A post originally published at Informed Comment blog that we reprinted last week about the media’s role in Trump’s ascendency led to thousands of reader comments. Below are some highlights of what they said.
In the post, How the US Went Fascist: Mass Media Make Excuses for Trump Voters, scholar and writer Juan Cole characterizes the Fourth Estate, as well as the GOP, as essentially “useless” in standing up to the leading Republican presidential candidate.
“It has been a dreadful performance by the press and by party leaders,” Cole writes. “They are speaking in such a way as to naturalize the creepy, weird and completely un-American positions Trump has taken.” Cole adds that Trump should have been kicked out of the GOP a long time ago.
He notes the mass media has not only relentlessly “pumped Trump” into our living rooms but also has explained away his supporters’ “sexist and racist” views. Cable news pundits routinely report that those who support a candidate Cole describes as a “white nationalist,” committed to standing up for “white Christian people against the Chinese, the Mexicans and the Muslims” are “just upset” and looking for an outsider who will shake up the status quo in Washington.
His post led to thousands of comments (some lightly edited below) on BillMoyers.com and Facebook – with over 17,000 people sharing it there.
Scott Outman, who wrote the most liked Facebook comment, agrees that Trump is a menace, adding: “He’s not the cause of this rampant racism and hypocrisy and bigotry… What he’s done is find the very lowest level of the human heart, where hatred and cruelty and cowardice lives, and he’s brought that rot up into the light. He’s made racism acceptable. He’s made bigotry acceptable. He’s made indecency acceptable…” Outman’s comment has so far received 4,700 likes. John Retherford adds: “It’s not some fluke that so many are flocking to him. People feel like they finally have someone who represents how they really think and feel.”
Another commenter Ron Geiger was surprised when he found out how some friends really think and feel about Trump’s “racist, xenophobic” views. He writes, “I discovered to my dismay that quite a few of my good Christian friends from church think exactly this way but never exposed it before. The prejudices that linger within us despite our best efforts today are said out loud and applauded by others as breaking ‘political correctness.'”
Numerous commenters wrote that the mainstream media’s treatment of Trump is reflective of a dangerously broken system. Trevor Dawes writes: “The Fourth Estate has abdicated its responsibility of being democracy’s watchdog and not the government’s or some demagogue’s lapdog. Combined with the seemingly successful dumbing down campaign which has made more Americans more inane, ignorant and (mentally) illiterate, this is the end result.”
One commenter at BillMoyers.com, Centgeorgiaboy, adds that the media lost its credibility when “they were all cowed by the Bush administration from challenging the lies about illegally invading Iraq for those non-existent WMDs.”
B. Campbell writes that not only for-profit news but the revocation of the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine in 1987 helped put an end to responsible reporting. He adds, “The right was the first to take advantage of the new circumstances created during and after the Reagan Administration. Inevitably, the left responded and Americans became polarized by the two camps. To restore balance, we must reign in both sides by making it impossible for blowhards like Trump to get away with deliberate lies.” (Editor’s note: Politifact characterizes 79 percent of Trump’s statements as false or mostly false.)
Mel Aranoff disagrees with Cole’s premise that the mainstream media has given Trump a pass. “This is a rare time when I rush to the defense of the mass media and might note that for the most part they have constantly been going after Trump despite the implications of this piece.”
Ivan Goldman could not disagree more: “Trump’s learned he can just make stuff up (Muslims celebrating in New Jersey, for example) and the media talk about it a day or two and forget it. Each lie stands by itself. Nothing goes into context. ”
Follow the Money
Like many others, Debra Killian, encourages us to follow the corporate media’s money trail to discover what’s really going on: “Trump says something outrageous, and gets free air time. He is good for ratings and ratings sells advertising. Simple math. Trump is buying the White House.”
A rush by the news media to get the story first is part of the problem, according to windk. As a result, “verifying any factual information fades to the background. Since Mr. Trump is the perfect “shock jock” candidate, he and big media are strange bedfellows – each feeds off the other, even if neither will admit it.”
Steve Stofka cynically takes aim at Cole, by characterizing his description of Trump as over the top. “You forgot to call Trump a ‘blood-thirsty tyrant’ who incites people to arson, murder and rebellion.” Stofka goes on to say that the public has been “betrayed by selfish decisions” by Democratic and Republican politicians. “Those same politicians and administrators claim the high moral ground and point to Donald Trump, accusing him of betraying the founding principles of this country. Hardly. Both parties did that a long time ago.”
Besides many intelligent, thoughtful comments on Facebook and BillMoyers.com, some chose to go down the Trumpian path of slinging irrelevant insults. As Marc wrote in response to Cole’s article: “What people are failing to comprehend is that we all have racist, sexist and even murderous thoughts as our minds can think anything. What divides us from crazy people is our ability to understand that we are not controlled by our random or negative thoughts and that we can use our reason, compassion and education to guide ourselves out of the darkness and into the light.”