Political immunity

Political immunity

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We live in an age where news that the president’s son communicated directly with what has been deemed a hostile foreign intelligence agency is just par for the course for a Monday night’s news cycle.

If you take a step back, the cascade of political news in the past year is truly astounding. Last fall, we saw the Russian-led hacking and release of Democratic communications, thought to have contributed to the biggest presidential upset in American history. The election prompted millions around the globe to protest in an astounding show of force right before Donald Trump’s inauguration. After Trump took office, it was appointment after resignation after appointment after termination. The CIA director stepped down. The director of the FBI was fired. A new communications leader served a baffling 10 days. The president’s chief of staff claimed he resigned, though most agreed he was forced out. Trump went all in on professional footballers who spoke out against police brutality and racial inequality, yet remained remarkably silent on sexual-molestation charges against a Republican candidate for Senate, as scores of well-known Hollywood elite were also hit with sex-assault allegations. Each week, new revelations about Trump-Russian relations were uncovered, drip by very significant drip. Meanwhile, tragedy befell countless communities around the world: 500 people were shot in Las Vegas, numerous truck attacks plagued European cities and one claimed eight lives in New York City.

Any one of those stories would have previously warranted huge, multi-day news coverage, but 2017 has been anything but normal. The media has been scrambling to keep up with the bursting floodgates of news this year, emphasizing the vital importance of news organizations in our new political reality. As gatekeepers with the ability to encourage public discourse, the news media plays a unique role in helping to fend off political immunity among American citizens. With so much news, and so much of it bad, there’s a risk for its importance to wane — but it’s incumbent upon the media to not lose focus on the fact that, while 2017 may have introduced a new normal, it shouldn’t be accepted as normal.

The more we in the media continue to emphasize that to ourselves and our readers, the more equipped we are to fend off the dangerous threat of political immunity.


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