EDITORIAL: Forget the facts, ma'am

Dispatch Editorial Board

Apparently, state Sen. Kristen Phillips-Hill doesn't much like the media.

That's news to us.

Speaking this past week at a campaign rally for President Donald Trump, Phillips-Hill, R-York Township, decided to chide the media among the seemingly compulsory list of grievances required of any denizen of Trump World. 

She likened Democrats to socialists. She lauded the crowed as "patriots." And, wisely, she stuck almost exclusively to the economy, instead of foraying into Trump's disastrous attempts at foreign or social policy.

Mentioning brown children in cages might have hampered the mood.

But Phillips-Hill also spent significant time lampooning the "mainstream media," an inaccurate, monolithic pejorative used to castigate anyone who spends their time fact-checking a president with an aversion to the truth.

State Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill speaks at President Donald Trump's "Keep America Great" rally at the Giant Center in Hershey Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019. Bill Kalina photo

Even the "mainstream media" had to suck it up and accept that the U.S. economy was booming, flummoxing the "experts," she said, before making the dubious claim that Trump was somehow responsible for Pennsylvania's budgetary surplus.

Experts are the enemy in Trump World, too, by the way. They, like journalists, are also members of some nebulous "elite" class, even though they tend to wield less power and make a smaller salary than those leveling the charge.  

Phillips-Hill then spent more than a minute in a seven-minute speech reading headlines form the likes of "even The New York Times" about various economic indicators.

Phillips-Hill's code-speak was explicit. And, for the hardworking journalists throughout Phillips-Hill's district, it was just another unnecessary attack on a beleaguered industry.

Now, some defenders have said, assaults such as the one launched by Phillips-Hill are targeted at the big players. But anyone who's spent time in a local newsroom is keenly aware that the contempt for journalists that Trump employs to crush dissent doesn't discriminate based on circulation or Nielsen ratings.

Reporters are regularly met with cries of "fake news" from local officials unhappy about a divisive issue. Editors constantly receive phone calls from angry readers griping about the "MSM." And, as shown last week, local reporters are in the crowd when the president points his finger and blasts journalists, an act that typically prompts angry jeers from his supporters.

Regardless of what elected officials say, most journalists seek only the truth. They go about their business of holding those in power to account. And they do so in the face of near-constant contempt and harassment. 

Phillips-Hill talked a lot about jobs at Trump's rally this past week. Yet she felt compelled to tear down her very own constituents who were just doing theirs.

In so doing, Phillips-Hill lent her voice to a movement that's undercutting journalists throughout the country, the majority of whom work at small shops.

Phillips-Hill's was an attack on truth itself, a bulwark of a functional republic. It's a strategy employed solely by those who benefit from propaganda rather than fact.