Gianforte is not an outlier. He’s the new normal.

Greg Gianforte, who is poised to become Montana’s next Republican congressman, was charged with misdemeanor assault this morning after he choked and body slammed a reporter to the ground yesterday, shouting, “I’m sick and tired of you guys! . . . Get the hell out of here! Get the hell out of here!”

The reporter, Ben Jacobs, made an audio recording of the assault, and eyewitnesses confirm that Gianforte assaulted Jacobs, broke his glasses, and began punching him when he was on the ground, after Jacobs repeatedly asked questions about the new report on the American Health Care Act.

Gianforte’s office claims that it was Jacobs who initiated the aggression. Eyewitnesses say this is not so. Here is the audio recording of the incident:

A little more about Gianforte. He’s the founder and CEO of the Gianforte Family Foundation, an organization which, among other things, bankrolled the donation of a T. rex and acrocanthosaurus exhibit to the Dinosaur and Fossil Museum in Glendive, MT in 2009. The Billings Gazette reported that the museum teaches that dinosaurs coexisted with humans.

The museum’s founder and director, Otis E. Kline, Jr., says of one of the exhibits in his museum:

“There’s two ways these fossils could get to Kansas, and one is the evolutionary way; the other is the biblical creation way,” Kline said.

“The evolutionary way says there was an inland sea that came from the Gulf of Mexico. But the biblical creation way says it was the flood of Noah’s day.”

The Gazette reports:

The funds [for the museum] were raised through a nonprofit Kline created, the Foundation Advancing Creation Truth.

Not, you notice, a foundation for advancing the truth about creation, but a foundation for advancing a certain story of creation, even though there is no evidence for that story and plenty of evidence against it (and even though serious Biblical scholars, including Josef Ratzinger and John Paul II, affirm that Genesis was never meant to be a scientific treatise!). Rather than looking hard at measurable evidence of how the world came into being, they’re creating a false, emotionally appealing dichotomy of faith vs. science, of us vs. them, rather than of true vs. untrue.

Why is this anecdote relevant? Because the GOP has steadily, aggressively working to earn a reputation as the party that not only doesn’t care what is true, but will bowl over anyone who tries to report what is true; because it’s not a matter of true vs. untrue, it’s a matter of us vs. them. Who do you want to win? Them?

Remember, Trump spent his campaign training his fans to bleat, “Fake news!” every time they heard something they didn’t like, even when it was manifestly not fake, just unfavorable to him.

Remember, during his campaign Trump called to “open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money,” and in March, as president, he tweeted “Change libel laws?” suggesting that New York Times reporters should be sued for reporting unfavorably on his policies.

Remember, Trump suggested to James Comey that he should jail reporters who published information that Trump himself saw fit to discuss with the Russian ambassador.

Remember, it was the Trump administration that introduced the nakedly Orwellian phrase “alternative facts.” To paraphrase Groucho Marx: These are the facts. If you don’t like them, well . . . we have others.”

That Trump and his admirers and wannabes lie when convenient is a given — and that’s certainly not confined to the GOP. All politicians, left and right, lie left and right, and they mostly get away with it. This is nothing new.

But what we are seeing is something more: an open campaign to keep those lies afloat by damming up the sources of unfavorable information — threatening them, encouraging legislation against them, or just plain knocking them to the ground and punching them because you’re tired of their questions.

This is a phenomenon to watch very carefully, in big government and in your local government, too. If you’re an American, remind yourself frequently that our founders spilled their own blood to escape from monarchy — to extricate themselves and us from being ruled by someone who was above question and above reproach, whose word was truth.

It’s well and good not to blindly trust the media, and it’s excellent to read, watch, and listen critically, asking yourself frequently, “How credible is this story on the news?”

But if “Don’t trust the media!” is your clarion call, ask yourself whom you do trust, instead. Where are you getting your information from? From the guy who’s trying to shut the media down, sue them into oblivion, break their glasses? Why would you do that? Who behaves that way, if not the guilty?

As Trump supporters have said in a different context: If they haven’t done anything wrong, they have nothing to fear. If it’s true for Mexican immigrants when ICE is in town, surely it’s true for our president when the microphones come out. If he’s done nothing wrong, why is he so afraid of the press?

Don’t let yourself say things like, “Well, that reporter was being very aggressive; he got what he deserved.” That’s his job. Don’t let yourself repeat, “This is what they get for writing all those negative stories.” That’s their job. Don’t allow yourself to say, “I never trusted the media anyway, so it’s no great loss if they’re not allowed inside the White House.” That is their job. Make them do their job. Insist that they be allowed to do their job.

I would have been thrilled if the New York Times et al had done their job better when Obama was president, and had held his feet to the fire the way they’re doing to Trump now. Now they’re doing their job. Better late than never. Better now, before it’s too late, and we lose our hunger for the truth altogether.

***

Image of First Amendment under scaffolding by tacomabibelot via Flickr: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

 

23 thoughts on “Gianforte is not an outlier. He’s the new normal.”

  1. Simcha, you are really, really bad when you try to opine on political news-of-the-day. Please just stick to Instant Pot observations and laundry stories. Please.

    1. No, I don’t think she’s really, really bad when she does this. Nor do I think this blog post was bad. I think it was pretty carefully written. In my opinion, Simcha is qualified to write outside the Instant Pot and laundry beat.

    2. Simcha, you are really, really good at all the things you write. Please stick to doing so as you see fit. Please.

      Sincerely, everyone but that tool ^

  2. H.R.M.: I will insult you to change your mind.
    Simcha: Ah, yes. I see the light now. Please tell me more of your wisdom H.R.M.

    If she’s so bad at it, then engage and tear her argument to shreds. If you don’t have the time or patience for that, then don’t say anything at all. Least of all insults.

  3. Excellent article, Simcha. What kills me is that so many complicit in this claim to be Christian, to believe in God. But God is Truth, and Satan is the Father of Lies. How do they reconcile that with their actions, with supporting and repeating and circulating lies?

  4. Exactly! I saw post after post of people deriding the ND students who walked out of graduation but curiously nothing today about this incident.

  5. I liked this post very much. However, I wish it had included a disclaimer for those who do not know (or remember) who is in your family. You are married to a reporter. That means that you know a lot about what reporters do and what kind of garbage they endure. It also means you’re biased in favor of them. And that’s fine. We should just hear about your bias.

    I was a reporter for a couple of years. It was for an accounting newsletter. So it didn’t have big exciting stories. In fact, it was hideously boring. But I did learn a few things from that experience.

    1. If you are not persistent in finding truth, you will never be a good reporter.

    2. If you are dealing with reporters, you should remember that it is their job to find the truth. If you don’t want to give it to them, you need to control your temper.

    It doesn’t even matter that Gianforte said, in effect, “We can talk about that later.” The reporter did not think he would, and so he persisted. That is not a reasonable provocation for battery.

    1. No. She doesn’t have to “started her biases” to remind people that Americans do indeed value free speech. We already decided, as a nation, to be biased for that cause.

      1. Simcha certainly doesn’t have to include a disclaimer in her posts. I was just trying to criticize constructively when I said that in this case it would have been a good idea.

        Of course Americans value free speech. It’s in the Constitution. As I said, constructive criticism. I like this blog post a lot, and I like Simcha’s writing a lot. I *even* think she should be allowed to wear pants without consulting her husband! 😉

  6. I learned Russian in college and use it for my job; I lived for a year in Russia about a decade ago. There is no real freedom of the press there — for multiple reasons. But one of the big reasons is that every now and again, a reporter ends up murdered. The murderer is usually not found. This happens rarely, but still often enough that only extraordinarily brave people are willing to be reporters that will actually (as the saying goes) afflict the comfortable.

    I am very frightened by the violent rhetoric, and violent acts, that are being used against reporters right now. There need to be consequences when a politician assaults a reporter. I am shocked to think that there may indeed be no real consequences in Gianforte’s case.

  7. I am Spartacus!

    Seriously, this violence is more than unacceptable. We need people digging out the truth and we need to protect them.

  8. Its good youre objective enough to mention in the final paragraph that you know the media is biased left and has no integrity when reporting on Obama and people like Obama, but its fairly stupid to think theyre unbiased and suddenly have integrity when they report on Trump. Arent you always saying when someone shows you who they are believe them?

    1. Now, I olny have an outsider’s view. I try to read American news sources pretty widely, and to my view “the media“ is not biased left. You have left leaning and right leaning media in your country as i have in mine. The quality of reporting certainly varies, but as far as i can see a liberal newspaper such as the nyt is independent and good enough to report truthfully, whatever the story may be. If you find little favourable news on your current president in quality newspapers you might want to get used to the idea that there actually might not be too much favourable to report on him.

  9. I actually want to comment in support of this post, because it is really very good and illustrates the degradation of one of our garbage parties. Unfortunately by silence it exonerates our other garbage party. What Greg Gianforte did was awful and I hopes he loses and does some time in jail. But it’s nearly exactly the same thing Bob Etheridge did seven years ago, so it is hardly unique to just one tribe.

  10. One, I don’t think this is “the new normal.” It’s news because this isn’t typical. And if it happened the way the reporter says it did, obviously Gianforte should be prosecuted like anyone else would be for assault.

    Two, “alternative facts” can indeed be Newspeak for “lies” but it also can be an NPR-like “the rest of the story.” Or it can mean “here’s a fact, but here are several interpretations of it and each interpretive opinion is being presented as fact.” A current example would be the fact of what the Trump ladies wore to their audience with the pope and then all the media and social media reporting “facts” about what it all means. (Aleteia had a quite informative piece today on all the details of diplomatic protocol, including a bit on who flouted it when meeting the pope – interestingly, it wasn’t anyone from any US administration.)
    What I mean about “alternative facts” better explained here: https://judithcurry.com/2017/02/26/whats-wrong-with-alternative-facts/
    via TOF here http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2017/03/the-march-of-tabs.html TOF used to comment at Mark Shea’s blog as Ye Olde Statistician, iirc, and was generally well-thought of by Mark, if you’ve not run across his writing before.

    Three, I don’t think the press *are* doing their jobs now. Slate Star Codex, immediately post-election, had a good piece on how the constant noise of “everything evil Trump does is evil!!!” will make it impossible to know when there’s actually something there. http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/11/16/you-are-still-crying-wolf/
    I had hoped that a Trump administration rather than a Hillary administration would result in the media doing their jobs rather than covering up, but instead it’s all hysteria and no real info. Not that I expected reporting on a Republican rather than a Democrat in office to cure the Gell-Mann effect (no offense to Damien and the other good reporters that I’m sure there are here and there, but I’m generally with Crichton there, and it’s hardly confined to stories with a political angle), but I thought it might be better than this. But when even Scott Alexander thinks there’s a problem… http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/05/01/neutral-vs-conservative-the-eternal-struggle/

  11. Thank you for this, Simcha. I had somehow missed this story until I was in the car this morning, and I almost had to pull over because I was so upset. It makes me feel like we are living in a country I don’t recognize. The more attention on this, the better.

  12. I feel it goes without saying, but I agree that reporters should be relentless in finding the truth about important things that pertain to the public (so not celebrity gossip, slander, calumny of private people, etc). 100% agree with no violence against anyone, including reporters.

    But I’m not sure I buy the “better late than never” interpretation of most members of the media who cover politics suddenly going back to work after an 8 year vacation. They will unabashedly give the next Democratic president a free pass to whatever extent they can. So even if they are pursuing the truth on Trump, is it enough when we know they won’t do the same on Democrats, now or later? On issues that illustrate the natural consequences of communism-disguised-as-democracy? I don’t think truth-finding only in the direction that supports your agenda is really truth finding. Propaganda doesn’t have to be false to be propaganda.

    Maybe some good can come out of the current hostility many feel toward the press. Maybe the press will realize that if it won’t do its job, the people won’t buy what it’s selling. Silver lining?

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