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A disaster for journalism raises disturbing doubts for the republic

February 22, 2021 in Blogs

By John Stoehr

On Sunday, NBC’s “Meet the Press” interviewed United States Senator Ron Johnson. ABC’s “This Week” interviewed House Minority Whip Steve Scalise. CBS’s “Face the Nation” interviewed United States Senator Lindsey Graham. “Fox News Sunday” interviewed United States Senator Rand Paul. They’re Republicans and they had a message for a combined television audience of millions: Donald Trump won.

Not in those exact words, but that was the clear implication. This thing or that thing—it didn’t really matter what thing—meant in their “view” that the former president was robbed and the legitimacy of the current president, Joe Biden, is somehow suspect.

I bring this up not because yesterday was a disaster for journalism and the integrity of the public square (though it was that). I bring this up because it seems to me an answer to the question that haunts democratic discourse: How does a republic deal with parties that lie so intensely, so voluminously and so shamelessly? Some say we should afford them the same respect we ourselves would expect. If we call them liars, that might encourage them to lie more given the outrage of being called liars. Better to check their facts, state the truth and move on in hopes that they behave in kind.

This was certainly the thinking behind Frank Bruni’s latest, titled “Must We Dance on Rush Limbaugh Grave?” The Times columnist said Sunday that while the radio broadcaster, who died last week, was a white-power racist, sexist, fear-mongering, homophobic crank (not his words), it’s crude and rough and, worse of all, “screechy” to say as much about a man recently killed off by the cancer. It’s one thing to speak ill of the dead, Bruni wrote, “but the pitch of that ill-speak needn’t be screechy. The manner of it needn’t be savage. It has more credibility—and I think, more impact—when it’s neither of these things. And we preserve some crucial measure of civility and grace.”

For four decades, Rush Limbaugh had the biggest media megaphone through which he spit poison every day straight into the ears of 20 million Americans. He lied and lied, and he lied and lied. If there were no Limbaugh, there would be no President Trump, who himself told more than 30,500 lies, falsehoods and misleading claims during four years. Their canon of lies included lies about the covid pandemic, culminating in a death toll now exceeding half a million. Their repertoire of …read more


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