Opinion |

The 'Economic Anxiety' Lie: Trump, His Insurrection and His White Liberal Media Enablers

There was no ‘economic anxiety’ among the pro-Trump mob besieging the Capitol, from CEOs to Olympic champions. There was, though, plenty of blatant racism and antisemitism. So why has the liberal media pampered these fascists for so long?

Ishmael Reed
Ishmael Reed
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
A cutout of U.S. President Donald Trump is pictured as supporters take part in a protest against the results of the 2020 U.S. presidential election in Atlanta, Georgia, November 21, 2020.
A cutout of U.S. President Donald Trump is pictured as supporters take part in a protest against the results of the 2020 U.S. presidential election in Atlanta, Georgia, November 21, 2020. Credit: CHRISTOPHER ALUKA BERRY/REUTER
Ishmael Reed
Ishmael Reed

As a columnist for The New York Times, Timothy Egan’s voice is influential. Here’s his explanation for the reasons that President Donald Trump’s followers are so enraged that they invaded Congress and threatened to lynch Trump’s enemies, as well as those who wouldn’t do his bidding.

He says: "I understand the tribalism, the urge to push back against condescending libs and the suffocating ubiquity of political correctness, the sense that only Trump can save a certain way of life."

No serious study says that these haters voted for Trump because of the reasons Egan gives. As for "suffocating political correctness," it’s actually his kind of apologetics, not least in the overwhelmingly white media, that is really "ubiquitous."

His colleague at The Times is David Brooks. He and his Times’ colleague Sam Roberts are concerned about "white fertility rates." Appearing on Katy Tur’s MSNBC show, Brooks expressed some sympathy for the mob that, a month later, nearly succeeded in overthrowing the government, and with the complicity of law enforcement, who were among the riot members.

That should make you wonder which side would the armed forces take were there a second Civil War, the fantasy held by the white nationalists?

This is how he explained the mob’s grievances. They’ve been left behind "economically, culturally, and socially."

The NYT’s Thomas Friedman takes the same excuse-making line for fascist thugs, describing those in Trump’s camp "who are there precisely because they feel ignored, humiliated, and left behind."

Left behind "economically"? They’re able to afford roundtrip tickets from places like Alaska, pay for ground transportation, meals and book hotels at places like the Marriott Courtyard. If the mob were to return for the Inaugural, the Marriott prices range from $389-$800 per night.

Maybe that’s because the mob included thousands of white male professionals, among them CEOs, lawyers, firemen, state legislators, police officers, and even one Olympic swimming champion.

Left behind "culturally"? Knowing Brooks, he’s probably talking about Hip Hop.

"Socially?" The Trump mob is gregarious. They gather by the thousands in maskless superspreading circus-like events.

Pro-Trump Protesters wave U.S. and Confederate flags as they climb over the Capitol building before their mob assault. January 6, 2021Credit: SAMUEL CORUM - AFP

Katy Tur appeared to agree with Brooks. Even though she had to be protected by the Secret Service after being targeted by Donald Trump’s scorn, this is how she tried to explain the Trump Nation to Rachel Maddow back in September 2017 (bold text is my emphasis).

MADDOW: How do you salvage civil discourse? How do you salvage the norms of political discourse in that context?

TUR: There's an argument to say we went way too far with political correctness, that people couldn't tell a joke, patriotism was mistaken for racism. And that's a lot of who supported Donald Trump. They just felt like they were being boxed in and they couldn`t be themselves anymore, any version of themselves.

We really did correct a lot and people did feel it and they were angry about it. And they felt like Donald Trump was helping them release all of that frustration.

Perhaps this was supposed to be a dispassionate analysis. But when Tur says, "There's an argument to say we went way too far with political correctness," the "we" includes her, Maddow, and other members of the liberal elite. It comes off as an apology - or appeasement.

There is a straight line between the unwillingness of mainstream journalists in the early years of the Trump era to push back, and firmly, against the false narrative that "economic anxiety" and "out-of-control political correctness" fueled the Trump vote, rather than the more banal way of saying those things: racism, and a thirst for a Leader who would restore white Christian "order."

Protesters wave U.S. and Confederate flags during clashes with Capitol police at the pro-Trump rally that led to the mob assault on the U.S. Capitol Building. January 6, 2021.Credit: SHANNON STAPLETON/ REUTERS

Of course, there might be a commercial reason for white pundits refusing to call Trump voters racists. The networks don’t wish to offend the millions of Trump voters who are core members of their advertisers’ consumer base.

During an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Zoey Tur, Katy’s mother says: "I took Katy to concentration camps. I took her to the headquarters of the Gestapo because I wanted her to have a real sense of history."

Did it do any good? Did all that liberal “over-correction” that Tur referenced legitimate the antisemites among those who killed a Capitol policeman, and were out to lynch Nancy Pelosi and even Mike Pence?

Perhaps Brooks and Tur didn’t notice how some of those whose actions they explained repaid them for their understanding, if not affection. Some were running through the Capitol with Camp Auschwitz T-shirts.

Antisemites and racists form a large contingent among those whom liberals refer to as "left behind," or "disaffected," when hundreds of millions would gladly trade places with these "left behind" and "disaffected" whites. Spoiled and indulged Americans.

You can understand why Fox News would justify Trump’s actions. The Murdoch family views hate as just another product, like those pushed by their advertisers. Cars. Deodorant. Toilet paper. They’re after ratings. Rupert Murdoch was even close to endorsing Barack Obama for president. Murdoch might even hold liberal beliefs and but he sees promoting far-right views as selling a product to an audience that is open to fact-free opinions.

The liberal media’s pampering of fascists is harder to explain, not least from journalists whose ethnic backgrounds would have made them targets the last time fascists were in power.

But their historical amnesia is not as bad as that of others. The head of the violent far right nationalist group, the Proud Boys, is a Black Cuban, Enrique Tarrio.

Ishmael Reed, writer and poet, is a Distinguished Professor at the California College Of The Arts. His latest work is "The Fool Who Thought Too Much."

Click the alert icon to follow topics:



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN


Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

The projected rise in sea level on a beach in Haifa over the next 30 years.

Facing Rapid Rise in Sea Levels, Israel Could Lose Large Parts of Its Coastline by 2050

Tal Dilian.

As Israel Reins in Its Cyberarms Industry, an Ex-intel Officer Is Building a New Empire

Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III and a British synagogue.

How the Queen’s Death Changes British Jewry’s Most Distinctive Prayer

Newly appointed Israeli ambassador to Chile, Gil Artzyeli, poses for a group picture alongside Rabbi Yonatan Szewkis, Chilean deputy Helia Molina and Gerardo Gorodischer, during a religious ceremony in a synagogue in Vina del Mar, Chile last week.

Chile Community Leaders 'Horrified' by Treatment of Israeli Envoy

Queen Elizabeth attends a ceremony at Windsor Castle, in June 2021.

Over 120 Countries, but Never Israel: Queen Elizabeth II's Unofficial Boycott