A few days after print publication, Knight's syndicated newspaper column, which moves twice a week, will be posted. The most recent will appear at the top.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Trump and media: building up, tearing down

Bill Knight column for Thurs., Fri., or Sat., Sept. 24, 25 or 26

As an avid news consumer, I’ve come down with a case of the “DTs.”

Not DTs as in delirium tremens from alcohol withdrawal; DTs as in an overdose of Donald Trump.

How can national news media that have marginalized most candidates – or asked them to respond to a Trump-ette blast – expect him to do or be anything different than he’s always been, even when a supporter says something that’s really not surprising (even if it’s wrong)?

At a rally Sept. 17, the GOP frontrunner (at 33 percent) heard a statement that President Obama is a Muslim, followed by a question: “When can we get rid of them?”

I’m sick of coverage of Hillary, too, by the way, whether the stories are exaggerated Benghazi BS or her stupidity in using private emails or her too-practiced, poll-driven comments. (Although I see some fun in her being the political personification of the current VW emissions scandal, doing what she wants until she’s “tested,” when her filtering “controls” then kick in to pass “inspection.”)

Trump, meanwhile, is far more polarizing than Obama – or even Nixon. He might be fun to be with at dinner, but so would comic actor Bill Murray, Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich, or singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge. None would be a good President.

On Sunday, Trump defended his failing to correct the inaccurate assertions supporters express about Obama’s faith and birthplace. On ABC and CNN, Trump dismissed concerns with his letting the attacks slide, rhetorically asking, “Are you trying to say we don’t have a problem? [with Muslims].” He also declined to say he believed Obama was born in Hawaii, as if in his mind, Obama’s parents in a Kenyan hospital in 1961 conspired to fake a Honolulu birth announcement so that 47 years later their son could run for President.

Trump – and the media attention to him – is making bigotry more acceptable, like Fox News has done for demagoguery.

The unapologetic billionaire knows his audience, too, a large percentage of which believes Obama to be a foreign-born pretender allied with a religion they mistakenly think equals terrorism.

In fact, according to Public Policy Polling, 66 percent of Trump supporters think the President is a Muslim and 61 percent believe he wasn’t born in the United States. (Sadly, 29 percent of all Republicans agree about his birthplace). On the other hand, a Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that 72 percent of U.S. voters think elected officials cannot be trusted and two-thirds consider the political system dysfunctional.

However, such suspicions make too many too susceptible to manipulation.

Chip Berlet, who wrote “Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort,” recently wrote of violent consequences of such talk.

“The leaders of organized political or social movements sometimes tell their followers that a specific group of ‘Others’ is plotting to destroy civilized society,” Berlet said. “History tells us that if this message is repeated vividly enough, loudly enough, often enough, and long enough –it is only a matter of time before the bodies from the named scapegoated groups start to turn up.”

Not wanting to be outdone, perhaps, Dr. Ben Carson – maybe realizing he’s still second in the GOP field of presidential candidates (at 20 percent), on NBC Sunday conceded that he opposes any Muslim being U.S. President, saying, “I absolutely would not agree with that.”

So “Others” – Muslims or Mexicans, the needy or women, gays or maybe, soon, YOU – are targeted.

Dangling ridiculous assertions and unreal promises, Trump is trying to tempt regular people to blame the powerless, to pick racial superiority instead of real solidarity and true security within the economy, society, community and family.

He panders to people’s most selfish impulses to blame “Others” (but not the powerful financial interests that blew up the economy and still hurt it, worldwide). And he’ll continue to do so until that strategy fails, when it’ll be someone else’s fault.

Probably the media.

Or you.

[PICTURED: Illustration by Texas cartoonist Mario Piperni.]

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