Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Morning Reading - The Media And Trump

Two interesting reads this morning on the role of the media ("mainstream" and right-wing) in the rise of neo- fascist demagogue Donald "Rump" Trump.

Catherine Rampell says the only antidote to Trumpism in the Republican Party is to "dismantle" the right- wing media machine.
The sickness in today’s Republican Party is not confined to its current standard-bearer. It is therefore not curable by merely disavowing, however belatedly, the soon-to-be-defeated nominee. The sickness has taken over the Republican base, and there’s only one antidote.  
If Republicans truly want to save the Republican Party, they need to go to war with right-wing media. That is, they need to dismantle the media machine persuading their base to believe completely bonkers, bigoted garbage. 
It is, after all, the right-wing radio, TV and Internet fever swamps that have gotten them into this mess, that have led to massive misinformation, disinformation and cynicism among Republican voters. And draining those fever swamps is the only way to get them out of it. [snip]
In other words, Trump is not some black swan, whose unique cocktail of charisma, telegenicism and political fluidity landed him the nomination. His nomination is the product of years of race-baiting, conspiracy-theorizing, expert-delegitimizing right-wing media nonsense, which Republican politicians aided and abetted because it seemed politically expedient at the time. They helped the alt-right create the alternate reality that made a Trump nomination inevitable. 
And unless the party establishment grapples with its own complicity in misinforming, misleading and frightening the masses, it’s doomed to field more Donald Trumps in the future.  (our emphasis)
Somehow, we don't see the party establishment going to war with the likes of Fox "News," Drudge and Breitbart.  If nothing else, this election has proven how absolutely craven that "establishment" is in not wanting to offend its Stormtrumper base that lives and breathes in the right- wing media bubble, a monster it's created and encouraged for 40 years or more.  It would also require some level of honesty and introspection, traits we don't associate with today's Republican Party. So, not likely.

Focusing on the "mainstream media," Dana Milbank calls out the "lap dogs" of "horserace journalism" (which we've come to associate most closely with his friend and colleague Chris "Lizard" Cillizza, by the way), and goes after one particularly rotten apple:
“Morning Joe” has come in for a large share of criticism for cheering on the rise of Trump. And contributor [Mark] Halperin’s praise for Trump’s tactical genius has been particularly soulless. 
In March, Halperin declared on “Morning Joe” that Trump is “one of the two most talented presidential candidates any of us have covered.” In January, also on “Morning Joe,” he said Trump’s attacks on the Clintons were “politically brilliant.” 
In June on his Bloomberg TV show, “With All Due Respect,” Halperin asserted that “it’s not racial” for Trump to attempt to disqualify an Indiana-born federal judge as a “Mexican” because of his ancestry. His reason: “Mexico isn’t a race.” 
When Trump named Stephen Bannon to head his campaign, coverage noted the publisher’s strong ties to the racist alt-right. Halperin argued that Bannon “should not have let himself be so defined by others. The guy’s got an impressive résumé.” 
Earlier this month, when a New York Times lawyer responded to Trump’s threat to sue the newspaper, Halperin said the lawyer’s letter was a “big mistake” because “we have to be fair and even in this campaign and not basically take sides.” 
And when Trump was widely panned for calling on Russia to find Clinton’s missing emails, Halperin said, “There is a lot of fault on both sides.”
Halperin has long been viewed by progressives as a soulless and hardly neutral observer of politics (see here, here, and here just for the un- appetizer). It's good to see he's finally being called out on the pages of the Washington Post. Milbank goes on to explain why the attempt by many in the media to be neutral only served to "legitimatize the illegitimate."

But Halperin (and, Dana, feel free to call out your colleague Lizard in the future) is one rotten apple in a barrel of rotten apples that populate the cable channels, op/ ed pages, and internet. Once this election is over, the stain on their reputations that we would see as indelible may fade quickly as diversionary scapegoats (Rump as black swan event, as Rampell puts it), and the necessity for our political and its handmaiden media culture to "heal," push the question of culpability for Rump into the background.  We'll end up with the same cast of loathsome characters after as we had before, both in the media and the Republican Party, because it'll continue to work for them.

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