Let’s look at what happened in the 24 hours following the Orlando shooting.
- Donald Trump gave a speech proposing a ban for immigrants from any Muslim country, and any country that has ever committed terrorism against the US and its allies (Ireland?), because, if you follow the logic of it, their children, or their children’s children might do something bad.
- He suggested, to multiple outlets, that President Obama might in fact be in league with ISIS, or at least sympathetic to it. “He doesn’t get it or he gets it better than anybody understands — it’s one or the other, and either one is unacceptable.” Now, in his lying way, he said that he believes Obama just doesn’t get it, but you know, people might think otherwise, and it’s really unbelievable, and it’s also hard to believe. To recap: a Presidential candidate is repeating, and heightening, the idea that the sitting President is actively helping, or at least hoping for, and ISIS victory.
- When a major publication called him out on it, he revoked their credentials. Nixon didn’t revoke the credentials of the Post during Watergate. Nixon! And they aren’t the first. “Among the news organizations whose reporters have been blacklisted: Gawker, BuzzFeed, Foreign Policy, Politico, Fusion, Univision, Mother Jones, the New Hampshire Union Leader, the Des Moines Register, the Daily Beast and Huffington Post.” That these bans are haphazardly enforced doesn’t make them any less scary.
To recap: this is not normal. The blood-and-soil race-hatred, the wild paranoia, the fiercely shouted conspiracy theories, the dismissing of noncompliant press. There is no way to normalize this. This is not a campaign strategy. It’s exactly how he’d govern, as the tinpot strongman of our nightmares.
I actually think the Post thing will backfire, as the mainstream media, who have been desperate to treat this as a normal race, albeit one with an unusual candidate, will finally see it happening to one of their own. It was easy when it was local papers like the Union-Leader or the Register. And what’s this BuzzFed? And didn’t Gawker do the Hogan? Mother Jones? Fuck you.
But it’s different with the Post. As much as it has fallen, it is still the Post, the paper that brought down Nixon. I hope that this is when they realize that telling both sides and covering the debate is enabling an authoritarian the likes of which this country has never seen. I worry, and will worry until proven wrong, that the press will self-censor so they can stay in bed with the campaign. Access! That’s what most tyrants want. Self-censorship out of fear and preservation is so much more effective than having to line people up against the wall. Voices that are compliant in their own silence are usually too ashamed to ever speak up. That’s what Trump wants.
But maybe this will be different. Maybe this is so outrageous that they’ll push back. Maybe they’ll be fully awakened to the danger of this American monster.