To a Blind Horse

☞ Slouching Toward Post-Journalism

Martin Gurri on Slouching Toward Post-Journalism:

The dilemma, therefore, was not whether Trump was racist (that was a fact) or why he flaunted his racist views (he was a dangerous demagogue) but, rather, how to report on his racism under the strictures of commercial journalism.

“The goal of post-journalism, according to media scholar Andrey Mir, is to ‘produce angry citizens.’”

The reflective mood quickly passed. Within weeks, the Washington Post connected the Trump campaign with fake news on Facebook planted by Russian operatives. By May 2017, less than four months into the new administration, Robert Mueller had been appointed special counsel to investigate potential crimes by Trump or his staff associated with Russian interference in the elections. So began one of the most extraordinary episodes in American politics—and the first sustained excursion into post-journalism by the American news media, led every step of the way by the New York Times.

Future media historians may hold the Trump-Russia story to be a laboratory-perfect specimen of discourse concentration. For nearly two years, it towered over the information landscape and devoured the attention of the media and the public. The total number of articles on the topic produced by the Times is difficult to measure, but a Google search suggests that it was more than 3,000—the equivalent, if accurate, of multiple articles per day for the period in question. This was journalism as if conducted under the impulse of an obsessive-compulsive personality. Virtually every report either implied or proclaimed culpability. Every day in the news marked the beginning of the Trumpian End Times.

On the contentious subjects of Trump and race, managers and reporters at the paper appeared to hold similar opinions. No one in the room defended Trump as a normal politician whose views deserved a hearing. No one questioned the notion that the United States, having elected Trump, was a fundamentally racist country.

Written April 1, 2021.

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