The Media and Protecting Democracy

November 21, 2023
4 Minute Read

I was listening to a Make Me Smart podcast episode on my walk earlier this week and they were talking about some of the threats currently facing America, not from without, but from within. And something Kai Ryssdal said really struck home to me.

So I, I don’t want to be a downer. But here’s where I’m gonna go. I despair for this country. And I despair for this country for a lot of reasons. But the reason I mostly despair for this country is the leading Republican candidate for president who will more likely than not win the nomination, says stuff like this, about his justice department. He says, If I happen to be president, and I see somebody who’s doing well and beating me very badly, I say go out and indict them. Mostly what that would be, you know, they would be out of business. They’d be out, they’d be out of the election. And, and It troubles me that that’s not a 72 point headline in New York Times that it doesn’t lead every NPR newscast, and every network news show and CNN all over the place, we have become numb to the dystopia that the Republican Party and its leader presents, and that really troubles me. And and, you know, there will be, there may be people who will say, oh, you’re being partisan and you’re a journalists, you can’t do that. I will not stand down in the face of threats to democracy so we can have that conversation. But the the idea that this didn’t get more play than it’s getting, is crazy making.

I’m not a historian, but I almost feel like this country that I love is at a real crossroads right now. The leading Republican candidate is threatening his political opponents, promising even more draconian policies, and diving right into the Nazi playbook. And I try not to use that last part lightly as it’s too easy to become numb to it. But we have become numb to it. Trump says these obviously awful things and the collective media just shrugs.

Kimberly Adams, the other host of the podcast put it like this:

And it still does, actually. And this is a conversation we’re gonna have to have, you know, there’s no way you can avoid in this environment, getting the label of being partisan, while also standing up for democracy, because unfortunately, that’s where our polarization has landed us. You’re either on the side of democracy, and unfortunately, that means you’re saying a lot of negative things about one section of our political landscape. Or you try to pretend like it’s a false equivalency and then you know, you’re diminishing the real danger.

That last part is something that always gets me. The media, in my opinion, all too often tries to be “fair” and “non-partisan” by putting both sides out there and presenting both arguments equally. But lately, you have the GOP pushing blatant lies being shared by the media as equal to provable facts.

It’s not partisan to state the facts as they are.

This is what gets me. The media would not be partisan to simply say state the facts. That’s what we expect the media to do. If one side just openly lies, it’s not unfair for the media to point that out and state what’s true. I think of all the twisting so much of the media has done dealing with all the 2020 election deniers and it just makes me sad...and angry. The media is falling into the same trap that brought us Trump in the first place.

Consider the following two headlines about Trump’s Veterans Day speech:

New York Times: “In Veterans Day Speech, Trump Promises to ‘Root Out’ the Left”

Forbes: “Trump Compares Political Foes to ‘Vermin’ On Veterans Day - Echoing Nazi Propoganda”

The New York Times just glosses over that Trump is literally playing to Hitler’s playbook and shrugs it off as if it’s nothing. Forbes, somewhat unexpectedly, has no problem writing about Trump’s speech and calling it for what it is. We need more of that.

The Guardian has a fantastic article I’d highly suggest you read. It speaks to some of the dangers a second Trump term would bring. It makes me sad, and it makes me worried for the future.