I think it’s important to point out, again and again, that the mainstream media’s contrarian and equivocating reporting has created a rhetorical failure in this country in which our leaders can brazenly lie with impunity.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) March 7, 2017
The Washington Post journalist Amber Phillips is just one latest case in point. This week in a blog post she criticized former presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders for stating the obvious, which is that President Donald Trump is a liar who consistently lies. In Phillips’ view, however, the media and our leaders should be careful not to follow Sanders’ example of calling Trump out on his lies because, maybe, just maybe, Trump doesn’t even know he’s lying.
I know I risk reducing here the litany of problems of their own making faced by mainstream media outlets, but it’s hard not to see Phillips’ piece as the typical contrarian type of journalism that has brought us to this particular point of uncertainty and fear in our country’s history. Under the rhetorical formula of contemporary journalistic contrarianism, even wild lies that have been called out and proven as lies deserve some type of media redemption from great thinkers like Phillips.
It goes like this: Well, yes, Trump says untruthful things, but maybe it’s not intentional lying really and the political discourse is so extreme these days, anyway, so why increase the incivility? There you have it. The Contrarian Stance.
One has to wonder what major lie leading to some type of major authoritarian act under a Trump administration—martial law, massive illegal deportations and imprisonments, war—would make Phillips drop her equivocations and contrarianisms, or would she even drop them then? Why didn’t she spend some of her time this week writing a post demanding Trump release copies of his tax returns instead of picking on Bernie Sanders of all people?
Here’s a longer piece on the back-and-forth between Sanders and Phillips. Essentially, Sanders tweeted about Trump’s well-known lies because he’s creating awareness and is concerned about democracy. Phillips then wrote her post criticizing Sanders for his lack of civil political discourse, and then Sanders responded to Phillips with a real question without a whiff of hyperbole or personal attack because, well, that’s Trump’s style, not Sanders’ style.
So what do we do, Sanders simply asked, when the United States president is a consistent, verifiable liar? Nothing?
BLUE OKLAHOMA, ANYTHING BUT SAD.
Blue Oklahoma has been a part of the Oklahoma political blogging scene since 2006. It originally began as a progressive, diary-like site with a handful of contributors and still remains open to people who want to write liberal and center-left commentary. It also serves as a companion site for Kurt Hochenauer's Okie Funk blog, which has been part of the news media here since 2004.
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