The mainstream corporate news media often denies the obvious facts of the present in order to make them more shocking later on. This is a means of distorting reality and feeding the outrage machine with the ultimate goal of profit maximization.
To wit, last week The New York Times released a widely discussed video compilation of the racist, sexism, bigoted, misogynistic, and other hateful language that is common at Donald Trump’s political rallies and other events. The New York Times’ reporters began gathering this footage for “Unfiltered Voices From Donald Trump’s Crowds” when Trump’s campaign formally began in 2015.
It features Donald Trump’s rabble calling Barack Obama a “nigger,” reciting Nazi chants, saying that Hillary Clinton should be “hung” and that she is a “bitch,” as well as expelling profanities out of their mouths about Hispanics, Latinos, and Muslims.
The New York Times explained that their reporters had been so focused on the unpredictability of Donald Trump’s speeches—and the potential for violence at his events—that they were numb to the ugly behavior he was inspiring among his minions:
All that helps explain why we waited until only recently to turn our attention to the very inflammatory, and often just plain vile, things that many people showing up to support Mr. Trump’s campaign were saying out loud — often very loudly — or wearing on their T-shirts and hats.
Politics at its best can be inspiring. But many in Mr. Trump’s audiences were being inspired to express themselves in hateful, coarse, profane, obscene or just plain nasty ways.
Shifting our focus to those outbursts was an eye-opener. Ashley Parker, one of our most experienced reporters covering the Trump campaign, said she realized she had become somewhat inured to these displays. And that makes sense: If you’re on the lookout for actual violence, you sift out mere vulgarity or racism.
This is but one more example of how the so-called “liberal media” have enabled and coddled the rise of the American proto fascist Donald Trump. “Mere vulgarity and racism” are central to his appeal and power over many millions of American voters. To ignore this reality, is to overlook one of the most important dynamics in the 2016 presidential campaign. Moreover, to “sift out” “vulgarity” and “racism” is a failure to understand the degree to which racism, sexism, nativism, white supremacy, and authoritarianism are values and beliefs that have come to dominate movement conservatism and the Republican Party in the post civil rights era—and especially the Age of Obama.
To bracket out the racism, bigotry, and hateful behavior at Donald Trump’s rallies also requires a high amount of willful denial regarding the type of poison he represents in the American body politic. Here, The New York Times is ignoring their own excellent reporting on Donald Trump’s rallies by writers such as Jared Yates Sexton. The New York Times is also somehow separating the violence inside Trump’s rallies where Black Lives Matter and other protesters have been threatened with being burned alive—an ominous allusion to America’s horrific and unique history of spectacular lynchings against its black citizens—from what is taking place outside. Most troubling, The New York Times, in now “discovering” the racism and bigotry among Trump’s supporters, has chosen to transform the mountains of public opinion and other social science research that has consistently demonstrated the role of racism, white racial animus, and authoritarianism in driving support for Donald Trump into mere curiosities and outliers, the equivalent of empirical anthills. This is intellectually dishonest.
In all, The New York Times chose to give the benefit of the doubt to a political candidate and his supporters who deserve no such latitude or safe harbor. Unfortunately, The New York Times was not alone among the American mainstream corporate news media in making such a mistake. Donald Trump’s proto fascist behavior was obvious to any reasonable observer both before and during the 2016 Republican Presidential Primaries. The corporate news media treated this as curious and entertaining, a means to make a profit off of the carnival barker professional wrestling-inspired GOP candidate’s antics.
They waited for “decent” and “responsible” Republicans to intervene. Instead, Trump became more popular; the “decency” of the Republican base and those sympathetic to them was exposed as a sham; there are few if any “decent” people in this iteration of the Republican Party.
Donald Trump mastered the meta game of the 24/7 cable news format and then continued to escalate his “unconventional” political behavior. The mainstream corporate news media and its so-called “experts” among the chattering classes were, with few exceptions, unprepared for this strategy. They stood on in awe, made impotent before Trumpmania.
Donald Trump would win the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. The members of the commentariat who are ensconced within the American corporate news media are humbled (for a moment) and must now engage in self-flagellation and faux public introspection in an effort to maintain legitimacy.
The New York Times and the mainstream corporate news media also failed because of a slavish devotion to the journalistic principle of “objectivity” in how they cover American politics. “Objectivity,” along with its related credos of “balance” and “fairness” are insufficient to correctly describe the political abomination and car wreck that is the Donald Trump phenomenon. Capital t “Truth” does have a bias. It is not neutral. It has never been.
The “objectivity” or “fairness” or “fair and balanced” that spawned Donald Trump’s ascendance in the Republican Party is the same type of ethics and thinking that in another time would have presented the struggle between white slavers and black human property, Nazis and the victims of their evil, and Bill Connor’s thugs and civil rights freedom fighters as “just a difference of opinion” in a field of comprehension where “both sides do it.” Such a framework for understanding empirical reality should be unconscionable. Unfortunately, in the American mainstream corporate news media and the 24/7 cable news cycle it is all too normal.
Bill Moyer’s warned about this in 2008 (my emphasis added):
Our media institutions, deeply embedded in the power structures of society, are not providing the information that we need to make our democracy work. To put it another way, corporate media consolidation is a corrosive social force. It robs people of their voice in public affairs and pollutes the political culture. And it turns the debates about profound issues into a shouting match of polarized views promulgated by partisan apologists who trivialize democracy while refusing to speak the truth about how our country is being plundered.
Our dominant media are ultimately accountable only to corporate boards whose mission is not life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for the whole body of our republic, but the aggrandizement of corporate executives and shareholders.
These organizations' self-styled mandate is not to hold public and private power accountable, but to aggregate their interlocking interests. Their reward is not to help fulfill the social compact embodied in the notion of "We, the people," but to manufacture news and information as profitable consumer commodities.
Although he writes for The New York Times--one of the “journals of record” in the United States, and thus a mouthpiece for elite power--Charles Blow is one of the few political commentators who has consistently spoken “truth to power” about Donald Trump. Writing last week, Blow laid down the gauntlet and made the following plain spoken observation about the role of racism in Donald Trump’s campaign and the Republican Party at large:
In their minds, whether explicitly or implicitly, America is white, Christian, straight and male-dominated. If you support Trump, you are on some level supporting his bigotry and racism. You don’t get to have a puppy and not pick up the poop.
And acceptance of racism is an act of racism. You are convicted by your complicity.
I am not accustomed to dancing around an issue; I prefer to call it what it is. I prefer to shine a bright light on it until it withers. Supporting Trump is indefensible and it makes you as much of a pariah as he is.
I would like to take Charles Blow’s observation one step farther and transform it into a call to action. Every Republican should be asked by their family members, peers, neighbors, and others if they support Donald Trump. Members of Congress and the Senate, as well as local officials should also be asked the same question by their constituents in person, by mail, over the phone, and through other means. If the answer is “yes” then the next question should be “why?” The closing question should then be, “Are you a racist?” If a person answers “no” then they should be asked, “Why are you still a Republican? How can a ‘decent’ person belong to a political party whose champion is a racist sexist bigot?”
These are not easy questions to ask. They may be met with hostility and defensiveness. Some people may actually be moved to support Donald Trump out of spite because such basic questions about personal character and morals are too much for them to bear. But in a moment of political crisis these questions are essential—even more so for members of a political party whose members so eagerly and hypocritically slur other people with Right-wing slogans about “personal responsibility.” It is long overdue that Republicans and movement conservatives held themselves to the same standard.