The following is an op-ed from PoliticianUSA’s editor-in-chief, Sarah Jones.
“Real America” would like a word.
CNN has been roundly criticized for their grossly irresponsible choice to broadcast a Trump town hall packed with an audience of Republican voters feasting on each other in a grotesque display of collective ugliness.
Anderson Cooper was sent on the air to lecture Americans that we objected to the disaster in which Trump was allowed to victimize E. Jean Carroll again with further defamation also calling a black officer a “thug” and repeating dangerous, deadly lies about 1/6 and the 2020 election because we want to live in a silo.
Cooper said, “You have every right to be outraged and angry, never look at this network again. But do you think if you stay in your silo and only listen to people you agree with, that person will go away? If we all listen only to those with whom we agree, the opposite may be the case.”
As someone who lives in a Trump 57-68 precinct, I’ve written in-depth articles about real Trump voters and the takeaway is the opposite of what CNN claims.
The real problem with America right now is that Trump supporters are not exposed to “real news.” This town hall has only amplified and fueled this problem by giving Trump a megaphone for it his lies.
Additionally, most of us are not actually isolated from Trump voters.
It’s so strange to hear such a claim from someone in Cooper’s position because unlike most media outlets, most Americans don’t live in elite neighborhoods of big cities. We are not isolated.
Cooper was also a poor optical choice to convey this patronizing message because:
What I find amazing is a New York media person who was born, raised and lives in NYC, who is a relative of the extremely wealthy Vanderbilts, who went to expensive private schools and is now telling the rest of us to “go away”. our silos”.
— Matthew Dowd (@matthewjdowd) May 12, 2023
We on this website are probably some of them most exposed to real Trumpism national political analysts in the country. Our headquarters is located in a small town in western Pennsylvania at the tip of the Appalachians, which went 57.1% for Trump in 2020 and 65.89% for Trump in 2016.
This distinction is vital on this topic, not only because it challenges the premise that objections are based on not wanting to hear what Trump supporters and Trump himself think, but because living with people in a small town humanizes people with whom you disagree. We are in daily contact with people who voted for Trump twice.
Sometimes it’s really hard (like when a medical technician who gave me an MRI complained about our lack of gun laws the day of a mass shooting, blaming Black Lives Matter for lawmakers not passing better gun laws — a moment when still feels like a dagger to my heart), and sometimes it even gets a little scary.
During the last midterms, many non-Trump people in this city told me they were afraid to put up political signs after previous ones were stolen or destroyed. People took bumper stickers off their cars to prevent their vehicles from being vandalized.
An atmosphere of harassment has continued in voting areas since 2016, when truckloads of Trump supporters harassed women and people of color until some of them decided not to vote.
But no matter where people live, it’s disingenuous to claim that we have to let Donald Trump spew lies and slander to learn more about Trump voters and Trump.
We already know everything about both.
What I’ve learned from face-to-face conversations over the years is that many of these people as individuals are good people who care about others in their communities. The hate is only made possible by the propaganda they get through the media – and during this town hall! – and the fact that they don’t associate with many groups of people they demonize.
The danger comes when they operate as a group, which happens when they hear Donald Trump’s siren calling as a platform like CNN did, which worked so well for Trump that a staggering source close to his campaign reportedly thanked CNN for the campaign contribution.
I spoke to hardcore Trump supporters after 1/6, and many were stunned and shocked. They had no excuse for it. Only after the Republicans used the media to whitewash 1/6 did they all get glassy-eyed and aloof about it. Now they’re blaming antifa and saying the election was stolen, even though those two claims don’t work together.
This turning away from facts is directly related to the media they consume. They are the isolated people. CNN and other outlets should ask: How can we expose these people to factsrather than: How can we address these people.
As a group, when encouraged by their cult leader, these people can become dangerous.
CNN should come to Trump cities to talk to non-Trump voters, who have been threatened and silenced. Although to be honest, usually when someone whispers to me that they are too scared to do political x here, when I ask them if I can write about their experience they take it all back. That is a sign of intimidation that works effectively to silence people.
The people who know what it’s like to live among a majority of people cut off from the facts in this dangerously divided country don’t talk about it and the media isn’t interested, even if they were.
Americans don’t need to be talked down by people who are themselves isolated.
CNN’s town hall encouraged Trump’s undemocratic impulses. Trump is gasoline, and they know it.
CNN’s City Hall did the opposite of what they claim, showing Trump supporters at their collective low. That display was grotesque and will only widen the divide in this country.
That spectacle is not something many Trump supporters want to be associated with in everyday life, but they will certainly be secretly encouraged by it.
Many defenders have said it’s impossible to interview Trump and there’s no way to fact-check a Gish galloper like him. But actually this is not true. Yes, he is difficult.
But we all know in advance what lies Trump is going to spew. They are his Oldies and they are readily available on his Truth Social account. The moderator prepares in advance and calls the topic on each topic. This can be done when the network wants it to be possible.
However, it doesn’t seem like checking Trump was the goal during this town hall, especially since Trump said he was offered a deal he couldn’t refuse and new reporting suggests Trump should pick a friendly moderator. Team Trump said they would have turned down Jake Tapper, meaning CNN knows exactly what it could have done to present a better town hall: use Jake Tapper. Or Dana Bash. Or Jim Acosta.
News organizations will need to seize the opportunity to responsibly cover Trump ahead of the 2024 election given their belief that people need to see more of Trump to know who he is (?) after he fomented a deadly coup against his country in an effort to stay in power.
Studies show that the way to deal with conspiracies so that they are not confirmed by repeating them is to start with the truth, then the conspiracy, and end again by reinforcing the truth. That method should be applied to any responsible coverage of Trump.
Do you have a Gish galloper? There’s also chyrons, an entire newsroom of brilliant researchers and journalists, earpieces, a buzzer, music, a pre-recorded fact-check – the world is CNN’s oyster. They have the resources to attempt responsible reporting.
The problem is that they can’t appeal to a Trump audience in the process. So the decision to address a Trump audience is where the rubber met the road, and it’s no fault of the viewers being disgusted.
Trump supporters are already fed a steady diet of outrage and hatred that has led to their dehumanization of everyone else. Too many Trump supporters believe that all liberals are far-left “awake” “antifa” radicals who deserve to be harmed.
So who needs to get out of their “silo” here?
Trump supporters are a force that moves together in waves, each Trump hit they get propelling them higher and farther from reality. People who live in towns and cities in this country know this to be true; they live with the attacks and intimidation that come from the poisonous stream of right-wing lies.
CNN’s town hall made all of that worse. It unabashedly fed Trump supporters their Trump drug, rekindling the slowly suffocating flames of violent rage.
It also showcased the Trump supporters that many of us live under — the casual brutality, the pleasure of harming others — but while CNN showcased the vulgarities of MAGA’s Republican voters, CNN gave them exactly what got them there.
I didn’t object to City Hall because I don’t like what I see. I already knew what I would see, as did most of the country. There are no new depths of collective hatred to be poured out on national TV.
We’d all benefit if national TV did a little bit of what we’re supposed to be doing in small towns, a big part of which is knowing your neighbor with the Trump placards saying all liberals are scum that should be shot is sometimes the same person who brings in your bins on a windy day. Some media outlets need to stop using alarming divisions created by the cult-like echo chamber of right-wing media to make money while holding themselves above anyone who suffers the results of the media’s bad decisions.
The real danger we face is that not everyone will look away from Trump supporters; but rather that Trump supporters be allowed to isolate themselves from everyone else on issues of fact and the resulting dangerous dehumanization of everyone they are meant to hate, while media elites who never go to the “real America” lecture those of us who live here read about things they don’t understand.
Welcome to “Real America,” CNN. Your city hall has further damaged the weakened fabric of our communities and our democracy, and we have every right to demand better.
Image: The Trump campaign store (reinforcement that they think they now own CNN)