The Dangerous Smugness of That Boston Globe “President Trump” Spoof

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The Dangerous Smugness of That Boston Globe “President Trump” Spoof

'Ripping apart a buffoon like Trump isn’t shooting a fish in a barrel… it’s shooting a whale in a shot glass.' (Image: Screengrab/Boston Globe)

A national embarrassment skewered. Journalistic honor restored. Reveling in know-nothingness and jingoism taking a back seat to an ironic, raised eyebrow. That front page made us feel good about ourselves. We are not a nation of idiots. We are more than that.

Yet…yet.

"The front page makes us feel good not because it took Trump down a peg, but because it makes us forget all of the spoofs that never were."

The Boston Globe’s faux “front page” under a Trump presidency is clever, but it is a cleverness that is too little, too late. Ripping apart a buffoon like Trump isn’t shooting a fish in a barrel… it’s shooting a whale in a shot glass. Or, to put it another way: calling out a racist, sexist presidential candidate who has (at best) a tenuous grasp on both reality and the country he hopes to lead makes for clicks, but it’s hardly critical journalism or commentary.

Much harder — and much more cutting and powerful — would have been a skewering of the Obama administration over the killing of civilians in Yemen via drone strikes. Or, a spoof front page outlining the avalanche of lies fed to a frenzied US citizenry during the lead-up to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Or ridiculing a US press corps that cheer-led the invasion, but lost interest once it became obvious that the story of Iraq would just be the deaths of half a million non-Christian, non-Western civilians.

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Or, how about a spoof front page where the racism in the US that is called to account doesn’t come from cartoonish blowhards, but from police officers who are willing to shoot unarmed black civilians? Or politicians who are willing to look the other way as black children drink toxic water or float in flooded streets for days after a hurricane? Or judges and lawyers who are willing to execute murders, or refuse to offer plea deals, at an incredibly high rate…so long as the killer is black and the victim is white?

The Boston Globe’s spoof suggests that Trump and his worldview are oh-so-disconnected from core US politics and opinion. That his racism, misogyny and machismo are a million miles from mainstream Americana. That’s a nice thought, but it’s an illusion. The front page makes us feel good not because it took Trump down a peg, but because it makes us forget all of the spoofs that never were.

It’s one thing to make bigots uncomfortable, but it’s something else to make an entire country feel that way.

Christian Christensen

Christian Christensen, American in Sweden, is Professor of Journalism at Stockholm University. Follow him on Twitter: @ChrChristensen

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