During one of his question-and-answer sessions on Facebook a few weeks ago, Brandon Webb was discussing politics and how it plays a role in our work here on the site. As Brandon briefly explained, and as Jack Murphy has pointed out in meetings, none of SOFREP’s management team asked me about my political affiliations when I came on. SOFREP isn’t in the business of choosing a political line and asking its contributors to toe it. Instead, they want us to produce the best work that we can, and that sometimes means providing you, the readers, with insight into our biases. It’s the sort of thing that makes me proud to work for this company, rather than a large outlet that pretends to be absent of bias, and then runs headlines like this:
This is how poisonous media rhetoric has become. When a monster commits a heinous crime, the first thing the media could think to do was tie that crime to their favorite bad guy. In the ’90s, that bad guy would have been Marilyn Manson. In the 2000s, it probably would have been Eminem or video games. But now, if someone takes the life of another person, it has to have been the influence of none other than the president of the United States.
As a few of us have pointed out, Trump’s executive order on refugees and immigration was little more than an expansion of previous orders put into place by folks like President Barack Obama. Trump’s executive order to restart the Dakota Access Pipeline Obama so heroically stopped (after the vast majority of it was complete and protestors had been on site for months) was really just an order to complete the environmental analysis ordered by Obama and to find a way to complete the project in which billions of dollars had already been invested. If Obama were still in office, that would all still need to get accomplished, but it likely would have received a good deal less press.
And what about the wall? Trump signed an executive order, so surely the concrete is already being poured, right? Of course not. It still has to be funded, which will involve Congress, and will likely be subject to a good deal of analysis regarding environmental impact to the regions it goes through. These reality checks don’t draw in clicks, though, and the media is a business powered by your attention.
So in the interest of full disclosure, I’m going to be honest about my own political biases—ones I was never asked to discuss throughout the interview process or in my writing, but one that seems important now as the media works to divide us further.
I really don’t like Donald Trump.
He’s arrogant, a sloppy communicator, and self-serving—all things I can learn to appreciate, but not what I look for in a president. Of course, my alternative was Hillary Clinton, a woman I don’t believe to be trustworthy enough to run a lemonade stand and who could easily be described as all three of those negative things I attributed to Trump, as well as a whole lot more.
I’m not a red hat-wearing Trump supporter. I’m not a conservative pundit. I’m not a Trump defender. I’m just a regular guy that tries really hard to be reasonable. I’ve spent a lot of time in other countries, and I spent the better part of my twenties serving my own. Those experiences have taught me that the right answer isn’t often the one being yelled the loudest, and when two groups are trying to yell over one another, reason probably falls somewhere in between.
So as I watch the mainstream media report on every move the new president makes as though he’s ushering in the end of the world, I start to cringe. This kind of reporting deteriorates our society, embarrasses us on the world stage, and undermines the good President Trump may be able to accomplish. I may not like the guy, but that doesn’t mean he’s incapable of creating positive change, it doesn’t mean he’s trying to ruin the country, and it doesn’t mean that every executive order he signs places American idealism in danger. It just means I don’t really like the guy. Somewhere along the way, the media forgot that there’s a difference.
As each executive order is met with more marches, and more protests, and more reporting as though the freedom sky is falling, we get further and further away from the spirited debate democracy is supposed to cherish. Instead, both sides accuse the other of spreading “fake news”—and both sides are right. The internet is ripe with trash pretending to be news, and the world is full of idiots more than happy to eat it up. As mainstream outlets keep reporting on America’s fall from glory, the American media is beginning to look like the boy who cried wolf.
Imagine if tomorrow, President Trump signed an executive order that really was as awful as the 15 or so he’s signed thus far are supposed to be. Maybe he tries to ban women from owning property, or tries to do away with the election process to make himself supreme American president for life. How would CNN report on it? Would they just add more exclamation points? How could they possibly elevate the rhetoric above “TRUMP WATCH”—the latest gadget on their homepage that tells you about every terrifying thing the man does.
Did you know he watched “Finding Dory” with his son the other day? If you missed it, you weren’t paying close enough attention to TRUMP WATCH. Thank God CNN and MSN were there to get Ellen’s opinion on it.
Now, I honestly think that the executive order regarding refugees and immigration that the media has taken to calling a “Muslim ban” was sloppily executed and not particularly well thought out, but that’s it. It wasn’t unconstitutional or illegal, nor was it even that different from things we’ve seen other presidents and nations do. Parts of it that didn’t work have already been rolled back because this is still America, and real life, no matter how many times news outlets want to report that the book “1984” is a best-seller again thanks to Trump, as though that’s somehow a commentary on where society is rather than a commentary on where the media machine is telling you to put your dollars (Penguin Publishing, owned by Pearson Education, which owns a number of news outlets).
I’ve taken to calling this latest media trend “political catastrophism,” and in my opinion, it’s a dangerous precedent to set. By treating every small thing Trump does as though it’s the end of the world, the media will exhaust the angry Left and force the moderate Right into fortified defensive positions. That’s a bad place to have both groups. The Left should be critical of Trump, and they should legitimately fight for their beliefs when necessary, but only when they need to. The Right should be supportive of the man and willing to see where his plans are going, but they should be willing to acknowledge when he diverts from their own belief structures or does something that isn’t in the best interest of the nation. That’s how we keep each other, and our president, honest.
I want the media to storm the castle if ever there’s a real need to, but this new form of enter-news-ment that seeks to have us believe we’re watching the fall of Rome does no one any good, and although it gives college kids something to cling to as they lament their fates of having to pay for their own healthcare, education, and home with dollars they earn working at real jobs, it hurts the democratic process. We should get pissed off when things aren’t going right, we should take to the streets to contest unfair government practices, and we should all be paying attention to executive orders as they’re signed, but if we try to meet every little thing with our full protesting fervor, political activism will go the way of the gorilla—killed by someone whose name you don’t remember and forgotten forever a week later.
Featured image courtesy of npr.org