The Medium Is the Mistake

In the pattern Taibbi describes, this was a typical expression of the ethic that pervades the anti-Trump media. After all, what journalistic imperative requires a collective purpose of grouping or framing? The very idea of framing—like a TV producer’s “thematic” links from episode to episode—may be incompatible with saying what is both true and important. Unless you believe that reality writes its script according to themes and frames, the duty of an honest reporter is to shun precisely the fictive convenience provided by a frame. A journalistic outlet may have a predictable slant in spite of its attempts at impartiality, but it seems odd to wear the prejudice as a badge of honor.

Most days at the Times are felt to warrant (at a rough estimate) between four and six stories with Trump’s name in the headlines. The front page on October 15, for example, in addition to many stories on Syria and Turkey, carried an item on a “gruesome video” that was “played at a meeting of a pro-Trump group over the weekend.” To swell the chorus of follow-up stories on Syria and Turkey, the front section on October 19 added a full half-page exposition and analysis of Trump’s recent visit to Texas—a piece of ordinary political maneuvering that in another administration might have rated six inches or maybe none. All this keeps the pot boiling. We can’t take our eyes off Trump, and besides, the stories are good for business; subscription numbers are going up, and readers feel a mild glow of validation from the energy of disapproval. We can hate Trump with a semi-civilized smirk.

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