Jimmy Fallon And The Normalization Of Bigotry

This morning, Trump will tell Americans two more big lies.

First, he will tell us that it was Hillary Clinton who started the birther movement. Second, he will tell us that he now believes President Obama was born in America because it was he, Trump, who forced Obama to release his birth certificate. And he will tell us those two big lies while he advertises his brand new hotel in Washington, D.C.

That’s how a bigoted, buffoonish con man, whose business history is full of unpaid debts, fraudulent schemes and bankruptcies, intends to make a buck off this presidential race. And, for the most part, television will help him do it. Journalists simply aren’t up to the task of relentlessly exposing him. On the contrary, it is television journalists who are normalizing bigotry and making a quasi-fascist seem well within the bounds of American life.

Image result for jimmy fallon and trump hairHow does such normalization happen? Well, how many times have you seen Jimmy Fallon, an affable late night comedian, run his fingers through Trump’s strange hair? I know I’ve seen it at least a dozen times in just a few hours of surveying the news channels, including Good Morning America this morning, where it was part of the lead report and where the reporter labeled Trump a “good sport” for allowing Fallon to compromise his coiffure. Trump may be a con man. Trump may be a crook. Trump may be a fascist. But at least he is a good sport about it all.

To Jimmy Fallon and America’s TV journalists: We’ve seen years of Trump hate speech, countless lies, naked appeals to fear and anxiety and prejudice, business and other ties of affection to a ruthless Russian dictator, and, finally, a frightening fondness for fascism. And all of that you have now normalized—Americanized—by that little ratings-grabbing stunt. I hope, should Trump win, you all have a good time explaining to your kids and grandkids—if you get the chance—why you felt it necessary to turn such a man into, first, a good sport and, then, a dangerous president.

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4 Comments

  1. Anonymous

     /  September 16, 2016

    Fallon and journalists will change their tune when they are living in not the USA, but Donald’s Dystopian States of American.

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    • I’m a little more encouraged this evening than I was this morning, given that it is obvious that journalists were hoodwinked into covering Trump’s “soft” opening of his hotel and giving him free airtime to parade military folks out there as props. I sense that journalists, especially on TV, are a little embarrassed about what happened and, at least this afternoon, have brought the hammer down on him for the most part. There are still times where I wonder if they get it, but we’re in a better place than yesterday. Just clutching at any sign of hope that real journalism, on TV, will break out.

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  2. The “normalization” of Trump is, in my opinion, a misguided product of journalistic tradition to report on extremes while leaving conclusions to the reader’s or viewer’s judgement. Comedians like Fallon do what they do to make a (huuge) buck. He regularly parodies Trump. But in this very extreme case of Donald Trump, a strange equivalence seems to have been achieved. I read this cogent NY Times commentary on the phenomenon last week.

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    • “Leaving conclusions to the reader’s or viewer’s judgment” is normally good advice for journalists, that’s for sure. And you are right that Trump is an exceptional case. But contemporary journalism, mostly on television, has been letting us down (it’s been better over this weekend). I heard Carl Bernstein, who is no fan of Hillary Clinton, call out the electronic media for its abysmal reporting on Trump. He got it exactly right on CNN’s Reliable Sources.

      As far as Fallon, sure the idea is to get eyeballs on his show. And he does make a lot of fun of Trump. But I can’t imagine, say, Colbert pulling a humanizing stunt like that hair bullshit, or Johnny Carson. And not only that, it was the light-hearted questions that Fallon asked, when there is so much at stake. Fallon isn’t a bad guy. I like him. But he symbolizes just how Trump has managed to take his bigotry and get it into the mainstream. And that’s something he will have to live with, should Trump use a plurality to get the presidency and do only God knows what.

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