Steve Bannon’s outsized role as adviser to Donald Trump and potential member of the National Security Council has been reported, analyzed and ridiculed in recent days. So much so, that Trump sent out a tweet Monday morning saying he called “my own shots.”
Yet Bannon, former chairman of Breitbart News, is not only a trusted counselor; he is also part of the right-wing media wall encircling the new president.
As the interactive Muckety map above illustrates, Trump has aligned himself with media outlets ranging from conservative (Fox and Drudge) to alt-right (Breitbart) to conspiracy theorists (Alex Jones and Infowars). His presence helped boost ratings and advertising revenues for many right-wing operations that had struggled for years.
Missing from this contingent are long-established names such as the New York Times, Washington Post, NBC and CNN. Indeed, mainstream media have become the president’s foil, as he and his staff attack them for publishing “fake news” and “sowing division.” Trump has called journalists “lowlifes” and “scum.”
By overturning the media equation, he and his staff can present “alternative facts” to a supporter base that mistrusts the old hegemony of morning newspapers and the nightly network news shows.
“I have a running war with the media,” Trump declared during an appearance at CIA headquarters last month. “They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth, right?”
But Trump is not simply attacking the media. He is replacing them, with his Twitter feed and the alt-fact, alt-right contingent shown in the map above.
This upheaval is both a threat and an opportunity for once-respected news outlets. As Politico media critic Jack Shafer writes, “Donald Trump and his forthcoming presidency may be the greatest gift to Washington journalism since the invention of the expense account.”
Denigrated and shut out, reporters will have to work from the outside in rather than relying on access to the Oval Office. “Forget about the White House press room,” Shafer advises. “It’s time to circle behind enemy lines.”
Marty Baron, executive editor of the Washington Post, puts it more simply: “The ultimate defense of press freedom lies in our daily work,” he said after Trump’s election. “Just do our job. Do it as it’s supposed to be done.”
The internet has added many new workers to this effort. As the New York Times notes, there is a growing “organic correction movement led by ordinary users who are crowdsourcing reality.”
Their vigilance was evident as soon as Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway mentioned the “Bowling Green Massacre” as justification for Trump’s recent immigration ban. The “massacre,” as everyone now knows, never happened. The alt-fact was quashed.
And a comment later described by Conway as a one-word misstatement became an internet meme.
Update: Conway’s slip of the tongue was not a one-time occurrence. The Washington Post reports that she referenced the non-event in interviews with at least three outlets - MSNBC, Cosmopolitan magazine and TMZ.