Who Says We Must?

Who Says We Must?
Former President Donald Trump leaves the stage after speaking during an event at his Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Fla., on Nov. 15, 2022. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
James Bowman
“Americans must reject Trump in 2024,” wrote soon-to-be ex-Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois in The Hill newspaper a couple of hours before the former president announced his candidacy from Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach.

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.

Has Kinzinger ever looked at the polling results on Americans’ trust in the media? According to Gallup, the proportion of respondents to a poll last summer expressing “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in newspapers was 16 percent.

The number expressing similar confidence in television news was 11 percent.

Therefore, it’s only common sense to conclude with Emily Jashinsky of The Federalist that “Trump won’t be defeated by media, conservative or otherwise.”

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.

At first, there was only the relatively modest imperative, as stated by Kinzinger’s fellow-Illinoisan Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi in Newsweek, that “the U.S. must stand behind Ukraine, no matter how long the fight continues.”
Then we were told (by, for instance, Mateusz Morawiecki, of the London Daily Telegraph) that “Russia’s monstrous ideology must be defeated”—though Russia’s ambition to restore the old Soviet or czarist empire could hardly be dignified as an “ideology.”
John Bolton’s voice was then only one in the chorus of those crying out in the media that “Putin must go”—a sentiment that, however laudable, appears not to be shared by the Russian leader himself.
Now comes Anne Applebaum, an old friend of mine, to insist in The Atlantic that “the Russian empire must die.”
She is thus raising her bidding, offered back in March in the same publication, that “Ukraine must win.”

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.

As for “Ukraine must win,” I am inclined to doubt, with Michael Wilkerson of American Greatness, even that Ukraine can win. There will, eventually, have to be some kind of negotiated settlement whether Putin goes or stays.

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?

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
James Bowman is a resident scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. The author of “Honor: A History,” he is a movie critic for The American Spectator and the media critic for The New Criterion.
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