In today’s installment of “mild criticism on Twitter necessitates a nuclear hissyfit,” Beltway journalists act like being asked to not air Trump’s unhinged racist ranting live is tantamount to telling them to all quit their jobs and make butter in the country:
— Paul Farhi (@farhip) July 8, 2018
(They should all quit their jobs and go make butter. Butter is useful and has hurt nobody. Then we can give their jobs to people who aren’t so easily butthurt and don’t throw whiny hissies on Twitter.)
Since America’s Most Important Journalists have apparently run out of ways to cover something, other than pointing a camera directly at a podium and listening in respectful silence in real time, I have some suggestions.
Ten of them, in fact.
Ten ways to “cover” a Trump rally that don’t involve repeating word-for-word what the president said or airing it live uncritically. These are in no particular order, though the first one is something I’ve suggested in good faith to journo friends/students.
Here we go:
- Stick around after the event is over. Interview the cleanup staff. What did they (likely low-wage employees of a contractor or venue, likely also non-white) think about what they overheard?
- Related: What gets left behind after a Trump rally? Empty out a garbage bin and write a list of everything inside there.
- Pick one person, just one, inside the rally and stick with them the entire time. Tell the story of the rally from their perspective. Now pick a person outside the rally. Do the same. Tell the two stories in turn, without judging either.
- Real-time fact check, a la Daniel Dale. Preferably without using any cutesy “four pants-on-fires” bullshit.
- Count the number of times Trump repeats himself. He doesn’t just say untrue shit, he says the same untrue shit, over and over and over. Find a line he’s used a thousand times and list all the times he’s used it and in what contexts.
- Trump goes into a community for one of these things. What does it cost that community? Police, fire, security, cleanup, setup, traffic, etc. How many people locally get pressed into service?
- Find the person who would be affected the most by Trump’s message that day. If you know where he’s going to be, a local organization can find you somebody to talk to. You know what his bugaboos are: immigrants, veterans, etc. Have somebody local in these places on call for those topics in case he goes off.
- Change your perspective. If he’s gonna be on about the military, watch the speech from a VFW. Watch the speech from a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, public library, anyplace where people are the farthest from public policymaking but most impacted by it.
- Get genuine response. Don’t just ask the chairman of the local Dem organization for a perfunctory “what a complete load of bullshit, say some critics who may or may not be right because we have no ability to tell” obligation-graf. Get a response that presents an alternate reality to what you heard from Trump. Say to someone, “If you had given a speech here tonight as president, what would you have talked about?”
- Trump clock: Note when he makes a promise of something happening there in the town you’re in. Return to it when that deadline passes. Keep returning to it.
These are all things that can be done while feeding neither Trump’s ego nor, honestly, the Resistance. Nobody’s asking you to stand there screaming YOU LIE every second, which is what you’d have to do, because he lies every second.
What we are asking are perspectives that don’t involve simply repeating what he said with his title after it and giving it the same credence as you would a pronouncement from a normal president.
Though I suppose that makes us just as bad as people who want to put journalists in concentration camps and hang them from the sour apple tree.
And if you’re reaching for that argument, maybe pick up a butter churn instead.