If this White House can’t address a problem in the world with a Twitter meme or a hashtag, it simply ignores it. And the media, charged with the duty of making sure these things cannot and should not be ignored, gladly tolerates it.
We’re being told by television and web media “not to look away” from Syria’s refugee crisis while they simultaneously celebrate our President for trading in his foreign policy for a selfie-stick in the wilderness of Alaska. The juxtaposition of our Media Gatekeepers piously lecturing us about the shock and horror of the refugee crisis, then flipping instantly to detailed analysis of a Vine of Obama getting spawned on by fish, was a striking and all-too-familiar disconnect. It would have been easy to roll our eyes had their grief-stricken tweets over Aylan Kurdi’s body in the surf not been accompanied by an ongoing shame campaign against their followers and readers. Even as they demanded we not look away, they quietly shifted a news narrative to once again shield a disinterested President from any ongoing responsibility. Overnight, a staggering refugee crisis became a “migrant crisis.” Like magic. By fundamentally changing the definition of the crisis, they were able to change the narrative and obscure how these people arrived at such a point of desperation.
And it matters. For a “refugee crisis” is a problem that awkwardly and inevitably leads to the question of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s foreign policy failures with Libya, Iraq, ISIS and Syria — and with such gauche timing, right as we’re hurtling toward a pivotal Presidential election. A “migrant crisis,” on the other hand, lets us talk about human rights and social justice, open borders and — if we wish to follow the lead of Vox Media and John Kerry — climate change as well. Much better branding. These sorts of framing choices are not accidental: these are the lengths a media, which is otherwise happy to lecture us, will go to in order to shield this President (or a President-in-waiting) from absorbing any responsibility for their own actions and words.