Farewell, America–A Requiem on The Media

November 14, 2016

Farewell, America–A Requiem on The Media

No matter how the rest of the world looked at us on November 7, they will now look at us differently.


America died on November 8, 2016, not with a bang or a whimper, but at its own hand via electoral suicide. We the people chose a man who has shredded our values, our morals, our compassion, our tolerance, our decency, our sense of common purpose, our very identity — all the things that, however tenuously, made a nation out of a country.

Whatever place we now live in is not the same place it was on November 7. No matter how the rest of the world looked at us on November 7, they will now look at us differently. We are likely to be a pariah country. And we are lost for it. As I surveyed the ruin of that country this gray Wednesday morning, I found weary consolation in W.H. Auden’s poem, September 1, 1939, which concludes:

“Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.”

I hunt for that affirming flame.

This generally has been called the “hate election” because everyone professed to hate both candidates. It turned out to be the hate election because, and let’s not mince words, of the hatefulness of the electorate. In the years to come, we will brace for the violence, the anger, the racism, the misogyny, the xenophobia, the nativism, the white sense of grievance that will undoubtedly be unleashed now that we have destroyed the values that have bound us.

We all knew these hatreds lurked under the thinnest veneer of civility. That civility finally is gone.

We all knew these hatreds lurked under the thinnest veneer of civility. That civility finally is gone.

We all knew these hatreds lurked under the thinnest veneer of civility. That civility finally is gone. In its absence, we may realize just how imperative that politesse was. It is the way we managed to coexist.

If there is a single sentence that characterizes the election, it is this: “He says the things I’m thinking.” That may be what is so terrifying. Who knew that so many tens of millions of white Americans were thinking unconscionable things about their fellow Americans? Who knew that tens of millions of white men felt so emasculated by women and challenged by minorities? Who knew that after years of seeming progress on race and gender, tens of millions of white Americans lived in seething resentment, waiting for a demagogue to arrive who would legitimize their worst selves and channel them into political power? Perhaps we had been living in a fool’s paradise. Now we aren’t.

This country has survived a civil war, two world wars, and a great depression. There are many who say we will survive this, too. Maybe we will, but we won’t survive unscathed. We know too much about each other to heal. No more can we pretend that we are exceptional or good or progressive or united. We are none of those things. Nor can we pretend that democracy works and that elections have more or less happy endings. Democracy only functions when its participants abide by certain conventions, certain codes of conduct and a respect for the process.

No more can we pretend that we are exceptional or good or progressive or united. We are none of those things.

No more can we pretend that we are exceptional or good or progressive or united. We are none of those things.

The virus that kills democracy is extremism because extremism disables those codes. Republicans have disrespected the process for decades. They have regarded any Democratic president as illegitimate. They have proudly boasted of preventing popularly elected Democrats from effecting policy and have asserted that only Republicans have the right to determine the nation’s course. They have worked tirelessly to make sure that the government cannot govern and to redefine the purpose of government as prevention rather than effectuation. In short, they haven’t believed in democracy for a long time, and the media never called them out on it.

Image result for The Sun sets on jefferson memorial

The sun sets behind the Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC

Democracy can’t cope with extremism. Only violence and time can defeat it. The first is unacceptable, the second takes too long. Though Trump is an extremist, I have a feeling that he will be a very popular president and one likely to be re-elected by a substantial margin, no matter what he does or fails to do. That’s because ever since the days of Ronald Reagan, rhetoric has obviated action, speechifying has superseded governing.

Trump was absolutely correct when he bragged that he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and his supporters wouldn’t care. It was a dictator’s ugly vaunt, but one that recognized this election never was about policy or economics or the “right path/wrong path,” or even values. It was about venting. So long as Trump vented their grievances, his all-white supporters didn’t care about anything else. He is smart enough to know that won’t change in the presidency. In fact, it is only likely to intensify. White America, Trump’s America, just wants to hear its anger bellowed. This is one time when the Bully Pulpit will be literal.

The media can’t be let off the hook for enabling an authoritarian to get to the White House. Long before he considered a presidential run, he was a media creation — a regular in the gossip pages, a photo on magazine covers, the bankrupt (morally and otherwise) mogul who hired and fired on The Apprentice. When he ran, the media treated him not as a candidate, but as a celebrity, and so treated him differently from ordinary pols. The media gave him free publicity, trumpeted his shenanigans, blasted out his tweets, allowed him to phone in his interviews, fell into his traps and generally kowtowed until they suddenly discovered that this joke could actually become president.

The media can’t be let off the hook for enabling an authoritarian to get to the White House. Long before he considered a presidential run, he was a media creation — a regular in the gossip pages, a photo on magazine covers, the bankrupt (morally and otherwise) mogul who hired and fired on The Apprentice. When he ran, the media treated him not as a candidate, but as a celebrity, and so treated him differently from ordinary pols. The media gave him free publicity, trumpeted his shenanigans, blasted out his tweets, allowed him to phone in his interviews, fell into his traps and generally kowtowed until they suddenly discovered that this joke could actually become president.

Just as Trump has shredded our values, our nation and our democracy, he has shredded the media. In this, as in his politics, he is only the latest avatar of a process that began long before his candidacy. Just as the sainted Ronald Reagan created an unbridgeable chasm between rich and poor that the Republicans would later exploit against Democrats, conservatives delegitimized mainstream journalism so that they could fill the vacuum.

With Trump’s election, I think that the ideal of an objective, truthful journalism is dead, never to be revived

With Trump’s election, I think that the ideal of an objective, truthful journalism is dead, never to be revived.

Retiring conservative talk show host Charlie Sykes complained that after years of bashing from the right wing, the mainstream media no longer could perform their function as reporters, observers, fact dispensers, and even truth tellers, and he said we needed them. Like Goebbels before them, conservatives understood that they had to create their own facts, their own truths, their own reality. They have done so, and in so doing effectively destroyed the very idea of objectivity. Trump can lie constantly only because white America has accepted an Orwellian sense of truth — the truth pulled inside out.

With Trump’s election, I think that the ideal of an objective, truthful journalism is dead, never to be revived.

With Trump’s election, I think that the ideal of an objective, truthful journalism is dead, never to be revived. Like Nixon and Sarah Palin before him, Trump ran against the media, boomeranging off the public’s contempt for the press. He ran against what he regarded as media elitism and bias, and he ran on the idea that the press disdained working-class white America. Among the many now-widening divides in the country, this is a big one, the divide between the media and working-class whites, because it creates a Wild West of information – a media ecology in which nothing can be believed except what you already believe.

With the mainstream media so delegitimized — a delegitimization for which they bear a good deal of blame, not having had the courage to take on lies and expose false equivalencies — they have very little role to play going forward in our politics. I suspect most of them will surrender to Trumpism — if they were able to normalize Trump as a candidate, they will no doubt normalize him as president. Cable news may even welcome him as a continuous entertainment and ratings booster. And in any case, like Reagan, he is bulletproof. The media cannot touch him, even if they wanted to. Presumably, there will be some courageous guerillas in the mainstream press, a kind of Resistance, who will try to fact-check him. But there will be few of them, and they will be whistling in the wind. Trump, like all dictators, is his own truth.

What’s more, Trump already has promised to take his war on the press into courtrooms and the halls of Congress. He wants to loosen libel protections, and he has threatened Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos of Amazon with an antitrust suit. Individual journalists have reason to fear him as well. He has already singled out NBC’s Katy Tur, perhaps the best of the television reporters, so that she needed the Secret Service to escort her from one of his rallies. Jewish journalists who have criticized Trump have been subjected to vicious anti-Semitism and intimidation from the alt-right. For the press, this is likely to be the new normal in an America in which white supremacists, neo-Nazi militias, racists, sexists, homophobes and anti-Semites have been legitimized by a new president who “says what I’m thinking.” It will be open season.

This converts the media from reporters to targets, and they have little recourse. Still, if anyone points the way forward, it may be New York Times columnist David Brooks. Brooks is no paragon. He always had seemed to willfully neglect modern Republicanism’s incipient fascism (now no longer incipient), and he was an apologist for conservative self-enrichment and bigotry. But this campaign season, Brooks pretty much dispensed with politics. He seemed to have arrived at the conclusion that no good could possibly come of any of this and retreated into spirituality. What Brooks promoted were values of mutual respect, a bolder sense of civic engagement, an emphasis on community and neighborhood, and overall a belief in trickle-up decency rather than trickle-down economics. He is not hopeful, but he hasn’t lost all hope.

Image result for Thank You Hillary

Hillary, Thank You for the Good Fight–Din Merican

For those of us now languishing in despair, this may be a prescription for rejuvenation. We have lost the country, but by refocusing, we may have gained our own little patch of the world and, more granularly, our own family. For journalists, Brooks may show how political reporting, which, as I said, is likely to be irrelevant in the Trump age, might yield to a broader moral context in which one considers the effect that policy, strategy and governance have not only on our physical and economic well-being but also on our spiritual well-being. In a society that is likely to be fractious and odious, we need a national conversation on values. The media could help start it.

But the disempowered media may have one more role to fill: They must bear witness. Many years from now, future generations will need to know what happened to us and how it happened. They will need to know how disgruntled white Americans, full of self-righteous indignation, found a way to take back a country they felt they were entitled to and which they believed had been lost. They will need to know about the ugliness and evil that destroyed us as a nation after great men like Lincoln and Roosevelt guided us through previous crises and kept our values intact. They will need to know, and they will need a vigorous, engaged, moral media to tell them. They will also need us.

We are not living for ourselves anymore in this country. Now we are living for history.

Farewell, America

21 thoughts on “Farewell, America–A Requiem on The Media

  1. dato din, this is the first that i read where you have featured a piece from Bill Moyers (which is always a bit left of the center, but right of the left, and left of the right). Bill Moyers’ work was never here nor there in the mainstream media, and was never even given a prime-time spot for his best pieces in PBS. I am quite sure we will not see more of it in any near future in a Trump America. On this note, thank you, Dato Din! Pray that in some part of Cambodia, Malaysia, and Singapore, there will always be a small niche for Bill Moyers, because of your selection and work.

    America has never arrived, nor has the world, definitely not in Malaysia, Singapore, nor China. MLK Jr is right, the arc of history does bend towards justice. Now is the time when it would bend towards to the center-left, considering how America has moved from the Clinton-Obama center-right to the Trump’s right, rejecting a Military-Industrial Complex Bush, right at the corner of justice’s death knell. MLK Jr has that hope and dream, and he was ready to face his death. So, should we, as long as we have the willingness and audacity to stand up for it. Death always find us, one way or another.

    @CLF, No, I didn’t have an identity crisis. My depression is good, because it reminded me that I still care. I have a maternal great-grandfather who is willing to die/be jailed to fight two emperors, one who is willing to risk whatever political standing he has to defend Confucianism in a world that accuses Confuciansim as one that goes against Modernism, to reveal to a nation, as a KMT senator, a corrupt KMT Presidential candidate who pays his way through opium sales, one who would care enough to write to his son in Hong Kong to change my mother’s name from ‘friend of US’ to ‘beauty of sand’ in the days of McCarthy and Korean War, one who has the audacity to change his own name from ‘nation building’ as a KMT senator to ‘beauty of red dawn’ the day when Generalismo Chiang purged left, leaving many who loved the nation died shamelessly, and finally one who dying in a land of Red as one who has never joined the Communist Party, in spite of the fact roads were still built in his name by CCP. There is a good reason we don’t know of him, and yet we could still baidu him today.

    @CLF perhaps, you and I too have been fighting the same war. Neither DAP/MCA. Neither BN nor Pakatan. Neither represented such a ‘liberal’ world that strives merely for the weakest, but never for the strong to do whatever they want. Many innocent were killed in the night of May 13. No one mourned for them. A Trump America? I was born into one, called Malaysia. Our parents attempted to run away from one. I attempted to run away. Many are still doing the same today.

    //Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”

    The above Bible quote touched me a lot… We have very little place left to run to in today’s shrinking world now. Some say Canada, some say New Zealand. But, I can assure you, as long as we Chinese step foot onto anyone of them, it will changed. We are cursed, as the most common sinners in this world, unless we are willing to work our land, wherever we are, and are willing to work the land not as slaves, nor owners, but as caretakers. There is wisdom for my kind’s willingness to call ourselves ‘pendatang’. @CLF: Thank you for fiery words!

    @rightways, @shiou: There is no shame in being kiasu in a kiasi world. But, as Chinese, we must remember one thing Hu-Shih reminded us on Confucianism. Confucious was born in a world without a land/nation called his own. He ran from one nation to another nation preaching a thought that no King has accepted. Yet, it conquered all. Its’ success didn’t come from its’ beauty of being ‘Way of Kings’ . On the contrary, it is the opposite. It is time for us to put down yesterday’s sorrow and hatred towards a recent past being treated as the sick, but to look deeper into why Confucious conquered the hearts and minds of its’ conqueror. Let’s recover that meaning of dignity that we have always treasured amidst our worst time, and share how we treasure their presence everywhere in this kiasu/kiasi world?

  2. The US should just do away with asking voters to vote for a President and VP and instead just depend on the electoral college to select a President. Almost 10 million Voters have stayed away or refrain from voting because they feel their vote (popular vote) doesn’t get their candidate to be President.

    Even if their candidate wins by a big majority, the outcome is still determined by the electoral college. Nothing a voter can do to change the decision of the electoral college. What a mess.

  3. Din,
    I have stumbled across this documentary on Churchill’s forgotten years. No, no no…….I am not talking about Churchill ‘s first wilderness years. The second one immediately after his humiliating defeat in 1945 GE.
    A wartime hero who won the war for Britain and yet he was not the leader that peacetime Britain. Well, Atlee was definitely not Trump. To a certain extent, some of Churchill’s ideals are Trump like. Like not giving more autonomous rule to Indian during the 30s.
    I am focusing more on Churchill’s preseverance and tenacity of moving forward in his agenda of acheiving his ultimate goals. His everlasting legacy. In the same sense, Hillary Clinton should not give up. Churchill was 71 years old when he was defeated. Yet, he insisted in carrying on as the Opposition Leader fo the next 6 years. What a remarkable comeback. He reinvented himself from a Warrior leader to a leader seeking for Peace.
    Hillary Clinton should do the same. The race is not over. While the obstacles are even harder than imagine. Win or Lose, I believe Clinton would succeed in becoming the 46th US President or a Vice President. It would be a waste seeing her fading away from politics this way

    Guys and Gals,
    Introducing you the forgotten years of Churchill

  4. This writer is getting carried away…for no good reason….yes, “he says the things I am thinking”… but why has the country been brought to such a stage that people have no choice but to think the way they do and have, therefore, voted for someone they feel will best respond to their needs…

    The election of Trump is no reason to say goodbye to the US or to engage in a frenzy…the sensible way is to suspend judgement on the Trump phenomenon until about a year or eighteen months into his Presidency… by that time it will become clear where he is coming from…

  5. ” …..the mass celebrated for the repose of the dead….Farewell America” , is truly heart wrenching !
    His scathing remarks against Media Moguls , is a little revelation of sorts , when for the first time we are made to realize the Media can either make or break a Nation …….not exactly through falsehood but false exegerration of things in the name of ‘ popularity ‘ , and a great nation breaks asunder ….. –

    A tribute to the writer of this exceedingly well written Article :

    ODE TO DUTY – W. Wordsworth

    Stern Daughter of the Voice of God !
    O Duty ! if that name thou love
    Who art a light to guide , a rod
    To check the erring and reprove ;
    Thou who art victory and law
    When empty terrors overawe ;
    From vain temptations dost set free ,
    And calm’st the weary stride of frail humanity !

    Remark : Erring politicians who seek for popularity (esp in the East ) , the Media Moguls will play to their Gallery ……

  6. The urge to predict what Trump will do, and what America will become under his administration, is a puzzling one. Eight years ago, no one predicted the race relations we fought so hard to build in progress after the Vietnam War would deteriorate so fast under the administration of a “black” President. Why pretend that we have any idea what on earth Trump may do come January 20, and what may become of America? Why don’t we just wait a little longer?

    Yes, we have to be prepared for action after the first 100 days of Trump’s administration to see what direction the country is going. Like my friend Rose Park who passed away very recently, I believe in action, not talk, talk, talk. Like her, I believe I have the influence to bring thousands to the streets to confront white supremacists if really as predicted by the doomsday prophecy.

    The ideal of an objective, truthful journalism is dead a long time ago. Today, not many people inside or outside the country know, 6 corporations control 90% of all the media in the United States. They all get their information from the same six sources. In essence we are no different from other authoritarian states we often accuse of lack of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

  7. White Americans supported Trump over Clinton by 21 points (58%-37%), almost the same margin as Romney had in 2012. Check out Pew Research – http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/09/behind-trumps-victory-divisions-by-race-gender-education/.

    Romney was not called a racist by Neal Gabler because Romney lost.
    Trump and Clinton are both white, but Trump’s supporters must be racist.
    Even Trump won more percentage points than Romney from Latino Americans and African Americans, Trump must be racist.

    Don’t you think these American liberals are either brain dead or delusional? I guess these liberals are still in the first phase (denial) of 6-phase grief process.

    Let’s see what the other side says about Trump’s presidency so that Malaysians are more equipped with critical thinking to think for themselves:

  8. Journalism, the third estate, was destroyed by Cable TV and the internet long time ago. The Media? Depending on what you mean by that..IF you are talking about as a third estate, then its a moot point, as a conduit of advertising, it will survive even increasingly fragemented, it will continue to change and grow because the money need it to grow..All that will be diffferent is that it goes into different pockets..

  9. Yes, the United States of America is now a disunited country.

    To survive his electoral success, Trump has to keep cranking up the disunity he had deliberately engineered. In a way he was only the opportunistic midwife because the fetuses of white supremacy, neo-Nazi militancy, racism, sexism, homophobia and anti-Semitism were already gestating in the collective un-consciousness of millions of Americans.

    Trump is damned if he do and damned if he don’t.

  10. John Oliver’s take can be very amusing and yet alarmingly true. Michael Moore said that people who vote based on emotion can do crazy. Hence, the reason why at certain point, I am pretty pessimistic on the outcome of our GE14. Though there are many things I may not agree with Hisham Rais especially his support of Trump simply to take potshot on elites (Sorry Hisham Rais, capitalist will always win. It’s truly a great stupidity to simply cut off your nose to spite your face). Listen what Michael Moore says

    Yadda! Yadda! Yadda that clown Hisham Rais is just like Dennis the constitutionalist peasant preaching a utopian land but left out important. Paris Commune tried that it failed. Soviet Union and China tried that. One has gone far right and the other one is just commy in form only.

    You may win now but take a look……..It’s still business as usual. You are still screwed.

    Anyway, John Oliver as well as Sam Harris

  11. For those in Malaysia who are still thinking minorities in US are uniformly against Trump, here is alternative view from a Muslim woman from US:


    Please note that America is unique in providing environment for all to express their views. Actually, the idea of Internet, where information is open and transparent, is a brainchild of America’s liberty at the individual level. Americans, Muslim or not, are assured of their right to freedom of conscience at the individual level. You may disagree with what others say, but you cannot get government to shutdown individuals. Using government power to shutdown individual is the hallmark of Islamism in its adherence to Islamic Blasphemy law. The experience of Asra Normani above clearly shows how Islamists will destroy individual liberty and freedom of conscience when they get their chance.

  12. “The US should just do away with asking voters to vote for a President and VP and instead just depend on the electoral college to select a President.”

    Semper fi, my learned friend, how do you propose to select the electors of the Electoral College of each State?

    Direct popular vote presidential election was rejected not because the Framers of the Constitution doubted public intelligence but rather because they feared that without sufficient information about candidates from outside their State, people would naturally vote for a “favorite son” from their own State or region. At worst, no
    President would emerge with a popular majority vote sufficient to govern the whole country that is so vast. At best, the choice of President would always be decided by the largest, most populous States with little regard for the smaller ones.

    At our present system, the party of the winner of each State gets to nominate the electors of the Electoral College of that State. The US Constitution does give the electors the final say in picking the President. Neither the Constitution nor Federal election laws compel electors to vote for their party’s candidate.

  13. LaMoy, ha ha that was sarcasm. The President should be elected by popular vote. In this age of the internet, voters regardless from big or small states will get to know the candidate up close what with the media and tv coverage. After all the electoral college was promulgated when communication was done by the likes of Paul Revere or by Wells Fargo Stage Coach.
    The US is one nation made up of different states, but the President is for the whole country. Thus in democracy it’s the rule by the majority choice. Each states have their own Governors and also Senators representing them in Congress.
    I believe Senator Barbara Boxers is proposing a bill to do away with the Electoral College.
    Trump when he was trailing was against the Electoral Cellege calling it rigged and a fraud. Yet when he was declared the winner by the same Electoral College, he was in praise of it. Sheesh what a hypocrite.

  14. For those who are interested in how Electoral College works in the United States and how it holds the country together for more than 240 years, please check out this article from President of Hiilsdale College, which is a few private colleges not taking federal fund and still teaching American history and value in the traditional way:

    “The Electoral College Is Anything But Outdated”:

    For those who think democracy is what the United States is about, it is time to realize what Al Gore talking about “People Power” and what CNN talking about democracy is the NOT the core part of Americanism. Democracy, for the United States, is just a tool for achieving core values such as individual liberty, in God/truth we trust, and E Pluribus Unum. Democracy is not enemy, but is not a god.

    If democracy is to be worshiped like a god, then I think we should all admire countries with “Democratic” word in their names:

    Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
    Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal
    Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe
    Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
    People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria
    Democratic Republic of the Congo
    Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste
    Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
    Lao People’s Democratic Republic
    Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic

    But, obviously those are countries that are lost in their directions.

  15. Sentiments aside, USA must accept what Trump is,if necessary, manage him from within or vote against him come December 19 in the electoral college.

    The rest of the world can only be watching while strengthen their Self-reliance Collectively and Incorporate what is necessary in maintaining their sovereignty and stability, grow the economy, provide more jobd, expand peaceful progress in pursue of sustained peace and prosperity.

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