Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

People protest against U.S. President Donald Trump in front of the White House on July 11, 2017 in Washington, D.C.

People protest against U.S. President Donald Trump in front of the White House on July 11, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Absolving Trump Means Erasing the Harm Done to Millions

The call to coddle Trump—like the same outlets’ insistence that it would be mean to send bankers whose fraud derailed the economy to jail—is evidence of the total divorce between real people’s lives and experiences, and the puppets and caricatures in media’s narrative.

Disturbing as it is to see politicians and pundits advising a Biden administration to vehemently reject progressive policy goals, there’s more. As Eoin Higgins notes in a piece for Business Insider (10/30/20), a concurrent strain of argument is that Trump himself should face no real public reckoning. Higgins cites a column by historian Jill Lepore in the Washington Post (10/16/20)—heralded as “eloquent” by the New York Times‘ Nicholas Kristof (Twitter, 10/18/20):  “Let History, Not Partisans, Prosecute Trump.”

Lepore, a Harvard professor, says it would be inappropriate to have a reconciliation commission like other countries have had; Trump’s “wrongdoing” instead “should be investigated by journalists, chronicled by historians and, in some instances, tried in ordinary courts.” How those courts can adequately address such “wrongdoing” as allowing, through corruption and mismanagement, the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people is unclear. Her moral point is, though: “Many Trump critics will find this suggestion maddeningly insufficient,” Lepore notes, but chides “the appetite for vengeance is a symptom of the same poison.”

The call to coddle Trump—like the same outlets’ insistence that it would be mean to send bankers whose fraud derailed the economy to jail—is evidence of the total divorce between real people’s lives and experiences, and the puppets and caricatures in media’s narrative. There is no accountability to the millions of people who lost their lives, their loved ones, their homes, their jobs. Then as now, protecting the status quo involves marginalizing calls for justice, by portraying them as an “emotional” desire for “vengeance,” better tempered by cooler heads.

“Higher capital requirements may not satisfy blood lust the way a CEO in chains would,” wrote the Washington Post (9/12/13) in 2013, “but they’re going to do a lot more.” At the New York Times (2/25/11), it was: “You’re entitled to wonder whether any of the highly paid executives who helped kindle the disaster will ever see jail time. The harder question, though, is whether anybody should.”

The call to let Trump go gently also evokes the call not to prosecute those who committed acts of torture for the US—purporting to be some sort of healing gesture about “looking forward, not back,” while in fact preserving the conditions that led to the horrors. Now as then, doing what we’re told is the dry-eyed, grown-up thing to do involves erasing the real harms done to real people. That’s not “politic,” or “pragmatic”—it’s perverse.


© 2021 Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR)
Janine Jackson

Janine Jackson

Janine Jackson is Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) program director and producer/co-host of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. She contributes frequently to FAIR's magazine, Extra! and co-edited "The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s" (2019).

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Omar Leads Charge Against Baby Formula Monopolies Amid US Shortage

Democrats urge the FTC to probe "any unfair or unsustainable practices, like deceptive marketing, price gouging, and stock buybacks, that may be weakening our nutritional formula supply."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Arbitrary, Racist, and Unfair': Judge Blocks Biden From Ending Title 42

"Only the coyotes profiteering off of people seeking protection have reason to celebrate this ill-reasoned ruling," said one migrant rights advocate.

Brett Wilkins ·


'This Is a War' for Democratic Party's Future, Says Sanders of AIPAC's Super PAC

"They are doing everything they can to destroy the progressive movement in this country," said the senator.

Julia Conley ·


Ginni Thomas Pressed Arizona Lawmakers to Reverse Biden's 2020 Win: Report

"Clarence Thomas' continued service on the Supreme Court is a scandalous and appalling breach of judicial ethics," said one observer. "He is implementing the exact same theories that his wife used to try to steal the 2020 election for Trump."

Brett Wilkins ·


Millions More Kids Going Hungry Since GOP, Manchin Killed Expanded Child Tax Credit

"Even brief disruptions in access to food can have lasting consequences," wrote the authors of a new analysis of worsening hunger among U.S. families.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo