The New York Times, which has worked strenuously after each new, enormous scandal to ensure that those who support Trump despite the latest revelation are given many times the column space of any American who has turned against him, is once again expressing extreme alarm that in the wake of the anti-Semitic mass murder of 11 Americans and pipe bombings directed at Trump's most hated enemies, Trump is attacking … well, them. The news media.
And for some reason, assuredly not related in the slightest to the Times' pre- and post-election insistence on normalizing his racism, sexism, corruption, incompetence, vitriol, encouragement of violence, and the most radical elements of his base, his attacks on the media "are working."
After mocking and insulting penned-in reporters on the campaign trail, Mr. Trump continued going after journalists the day after he was sworn in, over the size of his Inauguration Day crowd. Then came the “fake news,” “enemy of the people” negative branding campaign against those who would hold him to account.
And the media did not respond. They did not do the one thing that would have made the most difference, and the one thing that would have forced Trump into retreat: pulling their reporters from the events Trump used to stoke hatred against them. Even now, they turn the cameras to the jeering, obscenity-shouting crowds. Perhaps they will catch the next domestic terrorist in their camera lenses, as they did the current one.
By one measure, a CBS News poll over the summer, 91 percent of “strong Trump supporters” trust him to provide accurate information; 11 percent said the same about the news media.
And the media did nothing, despite this being a symptom of a very particular disease. It is Fox News. It is Fox News that, on a daily basis, intentionally repeats Trump's worst and most malignant lies about immigrants, about black Americans, about "liberals," about too-Jewish billionaires. If Trump supporters "believe" hateful rhetoric from a possible dementia-addled but definitely lying and catastrophically ignorant man, it is because those lies are endorsed, supported, and backed by conservative media figures who have as much or more contempt for the free press as Trump himself does.
Fox News is directly responsible for popularizing most of the "president's" worst and most spiteful lies; they themselves broadcast those lies into his head far more often than they scooped things out of it. The rest of the national press refuses to publicly acknowledge that they are something considerably different than the journalists they mingle with and claim to be; there have been not a stitch of repercussions for their malignant deformation of the press from a tool of information to a tool of disinformation.
Breitbart News was long a site where white nationalist hate speech was filtered and mainstreamed for a wider audience. It and similar sites are responsible for countless hoaxes, each crafted to stoke a potentially violent hatred of their enemies. The rest of the media treated them as legitimate, and booked their authors and favored voices, and gave them credence. The New York Times partnered with them to release a host of campaign-trail falsehoods against Trump's opponents, and did so with the full knowledge that those falsehoods were being promoted by partisan propagandists with little patience for the truth, and did so as a money-making venture.
It continues, and the media figures being targeted by these bombs, who have tried absolutely nothing, are now all out of ideas.
Now, partisan smears are a staple of every single news cycle. As crude pipe bombs were discovered at CNN headquarters and in mailboxes across the country, Mr. Trump’s supporters like the Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, Rush Limbaugh and the conservative writer Ann Coulter asserted that the crime was a frame job by Democrats.
Then treat them as the cancers on democracy that they are. Treat them as the vectors for violence against Trump's enemies that they so aggressively insist on being. Fox Business host Lou Dobbs has been relentless in peddling a host of conspiracy theories in which federal government investigators are mounting a conspiracy against Trump by investigating and prosecuting a host of criminal acts by his inner campaign circle. Lou Dobbs, the man, directly promotes the theory that powerful Jewish interests are conspiring to bring refugees to America as a plot against decent white Americans.
Lou Dobbs, the man, was insistent that the attempted murder of Trump's most often-named enemies was a plot against his protofascist, violence-provoking leader.
Perhaps the New York Times could devote a front-page story to the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories peddled by Lou Dobbs. Interview Jewish Americans who fear violence based on his lies, rather than yet another profile of Midwestern Trump supporters who are giddy that someone is finally "speaking up" by promoting 100-year-old anti-Semitic conspiracies imported from worse times and worse movements. Perhaps that is something the New York Times could do, to document these times, and to properly inform the American public of the dynamic that continues to foment violent acts by unhinged people.
It is one thing to allow, in a handful of stories scattered across two years of chaos, that Donald Trump is a dishonest man who for his own reasons is attempting to cause great damage to the nation's ability to distinguish between truth and fiction at all. It is another to single out the fellow "media" figures who incessantly, relentlessly, brought his movement to that place before Donald Trump was a candidate for anything.
Before Lou Dobbs demonized George Soros, Bill O'Reilly demonized a single Kansas doctor. That doctor was killed. Glenn Beck's falsehoods promoted violence against a liberal foundation that his viewers had never even heard of before he scribbled the name on a whiteboard and insisted that they were part of a conspiracy that needed to be stopped.
And Fox News, nightly, peddles lies equal in falsehoods and malignancy to anything Trump spits out. It is they, not Donald Trump, that have given the public the opportunity to choose between the true narrative of any story and a more pleasing false and conspiracy-laced version. It is the pundits that repeat Trump's lies—often on the editorial pages of the New York Times and other papers—that give Trump's supporters the confidence that they, too, can believe and spread false information just as the professionals of the proto-fascist "movement" do.
America has many racists. The ones with television shows are far more newsworthy than the ones shuffling through rural diners. The ones with television shows are, by a hundred thousand times, more destructive to the foundational elements of democracy itself.
This is not about Trump. Trump is the symptom of a disease that predates him; if Trump vanished from the nation tomorrow, Mike Pence would continue in his stead with nary a missed beat. He, too, would spread the same lies. Republican senators would continue. Rep. Matt Gaetz would still publicly suggest it is Jewish money behind Central American migration patterns. Lou Dobbs would still insist on spreading hoaxes. Tucker Carlson would still invite the spokesmen for violent white supremacy on his network and crinkle his chin as they spread conspiracies lifted from the back of yesterday's scribbled pamphlets.
It is not Trump who is attacking the free press. It is a new movement that treats truth and hoax as interchangeable, so long as it leads to the correct electoral outcomes. It is far more dangerous than Trump, and the New York Times has been entirely absent from the fight against it. Entirely.