The Atlantic won’t be joining “The Resistance” against President Donald Trump, the magazine’s editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg said Monday evening at an event hosted by the University of Chicago.
A student asked Goldberg how journalistic institutions like The Atlantic can appeal to parts of the electorate that now seem to reject the media in toto.
Goldberg said he didn’t “want to get grandiose and say that our role is to reunify a fractured county,” but The Atlantic was founded in 1857 as a magazine that aimed to do just that.
“It’s in the DNA of our publication to want to do that,” he says. “It’s one of the reasons why I’ve decided that we’re not going to go down the path the other publications have taken.”
That path, Goldberg says, is that of joining the resistance against Trump. It’s an editorial aim that, in my opinion, plays well to the readership but cheapens the scope of the journalism. How can you report the news if you are against its biggest maker at all costs?
The direction The Atlantic is taking does not mean no criticism of Trump or Trump voters. While Goldberg didn’t say this, not joining a stated “resistance” effort against Trump may in fact strengthen the criticisms against the president.
One can barely escape the pages of left-leaning publications – i.e. Slate, Mother Jones, the Nation, etc. – without pop-up ads, reminders, or editorials about how and why citizens must resist. While there are some amazing pieces created by all of these organizations, it does make me wonder if each, as an entity, is being level-headed or if they are against Trump just because being against Trump is great for clicks.
Instead of this path, Goldberg says he wants to figure out why people voted for Trump and Clinton. While Goldberg expressed doubt that there will be the same robust facts that The Atlantic is used to in backing up the “why” from an intensely emotional election, the concern is not high on his list of worries.
“It’s the background noise in everything else we’re worried about,” he says. “I’m worried about the attack on enlightenment vales and evidence-based discourse.”
The fires of the fake news epidemic are now being stoked by the commander-in-chief. Was there an attack in Sweden? No, but there was an allusion to one by the president. Are we, as a country, seeing the highest crime rate in decades? No, but our president repeatedly says we are. Is the press the enemy of the American people? I guess it depends on how much you enjoy freedom versus how much you enjoy tyranny.
Facts will win, Goldberg believes. They have to. He gave an example: If you go to 100 doctors and 99 of them say you have cancer, going home and telling your spouse you’re cancer-free is deadly denial. While many politicians – specifically in the GOP – have shown this kind of factual obfuscation on global warming, the litany of promises Trump has made are all checks waiting to be cashed by voters.
“It’s easy as a candidate to say, ‘Climate change isn’t real.’ It’s easy to say, ‘We’ll smash Islamic terrorism.’ It’s easy to say ‘I’ll fix your problems.” It’s easy to say, ‘I’ll get rid of crime,” Goldberg says. “It’s hard to actually do those things.”
To those who say champions of enlightenment and liberal values are trapped in a bubble, Goldberg reminded that more people voted against Trump than for him. The bubble we live in is bigger than the other bubble, he says.
“People understand they will be successful and will have happy, healthy lives if they assimilate data” in a scientific way, Goldberg says. That kind of discourse will return, he believes, as the web – still in its infancy – finds better ways to separate truth from bullshit.
To separate the so-called fake news (if I may use two Trumpisms in a row) from real news, Goldberg says people must subscribe to the news sources they believe are worthy, those that are seeking the truth. While journalism can be seen for free, that does not mean it costs nothing to make.
“We’re having a great time in the media right now; that’s a dirty secret,” Goldberg says. “But we cant keep doubling down and doubling down without the help of an informed citizenry.”