Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Party Crasher

Donald Trump's remarks about the Second Amendment folks yesterday were as extreme as they could be without him actually being taken into custody and charged with a serious crime.
Context matters. Someone boarding a commercial flight who "jokes" about carrying a bomb is immediately taken away and questioned.
Yet the Wall Street Journal reports on front page today "New Flap for Trump Over Gun Comments" about "an off-the-cuff remark that critics (ital. added) interpreted as inciting violence against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton". Is that a true statement? Yes, critics interpreted that way, but so did a lot of other people including those squeamish supporters among Republican officeholders.

The NYT news reported " Mr. Trump...issued what some saw (ital. added) as a threat to Mrs. Clinton." The problem with that even-handed approach is that it takes only the most recent campaign events as context without a sense of history or patterns of behavior and implies this is all part of the give-and-take back-and-forth of any campaign. Why not say "what sounded like a threat to Mrs. Clinton"?  Instead the story can easily drift toward - what will be the impact on the polls of the latest "malatrumpism" without contemplating the historical perspective  - what happens if one candidate is assassinated because some crazy person becomes inspired to action? Then what will we hear? Angry denials. "I never meant..."

The Washington Post finally started to pay attention to short term patterns which they reported on their news pages: From Trump's words, a pattern: Outrage, headlines, then denial:

That kind of context reporting is a positive step, but long term patterns have been ignored.

The New York Times is still so measured about news reporting on politics, bending over backwards to give equal weight to "both sides" and thus failing to report actual news as they might see it. In context, Hillary Clinton has been made subject to ever increasing demonization by political opponents in a series of attacks over decades. That pattern of attacks is the simple factual context that should be so reported in the news section, not just the opinion pages. Republican strategists have long taken advantage of the weakness of the so-called liberal press to report extreme political tactics on the news pages, even when the pattern of behavior is well established as fact. Trump is only the latest manifestation of this phenomenon.  Trump is not an aberration. He represents a culmination of the politics of all tactics all the time, which results in tactics that go beyond the pale.

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