April 28, 2016
At least the leftist race-baiters and the right-wing (and nihilist) trolls are honest. The trolls want attention, and the lefties hate whitey and they don”t mind saying so. But the members of the mainstream press? I don”t think they”ll stop for a moment to understand or admit their role in the sideshow. When they begin publicizing the hell out of the defaced Tubman bills, I doubt we”ll see any of Romano’s cynicism or honesty. Professional journalists have the unique ability to gin up or trump up tawdry “freak of the week” stories while fooling themselves into believing they had no part in it beyond being objective observers.
That self-delusion is apparent even in some of the best in the field. Last month I was having one of my occasional back-and-forths with Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute. Tompkins is one of the good guys, a sound journalist and respected media critic (I”ve relied on his expert opinion in several previous columns). I asked Tompkins if he was concerned that the media’s apparent insistence on giving print space and screen time to anyone who shows up at a Trump rally claiming to be a Nazi or Klansman could in fact be encouraging publicity-hungry trolls to show up wearing white robes while sieg heiling to the cameras. I gave the example of the two “Klansmen” who showed up at a Nevada caucus location holding pro-Trump signs clearly meant to embarrass the New England Police Benevolent Association (my point being that those two gents obviously knew their appearance would make headlines, and they used the media to get publicity for a personal beef unrelated to Trump).
Tompkins disagreed with my assertion that the media purposely highlights racist imagery for lurid or sensational purposes: “If the incident incites news, then you cover the news,” he said. There’s no calculation, no editorial agenda. You show up, you cover what’s there. A robot could do it. I reminded Tompkins of a story I wrote about several years ago: At Glenn Beck’s massive 2010 “Restoring Honor” rally at the Lincoln Memorial, Lyndon LaRouche cultists were passing out pamphlets on the outer edge of the event depicting Obama as Hitler. In a crowd of 300,000 people, an AP reporter managed to find one of those tiny pamphlets, like a bloodhound genetically modified to find a Nazi needle in a conservative haystack, and he featured it prominently in his article without letting his readers know that it was from LaRouche’s organization, not Beck’s. A year later, at MoveOn.org’s anti”Scott Walker rally outside L.A. City Hall, the Larouchies brought a giant ten-by-twenty-foot banner with the same Obama/Hitler image. The banner dwarfed every other sign at the event, yet in a crowd of barely 2,000, not a single press organization (including the AP) photographed or mentioned the contentious image.
I told Tompkins, “The fact is, the press can ignore wacky extremists as easily as it can cover them. Ignoring loons with questionable or self-serving intentions can be done.”
He abruptly (and uncharacteristically) cut off the correspondence.
The unwillingness of mainstream journalists to fess up to their role in creating or exacerbating racial controversies by turning small pamphlets into giant billboards (while conversely turning actual giant billboards into postage stamps) is why the impending Tubman disfigurement campaign will bring joy to so many, left and right.
It’s a shame that the respectable journos will be the only ones unable or unwilling to admit how much fun they”re having.