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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

On Wednesday night, as news broke that Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs had been physically attacked by Montana congressional candidate Greg Gianforte after Jacobs asked him his position on the Republican health care bill, the conservative movement’s pro-Trump voices rallied to Gianforte’s rescue. This moral cowardice has become commonplace for commentators who have spent so much time immersed in the battle to defend the president and vilify the press at all costs that they are apparently incapable of ethical seriousness.

Faced with a conservative politician who had — in full view of a Fox News camera crew — grabbed a reporter and slammed him to the ground, then lied about the incident through a spokesperson, these pundits backed the politician. Their reactions ranged from efforts to undermine the stories of the reporter and the witnesses, to declarations that it looked bad but Jacobs probably deserved it, to outright cheers for the assault. In doing so, they showed there are few actions that they are unwilling to excuse as long as the victims are journalists and the perpetrator a Republican.

In some ways, the responses mimicked the right wing’s scorn for HuffPost’s Ryan Reilly and The Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery when they were arrested while reporting on protests in 2014. But the Gianforte affair represents not just the misguided use of the power of the state against journalists, but also a politician literally taking matters into his own hands because he didn’t want to answer questions. If that behavior is worthy of defense, what isn’t? Where would Gianforte’s defenders draw the line?

It comes as no surprise that these critics have sought to fend off what seems to be an obvious conclusion to draw from the events — that they are the result of President Donald Trump’s efforts to delegitimize the press. For if journalists are, as the president says, the “enemy of the American people,” are they not worthy of violence as well as scorn? Or, at least, are those who do respond with violence not worthy of defense?

Press freedom advocates warned of the dangers of a soft authoritarian like Trump becoming president. And indeed, the first months of the Trump administration have featured a wave of these cases. From an Alaska reporter who says he was slapped by a Republican legislator to a West Virginia reporter arrested while trying to ask questions of a member of the Trump cabinet to a CQ Roll Call scribe who was manhandled by security guards while trying to ask questions of FCC commissioners, government agents are becoming increasingly comfortable responding to the press with force.

In this environment, as pro-Trump conservatives demonstrate their willingness to support anything and everything the president does without question, it becomes unsurprising that they might also be willing to look away when a politician physically attacks a reporter. This feeling is by no means universal — many conservatives have been willing to criticize both the president and Gianforte for their attacks on the press. But the Trumpists are ascendant: They have the largest audiences and the most powerful media posts, and their man is in the White House.

This support for the use of force against journalists is horrifying, but it is not new to the U.S. conservative movement. Trump-style invective against the press has been a staple of modern conservative commentarysince at least former Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ)’s 1964 run for the White House. But before conservative activists at the Republican National Convention jeered at journalists who they believed had taken sides in the struggle for civil rights, segregationist mobs assaulted and even murdered reporters covering integration efforts.

The faces change, but the plan remains the same: delegitimization by dehumanization. By convincing themselves and their followers that journalists are something other than citizens who deserve the scrupulous protection of the law and human beings who deserve respect, conservative leaders seek to limit the impact of damaging stories and step in as information gatekeepers for their supporters.

This is not a failure of “our politics,” as some mainstream journalists have claimed. When a Democratic president says that journalists are vital to the democratic process but could at times do better, and his Republican successor denounces individual reporters from his rally podium to the delight of his jeering audience, it is nonsense to throw up one’s hands and declare oneself under attack from both sides.

The conservative movement is suffering from a unique and acute defect. And if physically attacking a reporter is now considered acceptable, where will this anti-press mania end?


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21 responses to “When Violence Against The Press Becomes Acceptable”

  1. The GOP is strangely attracted to the philosophy that it is acceptable to behave in as immoral a manner as possible. No remorse for ill-mannered behavior is required except in a perfunctory manner; no expletives or abusive manners need to be apologized for, except under duress and when cause red-handed on camera.
    And even when caught, the offender and his/her supporters will bend over backwards to offer excuses for immoral behavior.

    Has the country by and large sunk to an even lower level of humanity and behavior than previously thought possible? Is the GOP on a suicide jihad mission to destroy itself and America? What manner of other-worldly, bestial contagion has inflicted all in GOP land?

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    • kep says:

      You really need to seek professional mental help. Liberals are the ones squashing free speech. Liberals are the onesbthat are inciting riots and violence. Liberals are the ones actually tioting and looting. Liberals are crazy unAmerican snowflakes.

      • Kep, please stop posting, because you’re totally incapable of displaying intelligence, aside from how to use a keyboard. And of all people suggesting someone seek mental help, you, Trump, and other FOX-oholics are the last to be uttering such inane advice.

        It’s now obvious from the posts of FOX sycophants such as yourself, that you all have lost all manner of sanity and clear thinking. So desist in making references to the mental state of anyone on the planet.

        • dpaano says:

          Aaron, Kep just continues to show his idiocy and his uninformed nature.

          • Kep appears to suffer the same affliction as Sean Hannity, etc.

          • kep says:

            Truth is something that seems to allude liberals. You deal in propaganda and innuendos. Liberals are hypocritical sanctimonious violent individuals. You all really need to be deported or jailed.

          • Kep, everything eludes you, including the truth. So, what is it you hope to accomplish? That you know what the truth is? That’s the same as Trump never having told a lie—an absurdity which only the likes of you would fall for.
            Try again in a few years. By that time you may have learned about how to fill up that gaping chasm between your ears.

          • kep says:

            Yep. Sanctimonious, hypocritical liars. Guess that about sums it up. You should maybe stay where ever you said you were going, which is mostly just another lie. It’s so hard to tell considering everything is a lie with liberal commies. Jailed or deported. I would really like to see that happen with all you anti American traitors.

        • kep says:

          Liberals are getting worse and worse. Every one of you anti American seditious commies should be rounded up and deportednor jailed for being domestic terrorists.

          • Kep, since FOX has destroyed your brain, you’re in no condition to discern the difference between your condition and those you disparage without a basis.
            Just regurgitating what Rush and Sean say does not make for an intelligent person versed in the occurrences in America.

          • kep says:

            Fox is the only reliable news outlet. Liberals have taken over the others and they now are nothing more than propaganda outlets for their lies. I don’t need any prompting from anyone. I can see things quite clearly for myself, just as most REAL Americans can. Liberals are like locust, destroying everything in their path. I would like to see every seditious hypocritical liberal in America rounded up and deported back to your Mother Russia or jailed.

    • dpaano says:

      One word…..Trump!

  2. Buford2k11 says:

    hmmm…I see a business opportunity…I was thinking of forming a “Press Protective Service”…type of business…that would make these republican morons think twice about trying to body slam a certified armed guard…Mercenaries for the freedom of the press…if republicans will not hold these people accountable, then we have to…

    • yabbed says:

      If you remember, the Secret Service more than once had to protect Ms Tur when Trump called her out – and pointed her out – to the rabid barbarians at his campaign rallies.

  3. yabbed says:

    It’s called fascism and it is entirely in hand with Trump and his vision of himself as Mussolini. The Trump cabinet has openly supported jailing peaceful protesters. During the campaign, Trump himself encouraged violence against orderly protesters simply holding a placard. Trump’s punishment of the press for simply asking a question or addressing a valid issue is unheard of in our democracy. Trump’s display of bully boy behavior born of his enormous insecurities was astounding in the midst of world leaders. The puffing out of his flabby chest and enormous belly, the upthrust chin, the sneer was so Mussolini as to be comical.

    • 1standlastword says:

      Let’s crown him Buffon Of The United States of America!

      • dpaano says:

        I assume you mean “buffoon” of the U.S.A. Whatever, it all sounds good! He IS a buffoon and proved it over and over again when he was on his overseas trip! He certainly did not endear himself with anyone he met, except maybe the Saudi’s.

  4. dpaano says:

    One of the problems is that many Montanans had voted early. Montana does not allow a voter to change his vote after it has been mailed in. I know many in Montana who clearly did NOT like what Gianforte did and wished they had not voted for him, but it was too late. I just wonder how he would have fared if they had held their votes until election day! Just another reason why I don’t vote early… never know what’s going to happen at the last minute.

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