Donald Trump

Trump's Belief That Terrorist Attacks Have Been Concealed Has Implications Beyond Media Feud

Scaring people to discourage support for due process constitutional protections

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Trump
Michael Reynolds/EPA/Newscom

Today in eye-popping comments by President Donald Trump: In a speech at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, Trump said terror attacks have gotten so bad that the media is not reporting it. This is a deliberate choice by the media, he seems to argue, to mislead people. From The Hill:

"It's gotten to a point where it's not even being reported," he told a group of senior commanders. "And in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn't want to report it."

The president implied that media organizations have an ulterior motive to bury coverage of the attacks. "They have their reasons and you understand that," he said.

Trump provided no evidence to back up his comments. Terror attacks both at home and abroad often spark blanket coverage on cable news networks, newspapers and online outlets.

These comments are immediately being cast as the latest salvo in Trump's war on the media. Stephanie Slade noted this morning Trump's Twitter blitz against negative polls that indicate popular opposition to his leadership so far.

While Trump's obsession with the media's portrayal of him may have influenced these comments, it's probably more important to take a step back and take a look at the bigger picture here. We should worry less about the implications on a free press here and more about the implications on other civil liberties.

Trump has consistently argued that the world is much more dangerous than the data represents to those who pay attention. The White House website pointed out its law enforcement section that murders jumped 50 percent in in 2015, but ignored that they dropped in 2016. His immigration crime and terror fear-mongering is heavily influenced by the idea that there are unforeseen threats.

Trump's response to having his executive action overruled as an abridgement to due process is to claim that the judge responsible is putting "our country in such peril." If something "bad" happens (and something bad is ultimately going to happen at some point because security is not a perfectible thing), he says it will be the judge's fault. Damon Root noted on Sunday Trump's attack on judicial review.

Trump is using a belief that the world is hostile, violent, and dangerous to justify measures that ignore the constitutional restraints that give people protection from too much government power. To insist that we are in danger is to give credence to an argument that we must take any measure to become more safe, protections of the Fourth and Fifth Amendment be damned.

The data doesn't support the argument that the United States is in an increasing amount of danger. Implicating the press as having an active, conspirational role in concealing threats is a way to rhetorically get around that barrier.

Ironically, many Americans believe they're in more danger of crime than they actually are and that's because the media covers violent crime and terrorism so much and so extensively. In an even further irony, to the extent that crimes are concealed from the public, it can frequently be the result of secrecy or spin from the government itself, not the press at all. It wasn't the press responsible for trying to present the Fort Hood shooting by Nidal Hassan as "workplace violence." (One my more frustrating experiences as a small town newspaper editor was having to explain to people that journalists actually have little leverage at making government agencies give up information at the snap of our fingers, regardless of what the open records laws say.)

When we look at Trump's war with the press, it's easy but also superficial to worry just about the implications on free speech. The effort to suggest that there are more terrorist attacks than have been reported by the media is an attempt to use fear to diminish support for important constitutional protections that value liberty over the security state. Worry less about what these rants mean for the likes of Anderson Cooper and more about what it might mean for you and your neighbors.

(Update: The White House has provided a "list" of terrorist attacks which it believes didn't get enough press coverage. It appears to include just about every single one over the past few years, including the San Bernardino attack, the Boston bombing, and the attack in Nice, Italy France.)

NEXT: To Thwart Fascism, Leftist Students Start Self-Defense 'Fight Club,' Which Actually Sounds Awesome

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  1. FoE, how about an atta-boy for Messrs. Kraft, Belichick and Brady?

      1. Why the hate?

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  2. The fact is that Donald the carnival-barking, prevaricating, crony-capitalist in chief Trump, appears to have gotten the olde time good religion of 911.

  3. A federal court judge’s job is to check the President’s actions – particularly if the President’s premise is that his actions are to keep us safe.

    1. Gotta keep the bad dudes out!

      1. I think you mean bad hombres Cuck!

        1. You two should just get a room already.

          1. They couldn’t’ enter, Hyp, for as CJ#2 hals already stated,

            Gotta keep the bad dudes out!

      2. Unfortunately, the bad dudes are already in, and comfortably ensconced in the West Wing.

  4. Was he referring to the attacks themselves or the motivation behind the attacks? If it was the former he was way off base but if it was the latter he has a point.

    1. I had the same immediate thought. Having read through his comments, it does strongly appear that he means the former, and that in this case he is a lying liar who lies. Badly, in this instance, since as Zeb points out below, it would be super easy to simply say, “Check out all these terror attacks the media didn’t report on. Number 7 will amaze you!”

      1. I looked at the text just now but I got the opposite impression. His meaning is a bit muddled though whatever the hell it was that he meant.

        1. Since he specifically mentioned 911, Paris, & Nice, to me that pretty clearly indicates he is talking about actual attacks, not just motives. But YMMV.

          1. Does not a true, intrepid leader proclaim that we will no longer cry that there is a mean boogey-man out there ready to annihilate us?

  5. So, has Trump provided a list of all of these terrorist attacks that the media has ignored? Seems like that should be a fairly easy task.

    1. Yes, read the link:

      Speaking at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., Trump rattled off a series of strikes carried out by “radical Islamic terrorists,” including Sept. 11 and the more recent violence in Orlando, Fla.; San Bernardino, Calif.; Paris; and Nice, France.

      “It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported,” he told a group of senior commanders. “And in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it.”

      The president implied that media organizations have an ulterior motive to bury coverage of such attacks.

      “They have their reasons, and you understand that,” he said.

      The recent Florida airport shooting wasn’t reported as an Islamic terror attack.

      1. The guy’s being inspired by ISIS videos was noted in every article I read on it. And it seems the government hasn’t labeled it terrorism in the formal charges against him.

      2. Every one of the attacks Trump lists got extensive coverage. Is there anything he can say that you won’t defend?

        While I think mental illness often gets too much blame for terror attacks (both Islamic and right-wing, among others), I think it was pretty clearly a major factor in the Florida airport one. The shooter had a pretty well-documented history of it, and thought the government was forcing him to join ISIS. I think it was a little more complicated than Orlando or San Bernardino.

      3. There definitely seemed to be a concerted effort to portray the Orlando shooting as something that it wasn’t. With the Obama administration playing a lead role.

        But rather than this being an example of PC run amok, I think it’s simply an attempt to cover for their guy. They will have no trouble blaming Trump for terrorist attacks and connecting it back to ISIS. The more tough rhetoric Trump throws out there about it, the better for them. See, terrorist attacks have political implications. Obama did not want to be seen as the guy who couldn’t keep you safe, either. He uttered all the magical incantations about tolerance and how great Muslims are, but the reality is that when bad shit happened he just didn’t want to be blamed for it.

        ISIS inspired attack on gays? Possible political repercussions for the administration. Random gay basher who happened to be a MuslIm? I mean, we can talk about mental health or guns to keep people distracted.

        There’s an element of truth to what Trump is saying.

        1. At this point in our society, I don’t think it’s even about how the main news outlets report the story. It’s about how partisans on each side spin the story to fit their worldview.

          For example, in the Orlando story you can find plenty of stories from many outlets that reported what happened and reported on the shooter pledging allegiance to ISIS, etc. Where the spin comes in is all the left-wing blogs and pundits who tried to spin it as simply homophobia and that we can prevent it with gun control.

          This doesn’t just go one way. When Islamic attacks happen, the right will rush to explain why we must implement their preferred policies to address the problem here, but when Dylan Roof shoots up a black church, he’s just mentally ill or it was an “attack on religion” (I believe Santorum said that) and in any case we can’t use those instances to assign collective blame or infringe on freedoms like gun ownership.

          I made a post last week about how it was interesting, but disheartening to see the reactions of the left and right to the shooting in Canada flip back and forth depending on whether the information at the time pointed towards the shooter being a right-wing extremist or an Islamic extremist.

          1. No disagreements here.

        2. “IThere definitely seemed to be a concerted effort to portray the Orlando shooting as something that it wasn’t.”
          Tell me about it. All those right-wing talking heads and politicos were bending over backwards to make it “ISIS attack on America that happened to occur at a gay night club”. They wanted so desperately to have a terrorist attack on US soil to talk about, but didn’t want to acknowledge that anti-gay animus leads to ant-gay violence.

          It would have been comical if it hadn’t been so tragic.

  6. John Marshall was a slaveowner so does that mean that judicial review is bad?

    1. Judicial review as a check on state actors is fine – in fact, that is the gold standard.

      Judicial review in service of statism is gas chamber material.

    2. If necessary.
      The truth is what we say it is, and it is true only insofar as it is useful.

      Alas, poor Enlightment, we barely appreciated you.

  7. Terrorists took all the good parking spots at work this morning.

    1. They’re not terrorists, just self-hating closeted gays.

        1. LEAVE HUGH’S PARKING SPACE ALONE

  8. The media is remarkably unpopular–more so than Trump.

    Why not bag on the media? The media sucks. By all means, bag on the media.

    1. Trump is using a belief that world is hostile, violent, and dangerous to justify measures that ignore constitutional restraints give people protection from too much government power. To insist that we are in danger is to give credence to an argument that we must take any measure to become more safe, protections of the Fourth and Fifth Amendment be damned.

      Ah, who needs liberty when you can bag on the media, am I right?

      1. “To insist that we are in danger is to give credence to an argument that we must take any measure to become more safe, protections of the Fourth and Fifth Amendment be damned.”

        I’m as big on the Fourth and Fifth Amendment as the next libertarian, but if somebody’s trying to say that I have to stick up for the media because, otherwise, Trump will trash the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, I’m gonna start laughing.

        The media sucks regardless of Trump’s stance on our Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights. This is the most pathetic attempt at a false dichotomy I’ve seen in a long time.

        1. I read that as:

          “I’m pretty libertarian, but I trust that person at the head of the very powerful executive will use his immense power wisely, so of course I am not worried when he claims that terror attacks occurred that the public doesn’t know about because of a concerted media effort to hide the truth.”

          The media won’t tell you how bad it is, which is why we need…fill in the liberty-lessening blanks.

          1. It isn’t intended that way at all.

            The media sucks. They have no credibility.

            Trump’s issues are independent from that.

            If we need to depend on the media to save us from Trump, we’re in even worse shape than I thought.

            How can they save us when they have so little credibility?

            Fuck the media. Biggest echo chamber in the world.

      2. A corporation can’t force me to do anything; government the media can.

    2. The media sucks, but that doesn’t mean everything Trump says about them is true. An important point that seems to be lost on a lot of people these days.

      1. He could say some seriously awful things about the media–and them all be true.

        Starting with the fact that they despise him.

    3. The media responds to market demand more than it creates opinion. Fox News and talk radio are most definitely “the media”, and they skew right, anti-Islam and pro-Trump. What gets conservatives mad is that mostly old and/or less affluent people consume that media, not decision makers and not “taste makers”.. Most affluent college graduates prefer to get their news from NPR, the Guardian and the New York Times because those outlets report news the way our overeducated 10% want to hear it. Libertarians complaining that the media sucks is relevant only as a matter of taste, like libertarians complaining that fast food taste like shit. Doesn’t mean the government has to get involved.

  9. That lamestream media is also not reporting on the 3-5 million cases of voter fraud this past election.

    1. Did you pay your bet yet?

  10. Would Trump be referring to the attacks committed by people of the muslim faith that both the media and President Obama claimed were not terrorist acts. for example the Fort Hood attack clearly terrorist but repeatedly not reported as such and the guy who slit the throat of his co worker who was luckily stopped by a man with a gun other than the police. Those are two off the top of my head and I’m sure there are far more include some they claim were lone wolf attacks and therefore not terrorist attacks?

    this might be what Trump is refferring to.

  11. in an environment where every politician sells fear, trump’s biggest advantage is that he’s simply a better salesman.

    look at the three issues that defined his candidacy:

    1) trade: people afraid of losing their jobs and not being able to feed their families.
    2) immigration: losing our way of life, and by the way, they’re also going to rape you.
    3) crime: if the immigrants don’t rape you, then your fellow citizens will.

    the opposition, despite trumps obvious defects, find’s it hard to compete when they were more of the same.

  12. Oh, come on, Donald. The media are definitely reporting terror attacks. The fact that they try to spin them and make a white Hispanic the suspect, or say it’s not terrorism but workplace violence doesn’t mean it’s not getting reported. I assume that’s what Trump meant. Who knows with this guy.

    1. Follow the link and it’s perfectly clear. How many progs on fb, twitter and comments sections had no idea that a jihad-motivated Somali refugee attacked students at Ohio State, while they were mindlessly reposting how there has never been a terror attack by a refugee?

      1. “How many progs on fb, twitter and comments sections had no idea that a jihad-motivated Somali refugee attacked students at Ohio State, while they were mindlessly reposting how there has never been a terror attack by a refugee?”

        people having memories that don’t extend past the last five minutes and/or a selective interpretation of the facts isn’t the same as the media not reporting this stuff.

  13. “Workplace violence”.

    Unlike Reason editors, I guess, I knew exactly what Trump was talking about.

    There’s no epidemic of Islamist terror attacks, but they do seem to always be spun and minimized and presented as much as possible to … hide the Islamist Terror part, whenever and however possible it is.

    1. I’d repeat what I said above. This was popular in America over the last 8 years, but I believe it had more to do with defending Obama. I mean, this is a guy who laughably claimed at the end that he kept America safe from terror attacks (he phrased it in a very lawyery, Clintonian manner to make it somewhat technically possibly true).

      I would normally expect this to reverse under Trump, and it still may. A guy who talks tough about ISIS and keeping us safe? It’s a pretty tempting target to rub his nose in that when some lone whack job inspired by Youtube videos attacks. But, with the immigration/refugee focus, we may see a continuation of the Obama-era policy for, in my opinion, different reasons. The media doesn’t act in complete unison, though, so there will likely be some fun contradictions in the years ahead in the narrative.

    2. My impression is that the media’s attempts to minimize Islamic Terror is actually contributing to the paranoia and anti-Islamic feeling in the country. When the attackers are named, for example Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, as in San Bernardino, but the media refuses to comment on that then most Americans draw their own conclusions, and decide the media is trying to hide something.

  14. Alt-Text: +1 Kellyanne Conway’s huge terrist story that was covered up by the other media.

    At least twice.

  15. The civil liberties Trump would attack in the name of keeping us safe were largely under assault for the last 16 years by the establishment. It will be up to the same handful of semi-libertarians in the GOP and few civil libertarians among the Democrats to oppose him just as they did under Obama.

    This is a group of guys who seem willing to do that, though they have had limited power. Fucking over civil rights in the name of combating terrorism is a pretty bipartisan affair, unfortunately.

    1. Fucking over civil rights in the name of combating terrorism is a pretty bipartisan affair, unfortunately.

      Yes.

      1. It is also a loser’s gambit.

  16. Secret terrorist attacks are the worst! How am I supposed to panic a demand the government take more freedoms from me if I don’t know that an attack happened?

  17. The press follows Obama’s lead. Downplay and deny “terrorist attacks” until the evidence is too much to continue the ploy.

    It was a full two weeks before Obama finally had to hang his head and agree that the San Bernardino terrorism was NOT “simply work place violence”. Work place violence occurs because people are fired or passed over for advances. To everyone on the ground in San Bernardino the attack was not “spontaneous work place violence.”

    Obama still has not acknowledged that the shooting at the base in Texas was terrorism.

    The press is slow to report and fails to do the follow-ups they do for other crimes.

  18. Eh, he’s just trolling

  19. The OP was nothing but FAKE NEWS, again.

  20. If anything, terrorist attacks get too much coverage. Relative to other problems and dangers, terrorism is so low a priority that the amount of time we spend talking about it is simply ridiculous. Ladders kill more people each year than terrorists do.

    It’s amusing, but also deeply disturbing, that exactly two people benefit from terrorism: the terrorist himself, and Donald Trump, who rode a wave of whipped-up fear about a basically non-existent problem all the way to the presidency. When Orange Julius says the attacks don’t get covered enough, you should mentally append “…because more coverage of them could only be helpful to me.”

  21. Scaring people to discourage support for due process constitutional protections

    Please. Non-citizens applying for entry DO NOT HAVE “due process constitutional protections”. WTF.

    As a libertarian I’m all for letting in pretty much anyone who can pass a background check but let’s not exaggerate what’s going on here. No one’s constitutional protections are are being circumvented.

  22. You know, given that the left’s attitude is “whatever kind of propaganda/lies it takes”, it is hardly surprising that Trump is responding in kind.

  23. the attack in Nice, Italy

    Never pegged you as a Savoian separatist, Scott! Taking land from France for Italy always struck me more as a Rufus shtick.

    1. He fixed the country, but failed to fix the fact that it wasn’t intended as a list of unreported terror attacks, just a list of terror attacks in general.

    2. Istria is next.

  24. The White House has provided a “list” of terrorist attacks

    The link is to the twitter feed of a CNN producer. No evidence that list came from the White House, in fact it’s completely unsourced, well other than a CNN employee’s say-so, which is worth its weight dog crap at this point.

    1. Surprise, surprise. Reason (along with the MSM) is falsely labeling the list as a “list of terror attacks which [the White House] believes didn’t get enough press coverage”, when it was intended as a plain list of terror attacks — most of which indeed didn’t get any coverage in US media.

      From that famously right-wing news outlet, the Washington Post:

      The list, which includes domestic and overseas incidents, starts in September 2014. It includes some very heavily covered news events, including last year’s attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and the series of attacks in Paris in 2015.

      But the White House asserted that most of incidents on the list were under-covered by Western media sources…

      Later Monday, White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said that “the real point here is that these terrorists attacks are so pervasive at this point that they do not spark the wall-to-wall coverage they once did.”

      “If you look back just a few years ago, any one of these attacks would have been ubiquitous in every news outlet, and now they’re happening so often ? at a rate of more than once every two weeks, according to the list we sent around ? that networks are not devoting to each of them the same level of coverage they once did,” she said.

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  26. Christ, what an asshole.

  27. Hasn’t it been obvious that the media has bent over backwards to avoid labeling events as “terrorist” activities?

    Trump, as incoherent as he tends to be, has a valid point. There are a large number of media outlets (looking at you AP) that point to every factor except Islamic terrorism when reporting on things. Its far more likely that they will say “homegrown” or “domestic” terrorist before they will say “Islamic” terrorist. They obviously downplay it on the big stories.

    But, also, there have been quite a number of smaller events that hardly get any press. Machete attacks, honor killings, beheadings, etc, etc, that are quite obviously Islamic extremism and barely get a notation in the news.

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