Blame cable news for overdramatized election
As the national political melodrama drew near its end, a sometime email correspondent in Texas worried about my safety. An uxorious older gentleman with a love of horses and a weakness for conspiracy theories, he was always puzzled and often angered by my apostasy.
“Being down there in Arkansas,” he warned, “you may not like the way Trump’s supporters respond if they’ve been reading your columns.”
I answered that while I’ve been making my views clear for decades, “I’ve never even had anybody speak to me rudely about it.”
The rural county I called home for the past nine years has no stoplights, and lots more cows than people. It voted two to one for Mitt Romney in 2008, and doubtless favored Trump too. (Although not the African-American precincts around our place.) But it’s considered rude to argue about politics or religion. People just don’t do it. I had neighbors and friends I spoke with regularly whose political views I could only guess at.
Only a handful of people who agreed with my columns ever mentioned them. Otherwise, well, I take good care of my animals, and while not real handy with a chainsaw, I’m very good at catching escaped horses and herding cows back home. Also, everybody likes my wife. On balance, then, not a bad old boy for a transplanted Yankee.
My Texas correspondent nevertheless predicted rough times ahead.
“The peoples of the world,” he added, “ain’t going to go quietly into one world globalism.”
A chimerical fear, of course. Anybody with a lick of sense knows global government isn’t remotely possible. Nation states are fragmenting all over the world. However, theological anti-communism has morphed into a generalized fear of The Other, symbolized by Barack Obama and transferred to Hillary Clinton -- probably the most lied-about American politician since FDR, or maybe Lincoln.
I urged him not to send his money to fight this imaginary threat.
But never fear, there’s a guy named Terry in Pennsylvania who’s keeping up the honor of crank emailers everywhere. To hear him tell it, Terry -- a teacher, coach and combat veteran, he says -- is itching to give me a beating:
“If you saw me in person ... I would show you what a tough guy, real man, looks like. I train with weights 5 days a week and martial arts 3 days a week. Also, a former Marine who has dodged enemy sniper fire. I could breathe on your scrawny ass and send you to the ground. You’re too scared to meet me person without bringing law enforcement, that’s what women do. Big talk from a closet homo, in deep love with Bill Cosby Clinton.”
Um, scrawny? No. But of course I’m never going to see Terry in person, because guys who send threatening emails ... Well, they send threatening emails. It goes with the territory. Always has.
Sure, there’s been a lot of that this election year. However, journalists who ought to know better are taking this exciting voter anger theme more seriously than they should. Obama’s the most popular president since Reagan, and for good reason. But if you promise to put people on national TV to vent, then vent they surely will.
The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi recently documented the cable networks’ “unprecedented profits.” CNN is expected to clear $1 billion, Fox News $1.67 billion, and MSNBC $279.6 million from staging this degrading but exciting spectacle. Any questions? So far, however, it’s still just a TV show.
Arkansas Times columnist Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of “The Hunting of the President” (St. Martin’s Press, 2000). You can email Lyons at firstname.lastname@example.org.