DANIEL VAUGHAN: The media is fact-checking dog memes now

November 1, 2019

Diagnoses of “Trump Derangement Syndrome” get thrown around much too often to describe those who criticize the president. But occasionally, there are appropriate times to use that phrase to explain behavior from Trump’s political enemies.

When national media outlets like The New York Times start “fact-checking” memes, that’s when you know you’re in obvious Trump Derangement Syndrome territory.

It’s not that hard of a story to follow. The United States launched a special forces operation against the No. 1 terrorist in the world: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, of ISIS infamy. That operation ended with a significant victory and Baghdadi’s death. Trump then gave a speech announcing to the world that the United States killed a cowardly terrorist, noting that the only injury was to one of the military dogs who helped track down Baghdadi in the cave.

And of course — since this is America — we immediately fell in love with this dog responsible for helping us kill terrorists. It became such a buzz on the internet that Trump tweeted out a photo of the K-9 in question.

People kept having fun with the dog part of the story. Eventually, the Daily Wire put out a meme of Donald Trump placing a medal around the dog in question’s neck, like he would at any other medal ceremony in the White House.

It’s a funny picture that uses the same image of the dog as before, with its tongue all flopped the side — as you’d expect from a happy, terrorist-tracking American dog.

Trump later shared that same meme, with the Daily Wire watermark and all, on his official Twitter page. Everyone had a good laugh, and that’s where the story should end.

But it’s not where the story ends. This is another example of why we can’t have nice things: the national media has lost its ever-loving mind.

The New York Times assigned two — TWO — journalists to fact check this meme. I’m not joking. Niraj Chokshi and Karen Zraick wrote up an entire story with the headline: “Trump Tweets Faked Photo of Hero Dog Getting a Medal.”

These journalists — who tell us their profession is akin to firefighters running toward danger — didn’t just fact-check this garden variety internet meme; they went the extra mile.

They called the man in the original photograph — who actually received the medal — and asked him for a statement. These journalists were looking for something negative to report, but they didn’t get it.

The man in question, James C. McCloughan, who is 73 and retired, laughed at the Times reporters. He said “that he interpreted it as Mr. Trump recognizing the dog’s heroism. He certainly was not offended and laughed when he compared the two images. ‘This recognizes the dog is part of that team of brave people,’ he said,” according to the Times.

The paper went on to tell its readers that this picture was one of “several altered photographs featuring the dog” posted by the Daily Wire. And were the Times not total buffoons at this, they might have noticed the entire internet was making memes and jokes about the heroic dog.

Everyone was celebrating the dog and the successful special forces raid — everyone it seems, except the Times and other far-left papers.

Indeed, it’s worth noting here that Donald Trump isn’t the only one posting “altered photographs” these days. The Times covered another meme far differently just a few weeks back. Hillary Clinton posted an altered copy of a letter from President John F. Kennedy to Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev during the Cuban Missle Crisis that mimicked the writing and speaking style of Donald Trump when he spoke to Ukrainian leaders.

It was a mildly funny tweet. The New York Times breathlessly covered it with the headline: “Hillary Clinton, Master Troll?” They confidently tell their readers, “Freed of the constraints of public office, Mrs. Clinton seems to be living her best life.”

You’ll note, there’s very little in the way of garment-rending outcry that memes are destroying the American Republic. The point here isn’t that Clinton should be condemned for “altered pictures,” but that this is an extraordinarily idiotic task to take up.

This behavior is the definition of Trump Derangement Syndrome. When a simple dog meme causes your entire news division to have a collective meltdown, live on Twitter, something is seriously wrong.

It’s easy to point out that the media is covering Trump with a double standard on simple things like dog memes — but if they’re willing to be this biased in a fight over memes, what does that tell us about far more substantive stories? This dog meme fiasco is the modern media landscape: people bent on shoehorning whatever their preferred narrative is down everyone else’s throats.

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Daniel Vaughan

Daniel Vaughan is a columnist for the Conservative Institute and lawyer in Nashville, Tennessee. He has degrees from Middle Tennessee State University and Regent University School of Law. His work can be found on the Conservative Institute's website, or you can receive his columns and free weekly newsletter at The Beltway Outsiders. Connect with him on Twitter at @dvaughanCI.