So the destruction of the MSM began at the top, certainly with the right-wing’s own media, Fox News and the radio blatherers, but also presumably among many of the same people who now decry Trump. I don’t want to say the chickens are coming home to roost for the intellectuals among those conservative elites, but the trouble with destroying the idea of press integrity is that once it’s gone, you cannot just revive it to take on a potentially fascist demagogue when you need to. But over the years, Republicans managed to do something else besides eroding confidence in the press – a lack of confidence, as I have said, that many Democrats share. They turned the press into the enemy of the people. If the first left the media helpless to criticize the right because they supposedly lacked credibility to do so, the second made the media into a kind of recruiting and fomenting tool for all those disgruntled right-wing white men who are the primary audience for Fox News and the foundation of today’s Republican Party. You see this media baiting on Fox News all the time and also at Trump rallies, where the media are literally penned in – in some ways, for their own protection. Indeed, few techniques are more effective for rousing the disaffected than press hatred. To be honest, this is a brilliant bit of demagogic trickery. Every time the press scrutinizes you, you can not only sneeringly dismiss them as the “liberal media,” which immediately renders all scrutiny feckless, but you also can turn their attacks on you back on them. By now, this is Republican boilerplate. Spiro Agnew tried it more than 45 years ago with his “nattering nabobs of negativism” – those who had the audacity to criticize Nixon over his Vietnam policy. Sarah Palin tried it, too. Eight years ago, she invoked the idea that there were “real” Americans and then there were elites; that the media were among the elites; and that when the press attacked her, they were really attacking those real Americans for whom she was a proxy. It was philistine cultural warfare. Trump is making himself into the same kind of proxy, and he is likely to be far more successful than Palin, who was fighting to define herself at the same time the press was defining her. Trump already is well defined — armed, locked and loaded to go after a critical press who are not really just attacking him but all those Americans who love him. Dan Zak saw the irony of it all this week in his Washington Post profile of Donald Trump’s sons. “The media that made Donald Trump a celebrated patriarch,” he wrote, “and the process that has delivered him to the doorstep of the White House, are the enemies. You can’t have loyalty without an enemy, after all.” Absolutely. And if you wonder whether this tactic could have any traction beyond stirring up seething Republicans who already hate the press, think of this: According to that Gallup poll, only 32 percent of independents trust the media. That gives Trump two opponents in the fall: Hillary Clinton and all those media types who have been less than cordial to him – a group that includes many in the conservative intelligentsia who dread the thought of a Trump presidency. And it gives his supporters two targets to hate – two to feed their fury. Make this a referendum about the media as well as about Clinton, and you up your chances to win. Criticizing Trump, then, is a potential trap, and the media are either going to walk right into it, or try to tiptoe past it. We are seeing some example of the former as the press, in a panic, have begun to attack not just Trump, but his supporters. Fox News telecast a prime example of the tiptoeing earlier this week when one-time Trump antagonist Megyn Kelly conducted a powder-puff interview with him that seem designed, first and foremost, to sell her new brand as the next Barbara Walters, and her forthcoming book, and second, to normalize Trump into a sweetie-pie. We are likely to get a lot of this sort of normalization cum capitulation, both because this is the way the media now operate in terms of party politics, if not in terms of individual candidates (balance, you know), and because most of them, I suspect, don’t have the guts to be in Trump’s crosshairs once he is the GOP nominee, even if they feel he poses an existential threat to the country. Years of Republicans bashing you will do that. Ultimately, one suspects Donald Trump will be just as happy with the enmity as with the fawning. He knows he could ride both right into the White House. Your support matters…

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