It’s Not Trump Versus Biden, It’s Fox News Versus …. Well, Everyone Else…And No One Wins This
As I wish to discuss the Alternate Universes that Americans live in, and the extraordinary damage these splits in the fabric of Spacetime are doing to the fabric of our Democracy, I should begin by first disclosing my own bias, that is which Universe I live in: I avoid watching Fox News (I cannot cope with the acid stomach it induces in me), but I don’t watch CNN either. I confess I have settled upon MSNBC, though not completely comfortably with them since they do sometimes make me wince. But in between winces, I nonetheless do enjoy and am paradoxically soothed by the biting rants of Mika and Joe, the witty digs of Joy Reid, and the exasperated eye rolling of Rachel Maddow capped off by her patented phrase “watch this space” and then dramatic dissolve to commercial, all of them entertaining and informative. But even though I do inhabit that admittedly liberal-biased Universe — and never even visit, let alone would want to live in the Fox Universe — I do feel I still have enough lack of bias in me to make the following statement:
Both Media Universes are behaving badly, and lately have been behaving extremely badly.
I am not going to enumerate in detail the long laundry list of ways in which Fox News has behaved badly. This has already gotten plenty of attention, and recently well chronicled in Brian Stelter’s book Hoax (which happened to shoot up to #1 bestseller the day after he appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show, so I do hope he sent her a thank you card). So I will elaborate no further on Fox News and their bending of the spacetime continuum, and in any case, I’ve almost certainly already lost readers from that Universe anyway, since when they read me say “I avoid watching Fox News” they likely exited this article, reading no further, concluding I have nothing to say that they would want to hear. Their loss, since they might well want to hear me out. But now my audience is likely primarily those who read that I am a fan of Mika, Joe, Joy and Rachel, and nodded approval to that and so have kept reading, comfortably assured that I am member of their tribe. Good. Now please stay with me a little longer, as I tell you what you don’t want to hear.
There is an aphorism that has become very popular lately, often attributed to Mark Twain, though I don’t believe that attribution has been verified, but it gets right to the heart of the matter and gets right at the trap that the liberal media has now fallen into:
“Never argue with stupid people. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.”
Or to put it a little more elegantly, I would quote Proverbs 26:4–5
“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.
Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.”
I have witnessed over the past few weeks, Trump (aka Fox News Universe, one cannot distinguish between the two, it is all the same thing) trigger a now nonstop barrage of apoplectic hair-on-fire mania from the Universe of Everyone Else. What little semblance of dignified self-restraint there was up till now (admittedly very little, but some) has been chucked out the window over at MSNBC and elsewhere. It has become now a veritable orgy of denigrating adjectives, everyone putting in overtime with their thesaurus. Bigot, bully, narcissist, liar have been the kindest terms I have heard for Trump over at MSNBC. Yes, those technically, on the basis of factual information, are accurate terms to describe him, but that isn’t the point. The point is: What exactly are you (MSNBC, liberals, Democrats) trying to accomplish exactly in this frenzy of denigration? What is the end game here?
What is the point of ranting over Trump’s obvious racism? Will that make Breonna Taylor’s life matter, when Kentucky’s Attorney General and the grand jury officially declared her life didn’t matter?
What is the point about ranting over the fact we have a coronavirus death toll over 200,000 and climbing because of Trump’s lack of leadership in efforts to lessen the spread of the virus? Will that bring the dead back or diminish the many thousands more lives yet to be lost to this virus?
What is your point? I am speaking to MSNBC. I am speaking to the people putting out the political attack ads, be it those of the Biden campaign, or the Lincoln Project or whoever else. What is your point? All of this is not going to inspire a Trump loyalist or a would-be Trump voter to say “Oh, I see the light now, I’ll vote for Biden.” No.
What it will do, and is doing, is reinforce the Fox News narrative, make them feel “wise in their own eyes” as they further harp on the victimhood card, as they claim to be the innocent targets of radical leftist hit squads. An example of how we play into their hands: To say there are 200,000 dead because of Trump is a nonsensically hysterical statement, since the coronavirus, regardless of who was President, would have caused deaths. The reasonable thing would be to calmly point out the fact that the death toll would be lower at this point if Trump had done more, and Republican Governors had followed science-based recommendations. But no, the orgy of denigration is in full swing, so they keep it simple: 200,000 deaths are his fault. Period. And you play straight into the hands of Fox News, as they rightly call foul on such a statement.
The fabric of spacetime, that is to say the fabric of reasonableness and of honest discussion and of serious debate and nuanced consideration of options and choices, that spacetime is bending and about to snap, not just because of Fox News. It takes two to tango. It takes two sides pulling hard on both ends to rip this fabric apart. Our country is coming apart at the seams because lots of people are giving in to the temptation to get into emotional shouting matches with lots of stupid people who have a lot more experience at this game.
The greatest threat to the Biden/Harris campaign is a liberal media who has slipped into a state of frenzied hysterics, which is serving to do nothing other than to poor gasoline on the fire of the Trump/Fox News insanity. Just the other day, I heard a guest on MSNBC compare Trump to Mussolini. Really? Score a point for at least opting for some other analogy besides the tiresome Hitler, but Mussolini? Talk about inflating Trump’s already overinflated ego. Trump has failed at business (which the factual record shows, unless successful tax evasion and cheating contractors counts as success, and perhaps it does in some circles). Trump has failed at being President (do I really need to line up the facts on that?). Now a Mussolini comparison. The problem with that comparison is that Mussolini was a successful authoritarian. If that is indeed what Trump is eyeing as his next goal, we can presume further failure on his part; Trump is nothing if not consistent. Strike three and he is out.
But I have digressed from the point, I myself as subject as anyone else to the temptation of slipping down into the mud pit. The point is, my dear fellow liberals, the volume needs to get turned down and turned down fast. But I do fear we are past the point where that is even possible.
I watched the ceremony honoring the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as she lay in state at the Capital. Tears did well up in my eyes. And seeing the bipartisan line of women lawmakers on the steps to honor the departure of this giant among women brought even more tears to my eyes, overwhelmed by the symbolic beauty of that sight. I wept not just for the loss of this amazing and impactful woman, but I also wept as I wondered what else was perhaps being carried away from us with her in that tiny wooden casket. Was it carrying away civility? Was it carrying away the ability to compromise and persuade? Was it carrying away that most special genius of Ruth Bader Ginsburg which was her wisdom in recognizing that sometimes the best way to fight for what you want is to take up fights for the other side when there is common ground? Remember that her favorite tactic for fighting for women’s rights was in fact to take up fights on behalf of men, since paternalistic and patronizing unequal treatment of women was often quite unfair to men. What a special genius she had to recognize that finding common ground is the best way to lasting positive change. We now witness the corollary to that:
To dig into our mutually opposed trenches ensures a neverending battle with no victors and just a more and more bloody battlefield.
That is why I say this coming election is not Trump versus Biden. It is instead going to be a monumental battle within a War that is going to continue long after Inauguration Day, regardless of whether Trump or Biden wins this battle. The War is going to continue and is going to escalate, unless we (all of us) take upon ourselves the responsiblity to deescalate.
Everyone who calls themselves a liberal, a Democrat, perhaps what each and everyone of us need to do is hit the pause button, and before the next string of ugly vituperative words spills out of our mouths, ask ourselves just one question: Would Ruth Bader Ginsburg use those words? Would she say it that way? If the answer is no, take a deep breath and swallow those words, and think of another way, a dignified way, to say what you want to say. Whatever else happens in these coming months and these coming years, please let us keep her spirit alive. A spirit of calm dignity and reason. Please.