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The Media Got Us Into This Goddamn Mess, and Now It's Time the Media Dug Us Out

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | September 8, 2016 |

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | September 8, 2016 |

It’s been a frustrating few weeks for those on the left, center, and reasonable right as polls tighten and our anxieties about a potential Trump presidency are raised, and what’s most frustrating about it is a general feeling of helplessness. Our minds are made up, but there’s nothing we can do to dissuade the stubborn alt-right, while those scant few swing voters seem to be giving Trump a second look because of the way the media has normalized his candidacy. Brian spoke about this a few days ago, but the most frustrating thing about the way the media has put two very uneven candidates on even ground is our inability to do anything about it.

We can yell at our televisions, and we can express our frustrations on social media, but for the most part, it doesn’t change the way the media approaches this election. The problem, as many pundits have reiterated even as they play into it, is that the bar has been lowered for Donald Trump, but Hillary Clinton is still held to the same standard as previous Presidents. Worse is the fact that the media itself seems to want to throw lifelines out to Trump every time he hangs himself. “Here, Donald. Let me cut you down from that tree. We’ve got papers to sell. Are you OK? Does your neck hurt? Let me get you some ice for that.”

Those who watched last night’s Commander in Chief debate hosted by Matt Lauer got a heavy dose of the lowered bar. Lauer repeatedly challenged Hillary Clinton, and on questions of substance or policy, he repeatedly cut her off or urged quick responses. When it came to Donald Trump, Matt Lauer got pushed around. Trump deflected. He lied about certain statements, and Lauer didn’t challenge him on those lies or fact check him.

“I was totally against the war in Iraq,” Trump told Lauer, even though there’s actual video evidence contradicting that position. “Oh, cool, bro. Let’s move on and talk about the Middle East now, but before you answer my question, let me phrase it in such a way that you can repeat it back to me in the form of a policy statement. I don’t want to hurt your little brain.”

The media is letting Donald Trump create his own fictional reality, and there are a lot of people who have bought into that world and want to live there. Trump voters don’t need a qualified candidate; they only need the illusion of one, and the media is allowing that illusion to exist.

When the media does push back, the Trump campaign accuses it of being dishonest and unfair, and the media has been put in a position where 40 percent of the country — and its viewership — believe that “facts” and “the truth” are dishonest and unfair, so the media has to let the lies pass lest it affect the their ability to sell fabric softener, and Matt Lauer’s Today show sells a metric ton of fabric softener.

Here’s what Chris Wallace, who is moderating the third debate, had to say about his role: “I don’t view my role as truth-squading.”

No? Then whose role is that? The media, for better or worse, or where we get our information, and if the media can’t ferret out the truth, then who will? The media is not meant to act as a press release. It’s not a mouthpiece for the candidates. The Fourth Estate exists for us, not those running for office. It’s not meant to normalize white supremacy; it’s meant to act against it.

Trump did not throw up on himself last night, and because the bar has been so lowered, this morning he gets to tout these numbers, nevermind that online polls don’t mean shit:

With nine weeks left, our fight is no longer with Donald Trump. He can dig his own grave, if the media will stop using a backhoe to fill it back in. Our fight is with the media, which must be held as accountable as anyone else on the right for the rise of Donald Trump. His entire candidacy has been slickly engineered by the very mainstream media he rails against, and now it’s time that the media stands up to him and do its job by treating both candidates equally, instead of grading Donald Trump on the toddler curve.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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