Media normalizes Trump, sends mixed messages
Larry Rubin on his day off. | PW

My job is to listen to Donald Trump’s speeches and rally rants so that you, the readers of the People’s World, don’t have to.

It isn’t an easy job.

On the one hand, every fiber of my being yells “Sell out! If you cover Trump like you would any president, you’re contributing to normalizing his presidency.” But those same fibers tell me: “you’d better keep tabs on the SOB to know what he’s up to so you can help the Resistance.”

Fibers are famous for sending double messages.

Thinking that reporters for commercial media were getting double messages from their fibers, too, made my plight seem less burdensome. I didn’t like the fact that they were virtually ignoring the Resistance, but I chalked that up to the screwy definition of “newsworthy” imposed on them by their corporate bosses.

But my illusions were shattered the day before yesterday, right after Trump’s speech to Congress. The TV news media did not cover the many protests taking place outside the Capitol building and, in effect, dubbed Trump’s presidency “normalized.”

On CNN, on MSNBC – everywhere – commentators commentated that at long last Trump “sounded presidential.”

Sounding “presidential!?” What does that even mean? Who knows?

But I do know that almost all of the mainstream media praised Trump’s new paint job and ignored the still-rotten wood underneath.

The take-away story from most commercial media outlets was that Trump stood in front of a joint session of Congress and did not bray like a donkey.

To be fair, Alexandra Petri wrote a column in the Washington Post complaining that Trump was getting an A because “we’ve set the bar so low,” and The New Yorker magazine ran a piece headlined “Trump’s Speech To Congress Was Not Normal.” There probably were similar pieces here and there across the nation.

Nevertheless, by and large Trump won praise for using modulated tones and full sentences with actual verbs and nouns. No commentator on commercial TV outlets, and very few print reporters, pointed out that Trump still spewed his same old racist, xenophobic claptrap. He blamed immigrants for all the ills of our nation, not the billionaires who have been sucking our economy dry. (The People’s World, of course, was a notable exception.)

He said many times in many different ways that if we kick out immigrants already here and build a wall to keep others out “we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions of dollars, and make our communities safer.”

Substitute “Jews and Gypsies” for “immigrants” and you have Hitler.

And Trump’s assertion that “America must put its own citizens first … because only then can we truly make America great again” comes pretty close to the Nazis’ use of Deutschland über alles.

Why didn’t anyone on TV point this out and remind people that kind of rhetoric almost destroyed Europe and a good part of the world?

Even Van Jones, who usually makes a lot of sense, said on CNN that Trump “became presidential” when he introduced the grieving widow of Navy SEAL Ryan Owens, killed in a botched Trump-approved raid on Yemen.

Why didn’t Jones point out that Owens’ father is asking for an investigation to determine “why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn’t even barely a week into [Trump’s] administration? Why?’’

Maybe Petri is correct. Maybe Trump has brought American politics to such a low level that he gets praise by just appearing not to be nuts.

Or maybe the explanation lies in listening between the sound bites of something said by TV news commentator Chuck Todd. Evidentially, before Trump’s address there was a press briefing. Evidentially, no media outlet was barred and no one screamed epithets at the reporters.

Maybe the liberal media made nicey-nice with Trump after his speech because they want to be ushered into his August Presence again.

In any case, when Trump promised America the moon and the stars if only the people will allow him to make billionaires such as himself richer, no one in the media called him out for practicing what he calls “truthful hyperbole.”

In his book The Art of the Deal, he (or his ghostwriter) wrote, “I play to people’s fantasies … People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it ‘truthful hyperbole.’ It’s an innocent form of exaggeration—and it’s a very effective form of promotion.”

In other words, Trump has developed lying into an art form.

I guess the fibers within mainstream reporters have ceased sending them mixed messages – or any messages at all. I guess I’ll just have to suck it up and continue to track Trump as best I can.

But I take courage from knowing that unlike the commercial media, the People’s World is now and always will cover the Resistance. And my fibers tell me that what hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people are doing today is laying the foundation for a Trump-free, better world tomorrow.

And that’s not a mixed message.


Larry Rubin
Larry Rubin

Larry Rubin has been a union organizer, a speechwriter and an editor of union publications. He was a civil rights organizer in the Deep South and is often invited to speak on applying Movement lessons to today's challenges. He has produced several folk music shows.