Sunday, November 13, 2016

An Answer To Neal Gabler

As a gay man who has lived under the threat and at times the experience of violence my entire life, all I can say to those who feel they are newly under threat due to Trump's targeting of the press is I hope you learn something from it.  I have this piece by the excellent writer Neal Gabler tossed at me, as a refutation of my contention that the descent into Trumpism started when the Warren Court issued the Sullivan ruling in 1964, a ruling which gave the media a carte blanche to lie about politicians without having to worry, anymore, that they might be sued for libel or slander.   Remarkably, enough, the press flourished before that when they could be sued, it has certainly not maintained higher standards of honesty in reporting in the period after that.   You wonder how they managed to avoid being shut down before.  Perhaps it was because they were more careful to publish truth that they could back up with citations and evidence whereas now they publish mostly polls, opinions and "it is being said" style rumor mongering.

I will also point out that the media environment before and just after the Sullivan decision saw the pinnacle of liberal achievement reached in the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts.  You wonder how that media, under the burden of telling the truth or risking being sued managed to inform the electorate which produced the administrations and congresses that did that.  You can contrast that to those presidents and senates we got starting with the next elections after that ruling and the character which they increasingly took on as the next four decades passed.

I can't see how an honest journalist who wasn't in the business of publishing unverified conjecture, rumors and obvious lies would be so afraid of the truth being required to avoid being sued for the damage that those lies do to people who are lied about.

Of course, as anyone with a vestigial mind could have guessed,  the corporate media owned by the stinking rich would gradually and then totally favor right wing, Republican politicians who were more profitable for them and their class of people.   The largest loser in the Sullivan decision have been liberal politicians who have been targeted by lie campaigns, not only in the corporate media but, perhaps as much so, direct mail and other venues by political and industry groups.

Gabler cites the terror unleashed by Trump which is being carried on by his thugs around the country and through social media.  If it were possible to sue someone for slander and libel, they could sue Trump and with his propensity for lying and publicly calling on his thug to attack people, by name, it is almost certain that they could win and win big.   If it were possible for someone to sue for lying about them, Donald Trump would have been bankrupt dozens or hundreds of times instead of the mere six times he has been.

The claim that journalists make, though not directly claiming it, that their lies deserve protection is curious considering the alleged ethics of their profession surrounding the treatment of fact and fact checking.  That has become a lost art in the post-Sullivan world.  There is no rational reason for lies to be granted protection against the claims of those they damage, it if is an inconvenience for the media to check their facts before they publish them or broadcast them to millions of people, it's a minor one as compared to someone being lied about and targeted by the media or by a piece of slime like Trump using the media to target someone.  I deeply worry about Katy Tur and others so targeted, I am as concerned for those who are similarly targeted by the media whose lives can be ruined, who can be subjected to terror and harrassment, who can have a quarter of a century of dedicated public service be turned by the inverted logic of the cabloid media into a thing of shame.  I am even more concerned by their destruction of liberal politicians, their careers in public office and allowing some of the worst presidents and politicians in our history to flourish and take those offices through their selective lies.

To the media which even Neal Gabler admits played a large role in the elevation of Donald Trump I say, boo, hoo.  You are not the first ones on my list to worry about in the coming fascist terror. Women, Black People, Latinos, Muslims, LGBT people, Jews, etc. get it already and have increasingly gotten it with the encouragment of hate talk radio, cabloid journalism and online media. It's your colleagues who lied Trump into politics, who gave him billions of dollars worth of free promotion and publicity and who vilified Hillary Clinton directly or by passing on lies and rumors and innuendo.   Your profession sowed it, now they will reap it along with the rest of us.

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