• Fear: The End of America is Near, Journalists Say

    May 2, 2024 // 20 Comments »

    Take a dip in the murky waters of recent Trump Apocalypse journalism — it says there’s gonna be a civil war and dictatorship. But don’t worry, it’s just the politics of fear.

    In a scary article subtitled “Donald Trump is warning that 2024 could be America’s last election,” The National Review alerts us if Trump wins America is pretty much done being a democracy. “If we don’t win on November 5, I think our country is going to cease to exist. It could be the last election we ever have. I actually mean that,” Trump said out loud, so it could not be hyperbole, busting the chops of the mass media like a smart-aleck guy from Queens might do, or throwing red meat to his unwashed supporters like a wily candidate might do. And of course Trump lost in 2020 and the democracy muddled on.

    After that in The National Review you get the standard A.I.-generated list of bad Things Trump has said: “He has claimed that he wants to be a dictator, but only on ‘day one,’ and plans to install his legal allies at all levels of government. And his Cabinet? It’s sure to be full of ideologues, immigration hard-liners, and outright fascists. Even conservative judges claim he’ll shred the legal system… It might not be a stretch to suggest that Trump could plan another January 6–type event if he loses. After all, only months prior to the Capitol insurrection, he urged the Proud Boys to ‘stand back and stand by’ on a debate stage.”

    In a recent The New Republic, one writer imagined possible election outcomes, concluding “The election cycle either ends in chaos and violence, balkanization, or a descent into a modern theocratic fascist dystopia.”

    And what politics of fear round-up of Trump Terror Titillation would be complete without his misquoted out-of-context quote “Now if I don’t get elected, it’s gonna be a bloodbath for the whole—that’s gonna be the least of it. It’s going to be a bloodbath for the country.” Somewhere after that comes a mention of how our system of bypassing the popular vote in favor of the Electoral College (in place some 230 years) is undemocratic even if it has resulted in a democracy each and every time it has been used.

    Then there are the Christian nationalists, who are supposedly increasingly calling for “dual sovereignty” and implementation of “a Scripture-based system of government whereby Christ-ordained ‘civil magistrates’ exercise authority over the American public” according to a manifesto made public. The result is a United States that is one country in name only. “Christian Nationalism” is supposedly a priority for a second Trump term. This is quite an ambitious goal for Trump, given that the only lasting social policy he is remembered for (Dobbs) came from the Supreme Court, acting in a standard democratic matter, not any Trump-sponsored legislation or dictaat.

    Speaking of democracy being used to destroy democracy, Trump Apocalyptic writers do love less-well-known Constitutional passages like the Twelfth Amendment. This starts with the Speaker of the House refusing to certify election results which show a Biden victory. Then the Twelfth Amendment kicks in to decide the election. This lets the House of Representatives—the one elected in November which might be majority or even overwhelmingly Republican — determine the outcome, with each state getting one vote. If things don’t work out for Trump this way, then J6 x 100, yadda yadda.

    And they do love invoking the Insurrection Act, something Trump actually never did in his four years. “If this results in fatalities and mass detentions,” says The National Review, “it will exacerbate the situation, leading to many people on both the left and right concluding violence is the only viable option for change, resistance, or as a response to resistance.” The New Republic believes “Right-wing elements have long been itching to use violence to put ‘those people’ in their place” so watch out when you take the dog out for a walk.

    And most of that is horror tales if Trump loses, or gerrymanders a win. What if he actually wins outright and overwhelmingly (aka “the will of the people” but oh, never mind…)?

    The New Republic leads again, stating “Trump will absolutely let his team attempt to implement Christian nationalism across the U.S. and use every means available to achieve its vision of an America with no immigrants, no trans people, no Muslims, no abortion, no birth control, Russian-style ‘Don’t Say Gay laws,’ license to discriminate based on religion, and all government education funding going to religious schools. Blue states will try to resist this and invoke the same states’ rights and ‘dual sovereignty’ arguments, but it’s unlikely they will succeed due to conservative bias on the Supreme Court and the Trump administration’s willingness to blow off court rulings it doesn’t like. If Trump goes straight to a massacre via the Insurrection Act, civil war is on the table. If Trump manages to bring blue states to heel via legal means, and resistance is insufficient to compel blue state governors to refuse to comply, then we end up with fascist, theocratic, hereditary dictatorship.”

    In short, says the Washington Post, “a Trump dictatorship is increasingly inevitable. We should stop pretending.”

    Whew. Once you step across the line into writing about Trump dictatorships and Christian nationalism as living, breathing threats, things get pretty crazy pretty fast. Why is this?

    Occam’s Razor says this is all hullaballoo, pure malarkey, with tabloid-jealous writers doing it for the most clicks and dopamine hits, trying to outdo one another trying to whip up fear of Trump. It is good for business, and very easy to do. Freed from the old-school journalism restraints of having to muster facts to support opinions, anything — including imagining a civil war — is possible.

    A second possibility is the journalists who write articles such as these are an extreme edge of a broader Democratic strategy of scaring people into not voting for Trump. Scare votes have long been a popular strategy, from the racist propaganda in post-bellum South about protecting against politicians who would integrate society, to the famous Lyndon Johnson “daisy petals” commercial calling out his opponent as a nuclear monster ready to start WWIII, to Willie Horton, and of course to 2016’s “Trump is a Russian Spy.” The current spate of articles have all the hallmarks of traditional fear politics, with a particularly heavy dose of “Framing the Opposition.” Political ads often frame opponents as dangerous or unfit for office, playing on fears of what might happen if they were to gain power. This can be seen as a desperate move, given how they contribute to a climate of distrust and polarization within society.

    To be fair, lastly it is possible that the writers actually believe what they are writing, that we are steps away from the apocalypse of democracy. But you don’t believe that, do you?

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    Posted in Democracy, Trump