Like many technical professionals who have always made a comfortable living, I have spent a lifetime fantasizing about the artistic life. I have made pronouncements like, “If I had to do it all over again, I would go to Columbia Journalism School.” Or “I wish I had graduated in filmmaking.” For, you see, my nine to five profession has never been journalism, but rather, energy technology and policy. Journalism was something I simply stumbled upon. As a “third world” female immigrant who was trying to find her way in the world, I thought I had important things to say, and lo and behold, a column I sent over the transom to the Oakland Tribune got published nearly twenty-five years ago.
Since then, my faith in the power of the written word has never wavered. So much so that three years ago, I took early retirement from my job to write.
But recently, I changed my mind and decided to take on a part-time energy-consulting job.
The answer, simply, is Adolf Trump. Or rather, Adolf Trump’s adulation by the American media.
I am so disgusted by the media’s non-stop focus on Trump that I am now ashamed to call myself a member of that elite group.
For, make no mistake. The Republican Party is not the only entity responsible for creating this fascist dictator, this Frankenstein monster. The media is as much to blame.
From the beginning, the media treated Trump as an entertainment vehicle designed to boost ratings. When he talked over his opponents and called them foul names, instead of objecting to his on-air behavior, the debate moderators let him bully them. Why did they not warn him that he would be expelled if he crossed boundaries of civility? Why did they not disconnect his microphone?
Trump has gotten so used to getting a free pass from the press that a day after he was forced to cancel his rally after the riots in Chicago, he complained that HIS first amendment rights were trampled on.
And what about the rights of the press?
Well, from the beginning, he hasn’t acknowledged that the press has any. Do you know that at every Trump campaign event, members of the media have been literally imprisoned in a metal cage and forbidden to mingle with the crowds? That members of outlets like the New York Times and NPR have accepted the humiliating treatment without even a whimper, let alone a legal complaint? Do you know that Jorge Ramos, the news anchor for Univision, was evicted out of a Trump news conference months ago?
Washington journalists have long dubbed the kind of campaigning Trump practices as “red meat,” but I wonder, was there a part of these bleeding heart journalists that was also secretly, subconsciously falling prey to Trump’s coded racism early on? Was that why they did not try to rein him in for a long time and even then only half-heartedly?
I hadn’t watched any of the Republican debates until Trump won some primaries. It was then that I tuned in to the tenth debate. It was appalling enough, but what struck me was the hour-long CNN program that followed afterwards, in which Anderson Cooper and his cronies sat in a circle around Trump, groveling to him like he were some Yoda.
There has been no fact checking during the Trump debates, no questioning of his baseless assertions, no challenging of his smooth-talking one-liners like “I’ll make deals,” or “We will create jobs.” Not once have I seen a journalist ask Adolf how he will create the jobs or to explain what kind of a deal he would make.
No one has even dared to question how relevant the size of his penis—about which he incredulously boasted during the eleventh debate—or his bank account is to his ability to hold the office of the presidency.
Instead, the journalists have only chosen to talk of “the anger Donald is tapping into.” Why? Because they are lazy and this line of argument gets them off the hook from doing any serious research or fact checking.
The truth of the matter is that Adolf Trump is not tapping into anger, he is inciting it.
If, years ago, the media had denounced Trump for using the coded language of racism to ask for President Obama’s birth certificate, he would not be quoting Mussolini today and threatening to change libel laws in order to sue the press. He would not be acting like Vladimir Putin or Kim Jong Un.
The media has the responsibility not only to report events to the public but also to educate it.
So I wonder, will I make a better contribution to humanity by improving the world’s energy policy and thereby mitigating climate change?
And I look back upon those surreal days when my columns used to appear beside big names like Molly Ivins and Mike Royko; days when journalists were not hacks clapping at clowns prancing in a three-ring circus but our society’s conscience.
Sarita Sarvate (www.saritasarvate.com) has published commentaries for New America Media, KQED FM, San Jose Mercury News, the Oakland Tribune, and many nationwide publications.