Saturday, January 27, 2018

Time to dial back the anti-Trump vitriol?

(First published in The Dominion Post, January 26.)

The late country singer Waylon Jennings once wrote and recorded a song with the splendid title Don’t You Think This Outlaw Bit’s Done Got Out of Hand.

It was a wry comment on the consequences of being identified as a key figure in country music’s outlaw movement, so named because it rebelled against the white-bread conservatism of the country music mainstream.

A magazine article about Jennings had referred to his cocaine use, which resulted in federal drug agents raiding the studio where he was recording. That was the genesis of the song, which included the lines: “Someone called us outlaws in some old magazine/And New York sent a posse down like I ain’t never seen.”

It wasn’t exactly Jennings’ most memorable song, but its title sprang into my head a few days ago while I was reading the latest frenzied denunciations of Donald Trump. 

I loathe Trump, as does virtually everyone I know. But things have got to the point where it’s fair to ask: Don’t you think this Donald Trump bit’s done got out of hand?

The unceasing barrage of anti-Trump vitriol in the media has reached fever pitch, but you have to wonder what it’s achieving. The polls show virtually no decline in the number of American voters who approve of him, while the number who strongly approve of him remains steady at 28-30 per cent.

Meanwhile, inconveniently for Trump despisers like me, economists are talking about the “Trump bump”. The American economy is humming along merrily and there has been a rise in consumer confidence.

Some anti-Trump comment is right on the nail. An example was Tom Scott’s cartoon three days ago which had Trump saying: “Fake news says that I am a narcissist, which I am not. But if I was, I would be the best narcissist ever, period, no question!”

It perfectly encapsulated the US president’s combination of vanity and oafishness and might even have coaxed a grudging smile from Trump fans.

But mostly the condemnation directed at Trump is preaching to the converted. After all, the people who are appalled by him made up their minds long before he got to the White House. Constantly disparaging and ridiculing him may reinforce their sense of moral certitude, but there’s no evidence that it will change anything.

In fact it may be counter-productive, because those who support Trump look at the outpouring of loathing in the media and take it as proof that he’s the victim of a conspiracy by elitist journalists who are overwhelmingly biased against him and interested only in publishing material that reflects badly on him.

Some American journalists are wise enough to see this. On America’s National Public Radio last week I heard Michael Woolf say that the US press was behaving hysterically and making a fool of itself. “As we go after his [Trump’s] credibility, our credibility equally becomes a problem,” he said.

Woolf is no cheerleader for Trump. He’s the author of the recent best-seller Fire and Fury, an exposé of the president’s bizarre behaviour in the White House. 

It was also on National Public Radio (which, incidentally, wrings it hands in anguish over Trump 24/7) that I heard an even more damning condemnation of the US media from another journalist, Glenn Greenwald.

This might seem surprising, since Greenwald is a hero of the Left. He collaborated with National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden and came to New Zealand for Kim Dotcom’s much-vaunted “Moment of Truth” event, which was supposed to turn the tide against John Key’s government immediately before the 2014 election.

I can’t imagine Greenwald is a fan of Trump any more than Woolf is. But to his credit he exposed the fact that several major American media outlets, including CNN and CBS, published a false story implicating the Trump camp in a Russian hacking operation.

The media outlets portrayed the story as a smoking gun and claimed it had been verified by multiple sources. But a crucial date proved to be wrong, which completely nullified their account – and when it became obvious they had got it wrong, they tried to wriggle out by broadcasting a grudging, half-hearted correction.

According to Greenwald, it was the latest in a series of serious mistakes made by journalists reporting Trump’s suspected links with Russia. He says the US media are in such a frenzy to “get the goods” on Trump that they are willing to violate the principles of good journalism, thereby confirming public suspicions that they cannot be trusted and inviting Trump’s taunts about “fake news”.

If Waylon Jennings were still around, it would make a great song.  I’ve got just the title for it.

FOOTNOTE: An anonymous commenter took a whack at me on Stuff yesterday for making the supposedly “obligatory declaration for media types” of disclosing my loathing for Trump. Well, I do loathe Trump. Would this person have preferred that I was dishonest about admitting it? Didn’t the rest of my column serve as a warning that “media types” – that includes me – risk having their journalistic judgment distorted by their aversion to him? And didn't I acknowledge that the US economy was thriving, as this commenter was anxious to point out? Sigh. You just can’t win. 


hilary531 said...

'No comments'?? Hard to believe when Trump is the focus! Here goes then...Yes, it is time to dial it back and some have..a bit. Not sure about others but the 1-way anti-Trump traffic seems to raise the pile on my kiwi 'sympathy for the underdog' gene carpet. I recall being depressed on election night, probably shock more than anything else, and I am hardly a fan in that I would not have voted for him. 'Sympathy' is too strong but like you I find myself getting irritated by the blanket vitriol. I even have whanau who like him and are enjoying the disruption to the establishment. Can't recall a figure in politics like him and a media so obsessed. Pleased to be living in lifeboat Aotearoa though...

Jigsaw said...

I just don't see the point in people continually stating their loathing for Trump. I mean who really cares? Surely it's what the man does or doesn't do that matters. Personally I thought Obama a pretty loathsome person from his actions and inactions but I feel much more comfortable in attacking his failed policies which is what really matters.
Many of the comments being made virtually every night on our television channels are just plain petty and often simply lies. There was the selective use of videos clips to show that Trump offended the Japanese PM-lie. To show how stupid Mrs Trump was in wearing high heels to a disacter-lie.
Hardly surprising is the effect that all this negative publicity is having both on Trumps opinion polls and the increasing doubt people feel for the MSM.

Ron Atkin said...

Well stated Jigsaw. Most political leaders (and Judges) that I have come across, tend to make me feel less than comfortable. Seldom would they be someone I would have as a mate, but all those that I have met, and/or witnessed doing their thing, have always impressed me, no matter what side. Hard jobs - special people.

So I agree on "rate what they do or don't do". Their personalities and quirks are almost irrelevant. Example, I am so looking forward to us having a nice female leader who can speak of a majority rather than a majoridy, but that's a superficial "like", not reason to vote.

Scott said...

Well I think trump is awesome and as president of the Wairarapa branch of the Trump appreciation society I can speak with authority that many people I know like trump. WeWell meet together in a small living room and watch fox news and marvel at Trump's awesomeness.

Seriously I would suggest that the American economy is booming and America is looking at a very bright future.

That future is built on Trump policies of cutting back regulations, freeing up the energy sector, cutting back corporate tax rates and embracing economic growth.

Meanwhile in NZ we are doing the opposite. No tax cuts, more regulations, embrace of every pc cause imaginable and not even discussing economic growth!

We could actually learn from what Trump is doing. But we never will because we have a left wing government and a left wing media that wouldn't know economic growth if it bit them on the bottom. And our country will be poorer for it.

Karl du Fresne said...

I agree with much of what you say, Scott, but I still find Trump appalling.

Scott said...

Totally understand - he's a loud brash American and who can abide that?

However he is the man needed right now. He is the only guy who is prepared to part with accepted pc wisdom on issues like trade, immigration and climate change. His stance on trade and protecting American workers is very thought provoking and potentially very instructive to other countries such as our own.

He is like General Patton in World War 2. He was a complete prick in many ways but he was the most aggressive, the most gung-ho and one of the most successful generals of the war. Trump is successfully battling the deep state, the left wing media and opposition from both parties.
He does have one big virtue though - courage. He fights on despite so many against him.

Jigsaw said...

If you want an illustration as to how badly we are served by the MSM with regard to American politics in general and Trump in particular then look at what there has been in the MSM in regard to the FISA memo. In spite of looking (just on line admittedly - as I don't subscribe to any newspaper) but also on TV, I have not detected a single news item that covered what has happened appart from some snide comments with regard to Trump. No actual explanation of what has happened just a few put-downs that are not explained with any context.

Jigsaw said...

I don't want to labour the point but it has occurred to me (especially after my brother sent me a very tired and recycled joke-with Trump as the butt)- has anyone noticed how those sort of jokes try to make Trump appear stupid? What about the way that in previous years the same sort of jokes were about Reagan and Bush? All attempted to make them appear stupid.