Z on TV Critic David Zurawik writes about the business and culture of TV

Trump border policy so debased even right-wing media can't defend it credibly

The Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the Texas border is so cruel, calculated and craven that even the right-wing messaging machine he has in place can’t defend it credibly. And they have a record of defending anything he does no matter how debased.

No platform has been more in the tank for Trump than Fox News prime time with Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham.

Monday night, after a day of mounting coverage and outrage over pictures of children in caged enclosures, audio of children crying for their parents and experts testifying to the trauma these children are suffering, the best Fox could offer in defense of Trump was Ingraham calling the detention centers “essentially summer camps.”

(Sunday night on Fox, Ann Coulter had called the children “child actors.” Remember how well that worked with NRA defenders calling the survivors of the Parkland shooting “crisis actors”?)

Ingraham’s Monday show featured an interview with Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

You might think Sessions would be humbled after being denounced by clerics of every denomination for quoting the Bible last week to defend this evil policy.

But there he was, Trump’s little whipping boy, back on Fox.

Ingraham tried to feed him a batting practice fastball down the middle by asking him about those critics who she said are “demagogue-ing this issue” by comparing what’s happening at the border to Nazi Germany.

“Well, it's a real exaggeration, of course,” Sessions said. “In Nazi Germany, they were keeping the Jews from leaving the country.“

Thanks for explaining that, Mr. Attorney General.

As a point of fact, something this administration doesn’t much concern itself with, many Jews were taken in cattle cars to concentration camps outside of Germany, in places like Poland. But how about addressing the point of the comparison about cruelty being inflicted on children as state policy?

As for Carlson, he attacked critics instead of trying to defend the policy — and it is a policy, not a law, despite Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s repeated lies Monday from a White House podium.

“They don't care,” he said of the people criticizing the policy, “because no matter what they tell you, this is not about helping children. A lot of the people yelling at you on TV don't even have children, so, don't for a second let them take the moral high ground.”

If you don’t have children, you have no right to a moral judgment on the actions of the state when it comes to children? Is that what he’s saying?

“Their goal,” he continued, “is to change your country, forever — and they are succeeding, by the way. Since 2014, to name one example among many, at least half a million Central Americans who came here illegally have been released back inside our borders.”

And then, he did the Trump two-step of blaming this on smug elites.

“Did anyone vote for that? And more to the point, who's going to pay for that? Not the people you've been watching on television today, their kids go to private school, if they have them. Their neighborhoods look exactly like they did in 1960 — no demographic change at all, just like they like it. There is no cost to them. The cost is entirely on you — but don't complain, or else they will call you ‘Hitler.’”

No defense of the policy there — just more class warfare.

Hannity, usually the most aggressive defender of the president, was focused on the FBI, Hillary Clinton and James Comey instead — again.

But he did find some time to explain how the border issue is being used by “people on the left and Democrats” to “trash the president” and “mislead … the American people.”

As a media critic, I have been writing since Friday about the need to analyze this story through a moral prism rather than a political one, as too many in the media do.

In terms of Trump’s politics, the cruel policy makes sense in terms of appealing to his base of voters. It is, after all, how he started his campaign with a vicious and racist attack on migrants coming across the southern border.

Like fascist leaders in Europe in the 1930s, he found a minority group he could target, try to dehumanize and scapegoat. He told angry and frightened Americans left behind by changing global realities today that the source of their economic problems was immigrants taking their jobs by working for less money.

And, now with mid-term elections approaching, he’s going back to that poisonous well.

Even the most servile propaganda puppets in the right-wing media can’t figure out a way to credibly defend that.

david.zurawik@baltsun.com

twitter.com/davidzurawik

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