By Ralph Nader
August 28, 2023
Marc Fisher of the Washington Post is often the “go-to” reporter editors choose to write Page One stories that synthesize and analyze the Big Story of the Day. On August 17th, Mr. Fisher delivered a lengthy feature titled, “Trump Follows Tested ‘Counterpuncher’ Playbook in Face of Indictments.” Alas, he gave readers a useful summary of what has been reported countless times, when I for one, expected him to extend his acumen into fresh analysis.
Had Trump read Fisher’s piece, he would have been pleased. Outrageous verbatim repetitions of Trump’s belligerent intimidating words showcased Donald’s sneering confidence in his ability to manipulate the media’s focus on ratings and coursed through Fisher’s article. Once again, we are told about Trump’s propensity to file frivolous lawsuits (after one was dismissed, he bragged that he cost a reporter “a lot of time and a lot of energy and a lot of money.”)
Trump is quoted to show his chronic, pathological lying, his bigotry, his brutish assault on women, his malicious defaming of people, and his bragging about bullying to build his “personal brand.” The profit-seeking mass media cannot resist this package.
Okay, we’ve heard this all before, but assume it was needed to set the framework for Fisher’s analytic thoughts. For example, why do members of Trump’s base seem to have no limits to bonding with this narcissistic creature who has given new meaning to the word “egomaniac”? Why was no right of reply given to Trump’s publicized smears? Why has our country allowed this failed gambling czar to escape existing constitutional and statutory law enforcement over too many years as a corporate crook and political outlaw?
Are not reticent law enforcers and the media part of a story about Trump and his “Counterpuncher” playbook?
Now that some sheriffs have finally caught up with Trump, who is facing four indictments, he is counterpunching daily against people who either cannot respond because they are public servants, or people who believe responding gets them no media coverage, only an avalanche of cowardly anonymous hate talk over social media, or people fearful of Trump suing them and not having the money to defend themselves and countersue him for “malicious prosecution” which is a tort.
The nonprofit civic groups that factually and normatively assail Trump, receive no media whatsoever. My many articles and two books with Mark Green on Trump – “Fake President: Decoding Trump’s Gaslighting, Corruption, and General Bullsh*t” and “Wrecking America: How Trump’s Lawbreaking and Lies Betray All” – have been blacked out in our presumed free and fair press.
What can be done about Trump’s continued, successful shoving of the media into being his constant profitable bullhorn?
Well, Marc Fisher and his colleagues can read or reread the October 12, 2022, “manifesto” by Margaret Sullivan, the Post’s own (now retired) media columnist. She advised that “if Trump runs again, do not cover him the same way.”
Sullivan continues, “Too many times, we acted as his stenographers or megaphones. Too often, we failed to refer to his many falsehoods as lies. It took too long to stop believing that, whenever he calmed down for a moment, he was becoming ‘presidential.’ And it took too long to moderate our instinct to give equal weight to both sides, even when one side was using misinformation for political gain.”
That was then. The media is purportedly wiser, helped by the facts cited in lengthy indictments. But Trump still plays his basic cards. His daily fulminations are publicized as soliloquies and his trumpeters are still allowed to get media for anonymously conveyed viciousness. The latter should be corrected by the Wardens of the Internet, such as the resistant Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook or Meta. (See Robert Fellmeth’s Open Letter to Mark Zuckerberg). Newspapers require printed letters to the editor to be signed. Anonymous hate speech itself is a profoundly significant story for perceptive reporters like Marc Fisher to write about.
As for the soliloquy phenomenon, a major public education responsibility is on the civic/labor and religious communities. They need to respond repeatedly and comprehensively to Trump and his movement to suppress democracy with a fascistic-style concentration of power that denies realities such as climate crises, who won elections, and enabling Big Business to continue bolstering the corporate state. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt characterized the corporate state as “fascism” in a 1938 message to Congress.
For example, the National Council of Churches should be speaking out for the religiously based standards of secular human behavior that Trump has brazenly violated, including seven of the Ten Commandments.
The AFL-CIO should use its public outreach capacities to reach affiliated unions’ thirteen million members, along with many more non-unionized workers, to convey Trump’s morbid hatred of unions, his evisceration, while president, of workers’ rights – including their health and safety – his opposition to an increase in the frozen federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and his corporatization of both the National Labor Relations Board and the Department of Labor.
The major environmental groups, civil liberties and civil rights associations, and the consumer protection organizations should be rebutting and exposing Trump as their regular mission. After all, the man is the big GOP favorite to run as president in 2024.
Trump is the worst abuser of women ever to dwell in the White House. His policies were cruel to children. The major women’s and children’s protection advocacy organizations should have their own Daily Watch countering his soliloquies.
Last but not least, where are the lawyers and the bar associations? They are supposed to be the “first responders” to Trump’s open contempt for the Constitution and his serial violations of criminal and civil laws. Trump’s White House national security advisor John Bolton wrote that “Obstruction of justice was a way of life at the White House.” So far, the American Bar Association remains silent and so have all the state bar associations. (See the May 25, 2023 Letter to ABA President-elect Mary Smith). So much for their professional respect for the rule of law.
Enough of the mass media’s repeating Trump and his tweets. Readers and viewers need journalists to unravel the ever-devolving Trump and Trumpism and cover the neglected civil democratic society as part of the exchanges in this “marketplace of ideas.”
Granted the media has exposed Teflon Trump’s wrongdoings. But civic groups analyze Trump in different and, for their millions of members, more credible ways.