On March 19, Peter Maass wrote in The Intercept that “for Donald Trump, a terror attack will be an opportunity not a curse.” Maass is right on the most basic level, and it’s quite extraordinary that the point is not being made by more voices in the media. It speaks to the fact that–even though President Trump and the mainstream media are not on good terms with one another, the mainstream media is not a source of critical or independent journalism. Rather, the mainstream media remains the press corps of the state and its perpetual war on terror and is merely going through a rough patch with the executive branch it ultimately remains loyal to.
Maass suggests that “a terror attack on U.S. soil will be used by the White House as an excuse for implementing an extra-legal agenda that could only be pushed through in a time of crisis.” Maass then shows precedence for the way the United States used September 11 to justify the unrelated invasion of Iraq. Maass also mentions the Reichstag–which featured prominently in my op-ed from two weeks ago–and how the fire at the Reichstag was used as a pretext for the escalation of the Nazi agenda in Germany.
On Feb. 11, Murtaza Hussain made a similar point, also writing for The Intercept. According to Hussain, Steve Bannon and ISIS share a “common goal: civilizational war.” As Hussain demonstrates, the fact that ISIS has celebrated Trump’s immigration order reveals escalating threats of ISIS actually help the Trump Administration and anti-Muslim actions by the Trump Administration encourage and provide ammunition to ISIS itself.
I’m not going to merely regurgitate their theses. Rather, I want to put forth the idea that the media, despite its public disputes with Trump’s brashness, is poised to back him almost unilaterally in the event that a terrorist attack on U.S. soil were exploited by the Trump Administration’s war machine. The Intercept, which openly expresses its commitment to “fearless, adversarial journalism,” seems almost uniquely poised as a voice against media equivocation.
Just days after Maass’ article, Khalid Masood was shot and killed at Westminster in London, after killing four and injuring another fifty in an attack that lasted 82 seconds, according to the BBC. Immediately the speculative frenzy mobilized. Though no direct link between Masood and ISIS, that didn’t stop the media from jumping to whatever conclusion could make a headline. Ironically enough, the very kind of media speculation that Sean Spicer makes a point to ridicule when it serves his interests or Trump’s is closely related to Trump and Bannon’s objectives. They’ll note media speculation when it serves their aims, but also media speculation when politically convenient.
The same thing happened last June when Omar Mateen killed 49 and wounded over 50 in a shooting spree at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. The following day, then-candidate Trump tweeted: “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance.” At the time, Trump was called out by celebrities and the media for being tactless and exploiting tragedy.
He was not, however, refuted. The media fed fears of Mateen’s radicalization and drew upon the disingenuous and colonialist binary between “Islam and LGBT rights.” In doing so, the media didn’t necessarily like Trump, but they fed his political vision anyway, affirming his warped view of civilizational war and providing him with the ammunition of espousing gay rights to advance a war on Muslims.
If we are to oppose Trump, it will require that we don’t pretend to have a friend in the mainstream media that doesn’t exist. Ten times out of ten, the big news sources are going to bat for empire, even if they don’t care for Trump’s tone.