Tuesday, February 21, 2023


As I've told you, Ron DeSantis spoke to police officers in three states yesterday, hoping to wrap himself in the flag -- in this case, the Thin Blue Line flag -- as he prepares to announce his presidential candidacy. Jonathan Weisman and Emma Fitzsimmons of The New York Times reported on the DeSantis cop tour -- and revealed that they have no idea where right-wing talking points come from:
“We’re grateful to be here to deliver a very important message, a message about safe communities, the rule of law and about standing by the people that wear the uniform and put themselves at risk to protect us,” [DeSantis] told an audience of law enforcement officers at an Elmhurst, Ill., Knights of Columbus hall, outside Chicago, a city that has been demonized as lawless and ungovernable since Donald J. Trump’s 2016 campaign.
(Emphasis added.)

How can you possibly cover American politics for a living and not realize that the right has been denouncing Chicago as a lawless hellhole since long before Trump ran for president?

In 2016, Stephen Gossett of Chicagoist recounted the history that these Times reporters don't seem to know:
There is a very simple two-part explanation as to why this happened: President Obama’s adopted hometown is Chicago; and Chicago struggles with gun violence. So its not surprising to find an example that stretches all the way back to Obama’s first presidential campaign....

The practice appears to have spread by the fall of 2009, when [Chicago was bidding for the 2016 summer Olympics and] the horrifying murder of Fenger High School student Derrion Albert became national news. “Community organizing has not stopped Chicago’s teen violence epidemic. The Olympics will not solve this long-festering problem, either,” conservative commentator Michelle Malkin wrote in late September that year.... As Media Matters pointed out, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Fox contributors S.E. Cupp and Kimberly Guilfoyle all referenced either the Albert video or the panic it inspired to portray Chicago as a den of “lawlessness” unfit to act as host city.

... in the wake of Sandy Hook and other mass shootings ... conservative radio host Dana Loesch said “many Sandy Hooks take place every month in Chicago.” It proved something of an ur-text, inspiring similarly phrased backlash from TheBlaze, Red State, Newt Gingrich, [and] the Wall Street Journal....

[After] the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in February 2012, [when] Rep. Bobby Rush wore a hoodie in House chambers and sought to discuss the Martin killing, Tea Party-sanctioned Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) reprimanded his colleague.

"I hope Congressman Rush will be as outraged with all of the black on black crime going on in the city of Chicago weekend after weekend," Walsh said. "This is where our outrage has got to be as well.”
And so on and so on. There's much more at the link. (Yes, that's the same Joe Walsh who's now a proud Never Trumper.)

It's been obvious for years that political journalists at the top mainstream news outlets don't watch Fox News and don't even watch clips of Fox broadcasts. They never listen to talk radio (or clips) and they don't read transcripts of right-wing broadcasts. That's why they were baffled when Donald Trump won in 2016, and when the Republican Party chose not to abandon Trump after he lost in 2020 and led an insurrection in 2021. That's why, when Dominon's filing in its lawsuit against Fox became public, they wrote horrified pieces with headlines such as "I Never Truly Understood Fox News Until Now."

The majority of what Gossett recounts here wasn't on Fox -- which suggests that mainstream journalists are oblivious to all expressions of genuine right-wing ideological thinking. Or maybe they know what's being said, but they keep telling themselves that surely only a lunatic fringe believes all that nonsense.

Every so often there's an examination of how right-wing thought spreads -- the Times's 2022 analysis of Tucker Carlson's broadcasts was thorough and good -- but there's a sense that monitoring of the right-wing media needs to be done only once every few years, not on an ongoing basis. We covered Carlson; now decent people can go back to ignoring him seems to be the thinking.

If you don't know what the messages are and how widely they're embraced on the right, then you know nothing about a bloc of voters who can decide every contested national election. You also have no idea why Republican politicians have become as extreme as they are -- not only do you not understand how Trump happened, you don't understand what Republicans love about Ron DeSantis and whar extremes he'll go to in order to curry their favor. But the mainstream press prefers to remain oblivious. It's so much easier to uncritically accept the notion that both parties are equally extreme.

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