Mocking Trump for Tweeting a Tyrant Highlights Democratic Naïveté (February 28, 2016)

So the backstory here is that Gawker set up a long term sting operation to get Donald Trump to retweet a quote from Mussolini. What that says about financial prudence, journalistic values or innovation at Gawker is a story for another day, but they are certainly proud of themselves.

This is classic gotcha journalism. And whilst not innovative, gotcha journalism can work when it shows us something we didn’t know about a person, when it skewers and draws out. But what were Gawker aiming to show us here? That Trump is xenophobic? He’s proposed closing the borders based on religion. That he is dupable on twitter? He tweeted a photo of Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party in the UK, that he was told was one of his supporters. That he is authoritarian? That’s why people support him.

In fact the only thing Gawker’s duping highlights is that the left (and mainstream) don’t know how to counter the rhetoric of xenophobia and aggression that has taken hold of the GOP.

Rather than tackling that issue and the concerns of security from which it is borne, Gawker and liberals generally prefer to sit and mock, courting laughter in an echo chamber of righteousness. And you know what, that’s not a sign of strength, it’s a sign of weakness.

A recent poll found that the majority of Republican supporters agree that there should be a ban on Muslim’s entering the country. We’re not talking about a fringe group here, this isn’t the KKK nor is it even just Trump supporters, this is a majority of one of the two major American parties holding views that go contrary to the basic concepts of equality and freedom. Laughter is not an appropriate response.

And worse than being an inappropriate response it also plays into the narrative that the right is weaving, that the Lame Stream Media (do we still use that phrase?) and establishment are weak on security, pro immigration and that we need a strong leader to solve these problems. And in feeding that narrative this sort of story only serves to galvanize Trump supporters, and those on the right more generally — they have their view of mainstream media confirmed and return to getting their news courtesy of social media and Trump stump tirades.

Perhaps this lack of seriousness on the left stems from a feeling that they are sure that the Democratic candidate (whoever she is) will win easily regardless of opponent and so they don’t need to court those on the right who are scared. Perhaps that’s true. But to ignore such a strong (and justified) fear in the country is too dangerous and alienating at a time when cohesion and understanding need to be taught and it needlessly gives the right authority in security debate.

Update: As I was writing, Trump has claimed that he knew the providence of the tweet. Personally I doubt it, even he isn’t one to knowingly retweet a quote from a dictator only one goose step removed from Hitler. More likely is that he has decided not to back down in the face of pressure from the press and not to admit that he made a mistake.

in short, he’s decided to act like the Duke.