspiracy theorists who cash in on gullible people by telling them what they want to hear.
The media needs to take a good look in the mirror. Because that is the business it’s in.
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam.