Turn on the TV at almost any moment and you will hear anti-Trump rantings indistinguishable from the lamest claims made during the primaries. The conversation, if one can call it that (it is more like the prosecution’s monologue at a show trial), hasn’t even moved beyond the sputtering that “Trump didn’t enter the race to win” and that “greed” explained his interest in the presidency. MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, whose maturity level is roughly that of a high school cheerleader, asserts that Trump saw the presidency as a get-rich scheme and the media’s latest heavy-breathing Russian innuendo proves it.
No, what it proves is the media’s pathological commitment to its collusion fable. They put it on pause in the last couple of weeks but only so that they could dedicate all their energies to portraying Trump as a defender of Nazis and racists. Having wearied of that lie, they now turn back to the Russian libel. The wild claims of a bumptious Russian felon “linked” (always a good word if you want to smear an opponent) to Trump “associates” (another laughably imprecise term favored by the anti-Trump media) have generated a new spate of front-page stories.
Any fair reader, if he managed to get to the end of these tortured stories, would ask: Who cares? It is like the endless stories on Carter Page, a campaign volunteer for crying out loud, and what he may or may not have done, who he may or may not have met, where he may or may not have traveled. There is no reason, other than partisan spite, for the media’s obsessive interest in such minor figures.
Any stick will do-that is the media’s essential publication policy on all things Trump. Myth, as the poets say, is a lie grown old. In that sense, anti-Trump journalists are mythmakers, hoping to publish lies frequently enough that they attach themselves to Trump by sheer repetition.
They know perfectly well that Trump didn’t collude with Putin to defeat Hillary. But they would be happy if that myth settled in the minds of Americans. Similarly, they seek to inculcate in Americans that Trump is a racist — a task that began in the first days of his campaign when they deliberately misrepresented his comments about illegal immigrants.
The willfulness of it all is grimly comic, a willfulness perfectly captured by MSNBC interrupting a Trump speech to instruct viewers solemnly that the president is now “lying to you.”
What’s depressing, though not surprising, is the role that rattled or envious Republicans have played in the construction of anti-Trump myths. Trump can’t even receive fair characterizations of his statements by members of his own staff. Trump explicitly and repeatedly condemned racists, neo-Nazis, and white nationalists, yet Gary Cohn gives an interview that never once references those statements while reinforcing the libel that Trump drew moral equivalence between racists and non-racists.
Nothing pleases journalists more than when Republicans do their propagandistic work for them. They like the construction, “some critics say,” but they like the phrase “some Republicans say” even more when they need to smear a reviled target. With Trump, the sticks grow ever more thin, but the media can always count on me-too Republicans and conservatives to sharpen what little remains of them.