How Did We Get Here? And Where Are We?

The last weeks have felt toxic and it’s only going to get worse. What bothers me almost  more than what Donald Trump says and does is that he is being normalized. I’m used to the double standards that the media have been trying to maintain for so long; but they have taken it to an extreme that is beyond my understanding. Donald Trump flat out called Hillary Clinton a bigot. It’s the latest in a long list of unfounded accusations and insults. The media never unpacked the accusation. They focused on asking him and those few who speak for him if he really meant what he said. When Hillary Clinton gave a carefully laid out speech on Donald Trump’s ties to Stephen Bannon, his campaign CEO, Breitbart news, and the “alt-right” which are ties to white supremacists, white nationalists or whatever name they care to take. Hillary Clinton left it to our judgment to decide if this was racist. To the media these two events were given equality, but did not include the chants of “lock her up” that come with Donald Trump. They were called back to back equal “attacks”. They are not.

Donald Trump made an inflammatory claim with broad based strokes that have little basis in reality. Hillary Clinton gave a well thought out speech that used real time and actual information and honest concerns about Trump’s connections to the alt  right. One was a spat out insult and the other was not an insult. Despite what everyone says Hillary has never called Trump a racist. She was asked that question directly and still she would not call him a racist. She only gave facts and left it to the press and the public to draw their own conclusions. That racist is that answer says everything about Donald Trump. That these were termed co-equal “attacks” says everything about the media.

The normalization of Trump is just the last move of a media that has been trying for too long to give both sides equal consideration even where facts are clearly on one side of the issue. Climate change was always given two sides – generally one side had scientists that studied the climate the other had either non-scientists or scientists who did not study the climate as a counter-point. They would not accept the science as science and focus on the policy positions as a result of that science. The media is doing that too much. They are allowing people, most especially Donald Trump, to make statement after statement that are not based in facts virtually unchallenged. Today, it was that Chicago is more dangerous a place to live in then Afghanistan. The proof more people died in Chicago then members of the armed services in Afghanistan. So it is only certain lives that matter in Afghanistan but, putting that aside, that comment went by unchallenged. I’ve heard more times than I can stand that it is impossible to fact check Donald Trump because he lies so much. And yet, Hillary Clinton, who has been the most honest person in this election cycle has been branded as a liar and untrustworthy. I use the term branded quite intentionally. If it was the 1600’s Hillary would be burned at the stake and as every woman who was burned as a witch it would be absolutely without cause.

The media, for years, has been normalizing the conversation. While Donald Trump says it out loud the Republicans have been doing this for years and the media has been complicit in it. I want to find a way to defend the media and there are some bastions out there that deserve that defense but we have allowed them to become to commercialized because we don’t want to pay for our news the way we used to. In fact, the sites that gather together news from other sites are becoming sites we depend on for news but we must have the original sources or we will have no news. Years ago, someone in the Senate asked why do we need the National Weather Service, we have the Weather Channel, not realizing that the NWS was the backbone of that arrangement. The one could not stand without the other.

We have multiple Republicans, on the record, saying that they are purposefully trying to restrict voter rights in order to let their candidates win. We have that same judgement from courts that say that in at least one case African American voters were targeted with almost surgical precision after the legislation asked for specific information. These stories get far less attention than is deserved. This has been happening for years. The Republicans have been attacking facts for years. They have been attacking women’s rights for years. They have been attacking the rights of the LGBTQ communities for years. They have been attacking the rights of black and brown people for years. They have been attacking the poor for years. Now they have a candidate who articulates all of the things that have been somewhat hiding behind the curtain and the Republicans and some of the “right wing” media is realizing that perhaps they have gone to far in allowing a narrative devoid of facts and filled with hate and now they do not know how to put the genie back in the bottle. The so called “mainstream” media is still less willing to take responsibility.

They will ask Clinton why she is disliked. They will call her a liar and untrustworthy. They do not give those same titles to Donald Trump. They may note that Donald Trump has higher “unfavorables” then Hillary Clinton but I don’t think I’ve ever heard them ask Donald Trump why he is so unpopular. That question is asked of Hillary Clinton often.

So I guess that leads us to Where Are We? We are living in a post-factual world where the double standard is gob-stoppingly (yes I made that term up) obvious. Is there a wonder that Hillary Clinton is considered untrustworthy when that is the thing that the media says about her the most. She is regularly called a liar. I don’t hear Trump being called a liar – I’ve heard that he lies an average of as much as 91% of the time. I don’t hear people calling him untrustworthy day in and day out. Every time that the media has to do a negative story on Donald Trump based on his own actions there is a story about Hilllary that calls her out on the same couple of items, over and over and over again and they come to a conclusion about her that they do not come to about Trump or do so only rarely. False equivalencies abound. The media has been after the Clinton’s for years, building on conspiracies that the Republicans invented. When someone questions Bill Clinton’s infidelities there is no mention of Donald Trump’s own, much larger and prolonged infidelities. Hillary is called out for every word she has ever said and Trump is supposed to be only examined from this moment forward. Hillary Clinton is held to account for every negative action that occurred or might have followed her husband’s Presidency but Donald Trump’s past is only occasionally examined. According to his representatives we should ignore everything that is in Trump’s past but everything that Hillary has done is fair game. She said a word once, she’s apologized for that, but that word will be used over and over again.

There is a huge double standard at play here. Hillary Clinton doesn’t generate nearly as much negative news as Trump and so the media hammers her on the couple of things that they deem newsworthy. It is a double standard that women are used to though it is far worse for Hillary. It’s a double standard that Democrats are used to. It is a lack of facts that those of us who still acknowledge that there still are facts are used to. Some of us know that facts are facts but you can have your own opinion.

We are in a bizarre place. One that seeks to normalize a candidate that is, to me, abhorrent while simultaneously tearing down the woman seeking the White House for the first time. They report endlessly on his attacks on her health while saying that it is not worthy of airtime. They do that a lot. Donald Trump is doing this just to get attention, they report, while reporting on the newest awful thing he has done. They are back to playing his rallies live while I’ve only seen a couple of full Hillary Clinton rallies or speeches. They tend to only cover her if she says Trumps name. We did see her first full rally with Tim Kaine but I think they mostly did that because it was another first and they wanted to see how much Kaine spoke in Spanish.

We are in a place where Republicans can molest young men and barely get a mention but a woman working for Hillary receives incredible attention when she separates from her husband while the media says that this story should not be news but Trump tweeted about it so – news. We are in a world where a gold medalist gymnast is pilloried for not putting her hand on her heart during a gold medal ceremony and she was forced to apologize profusely for any insult. While Ryan Lochte was, at least initially dismissed as boys will be boys, even though Lochte is 32 years old. He has since suffered some reprisals but I suspect that the torrent of messages against him were little compared to those received by Gabby. Had it been 4 black athletes what would have that narrative have been? Would it have been boys will be boys or would they have been thugs? We live in a very divided country and at least some of the people supporting Trump blame everyone else for the problems that they face. They do not see that Republican policies are what is deeply impacting them. They do not see, or don’t talk about, the impact that automation has had on their jobs. They look to the past for causes and hope that time can come again. That lets them continue to support a party that has literally decided that they will not compromise. Our government doesn’t work without compromise. The Republicans took it to extreme for President Obama. They decided on day one that they would obstruct as hard and as unrelentingly as possible. They were sure that would make President Obama a one term President. The President was forced into creative solutions after trying and trying with the Republican Congress. Before and during that time he was called the Imperial President while being called week, ineffective, and feckless. The media never made any attempt to question what facts the Republicans based all that on.

We live in a weird space and we have to move forward or else we will implode and spiral backwards. I won’t believe that we are going to implode. I can’t believe that the American people would elect a man so temperamentally unfit. I hope that I’m right. I’ll be stressing and worrying between now and then and I’ll be working for Hillary and trying to discourage people from 3rd party candidates. In this world we are in it would be possible for third party candidates to have just enough impact to return us to 2000 when Bush was put into the White House by the Supreme Court and Al Gore stepping aside for the sake of the country. Something few Republicans will do. They put party over country. Which takes me to the last place where we could be. There is a strong underlying framework in the Trump campaign, message and some of his supporters that bears some resemblance to the time leading up to Nazi Germany. I don’t want to even think that is a possibility in this country but it is something I can’t shake.

I will not stand silent in this time. My skills are with my words and I am struggling to find ways to put forward my thoughts. I have a dozen half-written posts because something new distracts me or I get so frustrated I have to disconnect for a bit. We are in a bad place and we need strong leadership to guide us through these troubled waters. There is only one person I trust with that job and HER name is Hillary Clinton. People say that want something new. Let’s go for our first female President and let’s go with one of the most qualified candidates to ever seek the office. That is quite standard with women we always want to be supremely qualified for the jobs we seek. She’ll know what she is doing, she’ll inevitably bring perspectives that no man has ever brought to that office. She’ll work hard for us. I don’t want to contemplate a Trump Presidency even just with his “I’ll hire the best people” we’ve seen his judgement over this year and he does not hire the best people. He is much better at firing.

Is there a solution, the best that I can see is to do everything we have to hold the media accountable. We need to pay for our news sources so that they aren’t dependent on clicks of sensational stories. We need to read and respond to the “boring” articles. We have to tell them what we expect from them. We have an ability to give fast feedback and so we should do so. We have to get out and vote every single election. We have to be educated voters, know your judges and care about them as much as you care about President. Get involved, run for office, and in my opinion vote for the Democrats. Then hold your elected officials accountable. Call them. Visit their offices. If they don’t do their best for your community vote them out.

We can change this insanity. We can tell the media that we value news and facts and that we don’t want to read or hear lies. That we understand complexities. We’ll stay with you if you take us through it. We want that. When people lie we don’t mind if the rest of the segment is spent on pointing out and correcting that lie. We want to know. We want to know when it is pure hyperbole. Push back, be reporters, that is what we want to see. And if two candidates are starkly different you need to tell us that. Don’t normalize, don’t create a double standard to bring the candidates closer together, don’t create a story because you spent time on it and found nothing.

I’m exhausted by this. I’m sick of it. It’s been blown up, exaggerated almost out of recognition, but it’s been happening for more years then I can count. We can make it stop. Hold people and organizations accountable we can move out of this quagmire we are in. We must.

 

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