Resolute Square

Bridging Realities: The Missed Opportunity of CNN's Debate

Brian Daitzman shines a light on CNN's failure to call out our post-reality world split: "The uncomfortable truths about Trump—his incompetence, recklessness, inciting an insurrection, his criminal activities, and his actions as an adjudicated rapist—are effectively erased from the collective conscience, particularly among Trump’s MAGA base."
Published:July 3, 2024

By Brian Daitzman

"Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past."
- George Orwell, 1984

Last week’s Presidential Debate on CNN highlighted the media's critical role in shaping public perception. Unfortunately, CNN missed an opportunity to confront the "memory holes" created by Donald Trump's fabrications and falsehoods, as conceptualized in George Orwell's "1984."

The Concept of Memory Holes

In George Orwell's "1984," memory holes are mechanisms the totalitarian regime uses to erase inconvenient truths, effectively rewriting history to fit the Party's narrative. This erasure is orchestrated by the conservative infotainment industry, composed of propagandists who, despite varying degrees of perceived legitimacy, act as "strip miners of truth." They strip away inconvenient facts and astroturf these memory holes with lies, misinformation, and laundered narratives that benefit Trump. Conservative infotainment not only erases unfavorable history but also beautifies these memory holes through historical revisionism, transforming inconvenient truths into more favorable ones through repeated falsehoods.

The uncomfortable truths about Trump—his incompetence, recklessness, inciting an insurrection, his criminal activities, and his actions as an adjudicated rapist—are effectively erased from the collective conscience, particularly among Trump’s MAGA base.

Repetition and the Illusory Truth Effect

Enter the propagandist's accomplice: repetition. Aiding these strip miners of truth, repetition spreads the astroturfed version of reality through multiple distribution channels, from the least credible accounts on Telegram to the news desk at Fox News, a propaganda arm of the Republican Party. Repetition of these astroturfed statements increases the likelihood of these lies being accepted as truth. Propagandists skillfully manipulate this process, known as the illusory truth effect, a cognitive bias to which human beings are susceptible. As Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels said, "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it."

This astroturfed version of Trump’s time in office goes like this: It was America’s Golden Age. Trump made America great again, repairing the damage done by President Barack Obama. In retaliation, he was unfairly investigated by the Department of Justice for Russian collusion - a favor to Ukraine, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton. China and the deep state then unleashed a lab-created virus to hurt Trump's election chances by damaging the economy. The culmination of this historical fabrication is that despite a historic electoral landslide, the deep state and George Soros helped Joe Biden steal the election from Trump..

That grave injustice then justifies the peaceful protest by average American patriots on January 6, 2021. If any violence did occur that day, it is attributed to Nancy Pelosi and her documentarian daughter’s cabal, who somehow became co-commanders-in-chief with Trump. Wanting violent protests to breach the Capitol where Pelosi - but not Trump - was, Nancy refused National Guard support, later blaming the violence on a blameless Trump and his peaceful supporters. Since then, these gentle souls have been harassed by the DOJ and held as political prisoners for simply showing their love and support for Trump. This is why Trump must pardon people he calls "hostages." 

In this astroturfed version of reality, echoed from Fox News to random bots, the roles of victim and perpetrator are reversed; Trump did not perpetrate an attempted coup but is the victim of a stolen election.

CNN's Role and Missed Opportunity

This version of reality was further cemented by CNN's failure to fact-check Donald Trump’s repeated lies during the debate. After the debate, when far fewer Americans were still viewing the network, its own fact-checker, Daniel Dale, counted as many as 30 Trump lies. They included baseless assertions that President Biden supports the murder of infants and foreign countries emptying their prisons and mental institutions to flood the US with violent and deranged undocumented immigrants and terrorists. Why? Because, as Trump explains, Joe Biden wants terrorists to kill Americans.

CNN could have been an excavator of truth, revealing fact and reality to those siloed within memory holes. By failing to fact-check and push back against falsehoods, CNN helped cement these memory holes, validating the lies and deceit of Trump and his propagandists.


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