Tuesday, November 28, 2023


Matt Gertz of Media Matters reports:
Major news outlets devoted dramatically less coverage to former President Donald Trump describing his political enemies as “vermin” earlier this month than they provided then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s 2016 “basket of deplorables” remark in the week following those respective comments.

According to a Media Matters review:
* The Big Three broadcast TV networks provided 18 times more coverage of Clinton’s 2016 “deplorables” comment than Trump’s “vermin” remark on their combined nationally syndicated morning news, evening news, and Sunday morning political talk shows.

* CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC mentioned Clinton’s “deplorables” comment nearly 9 times more than Trump’s “vermin” comment.

* Print reports that mentioned Trump’s statement outnumbered those that mentioned Clinton’s 29-to-1 across the five highest-circulating U.S. newspapers.
There are obvious explanations for this: The "liberal media" isn't liberal. After years of insults, Trump is considered "colorful," not malicious or dangerous. Coverage of politics, in the words of Jay Rosen, focuses on the odds (of a particular candidate winning), not the stakes (for America).

But there's another reason Trump's words -- his promise to “root out the communist, Marxist, fascist and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country” -- went underreported: In our political culture, we expect liberals and Democrats to be attacked, demonized, and subjected to group slander. It's commonplace, and it's been commonplace since long before Trump entered politics. But it's considered shocking when one of us attacks right-wingers or Republicans as a group.

We can trace this back to Richard Nixon's vice president, Spiro Agnew, who called the administration's opponents an "effete corps of impudent snobs" and "nattering nabobs of negativity." But the modern era of attack politics began with Ronald Reagan, whose innovation was to deliver anti-liberal and anti-Democratic insults in a gee-whizzy, folksy manner, which made them seem benign and all-American. In 1984, The New York Times told us,
The President's humor is usually directed at the Democrats, but it's gentle. He mocks but never wounds....
Here's a beloved Reagan joke:
But I remember the story about a fella who was running for office as a Republican. And he was in a rural area that wasn’t known to be a Republican area and he stopped by a farm to do some campaigning.

And when the farmer heard he was a Republican his jaw dropped and he said wait right here while I go get Ma. She’s never seen a Republican before. So he got her. And the candidate looked around for a podium from which to give his speech.

And the only thing he could find was a pile of that stuff that Bess Truman took 35 years trying to get Harry to call fertilizer. So, he got up on the mound and when they came back he gave his speech.

And at the end of it the farmer said that is the first time I’ve ever heard a Republican speech. And the candidate said that’s the first time I’ve ever given a Republican speech from a Democratic platform.
Get it? Get it? It's funny because the Democratic platform is literally shit.

After Reagan left office, others on the right refined his methods, in angrier and cruder ways: Reagan's vice president, George H.W. Bush, ran a successful scorched-earth campaign against Michael Dukakis. Rush Limbaugh attacked "feminazis" and other supposed enemies of common decency and good sense. Campaign consultant Arthur Finkelstein crafted ads for Republican candidates that attacked Democrats as, in the words of one political scientist, "ultraliberal, superliberal, embarrassingly liberal, foolishly liberal and unbelievably liberal.” Newt Gingrich's political action committee recommended insulting Democrats and liberals with words such as "anti-child," "anti-flag," "bizarre," "pathetic," "radical," and "traitors." And then there was Fox News, and there was the Drudge Report, and Breitbart and Newsmax and World Net Daily and Infowars. There was the Tea Party. And then there was Trump.

For years, Democrats have taken abuse and the political culture hasn't reacted with disgust. It's normal now. It's not considered normal when Democrats return fire. That's the state of play in 2023, and we shouldn't be surprised when Trump and his speechwriters take full advantage of it.

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