Just a couple of weeks before the 2018 midterm elections, a deranged Donald Trump supporter sent pipe bombs to leading Democratic officials, CNN, and some prominent progressive voices. The man responsible for the attempted terrorism, Cesar Sayoc, is scheduled to be sentenced today.
But almost immediately after the public learned of the bombs, the president told a group of supporters that American news organizations have "a responsibility to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility and constant negative and oftentimes false attacks and stories." Trump added on Twitter, "A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News.
As we discussed at the time, this was ridiculous, even by the Republican's standards. CNN, one of the world's preeminent news organizations, was targeted with an explosive device. The president nevertheless wasted little time in blaming news organizations for the conditions that led to the attempted terrorism.
This morning, in the wake of deadly mass shootings, Trump pushed an eerily similar message via Twitter.
"The Media has a big responsibility to life and safety in our Country. Fake News has contributed greatly to the anger and rage that has built up over many years."News coverage has got to start being fair, balanced and unbiased, or these terrible problems will only get worse!"
This coincided with Trump's re-election campaign running social-media advertising this morning that said, "The left-wing MOB and their allies in the FAKE NEWS media represent a very real danger to our nation."
I can appreciate why many political observers roll their eyes in response to the president's routine nonsense and prefer to pay it no mind. But occasionally, it's a mistake to simply shrug one's shoulders in response to potentially dangerous rhetoric.
To hear Trump tell it, not only do American news organizations bear responsibility for societal "anger and rage," he also believes "problems will only get worse" unless the media starts offering coverage he considers "fair."
Or put another way, when the president talks about American "unity," he envisions a society in which journalists cover the White House in ways the White House approves of.
That was Trump's message last October, and it appears to be his message again now.