News outlets under the First Amendment have a tremendous amount of leeway, and, of course, they should. They should be entitled to print diverse, conflicting, even vehemently oppositional views, and they shouldn’t be concerned about how many people might disagree with any given viewpoint they choose to print. Hell, that’s why we’re all here on Daily Kos.
But there’s also an issue of responsibility and decorum that we’ve learned to expect from those hallowed, established news outlets we consider as trustworthy. And this, by right-wing columnist Marc Thiessen, is just intolerable, coming from The Washington Post. It’s beyond the pale of what anyone is entitled to expect from a publication with The Post’s history. Go ahead and read it, and if it doesn’t give you a queasy feeling inside, then you probably don’t understand journalism.
Because this isn’t journalism. It’s trolling. Worse than that, it’s blatant, insouciant trolling. Thiessen used to work for Roger Stone, and it shows. He tries to make some bald-assed excuses and justifications for it, but they’re specious and transparent. They’re a thinly-veiled front for trollery itself, pure and simple.
For those of you barred by the paywall, Thiessen wrote a defense—actually, a celebration—of the “Let’s go, Brandon” chant.
These two paragraphs are about all anyone needs to get the flavor of Thiessen’s piece.
Count me among those in favor of the new chant.
First, it replaces a vulgar epithet with a sarcastic commentary on Biden’s disastrous presidency. The focus shifts from insulting Biden the person, to well justified mockery of Biden’s catastrophic actions in office. Worst inflation in 30 years? Let’s go Brandon! Gas prices up $1.31 a gallon since his election? Let’s go Brandon! Home heating prices skyrocketing? Let’s go Brandon! Self-inflicted crisis at the southern border? Let’s go Brandon! Left hundreds of Americans behind in Afghanistan? Let’s go Brandon! Can’t find a Thanksgiving turkey or the Christmas gifts your kids want because store shelves are bare? Let’s go Brandon! Approval rating dropped to 36 percent? Let’s go Brandon!
People are using it in hilarious ways. In Virginia, someone broke into the control cabinets for two electronic road signs and changed the messaging to read “Let’s go Brandon!” When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held a signing ceremony for a legislation barring vaccine mandates in his state, he held it in Brandon, Fla.. In Brandon, Minn., someone put the words “Let’s go” in front of six signs welcoming visitors to the city.
There are plenty of venues online for trolls, but they shouldn’t include The Washington Post. There’s something seriously awry, something seriously wrong with the outlet’s editorial decision-making.
I admit I rarely encounter anything quite so off-putting in journalism that I can’t find a rationalization for it, so this is a rarity, and I think a lot of my reaction has to do with the source itself. I can’t fathom this kind of writing passing muster under any prior formulation or ownership of The Post, so I have to wonder if that is the reason we’re seeing it here.
My feeling is that Thiessen’s column should never have been allowed to go to print. Perhaps The Post feels this is the best representation of a “conservative” viewpoint available. But I have to wonder whether a supposedly mainstream, authoritative, and scrupulous news outlet that permits something that purports to defend trolling, even on its opinion pages, is really worth my time. If it’s that bad, that empty-headed and trollish, why publish it? This goes well beyond “differences in opinion.” It’s just a matter of class, reputation, and ultimately, trustworthiness.
I guess your mileage may vary.
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