Members Only | October 25, 2018 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
Yes, We’re All Fighting. But That Doesn’t Matter
What matters is what we're all fighting for.
I explained yesterday some of the ways anti-Trump conservatives—today’s variation of “centrism”—will react to news of (now) 10 pipe bombs mailed to prominent Democrats (including two each to Joe Biden and Maxine Waters). One of those is blurring the line between political violence (assassination attempts) and public protest (shouting at senators at dinner). We’re seeing that today on cable news and Twitter.
The news media tends to accept this posture as true, because of its traditional preference for impartiality. By blaming the president as well as the Democrats for our divisive political climate, anti-Trump conservatives come off as sensible.
But anti-Trump conservatives aren’t the worst problem. The worst problem is legit journalists who launder right-wing talking points, giving them the veneer of respectability and the heft of truth while unconsciously poisoning the public sphere.
Mike Brzezinski today warned Democrats against trying to “intimidate Republicans when they’re at public places like restaurants, don’t do it—a tactic explicitly encouraged by Maxine Waters. Don’t do it, don’t do it, don’t say it, Maxine.”
She went on to say:
Don’t say we can’t be civil in dealing with Republicans like Hillary Clinton said. Don’t say we should kick Republicans, as another former government official said.
These bombs sew chaos. Trump thrives on chaos. Democrats can win by doing the right thing. We may have to lose badly for a while before we win in the right way. But we can’t win in the wrong way.
It’s hard to know where to begin. Eric Holder didn’t call for intimidation or violence. Neither did Waters. Neither did Clinton. Yet all three were intended pipe-bomb targets. Intimidation? Is that what we’re calling public protest? As if duly elected figures are so fragile they feel intimidated when citizens express outrage?
Holder did say that the Democrats need to get tough. That’s what he meant when he said, “When they go low, we kick them.” Clinton did say you can’t be civil to people want to destroy everything you believe in. That’s not calling for violence. Waters did say Democrats should “push back,” but she clearly meant that metaphorically.
Yet here we are, with a mainstream media figure saying things about the Democrats that make them appear to be just as bad as a president who literally celebrated the physical assault of a journalist (a comment rationalized by shooting victim Steve Scalise). Brzezinski is creating symmetry where there is none, a “both sides” that could justify political violence against the Democrats. Donald Trump has said the Democrats will do anything to win. So anything is fair game in stopping them from winning.
Why is Brzezinski saying this? Assuming she spoke in good faith, I’d say her comments stem from the very real power of the right-wing media industry to seep into mainstream media circles and warp America’s understanding of political reality.
For months, right-wing media has been distorting Waters’, Clinton’s and Holder’s comments, creating the fraudulent image of Democrats encouraging violence when they don’t. (This impact is so great that it has forced Democratic leaders to scold rank-and-file Democrats for condoning violence when in fact they don’t condone violence.)
I don’t know if Mika Brzezinski watches Fox News or reads Breitbart, but she’s hearing both of their signals. That, combined with the media’s preference for “balance,” results in factually and morally contemptible commentary like today’s.
Ted Cruz is right in saying that the president enrages Democrats, liberals and other sensible people. Cruz hopes that in pointing out their rage he will create equivalence between the parties. But there is no equivalence. Objective observers should say so.
The president of the United States is a Republican. The president muses about, encourages and rationalizes contempt for, and violence against, the news media. (Within hours of calling for unity, Trump blamed the pipe bomber’s failed attempt at domestic terrorism on the news media.) The president demonizes the opposition. Importantly, the president is supported by a right-wing media industry that’s separate from the rest of legit journalism but warps it with its gravitational pull.
Not even the gunman who shot Steve Scalise comes close to creating balance.
The news media tends to pay attention to people fighting more than what people are fighting for. This impacts the behavior of party regulars like Joe Biden, who said this morning that we all need to stop all the hate and division and come together as a country. But objective observers should ask: what is it that people hate?
For the Republicans, they hate minorities, the media, “political correctness” and other people and ideas that challenge structures of traditional authority. This is so much the case that they look away while the president sends armed soldiers to the border to meet people coming to this country with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
For Democrats, they hate the Republicans’ hate for minorities, the media, “political correctness” and other people and ideas that challenge structures of traditional authority. They hate that the president banned Muslims from entering the country. They hate that the Republican Party cut taxes for the wealthy and gave scraps to the middle class. They hate policies that fuel the heating up of our planet. They hate attempts to kill Obamacare. They hate a president who defies the rule of law.
Yes, we’re fighting. But that doesn’t matter.
What matters is what we are all fighting for.
Calling for violence, let us count the ways
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John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.