In a New York Times op-ed published this weekend entitled “The Upside to the Presidential Twitter Feed,” writer Michael Kinsley suggests that the establishment media is being too harsh about President Donald Trump.
He deserves most of this criticism.
But does he deserve all of it? Does he never do anything right? Say anything wise? Are all his schemes to reform this agency and abolish that regulation utterly misguided? Can “President Trump’s America” really be compared to Vladimir Putin’s Russia?
His Twitter feed, for example, Kinsley argues. Sure, the actual tweets are bad, but the fact that he tweets them—maybe good? Perhaps quite innovative? “So that’s one good thing he has done for the country. Can you think of another? Please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org,” the op-ed concludes. The paper will regularly revisit this theme.
Okay! It is a clearly observed fact that many in the establishment press are dying for something—anything—to say about Donald Trump that will reveal them as nonpartisan, to the extent that they are willing to praise him at length for delivering a sort-of normal speech and for launching a missile on a whim. This both entirely undercuts the argument here and explains its desperate genesis. The New York Times, having recently hired a denier of scientific fact to another op-ed post, appears more than willing to mess with readers’ heads in an attempt to grow its readership. “Maybe this isn’t that bad,” is not always a sharp counterintuitive suggestion—it’s a basic human instinct that, under similar circumstances, has fucked us over pretty hard.
Here, we are being asked to interrogate our negative response to Donald Trump, in the same way a psychologist might steer a patient with low self-esteem to be more compassionate towards themselves. The difference being, of course, that this exercise simply confuses public reaction to a deranged kleptocrat who won’t stop tweeting at Kim Jong Un.
ME: Donald Trump doesn’t know how to be the president of a democratic country.
THERAPIST: Is that really true, Ellie? Or is he just shaking things up? Anyway, he puts on pants every single day, which seems like something that democratic presidents generally do.
ME: He is scarily unintelligent.
THERAPIST: What do you mean by ‘unintelligent,’ though? He tapped into something that no other Republican candidate understood.
ME: I mean, I’m not sure if he can read?
THERAPIST: That’s pretty harsh, don’t you think? He probably can read, somewhat. Or at least could read, at some point in his life. And maybe his success will show other people who can’t read that they, too, can be president someday.
ME: He’s going to get us all killed.
THERAPIST: It would be very hard for him to get all of us killed. And if he did, that might be for the best.
Feel better now? If you can think of anything good that Trump has done for America, please share in the comments section below, or email email@example.com.