Donald Trump

Donald Trump Did Not Create the Anti-Media Fervor on the Right

Blame Gianforte on Gianforte. Blame the trollish anti-media reaction to it on a phenomenon much older than Trump's political career.


Predictably, the alleged criminal assault of Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs last night by Montana congressional candidate Greg Gianforte has turned into a pin-the-blame-on-Donald-Trump exercise. And not just from a journalistic class ever eager to seize any club with which to whack the 45th president—here's Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), admittedly a persistent thorn in Trump's side (the distaste is mutual), but still very much a Republican:

God, what an ugly cover. ||| Reason

There is certainly much more connective tissue and surface similarity between Trump and Gianforte than Sarah Palin and Jared Loughner, though I suppose most any number is larger than zero. Trump did make several cavalier statements during the campaign about knocking the crap out of protesters, and his treatment of the media as an "enemy" has been continuous. But I'm against the Transitive Property of Incitement here for the same reason I always am—it robs violent aggressors of their own hard-won agency, and it gives statist politicians an excuse to tighten the expressive noose. It's possible/probable that I lack sufficient dot-connecting imagination, but until shown otherwise I'm going to stick with the wild theory that Greg Gianforte is an unusually rageaholic asshole.

Because our tribal stupidity and disingenuous blame-shifting comes in two main flavors in this country, let us not forget that an even more strained contextual explanation for the Montana bodyslam has been percolating, most notably by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.): "The left," Franks told MSNBC, "has precipitated this tense, confrontational, approach throughout the country in recent months." What this has to do with a political reporter asking a congressional candidate about a Congressional Budget Office score is beyond me. It's true that the recent Nazi-punching debates on the left have been disturbing, and it's also true that Gianforte wasn't exactly confronted last night by a card-carrying member of Antifa.

The Trump-made-this-possible theory may be an open-and-shut case for the likes of Don Lemon, but it suffers from a similar fatal flaw that a lot of the withering obituaries for Fox News impresario Roger Ailes did last week: It gave the guys at the top of the (hated) conservative pyramid far too much credit for inventing and then cynically profiting from a pathology, rather than for recognizing and catering to an underserved market segment. To put it plainer, neither Trump nor Ailes conjured up anti-media sentiment from scratch—they knew that their core audience was routinely ignored or disrespected by the gatekeepers of media and culture and politics, so they presented a conspicuous alternative, one that always gives prominence to an anti-media/elite critique.

So yes, Trump's anti-media lines were always some of the biggest applause generators at his campaign rallies, from the very beginning. But you know what? The same was true for Ted Cruz. And Ben Carson. Hell, even Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina were getting their biggest responses by going after the media at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference. As Jesse Walker pointed out yesterday, the anti-media element of the political culture war has been with us, very strongly, since at least Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. With newspapers from 1960-2000 busy with the work of consolidation, professionalization, and New York Timesification, the more tabloid, populist, and conservative values long associated with American newspapering and pamphleteering were consciously and ahistorically shoved aside (read Jack Shafer's great obit of Roger Ailes on this point), meaning that almost every new technological crack in the media edifice has been breached at first with a firehose of non-lefty content. When the journalistic class reacted to each new turn with abject horror, the cycle of mutual alienation and open antagonism continued anew.

Is it any accident that among the biggest skeptics of Ben Jacobs' plight last night were veterans of two of the longest-running conservative media watchdog organizations?

The intellectual cul de sac of the Bozellian approach is obvious to his media antagonists, but worth reiterating: By focusing obsessively on media bias, you end up creating your own flavors of the stuff. (And libertarians know too well how easily anti-media critics end up becoming pro-state apologists during Republican rule.) Less obvious to my friends in the press is that the critics they despise have a good goddamned point: The media is biased, often ridiculously so, and swimming all day long in a pool of anti-Trump hysteria is enough to drive even some of us Trump-averse types to the borders of anti-anti-land.

If standard-issue journalists and commentators were more interested in persuading those who don't necessarily agree with them, they'd stop trying to elevate each and every nothingburger Trump story to Defcon 1, and instead be content to follow along the investigative facts being competitively unearthed on a daily basis by the Washington Post, New York Times, and others. And if Fox News wants to reverse its alarming slide into third place, it should find a way to engage usefully with the Trump-generated bombshell of the day, rather than retreat behind media-bias lead stories and #MAGA hashtags.

But old habits die hard, not just in media organizations but among the consumers who take comfort from them. Of all the news items that we could be talking about this week (including, it must be said, acts of violence much more serious than Ben Jacbos getting his glasses broken), do you know what Fox has devoted well over a half-dozen segments to? Katy Perry reacting to the Manchester bombing with the hippy-dippy declaration that, "I think that the greatest thing that we can do is just unite and love on each other and like no barriers, no borders. Like, we all need to just coexist."

"That's pretty rich considering Katy Perry travels with well-armed team of killer security guards," snorted The Specialists' Eric Bolling. Michelle Malkin excoriated Perry's "Limousine gulf-stream liberal mindset" on Fox & Friends. Tucker Carlson and guests had an extended guffaw at the singer's expense. "[If] the country is not unified, and the rest of the left is sitting around listening to Katy Perry and swiveling their thumbs and afraid to say 'radical Islam,' it's not going to work," warned noted terrorism expert Jesse Waters of The Five. And former Navy SEAL Carl Higbie perhaps spoke for the whole network when he blurted out on America's Newsroom, "Go to hell, Katy Perry!"

Donald Trump could resign tomorrow and walk away from the limelight forever (I mean he won't, but humor me), and this cultural reflex to rebuke media and cultural elites would still be resonant with tens of millions of Americans. As would the media reflex to treat that whole world like some kind of Superfund site. This mutually reinforcing pathology may or may not have influenced the unhinged pugilism of a hair-trigger Montanan, but it—quite unlike politician-on-journalist violence—is likely to outlast tonight's special election.

NEXT: Trump Tries to Make NATO Spending Demand Stick

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  1. The chattering class is disappoint.

    1. They’ll get their New Soviet Man if it kills them.

    2. The bad grammar is disappoint.

      1. It’s a meme.

        Memes get a pass.

  2. Matt, I assign you two articles for Reason per week, minimum.

    1. No. He puts too many links in there. And half of them probably don’t even back up what he’s saying. He knows no one has the time to follow them all. Cagey fuck.

  3. Leftists, libs, christians, TDS, white men, social justice warriors, rich white women, snowflakes, the alt right, antifas, milo, fake news, and the media (but I already said leftists, am I right?) are going to ruin this country.

    Also, I’m better than you.

    1. You forgot remakes. Do we really need an IT remake?

    2. You forgot BLM

  4. Add Katy Perry to the long list of things conservatives hate. Including:

    the media
    higher education
    the ACLU/civil liberties
    Warren Buffett
    Germany/France/ i.e. “Eurotrash”

    fuck it, too long a list

    1. What does that even leave? Whatever it is, conservatopia’s gotta be the most soul-crushing boring place in the universe.

      1. Nothing is more interesting than Oprah thinking.

        1. Nothing more *interesting* than PB and Tony exchanging *ideas*.

          1. You have an interesting definition of “interesting”.

      2. And yet, you just can’t get enough of it. Kinky!

    2. Nothing like jumping on that te old internet and letting random people know how much hate you have for other people ;). You’re going to have a stroke dude, and that’s no bueno. At least take a beta blocker.

    3. I hate strawmen, too.

    4. But only True Conservatives hate all these things right? They really are a vanishing breed.

    5. You left out Messicans and furriners.

  5. Matt’s articles always come off as angry rants, much like Brendan O’Neill at Spiked, but they are smart, correct, and glorious. They both say everything I want to say.

    1. Shikha rants. Matt not so much. And I don’t think Brendan is going to be appearing at Reason anytime soon.

      1. I expect they’ll get him again. They just won’t dare to let him write on something like immigration

        That article was awesome though

        1. But open borders is the singular qualification of being a libertarian. This heresy cannot be tolerated.

      2. Not so much rants as a form of venting. I can’t not get the impression that he’s frustrated with the world when he writes and is simply letting out steam.

  6. If politicians punched journalists more often, they’d actually be good for something.

    1. It’s hilarious how upset and self-righteous the conservatives got over Richard Spencer getting punched and over the violent protests over Milo. But as soon as one of their own does the same thing, it’s all jokes and apologism. This incident is just another exhibit for the endless wall of evidence that the two sides are exactly the same and that all that matters is my tribe over yours. Fuck. both. sides. Especially fuck Tony.

      1. The biggest flame I’ve gotten on Facebook recently was a statement that it was wrong of the professor to harass Richard Spencer at the gym. Yes, Spencer is an infected boil on the backside of America but the principle of “just leave people alone when they’re not bothering anyone” is more important. One day it’ll be one of ours forced to leave. Same here. “Don’t punch people who haven’t punched you first” is basic good sense.

      2. The conservatives at National Review don’t seem to be offering jokes and apologism:…..didnt-mean

        1. You need to get on the anti-team team. That’s the only way you know you’re not on a team.

          1. Nonconformists of the world unite!

        2. What do you expect from the cucks at NRO? This reminds me most of the Michelle Fields hoax, complete with the tape of the alleged victim saying “He threw me down!”. NRO’s French was still beating that dead horse long after the video surfaced showing that it never happened.

          When Jacobs asked Gianforte a question he was told to take it up with Gianforte’s flack. All the people who told you Gianforte attacked Jacobs because he didn’t like the question are lying.

          Then something happened and Gianforte threw Jacobs to the floor. Maybe Jacobs poked Gianforte in the face with his mike after ignoring the instruction to buzz off. Or…? When we know what happened I’ll start considering who is to blame.

  7. “And libertarians know too well how easily anti-media critics end up becoming pro-state apologists during Republican rule.”

    What a welcome moment of self-reflection. You were referring to Reason’s commenters, yes?

    1. Thanks, Tony. You once again help me know how right I must be when idiots like your, both left and right, hate me for siding with the other party.

  8. Okay, sure, journalists have been overwhelmingly bias for years – yeah, they said Mitt Romney was hate incarnate, and McCain was a Neanderthal – but this president really, really deserves it.

    1. You guys don’t know it, because you don’t have my sources, but Trump is already on double secret probation.

      1. Oooh. Sounds scary. I’m trembling in my moccasins.

      2. By “sources” you mean the drugs you’re taking?

        1. It’s sarcasm. Tony and Palin’s Buttplug are trolls. Everyone else here uses sarcasm to cope.

  9. Did it ever occur to Matt Welch that the reporter, who walked in — unannounced — to a private room and began badgering Gianforte, deserved to get pushed around? The guy’s an idiot. Gianforte is an idiot. The reporters for Reason are idiots, and Gianforte’s opponent (Rob Quist) in the Montana Special Election is an idiot too. If one is looking for dignity and proper demeanor, one should not cover politics.

    1. I’ll go out on a limb and submit that it did not occur to the editor of a libertarian magazine that it is OK for a politician to physically assault reporters.

      1. Omg, you can learn!! I’m really excited for you :3!

      2. …because reporters are such special people that they get the First Amendment just for them and the paparazzi.

      3. Notice how Tony is always screeching about “special statusss” when someone proposes a religious freedom bill but loves him someone neo-feudal protections for his tribe’s guilds.

  10. (The hag’s loss) has turned into a pin-the-blame-on-Donald-Trump exercise.

    I mean, let’s be real here.

    1. At least they’re giving Bush II a break. He spent 16 long years as the cause of all life’s troubles.

  11. The dark cloud of fascism is always descending upon Republicans but it always turns out to be composed of progressives and Democrats.

    Daily Caller: Violence And Intimidation Against Republicans Are Becoming The New Normal

    Quotes: (but read the whole article)

    Police in Tennessee charged a woman with felony reckless endangerment on Thursday for allegedly trying to run Republican Congressman David Kustoff off the road after a town hall.

    A popular parade in Portland, Oregon last month was cancelled after threats of violence against one of the groups participating ? a local Republican organization.

    Pro-Trump speaker Milo Yiannopoulos had his speech at the University of California-Berkeley cancelled after rioters set the campus ablaze in order to keep him from speaking.

    Political commentator Ann Coulter, who staunchly supported Trump during his presidential campaign, had her speech at UC Berkeley cancelled after the protest groups vowed a repeat performance of the Milo riots.

    and many more incidents of violence.

    1. So they are progressing toward fascism or have they already gotten there?

  12. Excellent article, Matt. I hope your fashion sense on Kennedy can match up to your superb commentary displayed herein.

  13. Sometimes it really is a pox on both houses. But I wouldn’t advise holding your breath waiting for the media to give up on their anti Trump crusade.

    That Rubicon cannot be uncrossed, and the way forward is certain to be something new, where the old sorts of lies and half truths will no longer have the intended results.

    1. You seem more optimistic than I am that two minutes hate will be ineffective.

    2. You had your media on its 8-year anti-Obama hysteria kick. Just because they can’t tell a fact from their asshole and because they’re all inbreds with CB radios and child websites doesn’t make them not the media. FOX News is also not not the media.

      Also Trump is every bit the corrupt incompetent disaster the evil media conspiracy says he is because you have fucking eyes and ears.

      1. “anti-Obama”?



  14. I think it has to do with them being a bunch of perfidious shit-weasels.

  15. And former Navy SEAL Carl Higbie perhaps spoke for the whole network when he blurted out on America’s Newsroom, “Go to hell, Katy Perry!”

    Trump/Higbie 2020
    “Go to hell, Katy Perry!”

  16. Perry deserves to be pasted for that baby-la-la comment.

    Just when you think they couldn’t get anymore vacuous.

    Sheesh, Katy.

    1. She was talking about barriers between fan bases. Because she and Grande had some beef or something.

    2. Why?

      What did she say that was so objectionable?

      She didn’t hate on Team Red, she didn’t hate on anyone. Sure her opinion is naive. But since when is naivete supposed to be a totem of hatred?

      1. “I think that the greatest thing that we can do is just unite and love on each other and like no barriers, no borders. Like, we all need to just coexist.”

        20 kids are dead at a concert. If you can’t hate this nonsense than your intolerance of stupidity is broken.

      2. “What did she say that was so objectionable?”

        Jesus, Jeff, you gotta ask???

        “Besides like all the weird stuff that goes around the Internet, which is, y’know, sometimes a great place but an absolute, y’know, underbelly mob-pit of horribleness, I think, like, the greatest thing we can do now is just unite as people”

        When asked about a religious fanatic blowing up children she goes of about the horribleness on the internet.

        Because, let’s face it, in her world that is about the only thing that can touch her fragile life.

        1. goes off

        2. You are completely misunderstanding her vapid comment.

  17. At the beginning of the piece I was thinking…nice to see Welch getting ever so slightly un-cucked but by the end I was hoping Thomas Massie or Rand Paul would kick him in the nuts.

  18. I simply cannot understand why some people are getting upset at Katy Perry for expressing an opinion that is nothing more than naive. She is a Hollywood airhead expressing airhead naive thoughts. That is the kind of thing that gets laughed at, not to become the object of ire.

    1. I watched the video that was linked, and people were laughing as they made their statements. The whole vein-popping-fury picture painted above, didn’t quite appear to capture the reality.

      Otherwise, as to the facts, a celebrity called for “open borders”. Right wingers object to that (pretty much by definition). Ergo they objected. Not news, except perhaps for the fact that apparently this “Katy Perry” person is well known enough to get lots of cable news coverage for her statements.

    2. 20 people blown to bits. Because Brit elites didn’t tend to their borders. “I think that the greatest thing that we can do is just unite and love on each other and like no barriers, no borders. Like, we all need to just coexist.” Oh, yeah, why not giggle?

      1. The bomber, Salman Abedi was born in Manchester in 1994. His parents moved there as refugees who opposed Gaddafi. This wasn’t a failure to tend borders, this was an intelligence failure to detect a radicalized citizen. Or are you suggesting that Britain should have been turning away all Muslims for the last half-century?

        1. How has importing Muslims improved the lives of the British?

          1. They open businesses, do work, pay taxes and contribute to a diverse culture, I would guess. Who knows? And what does this have to do with Gandydancer’s non sequitur? It’s one thing to argue that Muslim immigrants don’t improve the lives of other Brits. It’s another to claim that “tending Britain’s borders” would have stopped one of its own citizens from committing an act of terrorism.

      2. Lol the bomber was a british citizen. Better get your facts straight lmao.

  19. “If standard-issue journalists and commentators were more interested in persuading those who don’t necessarily agree with them…”

    Commentators, sure. But “Standard-issue Journalists” with a desire to persuade people who disagree with them is kinda why the whole media-hatred thing exists. In the 60s the media jumped in with left-wing activism and has been there (and hated by the right) ever since.

  20. Look at the Gallup poll from a few months ago that Ken Shultz has linked to a bunch of times regarding attitudes towards the media. Almost two-thirds of the country absolutely despises the media today. And I’m sorry, but right wing conservatives don’t make up two-thirds of the country. Not even close.

    Really think about that a moment and let it sink in. Almost two-thirds of the country despises the media today. And it’s probably not going to change any time soon, because most of the media is too narcissistic and self-delusional to ever do any serious self-reflection.

  21. Blogger VoxDay (who did the book SJWs always lie) posted a blog post about the event and one commenter nicknamed JACIII posted the following then I quoted:“Had I known their “Punch a nazi” campaign would enable punching journalists I would have started “punch a nazi” years ago.

    I guess some Trigglypuffs won’t be happy about that comment. 😉

    1. They will never acknowledge Mr. Beale. The fact of Proximity + diversity = war is like kryptonite to libertarians

  22. Picking pieces of little girls out of your hair is a price Nick & Co. is willing to pay cuz muh borders.

  23. Trump has clearly set the tone for the GOP, which has now officially devolved into a reactionary party. Principled conservatives (fiscally, constitutionalists, etc) are seen as an obstruction. The media is seen as an obstruction. Libertarians are seen as an obstruction. Constitutional checks and balances are seen as an obstruction. Civil liberties are seen as an obstruction.

    Two glaring elephants in the room:

    1) History tells us that reactionary movements don’t sustain themselves, with the lack of guiding principles leaving them rudderless in calmer waters. They thrive during times of anger and hostility, albeit temporarily.

    2) “Berniecrats” are giving far stronger showings in elections than “establishment” democrats. The 6 point GOP win in Montana is yet another obvious example. The fact that the polling showed that the GOP candidate was only a hair ahead of a Berniecrat in a state like Montana is absolutely significant.

    These things should be alarming to any remotely principled GOP conservative. Progressives are outperforming in every one of these races.

    1. ” The fact that the polling showed that the GOP candidate was only a hair ahead of a Berniecrat in a state like Montana is absolutely significant.”

      It’s only significant insofar as it indicates you understand little about Montana politics. But hey, keep telling yourself stuff like that. Won’t win you any elections, but if it helps you cope, then it’s all good.

      1. “It’s only significant insofar as it indicates you understand little about Montana politics.”

        What was not “understood” about Montana politics, specifically?

        Montanans carried Trump by 20+ points against Clinton.

        1. Start here.

          Yes Trump beat the Hag handily.

          Trump also trounced his nearest primary opponent (Cruz) by 64 points.

          Bernie also won the state in the primaries. But pay special attention to the county by county – Hillary won the Dem machine (e.g. the ‘big’ cities and reservations) areas and nothing else.

          Montana is not the cartoon GOP state you think it to be.

          1. Any state that supports beating up the press is very much behind supporting jack boot tactics to get it’s ways. This include those who support Trump no matter whether he colluded with Russians or he thinks it’s okay to shoot black kids in the back just because they ran.

    2. Great post!

  24. Also, all of “the media” nonsense. It’s comical. Everyone is an expert now.

    Of course “the media” vilifies Trump. There’s a market for doing so. This isn’t exactly breaking news, but CNN, Fox, etc are businesses that sell an audience to advertisers. That’s all. That’s why they exist, and they’re making tons of money doing it. They actually welcome political accusations, because it reinforces their base of consumers.

    People seem to think CNN vs Fox is a political thing. It’s not. They both target different demographics of consumers. And the more, shall we say, “niched” media (conspiracy stuff, Natural News, etc), does the same thing and exists for the same reason, albeit more focused consumer targets to sell to smaller advertisers.

  25. I’m just glad to see Loughner’s puss again, it’s just so soothing, like everything’s gonna be OK.

  26. Matt, I find way too much moral equivalency in your post. Nearly every politician uses or abuses the media to their self-interest. Am I surprised that Montana voters selected someone for Congress who assaulted a journalist the day before the election? A little bit maybe, but this is kind of signature of the Trump phenomenon itself. The crazier you act against the ‘machine’, the more credibility you have amongst Trump’s most virulent supporters. I DON’T see this as a good thing. Can we have a smart, non-deranged person as our next great leader? If such individual values liberty, that’s almost gravy at this point.

  27. Maybe Mattie could teach a reporter’s etiquette class.

  28. He certainly poured gas on it though. His dictatorial statements about him being the only reliable source for facts points right back at authoritarian plans to subsume a democratic republic to become an authoritarian state.

  29. That Katy Perry quote is a hotdog in the hallway of meaning.

  30. I find the resentment among most Americans toward journalists kind of odd. Journalists don’t make a lot of money, most of them don’t become celebrities. Most of them are in no way “elite”. And unlike teachers or police officers they mostly don’t work for the state. Even NPR gets “only” 16% of its funding from the government. Too much, sure, but NPR still has to reflect market forces to stay alive. They tell the stories the way their donors and supporters want stories told. If you find the Washington Post or Guardian too liberal or Fox News too conservative then blame the people who happily consume their product and support their advertisers. People like Jacobs are just employees trying to make a living. If you think Gianforte made some kind of statement hitting Jacobs you probably also think it’s a good idea to assault airline employees when your flight is delayed or to scream at waiters when your soup is oversalted.

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