|From Facebook, image on CNN posted by Dennis Stouse: Victims of Maryland shooting.|
For the record, I think that meme goes too far. I don’t think President Trump is to blame for the tragedy in Maryland. But I don’t think he’s innocent, either.
Starting in his campaign, our current president has carried on a Republican tradition of using news media as a punching bag. It’s useful to note that was also the approach of President Nixon, who initiated so many political strategies that have both benefited the modern Republican party and hurt our democracy—the new southern strategy, the crude emphasis on “law and order,” the win-at-all-costs ethos that isn’t unique to Nixon among politicians, but that certainly in his case went a few evil and illegal steps too far.
And, just as global warming doesn’t cause every hurricane, President Trump doesn’t cause all acts of violence against journalists. Then again, hurricanes are more powerful and more numerous due to climate change—so it’s not an error to think that action to mitigate global warming might be a good idea in the aftermath of a hurricane (or, honestly, why wait—in the before math, too).
So it is with Trump. His hectoring of journalists at weird Trump campaign-style rallies, his penning them in and singling them out, his insistence on lies and calling media “fake” because they don’t accept his clearly non-factual statements—the drumbeat of “they are the enemies” is bound to have an impact.
That impact is not direct to the Maryland shootings, I’ll accept that. But I also just read Katy Tur’s book on the 2016 campaign. The level of hostility towards reporters encouraged by The Donald is horrifying to read about.
|March 14, 2016 cartoon by Gary Varnel of The Indianapolis Star. From editorialcartoonists.com, the web site of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists Sadly, still true today.|
The front page of the Capital Gazette today was tragic to see. Go to their web site for profiles of Rob Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman, John McNamara, Wendi Winters and Rebecca Smith. They were members of a shrinking class in America—most were professional writers toiling to bring the best version of truth that they could obtain to their readers.
|Image from Newseum.org.|
They weren’t fake. They weren’t enemies of the American people. They should not have been targets of anybody’s wrath.
I do feel a heavy heart today. Talented, bright people who labored in service of others—that’s what most newspaper journalists do—were gunned down. The tribe has lost some talented souls.
No, President Trump is not directly to blame. But his responses have been tepid and timid. He tweeted “thoughts and prayers,” which seems like political code for “I don’t take any responsibility and wont’ take any action,” and thanked the first responders. Well, OK—thank you first responders. But there was no recognition of the victims as journalists. And he ignored reporters’ requests for comment during a walk-by photo op.
Of all people, Sarah Huckabee Sanders did better. She tweeted that a “violent attack on innocent journalists doing their job is an attack on every American.” Sarah, can you talk to your boss about that?
Justin Trudeau, prime minister of Canada, also did better. His tweet about the shooting was: “Journalists tell the stories of our communities, protect democracy & often put their lives on the line to do their jobs.”
It would have been nice to have our president echo ideas like those. But his anti-media bias is too deep, and I can draw only one conclusion.
The great enemy of the American people and of democracy? His name is Donald.