Poor Jim Acosta. He got booed at a Trump rally, and now he believes he’s in some sort of totalitarian despotism.
In case you’ve been asleep for these past few days, let me explain. Acosta — best known as CNN’s petulant, glib, openly anti-Trump White House correspondent — attended one of President Donald Trump’s campaign-style rallies in Tampa, Florida. This wasn’t the first time he had attended these events, and every time he’s used the occasion as an opportunity to jape and condemn Trump supporters.
This time, Trump fans decided to give him a warm welcome, chanting “CNN sucks” and showing him a certain finger in a gesture that wasn’t a thumbs-up.
“Just a sample of the sad scene we faced at the Trump rally in Tampa. I’m very worried that the hostility whipped up by Trump and some in conservative media will result in somebody getting hurt,” Acosta said in a tweet, together with footage of his reception. “We should not treat our fellow Americans this way. The press is not the enemy.”
Of course, Acosta didn’t point out that the media and the left treats our fellow Americans exactly this way. That’s all right, though, since Politico’s Marc Caputo decided to remind everyone.
Hee-sterical! Caputo would eventually delete the tweet and apologize for the remark while not really apologizing, noting that “(h)ate begets hate.” Except that these were simply individuals expressing their opinions on the media in a raucous fashion, not stereotyping Trump supporters as toothless hayseeds. Caputo’s “apology” seems to have done the trick, as nearest I can tell he hasn’t faced either suspension or termination from Politico as of this writing.
The next day, without mentioning Caputo’s tweet at all, Acosta went on air and said he thought he “wasn’t in America anymore” when attending the rally the day before.
“He is whipping these crowds up into a frenzy to the point where they really want to come after us,” Acosta bleated on air.
Do you think the media is biased against Trump supporters?
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“My sense of it is that these opinions these folks have at these rallies, they’re shaped by what they see in the primetime hours of Fox News and what they hear from some conservative news outlets that just sort of give them this daily diet of what they consider to be terrible things we do over here at CNN.”
So, what could they possibly have been angry about? I don’t know. Maybe it was stuff like this:
Yes, CNN doesn’t do anything Trump fans could call objectionable, like wondering aloud if Donald Trump — and, by association, his supporters — are in league with fascists like the Nazis. They don’t, for instance, have contributors that actually rationalize violence against Trump supporters, in particular a teenage boy who had a drink thrown in his face for wearing a MAGA cap. They don’t have contributors saying that “folks calling for civility might need to check their privilege.” They don’t have viewers of “news outlets that just sort of give them this daily diet of what they consider to be terrible things” berating NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch by calling her a “murderer” at a CNN town hall. None of these things have happened. And by none, I of course mean all of them.
And this isn’t all of the abuse that fans of the president take, particularly on the Trump = fascism front. Here’s a screenshot of just three pages of the roughly 10,900,000 results produced when you do a Google search on “Trump fascism”:
And while some of them are of the “No, Trump isn’t a fascist, you idiot” variety, there’s plenty of news stories documenting Trump and administration officials being called fascists or talking about how the president is a fascist — like “Yes, Trump is a Fascist — Here’s the Checklist.”
Let’s take one of these articles, at website The Conversation (motto: “Academic Rigor, Journalistic Flair”) which first lays out how fascism developed in Germany and Italy, including descriptions of the Nuremberg and Eichmann trials and theories of collective responsibility and individual responsibility.
“In neither case did people go to sleep as fascists and wake up the next day as liberal democrats,” the article, published May 31, reads. “But when we talk of fascism today we often talk as if that model of the regimes were accurate: we concern ourselves with identifying individuals — like Trump — who ‘count’ or do not ‘count’ as fascist, as if they are on trial.
“But just as fascism was not dismantled by the trials alone, so the same is true of the ways in which these movements developed, and appear to be developing now. They are not the spontaneous results of a sudden transformation in specific people, but steps in an open-ended process. Their roots are diffuse and hard to grasp. Grasping them is perhaps more difficult than pointing at particular individuals as ‘fascist,’ but it is surely at least as important.”
The implication of this article, clearly a piece of academically rigorous material, is that the American polity is on the slippery slope to fascism and Trump supporters are kinda sorta probably responsible for this. Academic rigor, apparently, involves couching demagogy in terms so equivocal pretty much nobody can discern your argument.
Thankfully, The New York Times and Clinton-era cabinet members are more journalistic flair than they are academic rigor, so they were more upfront about how they think. In an April 6 op-ed titled “Will We Stop Trump Before It’s Too Late?” former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright laid out why she thinks that Trump is a crypto-fascist.
“On April 28, 1945 — 73 years ago — Italians hung the corpse of their former dictator Benito Mussolini upside down next to a gas station in Milan. Two days later, Adolf Hitler committed suicide in his bunker beneath the streets of war-ravaged Berlin. Fascism, it appeared, was dead,” she wrote.
“Today, we are in a new era, testing whether the democratic banner can remain aloft amid terrorism, sectarian conflicts, vulnerable borders, rogue social media and the cynical schemes of ambitious men. The answer is not self-evident. We may be encouraged that most people in most countries still want to live freely and in peace, but there is no ignoring the storm clouds that have gathered. In fact, fascism — and the tendencies that lead toward fascism — pose a more serious threat now than at any time since the end of World War II.”
She doesn’t mention really mention our president until the end of the fifth paragraph, where she links him with the continued failure of the Arab Spring and the disintegration of Syria. (The president under which most of the damage was done in both circumstances remains curiously unmentioned.) She then states that “the possibility that fascism will be accorded a fresh chance to strut around the world stage is enhanced by the volatile presidency of Donald Trump.”
“At one time or another, Mr. Trump has attacked the judiciary, ridiculed the media, defended torture, condoned police brutality, urged supporters to rough up hecklers and — jokingly or not — equated mere policy disagreements with treason,” she worte. One must forgive Ms. Albright; this was before Helsinki, where no less than John Brennan “equated mere policy disagreements with treason,” or Maxine Waters’ statement in which she “urged supporters to rough up” Trump administration officials.
As for the first count, Barack Obama went as far as to attack the judiciary in his State of the Union address, a fact again elided by Ms. Albright. As for counts three and four, these are matters of opinion. In terms of ridiculing the media, consider that he’s ridiculing the selfsame press which is publishing an opinion piece in which a former Clinton administration secretary of state seriously argues that our president is taking us the path of Nazi Germany. (It’s worth noting Albright would later say, on CNN of all places, that Trump isn’t actually a fascist, just the “most undemocratic president in American history.” So apparently she spent a whole gaggle of words in Gotham’s political paper of record explicitly comparing Trump to a fascist but doesn’t really believe he’s a fascist. Whatever.)
This is, by the way, the more responsible reactions that were considered publishable by the press. It doesn’t include the innumerable members of the media, both associated with news and otherwise, who have made social media statements comparing Trump and his supporters to Nazis. Yet, where’s the outrage? Where are the statements from Acosta warning his own network for condoning “uncivil behavior” (read: assaults) toward Trump supporters? Where is he condemning the CNN crowd members who called Dana Loesch a “murderer?”
If you call someone a fascist or a Nazi — or a supporter of a fascist or a Nazi — how do you expect them to react? Like they did at the Trump rally this week would be a reasonable guesstimate.
Acosta isn’t willing to take his own network to task for how they’ve enabled and encouraged the kind of reaction they received in Tampa — a reaction that included no politicized violence, an act which contributors to CNN have openly justified. That’s why no one ought to be particularly sympathetic toward his maudlin whining about how giving a CNN correspondent the finger somehow represents a new low in political discourse, especially when he and his network have been openly antagonistic toward the people who gave it.