Last week’s “SECOND THOUGHTS” about Trump’s all-out effort to “kill the messenger,” contained these words. “If he (Trump) continues to deliberately make our national press out to be “the enemy of the people,” some sociopath will reach for a weapon.”
The day that column appeared, so did stories of a masked gunman going into a radio station in Wisconsin, firing five shots at three employees, wounding one. He got away.
It wasn’t that I was so prescient. It was just plain damned predictable. The national atmosphere has been full of “kill the messenger” and hate for the media for months. That someone would actually reach for a gun and act out the rhetoric of hatred has left some of us to wonder what took so long. Related to Trump’s dangerous words?
As I said last week, reporters and others in the media have received threats for many years. Large markets or small, if you’ve been a reporter - especially in broadcasting - you’ve probably got your own stories to tell.
But, never has the President of the United States been the constant cheer leader for taking out HIS anger on the media. It was only a matter of time before some twisted bastard took his “call to arms’ seriously. Just a few months ago, one of ‘em killed five employees of a Maryland newspaper. And, it’s an undeniable fact, threats against reporters have increased dramatically in recent weeks. Some media have even broadcast recordings of a few.
No one with any “smarts” at all can deny Trump has fostered the atmosphere where such tragedies can occur. He’s used his celebrity - if not the actual power of his office - to plant what some demented minds could construe as “orders” to defend him from purveyors of “fake news.” To undertake a “righteous mission” to prove they’re “real Americans” acting to protect their “pres-i-dent.”
Some folk have wondered why reporters cover his unending campaign rallies where such hatred is espoused. The plain fact is he’s the President of the United States. Where he goes, what he does and what he says are the public’s business and are deemed necessary to cover. For historic purposes, if nothing else. The media can’t ignore his words and actions any more than they could when Barack Obama or George Bush or other Presidents were traveling and speaking.
There are also the broadcast ratings. When reports of Trump’s outrageous behavior and words hit a new low, ratings generally go up. Which pleases advertisers, which makes money to pay for the coverage. Broadcast bosses, especially, are not going to walk away from that. Works with newspapers as well.
But, there may be a middle ground. Cover his blasphemous circuses the way you do repeated campaign appearances. A small broadcast crew could be assigned in case some honest news comes out of the event. If not, no coverage, except maybe to report the rally happened. Period. If news occurs, the networks are “covered.” We don’t have to be inundated with repeated broadcasts of the same crap, over and over.
We know what Trump is and we know how he acts and speaks. He’s dangerous. He’s reckless. He’s a chronic liar. His speech and his constant lies are reprehensible to many.
But, they also have an appeal to others - many of whom have their own “problems.” They’re more worrisome than Trump. They’re the ones liable to act on what he says and how he says it. The Wisconsin shooting could be just such an act.
Trump is trying to silence honest journalism. Truth is an anathema to him. Like an animal in a trap, he’s slowly being “brought to ground.” He knows it. Leaks from the White House staff tell of his rages. A narcissist and a compulsive liar under such pressures is a very dangerous person.
But, more dangerous still are those who follow and, in some cases, literally worship him. In the crowd hysteria - and for some long time after - Trump’s words can plant seeds and cause tragic actions.
The shooting is not over. Stay tuned.