Donald Trump Wiretaps America: A Philosophical Question

Donald Trump

Is something news just because it is mentioned (or tweeted) by the President? As a general rule, the answer is “yes”. What the President does, what the President says is news because he is the President.

The White House takes great pains to set the news cycle by controlling the president’s message and by managing what is said and when it is said. That task has proven more difficult during the Trump administration due to the President’s penchant for tweeting, but the same principles apply. In fact, perhaps due in part to said tweets this administration has demonstrated particular expertise in controlling the media.

President Trump has even taken to declaring what is and what is not “news”.

This brings us back to the original question: Is something news just because it is mentioned (or Tweeted) by the President?

While seemingly straightforward, the question is philosophical rather than objective.

The national media dedicates resources and column inches (or Internet space) to articles about President Trump’s tweets. President Trump slams Democrats. President Trump attacks Germany. President Trump fights with Snoop Dogg. President Trump says President Obama had him wiretapped.

What the President says matters. What the President says (or tweets) deserves and requires media coverage.

But exactly how much coverage is determined by the media. The time and resources dedicated to what the President says is the locus of each individual media outlet. It is within these parameters that the theoretical framework of what is and what is not news must be concretely defined.

When President Trump made his claims of wiretapping the news media and the Internet exploded. How could he say that? Where is he getting this information? Is there evidence of wiretapping? Did he mean President Obama actually attempted to sabotage the Trump campaign? Was Donald Trump the target of the wiretap or was he simply caught up in it? What is on the wiretap?

The answers to these questions, in reverse order, are nothing, neither, yes, no, his mind, and because he feels like it.

The FBI found no evidence of wiretapping. There is no evidence of surveillance at Trump Tower. The Department of Justice has no evidence of surveillance or a wiretap being requested. Former national security officials have denied the existence of a wiretap. Democrats have called the President’s claims unsubstantiated and ridiculous. Republicans have called for the President to drop this claim.

The White House denied there was a wiretap. Every single claim President Trump made regarding a wiretap have been debunked.

Yet, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, following FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before Congress, told the White House press corps,

We started a hearing. It’s still ongoing. I think there’s a lot of areas that still need to be covered. There’s a lot of information that still needs to be discussed…We are still at the beginning phase of a look as to what kind of surveillance took place and why.

As noted by Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post, the motivation of the administration appears to be to discover the source(s) of leaks within the administration, not to uncover “the truth” about a wiretap.

But there is also a larger point to be made. It was fairly apparent from the beginning that there was no evidence and would be no evidence unearthed which would support the President’s Twitter arguments. This, however, did not prevent the seemingly endless reporting and righteous indignation.

If there was no evidence, would be no evidence, bipartisan opposition, and White House opposition to President Trump’s claims, yet he is not deterred, what is the logical conclusion(s)?

One, it was never about a wiretap. And two, no matter the amount of evidence against a wiretap and dearth of evidence in support of a wiretap, it didn’t matter.

This means it was never about facts. Which means the reporting and anger didn’t matter.

Thereby, was an unsubstantiated claim about a wiretap “news” just because the President tweeted about it?

No. It was a distraction, and it’s the media’s job to understand the difference. It’s the responsibility of a democratic citizen to understand the difference.


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