The media must not excuse the racism, misogyny, nativism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia because we think Trump voters have legitimate gripes.
This is another great essay from Neal Gabler, on BillMoyers.com. I thrill to his words, his ideas, his rage.
A few meek-ish comments, though.
Gabler is calling for the media to demonstrate morality now, in the face of a fascistic presidency. I agree this oncoming horror is fascistic. But I still don’t believe that’s the media’s job. And I guess we have to separate “mainstream media” into segments. When I say I don’t believe it’s the media’s job, I’m talking about newspapers.
Everything Gabler wants the media to do is what he and his fellow essayists are already doing in many journals and venues other than BillMoyers.com. It’s what columnists like Charles Blow, Paul Krugman and Gail Collins (naming my faves, but there are others) do at the New York Times and other sites offering in-depth essays about politics.
Morality, pointed criticism, evaluations of facts, depth of information about those facts: this is the job of opinion writers. They have the time, experience and resources to dig into the facts their journalist colleagues present in stories that must be written overnight, in order to make the grade as timely news stories.
All of this, though, comes down to one thing: a frighteningly large mass of voters did not vote based on facts, on evidence. They voted specifically in denial of facts. In rejection of what they have been brainwashed to sneer at as the mainstream media.
There are plenty of fine thinkers, journalists, experts, opinion writers, columnists who will be reporting accurately and critically about this abnormal election and the abnormal creature it seems to have put into the White House.
The question, the one question that dominates my head, that wakes me up in the middle of the night is: how do the media and responsible politicians pierce the self-selected, self-deluded ignoramus bubble these people hide within?
It won’t matter a lick if the Times and the Washington Post take up the cause of not normalizing all of this, of reporting the harsh facts, if the Trump voter is getting its “facts” from Alex Jones, not the New York Times. If the Trump voter is not checking the “facts” it gets with MediaMatters, or PolitiFact, or other reputable fact-checking organizations.
I have no idea how facts can be force fed to people determined to be fasting to death.
One thing I’m sure of, though: the motivation of the Trump voter. Gabler says it well, even while criticizing Jon Stewart [my bolding]:
…the media also let the Trump supporters off the hook. It wasn’t their fault that they bought Trump’s vicious bigotry. It was Clinton’s fault and the Democrats’ fault and the Republicans’ fault and the media’s fault and everybody else’s fault. Give the American people a break. That, in a nutshell, is the new conventional wisdom.
You hear that wisdom everywhere now. I revere Jon Stewart, but in his brief post-election reaction to Charlie Rose on CBS This Morning, he said two things I think are demonstrably wrong. First: “I don’t believe we are fundamentally a different country today than we were two weeks ago or than we were a month ago,” and he cited anti-Semitic remarks by Nixon and LBJ to make the point that anti-Semitism was alive and well in the White House long before Trump. But the point — the fundamental difference — is that Nixon and LBJ made those remarks closeted in the White House. They didn’t make them publicly to rouse the latent hatred in their fellow Americans. Trump has. Second: “There is now this idea that anyone who voted for him [Trump] has to be defined by the worst of his rhetoric.” And he went on to say how he “loved” some Trump supporters he knew, who weren’t really racists. They were just angry about their rising insurance premiums.
I doubt it. Unless you hold the terribly condescending view that Trump voters — “low-information” voters, as they were sneeringly called — had no idea what he actually said, they were not voting against insurance premiums or other economic difficulties. They were voting against a world, including one with rising insurance premiums, that they didn’t want, didn’t understand and above all, didn’t control. He is right in this: They were not all reprehensible, any more than Clinton voters were all godly. Many of Trump’s folks just wanted to blow up the system and then see what happens. But, yes, most of them were voting for racial and religious hegemony too. Let’s not pretend otherwise.