This article was originally published on Media Matters, whatever that is, but Salon picked it up and broadcast it, and since that’s where I found it, that’s who I’m holding responsible. Lis Power, the author, writes,
After President Donald Trump gave a speech to joint members of Congress filled with exaggerations, lies, and policy plans that contained no specifics—and in many cases were based on propagating fear about and demonizing immigrants—the takeaway from pundits and talking heads was somehow that he sounded “presidential.”
I think that this article makes an important point, that the substance of Donald Trump’s message is the same, despite the change of tone, but the article is so full of “exaggerations, lies, and policy [critiques] that contain no specifics,” that it fails the immediate test of consistency vs. hypocrisy and it will be meaningful only to those who already agree with it. Speaking to your constituency, pumping them up, can be useful, so there’s nothing wrong with taking a tone and making arguments that will convince only those who already agree with you. But consistency, logic, and substance are universal requirements.
The author continues,
That’s how low the bar has been set. So low that because the president sounded like an adult for an hour and refrained from transparently attacking people of color, allies, or the press, media figures forgot the glaring abnormalities of Trump’s presidency thus far.
This article, like so many others, resorts to name-calling. Now, I don’t know about you, but I was taught as a child that name-calling is inappropriate. In fact, I was taught that it is the tool of bullies. “Because the president sounded like an adult for an hour”—now, now, that's how bullies talk. I find it increasingly funny and angering that the people of the Press who most accuse Trump and his supporters of being bullies are the very people who most exhibit traits of bullies. Sometime perhaps I’ll write a post addressing name-calling in more depth, because I think there is interesting nuance in the underlying principles regarding name-calling, and I think that Trump’s use of name-calling should be addressed.
For now, though, I want to address one final element of the article: the headline. It contains both name-calling and slander, so I think it needs special attention. Those who oppose Trump are constantly throwing out accusations of “white nationalism” and “white supremacy,” often using them interchangeably. It’s not just careless to use the terms interchangeably; it’s intentionally deceptive. The two are very different things. To equate them is, in the best scenario, carelessness, but it is the kind of carelessness one might expect from a high school student who has not yet learned the skill of making careful distinctions. Even if it is only carelessness, for a professional journalist to be so careless is an open declaration he or she is not yet qualified to be a journalist.
I have a problem, in both principle and practice, with both white nationalism and white supremacy. Both of them are aberrations, but they are aberrations of different orders of magnitude. I have heard many dark-skinned folk of vaguely African descent—along with many light-skinned folk of vaguely European descent who lean toward political correctness in the form of what is commonly called progressivism—say that all the light-skinned folk should get out of Africa and leave it to the natives. Well, that sounds an awful lot like black nationalism, doesn’t it? And these same people who decry accused white nationalism in the Trump administration say nothing about black nationalism in Africa, despite its inherent racism. Now, if skin-color nationalism is evil, it is evil for all.
The support for black nationalism in Africa proves that the idea of skin-color nationalism is not of the same order as skin-color supremacy. Skin-color supremacy is a belief that one skin-color group of people was granted by God inherent superiority over another. That idea is repugnant. May I be permitted to use the word evil to describe it? I don’t think that’s going too far, do you? The idea of skin-color supremacy could lead someone to desire skin-color nationalism, but there are other reasons for choosing skin-color nationalism, which the arguments for skin-color nationalism in Africa demonstrate. To blend the two, to interchange the two—even for rhetorical effect—is not just careless; it’s morally reprehensible.
On top of that, both claims—of white nationalism and white supremacy—against Donald Trump and his administration are so completely groundless as to be absurd. To toss those accusations about is slanderous and is a discredit to the entire profession of journalism. It degrades the credibility of journalism at large and erodes the confidence of readers. It is not going too far to say that every news organization that has accused Trump of white supremacy is guilty of libel and should be tried for it. Nor is it going too far to say that every article containing that accusation is FakeNews. Many mainstream news outlets scoff at the idea that they could possibly be FakeNews purveyors, yet if they have used either the nationalist or supremacist label for Trump, they are FakeNews purveyors. It is impossible to deny that honestly. You don’t have to agree with Trump’s notions of looking out for the interests of America first or his stance on immigration, but you do have to be fair to him. At least, you have to be fair to him if you want to be credible, if you want to claim to be a part of the noble tradition of the free and independent press. If you don’t care about those things, by all means, continue being unfair.