In an effort to seem neutral, unbiased and comfortably afloat above the messy rubble of everyday life, you, our professional journalists and media commentators, often act as if the deceptions, deceits and hypocritical poses of the politicians you cover are content-less strategic or tactical moves in a game without consequences. You like to think it’s chess, but that really overstates the difficulties of politics. Politics is more like dodgeball played with rocks. There’s only a couple of possible moves at any given time. Duck or throw. It doesn’t take genius to succeed. In fact, smarts can get in the way. It’s better to possess a certain unthinking brutalism, a brutalism you ought to condemn. Instead, you are too often mesmerized by it.
It’s now clear that John McCain and Sarah Palin plan to run a deeply divisive, angry, racist, know-nothing campaign. They will provoke prejudice and burning resentment among voters. The tone of their just-completed convention was that of a red-eyed lynch mob impatient with the democratic rule of law. They want to deliver justice unto their enemies with their bare hands.
I don’t need to go on. Those of you in the press, those of you whose opinions are heard by Americans every day, you know in your hearts that this is the course the McCain campaign has chosen. And you know how dangerous it is for the future of our country. I beg you, please don’t disguise your coverage of this hateful return to thuggish politics with feigned neutrality and the misleading presumption that all tactics are legitimate, that Americans have the freedom to reject brutalizing, anti-democratic politics if they want to. The point of the brutalism is to intimidate and reduce the possibility of dissent. It is what bullies do. Like the idiot police who gassed lawyers, journalists and activists in the streets of St. Paul. Oh, you missed that, didn’t you?
Your always-above-it-all approach hides the truth and magnifies the dangers. If your conscience is unmoved, how about your vanity? Because it is a certain fact that if democracy survives and we still have honest historians in the future, history will look back at this era much like we look back upon the Civil War. You will be judged by history, and your descendants will be either proud or embarrassed by what you do. This is not a game. In fact, your only real responsibility is to recognize and report the implications of that fact.