Saturday 24 August 2019

Television review ... Trump: now they're getting it

  • Trump (All Channels)

A mexican child cries after being detained by US border guards
A mexican child cries after being detained by US border guards
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

It might have been the announcement of the American embassy being moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; it might have been the announcement that America was pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal; it's hard to recall exactly which one it was, because with Trump there are so many announcements, of so many things.

The important thing here is not which announcement it was, but what came before it on CNN, a studio discussion of what the president might be about to say, in which several commentators were setting the scene - it looked so impressive because they were not being interviewed one after the other, they were all in the studio at the same time, seven or eight of them. I stopped counting after the first few contributions, delivered in the magisterial tones of these highly respected American commentators.

I also stopped listening after I realised that for all their gravitas, they still didn't get it. They were still regarding Trump the way they would regard any other president, and debating what he was about to say, as if some serious strategic thinking had gone into it, by a leader acting in good faith - or at least not in bad faith. So they were committing a basic "category error". Or worse, maybe they knew they were committing a category error but were ploughing on regardless, in order to show off the range and quality of their own serious strategic thinking, regardless of what gibberish was about to emerge from the Trumper.

And these were the good guys, this was the "proper" commentary which, like much else in that vein, has been reporting Trump in the manner of a sports journalist who is sent to cover a ball-game, and whose report consists mainly of a review of the hot-dog stands - they have simply not identified the true nature of the thing that is in front of them, so that it took scenes of children being taken from their parents, these echoes of the Nazis themselves, to persuade them that this is a degenerate regime which should be treated as such.

And that this is a truly dangerous time in which there is no place for our old friend, the impartial reporter.

They should have realised this long ago, yet they are still gathering most days in the White House press room, these "correspondents", listening to Sarah Huckabee Sanders putting out the Trump propaganda - they shouldn't be there any more, the respectable ones at least, and it shouldn't have needed pictures which evoked the concentration camps to make them angry. They have been openly identified by Trump as the enemy, and they need to start responding in a more meaningful way to this attack.

Indeed, these armies of the right have been quite open in declaring their intentions - Fox News has always known that there's a war going on, and has acted accordingly. They know that the president is getting much of his strategic thinking - for the next two minutes at least - directly from the TV, so that when the extremist hack Ann Coulter was denigrating the immigrant kids as "child actors" who had been given scripts by "liberals", she had at least one sympathetic viewer on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Meanwhile, some of the "liberals" are still reluctant even to describe a Trump lie as "a lie", which is not just weak-minded, it is essentially inaccurate, and thus it is bad journalism. Though of course there are many journalists who are not concerned with their access to the White House and other such little luxuries of the trade, who have been calling it right from the start.

We should also be looking to the investigation of Robert Mueller, the most encouraging aspect of which is that he has correctly identified the nature of what he dealing with - indeed it was a critic of his, Alan Dershowitz, who complained that in trying to "flip" those who are lower down the chain of command, Mueller is treating the president like he's nothing more than a gangster.

It is for that great call, that Mueller is rightly feared.

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