Then, we came for ourselves: Should the Washington Post have started a front-page news report today with the following statement?
PARKER, BADE AND WAGNER (7/16/19): President Trump on Monday defended his racist remarks about four minority lawmakers by alleging that they “hate our country” and should leave if they are unhappy—leading the Democratic congresswomen to respond by offering a competing vision of America that they said was based on inclusiveness.We're going to vote for no. However obvious the highlighted usage may seem in the present moment, the judgment that Trump's remarks were "racist" remains a statement of opinion.
Post columnist Margaret Sullivan takes the opposite view in today's Style section.
She starts by applauding modern journalists for calling a "lie" a "lie." She then begins to outline her rationale for calling Trump's statements "racist:"
SULLIVAN (7/16/19): Now the question is the word “racist.”Can Trump's baldly inaccurate, inflammatory comments be objectively described as racist? Sullivan seems to think that "everyone's eyes and ears" saw his comments that way.
Were Trump’s tweets portraying Democratic legislators of color as foreigners merely “racially tinged”? Were they just sprinkled with racially tinted pixie dust?
And should descriptions of what Trump stands for be put only in the mouths of his critics—a step removed from the journalists themselves?
Or should stronger language and sharper focus be used?
It depends on only one thing: whether journalists want to be clear about saying what’s right there in front of everyone’s eyes and ears.
That, of course, isn't true. Later, she settles on this:
SULLIVAN: It makes good sense for media organizations to be careful and noninflammatory in their news coverage. That kind of caution continues to be a virtue.Sullivan thinks the Post was simply being "accurate" when it went with "racist" in its front-page news report. She seems to think it's a matter of fact, not a matter of opinion or judgment, when Trump's irrational, inflammatory remarks are described that way.
But a crucial part of being careful is being accurate, clear and direct. When confronted with racism and lying, we can’t run and hide in the name of neutrality and impartiality. To do that is a dereliction of duty.
Be careful what you wish for! In the last few days before Trump went off, our fearless liberal/progressive activists had begun dropping variants of the R-bomb on the heads of quite a few other members of our team and tribe.
Even worse, members of The Squad had begun subjecting us to the ultimate indignity. They'd begun dropping bombs on other Dems' heads, then piously insisting that they hadn't done so at all.
That's what Trump constantly does! Be careful what you wish for when tribal stampedes, and cultural revolutions, have begun taking place!
In the last day or so, pundits have been in a type of Olympic competition to see who could be more ardent in their assertion of Trump's racism. It often seems to us that these brave, bold modern journalists are perhaps protesting too much.
If we had lived the lives they've lived, we might feel that we've been complicit in Trump's success too. We too might feel a need to convince ourselves of our own moral goodness.
Plus, The Squad had already come for the gay Native American and for the Congressional Black Caucus! Might some pundits be afraid that The Squad might come for them next? Careers are hanging in the balance! Good jobs at good pay!
For many people out there in this broad, sprawling nation, the racism Sullivan saw in those comments wasn't "right there in front of [their] eyes and ears." But then, our tribe has specialized, for many years, in acting like Those Others don't count, don't even seem to exist.
We cocoon with our favorite reporters and friends, with whom We All Say The Same Things.
The brains of our species are wired this way, top anthropologists tell us. This helps explain the endless tribal wars of our floundering species, or so these top experts say.
We liberals! We've begin devouring ourselves with our bombs! Trump's craziness created a distraction this time, but who will be racist next?