I know we conservatives often grouse that the establishment media dictates our opinions to us — that they decide the agenda, they set the language and we’re supposed to listen.
I never supposed, at least in a free society, the alternative could actually be worse.
In fact, when the internet first appeared when I was in middle school, I thought it would keep our legacy papers and broadcast networks honest.
What I’d envisioned, stupidly, was that we’d all act as a check to keep them on an even keel. If a story was slanted too liberally, we’d kick off our slippers, put down our pipe and write the editors an email. If a story was slanted too conservatively, liberal-leaning folks would kick off their Birkenstocks, put down that other type of pipe and write the editors an email.
Sometimes the editors might reconsider. Sometimes they wouldn’t. But they’d have a better idea of the pulse of the populace — better, at least, than old envelope-and-stamp mail could have ever given them.
It’d keep them honest, sober and fair.
There are days that I want to go back in time and disabuse Sega Genesis-playing, Starter jacket-wearing me of the uselessness of this notion by bringing along an iPad an introducing him to the enervated, thought-free digital screechfest that is Twitter.
After he got over how cool the iPad was, he’d realize all the internet was going to do to legacy media was push them further in the direction they already tilted — usually left — by having raging partisans lash them for the slightest ideological transgression until they capitulated and did exactly what the most toxic, reflexive voices on the internet would have them do.
Of course, the butterfly effect being what it is, I’d now be living off the grid somewhere in Saskatchewan and eating foraged berries for every meal. On days like these, I’d say it’s pretty much a wash.
What has me pining for the coniferous forests of Western Canada is a headline — or, should I say, was a headline — in response to the president’s Rose Garden speech on Monday.
During the speech, President Donald Trump said he was considering sending the military into American cities to stop the unrest touched off by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died May 25 in Minneapolis after a police officer knelt on his neck for roughly nine minutes during an arrest.
The original front-page headline for Tuesday’s paper was tweeted out by Tom Jolly, print editor for The Times: “As Chaos Spreads, Trump Vows to ‘End It Now.’”
Tomorrow’s @nytimes tonight (first edition):
— Tom Jolly (@TomJolly) June 2, 2020
There are several things I’d like to point out here:
- Chaos was spreading.
- Trump had weighed in.
- He said he’d “end it now.”
The headline is accurate.
It doesn’t make Trump necessarily sound good — particularly to The Times’ readership, who have been conditioned by the paper to treat any sort of tough talk out of the president’s mouth as if it were being spoken by General Pinochet.
It could perhaps have been more inclusive by saying the president had invoked the specter of military action. Other than that, everything mentioned was totally accurate.
If you ventured onto Twitter in the intervening hours, you would have been under the impression that Jolly’s crew had written a piece of adulating Trump fanfiction which they were trying to pass off as journalism.
Leading the charge was New York City’s most famous House member:
You’ve got to be kidding me. https://t.co/XJqrTH5P7c
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 2, 2020
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York tweeted.
Blue checkmarks everywhere were similarly enraged.
Here’s Joe Biden’s press secretary:
This is absolutely embarrassing, and also utterly unsurprising. https://t.co/LrLue08NHl
— TJ Ducklo (@TDucklo) June 2, 2020
WARNING: One of the following tweets contain graphic language that some viewers will find offensive.
Former Obama administration Housing and Urban Development secretary and failed 2020 presidential candidate Julián Castro:
The President is acting like a budding dictator.
— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) June 2, 2020
Former Obama adviser Ben Rhodes:
If the New York Times thinks this accurately describes what happened today, I have no idea what country they’ve been living in – they should just let Trump write their headlines. https://t.co/zZn7H5cZiC
— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) June 2, 2020
Democratic strategist Tom Watson also weighed in:
Holy fucking crap – the Times is pro-fascist. This is it, they’ve crossed over to full compliance with the regime. https://t.co/eBqU4tC4N4
— Tom Watson (@tomwatson) June 2, 2020
So did Hawaii Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz:
The New York Times headline writers are going to Both Sides the country to death. https://t.co/FvrDVE0sJe
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) June 2, 2020
Well, as it turns out, they were kidding, AOC. Or, at the very least, they realized the outrage police had a warrant for their arrest and it was time to beat the rap: The late edition changed the headline to read ‘Trump Threatens to Send Troops into States.”
This isn’t an aberration for The Times, sadly. Last year, in the wake of a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, in which the gunman espoused racial motives, the president gave a speech in which he roundly and unequivocally condemned the moral rot of bigotry.
The original Times headline was “Trump Urges Unity vs. Racism.” Which, you know, is what he did. After a similar Twitter conflagration, that got changed to “Assailing Hate But Not Guns.”
According to Fox News, that capitulation took only 59 minutes.
Then as now, you can guess the vanguard of the Twitterstorm:
Let this front page serve as a reminder of how white supremacy is aided by – and often relies upon – the cowardice of mainstream institutions. https://t.co/ynjgtT66yI
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) August 6, 2019
Berries and rainwater, anyone? I hear Saskatchewan is lovely this time of year.
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