Over the past five-plus months, the political media have acquitted themselves pretty well despite having to deal with a “dark, damaged” POTUS and his “gangland” administration, believes Talking Points Memo editor and publisher Josh Marshall.
“Reporters…raise a clamor at all the petty and sometimes trivial ways the Trump White House tries to put reporters and news organizations in their place,” wrote Marshall in a Thursday post. “We now see major media outlets -- newspapers and TV networks -- cataloguing the President’s lies. And calling them ‘lies’...Much of what one might have feared about a corporate, mainstream media normalizing Trump’s abnormal, unAmerican behavior actually has not happened.”
Marshall’s caveat was that “as long as the [media’s] effort is to try to shame Trump and his crew into appearing on camera, holding press conferences, not refusing access…there is a big limit to its effectiveness,” since that approach “amounts to begging.” He argued that if the media truly understood Trump’s psyche, they’d be more confrontational (bolding added):
Trump…sees everything through a prism of the dominating and the dominated. It’s a zero-sum economy of power and humiliation…
Trump’s treatment of the press is really a version of the same game, a set of actions meant to produce the public spectacle of ‘Trump acts; reporters beg.’ ‘Reporters beg and Trump says no.’ Demanding, shaming all amount to trying to force actions which reporters have no ability to compel. That signals weakness. And that’s the point.
…I don’t think the press can do its job if it allows itself to play this role in Trump’s public spectacle. The only way to grapple with this type of gangland White House is not to beg or demand but simply make clear that hiding, acting in secrecy is cowardly, a sign of hidden bad acts, simply unAmerican and let the Trump entourage live with that label…
…We are collectively not accustomed to dealing with someone like this. Even self-possessed, powerful people are not infrequently discombobulated at first by abusive and sadistic behavior. But the answer is not to think that we can shame someone into changing their behavior when the point of the behavior is to trigger the shaming itself. That makes no sense. A better approach is to identify this behavior as what it is and report it as news, not try to change it.