This Is Why Journalists Should Not Praise Donald Trump For Successfully Doing Bad Things
Any person in proximity to pop culture has surely noticed the breathless, fawning quotes that attend the promotion of any piece of art, like a movie poster or a commercial, which are covered in declarations that Movie X or Album Y is the best in years, that nobody is doing it better, that it is “bold” and “daring” and every other adjective used to signify something worthwhile.
These bland endorsements are usually snipped from bigger reviews, as the writer’s argument gets boiled down to whatever serves the publicist’s needs. It’s a shady part of the industry, but it happens. The stakes are low, and as long as everyone gets what they want—the critic their full review, the publicist their declarative press release—no one raises a stink.
But occasionally, the stakes are higher. Today, the White House sent out a press release for its own accomplishments in the short week of the Trump administration, which has included such dubious feats as reinstating the global gag rule, re-enabling the torture of detained prisoners, moving ahead with the Keystone pipeline, attempting to move ahead with the repeal of Obamacare, and much more. According to the White House, and the journalists quoted in its press release, all of this is extremely good:
— Christina Wilkie (@christinawilkie) January 25, 2017
Not everyone quoted is a full-blown hack, except for Sean Hannity. The Atlantic, the Chicago Tribune, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today—they’ve all done work that people on both sides of the aisle have praised, regardless of their ideological bents.
But when journalists merely say that Trump is successful at doing bad things, inasmuch as “accomplishment” means “thing that happened,” they allow him to launder his reputation through the mainstream media. Like the movie poster or commercial, the context is stripped away, leaving only the enthusiastic promotion. Does the efficiency of his follow-through on his campaign promises matter, if those promises entail the effective repeal of the New Deal and a massive roll-back on women’s and minority rights?
It doesn’t, actually, and Trump’s press people know it. The “objective” coverage is refashioned into propaganda, meant to push the idea that all of this is good. It’s bold. It’s daring. It’s the good shit, no fake shit required. The media said it, so it must be true.