1 My weekly assessment of anti-Trump mania based on the New York Times Sunday Review shows mostly petulant complaining. The front page is Trump-less, as is the second. After that respite,this issue is notable for some of the best illustrations yet of a journalistic phenomenon unique to Trump coverage, the “this is so horrible and sinister because it’s taking place under President Trump, even though it is neither unique nor noteworthy, being a condition that has existed for decades or even centuries.” Frank Bruni, for example, gets an entire page to tell us that White House aides who leave the Trump White House cash in, what Bruni calls “the ethos of enrichment.” You will be surprised, or maybe not, to learn that the essay about this new and venal trend under Trump never once mentions the name “Clinton,” the family that made cashing in on White house residency a family business, or do you have another theory why Chelsea Clinton is rich? You see, if Trump/Republicans/Conservatives do it, it’s disgusting because it’s Trump/Republicans/Conservatives doing it. What “it” happens to be doesn’t seem to matter much.
Then there is a “I can’t believe how stupid Trump supporters are” essay by NBC’s Katy Tur that contains this tell: “On election day they trusted his judgment more that they trusted any of us.” Wait: who’s the “us” that is being set up as opposition to a Presidential candidate, Katy? Journalists aren’t supposed to be telling citizens who to vote for, who is trustworthy or who will be a worthy leader. That statement is why so many voters don’t trust you, and also why they shouldn’t.
My favorite, though, a true classic in spin and how to present an issue in distorted terms to mislead the public, is a sob piece by a Yale grad student—yes, if you can write a sufficiently biased and critical essay about the plague that is the Trump administration, you don’t have to be a journalist. Your political biases are enough. In this case, the author is an illegal immigrant, as is every member of her family, so the Times believes that she is the perfect objective commentator on Trump policies regarding illegal immigration. Her theme: “Spreading fear is part of the administration’s plan.”
That plan is called law enforcement and deterrence. The government making life uncomfortable for law-breakers and ensuring that the guilty never feel comfy enough to think, “Well, the heat is off! They’ll never catch me now!” has been an uncontroversial and effective means of ensuring a safe and fair society for centuries. It was the Obama administration that endorsed the novel, bizarre and corrosive policy of telling illegal immigrants, “No problem: just make sure you don’t rape, kill or rob anyone, and you’re golden. Welcome!”
Karla Cornejo Villavicentcio’s piece is called “A lifetime of looking over your shoulder.” Yes, that’s pretty much how every fugitive from the law feels, and should feel. She quotes Thomas Homan, the acting director of ICE, saying “If you’re in this country illegally and you committed a crime by entering this country, you should be uncomfortable. You should look over your shoulder, and you need to be worried,” as if such an attitude by law enforcement is the epitome of evil, rather than Basic Law Enforcement 101. Cornejo Villavicentcio tells us that people like her and her family are suffering stress reactions from increased fear of being apprehended. Solutions: 1) Immigrate legally 2) Don’t break laws. 2) If you do, turn yourself in to authorities, like good citizens are supposed to do.
It is the indignation that comes through these essays that is so infuriating. How dare the government demand accountability for our law-breaking! Cornejo Villavicentcio tells us that her family has lived here illegally for 30 years.
If a newspaper is going to publish flagrantly manipulative junk like this, it would be responsible journalism to include a rebuttal along side it. Opinions are one thing; intentional distortions of the principles of civilization come unacceptably close to disinformation. Continue reading →