“We have no equivalent to the dark carnival that is a trump rally,” Brian Schatz tweeted yesterday, after President Trump fans were taped jeering CNN’s chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta in Tampa. “This is not a thing on the left. We just argue about healthcare and climate and sometimes relitigate 2016 but we are not actually out of our minds.”
The Hawaii senator’s tweet is fine example of an entrenched self-delusion that infects many on the Left, where all activists cheerily bat ideas about carbon neutrality back and forth but never, ever try to assassinate the entire congressional Republican leadership on a baseball diamond in Alexandria.
For folks like Schatz, the Republican booing of an activist journalist at a political rally tells us everything we need to know about the nefarious underbelly of the Right, but the Women’s March—wherein participants wear p-ssy hats as a form of protest (not crazy at all)—which is led by anti-Semites, conspiracy theorists, and extremists, simply reflects the passion and seriousness of the progressive Left. This is how it goes.
While Schatz’s Democrats are civilly debating the efficacy of expanding Medicare, the real ones might be ginning up mobs to hound people they disagree with out of restaurants and public places. When Fox News’ Shannon Bream is forced to move her show away from the steps of the Supreme Court because she felt threatened by left-wing activists, she faces a similar situation as Acosta—well, except for subsequent mass sanctimony and concern of the DC press corp.
Democrats have long refused to acknowledge that their own fringe exists. When anti-capitalists burn down entire neighborhoods or engage in constant, and sometimes violent, efforts to shut down the speeches of the GOP candidates or college speakers, it is somehow conveniently detached from the broader “left.” Yet, at the same time, every harebrained would-be Nazi or conspiracy theorist who holds up a “Q” sign at a rally is conferred a prominent role in mainstream conservatism.
Yesterday, Trump supporters were giving the middle finger to Acosta in Tampa, and accusing him of being a traitor. Not all of them. Not most of them. Nevertheless, it’s an ugly spectacle. Watching a mob whipping up anger and demeaning those they disagree with reflects poorly on them and their movement.
CNN probably shouldn’t send a transparently partisan journalist to a rally of the opposition party — not if they want to avoid an angry response. Acosta isn’t merely a tenacious journalist who plays it straight down the middle, he’s a pundit. There are lots of pundits out there. Heckling a pundit isn’t tantamount to an attack on free expression.
Moreover, the idea, propagated by many, that this anger is without merit, born in a vacuum, is just obtuse. I find plenty of the president’s anti-media rhetoric vulgar and beneath the dignity of his office, but I also don’t pretend his accusation about “fake news” means all news, or all free expression, or even all of journalism. I know exactly what he’s talking about, and so do you.
It’s not just the inherent bias that dominates mainstream news. There were dozens of stories—many of them major scoops— mainstream political media has gotten completely wrong over the past two years. (This doesn’t even take into account the daily overreactions and bias we see from journalists on social media.) It would be easy to contend that everyone makes mistakes, and reporters often correct theirs. But the problem is that almost of all of these errors magically skew in the very same ideological direction every single time.
Yet, rather than contemplating their own role in making Trump possible over the past decade, journalists instead wonder why all these toothless, slack-jawed yokels are constantly being so mean to them. And it’s somewhat amusing watching people act as if Trump supporters are the only ones calling the other side “traitors.”
Acosta says he’s worried that Trump’s rhetoric towards the media “will result in somebody getting hurt.” It would, no doubt, be beneficial for everyone if Trump tapered down his broad media attacks. After all, they did so much work making him president. Then again, it’s also deceptive to conflate the criticism of political journalism with criticism of free expression, in general. Which is something reporters like to do these days.
It’s also concerning that hateful, irrational conspiracy theories are finding a place on the fringes of the contemporary Right. But people must remember that somewhere around half of Democrats believed that George W. Bush knew about 9-11 before it happened. If you think this is new, you haven’t been paying attention.
Right now, a large chunk of Democrats, egged on by their leaders, walk around believing that the U.S. government has been hijacked by a strongman from a second-rate country. And the relentless, hysterical rhetoric accusing half the population of supporting would-be Nazis, nihilists, and traitors—people who want to steal your right to vote, to eat, to health care, etc.—might also end up getting people hurt.
The idea that one side has all the crazies is absurd. In many ways, our political insanity is symbiotic.