THE CITIZEN EDITORIAL | 8 NOVEMBER, 2020
The American Media Stood Up for Democracy
Truth to power
Part of the credit for Joe Biden’s victory and the defeat of the divisive, hateful President Donald Trump can be taken by the American media. Even as Fox News like some of our television channels twisted the truth, supported fiction instead of fact, and took a strong stand for hate and inequality as represented by Trump, there were other channels with CNN in the lead that made good, responsible, solid journalism come alive.
In a polarised environment CNN took a clear stand. It stood against those who spread hate, used lies to justify and defend bigotry, relied on superstition instead of science, and hurled abuse to pillory others. The channel refused to be muzzled by the then powerful Trump even as he targeted CNN and its journalists in his press interactions and on social media.
But it is post the Biden victory that CNN has made history. Anchor Don Lemon, black and part of the LGBTQ community, came out to say how he had been harassed through the years of professional coverage by White supremacists who abused him as a ‘black’ and as a ‘faggot.’ The pressure was relieved on camera with a few tears, as Lemon shared what he had gone through --- a reminder of similar attacks on journalists here. On the basis of religion, gender and caste. All intended to intimidate the independent journalist, and prevent him or her from doing the job.
Lemon in a moving and intense conversation with co-anchor Chris Cuomos discussed how for him it was impossible to accept those who supported a leader who had made no secret of his bigotry without calling truth to power. How, while he could love anyone else, he found it difficult in this hour of truth to accept those who supported someone who questioned his very right to life, who questioned his dignity and his (Black and queer) existence. To this Cuomos, white, responded how sorry he was that he could not have acted as a check to ease his pain, and that he was sorry for the long struggle that Lemon and others had gone through, and questioned the support for Trump who he described as a ‘liar and a bigot.’
CNN that had virtually moved the Democrats campaign into the embrace of Black Lives Matter after the George Floyd murder, also brought out the impact of the Muslim ban impposed by Trump through an interview with a newly elected Democrat, where he spoke of how the hate had been put behind them now with this election, and how Joe Biden’s reach out was a healing touch. The news channel did not flip over the issue of discrimination, plunging into the race issue over the months even as it opposed the President’s stand against the minorities in America.
And as Lemon said, that while sharing the agony he had gone through, he would continue to hold the Biden administration to account, and would bring truth to power that defined his role as an independent journalist.
The Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank has taken this further with his opinion article where he wrote clearly, “Ousting a demagogue with the loudest megaphone in the land is not an easy undertaking. Trump’s opponents had to overcome an unprecedented stream of disinformation and falsehoods from the president, even as his party normalized the assaults on truth, on facts, on science, on expertise. Trump’s opponents were up against a strongman who used the Justice Department, diplomats and the intelligence community to harass political opponents, who used federal police to suppress public demonstrations, who engaged in a massive campaign of voter intimidation and suppression, and who used government powers for political advantage: enlisting government employees to campaign for him, sabotaging postal operations, putting his name on taxpayer-funded checks, using the White House for a party convention. And Trump’s opponents had to contend with a Fox News cheering section and social-media landscape that insulated millions from reality.
Over time, the damage done to institutions, to alliances, to elections, to the federal workforce, to congressional power and to courts should be reversible. Had Trump won a second term, we may not have been able to recover. “I feel very confident the United States can repair after one term," Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton has said. “Two terms? I would be a little bit more worried."
And concluded with, “There may be hard days ahead, depending on what Trump does. But there is so far little evidence that Americans, including most Trump supporters, have any enthusiasm for him disregarding the results of a free and fair election. Had he been given four more years to dismantle our institutions, there’s no telling what might have become of us. But history will record that in a dark hour for democracy, Americans rose to the moment and preserved their republic.”
And this is how the Americans are seeing the victory. An opportunity to bring back their democracy on track. To replace the hate and bigotry with unity and equality. And in the process, the media lens has zoomed in on the movement that took the Republicans by storm, Black Lives Matter that Vice President elect Kamala Harris referred to at some length in her victory speech.
There is a stated commitment by the large sections of the US media to stand up for rights and the tenets that are fundamental to democracy.
The fourth pillar of democracy in the US ---except for a few exceptions like Fox News --can stand proud for its commitment to rights and the tenets that are fundamental to democracy. And for joining and supporting the people of America to call out Trump for what he is and represented.
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