How the press needs to deal with Marjorie Taylor Greene
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There’s lots of media hand-wringing following the latest in a conveyor belt of hate statements from QAnon supporter and Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. She’s doubled down about how pandemic-era mask requirements are like when Nazis forced Jews in Germany to wear gold stars in order to easily identify them, and then exterminate them. “Vaccinated employees get a vaccination logo just like the Nazi’s [sic] forced Jewish people to wear a gold star,” Greene tweeted.
We’ve seen this same news cycle countless times with Greene, who functions less as a member of Congress and more as an extremist troll, forever posting hate statements in order to generate big donor contributions from the radical- right base. The question journalists are grappling with is, should Greene be ignored, thereby denying her a platform. Or does her toxic awfulness represent an important part of today’s politics, as the GOP runs off the rails in so many ways, urgently trying to outlaw choice in America, and refusing to investigate Trump’s deadly insurrection from January 6.
“Whether and when and how to cover Greene's appalling conduct continues to stir debate in newsrooms large and small,” noted CNN’s Brian Stelter. His colleague Anderson Cooper announced Tuesday night, “This is the last you will hear from her on the program" because "this is less about her and her deeply stupid remarks and more about the people leading the Republican Party." My hunch though, is that will not be the last time Cooper’s viewers hear about Greene on his program.
CNN’s John King justified Greene coverage because her behavior is “part of something bigger.” It's about the GOP being "the grand ostrich party."
There’s a simple solution to this riddle — be far more aggressive when covering Greene and use the proper language to describe what she’s doing. What she wants is a ton of coverage that depicts her as somewhat controversial and antagonistic towards liberals and the media. What she likely doesn’t want are headlines labeling her a racist, anti-Semite, stalker, and an unstable buffoon, all of which are accurate. News outlets should use that language without reservation.
The only thing stopping news organizations from posting accurate headlines such as, “Anti-Semitic Republican Lies About Holocaust,” is the media fear of a GOP backlash.
When members of the press raise concerns about giving Greene too much time and attention, what journalists are really worried about is giving her too much time and attention within the narrow confines of how the Beltway press treats elected Republicans. They’re acknowledging that they’re boxed in, by their own design, and they’re not willing to rethink how to aggressively cover a public menace like Greene.
Right now, there’s too much tap dancing around the truth. “CBS Evening News” this week referred to her as a Republican “firebrand.” Webster’s dictionary defines firebrand as, “one that creates unrest or strife,” which in many political instances can be viewed as a redeeming quality.
In its coverage of the latest Greene controversy, the New York Times referred to her as a “first-term Congresswoman” with a “combative style,” known for “increasingly brazen behavior” and her “conspiratorial brand of politics.” None of that properly conveys the looming threat Greene poses. The Washington Post noted her “extreme rhetoric,” which sounds innocuous.
After refusing to call Trump a liar for four years, most major news organizations now openly refer to the election “lies” he’s pushing about 2020. Meaning, editors and producers learned from their mistakes and have tacitly admitted that critics were right about the foolishness of dancing around using “lies” to describe a pathological liar.
That’s why it’s so important that the press make the right call now regarding Greene, and not misplay the story for years only to realize in 2023 or 2024 they should have shown more courage and been more honest about her serial mendacity and clearly unhinged behavior.
Reporters, producers, and editors all understand the danger Greene poses. Just like reporters, editors and producers all understood the danger Trump posed to democracy for four years, yet spent their time playing pointless word games so as to not be accurate and honest. The question is will journalists learn from their Trump errors?
Also, the press should constantly stress Greene’s obvious QAnon roots in the straight news coverage. There’s lots of media mentions of Greene “conspiracies,” but that’s entirely inadequate in terms of describing her beliefs. The press needs to be transparent that the Republican member of Congress believes in a cult-like political movement that insists Democratic elites are murderous pedophiles who worship Satan, and that Trump is the chosen one sent to cleanse America’s sins. And also remind news consumers that the FBI has declared QAnon to be a domestic terrorism threat.
The GOP has crossed over into the abyss and the press needs to change the way it covers some of the party’s maniacs.
📰 GOOD STUFF:
Another update from the AP’s misguided firing of a young reporter last week, who became the target of a right-wing smear campaign because of pro-Palestinian tweets she posted in college.
From the Washington Post:
Senior managers at the Associated Press admitted fault on Wednesday in the firing last week of a 22-year-old junior staffer, Emily Wilder, who was being targeted by right-wing commentators over her political activism in college.
But managers took a much more apologetic tack in a town hall with employees on Wednesday, an audio recording of which was shared with The Washington Post.
Several executives expressed regret at how the company handled the situation in the meeting, though managing editor Brian Carovillano called them “mistakes of process, and not of outcome.” He said it was still “the right decision” to fire Wilder.
🍺 FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK
Vandoliers, “Every Saturday Night”
I’ve featured lots of music here in the last year that was Covid-related, as musicians sang about the pandemic and changes in our world, and here’s another.
It’s from a Texas band I recently highlighted. The song’s written from the perspective of someone stuck in lockdown and wishing he hadn’t taken Saturday night bars and concerts from granted. (“I miss the last calls at the dance halls.”) Now that America is opening back up again, it’s a perfect, shout-along song to hear as we head back into bars and concerts.
🎙 Click here to listen to the music that’s been featured on PRESS RUN, via a Spotify playlist.
Click hereto listen via Apple Music.