Sunday, November 29th 2020, FoxNews: The President of the United States Donald J. Trump proclaims he “will use 125% of my energy” during at least the next six months to continue trying to overthrow the November election results.
And so, now it begins. As the U.S. government transition gets underway – finally – news media and journalists face an unprecedented dilemma:
How much “oxygen” will you, should you, give to a president now — and soon, when he is a former president — as he undermines American democracy? This in the face of the monumental tasks – and genuine newsworthiness – of the new administration addressing the COVID pandemic, a wounded economy, a deeply divided nation and the plethora of domestic and international issues that come with the presidency.
The President’s attacks on American democracy center on his refusal to accept defeat in the national election.
His many unfounded assaults on the decision of some 155 million American voters – and, before the election, on the legitimacy of the voting process – have been refuted repeatedly by election authorities across the nation. The universal judgement of these authorities was best summed up by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency, made up of top state and federal election officials, with their assessment of the 2020 election as “the most secure in American history … There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost any votes, changed any votes, or was in any way compromised.” Link:
Nevertheless, the president persists in planting doubt among Americans. With many hundreds of tweets seeking contributions for his PAC – and undoubtedly many more such requests to come in the months ahead — he weakens faith in the American democratic process. His mendacious-masterful use of the presidential “bully pulpit” to capture news cycles has been described as “”flood the zones with _____ (expletive)”; a strategy reportedly originated by Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s early campaign counsel now indicted for unrelated financial fraud.
Not incidentally, in this attack on American democracy Trump also assaults the integrity and efficiency of the thousands of patriotic Americans, many of them registered Republicans,who worked tirelessly to guard and implement the voting process during the pandemic sweeping the country.Tragically, he has had significant success in this. A distressing percentage of his base believe him.
The New York Times conservative columnist Bret Stephens has provided a piercing explanation:
“The main point of the exercise is no longer (if it ever seriously was) to find a judge, governor or other pliable instrument to deny Joe Biden the presidency. It is to deny the legitimacy of the Biden presidency, of the electoral system that gave him the office and of the federal and judicial systems that turned Trump’s legal challenges aside… In other words it wasn’t just a conspiracy theory. It was a political weapon with the revolutionary aim of destroying democracy itself…” Link:
To explain why “… a majority of Republicans will believe literally anything Trump says”, Stephens invokes Hannah Arendt’s famous passage in “The Origins of Totalitarianism”: ‘Mass Propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow.'”
In the months and, perhaps, years ahead, news media anxious to sustain profitable high levels of subscriptions, ratings, clips, etc. could be tempted to continue to present much of deceit and chaos. Instead, classic journalism standards can and should prevail.
Moreover, there is much genuine news in the offing. The putative Biden Administration is already making genuine news – and will certainly continue to do so. In just the two days after the formal transition began Biden agency review team were reported to have made contact or met with over 50 agencies and commissions – some in the executive office of the president – and participated in more than two dozen virtual briefings. And Biden has just named his White House communication team — all women — who will implement this policy: “Communicating directly and truthfully to the American people is one of the most important duties of a President.”
But the Biden style of media relations is not conducive to the news trope, “If it bleeds it leads”. So, there are already amber signals of “media boredom”. A column by The New York Times Media Critic Ben Smith has laid this out in detail, “Biden Brings Back the Media Old Days”. Link:
Smith quotes historian John Meacham on the subject: ” ‘ Is Donald Trump’s transformation of the presidency into a reality show permanent? Or can President Biden govern with stability and even dignity amid a media climate that tends to value chaos over problem solving.?”
Smith sums up by asking what we would all like to know: “The question now is whether the electorate and we in the media can break our addiction to the Trump news cycle.”
In other words, this entreaty to news media: America’s Recovery is at least as important as was The Decline. Please report accordingly.