The Media Myth of Powerlessness

Josh Marshall asks everyone to please grow up: 

It is vastly preferable to have a President who believes in or at least respects American and democratic values. But let’s get real: we don’t or won’t as of Friday. Trump is a would-be authoritarian and a bully. He’s surrounded by mediocrities who owe all to him and feel validated by enabling his endless transgressions. Of course, he’s doing these things. We know Trump’s MO. He will bully people until they’re cowed and humiliated and obedient. He’ll threaten to kick the reporters out of the White House and then either cut a ‘deal’ or make some big to-do about ‘allowing’ the reporters to stay. These are all threats and mind games meant not so much to cow the press as make them think Trump is continually taking things away from them and that they need to make him stop.

They don’t need to. That access isn’t necessary to do their jobs. And bargaining over baubles of access which are of little consequence is not compatible with doing their job. Access can provide insight and understanding. But it’s almost never where the good stuff comes from. Journalists unearth factual information and report it. If Trump wants to turn America into strong man state, journalists should cover that story rather than begging Trump not to be who he is.

Emphasis mine, because that’s been the undercurrent of all the coverage since the convention, and before that it was the undercurrent of all the coverage OF ALL THE OTHER REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES.

Like if only Ted Cruz was not a widely loathed and ineffective legislator, and seemed less like a bug in a skin suit, he’d be a great standard-bearer for the party!

If only Ben Carson was not so damn not-smart, and could learn what the debt ceiling was and stop lying about his own autobiography, he’d be the perfect candidate!

If only Marco Rubio was not 12 years old and perpetually acting like he crammed for the test in the limo on the way over here, he’d be our savior!

And if Trump, Donald Trump who was nominated and elected for being exactly what he was, was not what he was, but was instead something else, then we could all go back to doing chitter-chat in the hallways about who did a gaffe and whatever else we are supposed to care about on the morning shows about politics.

I swear political bias annoys me not a fraction as much as the bias toward the Way Things Are Done. I grew up listening to Sally Quinn and David Broder bitching all around Dupont Circle that the Clintons were trailer trash who didn’t care about using the fish forks properly, and dove headlong into eight years of George W. Bush literally sanctioning a torture regime because he used the right words unlike hippies, after which followed almost a decade of Obama Cannot Appear Uppity, so you’ll pardon me if I don’t join the White House Correspondents Association on the barricades over where their bathrooms are going to be.

Far be it from me to defend Donald Trump, but if the man has a use it is in exposing exactly how little of what we say is important actually is. It is not an assault on the First Amendment if Trump is mean to a reporter or refuses to give properly timed press conferences or switches seats around so Breitbart and Cat Fancy can be right up in front where Helen Thomas used to sit. It’s rude and dumb, but it’s not a Constitutional crisis.

It is not an assault on the First Amendment to say reporters don’t get desks in the White House anymore. It is, at most, an assault on the location of office furniture.

You know what IS an assault on the First Amendment? This fucking Muslim registry Trump and his idiot sons of whores keep talking about, on which reporters are free to report even if they have to do it from the Starbucks down the street. 

So instead of wishing Trump wasn’t so much like Trump, and was instead like a nice president who gave them cookies while he undermined and mocked them, instead of wishing Republicans were not Republicans but were instead something else, why not sack the hell up and act like the guardians of freedom and democracy you’re demanding we call you. Stop pretending to be powerless. It’s playing small, and it doesn’t suit the ideals in which you want to cloak yourselves.


3 thoughts on “The Media Myth of Powerlessness

  1. Amen. Personally I’ve always preferred journalists who do, you know, journalism, instead of gushing about how cool it is to have coveted insider access…

  2. I also wrote about what Josh said. My focus was on what activists could do. I WOULD say this is what the MSM could do, but as Athenae has pointed out they are too busy figuring out how to get on the tire swing at Trump tower.

    Here is my post. Weaseling Out of Things Is A Core Trump Skill

    If they do get kicked out of the press conferences they might start noticing how Trump has continued to play them. So most of them are beyond help, but that doesn’t mean that WE can’t do their job.

    In the piece Marshall also said, “If you’re an activist or politician start mobilizing against his corruption.”

    I totally agree with this. And when we do, we need to understand how any stories we uncover about him and his corruption will be played out in the mainstream media. We also need to anticipate how Trump will flip a narrative or twist reality to shut down a story. We need to learn to give the press multiple story lines.

    That means we might start with salacious headlines but keep going deeper than the surface story.

    The reason for this is that in the era of Twitter, Trump is alway getting the last word. Getting him to respond to each new aspect of the story keeps the story going. (In the olden day’s people would say, “That story has legs.” Sadly the media do NOT think this way–so we need to.

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