I just wrote a terse email to the NPR Politics Podcast, and I figured I’d share.
Yeah, this is ostensibly an author blog. It’s also a blog, and I have a feeling that I’m going to be writing a lot of terse communiques over the next four years.
The thing about the NPR Politics Podcast is that it’s been a big staple of my week for the last couple of months. I’ve come to enjoy it a lot. I like the people. I like what they talk about. Yeah, it’s standard NPR, but look, I was raised with NPR, so kindly allow me my comfort food.
But this latest episode, they talked about “normalizing” Donald Trump. Specifically, they talked about why the accusations of doing so that have been leveled at them are wrong, and they should be exempt from them because they’re journalists and they need to cover the news, and basically I ended up having to turn it off because I could not even, you guys, I could not even
One thing I could do was write an email. So I did. It’s below the cut.
I was a devoted listener all throughout the last couple of months of the campaign. You helped keep me sane. I felt like I got to know you as people; I got to hang out with you and you made me feel better about stuff. You made me laugh when I was very short on laughter. I went back and listened to old episodes when I ran out of current ones. I adored you guys.
Then I listened to you talk about “normalizing” Donald Trump.
I think there’s something you’re fundamentally not getting about what normalization means in this context. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t cover Trump. It doesn’t mean you should cover Trump while screaming about him. It doesn’t mean that you specifically shouldn’t speak reasonably. Quite the opposite.
Normalizing Trump is talking about the dangers that he presents as if they aren’t dangers. It’s taking someone like Steve Bannon and Breitbart and talking about him and it as if they aren’t actual threats to the union and don’t have a long record of being so, as if they don’t actively promote hatred of women and queer folk and People of Color and immigrants. It’s taking vicious and extremist white supremacist discourse and calling it “controversial”. It’s calling a racist with ties to hate groups a “provocateur”. It’s looking at a man who has indicated that he’s considering an *actual registry* for American Muslims, whose team members are bringing up internment camps as *things that might actually happen* and adopting a “wait and see” attitude.
The people who are telling you to not “normalize” these people aren’t telling you to scream at or about them. They’re not telling you that you shouldn’t cover them. They’re telling you that you need to look at a spade and have the courage to call it a goddamn spade, even if it means you sacrifice some kind of farcical concept of “fairness”.
Honestly, listening to you just now, I got chills. It was disturbing. Because this is the kind of media attitude that allows horrible things to happen, that encourages complacency in the face of a genuine threat. Yeah, that might sound hyperbolic. I’m a historian. It’s not hyperbole.
And please don’t tell me that you’ll wait to see undocumented children literally being rounded up in black vans before you call that spade exactly what it is.
As journalists, you have a responsibility to the public to tell the truth even if the truth is unpleasant. Maybe especially when the truth is unpleasant. You do not have a responsibility to give both sides a “fair hearing” if one side is demonstrably dangerous.
Guys, I’m begging you. I’m pleading with you. We’re going to need you over the next four years, and if you tell yourself that what you’re doing is fine (it is not fine) like I just heard you doing, we’re in trouble.
This is real. It is not normal. Nothing about it is normal. Talk about it. Talk about how not normal it is. Do not let people forget that It. Is. Not. Normal.
Time to step up and do your jobs.
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