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Ben Rhodes on the “steady radicalization of the Republican Party and the trivialization of politics, particularly the way it is covered by US media”

Also, Margaret Sullivan rips the "endless media normalization...on the way to fascism"


The rise of far-right populism (the “Tea Party,” Trump/Trumpism, etc.) in the United States over the past several years of course has multiple causes. Obviously, white racist backlash to our country’s first African-American president, Barack Obama, and also to progress made by minorities in general, has played a huge role. But in casting blame for the rise of “Trumpism,” one really has to shine a bright spotlight on the role of the U.S. political media – or, more to the point, its MASSIVE failure – in a variety of ways, including:

  • Relentless “both-sidesism” and false equivalence between the pro-democracy, reality/fact/science-based, mainstream/middle-of-the-road Democratic Party on the one hand; and the anti-democracy, extremist, radical, anti-reality/fact/science Republican party.
  • Almost complete failure to deviate from their model of treating U.S. politics as a game, like a sports match, between a “red team” and a “blue team,” in which one is “up,” another is “down,” they “battle,” blah blah blah.
  • Minimal *substantive* coverage as opposed to “horserace” coverage. For instance, check out coverage of the other night’s Republican debate; most of it falls into the “winners and losers” category, how candidates “performed,” whether or not they met “expectations,” and other mindless idiocy, as opposed to the fact that – how to put this? – yeah, that they are almost ALL F***ING INSANE. From denying climate science to wanting to ban abortion to still vowing to vote for Trump to…you name it, these people are all batshit crazy, completely unmoored from science/fact/reality, etc.. And yet how much media coverage actually said that, flat-out?  Very, very little.
  • In general, a nearly total refusal by the U.S. political media to reconsider their business model after years of disastrous failure, including their complicity with the rise of the far-right/racist “Tea Party” movement (the coverage at the time…yep, almost completely normalized it, while giving it massive attention that was NOT given to, let’s say, the anti-Iraq War movement), the rise of Trump (again, the media heavily fueled/enabled Trump’s rise, while disastrously making 100% absurd false equivalencies between Trump’s racism/fascism/etc. on the one hand, and Hillary Clinton’s email server, the Clinton Foundation, etc. on the other). Utterly disgraceful.
  • Hell, for almost the entire period of Trump’s rise to the presidency and the presidency itself, the media refused to even use the word “lie,” as in “Trump LIED,” instead resorting to weird euphemisms like “baseless” or “without evidence” or whatever. Even as it was glaringly obvious that Trump and his minions were, in fact, LYING.
  • Here in Virginia, the political media did the same thing with Glenn Youngkin in 2021 – normalizing, whitewashing, acting as glorified stenographers for his spin/press releases, falsely calling him some sort of “mystery date,” etc. And now they’re continuing to do that not just with Youngkin, but also with other MAGA extremists like Winsome Sears and Jason Miyares (just yesterday, the media treated Miyares’ 100% political “opinion” as some sort of serious legal statement by the AG’s office, instead of pointing out that Miyares is a lacky of Youngkin’s and a total right-wing political hack).

Anyway, with that comforting intro (heh), see below for a brilliant thread by former Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting under President Barack Obama, Ben Rhodes, in which he discusses the “steady radicalization of the Republican Party and the trivialization of politics, particularly the way it is covered by US media and how politicians respond to that dynamic.” As Rhodes points out, it’s simply a factual statement that the GOP at this point is “a radical right-wing party,” yet the U.S. political media yawns, as Trump (and DeSantis, Ramaswamy, etc.) “mirrors their complete lack of interest in any substance, in favor of political optics, news cycle stupidity, and performative bullshit.” Thus, Trump “is both a creation – and conductor – of the stupidity of political coverage.”

Also, check out the brilliant Margaret Sullivan’s new column about how the news media has been boosting “demagogue-in-waiting” Vivek Ramaswamy, with the WaPo “put[ting] him up high in its ‘winners’ column, trailing only behind Donald Trump”; with the NY Times “analyz[ing] the situation under a glowing headline ‘How Vivek Ramaswamy Broke Through: Big Swings With a Smile’, with emphasis on his style: ‘unchecked confidence and insults'”; etc. As Sullivan concludes:

“…it makes the endless media normalization even more cringe-inducing. Shouldn’t mainstream journalists be able to step back a tiny bit, providing critical distance rather than the same old tricks?

How can there be “winners” in yet another milestone on the way to fascism?

Losers? That’s easier. I think we already know who they are: Americans who care about democracy.”


P.S. Also, here in Virginia, see how the political media normalizes MAGA Republican lunacy?


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