I can’t believe I am writing this, but it seems rather clear to me that Donald Trump, America’s favorite presidential blowhard, was wronged by the media this week. Especially the instant media, which latched onto his abortion comments faster than a drunk grabs another New Year’s Eve cocktail.
Trump was, of course, pilloried for his statements advocating penalties for women who have abortions. While he was light on specifics — Trump always is — he was also rather clear in suggesting that these penalties would apply only if abortion was made illegal, which is unlikely since Roe v. Wade is the settled law of the land.
Not that such a distinction should matter to the tweet-first, post-first media, whose operating methodology seems to be headline now, context later (if at all). And didn’t we all read this week about the need for context and authentication even in the digital age?
Full disclosure: I can’t stand abortion. But as squeamish as I am about the subject I don’t think reasonable people want to imprison women who have one. For that matter, I don’t think Trump does either, as long as Roe v. Wade remains in force.
And that was the context Chris Matthews of MSNBC offered in the interview. Yet, the anti-Trumpsters in the nation’s instant press would have voters believe the candidate would do worse for women than a return to back-alley procedures. He’d actually send them away, as in to prison.
Look, I can’t stand Trump and at this stage it would take an act of heaven to inspire me to vote for him. But in this instance I believe he was wronged. And I believe he was wronged in a way precisely outlined in our assigned readings, namely media senses blood, media posts chum, feeding frenzy follows.
Who cares if the information is as light on context as Trump is on policy specifics? The only things riding on such information are a presidential election, the First Amendment and the future of the republic, not that any of that matters.
Apologies for paraphrasing the great Jason Robards, but it’s worth repeating: We in the press wield enormous power, both in what we say, how we say it and these days how quickly it’s repeated. It would nice to have it all right on occasion.