It’s safe to say that nobody alive today has ever seen anything like it: A newly elected president who, so far from being a professional politician, says off-the-cuff things in conversation or midnight tweets that positively invite indignant responses — and a media and entertainment industry that has been loudly marching against him ever since he won the nomination.
The consuming question in these parts is less how it began than how it will end, and with what consequences. It’s pretty clear now that it’s open warfare between the White House and the mainstream media (MSM) — the New York Times, Washington Post, and CNN in particular — and Hollywood.
Everyone is familiar with the practice of activists harassing advertisers, starting letter-writing campaigns, picketing the homes and offices of businesses and executives, and promoting boycotts of offending groups and people. What if something similar were to happen to media and entertainment companies, their advertisers, talent, stockholders, and executives?
Of course the activities of the anti-media activists would generate barely a fraction of the coverage that the MSM give to anti-Trump and progressive campaigns. Still, would it be such a great surprise, in the event, if the media arranged a hasty retreat? And what would the consequences be in either case?
If, because of unremitting and over-the-top political opposition by the media, Trump were somehow drummed out of office, or so beleaguered that he may as well be, two things would follow: An already divided nation would become even more deeply divided, and perhaps violently so, and the media, whose primary societal value lies in reporting the news fully and objectively, would lose any chance to reclaim their credibility for at least a generation.
And what of the downside if Trump partisans put together a scorched-earth policy as described above? Given the lack of a record of such activities by right-of-center individuals and organizations, this might seem like a far-fetched possibility, but consider how fast and wide the Tea Party movement spread after an impassioned on-air outburst by a single financial reporter on CNBC.
And if such a campaign were mounted against the media, and it succeeded in cowing them, what then? A number of possibilities suggest themselves, but one thing is certain. The age of innocence in the great democratic experiment that is the USA will come to an end. It is hanging on now — at a time when the nation has been greatly debased by identity politics — by a thread.
This, because until now the tactics that flow from identity politics and political correctness have come almost exclusively from the left. But let those people who are so cavalierly dismissed in the regnant narrative (heterosexuals, whites, Christians) themselves become activists, and employ the same kind of tactics as the left, and the wheel will have turned full circle. Not only will every race, tribe, and faith field armies of spinners and speech police against one another, but there will then be the shared conviction that the democratic system itself is corrupt.
As the head of a nonprofit organization that derives its income from media companies, and that is honored to defend those companies in courts and other fora when they are the victims of unconstitutional or other misguided intrusions by government, the current environment is heartbreaking.
On the one hand we have a new president who has declared that important elements of the press are “enemies of the people,” while on the other we have much of the legacy media that, blinded by their political hatred of Trump, are now in the act of throwing the journalistic baby out with the political bathwater.
In this situation the best result would be for one or both of the antagonists to back off their warfare for the good of the country, and prior to the time when one of them is routed. But the party that has most to gain by being first in that act is the media. There is no need for them to stop holding Trump accountable for his words and policies, just a determination to abandon the ubiquitous and transparent bias, and restore the firewall between news and opinion.
However politically virtuous the MSM see themselves, and however important they truly are, Donald TrumpDonald TrumpMcMaster to South Korea: US will pay for missile defense system Comedian Hasan Minhaj blasts Trump, media at WHCA dinner White House correspondents' chief: 'We are not fake news' MORE has something that none of them possesses, and that is the will of the people who voted him their president. Think about it.
Patrick Maines is president of The Media Institute, a nonprofit organization that for over 30 years has promoted a strong First Amendment, sound communications policies, and journalistic excellence. The views expressed are those of the author and not of the Institute’s Board, advisory councils, or contributors.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.