On Tuesday, for the very first time in the nation’s history, a former president of the United States was arrested for stealing classified national security secrets, hiding them from government officials, and obstructing government efforts to get them back.
It is an astonishing, unprecedented news event. It tops Nixon’s corruption by a wide stretch if measured by the total harm done. Damage to national security is undoubtedly enormous, and the details of that damage are likely to be hidden from the public for years. There are still documents missing.
How do you handle such an unprecedented betrayal of the public trust? How do you cover a story about a former president being arrested on Espionage Act charges?
If you are The New York Times, you do this.
“MOMENTOUS SCENE IN MIAMI AS TRUMP PLEADS NOT GUILTY” is the headline, and it takes no imagination at all to imagine Donald Trump himself writing that out. The headline-important news is that Trump pleaded “NOT GUILTY,” as if there was any damn question that he would do otherwise. The headline-important takeaway is that it was a “MOMENTOUS SCENE” as Trump pled not guilty, with “MOMENTOUS” being a word more often associated with headlines about war-ending victory parades, not a dozen-car motorcade threading through Miami to be met by perhaps a 100 gawking boosters and about as many members of the press.
All of it illustrated with a front-page picture that doesn’t show the motorcade or crowd or arrest or any of it, but instead shows Trump stepping down from a flag-adorned plane that many or most observers might think is Air Force One. It’s not, of course. It’s Trump’s private jet, and he painted it that way on purpose.
This is a newspaper front page that Donald Trump will hang on a Mar-a-Lago wall. It is the Truth Social version of events. The man attempted a coup, roused a crowd to attack the U.S. Capitol, and made off with some of the nation’s most closely guarded secrets so that he could sort through them in Mar-a-Lago and in Bedminster at his leisure, and the actual New York Times believes the takeaway story to be the momentous scene of him pleading not guilty.
The alleged top editors in the country have to try very, very hard to be this bad at their jobs. What would have been their second choice, if “Trump descending from Not Air Force One” had been unavailable? Would they have gone with him hugging a flag? Waving from a balcony?
While the Times attempts to convince us that the most important story of the day was the sheer spectacle of Trump being met with dozens of supporters as he walked into the courthouse to be booked, the more explicitly fascist media is looking to stir up political violence rather than abide by Trump being held accountable for actual federal crimes.
The Fox News board and executive suites really will not be happy until they have stoked mass domestic terrorism against Republicanism’s enemies. From one hoax to the next, on and on, all of it meant to make their audience believe that America’s elections are illegitimate, its democracy has already fallen, and that its elected government is tyrannical. A viewer could hardly come to any conclusion other than that violence was needed, with Fox News talking heads insisting that every nonviolent answer will only be swept aside by the supposed corruption of their enemies.
The man stole nuclear and national defense secrets and put them in a Mar-a-Lago bathroom, and the Times is agog at the visuals of it all while Fox believes charging him for doing it is evidence of incipient dictatorship. We are all seriously boned if this is the state of our so-called “press.”
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