Right now, every journalist in America is not just walking a tightrope, but definitely swaying from side to side. When the man currently occupying the White House is openly and without question attempting to conduct a coup that would crush democracy and turn the nation into a single party dictatorship, how can that not be treated as the most serious threat in America’s history? On the other hand, when the team supposedly leading this overthrow is delivering their manifesto from the parking lot of Four Seasons Total Landscaping, how can it not be just … hilarious?
A bug-eyed Rudy Giuliani jabbing his finger into the sky as hair dye drips to his chin is objectively ridiculous. Sidney Powell claiming that Donald Trump’s downfall was plotted out in a meeting with a long-dead Venezuelan dictator is ridiculous. Jenna Ellis telling reporters that they have to report everything Trump’s team claims—as if it is fact—is ridiculous. And Giuliani stepping back to the microphone to say “There is nobody here who engages in fantasies” was probably the biggest single producer of coffee-out-the nose hilarity of the week—a week that includes both Four Seasons Total Landscaping and Giuliani’s star turn in the new Borat movie.
At this moment in time, it is impossible to distinguish between Republicans who are genuinely trying to destroy democracy, and those who just seek a sweet gig on Fox News. And sure, this also applies to most other moments in time, but this week both the threat and the silly both turned the dials up to 11, or 111, at the same time. And just how do you report on that?
Celebrate Biden’s victory, and get called a pollyanna. Point out that Trump is absolutely attempting to overthrow that victory, and be relegated to the voices of doom. Exactly how should reporters handle things, when what could be the most dangerous situation in the nation’s history is also definitely a scam for money, and also the most preposterous situation imaginable?
When a lawyer that represents the most powerful man on the planet is seriously sitting on television saying that the vote in every swing state should be overturned and a dictatorship initiated, but she’s also saying it after a press conference in which she also announced that Trump was defeated by a cabal composed of the Clinton Foundation, George Soros, Hugo Chavez, and antifa … just how much weight does it get?
It’s easy enough to say “just report the facts,” but facts outside of context are useless, and the whole job of every journalist, whether at The Washington Post or Daily Kos, is to present those facts in a way that turns into knowledge, empowers decisions, and enables action. How do you report on the political equivalent of an invasion by Tickle Me Elmo dolls? Even if they are blood-sucking Elmos … does that help?
The fact is, the American system has multiple roadblocks in place that are intended to keep anyone from becoming a dictator, expressly because “guy in top job decides he really wants to keep the gig” was one of those concerns that really did come up when they were applying goose quill to parchment. There are reasons why people, myself included, have issued scads of pieces along the “calm down, it’s all going to be peachy” theme. On the other hand, there’s a reason why Masha’s Gessen’s sadly prescient Autocracy: Rules for Survival was most on the nose when it said “Institutions will not save you.” Again and again Trump has demonstrated that way, way, way too much of the American system existed in the forms of tradition, unwritten rules, and expectations that people would possess a moral compass that pointed at least to the right hemisphere.
Any story that starts right now with the idea that Trump “can’t” do something because it would violate precedent, or even violate the law, should just go back to square one. Trump is a crook and a liar. He does illegal things while lying about it. Does it really matter that Trump’s crack legal team is 2-33 in court and just provided a judge evidence from the wrong state, when everyone trying to hold Trump to account is zero for infinity?
Trump’s a dangerous monster. And an ignorant dickhead. It might seem like the second cancels out the first, but we’ve had four years to see that it does not.
Right now, Trump is engaged in an overt effort to rip apart the nation. And as The Washington Post reports, Republicans are doing what they’ve demonstrated to be their go-to move: Staying out of Trump’s way. How scary is Trump’s effort to turn the nation into one of the single party dictatorships he so admires? Exorcist scary. How laughable is it? Puffy shirt laughable.
Expect the same struggle from just about every story created between now and Jan. 20, 2021.