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Nolan writes: "Before too long, a reporter will become a direct casualty of the Trump era."

Bullets. (photo: Getty Images)
Bullets. (photo: Getty Images)

Someone Is Going to Get Killed: How Trump's Political Climate Threatens Journalists

By Hamilton Nolan, Splinter

08 August 18


efore too long, a reporter will become a direct casualty of the Trump era.

With the ever-present caveat that predictions are worthless: an American journalist is going to get murdered as a direct result of our current political climate. Hating reporters, of course, is nothing new. But neither is political assassination. Sometimes when you sense a storm rolling in, you realize that the sunny days you’d been enjoying were actually the exception, rather than the norm.

Here and there and everywhere, explicit violent threats against members of the media are on the rise. Most of these threats are bullshit, trash talk, empty venting by angry people who would never imagine doing anything in real life. But not all. As with all types of threats, some small percentage of them will be backed up by serious intent, and as the frequency of threats grows, so too does the likelihood that one or more of them becomes reality. This is all on top of the normal, latent threat level that accompanies a job in journalism—the sort of danger that accompanies any job that involves frequently and publicly criticizing, exposing, or embarrassing people. The Capital Gazette shootings earlier this year and the murder of TV reporter Alison Parker live on air were both examples of the regular kinds of risks that journalist face: angry, crazy readers or story subjects and a constant opportunity for a maniac to achieve instant publicity for a brutal act. That’s always there. Today, though, we have the whole “enemy of the people” thing. All the maniacs now have a hard-to-resist political motive. And, as always, they have lots of guns. Inevitably, someone will seize on both.

Is this all Trump’s fault? Yes. More specifically, Trump’s Goebbels-esque determination to hammer the public with the idea that Fake News Is The Enemy has served as proof of concept to hundreds of lower-level elected officials across the country, whose beady eyes have now lit up with the realization that they too can brush off every negative story in the local paper about how they hired their cousin to head the local Mosquito Control Board by mouthing the phrase “fake news” and charging the local city council reporter with being a tool of anti-America global elite interests. By being unafraid to ceaselessly pursue the demonization of the media as a tool for enhancing his own political prospects with utter disregard for broader consequence and a world-class lack of shame, Trump has shown all the lesser opportunistic right-wing politicians of the nation that this is a formula that works, as long as you really lean into it. This sort of bold scapegoating only works if it is relentless, unapologetic, and waged with a completely inappropriate level of anger, because such fiery measures are necessary to convince everyone not to believe what they see before their eyes. The genius of all this is that the press, unlike your political enemies, is pathetically unequipped to fight back against these rhetorical assaults, having spent decades unilaterally disarming themselves in the name of Journalistic Impartiality. The press is a soft target for a man of Trump’s wolfish predilections. And those entranced by such a man will begin to eye reporters in the same way a mongoose eyes a snake: a threat that, fortunately, they have the tools to neutralize.

The American discourse does not need “civility.” But it does need nonviolence. Barring that, it needs gun control. Unfortunately we have none of the above. So it is only a matter of time.

I have covered Trump rallies and seen the old men hollering at the press pen. I have covered an NRA convention where the “mainstream media” was booed far more lustily than actual mass murderers. People employed in the media don’t give a damn, really, as long as you don’t shoot us. But time and the political winds and all the pretty guns are not on our side. Someone is going to get killed. Whether it’s Jim Acosta shot down at a Trump rally or some nameless local political reporter stalked and murdered in private, it will happen because someone out there will have become convinced that it is the right thing to do. To protect America. Most reporters, who tend to be depressive, grandiose careerists with a pathological need for attention, are not heroes; but whoever is the first to get killed as a result of the sick political climate that enables Donald Trump’s obsessive ambition will actually be a martyr, in the same way that flawed people who get drafted and sent off to war become heroic in death, if not in life. The journalist who gets killed will end his or her life as a monument to the majestic but mistaken idea that the press can stand separate and apart from politics in a democracy. It is an idea that is too beautiful to exist in modern America. As other dictators, strongmen, and craven political opportunists have demonstrated many times before, an impartial press is no match for the unrestrained human ambition for power. For a long time reporters have labored under the noble delusion that they are the Red Cross on the battlefield of truth. When they start getting murdered, they’ll realize they were soldiers all along. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+4 # Glen 2018-08-08 11:45
"The First Casualty" has come to pass.
-1 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-08-08 14:48
The First Casualty is Truth and yes, it has clearly passed. Neither side in this war between the press and Trump cares anything for the truth. Everything is an attack and an assault.
0 # giraffee23 2018-08-08 17:08
There ought to be a law that penalizes one who is elected who makes false accusations - example: Trump must PROVE his claim when he says CNN falsely accused him of "treason" (or whatever.) example: when Trump says trade wars makes more money for USA (proof?) and by same token when a person claims NEWS (eg FOX) and makes a false statement - punishment. Not too hard to FACT CHECK many of these things that has led to Trump getting away with calling something FALSE news just because he is criticized or WRONG or GUILTY.

Not well stated but it seems an elected person has an obligation to PROVE his statements. "W" lied and got away with WMD to cause a war but he committed TREASON in my book.

Vote and re-register if taken off list
0 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-08-09 05:55
gira -- I'd think it would be much more important to have a law requiring news organizations to report only the truth and to prove the claims they make.

Fact checkers are often as politically dishonest as anyone else. Fact checking is now just another part of the propaganda barrage.

Presidents are politicians and all politicians lie and shade the truth to their advantage. News organizations should be a check on this, but they have totally lost their credibility.
-1 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-08-09 06:04
It could happen that some crazed nut shoots a journalist whom he has identified as especially repugnant in his/her attacks on Trump. This article is part of the attacks and they are almost as outrageous, as false, and as vicious as vicious as an actual shooting. The mass media is committed to an assassination of Trump -- not literally, but in the sense of impeaching him from office.

What we are seeing now is a real battle between the media and Trump. The head Trump assassins are the NYT, Wapo, CNN, and MSNBC. They lie at just unreal levels. And how would anyone expect Trump to respond? He's a thug and a fighter, so he responds in kind.

This battle is not producing a good outcome and it probably will get a lot worse. It is dangerous. This article is an egregious example of the abuse of jounalism. Take this --

"Whether it’s Jim Acosta shot down at a Trump rally or some nameless local political reporter stalked and murdered in private, it will happen because someone out there will have become convinced that it is the right thing to do. "

Acosta was not shot. He was ejected for his rude and petulant behavior. If some nut shoots a reporter it will be because of the environment created by "journalists" like this author. He's ramping up the violence level. This is not rational discourse. Just because Trump does not practice rational discourse either is no excuse for a journalist to go over to the bad side.
-1 # wilhelmscream 2018-08-09 11:51
Bring proof that u r registered to vote so they can’t turn u away (I’m not talking about voter ID; voter ID is a ploy 2 stop all persons of color from voting. They tried that in ME but, it failed)

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