We need more reporters like Bugs Raplin
I am just over halfway through Unbelievable, Katy Tur's breezy memoir of covering Donald Trump's campaign last year. I picked it up with great interest, wondering what somehow who covered him day in and day out would have to say. So far, I have been very disappointed.
There is little to zero insight in this book about Trump, his campaign, his supporters, or the way the media covered him. Instead, it's a self-serving story of Katy Tur Intrepid Reporter. Now don't get me wrong, she put a great deal of work into covering Trump and endured some really rotten treatment from him. At the same time, there has been ten times as much space devoted to the food at various events than the reasons Trump won the election.
I guess I should not have been surprised, since the journalists in the higher echelons of the media, as Tur's book inadvertently reveals, are only interested in The Game, and will never, ever question it. She talks with horror at the way that Trump insulted her at campaign rallies in ways that made her fear for her safety. She famously talks about the time he planted a kiss on her without her consent. She discusses Trump at different times as if he is a transparent fraud. However, when it came to her reporting from the trail, it followed the rules of The Game. She reported the horse race, never flat out telling the country that she thought the man she was covering was entirely unfit to be president.
I don't mean to single out Tur here, since she is just one member of the press corps that plays by the same rules. At least she's given some sense of what she really thinks of him, the others never do. Trump for them is not a moral catastrophe, he is a career, he is ratings, he is money. In the summer of 2015 I remember Rachel Maddow, someone whom I greatly respect, treating Trump's rallies as an amusing joke. This was the same man, of course, who had just called Mexicans murderers and rapists and was openly exploiting racial resentment. As true as that was, he was also a cash cow, something the head of CNN even admitted.
In being a cash cow, Trump played the media during the election like a fiddle, and continues to do so. Yes Trump is a failed businessman, but he is a very successful media figure. During the election he got the cable stations to broadcast his rallies unexpurgated, giving him an insane amount of free airtime on a scale that should not be allowed in a functioning democracy. (Oh for the days of the equal time provision.) He still finds ways to get the cable stations to hang on every word he has to say. HE sets the tone, HE sets the terms of debate. In any debate the side that fights on its own ground is halfway there to winning.
Worse than that, he knows The Game and knows the roles of the other people playing it. Trump constantly engages in dominance via humiliation. He attacked Katy Tur's reporting while she was in the room with his baying mob. John McCain endured years of rotten treatment as a POW, but had his sacrifice denigrated. He doxxed Lindsay Graham. He called Chuck Schumer "crying Chuck" after the Senator wept when recalling his relatives who were killed in the Holocaust. He claimed that Ted Cruz's father was involved in JFK's assassination. Despite all of this all of these people have gone on to either cover or work with him as if he is a normal person WITHOUT DEMANDING AN APOLOGY. The Game and playing it matters more than their integrity, something that Trump, who wants to place himself at the center of The Game. gleefully exposes with his behavior.
As long as our media and political elite value The Game above all else, it is useless. I've said it before, I will say it again. This is all in our hands. No one is going to come and save us, so we need to get to work.