Almost immediately the video became a viral sensation. (As of Saturday morning, it had been viewed more than 11 million times.) Why you watched the video — and what you thought about it — depends almost entirely on how you feel about President Donald Trump.
Speaking of Trump, he has now tweeted the video twice in the last 13 hours.
For Trump — and those who support him, the video is a testament to the fact that “real” Americans have woken up to the fact that the media isn’t playing it straight. That the gig is up. And that, in this specific instance of the coronavirus, the media is somehow complicit with those who want to keep the economy closed indefinitely.
“I’m not running against Sleepy Joe Biden. He is not even a factor. Never was, remember 1% Joe? I’m running against the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats & their partner, the real opposition party, the Lamestream Fake News Media! They are vicious & crazy, but we will WIN!”
For me — and I hope a lot of you — the Vesey video (and Trump’s framing of it) said something very different.
At the most basic level, Vesey was simply doing his job. He’s a local TV reporter. When there’s a protest — particularly one related to the coronavirus pandemic — he goes and covers it. That includes shooting video of the protesters as they assemble.
What he captured was people villainizing him for doing his job. Literally for documenting their decision to protest — and for ensuring that their voices on the subject were heard. And for that he was screamed at, cursed at and condemned.
Which, to my mind, is bad enough.
What’s worse is the way in which the President and his side have seized on the video as some sort of totem of their righteousness — proof that what they’ve been saying all along about the media is justified.
How so? Because a reporter covered an event? And documented the ways in which people are protesting the quarantine restrictions in New York as a result of the coronavirus? That he videoed them voicing their anger? How, exactly, was Vesey being “fake news” when he was just turning on a video camera and capturing the threats and taunts these people were directing his way?
It, of course, makes no logical sense. But Trump and his supporters seem entirely unconcerned with that fact. Trump knows that stoking rage — at the media, at Democrats, at anyone who doesn’t agree with him 100% of the time — is where his political power lies. And so, he does it. Because he can. Because he knows it works — facts be damned.
This is the America that Trump has created — and the one in which he hopes to win a second term. What America is that, you ask? An America where a video of a reporter being mocked and taunted for doing his job becomes fodder for Trump’s war on the media. An America where the President of the United States calls those jeering at a reporter for doing his job “great people.” An America where common decency is ignored in favor of rank, blind partisanship.
Watch the video. I hope you can see what I see.