In the early evening of November 5th, two days after the election, when the mail-in votes were being counted and the tide seemed to be turning in Joe Biden's favor, Donald Trump unfoundedly went on the air for a fit of anger. Wah-over election fraud like an angry kid just because he couldn't get his way.
It turns out that democracy is only suitable for a politically more mature citizenry, while autocracy is suitable for childish and angry adult men who believe that exercising power means suppressing others and finding their own way. This observation is not new; it is embodied in the often visible massive balloon of Trump in diapers.
A funny thing happened, however – or, if not a funny one, at least one that we've seen quite seldom in the past four years. Much of the media has been cut away.
As it turned out, the tantrum wasn't televised.
Major networks like MSNBC, NPR, CBS, and NBC all reported Trump's press conference only to discover that he was using, or rather abusing, it to deliver a large amount of unproven testimony to the American people about pure falsehoods.
MSNBC's Brian Williams put it: "Here we are again in an unusual position not only to interrupt the President of the United States, but also to correct the President of the United States …"
I could remember this refusal to give airtime to a Trump rampage that happened only once before during one of his COVID-19 briefings, although it could have done more often.
That particular moment was a majestic, a heroic one for our nation's free press, at this most powerful, yet extremely delicate moment in our democratic process.
Perhaps that moment was a turning point, a rite of passage for the media, when they realized that their role in a democratic culture and society is not to cover every "side" of a subject but to give every "perspective" airtime, but rather the truth to cover and report.
Of course, some contradict this view.
Ralph Nader, for example, angered the press for cutting off Trump's falsehood festival: “Trump is now speaking to the media. NPR cut him off to check the facts. Unacceptable decision. I then scrolled through all of the many commercial radio stations. They didn't carry Trump's remarks. Abuse of our public radio waves for free. "
Really, Ralph? Come one
Refusing to take a breath, to feed the American public, to tell pure and hot lies, and to participate in misleading the nation to the detriment of our democracy is not censorship; Rather, it is the free press that does its duty to responsibly inform and educate the public.
Of course, the press has a responsibility to give voice and airtime to many stakeholders and perspectives. I wish that the media, as one with political views far to the left of the center, would do more to have a bigger conversation with a much wider range of political positions and opportunities.
However, aside from the damaging whims of postmodern thought, demonstrable falsehoods, and misinformation, we don't present valid perspectives that deserve airtime. The truth can sometimes be a matter of discussion and is not easy to decipher. In this case, the discussion must be open to the public. But when the lies and misinformation campaigns are clear, the role of the media in democracy serves as a watchdog and gives them no breath.
Too many times in the past four years, Americans with dangerous dishonesty have been bombarded over the air waves by Trump's administration, largely made possible by Republicans. Aside from the tens of thousands of Trump's lies and cover-ups – from failing to publish tax returns, to asking Americans to drink disinfectant, to claiming that Russia's election disruption and the COVID-19 pandemic are jokes – his administration has followed suit. Do you remember William Barr standing up and bald-headed misrepresenting the results of the Mueller report? What could be a more serious problem for our democracy than a hostile foreign power trying to influence who holds the presidency?
What if it wasn't amplified? Trump won't go away unless he's imprisoned as he deserves to be. But the press can give him less oxygen, less air time.
Ignoring it can go a long way in making it go away.
For example, Anand Giridharadas tells the story of Don, a passionate Trump supporter who has Parkinson's disease and no longer surfs the internet because he cannot use the keyboard well, and he and his wife Katy have also stopped watching Fox News for the benefit from CNN. His daughter, Kathy, reported a remarkable change of opinion. As Giridharadas writes,
Maybe it was that – the unknown that broke away from the day-long IV of Falsehood. Maybe it was that Trump switched from candidate to president and didn't like what he saw. Perhaps it was the related move that he and Katy decided to move from Fox News to CNN. But Kathy noticed another change, this time for the better. Once you've stopped pumping your minds full of these drugs, they've stopped going high.
As soon as Don Donald could see more clearly, he really, really didn't like what he saw. He was particularly upset about Trump's treatment of Senator John McCain, a fellow pilot and veteran. How could Trump say he prefers those who have not been captured? That Trump had said a lot of such things for some time was irrelevant to Don and Katy. They were awake now. You could see it now.
Falsehood is a drug. And Giridharadas is not the only one pointing this out. Early last October, the New York Times reported how many Trump supporters, deeply interested in affordable health care as the top voting topic, believed that Trump would protect coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, despite a political record clearly shows the opposite.
One voter said, "I heard from him that he would proceed with pre-existing conditions so people wouldn't lose their health insurance." It made a huge difference to me and my husband. "
Reporting the truth and ignoring the lies, which means ignoring the lion's share of Trump's verbal diarrhea, can make a difference.
It may be that a good number of Trump voters support him not because they are mean and racist like him, but because they believe the lies they hear so often – because they are given airtime.
If he ignores Trump and stops giving him air, he could just walk away.
Tim Libretti is a professor of American literature and culture at a state university in Chicago. A longtime progressive voice, he has published numerous academic and journalistic articles on culture, class, race, gender, and politics, for which he has received awards from the Working Class Studies Association, the International Labor Communications Association, and the National Federation of Press Women and the Illinois Woman & # 39; s Press Association.