When the news broke on Thursday afternoon that Donald Trump had been criminally indicted, I did what a lot of other people do in these situations: I turned on television in the background, in order to get real time updates on the story as it was rapidly unfolding. Of course in between the pieces of actual information that were surfacing, there was all the commentary. Frankly, I found it surreal… and rather familiar.
There was one point on Thursday where an MSNBC host factually explained that no current or future President can pardon Trump on these state level charges. Various commentators pointed out that Trump’s ongoing threatening posts on social media will hurt his prospects at arraignment, including the possibility of a gag order. Host after MSNBC host emphasized that this is just the first of three jurisdictions where Trump can expect to be criminally charged. There was even a point where an MSNBC host flat out said that “Donald Trump could be behind bars instead of running for President.”
These are all the same things that I’ve been saying here on Palmer Report all along – and now I’m sitting here listening to it (finally) being said on television. It’s a relief that so much of the media handled its business on Thursday in such honest and informative fashion. But it raises the question of why you weren’t hearing this kind of stuff on MSNBC prior to Thursday.
If you watched MSNBC (or any other outlet) the weeks and months leading up to Thursday, you’d have thought that Donald Trump wasn’t going to be indicted, or that it wasn’t going to happen until the month after next, or that it was just going to be some minor charge, and that even if Trump did end up indicted he’d still just magically be a viable 2024 candidate no matter what.
In fact MSNBC has hyped so many misleading doomsday narratives about Trump’s legal fate over the past several months, large chunks of Palmer Report’s audience have had to keep asking me if this or that scary narrative they heard on TV had any truth to it. It’s been so overwhelmingly misleading of late, I’ve had trouble keeping up with it all and factually shooting it down in real time.
And yet here we were on Thursday, with one MSNBC host and guest after another simply speaking the factual and informative truth about what this all means and how these processes all work. As I said, it came as a relief. My goal is never to knock the media down a peg, it’s only ever to try to push the media toward being more honest. So this was a victory.
But it sure does make you want to ask why MSNBC and others couldn’t have just done this from the start. It was as if the media had decided in advance that they were going to chase ratings by continuing to hype the notion that Trump would “get away with it all” right up until literally the minute he was indicted.
That kind of ratings-driven dishonesty should never have happened, and audiences should never have had to passively accept it. All that this kind of manufactured fearmongering does is paralyze would-be political activists into staring helplessly at their screen all day in fear. Worse, this kind of narrowly-focused doomsday fearmongering takes the public’s focus away from so many other actual threats and crises we’re facing.
“Vigilance” doesn’t mean obsessively hyping the unrealistic worst case scenario and presenting it as if it were fact. Vigilance means accurately assessing what you’re up against, without understating it or overstating it, so you’re in the best position to actively fight back against what you’re facing.
The biggest threat we’ve been facing this past month has not been “Oh no, Donald Trump will get away with it all.” Trump’s steady march to criminal indictment – which was never in danger in spite of so much media hype – is something that has been going right. But elsewhere, people’s basic rights are being trampled, kids are being shot, and red states are descending into fascist hellholes. One thing we can do right now is to win next week’s Wisconsin Supreme Court election. It’ll have an immediate impact on the basic rights of millions of people living there, and it’ll have a major impact on the fairness of the 2024 election. So let’s be vigilant by winning this election. Donate five bucks to the election here.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report