Last week, U.S. President and anti–fake news activist Donald J. Trump’s campaign committee circulated a link to an online “Mainstream Media Accountability Survey,” composed of a series of questions about how the press has covered the Trump administration and its policies thus far. The original version of that survey allowed respondents to elaborate on their answers in an “Other (Please Specify)” field that had no character limit; although a subsequent revision of the survey removes this option, in the interest of media accountability we’ve decided to publish reporter Kaleb Horton’s candid responses to the original survey questions in full.
1. Do you believe that the mainstream media has reported unfairly on our movement?
I have never seen the news in my entire life. In my leisure time, I float around my room in a bourbon haze, wondering if the neighbors are spying on me through the crack in my curtains.
2. Do you trust MSNBC to report fairly on Trump's presidency?
There's too much light! The light escapes through the curtains, and I know they can see my silhouette in the evening. They can see me as I walk back and forth, aimless, without meaning, my steps bending and swaying in a cruel imitation of a dance. They can see me as I talk to the pictures on the wall, and they can certainly hear me as I joylessly sing songs half-remembered from childhood, the songs of babysitters and mothers and men milling about in fields. They can see me and they can hear me as I try foolishly to recapture a feeling of hope that I've lost somewhere, an innocence I can't get back, a sense of trust that deserted me in the night, a traitor in the army of my mind.
3. Do you trust CNN to report fairly on Trump's presidency?
All these little rhymes, these little scraps of songs, flittering around the stale dusty air of my home like gnats. You take the high road and I'll take the low road. There was a crooked man who walked a crooked mile. Oh my darling, oh my darling, oh my darling Clementine, you were lost and gone forever, oh my darling Clementine.
4. Do you trust Fox News to report fairly on Trump's presidency?
Life is a leveler. As you grow up, you're promised the world. You're promised that the future is your own frontier. You race to get grown up. And then one day you're on a train, you're on the street, you're simmering onions in your kitchen, you're jolting awake in a cold sweat at 3 a.m., and silence finds you out, and in that silence you remember the bills and the broken window and the rusted hinges and the leaking faucet and you realize that it's this. It's just this. This is what there is. This is your life, this is being grown up, this is the other side of the bridge you crossed. And you're alone now, lost in space, wondering what's next, what do I do, what the hell do I do now, and the silence will get so loud you'll almost want to weep.
5. On which issues does the mainstream media do the worst job of representing Republicans? (Select as many that apply.)
Some years ago, I walked into a tucked-away neighborhood at the edge of a small town. It was a neighborhood where all the streets were lined with old and stoic trees, where every footstep made a crunch and you seldom saw your neighbors. I rounded a curve and found a dead-end street, and at the beginning of the dead-end street, a boy was playing a trumpet. He had its case propped open on the ground for tips, but there weren't any tips in there. I turned around before he saw me to get five dollars from my car. I ran back to the dead-end street, desperate to tell the boy to hang in there and stick with music, but he was gone. I've passed that street countless times since, but I never saw the boy with the trumpet again. Or maybe I did. Maybe he just got older and put his trumpet away on a high shelf.
6. Which television source do you primarily get your news from?
As a member of the media, I play poker with every other member of the media on Thursday nights. We spend this time coming up with ways to make the Republican Party look bad, laughing about dismantling America brick by brick, and whoever gets drunkest is the anonymous White House source in all of our stories. This is where I get 100 percent of my news.
7. Do you use a source not listed above?
There are things you lose, and people don't tell you that you'll lose them, and you don't know when you're losing them — you only find out later. One of these is place. A long time ago, my grandparents lived in the country, in a country house, a little bit battered and proud of it, and from their porch all you could see was a field that seemed to go on forever. Prairie dogs would jump around in the field, and dust devils would dance around as if practicing to become tornadoes someday. But then new houses started to sprout up in the field.
8. Which online source do you use the most?
9. Do you trust the mainstream media to tell the truth about the Republican Party’s positions and actions?
The kind with garage door openers.
10. Do you believe that the mainstream media does not do their due diligence fact-checking before publishing stories on the Trump administration?
And there were more and more of them until there was no more field, and there were no prairie dogs, and there were no dust devils.
11. Do you believe that the media unfairly reported on President Trump’s executive order temporarily restricting people entering our country from nations compromised by radical Islamic terrorism?
No one ever told me how much I'd miss the dust devils.
12. Were you aware that a poll was released revealing that a majority of Americans actually supported President Trump's temporary restriction executive order?
I was not aware of this poll because whenever I think of polls, I think of math, and like all millennials, I cheated my way through statistics class with a teacher's edition of the textbook I got from a member of the football team, and then by feigning a panic attack during the final exam.
13. Do you believe that political correctness has created biased news coverage on both illegal immigration and radical Islamic terrorism?
On November 22, 1987, in Chicago, somebody hijacked a television broadcast. If you were watching Doctor Who at 11 p.m. on PBS member station WTTW, after about 15 minutes the signal cut out and was replaced by something nightmarish. It was a man wearing a mask styled after Max Headroom, the main character of the dystopian science fiction show of the same name, a show about an AI-generated talk show host.
14. Do you believe that contrary to what the media says, raising taxes does not create jobs?
The video was short and sinister. Max Headroom is sitting in front of what appears to be spinning corrugated sheet metal. His speech is very distorted. The tape is grainy and suggestive in a foreboding, vaguely criminal way. He says something incomprehensible about a glove that has blood on it. He pulls his pants down and gets spanked by a co-conspirator in a French maid costume. He screams “They're coming to get me!” and hums the theme to Clutch Cargo, a cartoon from 1959. It's viscerally upsetting and totally inscrutable and in 90 seconds it's over. This event is known as the Max Headroom broadcast signal intrusion, and we never found out who did it.
15. Do you believe that people of faith have been unfairly characterized by the media?
The hijacking itself was harmless, and the content of the video is largely ephemeral, but it's the kind of mystery that stays with you forever, because when the human brain doesn't understand something, doesn't know why something happened, it wants to find a reason. We need to have meaning, and the meaning of this video is almost impossible to ascertain.
16. Do you believe that the media wrongly attributes gun violence to Second Amendment rights?
The video on its own is too weird, too spooky, and too chaotic. It's part of this story, but it's not the whole story. The people who did it would have to tell us, and we've never found them.
17. Do you believe that the media has been far too quick to spread false stories about our movement?
If you watch the video enough times, and I've watched it hundreds of times, you'll start to go insane, beating your head against your desk, asking why the hell does this exist, and not having an answer.
18. Do you believe that the media uses slurs rather than facts to attack conservative stances on issues like border control, religious liberties, and ObamaCare?
I had a theory, for a few years anyway. I saw a YouTube comment left by someone who sounded like they knew what they were talking about, and this person said it was the work of a punk singer from Bloomington, Indiana. His name was Eric Fournier and his band was called The Blood Farmers and he's dead. To me, he was instantly a good suspect. Leave it to a dead man with a punk rock band to create an insane nightmare video with no intention of making any money or pissing anybody off, just for the rush of doing something different and pulling off a crime very few would even think to commit.
19. Do you believe that the media purposely tries to divide Republicans against each other in order to help elect Democrats?
A friend of mine had a 7-inch by The Blood Farmers, and on the back it contained information about the recording studio. So I started making calls, because I had to know why this happened, I had to satisfy this hole in my brain where knowledge should go. My hunt led to a person whose name I've forgotten, a person who knew Eric well. He told me I was nowhere near the first person to ask about the incident and that he definitely didn't do it. He was very clear on that, almost belligerent about it.
20. Do you believe that the media creates false feuds within our Party in order to make us seem divided?
So I gave up on the idea, for years. I accepted that I didn't know who hijacked that TV station in Chicago, and that sometimes life throws you mysteries you cannot solve.
21. Do you believe that the mainstream media has been too eager to jump to conclusions about rumored stories?
I began to view the incident as something like a UFO sighting, like a strange light in the dark. This happened to me, I saw this, but I won't see it again, no matter how long I stand outside at night.
22. Do you believe that if Republicans were obstructing Obama like Democrats are doing to President Trump, the mainstream media would attack Republicans?
After all, the people responsible committed a crime. They might not want to be identified. They might take pride in the mystery, in the fact that there are others like me going crazy because of something they did once, and never again, before I was even born.
23. Do you agree with the President’s decision to break with tradition by giving lesser known reporters and bloggers the chance to ask the White House Press Secretary questions?
Every once in a while, somebody throws out a new name, a new person who may have hijacked the airwaves in Chicago all those years ago. Somebody who was a little bit weird and didn't have many friends, somebody who knew too much about electronics, somebody who was a little bit busy that November, and it never adds up to more than a campfire story.
24. Do you agree with President Trump’s media strategy to cut through the media’s noise and deliver our message straight to the people?
But late at night, in that hour when the dark is full of poetic possibilities but not your worries, I think I know who hijacked that signal. I think Eric Fournier did it to be an anarchist, and I think his former associate's aggression about ruling him out was an act. He was a little too strident.
25. Do you believe that our Party should spend more time and resources holding the mainstream media accountable?
In the mornings I know better. I don't have any answers. I just have campfire stories. And sometimes I have the belief that my campfire stories are better than your campfire stories. That's all any of us have, but the secret we all need to keep is that it's enough to keep us going.