Brooke Gladstone on ‘Radio Times’: Democracy cannot happen when the president assaults journalism

Monday’s “Radio Times” broadcast featured Marty Moss-Coane’s live interview with Brooke Gladstone, co-host of WNYC’s “On the Media,” about her new book, “The Trouble with Reality: A Rumination on Moral Panic in Our Time.”

Gladstone said she was driven to write the book by the vitriol President Donald Trump has heaped on the nation’s journalists, who he has derided as “the fake news media,” an “enemy of the American people,” and worse.

Her target audience: People who didn’t vote for Trump who think truth has gotten “trampled into dust” and reality has become “more slippery than a pocketful of pudding.”

Truth and the idea that facts matter has been a foundation of this country, but under a Trump presidency, truth sits atop shifting sands, Gladstone said.

“When push came to shove, as John Milton wrote many years before America was even created, … you put truth and falsehood in a room together, and truth will always prevail,” Gladstone said. “We understand [now] that truth does not always prevail.”

She added: “There is nothing in human nature that provides for the victory of human reason.”

Gladstone said she wrote her book in two weeks and urged her publisher to release the book quickly, because “the world was changing so fast. I didn’t want to labor over something that would be completely irrelevant by the time it came out.”

Moss-Coane and Gladstone talked about everything from confirmation bias, in which news consumers seek information that reinforces what they believe, to the subtle differences between lying and “bullshitting.”

Under Trump, reality has become so muddled, and “facts” so debated, that “democracy cannot happen,” Gladstone said.

She took journalists to task, saying the media should better “triage” the flood of stories coming out of the White House and focus on the news that impacts the most people.

The cast of the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” for example, drew Trump’s ire after reading a critical statement on stage at a November performance attended by Vice President Pence. That incident snagged more headlines in the same news cycle than the story about Trump agreeing to pay $25 million to settle fraud allegations stemming from his failed Trump University.

“The administration is so good at filling the ether with shiny objects,” Gladstone said, calling it a strategy of “deflection and diversion.”

She said, “Really we need to focus on the stories that have the most implications for the most people.”

Listen to the full hour.

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