THE FRONT PORCH – I must be very careful these days when stepping outside. Any package from “A friend” or envelopes leaking white powder are suspect. Ditto for boxes that tick and mobs with torches and pitchforks. Why? Because it’s open season on journalists. A bomb sent to CNN (among others). Four reporters for The Capital in Annapolis, Maryland, were killed this summer in a mass shooting at the newspaper’s office. Recently a man, identified as 38-year-old George Odemns, tried to force his way into the offices of a television station in Washington D.C. He bashed in two sets of glass doors with his foot, eventually gaining entrance to the lobby. And, of course, Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, who apparently was tortured, murdered and cut up with a chainsaw.
Wouldn’t an angry letter to the editor do? No, not these days. I’ve been a journalist since 1962 and I have never seen such hatred aimed – sometimes literally – at the Fourth Estate. Well, we deserve it, as we ink-stained wretches continue to lie, distort and attempt to end America as we know it today. But we all make mistakes. “Readers may have noticed that the Valley News misspelled its own name on the front page of yesterday’s front page.” — New Hampshire Valley News. Anger toward the press is nothing new, but it has now reached dangerous proportions. Last year worldwide, 65 journalists were killed, 35 specifically because of their jobs. This doesn’t count deaths in bar fights, surprised cuckold husbands and failing to yield to a pickup with a gunrack. As high as that total is, it’s the lowest in 14 years. The number of journalists imprisoned around the globe hit a record high in 2017, with at least 262 reporters behind bars.
This just in: “Bugs flying around with wings are flying bugs.” – Redwood County Extension Examiner.
The generator of this hatred can easily be traced to one person: President Donald Trump. He has seized this animosity, exploited it and pandered to people’s frustration about the economy, jobs, how the Astros blew it in the playoffs, and his demagoguery is working wonderfully well — the public’s opinion of the media is the lowest it’s ever been. Any facts contrary to his stated views are dismissed as “fake news.” Reporters and their news organizations are “pathetic,” “very dishonest,” “failing” and “a pile of garbage.” Journalists are slandered as “enemies of the people.” Recently, Trump celebrated Rep. Greg Gianforte’s (R-Mont.) May 2017 attack on Guardian journalist Ben Jacobs – who was trying to ask a question about health care. During a rally in Missoula, Montana, Trump told a crowd: “Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my kind of guy.” He received wild applause. (Following the attack, Gianforte pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault, and was elected.)
The president’s assault on the news media is easily charted. He began his campaign with the usual boilerplate rhetoric that any pol follows, with homage to America, the flag, etc., and castigating his opponents. After a few speeches he noticed that two lines brought the most applause: warnings about the “hordes of illegal immigrants flooding across our borders,” and the “fake news media.” Now he works those inflammatory statements into every speech. The address may be about cumquats or sheep dip, but sooner or later illegal immigrants and the Mainstream Media (or MSM for the faithful) get their deserved bashing.
“Chick accuses some of her male colleagues of sexism.” – Los Angeles Times. Wait. Turns out it was LA Councilwoman Laura Chick.
Lesley Stahl, a 13-time Emmy award winner, said that President Trump admitted to her that his relentless attacks on the press was a calculated strategy to discredit reporters and news media organizations to shield himself from negative coverage. And, again, his tirades are working. He finds an echo chamber in Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Fox News. Day after day (or night), they hammer out a diatribe against the American media. Words matter, as the saying goes. Now violence follows. After a meeting between Trump and New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger, he said, “I implored him to reconsider his broader attacks on journalism, which I believe are dangerous and harmful to our country.” Sulzberger also pointed out an interesting copycat: “I repeatedly stressed that this is particularly true abroad, where the president’s rhetoric is being used by some regimes to justify sweeping crackdowns on journalists.” Indeed, despots around the world have started using the term “fake news.” Now where did they get that?
If our press is so bad, which country would you like to move to for a better press? Russia? Better hurry.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 56 journalists have been killed in Russia since 1992.
Actually, that might be good news to some among us. Mexico? Fourteen journalists have been killed just thus far this year. Let me remind you again: Next time you are in Washington visiting your money, drop by the Newseum, an exhibition given over to journalism. It’s a fun place filled with the Fourth Estate’s mistakes, stupid stories and erroneous headlines: “Dewey Defeats Truman.” There are also less-funny items like the wall filled with the names of American journalists who were killed in the line of duty. And there are the eyeglasses, pencil and notebook of Mark Kellogg. He was an AP reporter assigned to cover Custer at Little Bighorn, and, no, he wasn’t biased toward the Indians.
“Correction: The woman identified in a photograph as former adult film star Ginger Lynn Allen is neither Ms. Allen nor an adult film actress.” – Us magazine.
This is not a whine. Journalists don’t go into the bias biz expecting compliments and flowers, but neither do they expect their own countrymen to fan the flames of violence. Nor do these hatemongers accept their blame, but when you light the fuse, you have some responsibility for the subsequent explosion. Now, would you please open my mail?
Ashby is hiding at email@example.com