Playing the Ref: Power Version

Playing the Ref: Power Version

Trump accused the media of intentionally not reporting terror attacks:

It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. And in many cases the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that.

When the press very rightly scoffed at the idea, the Trump administration released a list of terror attacks it said were “not sufficiently covered.”

Included on the list: the terror attacks in San Bernadino, Orlando, and Paris. All attacks which received boundless coverage here and all over the world.

Not included on the list: Dylan Roof, clearly a terrorist. But he was a white supremacist, and we don’t want to hurt Steve Bannon’s feelings, do we? Essentially, all instances of right-wing terrorism were not on Trump’s list. Similarly, Robert Dear, the terrorist who shot up a Planned Parenthood clinic was not included. In effect, Trump is under-reporting terrorism in the very document he accuses media of doing so.

True, the list covers other attacks not covered as much, but, as it turns out, for good reason: in some cases, no one was hurt; in others, the link to “terrorism” was incidental, like some nut case wounding someone and saying he was “inspired” by ISIS and nothing more. Some incidents on Trump’s list were not even terror attacks at all, but just gruesome murders.

But does Trump have a point? Should there be days of huge headlines every time a police officer is stabbed by someone in Perth who says he watched ISIS videos on YouTube?

The question kind of answers itself, doesn’t it? Of course they shouldn’t—but Trump would love it if they did. Why? Because Trump feeds on free-floating terror, anger, hatred, and doubt caused not only by terrorism, but by all manner of reporting in the right-wing media.

Trump grabbed on to this fear from the start, talking about Mexican rapists and murderers coming up here, stealing our jobs and causing mayhem. He got instant attention, normally the kind that kills a candidacy—but so many millions of right-wingers had been so conditioned to believe and fear that exact message—a message they had been told was being suppressed by godawful PC moguls in the Liberal Media—that they welcomed such a frank expression of the fears they had for so long been harboring.

That’s Trump’s rocket fuel: make people afraid, make them hate, then ride that all the way to the bank.

So, of course Trump wants to goad the media into sensationalizing every such violent act as terrorism with the same breathless panic headlines we saw on 9/11; it can only help him, and by saying they’re holding back, he gets to both add to the general sense of fear and accuse the media of a grand conspiracy. It’s the same kind of tactic the right wing has executed for decades now: playing the ref. Loudly accuse the media of favoring the left or doing other things they don’t like, knowing that the media, wanting to avoid appearing biased, will change their coverage to be more favorable for them.

It has worked in the past. Now? Trump’s a little bit too ham-handed; I have the feeling that the media will ignore his criticisms. But not completely.

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