Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Sadly, It's All Even MORE True Now!

What follows is something that I wrote and posted here more than four months ago. 
Read it and consider that, if anything, things have only gotten worse. In fact, some of the examples that I cite are mild compared to what we've experienced within the last few days. And remember, this was all prior to the Inauguration.
Here goes:

Many people are acting as if the presidential campaign never ended -- as if the election never happened.
That's too bad. And it's not the way things are supposed to work in the good 'ole USA.

When I was a kid in eighth grade, we had a teacher at our well-worn urban schoolhouse who was a prim and proper suburbanite and a staunch Republican. We knew her affiliation because during the hotly contested 1960 campaign she sported a Nixon button on her overcoat. Now, she never,  ever expressed her political views in the classroom. That would have crossed a line and she always followed the rules.
But after one of the closest elections in history was over and the results were in, a student asked her if she was disappointed at how things had turned out. "The election's over," she answered. "The people have spoken. Kennedy won. He's my president now," she added "and I respect him as the President of the United States and wish him well."

I never forgot that. It impressed me. And not just because she was a good sport and recognized that the other team had won and her team lost.
No, it impressed me because this was more than a game. This was democracy at work. This outcome had real consequences for all of us -- for our city, our state, for the nation and the world. It mattered in people's everyday lives. And she recognized this and she was acting as a good citizen. She was showing, as Benjamin Franklin said that there are times when "we must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately." This brief moment in our history was one of those times.
But that was more than 56 years ago.

When Barack Obama was elected in 2008 and again in 2012 I immediately took to Facebook to congratulate those who supported him and wish him and them well. And, I even joined with liberal friends to commemorate President Obama's inauguration. As reported here, it was all in good fun. We closed ranks to honor the moment and recognize the peaceful and orderly transition of power in the world's greatest democracy. Even though I didn't agree with them, I was happy for my friends. That's the way it should be, yes?

But sadly, this year it simply doesn't seem to be turning out that way.

What we're experiencing from far too many of our liberal friends is a daily drumbeat of rancor, bitterness, resentment and invective. And, among the most surly and consistent offenders are current and former members of the news media -- the very people who would be expected to keep an open mind on such matters or at least set a minimal standard for balance and objectivity. But in many cases, that's not happening. Instead, they're tossing insults about during the critical period after the election but before the inauguration, a time that cries out for unity and cohesion.

What insults? Well, here are some examples gleaned from Facebook and similar social media outlets:
  • A group of daily newspapers ran a political cartoon showing a cutaway of Trump's head featuring a pompadour, a scowl. a quadruple chin and a huge brain that happened to be completely empty - cavernous. The caption? "Central Intelligence Agency."
  • A reporter listed the things that Trump thinks are overrated as follows: "the First Amendment, ethics, paying taxes, civil rights, climate change, equality, intelligence briefings and laughing." The same reporter posted items suggesting that Trump's cabinet nominations were being rushed through to avoid ethics probes; alleging that the GOP was "smearing" Obama's legacy to bring down Obamacare; terming Mitch McConnell a hypocrite and charging that Donald Trump is a "jerk store version" of a president. And then he called Trump "Putin's useful idiot.'
  • A well-known local columnist featured a sign at the top of his Facebook page declaring "Not My President" and tagged the beginning of the Trump era as "nothing less than the slow creep of fascism." 
  • Another journalist dismissed Donald Trump's victory as a matter of "petulance over politics" and sloughed off a Trump supporter as among those "who never take responsibility for their bullshit." Reacting to a post from someone defending Trump, he replied "you should Google this bullshit you swallow before you upchuck it."  
  • Still another scribe referred to Trump as "our egomaniac-elect," called incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer "a cartoon character" and concluded of Trump: "He can't put together a coherent sentence because he doesn't have any coherent thoughts -- except about himself." And President Obama? Well, he "was gracious, eloquent, and inspiring. In other words, everything his successor promises not to be." 
  • A former journalist whose byline is still quite well known summed up his view of Trump as follows: "Petty ... Childish ... Boorish ... Ignorant ... Narcissistic ... SORE WINNER!" But that wasn't enough. He then added this: "Hey Trumpty Dumpty ... When the people get tired of your constant lies and self obsessed publicity stunts ... your hair is definitely going to get mussed!"
  • Still another former journalist put it this way: "It's not politics, it's personal. It's about a self-aggrandizing, narcissistic clown." But that wasn't enough, because he felt the need to express his view that "anyone can see this man is unqualified and brazenly disinterested in properly preparing to lead our country." And, if you want to challenge this, he has a simple answer: "I'm tired of arguing with Trump people so I will not bother.
  • And yet another correspondent has circulated the federal statute which he apparently feels will serve as grounds for the future president's impeachment. You got that right; he's actually gathering what appear to be impeachment material now -- something about a conflict of interest. This is a member of the media who seems to be savoring the take down of a president before he even takes the oath of office. 
Empty-headed. Clown. Self-aggrandizing. Unqualified. Incoherent. Childish. Boorish. Ignorant. Narcissistic. Jerk store version. Trumpty Dumpty. Cartoon character. Fascism. Petulant. Bullshit. Impeachable.

Well, maybe Trump should have considered the consequences before he deigned to criticize people who buy ink by the barrel. But maybe he was simply giving voice to millions who were fed up with media bias anyway. As Dan Rather used to say at the end of his broadcasts: "Courage!"

Still, it's probably the name-calling that's the most destructive -- the continuing use of all these recklessly hurled insults, tossed about with such juvenile abandon. No one is looking for worshipfulness here but don't you think we have a right to expect more than this?

Don't you think we have a right to expect more than daily, conscious, calculated attempts to delegitimize the next leader of the free world?

I understand that members of the media and their cohorts may attempt to defend themselves by saying they are, for the most part, freely expressing their own individual views and feelings on their own social media accounts. But by publishing such strident views in this manner (and this is a form of publishing) they are broadcasting a definitive and intense bias. So, how can they maintain any semblance of objectivity or fairness? How?

And this now seems to be the norm rather than the exception. It seems almost epidemic.

Yes, today's media often appear to inhabit a vast echo chamber -- one that is self-perpetuating, crude, dismissive, but most of all cynical. And, according to Peggy Noonan, it's the rampant cynicism that should trouble us most of all. Here's how she puts it:
Anything that increases public cynicism in America is, at this point, a very particular and damaging sin. It spreads an air of social defeatism. It saps the civic will. It makes earnest and trusting people feel like dopes and dupes. It makes trusting parents look clueless to their children. . . .
"Cynicism doesn’t just make everything worse; it creates a new kind of bad. It kills, for instance, the idea of merit. You don’t rise through talent and effort; you rise through lies, connections, silence, the rules of the gang. That gives the young an unearned bitterness. That is a terrible thing for adults to do, to deprive the young of the idealism that helps them rise cleanly and with point."
The rules of the gang. 

Is this what we've come to -- gangland journalism?

I hope not.

Because if that's so, it's a far cry from that decent and honorable classroom teacher who held fast to her own views while setting a nonetheless respectful example for everyone else.
That's the America we should strive for.

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