Editorial: Hateful media bashing may flirt with violence
It’s no longer entertaining.
It was never accurate.
And it’s going to get somebody hurt.
We are referring, of course, to President Donald Trump’s incessant, infantile and infinitely inane degradation of the media.
The tiresome schoolyard nicknames, the willful distortion of coverage, whines that any story that doesn’t paint him in glowing terms is phony — those stale tropes are bad enough. But the increasingly rabid venom Trump insists on whipping up at his ego-stroking campaign rallies is petty, dangerous and beneath the dignity of a middle-schooler, let alone the president of the United States.
The latest example took place last week here in eastern Pennsylvania, when Trump brought his Bluster and B.S. Tour to Wilkes-Barre. Pointing to reporters, who are forced to cover these political hootenannies from a prominent pen, the president rattled off a litany of grievances before pointing at the press and crying, “They are the fake, fake, disgusting news.”
“Fake.” “Disgusting.” “Enemy of the people.” As inappropriate as these characterizations are coming from a national leader — one publicly elected, anyway; dictators often chart this course — the hatred they whip up among the trumped-up crowds is worse.
CNN, a particular target of Trump’s ire, is often singled out. So it was that the network’s White House reporter, Jim Acosta, was forced to report from the Wilkes-Barre event amid a storm of insults, abuse and offensive hand gestures from the crowd. Make America Hate Again?
Acosta, for his part, handled the vitriol like a pro, later tweeting that he enjoyed speaking with many in the crowd after the event. But for a president to target for ridicule a news organization or reporter who has been publicly confined amid thousands of partisans is to flirt with violence. Or worse.
We’re not triggered.
We’re not melting.
We’re just concerned.
If one of these feeding frenzies gets out of hand, there is little indication that Trump would have the know-how, let alone the inclination, to halt it.
And it may yet come to that if the administration doesn’t find a way to restrain the president’s worst instincts and GOP leadership in Congress continues to sit by passively.
There is irony, of course, in the fact that, for all of his moaning about fake news there is no bigger purveyor of it than the president himself.
Even during the Wilkes-Barre event, to offer an example ready at hand, he again characterized Russia’s efforts to influence U.S. elections as a “hoax.” This just hours after the administration’s top intelligence officials held a joint news conference to stress the immediacy of Russian threats and their efforts to combat them. Don’t tell us, tell your boss!
History will record this chapter as a time of brave journalism vs. petty demagoguery. It will recount a battle in which First Amendment rights and a free press were under withering assault from an administration hostile to transparency, fair news coverage and the truth itself.
Let’s just hope it’s a battle that ends without any physical casualties.