MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It is dismaying to read how the mainstream corporate media covers an alleged "lack of civility" in US politics as though it were a two-sided issue. In what has come to be the hallmark of the mass media, the issue is not presented as ferreting out the truth. Instead, the media feel obliged to present the issue as though both Republicans and Democrats are equally at fault.
That perspective is preposterous. We have a president who began his campaign calling Mexican refugees "rapists" and "criminals," and still refers to them as an "infestation" of evil-doers. Trump crudely ridiculed his opponents in the Republican primary as he galloped his way through coarse and vulgar statements and tweets. He even encouraged his followers at times to beat up individuals who protested him at rallies. He bragged that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it. He mocked a reporter with disabilities, referred to Megyn Kelly's period, ridiculed women by attacking their looks, claimed people who opposed him are dangerous to the United States, and boorishly and stridently uses Twitter to denounce people and movements for reasons of political strategy.
Unfortunately, these are just a few examples of Trump's crudity. He dominates news coverage with a shocking, denigrating or sensational accusation almost every day, and often several times a day. As candidate and then head of state, Trump, as a playground bully, has singularly led political discourse into the gutter.
Journalist Katha Pollitt writes in The Nation that Trump is inciting his followers and giving voice to coarse tactics that have been a hallmark of the right:
That argument would be a lot more persuasive were it not the case that Trump supporters, egged on by the president, have already breached every social norm in the book. Right-wing troll Milo Yiannopoulos texted reporters, "I can't wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight." Two days after his provocation went public, someone did just that at Maryland's Capital Gazette, killing five. Now Milo says he was just kidding. A woman recently called a Mexican American doing yard work across the street a rapist who should go back to Mexico (he was actually born here and works as a computer-systems administrator). Trumpists have harassed restaurants all over the country which happened to be called the Red Hen. For years, anti-abortion zealots have done their best to make normal life hell for red-state abortion providers and their patients: picketing their homes, sending -- and sometimes fulfilling -- death threats, socially ostracizing them, leafleting their neighbors, following their children about, jotting down the license-plate numbers of patients' cars. Why do you think some clinics have to fly doctors in from out of state? When it comes to so-called pro-lifers, civility left the building a long time ago.
It's not that crudity and slanderous accusations have been absent from US politics in the past. In fact, negative campaigning and dirty tricks have been intertwined with many American elections. However, Trump has taken it to a new extreme, basically validating that any thought or denunciation -- however vulgar and boorish -- is acceptable. It is lamentable that the media serve as a megaphone for his crassness.
In fact, corporate media deserve a good deal of blame for amplifying Trump's coarseness. Yet, they still feel obliged to make this an equal problem between the two major parties, given the removal of Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her brood from a Virginia restaurant, the jeering of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen at a Mexican restaurant and the heckling of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell while leaving an event at Georgetown University.
These were protests, not turning politics into a slew of vulgarities and bullying. A key difference here is that Trump's insidious style turns any opponents of him and his base into the "other," people who are to be despised and are a threat to Trump's jingoism. What the protesters of Trump policy are doing is exercising their First Amendment rights, not demeaning opponents through vulgar accusations.
Trump has become so excessive in his obscenities and degradation that even some Capitol Hill Republicans are criticizing him. The Morning Call reported on this in January went Trump made his appalling "shithole nations" comment:
Several Pennsylvania Republicans are among those criticizing President Donald Trump on Friday after reports that he questioned why the U.S. should accept immigrants from Haiti and "shithole countries" in Africa.
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey said Trump's reported language referred to those countries "disparagingly," and that the president should retract his statements.
"There are great people -- many of whom would make great Americans -- in every country on the face of the earth," Toomey wrote. "The criterion for immigration should be the character of the individual, not the circumstances, however dire, of their native land."
U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, whose district includes most of the Lehigh Valley, said if the comments are accurate, they "must be condemned."
There is nothing comparable to Trump comments such as this one that can be found having been made by the Democratic leaders of Congress or the head of the DNC. However, here the dismaying and inexcusable remark is being made by the president of the United States.
The corporate mass media should state it like it is: coarse political discourse in 2018 rots like a fish, from the head down.