Yeah, Adam, I’m sure we Americans will get right on that.
There was a time—perhaps you can remember it?—when the media believed, along with everyone else, that political choices of candidates or policies were matters for argument and debate. The hard work of making the case to vote for or against someone came with the implied conditional, “if my arguments are persuasive to you ...”
Now, perhaps because of the enforced brevity of Twitter, reasoned argument is no longer expected, only the bare command, based on predetermined party lore as to who are the good guys and who the bad, to vote or not vote for someone.
Whatever you think of former President Donald Trump, and even if you have rejected him twice before and have every intention of rejecting him again in 2024, doesn’t it grate a little on your nerves when an establishment Republican pol takes to a compliant media to tell you that you must do so? It certainly does on mine.
Back in the days when fantasy was only an occasional visitor to the media mansion and not a permanent resident, there used to be a common conceit among the punditry that began, “If I were dictator ...”
Nowadays, every Tom, Dick, and Harry with a keyboard appears to imagine he is a dictator, giving his marching orders to a grateful nation, eager for the media’s guidance and instruction.
This is what, in my book “Media Madness” (now, sadly, out of print), I called the media’s folie de grandeur, or a form of madness caused by self-importance.
The number expressing similar confidence in television news was 11 percent.
Not, at least, unless they get smart enough to try reverse psychology and tell people to vote for him instead of against him.
For it appears to me that, as the media’s Kinzinger-like arrogance and self-importance have increased in recent years, the levels of public trust in them have declined.
I wonder if the two things could be in any way related.
There’s even a case to be made that Trump’s winning margin in 2016 came from people who voted for him solely because the media had been incessantly telling them not to vote for him for the previous year and a half.
But the media’s dictatorial self-conceit isn’t confined to the country formerly known as the United States. Now the Russian–Ukrainian war has brought out into the open the media’s aspiration to become dictator to the world.
To be fair to her, in the more recent article, Applebaum makes a good case for the connection between Russian imperialism and Russian autocracy. But there’s something inescapably ridiculous about the spectacle of a Western journalist, however eminent (she won a Pulitzer prize for her history of the Russian Gulag in 2004) insisting on her own prescription for the geopolitical order under the rubric: “The Russian empire must die.”
The Russian empire may die, but if it does it will not be out of deference to her moral authority, or to that of the American media.
Similarly, Putin may go. His recent military defeats may even make this probable. But whether or not he does will be a matter for political, military, and diplomatic maneuvering within Russia and will most certainly have nothing whatever to do with Western moralizing about it.
And when there is, there will also no doubt be a lot of Western journalists stamping their feet and shaking their fists in frustration that the world has, once again, declined to listen to them or bow to their will.
Why would it?