I'm willing to play "The Media's Jumping to Conclusions Game" if you're willing to play "The White House Keeps Lying Game."
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) May 11, 2017
This is pretty much where I’m at. Although I think Shapiro is specifically addressing Pres. Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, some version of this should be more broadly applicable.
Much of the anti-anti-Trump crowd, however, can only get halfway there. Or, if they find any fault with the White House, they’re not saying.
I’ve already explained why I’m trying to avoid falling into the anti-anti-Trump camp; no need to rehash it here. Instead, I’ll focus on how Shapiro’s tweet sparked am additional clarifying moment for me.
In recent weeks, I have been writing about culture as an amalgamation of institutions. I have also been suggesting conservatives should be revisiting our predeliction for preserving institutions, at least in cases where the Left has already succeeded in effectively crippling or subverting them through infiltration or external political pressure.
I have been slowly and incrementally working through such questions against the backdrop of a century of progressive successes in marching through our culture’s non-governmental institutions, including the media.
Consequently, Shapiro’s tweet jumped out at me for a point that can be made about institutions.
As previously noted, I have largely written off the establishment media as being amenable to reform anytime in the foreseeable future. The establishment media is largely a broken institution. It can be said that their hysterical reaction to Trump represents an escalation, but the same could have been said of any incoming GOP administration (particularly that of George W. Bush who — like Trump — managed an Electoral College victory without winning the popular vote).
It is not as though the Right — and conservative media in particular — has not escalated in the ferocity of its attitude towards Democrats and their administrations. They hit us, so we hit them back. Bada-bap, bada-
Maybe our government is also a broken institution (though I would not rate it as broken as our media). That perception, ironically, is part of How We Got Trump.
But unlike the establishment media, our government is a public institution and one defined by its monopoly on the legitimate use of force. Citizens therefore can and should demand better of our government, even if the media’s private status makes it more durable than any given administration.
Indeed, if you view or justify Trump’s election as a rebuke to Beltway politics as usual, there should be less tolerance for his administration misleading us (at best) regarding why Trump, by his own account, fired the FBI Director. That Trump has the Constitutional authority to dismiss him, or that we might agree with the pretext for the decision, in no way excuses our government from honestly accounting for the decision.
[Regarding the pretext: While most of the dishonesty here came from Trump’s employees, Trump himself now claims Comey did a bad job after praising him before the election and asking him to stay on in January. Yesterday, Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe testified at a Senate hearing that Comey “enjoyed broad support” within the FBI. Thomas O’Connor, president of the FBI Agents Association, called that support overwhelming. A March Harvard-Harris poll showed Comey had bad approval numbers, but only 35 percent had an unfavorable view of him; a large number of voters had no opinion.]
I would find it much easier to focus on attacking the media for their obsession over unproven accusations linking Trump campaign associates with Russia if we did not have a President who had it in mind when he fired Comey. Many conservatives (myself included) may tend to think that because there is no evidence of Trump’s culpability in this matter, the firing was essentially a fit of pique over the media hysteria.
But assuming such to be the case, it is fairly obvious that the impulse to try to shut down negative media coverage by firing a top law enforcement official was at a minimum counter-productive (and foreseeably so). At worst, it reflects an intolerance for the sort of political and media hysteria faced by many presidents, and the sort of temperament that leads a President to make larger mistakes later.
If you’re mentally dismissing the above by joking to yourself that this is who we elected, take a moment to consider that’s an admission, not a defense.
Lastly, if you’re the sort who really enjoys loathing the establishment media, note that the Trump administration’s disingenuous handling of this major decision will only be seen by the media as justifying their hysteria. They won’t be entirely wrong about that, regardless of whether you choose to minimize the administration’s dishonesty.
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