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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, June 06, 2017

 

They've sharpened a stick at both ends

by Tom Sullivan

Ed Kilgore considers a McClatchy report about the 2018 GOP strategy for fueling public hatred of reporters. They've turned the ritualized working of the refs into "an integral part of next year’s congressional campaigns," as McClatchy reported days ago:

The hope, say these officials, is to convince Trump die-hards that these mid-term races are as much a referendum on the media as they are on President Trump. That means embracing conflict with local and national journalists, taking them on to show Republicans voters that they, just like the president, are battling a biased press corps out to destroy them.
They don't have Hillary Clinton to kick around anymore. They need a new beast with which to frighten the littluns.

Kilgore adds:
The strategy makes some cold political sense. Base mobilization is really the only effective defense an incumbent White House party can pursue in midterms, where the relatively few swing voters usually tilt toward the “out party” unless the president is very popular. And attacking the media has the dual value of reminding “the base” of an old conservative punching bag while neutralizing any inconvenient media reporting or analysis that undermines the GOP. And as a bonus, it may also intimidate members of the Fourth Estate into more favorable coverage of the GOP.
Attacking the press is pretty much old hat for the GOP. Kilgore dredges up a quote from Eisenhower:
“Let us particularly scorn the divisive efforts of those outside our family, including sensation-seeking columnists and commentators, because I assure you that these are people who couldn’t care less about the good of our party.”
"Safe from shame or self-consciousness behind the mask of his paint," Trump named the press "the enemy of the American People" in a new improvization on an even older theme. Though "enemy of the people" has roots in Roman times, Business Insider's Veronika Bondarenko wrote, the phrase and its variants saw action during the "Reign of Terror," during the Third Reich, and under Stalin.

But branding the press the enemy as a formalized, national campaign strategy by a political party in the United States of America is, well ... novel. Kilgore wonders:
The obvious question these plans raise is whether there is any awareness of a limit to acceptable media-bashing — particularly in the wake of the literal bashing of an actual journalist by now-congressman-elect Greg Gianforte of Montana.
As biguns, Trump and Gianforte have set a clear example for their tribe to follow. Trump, you will recall, promised he would "pay for the legal fees" of any supporter who might "knock the crap" out of a protester at his rallies, and stated his people were looking into doing so for another supporter who did just that. So far, Gianforte has paid no price for the alleged assault. He has yet to appear in court. Reportedly worth hundreds of millions of dollars, though, Gianforte can pay his own legal fees. Between them and other well-heeled GOP, donors, they can buy a lot of face paint and sharp sticks.

“I’m warning you. I’m going to get angry. D’you see? You’re not wanted," said the Lord of the Flies.