By Robert Reich
In the Arthur Conan Doyle mystery “The Dog that Didn’t Bark,” Sherlock Holmes deduces a murderer’s identity because a guard dog failed to bark at the time of the crime, implying that the murderer and the dogs master were one and the same.
I thought of this story when I surveyed the coverage of Trump’s announcement of his third run for the presidency, which occurred Tuesday night.
Trump and the media are one and the same. Without the media, there’s no Trump. (And you might say, without Trump there’s not nearly as much media.)
Trump was never a set of policies or principles as much as an outburst, like a dog’s bark. And if that outburst isn’t reported on (or elicits yawns rather than excitement) it didn’t happen.
For this reason, since he announced he was running in 2016, Trump has posed a challenge to the mainstream media.
If it reported his lies, it spread them. If it reported his snarky name-calling and cruel ridicule, it was complicit in them. If it reported his hateful bigotry, it invited more.
The media eventually got around all this by listing his lies along with the facts (so the real “story” was how far his statements veered from the truth) and reporting on how his hatefulness affected people (up to and including the raid on the Capitol).
But now what? Apart from the fact that he’s running again — which was widely assumed — what’s the news?
His announcement speech was more of the same rubbish Trump has been shoveling out for years. He started by complaining about “Biden and the radical-left lunatics running our government right into the ground,” and it was downhill from there.
The three major broadcast networks opted not to carry the speech live, sticking with the previously scheduled reality show “Bachelor in Paradise” on ABC, a science fiction drama “La Brea” on NBC, and a fictionalized show about the FBI on CBS.
CNN didn’t carry the entire speech. As Trump discussed what he referred to as the “tremendous problem” of transgender athletes, Anderson Cooper switched to a missile that killed two people in Poland.
Fox also cut away before Trump concluded, although they kept him on for almost an hour.
The Washington Post had little to report about it apart from listing 19 whoppers in it, alongside the facts. The Post emphasized that Trump was “singing from the same hymn book of falsehoods” he’d been singing for years, and that “many of the factual claims made in his announcement speech could have been plucked from a campaign-rally speech in the waning days of the 2020 election campaign — or even from his announcement speech in 2015.”
The New York Times ran a story about how Trump’s announcement might affect Biden’s decision to run.
Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post added further insult with a runner along the bottom of the front page saying “FLORIDA MAN MAKES ANNOUNCEMENT” and burying the reelection announcement on Page 26.
Does this mean Trump will disappear like the Wicked Witch of the West?
Hardly. The Republican base still eats his stuff up, and Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg will likely give him back their rickety platforms.
The big news is that the dog didn’t bark. It emitted a faint whine, instead — like the last air oozing out of a rapidly deflating balloon.