Party of the Desperate Strongman

 

Greg Gianforte should be in jail right now.

Less than twenty-four hours before a special election for a seat in Congress, Gianforte attacked journalist for ThGuardian Ben Jacobs, grabbing him by the throat and “body-slamming” him to the ground, according to confirming reports by Fox News (of all places) and BuzzFeed. Instead of cooling his heels in a Montana jail cell, Gianforte, a man with ties to Russian companies that Jacobs reported on last month,  was rewarded with an extra $100,000 in campaign contributions, and a victory over Democrat Rob Quist.

At first, Gianforte’s camp tried to place the blame on Jacobs, saying that the incident was “aggressive behavior by a liberal journalist,” essentially providing the childish “He started it!” defense. Had this assault not been corroborated by Fox News, Gianforte probably would have gotten away with it, given the sheriff who cited him donated $250 to his campaign.

Gianforte’s actions were a disgusting display of his lack of temperament, and a clear indication of where we are as a nation under the Trump regime. By calling the Fourth Estate “the enemy of the people”, and slandering reporting that holds him responsible for actions within his administration as “fake news”, Donald Trump has indeed created an environment where those so immersed in his culture now feel empowered to be the bullies they’ve always felt liberals to be. Snooping “liberal” journalist out to get your favorite Right-wing candidate by asking too many questions? Just beat the crap out of him/her and keep it moving.

As The New Republic‘s Brian Beutler points out, Gianforte’s actions should scare the hell out of anyone with an ounce of patriotism:

All the more because of Gianforte’s victory, conservative candidates across the country know they can abuse reporters, lie about it, use political violence to raise money, and find safe harbor in the Republican cloakrooms of the United States Capitol. Yet taking all of this in, the NBC News political cheat sheet First Read lamented that the “body slam of [a] reporter is another sign of America’s broken politics.” That conclusion isn’t wrong, much as the broken wing of an airplane might send the whole vessel into a spiral dive, and, in surveying the wreckage, one could accurately exclaim that “the plane broke.”

The New York Times’ Jacey Fortin reported on the rash of physical assaults on press freedoms in the Trump era:

Last week, John M. Donnelly, a journalist for CQ Roll Call, said he was pinned against a wall by security workers in Washington as he tried to ask a question of Michael P. O’Rielly, a commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission.

Two plainclothes security workers used their backs to keep him against the wall and away from Mr. O’Rielly, Mr. Donnelly said.

“There was absolutely nothing in my countenance that could be perceived as a threat,” Mr. Donnelly said. “I think they interpreted that I was going to ask a question, and they were determined to stop it.” Mr. O’Rielly later apologized on social media.

The Columbia Journalism Review is also keeping a running tab on assaults on the press, be they actual assault, the locking out of American journalists from certain briefings, or Trump telling then-FBI director James Comey to lock up journalists who report and publish leaked information, according to a New York Times report.

Assaulting journalists and banning the press from certain briefings are the actions of a party fully on board with becoming the enablers of strongmen. The alleged Leader of the Free World rewards dictators like Recep Tayyip Erdogan by inviting him into the White House, and allowing his goons to attack peaceful protestors outside the Turkish embassy; he calls murderous thugs like Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines and calls him great, and he fondles an orb with the king of Saudi Arabia, a country that violates human rights with impunity, so why should a congressional candidate’s assaulting a journalist surprise anyone?

Because the Right is so afraid of losing the power they’ve been rightly deprived of for the better part of a decade, they won’t stop this immature, vile madness. Instead of demanding a suspension of his campaign, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan weakly said Greg Gianforte should apologize for his actions yesterday.

And so it goes.

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And The Hysterics That Follow…

While settling in to my seat to get my morning cup of coffee, I spoke with a friend that frequents the coffee shop as well. As we exchanged pleasantries, I asked him if he had heard about the piece Richard Cohen wrote, that has earned him the scorn of many of the Liberals You Follow on Twitter. My friend, a fellow Black man, read the offending original paragraph from Cohen’s column, and shared with me a surprising analysis: he actually understood what Cohen was trying to say, and agreed with him completely.

Let’s go over Richard Cohen’s piece again, but with a twist:

Today’s GOP insists is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party.Instead they declare that it is deeply troubled — about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional conservative views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts — but not all — of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.

The above is the offending paragraph, containing in bold three simple edits I added to it. When considering the rest of what Cohen was trying to convey in his column, these edits give the piece way more continuity, and correctly brings home the truth Cohen told about the bigoted ethnocentrism of the Right writ large. As a former conservative familiar with the voting patterns and fanatical fervor of the base of the Republican Party, Cohen was absolutely right: Chris Christie does not stand a chance in the 2016 presidential primary, so long as the man who shut the government down (Ted Cruz) and a plagiarist (Rand Paul) still dominate the conversation about possible presidential candidates.

Perhaps if Fred Hiatt, Cohen’s editor, had done a better job of checking through this piece for any type of flow errors (which he admitted he did not), calls for his forced retirement from everyone from Ana Marie Cox, The Huffington Post, Salon and the piece’s comment thread would never have happened. Ta-Nehisi Coates was mistaken in his polemic when he commented that this was not a matter of a breakdown in reading comprehension; not only was it a breakdown, it also shows how people can selectively read things to pick out the most offensive parts, especially when Cohen has written pieces that have offended on more than one occasion.

For my part, I respectfully decline to join with the liberal orthodoxy on this one in demanding Cohen’s ouster. While no doubt an offensive paragraph, I agree that calling for someone’s job because over a disagreement is completely unnecessary, especially with other major journalistic institutions actually peddling in lies and outright deceit. Cohen has said that he was attempting to show what the Right believes, and with much to support his statement these days, I am inclined to take him at his word on this matter.