To what seems to be a few years ago but turns out is about 13 years, I was going through an All Things Molly Ivins phase. This was shortly before she passed away from breast cancer, that continuing scourge of women in the United States. She had released multiple books with collections of her essays and one essay was titled “Sex, Death and Media Ethics” which discussed the behavior of the press. The media published multiple stories about a man named Michael Dorris who ended his life rather than have what happened after his death happen.
She notes two rules: 1) “is there any good reason to print this story?” and 2) is there any good reason not to print this story?
Most of the time the answer to the first question is easy and most of the time the answer to the second is not so easy. The media has a lot of power in this country. What is reported can instantly cause total destruction of people’s lives. The wrong story told at the wrong time can cause people untold misery while at the same time the right story at the right time can spur action and make lives better.
I start this essay about that because I am going to talk about the abusive press and Hillary Clinton. In her recent book she talks a lot about how bewildered she was over the press’s treatment of her emails, her statements about literally anything that could be twisted and her unhappiness at never being able to break through the wall of hate they had for her.
Clear Cut Examples
There are hundreds to choose from but one recently got treatment in Vox which is one of the few media outlets that treated her fairly during the 2016 election. At least after Ezra Klein sat down and went “holy shit, this woman I have been bashing my entire career actually fucking means she wants to make life better.” They are also the only mainstream media entity that laid out the Clinton Rules. (By the way, even Vox isn’t perfect since the guy who wrote the Clinton Rules also is the jackass behind Shattered: How the Media Still Doesn’t Admit They Fucked Up 2016.)
In the example Clinton’s attempt to talk to people in West Virginia about how she doesn’t want to forget about helping them since they are going to have their livelihoods destroyed when coal entirely goes away. But she didn’t say the right thing at the right time and the media pounced. First it was the right wing media and eventually it was the rest of the media. But it took her trying to say the truth and twisted it into something to hurt her about.
Another clear example was the reaction of the press to Clinton’s fainting spell on 09/11/2016. She was powering through like all candidates do at the tail end of a campaign and got dehydrated and fell ill. But the way the press reacted was as if she had been hiding a diagnosis of cancer crossed with TB and ebola. All of which we would have noticed by that time yet the press was in hysterics. They reacted like the only way to avoid being treated like she was literally being carried to the grave was to shove a camera in her face as she drank some water, rested and took some medicine.
This Isn’t Reporting, This is Harassment
It goes back to two those first two questions Molly Ivins brought up-the news did need to report on both her less than perfect delivery of her statement to the coal miners and her illness. What the news didn’t need to do was act as if she had committed a major crime in not being whatever it was that they wanted from her. Time and again they would do this. Even those sympathetic to her. There would be something that was a mild hiccup and the media would go insane over it with endless stories about every aspect. Then, once that was thoroughly dissected, they immediately would jump into if she reacted the right way. “What, you mean she DID try to make amends to the coal miners? She can’t do that. We already decided she was forever guilty of somehow hating the coal miners!” “wait, she didn’t apologize for getting sick?! How dare she?! Did she apologize for not letting us shove cameras in her face while she recovered? No? THAT BITCH.”
That’s how the media acted again and again.
Everything she did was wrong. If she didn’t hold a press conference it was bad. They even created timers. If she did hold a press conference, she didn’t answer anyone’s questions the way they wanted. She literally could not do a thing right to them. And they wouldn’t let up on her for an instant. Instead of saying “wow, it sucks that she was sick” it was “wow, how dare she not tell us in triplicate that she was ill?”
Walking On Eggshells
There are a few signs someone is abusive:
- Telling the victim that they can never do anything right
- Showing jealousy of the victim’s family and friends and time spent away
- Accusing the victim of cheating
- Keeping or discouraging the victim from seeing friends or family members
- Embarrassing or shaming the victim with put-downs
- Controlling every penny spent in the household
- Taking the victim’s money or refusing to give them money for expenses
- Looking at or acting in ways that scare the person they are abusing
- Controlling who the victim sees, where they go, or what they do
- Dictating how the victim dresses, wears their hair, etc.
- Stalking the victim or monitoring their victim’s every move (in person or also via the internet and/or other devices such as GPS tracking or the victim’s phone)
Many of these things have nothing to do with Clinton (I left out the sex stuff for instance) but the media told Clinton she could never do anything right, they insulted her, dictated how she could dress, demanded all access at all times to watch what she does and in one thing left off that list-always changed the rules so she could never comply while not enforcing anything like rules for others.
So Clinton tried to thread the needle thin walkway they shoved her on while also not showing the obvious frustration one feels at being treated this way. Along the way, her speech suffered because she was naturally worried about another coal miner treatment. She tried to not say anything remotely controversial. She tried to not be too ecstatic that this was the first time women were going to take on the role of President (after all, that meant the media would assume women were only voting for her because she had a vagina.) She tried to accommodate their insane demands for access. She tried so hard to do exactly what they wanted so the abuse would stop.
But it never did.
If being president means you must take unwarranted abuse, she showed that she was capable of it with the way they treated her and continue to treat her. The difference is as I noted on Twitter recently, she doesn’t have to care anymore what they say about her.