Wednesday, March 1, 2017

On The Media -- Is They Learning (Spoiler Alert: Nah!)

As we noted earlier, some in the media were quick to jump over the low expectations bar and pronounce neo- fascist dimwit Donald "Rump" Trump's lie- filled speech to Congress last night "presidential," or some other positive, essentially worthless adjective.  Whether this is done to make themselves feel better about abetting his rise to power (as Melissa McEwen notes), or to turn down the heat from the anti- media fire Rump's been stoking since forever, or simply out of wishful thinking that the edges of Rump's budding authoritarianism can be sanded down by responding positively to appeals by Rump to treat him "fairly," we are reminded of Masha Gessen's Rule #2 for surviving an autocracy: "Do not be taken in by small signs of normality." In too many cases, the media was taken in (see Media Matters here and here, for example). Unfortunately, the impulse to normalize Rump (even while offering criticism) has seeped over political boundaries (hello, Van Jones;  et tuMichael Tomasky?). That's. Not. Good.

He read a speech written for him. Give him a cookie.

Once again, we turn to Charles Pierce for perspective (who is also of the belief that the media is "terrified of the truth: that, on his best day, the president* is an ill-prepared lout..."):
A couple of times this week, I have heard alleged journalists express dismay that what we may be living under at the moment is a "failed presidency." The panelists all agreed that this would be a catastrophe for the country. Now, as a citizen, I can see their point, I guess, although I'm more afraid that a Congress under Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan will succeed. As a journalist, this attitude revolts me. We are not supposed to care whether a president fails or not. Our job is to chronicle how and why the president fails and inform the public in the (perhaps vain) hope that the public will do better at electing a president the next time. We certainly are not obligated to prop up a failed president just because he got elected once.
The media would also do well to note Gessen's Rule #1: "Believe the autocrat." Delivering a demonizing, authoritarian message in a softer tone is still a demonizing, authoritarian message. A "Victims Of Immigrant Crime Engagement" in the Department of Homeland Security?  How about acts and of anti- Semitic and ethnic hate that Rump's rhetoric has spawned? And the tweaked ban on immigrants from Muslim countries?  Comin' atcha soon! Throwing sops to his alt- right, bigoted base go virtually unremarked by the chin strokers and panderers in the media, to our common peril.

Speaking of peril, how many times did Rump mention Russia in the speech?  Right you are -- zero! That's the ball we need to keep our eye on, even as the media is distracted by Rump's "tone" and optics.


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