Paul Krugman asks a good question. Why did the media treat America’s extreme right-wing so gingerly, as benign as a corner ice cream shop, as nothing unusual? It’s not a new phenomenon. The extremists have had control of the GOP stage for a long time. The media just refused to acknowledge it.
Somehow…the radicalism of Texas Republicans wasn’t a story in 2000, an election year in which George W. Bush of Texas, soon to become president, was widely portrayed as a moderate.
There is something mesmerizing and cobra-like about physically or rhetorically violent right-wing extremists. I think they benefit from the same kind of public fascination with violent revenge movies.
There’s a common cultural myth that America is a right-leaning country, and that makes extremists on the right more acceptable than extremists on the left. I’m sure there must be some Trotskyites or Marxist dreamers somewhere in America. But they aren’t getting invited to CNN. Ann Coulter, as hateful as any pre-World War II political thug, gets her pick of the camera and the chair.
Without media support the extremists would be nowhere. FoxNews, of course, joined a few other corporate nutjobs and paid for the creation of the Tea Party. The media, of course, ignored this bought-and-paid-for aspect so it could legitimize what it wanted to legitimize: public outrage at…..at what?
Hardly matters what. The more circus-like, the better, and content can and is dismissed as easily as the two-headed baby in the carnival sideshow. It’s the crowd that counts.
Remember when hundreds of thousands of Americans took to the streets to protest President Bush’s invasion of Iraq? The media focused on Bush’s dismissal of the movement as nothing but a focus group. But let a few thousand tea partiers misspell a few signs and walk around with their suspenders at their knees and the media tells us a serious new movement is alive and well.
Perhaps the most irksome habit of the media is to create a phenom — the Tea Party, or Sarah Palin, for instance — and then claim they are just covering that happened without them, while they were away. It’s total horseshit, of course. The media create the carnival and sell the tickets.
Maybe the media has a secret wish for explosive rhetorical or physical violence. I knew journalists who longed for terrible storms and other natural catastrophes. Such things make careers. They juice their adrenaline highs. They are actually disappointed when a threatened storm fails to develop. So maybe this has something to do with it.
Whatever the source, I wish journalists would wake up to the fact that there is no place in a democracy for the kind of right-wing extremism they legitimize.