Trump’s Scorched Earth

Jeff Jarvis
Whither news?
Published in
4 min readOct 26, 2020

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What we are witnessing in the Trump times is the last stand of angry, old, white men, who would sooner destroy the institutions of democracy than share them with those who will follow.

Conservatives — whom Robert Nisbet called “prophets of the past” — no longer strive to conserve institutions. Instead they are undermining the presidency, Congress, the courts, the rule of law, the armed forces, the United States Postal Service, standards of human rights, the Census, voting rights, elections, the peaceful transfer of power — in short, democracy itself — not to mention science, medicine, education, and the press.

These old, white men recognize that their hold on power is slipping as the demographics of the nation inevitably progress. Their shrinking but solid base of old and young, angry, white, male voters fear they will be unqualified — uneducated — for a future that threatens them with automation and the internet, robots and self-driving vehicles, and a loss of jobs and security.

But in the rhetoric of the right, the internet is not the enemy; the people using it are. Today, people who were for too long not seen at the tables of power or heard in mass media finally have their press — also known as social media — with which to realize their First Amendment aspirations to speak, assemble, and act together: to claim power. Thus we have #BlackLivesMatter and a movement that brings inequity in every sector of society to the surface, where it can no longer be ignored, catalyzing what I hope may someday be seen as the rise of an American Reformation.

Every institution must respond and adapt or become obsolete and replaced.

After COVID and its reprehensibly disproportionate burden on people of color and the poor, journalism, health care, and public policy must now examine medicine, insurance, and employment through the lens of equity.

Now that witnesses to police killing can share their evidence online, policing as an institution is challenged at last and must be reconsidered in the context of racial justice and of the full offering of social services government should provide. This is what is meant by defunding the police.

Even our most precious American institution, freedom of expression, is threatened as President Trump attacks the press…

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Jeff Jarvis
Whither news?

Blogger & prof at CUNY’s Newmark J-school; author of Geeks Bearing Gifts, Public Parts, What Would Google Do?, Gutenberg the Geek