June 10, 2018


Frum also condescendingly lectured Americans on what he saw as their responsibility as citizens, including telling them not to whine about having to watch the news:

And you can’t put your responsibilities on the press and say, “why didn’t you make this easier for me, or more entertaining. Why didn’t you make the news less frightening than it is? I would like—I would like a different truth, please.” The job of the press is to tell you the truth as it is whether it’s good news or not. And then it’s your responsibility as a patriot and a citizen to accept it and to internalize it and to act on it.

Imagine saying to CNN’s Brian Stelter with a straight face that “The job of the press is to tell you the truth as it is whether it’s good news or not.” Would that it were true:

And it hasn’t been long before Jim Treacher’s 2014 tweet. Or as one author wrote in his book on the 1970s, documenting the slow breakdown in America’s institutions that would ultimately lead to Trump’s unexpected victory:

Some blame Watergate for this abrupt collapse of trust in institutions, but not very convincingly. For one thing, the decline in trust begins to appear in the polls as early as 1966, almost a decade before the Watergate was known as anything more than a big hole in the ground alongside the Potomac River. For another, the nation had managed unconcernedly to shrug off Watergate-style events before. Somebody bugged Barry Goldwater’s apartment during the 1964 election without it triggering a national trauma. The Johnson administration tapped the phones of Nixon supporters in 1968, and again nothing happened. John F. Kennedy regaled reporters with intimate details from the tax returns of wealthy Republican donors, and none of the reporters saw anything amiss. FDR used the Federal Bureau of Investigation to spy on opponents of intervention into World War II—and his targets howled without result. If Watergate could so transform the nation’s sense of itself, why did those previous abuses, which were equally well known to the press, not do so? Americans did not lose their faith in institutions because of the Watergate scandal; Watergate became a scandal because Americans were losing faith in their institutions.

An excerpt from How We Got Here: The 70s The Decade That Brought You Modern Life — For Better Or Worse, David Frum, 2000.

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