November 14, 2023 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
The zealots of the Washington press corps
Like all zealots, they will be betrayed in the end.
Something I would like to know – what do my compatriots in the Washington press corps think is going to happen if the criminal former president manages, a year from now, to eke out a victory? Do they think their freedoms are safe?
We already know that Donald Trump is planning, in the event that he again becomes the president, to prosecute his political enemies: those who have “betrayed” him in the past and those who oppose him in the present. We already know that he’s planning to use the military to crush protest of the prosecution of his political enemies. We already know, because there’s a death toll, that some supporters will resort to the murder of, even the assassination of, Trump’s political enemies.
We already know these things. Yet my compatriots, in particular the very obscenely rich owners of the lucrative media properties who employ them, continue to treat a man who is planning to do all these things as if there exists a line that he would never cross. They continue to treat him as if he fears the political consequences of crossing it.
What do my compatriots in the Washington press corps think is going to happen if the criminal former president manages, a year from now, to eke out a victory? Do they think their freedoms are safe?
He already calls my compatriots in the Washington press corps “the enemy of the people,” and reporters, editors and producers already received regular threats of injury and death. If he becomes president again, my compatriots will experience much worse. We already know this. Yet my compatriots seem to be in the mood to pretend otherwise.
My compatriots perform this makebelieve by treating Trump less with kid gloves than with the deference afforded candidates who do not make plans to prosecute their political enemies, use the military to crush dissent and maintain relations with society’s criminal nihilists. In other words, Trump has already crossed the line, indeed he keeps crossing it, yet my compatriots in the Washington press corps, who really do know better, keep pretending, by way of treating him with such incredible deference, as if he does not, every day, cross that line.
My compatriots in the Washington press crops are in the process of bringing “bothsides” to an arch, tragic conclusion. They are setting side-by-side two candidates (Trump and Joe Biden) who should not be set side-by-side by a class of professionals that claims to serve democracy and the freedoms that it normally affords. And they are setting them side-by-side in the name of neutrality, thus giving “bothsides” a legitimacy that “bothsides” can’t have in a democracy.
They are setting side-by-side one candidate who straightforwardly favors freedom – freedom of life and property, freedom of the press, freedom of thought and freedom of protest and expression – and another who is straightforwardly against those same freedoms.
By setting these candidates side-by-side, as if they stood for politics of equal legitimacy, my compatriots are acting with nearly religious zeal. They seem to believe, because they are incentivized to believe, that the candidate who is planning to take away the freedom of anyone who displeases him won’t take away their freedoms, too. My compatriots say they are skeptical empiricists. They are not. They are, in effect, zealots.
And like all zealots, they will be betrayed in the end. Trump is ready to take away the freedoms of his political enemies. He’s ready to crush public dissent. And he’s ready to stand by while nihilists murder or assassinate his political enemies. What do my compatriots in the Washington press corps think is going to happen to them when they are inevitably forced to report news stories that are “unfair” to him?
My compatriots do more than set side-by-side candidates as if they had equal legitimacy. They avoid speaking the whole truth about one of them. This is also done with nearly religious zeal. My compatriots, in particular the very obscenely rich owners of the lucrative media properties who employ them, tend to believe that by avoiding the truth, they can avoid offending those Americans – and there are a lot of them, according to the Post‘s Philip Bump – who like the fact that Trump is planning to take away the freedoms of anyone who displeases him.
They tend to believe that this is true when there is a preponderance of evidence to the contrary. Believing something is true despite evidence suggesting the opposite is zealotry. Moreover, they tend to believe that this is true for the wrong reason. They believe that how they are perceived by authoritarian Trump supporters has something to do with what they say, when in fact what they say means virtually nothing to them. It’s who they are. And who they are is the “enemy of the people.”
So even if my compatriots in the Washington press corps somehow decided to never, ever say anything “bad” about Donald Trump, that would not be enough. My compatriots would still end up offending his supporters, because offending them has nothing to do with what they say in their reporting. It’s about who they are, characters is a story that’s being told every day by a man who is using that story as pretext for planning to take away the freedoms of anyone who displeases him.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.