In times of perceived crisis, the American liberal mind instinctively reaches for reassurance in its great dream of impartial reason. The noble pursuit of above-the-fray truth is besieged on all fronts, the stout refrain usually goes, and the most urgent order of business, in view of this sorry state of affairs, is to subject the sanctums of our higher learning to bracing corrective discipline in the name of free and open inquiry.
One might well ask, amid this new chorus of pundit swooning, why is it that so many of the Trump administration’s policies are explicitly designed to foment hate and evil? The painfully obvious M.O. of the Trump White House is to deny basic civil protections to the vast swathes of the population the great leader randomly deems to be a threat to real American values: immigrants, Muslims, inner-city (read: black and less privileged) residents.
The key directive for the media, now that the Post’s reporting has claimed its first White House casualty, is not to let up on its side of its battle with the Trump White House for a moment. After all, the Flynn saga shows in stark relief that the preferred operating procedure in the sanctums of Trumpian power is complete executive impunity.
One of the rarely acknowledged liabilities of a corporate-run media is its diehard resistance to plain speech and direct action. In one of my former, more respectable editing gigs, I was soberly instructed never to use the word “reform” to characterize pending legislation, because the phrase was simply too inflammatory.
Like any well-trained lap dog, our national political press is rallying to the unique challenge of covering an incoming American president who is a notoriously truth-averse merchant of social-media make believe by performing the one trick it knows how to do when a new master’s in the house: rolling over for a tummy rub.
How does a decades-old plutocratic convergence of power look to the hometown paper of America’s public-sector ruling class? Why, like a puckish plotline in a high-living thirties comedy of manners, or as fodder for a campy sci-fi horror punchline, that’s how!
It was pretty much obvious at the outset of Liz Spayd’s tenure as New York Times public editor that the paper had elevated a dangerous simpleton into a position of influence. And now, with Spayd’s tone-deaf chiding of Times reporters for mostly anodyne comments on the empty spectacle of the Trump transition and call-outs to critics of President-elect Trump (another dangerous simpleton recently elevated into a position of influence), we’re seeing all the tell-tale signs of a full-fledged intellectual meltdown.
In line with venerable liberal tradition, the disaster known as Election ’16 has bred a slew of culprits behind the surprise defeat of Hillary Clinton, all reassuringly distant from the leadership sanctums of the national Democratic Party: James Comey, WikiLeaks, Vladimir Putin, Bernie Sanders and his cast of bros, etc.
As America’s diehard corps of data journalists and omni-explainers wail over the smoldering ruin of their shiny, digital forecasting models, the time seems ripe for the rest of us to ask why the activity of polling is tethered to the news business in the first place.
It seems entirely fitting that in the final stretch of a presidential campaign militantly indifferent to a host of policy crises, from climate change to wealth inequality, from antitrust prosecutions to affordable housing, the American public is left to gnaw maliciously on a pair of conspiracy theories.
While media goliaths continue to merge and recombine, one plucky upstart has lately captured the imagination of the infotainment world. I speak, naturally, of the Facebook-only nightly newscast now airing at the behest of the Donald Trump campaign, “Trump Tower Live.” Since Facebook has conquered the news world without benefit of any recognizably human editing, and since the Trump campaign has made its name by sundering all vestigial ties to consensual reality, this would seem to be a textbook example of advanced media synergy.