That a good part of the American population has distanced itself from reality after the Trump-led Republican Party and right-wing media should be clear to the many who do not themselves live in the growing bubble of extremist America.
The denials of reality in favor of a universe of alternative facts abound and are getting louder and louder. For example, it is not enough that those who do not believe in the effectiveness of the COVID vaccines simply refrain from vaccination, they have to prevent others from doing it (so much for “personal freedom”!), As we have seen with Antivaxxers who not only protested but disrupted vaccination sites, and worst of all, the recent case of a Maryland man who shot and killed his brother pharmacist who administered the vaccine because he believed his brother was killing people with it.
And we know that this dangerous extremist denial or distancing from reality is advocated in the halls of US Congress and state legislatures across the country. Republicans in Congress, with the exception of (perhaps) Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney, have refused to recognize the violent attack on the Capitol on January 6 as something that requires serious reparation or even investigation. For them it was a happy picnic, nothing unusual – what if cops were killed, if protesters threatened to murder Nancy Pelosi and hang Mike Pence!
However, I was shocked this week to see how much denial of the existential threat Republicans pose to American democracy and freedom pervades the mainstream media as we have seen it alive and well and thriving like a weed under moderate Democrats like Joe Manchin.
Of course, I shouldn’t be shocked anymore. This is my fault, and I need to address my own form of denial of the extent of extremism. I’ll get a doctor.
But that’s what I’m talking about:
I watched a panel discussion on the recent Facebook scandal that was puffed up last week by Frances Haugen’s whistleblowing publication of the company’s internal reports on Morning Joe. Jonathan Swan, an Axios political reporter, argued that the likelihood that the scandal would result in Congress enacting any sort of regulation on Facebook was basically slim. He argued that, as history dictates, Republicans will almost certainly regain control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections and have no interest in curbing the flow of misinformation and hate speech on social media. Not only have they benefited from it, such regulation is exactly what they invariably denounce as conservative censorship.
What blew my mind was when Susan Page, the head of the Washington office for USA Today, used her time to “respectfully disagree” with Swan. She argued that Congress is slow to regulate companies like Facebook because the issues are complicated and lawmakers don’t really understand how the platforms and algorithms work. And then she insisted
. . . Republicans and Democrats agree that teenage girls feel bad and even think about killing themselves. It’s somewhat understandable, and it gives you a start into a more serious investigation into the role of government in regulating Facebook.
Page’s denial of the reality we’ve lived in for at least four years is amazing.
Didn’t she hear the tape of Donald Trump proudly speaking of grabbing women’s genitals? Wasn’t she a witness to the Republican legislature in Texas who basically launched the Roe v. Wade undertook and deprived women of their constitutional right to make decisions about their bodies?
We need to ask the obvious question Page is asking:
Where in the world did she get the idea that Republicans would see to a social media company making teenage girls feel bad?
Have we seen an air of decency or humanity in the Republicans in Congress?
Does Page think that Republicans can safely agree that violent uprisings against the country’s democratically elected government should not be tolerated?
What is worrying here is that a powerful voice in a leadership position in major mainstream national news organizations is addressing the threat that Republicans pose not only to democracy in America, but also to basic human rights and freedom.
Of course, Page is not alone.
Their behavior is no different from that of Joe Manchin, who continues to insist that the Democrats push for bipartisanism and cannot see that the Republicans have no interest in working with the Democrats in any legislative effort, even if they agree with theirs Substance. You won’t even agree to raise the debt ceiling to pay the bills accrued under the lead. They wouldn’t even agree to debate whether there should be an investigation into the January 6 attack on the Capitol. They refused to address or deal with documented Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
And Manchins, like other moderate Democrats, show their own distancing, denial of reality when it comes to their refusal to endorse the $ 3.5 trillion human infrastructure law that addresses climate change, families and especially mothers at the Childcare will help and provide assistance to Americans seeking higher education, among other elements of the bill. They call the bill “excessive” in their spending, even though it pays for its supplies through fair and permanent taxation of the richest among us, including those companies that make billions in profits but have historically paid little to no tax. And they call it “exaggerated” and deny the hundreds of billions of dollars that are costly to address climate change not only in the long term, but also in the short term.
And while Americans across the country are being deprived of their constitutional rights, including their voting rights, Manchin and other moderate Democrats cling to the filibuster, a made-up rule that has no basis in the constitution but is instead a weapon that is now used to the elimination of constitutional rights.
Republicans are scary indeed. But the moderates and mainstream media members who help and feed them and live in denial are just as scary, if not more scary.
Tim Libretti is a professor of American literature and culture at a Chicago state university. A longtime progressive voice, he has published many scholarly and journalistic articles on culture, class, race, gender, and politics, for which he has received awards from the Working Class Studies Association, the International Labor Communications Association, the National Federation of Press Women, and the Illinois Woman’s Press Association .