This newsletter is only possible because of the support of readers like you who are backing a new kind of independent journalism. If you’re enjoying PRESS RUN, please consider subscribing for $6 a month. Thanks!
Actively inciting political violence, Trump continues his unprecedented push for re-election by willingly putting people’s lives at risk. He’s sprinting through a treacherous crossroads in American history, and much of the press is failing the challenge. News outlets are neglecting to aggressively and accurately describe Trump’s dangerous ways as he celebrates arbitrary violence and civil breakdown. Instead, they’re buying into his “law and order” rhetoric, and actually positioning him as a defender of stability.
Embracing GOP talking points, the campaign press is convinced Democrat Joe Biden is the one paying a political price for protest violence that has sprung up in recent weeks, even though Trump is the one encouraging the mayhem. Trump refused to condemn the killing of Black Lives Matters protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man. The BLM protesters were gunned down by a white, right-wing, Trump fan. In fact, Trump offered up a public defense of the shooter.
Since the killings, the media have been filled with claims that, politically, the violence is hurting Democrats. But how are headlines about a vigilante Trump supporter killing protesters in the streets supposed to hurt Democrats? If that were the case, wouldn’t Trump be hoping his supporters kill lots of people, because the political press will keep depicting the murders as Democratic setbacks? (i.e. All violence helps Trump.) This narrative is wildly irresponsible. The press, wed to regurgitating GOP talking points, is rewarding Trump for instigating political violence.
How is civil unrest the fault of the party out of power? Republicans run the federal government, but Democrats are to blame for the state of the nation? It’s up to a presidential challenger to heal a nation in crisis? That’s an absurd and unprecedented premise for any presidential campaign. Yet Trump’s rhetoric is being used as the starting point for a completely misguided and one-sided discussion about “law and order.”
It’s doubly shocking that the press is playing along with Trump’s “law and order” narrative considering his White House often resemble a criminal enterprise, with a parade of aides and former officials being sentenced to jail time. Even with day-to-day governance, Trump relishes the opportunity to ignore laws and statutes designed to prevent corruption — he obliterated the Hatch Act during the GOP convention, refuses to hand over his tax returns, and stiffed all Congressional investigator information demands during his impeachment trial. Trump also routinely calls for the jailing of his political opponents.
That makes a mockery of the “law” part. In terms of “order,” he’s presiding over a rampaging epidemic that’s still killing nearly 1,000 Americans every day. How does that reflect Trump’s ability to create calm in the U.S.? The whole premise is laughable, yet the press plays along.
““Law and order” without the rule of law is neither “law” nor “order,”” the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent correctly stressed. “And any news organization that uncritically describes President Trump’s reelection campaign as premised on “law and order” appeals, without placing his concerted efforts to destroy the rule of law in America front and center alongside them, is helping to drain those words of all meaning.”
Still, many rushed in to announce Trump’s winning hand. The Atlantic’s George Packer claimed Kenosha may end up being “the reason” Trump wins in November because the unrest there “played into” the GOP theme: “Biden is a tool of radical leftists who hate America, who want to bring the chaos of the cities they govern out to the suburbs where the real Americans live.” Again, the violence in Kenosha was sparked by a right-wing Trump supporter. But Packer is sure events there will re-elect Trump because they make Biden look weak and place Democrats in a “trap.” "(There’s been minuscule movement in national election polls since Kenosha, with Biden maintaining a large lead.)
“President Donald Trump recognize[s] the potential political fallouts if protests in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting are seen as peaceful or as violent,” CNN reported last week, claiming street violence would help Trump politically. And that’s why Democrats are supposedly “worried about Kenosha,” according to CNN. But the network didn’t quote any Democrats to support that GOP-friendly idea. CNN simply embraced Trump rhetoric and started from the premise that he’s the obvious “law and order” candidate.
Meanwhile, the New York Times treated Trump’s campaign as being just as valid and factual as Joe Biden’s push to criticize Trump’s failed response to the Covid-19 pandemic. “Rival Themes Emerge as Race Enters Final Weeks: Covid vs. Law and Order,” read the Times headline, for a news article that made no attempt to distinguish between Trump’s false claims and Biden’s accurate ones. The lengthy article about Trump’s law and order push, “never once mentions that Trump went on a televised crime spree in the last week,” noted blogger Marcy Wheeler.
As Trump readied his trip to Kenosha on Tuesday, the Times, in a bout of straight-up campaign stenography, reported “Mr. Trump and his advisers have grown especially energized in recent days as they have pressed their law-and-order issue.” That same day, Bloomberg News reported that Kenosha had been “gripped by violence” since the Blake shooting one week ago, echoing GOP talking points. But that’s just not true. Remaining protests in Kenosha have all been peaceful.
Question: As bouts of political violence do flare up, is there any scenario where the press will consider them to be bad news for Trump, or is everything a setback for Democrats?
Americans aren’t buying what Trump and much of the press are selling.
President Donald Trump’s attempt to make civil unrest a central theme of his re-election campaign has yet to boost his political standing, as most Americans do not see crime as a major problem confronting the nation and a majority remain sympathetic to anti-racism protests, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday.
🇷🇺 GOOD STUFF:
Russia got caught again, trying to launch a Facebook disinformation campaign to turn liberals against Biden. Russian intelligence operatives got busted for creating a bogus news site, Peace Data, which hired more than 200 unwitting freelance journalists to produce hundreds of articles, the Washington Post reports. “The operation seemed designed to divide Democratic supporters and to depress support for Biden and Harris,” one expert told the Post:
Among the targets were Biden and Harris (D-Calif.), who were criticized by the phony network as immoral tools of political conservatives. Some posts also criticized Trump, but the target audience in the United States was democratic socialists, environmentalists and disaffected Democrats, the report found.
🎸FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK
Jesse Malin, “Backstabbers”
The wildly dependable and always-winning Malin is readying his seventh album. “Backstabbers,” produced by Lucinda Williams and Tom Overby, is the first offering and captures what’s boundless and exuberant about Malin — effortless guitar rock that tells engaging tales.
“I think “Backstabbers” is about transcendence,” Malin recently told American Songwriter. It’s “about going to find yourself in another place, whether it be New York City or California – having to leave home, and the obstacles that come with fighting your inner demons and things that try to knock you down, like people that pretend to be your friend and they really talk behind your back.” (I keep hearing the ghost of Lou Reed on this song.)
Well they stab you in the back and they wanna see you crack
And they say you'll go to heaven in a brand new Cadillac.
They're giving you a script and they wanna see you trip
But you spit the poison out cause you're sick of being sick