Trump or Death, sign
Supporters of former President Trump outside of Manhattan Criminal Court during the election interference trial. Photo credit: © Gina M Randazzo/ZUMA Press Wire

The cynical elite are stoking anarchy and rebellion.

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As Australians might tell you, there’s nothing wrong with a nation that was originally founded as a home for criminals. A nation that becomes criminal is, however, another matter.

The constant attacks on the legal system by those aligned with the convict Donald Trump — and their unremitting, if so often performative, hostility to the outcome of his trial — reveal the fundamentally criminal mindset that has overtaken a large segment of this country’s population. 

“Criminal,” not in the breaking-and-entering sense, or even in the shoot-someone-on-Fifth-Avenue sense, but in the deeper sense of destroying the whole ethos that makes a healthy democracy possible.

Of course, many of those who are all riled up against the basic American institutions of democracy are in a messianic cult and blindly adhere to the doctrine espoused by its leader — and the “facts” he invents.  

The same cannot be said of the wealthy and powerful interests manipulating that indoctrinated population. 

And that is the real “injustice” here — how a small number of very bad people have weaponized the populace and dangerously wounded the country itself. 

The historical backdrop for this phenomenon is complex and dates back even before the big screen’s ruthless media tycoon, Citizen Kane, modeled after William Randolph Hearst, who would do anything to sell newspapers, including inventing wars. But in the modern era, one can say it began, appropriately, with an Australian, Rupert Murdoch — the first foreigner in history to ever get citizenship for the sole purpose of buying a US media company — and his single-narrative “journalism.” 

Over the course of decades, he destroyed much of the integrity and value of traditional journalism, creating an international empire maintained by well-paid media executives and pitchmen unencumbered by morality or decency or even allegiance to any nation. Sure, many may have taken jobs in Murdoch entities while holding their noses and hoping for the best. But in the 21st century, continued employment within these institutions requires a willingness to abet fraud on a massive scale, if not actual criminality (e.g., phone hacking), or at the very least remain silent while it is perpetrated. 

That has not always been the case within the Murdoch empire. In the mid-1990s, I worked a couple years for Murdochian subsidiaries (Fox News didn’t exist yet) that actually allowed me to do my type of investigative journalism — as long as it didn’t challenge the owner’s political orthodoxies. 

But when I look at the highly paid figures on television serving as mouthpieces for Murdoch — like Jesse Watters, Jeanine Pirro, and almost every on-air figure at Fox — what I see are moral sell-outs, debasing themselves and willing to abet fraud, hide the truth, and invent facts in exchange for power and money. That’s not far from a definition of criminality, and fits right in with a criminal organization that hacks the phones of terror victims.

Make no mistake: As history has proven all too often, such behavior in the public arena is dangerous, and it warrants consequences. 

Turning back to Trump’s trial, not all criminal cases are simple black and white. This one wasn’t. And neither is the one against the unelected private citizen Hunter Biden, a cause that obsesses the Trumpites. But lack of an obvious “gotcha” is not a measure of prosecutorial corruption or bias. 

Right now, our country seems to be profoundly divided between those who actually believe in playing by the rules, and those who do not. Believers versus non-believers. 

Believer’s Outlook

If a criminal court rules against you, well, that’s what a fairly selected jury of your peers, approved by both sides, decided. The outcome might not be welcomed, but that’s how the system we put in place under the Constitution works. (And under the same system of laws that governed your trial, you have the right to appeal.) 

If you lost an election, you double-check the returns if it’s close, pursue whatever legal challenges may be open to you, and then, if you’re still on the short end, congratulate the winner and cooperate with the peaceful transfer of power. You recognize and accept that at some time, to use a term reviled by Trump, every one of us is probably going to end up a “loser.” 

To believers in the system, politics is about pursuing your visions and interests within the guardrails of fundamental respect and decency and, wherever possible, cooperation. 

Non-Believer’s Outlook  

If you don’t like the outcome of a trial, then the trial was “rigged,” the judge a “piece of human scum,” the whole prosecution a “witch hunt.”

If you lose an election, the election was “rigged,” you cry “voter fraud,” “stolen.” You didn’t lose, because you couldn’t possibly lose, OK? You will wreck a nation, spew lie after lie, and set its citizens at each other’s throats because winning trumps everything else on God’s sweet Earth.

To non-believers, it is a free-for-all food fight, the uglier and less grounded in verifiable fact and shared principles the better. The idea is to keep the food flying and splatting until genuine debate becomes impossible and all but the loudest and most violent voices are drowned out. That is how you beat the facts, trample on the truth — and win.

Today, with this country careening toward a state of domestic war, it’s time to have a candid and very public conversation about how we can effectively fight an enemy that wants to win all the time at any cost — while still respecting the cherished institutions we’ve worked so hard and for so long to safeguard and improve. 

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  • Russ Baker

    Russ Baker is Editor-in-Chief of WhoWhatWhy. He is an award-winning investigative journalist who specializes in exploring power dynamics behind major events.

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