October 17, 2016

On Trump, the Rally Mob and the Terrorizing of Journalists


We’ve never been known to hold back our opinion at Reading the Pictures. Still, this might be the first time we’ve published something like a real editorial. There are a tragic number of things to be acidly critical of Donald Trump about in terms of undermining the obviously imperfect democratic process.  Specific to our mission, though, his blaming and bullying of the media actually causes us to fear for the safety of the press writers and photographers covering the last days of his pyrrhic campaign. The image above, and so many like it, is not random and it’s not accidental. Plainly and simply, it’s an act of intimidation and its own form of aggression.

We echo and endorse these articles published by the NY Times, one by Nick Corasaniti titled, Partisan Crowds at Trump Rallies Menace and Frighten News Media, and the other by Jim Gutenberg, Criticism of the News Media Takes On a More Sinister Tone. These threats should not be taken idly, nor should the media be left to advocate for itself.  That last point is especially critical.

There is no more need for evidence than the scene of the rally mob, incited by Trump, pointing and shouting at the journalists present in the press area this week in Cincinnati. (That the citizen with the upside-down sign turns words on their head reinforces the reptilian descent.)

Last week, we posted another Instagram shot photo by AP’s Evan Vucci on our Instagram feed. Naively, we addressed it in terms of Trump actually giving pause to the point of his presidential bid over fallout from the Access Hollywood tape.

Any reasonably thoughtful and psychologically adjusted person would be mindful of peers, professional colleagues and even nominal allies trying to get his attention, providing some necessary counsel or just protecting him from himself. A week later, though, as Trump’s campaign goes pure scorched earth, the photo reads like someone whose skin is so thin, no one dare approach it.

I would also draw your attention to a photo by Holly Bailey posted on her Instagram feed.  On the Trump beat, also, reporting for Yahoo, she has been posting photos like this for months, documenting citizens at Trump rallies incessantly photographing her.

There is a righteousness and paranoia to these reflexive responses. Yes, media subjectivity as well as media bias is always a concern. But that’s not what we’re looking at in these pictures. Rather, they defy the basic understanding or “contract” between media and partisan that the citizens are there to rally and the media is there to record. Here instead, the Trump followers, spurred by the candidate and his 24/7 and 360 degree flaming, blaming and fear-mongering, treat the media like a Fifth column. God help us that followers of a candidate for president would resort to “photographing photojournalists back” as if an act of retribution or, in the realm of child’s thinking, drawing a magic force shield. It’s insane that we should wish campaign photographers to “stay safe” before they cover a presidential rally. But that’s what happens when a megalomaniac turns the democratic exercise into civil war.

Photo: Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images. Caption: A man holds a sign towards the media as he attends a campaign rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the South Florida Fair Expo Center on October 13, 2016 in West Palm Beach, Florida. Trump continues to campaign against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton with less than one month to Election Day.

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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