A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
The news these days is relentlessly grim. The President of the United States is being likened to a super-spreader — of the coronavirus, of disinformation, of dangerously bogus claims about the election. The social media universe is a giant sewer. Covid-19 is on the rise in the US, elsewhere in the Americas, and in Europe. The economic picture is beyond bleak. Experts say the estimated cost of the pandemic in the US is more than $16 trillion. The election is an overwhelming source of tension. Joe Biden supporters are scared. President Trump supporters are worried. Everyone’s worried.
Every night, after I send out this newsletter, my inbox is full of stressed-out readers. My reply: You are not alone! Everyone seems to be “doom scrolling” through the day. There is no shortage of news to be troubled about. As Elahe Izadi wrote the other day, “each new development is more unbelievable than the last.” And yet, let me offer a more optimistic take…
“Team Reality is a lot bigger than it seems.”
That’s what Monika Bauerlein, the CEO of Mother Jones, wrote in a column last week. “I’ve heard from you how hard and lonely and terrifying it can sometimes be, especially when the news grows more chaotic by the day,” she wrote.
Bauerlein wrote that, for Trump, “the chaos is the point,” because confusion “creates the stage for his alternate-reality show.” But she wants everyone to remember that “Team Reality” has majority support. Polls prove this point almost every day. A clear majority of Americans recognize that the pandemic is a real threat, despite Trump’s attempts to minimize it. “Overwhelming majorities back basic public health measures,” Bauerlein wrote. “Two-thirds — including half of Republicans — agree that the president was infected because he didn’t take the virus seriously, and only a third think he’s honest about the issue.” A huge majority of Americans see that Trump is untrustworthy. Right now the Trump campaign is twisting Dr. Anthony Fauci’s words precisely because Fauci is on Team Reality.
“Authoritarianism has not yet prevailed,” Bauerlein wrote. “Alternative facts still aren’t facts. And more and more Americans are seeing through disinformation and division and are ready to fight” to — as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez put it — “let our democracy live another day.”
Bauerlein comes at this subject from a progressive POV, but membership on “Team Reality” is not inherently partisan. For example, plenty of Republicans as well as Democrats know that QAnon is a conspiracy cult. I’m not trying to paper over the poisonous political divides that exist in US life — or the fact that algorithms fuel these divides and even lead to radicalization. There is a new, harrowing WaPo story about people who feel like they have lost their loved ones to QAnon. It is a real and heartbreaking problem. All I’m saying is, don’t be fooled by the loudest, craziest voices out there. “Team Reality” is still the mainstream, majority position in this disorienting world of disinformation.
Video: Understanding Trump and Fox’s ‘deep story’ about Covid-19 (CNN)
Oliver Darcy writes: “I hear Brian’s argument, but a minority can still wield significant power. It only takes a small margin of people not wearing masks to spread the coronavirus. It only takes small amounts of disinformation to poison the broader public. And as was evidenced in 2016, the election can be decided by a minority of voters. Which is to say, minorities matter.”
“The real polls”
Look up above — at that scene in Sanford, Florida — at his Monday evening return to the campaign trail, Trump said his rallies are “the real polls.”
The real real polls continue to show Trump losing by double digits. If you’re wondering whether you can trust ’em, watch Sunday’s “Reliable Sources” segment featuring Clare Malone and Ryan Lizza.
Monday was the start of a full week of Trump rallies. “He appeared virtually back to himself despite a scratchy-sounding voice, clocking in at 65 minutes,” the NYT’s Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman wrote. Their story had a Washington dateline, not Florida, which brings me to this next item…
Some news outlets are declining to be part of WH pool
In recent days “at least seven major news outlets” have declined to accept “one of the available press seats” on Trump’s trips, the NYT’s Michael Grynbaum reported Monday, citing sources. The NYT is one of the outlets… Along with the WSJ, WaPo, and BuzzFeed. Per Grynbaum, the newsrooms feel like they “do not have assurance that basic precautions will be taken to protect reporters’ health.”
I checked in with the AP’s Zeke Miller, this year’s president of the WHCA, who has been lobbying the WH to make the working conditions safer. He said that essential press pool coverage has not been impacted… While some news outlets are staying home, all the major media formats (print, wires, photo, radio, TV) are being represented during Trump’s travels…