Donald, Joe and Mika deserve each other, and we’d be better off if they’d take their contrived feud behind a curtain and leave the adult, serious-minded portion of the population to deal with our considerable national problems.
Trump, masquerading as a president, along with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, television entertainers sometimes mistaken as journalists, remain engaged in a fierce Twitter battle which, though more sound than substance, dominated much of the news environment for days.
Joe and Mika comprise “Morning Joe,” seen on MSNBC, a cable network spinoff created by NBC to combat Fox News’ unabashedly conservative political bias with an unabashedly liberal bias. It was designed to differentiate mainstream NBC News from the commentary-dominated cable niche, ruled for years by Fox News.
It’s working from a ratings standpoint, which makes it viable financially. So it’s a good deal all around — except for the considerable portion of Americans who would like to get their news the old-fashioned way: unadulterated by spin, hidden or known agendas and untoward commercial interests and delivered by professional journalists working in organizations created to produce as even-handed a report as humans can.
There was such a time, though brief: roughly the first three-quarters of the 20th Century. But Wall Street profit pressures on mainstream news organizations and the birth and explosive growth of the internet began to diminish the reach of the legacy organizations. Meanwhile, the internet turned anyone with a modem into a potential news outlet for virtually no cost of entry. No brains, no training, no honest intent, no public-spirited motivation required; just a modem.
And American public life became one endless, bitter harangue and our politics a forum for hatred. Donald, Joe and Mika thrive on just such an environment because they were made by it, so they are accomplished, in their mutual self-interest, at trading insults and accusations with total disregard of the damage they are doing.
This is not to say that there is moral and/or civic equivalence between the actions and words of Trump and the TV couple, though both sides demean the institutions they represent.
Throughout our political history some zealots — including a few Founding Fathers — exceeded the bounds of civility in their effort to promote a point of view or a governing philosophy.
But Scarborough and Brzezinski are merely politicized entertainers, and their sins of vehemence damage mainly themselves and, collaterally, professional journalists, who thereby become incorporated by Trump and his followers into the despised category of “the media.”
On the other hand, Trump’s excessive focus on self-imagery and his compulsion to use vile personal attacks and manufacture lies to defend it against any challenge, no matter how petty, damages the presidency, endangers the nation’s progress and security, precludes good governance and expands and hardens the divide between left and right.
And another distinction between the combatants: people sometimes have choices. We can choose to ignore Joe and Mika and the mass of other ideological commentators or exploiters of the dangerous rifts in our society. We can choose to avoid the intellectual trap of choosing our news sources by how well they fit our biases or how good they make us feel and, instead, seek those that tell us what happened and not what to think about what happened. They do exist.
But we cannot safely ignore Trump or choose another president. Yet.
Davis Merritt is a Wichita journalist and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org