Embarrassingly overwrought and self-important, if only by implication: Gotta say, they really did capture the media zeitgeist of the moment.
— ProPublica (@propublica) February 22, 2017
Turns out this purplish prose is a favorite saying of Post editor Bob Woodward, who’s been using it to celebrate the media clergy for years. Post owner Jeff Bezos picked it up somewhere along the line and started using the phrase himself. Only now, though, a month into Trump’s administration, did the paper see fit to put it beneath its masthead as a sort of mission statement. The timing gives the slogan the same effect as that dopey NBC News story from a few days ago noting that Trump would not, in fact, become the shortest-serving president in American history. It’s a declaration of opposition to the new administration. If it wasn’t, they would have slapped it on the front page back when Barack Obama, a.k.a. “the greatest enemy of press freedom that we have encountered in at least a generation,” started snooping in journalists’ phone records.
And oh, the melodrama. One reporter tweeted last night of the slogan, “there’s emo, emocore, and then there’s the new Washington Post banner.” To me it sounds like the title of a late 90s/early 00s Megadeth album. Others compared it to dialogue cut from the “Star Wars” prequels because even Lucas couldn’t stomach a sentiment that mawkish. But this is probably the winner:
New Morrissey album "Democracy Dies in Darkness" out now, featuring the hit single "More Will Ignore Me the Louder I Get." pic.twitter.com/e7hPviOQfX
— Christopher J. Scalia (@cjscalia) February 22, 2017
The irony of using it as a middle finger to Trump is that Trump’s not really operating in “darkness.” If (cringe) democracy dies by his hand, it won’t be because he fooled the public about anything. The public knew exactly what they were getting when they voted for him. An erratic temperament, a weird fondness for fascists like Putin, loads of potential business conflicts of interest, the “Access Hollywood” tape and sexual assault allegations, and on and on: As David Frum likes to say, with Trump there are many secrets (e.g., the tax returns) but really no mysteries. The public chose him anyway, and if he ever really does threaten democratic institutions in a serious way, he’ll do it with some not insignificant amount of popular support. If democracy dies, and it almost certainly won’t, it’ll do so in broad daylight, with the acquiescence or encouragement of many. That is to say, while the slogan gets the media zeitgeist right, it gets the political zeitgeist all wrong. Exit quotation from streiff: “Woodward doesn’t mention that democracies also die when their press becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of one of the political parties.”