Which Came First: Hatred of Politicians or the Press?

Which Came First: Hatred of Politicians or the Press?

Adrienne BoettingerThursday,2 June 2016

During a group exercise at my recent grad school interview, we were asked to consider a post-apocalyptic scenario where there were 12 survivors but only enough arable land to support 8 people. We were to review brief descriptions of the survivors and decide which would make the cut. The one thing that everyone in the group agreed on? The politician would be the first dude we offed. We didn’t know if he was a good politician or a bad one – simply that he was a politician living “in the nice part of town.” That was enough to have him walking the plank in our group exercise.

Yet the biggest applause presumptive GOP candidate for President Donald Trump has been getting lately is when he slams the media. Mocking the media for asking him too many questions or not praising him for his generosity/general awesomeness has become a full-time job for Mr. Trump and it never fails to rile up his supporters.

So who do we distrust and/or loathe more: politicians or the press? It’s a tough call. The U.S. Congress typically ranks in popularity somewhere between venereal warts and a sales pitch for a time-share unit. Hell, one of the main reasons Trump rose in popularity to begin with was that he claimed he wasn’t a politician (at least not a successfully elected one yet). And remember the Tea Party? They were able to elect a whole host of randos in 2010 just because they weren’t politicians and loudly proclaimed their hatred of politicians.

Being a pinko liberal and a frequent blogger on this news-like website, I actually still like the media. Well, I like real journalists who investigate and report on things other than reality stars and trash talking. But there are those on my side of the aisle who still lash out at a “vast right wing conspiracy” when it comes to any negative press of Democratic politicians and candidates.

The truth is politicians and journalists are not evil; in fact, they’re both very necessary to a healthy and functioning representative government. And the relationship between the two wasn’t always this hostile and ridiculous. One of my top author crushes, Doris Kearns Goodwin, wrote an epic tome dealing with the relationship between media and government during the era of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft. Roosevelt, in particular, noted the talent of the media for finding and exposing corruption and saw that as a way to improve government, not something to hide from.

Hell, you don’t even have to go back that far. Look at the campaign John McCain ran in 2000. He gave the media unbelievable access when he was running for president. He’d stand and answer questions until they had none left. He didn’t mock or vilify the journalists; he understood and valued the role that they played in our democracy.

So maybe as voters we could do ourselves a favor and not allow politicians or pundits to distract us from real problems by saying “look over here!” and then serving us up either jingoistic journos or pernicious pols. Maybe we could see these attacks as what they are – not real complaints serving to make the government or media more honest and forthright but a cheap trick to gain control of our fruit fly-length attention spans.

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Image Credit: Michael Vadon on Flickr

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