This is another great editorial by Josh Marshall at TPM. An excerpt:
On top of this, in the last couple days there's been a medium post circulating from a Russian journalist warning his American colleagues of what to expect under Trump. One key paragraph reads ...
You're Always Losing. This man owns you. He understands perfectly well that he is the news. You can’t ignore him. You’re always playing by his rules — which he can change at any time without any notice. You can’t — in Putin’s case — campaign to vote him out of office. Your readership is dwindling because ad budgets are shrinking — while his ratings are soaring, and if you want to keep your publication afloat, you’ll have to report on everything that man says as soon as he says it, without any analysis or fact-checking, because 1) his fans will not care if he lies to their faces; 2) while you’re busy picking his lies apart, he’ll spit out another mountain of bullshit and you’ll be buried under it.
Let me say first the piece is quite good. It's worth reading. But as a prediction of what awaits the American press, I think it is way, way off the mark and the kind of pusillanimous, defeatist attitude we've seen in this cattle call of Trump outrages listed above. Presidents don't validate what is and isn't news. If you're expecting them to, you're doing it wrong. Almost nothing that is truly important about the work of a free press is damaged by moving the press office across the street.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that these things are not important or that all these threats aren't a very bad sign. It is vastly preferable to have a President who believes in or at least respects American and democratic values. But let's get real: we don't or won't as of Friday. Trump is a would-be authoritarian and a bully. He's surrounded by mediocrities who owe all to him and feel validated by enabling his endless transgressions. Of course, he's doing these things. We know Trump's MO. He will bully people until they're cowed and humiliated and obedient. He'll threaten to kick the reporters out of the White House and then either cut a 'deal' or make some big to-do about 'allowing' the reporters to stay. These are all threats and mind games meant not so much to cow the press as make them think Trump is continually taking things away from them and that they need to make him stop.
They don't need to. That access isn't necessary to do their jobs. And bargaining over baubles of access which are of little consequence is not compatible with doing their job. Access can provide insight and understanding. But it's almost never where the good stuff comes from. Journalists unearth factual information and report it. If Trump wants to turn America into a strong man state, journalists should cover that story rather than begging Trump not to be who he is. America isn't Russia. And I don't think he can change us into Russia. So unless and until we see publications shut down and journalists arrested or disappeared, let's have a little more confidence in our values and our history and our country. ...
The truth is that his threats against the press to date are ones it is best to laugh at. If Trump should take some un- or extra-constitutional actions, we will deal with that when it happens. I doubt he will or can. But I won't obsess about it in advance. Journalists should be unbowed and aggressive and with a sense of humor until something happens to prevent them from doing so. Trump is a punk and a bully. People who don't surrender up their dignity to him unhinge him.
Much the same applies to the endless chatter about 'conflicts of interest' and the insufficiency of his plan to separate himself from his businesses. Why are we still saying Trump isn't doing enough to avoid conflicts of interest? He's made clear he wants to profit off his presidency. Let's accept that. That is what he wants to do. If you're a journalist, start documenting the details. If you're an activist or politician start mobilizing against his corruption.
Trump is the most unpopular incoming President in American history. We only have data on this going back a few decades. But there's little reason to think any President in previous decades or centuries has been this unpopular. Indeed, he's getting less popular as he approaches his inauguration. People need to have a bit more confidence in themselves, their values and their country. As soon as you realize that the Trump wants to profit from the presidency and that the Republicans are focused and helping him do so, all the questions become easier to answer and the path forward more clear. His threats against the press are the same. He's threatening to take away things the press doesn't truly need in order to instill a relationship of dominance.
There's nothing more undignified and enervating than fretting about whether the President-Elect will brand real news 'fake news' or worrying whether his more authoritarian supporters can be convinced to believe - pleaded with, instructed to, prevailed upon - actual factual information. The answer to attacks on journalism is always more journalism. And the truth is that Trump's threats are cheap stunts and bluffs, threatening to take away things journalists don't need.
Well put! And I agree with Marshall,... with a few minor caveats.
First, I don't have confidence in our country anymore. I lost that in November. Maybe it will return. I certainly hope so, because we can't accomplish anything without a certain amount of optimism, of confidence in our fellow countrymen.
But at this point,... no, I'm sorry, but it's gone. I'm deeply ashamed to be an American. And as Trump lurches closer and closer to inauguration day, it's not getting any better. Maybe if everyone boycotted the inauguration - or even every Democrat...
But that's just not going to happen, is it? It's going to take a lot to re-establish my confidence in America.
And second, I agree with him completely when it comes to journalists. But we're not just talking about journalists here. We're talking about profit-driven media companies. Our media are in business to make money. Period. And by and large, they've shown that they're hopeless cowards.
As far as I can see, they continue to demonstrate that. There are exceptions, of course. And there are certainly good journalists who work for those cowardly media companies. But the media in general? They're in business for the money, and anything which threatens - or even seems to threaten - that money terrifies them. (Not to mention that they're owned and controlled by wealthy people who will likely make out like bandits as Trump bankrupts the rest of America.)
Were you impressed with our media companies during the George W. Bush years? I wasn't.
This might be related to my first problem, my loss of confidence in America. I hope so, because that means I could be wrong. And I hope I'm wrong.
But even if I'm not, there is one ray of hope. As Marshall points out, Donald Trump's poll numbers are terrible. He does seem to be the most unpopular incoming president in U.S. history. (And rightly so. For one thing, he continues to demonstrate that he's controlled by Russia! Well, if he has any control at all...)
And our cowardly, profit-driven media are far more likely to be cowed by a popular president than by an unpopular one. As long as they see a profit in... being journalists, they'll do so. Trump's petty bullying might not have much effect, in that case.
Of course (not to be too optimistic here), his remaining supporters tend to be rabid fans. Raw numbers don't matter very much, if one side is active, angry, and unrelenting, while the other side isn't as committed. Look at how gun nuts have gotten their way in pretty much everything, despite their relatively-small numbers. They just care so much more.
All in all, Josh Marshall is right. I fully agree with him. But,... I can't be optimistic going forward, even that much. I hope I'm wrong. It would be a nice change of pace to be pleasantly surprised, wouldn't it?