If I were tasked with naming ways in which the media and military could be said to be alike, I might point out that both words start with the letter m. If that’s too weak a link, then how about the fact that we speak of the press corps, using the same terminology we do to refer to the Marines?
Or how about we go the source of that analogy — Joseph Holt, who teaches ethics at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business and has an op-ed at CNN titled “The press isn’t the enemy, it’s the protector.”
The attempt to find parity between the press and the military comes in the very last paragraph:
We thank soldiers for their service because they devote themselves to protecting our freedoms, and we should. But we should also thank the media for the same reason — especially when the stakes have never been higher.
The “high stakes” reference harks back to Holt’s observation earlier in the article that Donald Trump has called members of the press “horrible, horrendous people,” which the author submits is “dangerous.”
How exactly the president’s words are dangerous goes unexplained, though one wonders if the same alarm went off in Holt’s head when a top White House staffer during Barack Obama’s first year in office said of Fox News:
We’re going to treat them the way we would treat an opponent. We don’t need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave.
Astonishingly, the New York Times article in which this quote appears was written by none other than CNN’s Brian Stelter, who wrote in the lede:
Attacking the news media is a time-honored White House tactic but to an unusual degree, the Obama administration has narrowed its sights to one specific organization, the Fox News Channel, calling it, in essence, part of the political opposition.
The problem with Holt’s CNN piece is not only his selection bias in focusing exclusively on Trump’s war with the media, as opposed to previous presidents. It is also his apparent refusal to acknowledge the media’s inescapable obsession with digging up “dirt” on the current president and inventing dirt when necessary (i.e., peddling fake news). When Trump attacks “fake news,” he is referring to a very real entity that existed in previous campaigns and administration (think Dan Rather) but never to the same degree.
Trump was clear on the distinction he draws between the news and the fake news in a tweet following Jim Acosta’s now-infamous dustup with White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, which is a driving force in Holt’s op-ed. Here’s the tweet:
They asked my daughter Ivanka whether or not the media is the enemy of the people. She correctly said no. It is the FAKE NEWS, which is a large percentage of the media, that is the enemy of the people!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 2, 2018
Holt does a disservice to the press he aspires to defend when he fails to recognize the difference.