One of the greatest compliments a writer or commentator can receive is when someone writes to say, “you put into words exactly what I have been feeling but have been unable to express.”
I know I’m far from alone in saying this right now – which is encouraging given what it reveals about the actual unity of Americans’ thinking despite what the social media cesspool would lead you to believe – but the recent piece by writer Matt Taibbi on our current state of affairs couldn’t be more accurate. With almost no exception in the lengthy article, it is exactly what I feel but have been frustratingly unable to express in so many words.
If you haven’t seen the article, “The American Press is Destroying Itself,” you need to. Despite the title, it is more than just an indictment of the news media. In fact, after enunciating the procession of bad news that has characterized 2020, Taibbi doesn’t shy away from describing the current leadership void in the country.
“Our president, Donald Trump, is a clown who makes a great reality-show villain but is uniquely toolless as the leader of a superpower nation. Watching him try to think through two society-imperiling crises is like waiting for a gerbil to solve Fermat’s theorem. Calls to “dominate” marchers and ad-libbed speculations about Floyd’s “great day” looking down from heaven at Trump’s crisis management and new unemployment numbers (“only” 21 million out of work!) were pure gasoline at a tinderbox moment. The man seems determined to talk us into civil war.”
Harsh? Yes but only in its blunt honesty regarding a president uniquely obsessed with trolling his critics, persistently more concerned with puffing himself up than attempting to unite the country. His impulses are decidedly authoritarian and without the restraining conservative forces within his administration, things would be disastrous. Because, as Taibbi notes, it’s not as though America can rely on Trump’s leftist opponents providing any sense of rationality and prudence.
“On the other side of the political aisle, among self-described liberals, we’re watching an intellectual revolution. It feels liberating to say after years of tiptoeing around the fact, but the American left has lost its mind. It’s become a cowardly mob of upper-class social media addicts, Twitter Robespierres who move from discipline to discipline torching reputations and jobs with breathtaking casualness.
The leaders of this new movement are replacing traditional liberal beliefs about tolerance, free inquiry, and even racial harmony with ideas so toxic and unattractive that they eschew debate, moving straight to shaming, threats, and intimidation. They are counting on the guilt-ridden, self-flagellating nature of traditional American progressives, who will not stand up for themselves, and will walk to the Razor voluntarily.”
What follows that sober – but breathtakingly accurate – portrayal of political reality in America is a devastating indictment of the sabotaging work of the American media. Example after example is laid out in stark detail, showing how the media is not just paralyzed in their ability to act as adults, asking serious questions and defending free speech, but also how they are complicit in fomenting what has become a weird, cultish social culture.
White protesters in Floyd’s Houston hometown kneeling and praying to black residents for “forgiveness… for years and years of racism” are one thing, but what are we to make of white police in Cary, North Carolina, kneeling and washing the feet of Black pastors? What about Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer kneeling while dressed in “African kente cloth scarves”?
There is symbolism here that goes beyond frustration with police or even with racism: these are orgiastic, quasi-religious, and most of all, deeply weird scenes, and the press is too paralyzed to wonder at it. In a business where the first job requirement was once the willingness to ask tough questions, we’ve become afraid to ask obvious ones.
Exactly. We need media to pin unserious actors calling to “disband the police” to the wall when they duck and dodge questions about the obvious problems with such an approach. We need media to look past what Taibbi calls the “moral manias” that drive everything these days. We need media to put a premium on accuracy, and not excuse false or unsubstantiated reporting just because it fits a narrative.
They aren’t doing their job. The president isn’t doing his. The “loyal opposition” isn’t doing theirs. And we aren’t doing ours to demand it of them all. How long can that last?