Politics & Media
Aug 10, 2023, 06:29AM

Selective Media Outrage

The Beltway’s groupthink punditocracy chooses what First Amendment issues are important to Americans.

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Earlier this week I wrote about the death of longtime friend Jim Larkin—the most important individual in the history of alternative newspapers—a 74-year-old man, who, along with his business partner for 40 years, Mike Lacey, was persecuted by the government for years for alleged “sex trafficking” on a website they owned, Backpage. The kangaroo court proceedings, led by zealous prosecutors, will proceed against Lacey later this month and there’s really no end in sight to the punitive and vindictive case.

I also noted that The New York Times and Washington Post, two dailies that harrumph daily about America’s teetering democracy—All Trump All the Time—hadn’t published even two column inches to Larkin’s tragic suicide (as of yesterday). The Backpage case raises questions about whether there’re two rules for democracy and First Amendment absolutists: those who fall in line with the Beltway/federal government point of view, and those who don’t. Reason’s Elizabeth Nolan Brown wrote: “Politicians and the press spread false narratives about Backpage—namely that it was an open forum for ‘child sex trafficking’—and about its founders’ complicity in these alleged crimes. In reality, Backpage was utilized (and loved) by countless independent sex workers.”

Reason’s Matt Welch, on Aug. 9th, also wrote about media hostility to Larkin and Lacey: “The chances of Kamala Harris being asked this week—or any week—about the late James Larkin, or her starring role in the demonization of his and Michael Lacey’s online classified advertising company Backpage as ‘the world’s top online brothel’ are vanishingly small… It also stems from something far less excusable: When it comes to conflicts between the feds and those from the professionally unpopular corners of the free speech industry, journalists have been increasingly taking the side of The Man.”


As I’ve written, Donald Trump’s claim that he won the 2020 election is ludicrous, and if the country is lucky—not likely—he’ll have the first epiphany of his life and go about courting celebrities and conning suckers out of money and forget about politics. The rash of indictments against Trump—who can count how many?—may or may not result in a conviction that’ll knock him out of the 2024 presidential election. That it’s a risky strategy by Democrats isn’t in doubt: if Trump skates I’d guess he has an even chance of winning next year against Joe Biden or the President’s replacement.

Yet the level of hyperbole about Trump from mainstream journalists and pundits continues to amaze anyone—Democrat, Republican, Independent or, as St. John McCain used to say, Vegetarian—with an open mind.

Here’s the opening of Times-columnist-for-life Maureen Dowd’s August 5th contribution: “The man who tried to overthrow the government he was running was held Thursday by the government he tried to overthrow, a few blocks from where the attempted overthrow took place and a stone’s throw from the White House he yearns to return to, to protect himself from the government he tried to overthrow. Donald Trump is in the dock for trying to cheat America out of a fair election and body-snatch the true electors. But the arrest of Trump does not arrest the coup. The fact is, we’re midcoup, not postcoup.”

Dowd can, on occasion, be entertainingly fanciful with her prose, especially pre-2015, but the above paragraph is gobbledygook that, if the Times employed copy editors who dared to tinker with star columnist’s 700 words, would, one would think, be translated into English.

I know there was an ugly and dangerous demonstration at the Capitol on January 6, 2021—as Americans who read the “news” are reminded daily—and that Trump voiced encouragement for the protesters was yet another example of his epic narcissism, one that I hoped would send him to an outhouse at Mar-a-Lago with a political dunce cap on his head. But what is this “coup” Dowd so blithely refers to? I didn’t see any members of the military—who are almost always key factors in a coup—lining the streets of D.C. on J6. Dowd says the “coup” is ongoing: how? Biden has, for better or worse, occupied the White House since Inauguration Day more than two years ago. Trump is, regrettably, running for president again, but that doesn’t put Americans in “midcoup,” as he’s legally entitled to run. That polls of the moment show him as competitive with Biden in 2024 worries a lot of people, but if, as many desire, Trump were prevented from campaigning, wouldn’t that be a “coup” of some measure? (If Trump is convicted of a felony and forced to abandon his campaign, that’s politics.)

Dowd’s last sentence: “[Trump’s] legacy is safe, as the most democracy-destroying, soul-crushing, self-obsessed amadan ever to occupy the Oval. Amadan, that’s Gaelic for a man who grows more foolish every day.”

I won’t disagree that Trump “grows more foolish every day,” just as Biden becomes more infirm, but did Trump “destroy” America’s democracy? He’s not in office: Biden is and there was no coup. In reality, aside from Trump’s grotesque visage and blathering, his presidency falls into the “normal” range, unlike, for example, Woodrow Wilson, FDR and Richard Nixon. Pardon the repetition—but what’s good for the Dowd/Brooks/Kristol/Milbank/French is good for the Smith—but it’s in the MSM’s financial and “moral” interest that Trump runs again, and though no one will admit it, wins.

—Follow Russ Smith on Twitter: @MUGGER2023


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