In the great scale of things, it may not be the most awful thing that The Independent was asked to leave Karen Handel’s final election campaign event in Georgia. By itself, it may not matter when a journalist is told they cannot film the candidate “because of security”.
Alone, it may not be so bad when that same reporter is then made to wait in a glassed-off buffet area (without being offered anything to eat; so much for southern hospitality), the police are called, and the entire episode is videod by a Handel supporter, presumably in an attempt to intimidate.
Yet we were not the only outlet to be treated this way on the eve of the special election in Georgia 6th congressional district. A reporter from the liberal-leaning ThinkProgress said she was prevented from attending Handel’s final event after quizzing her about the the Republican’s healthcare bill. Meanwhile, a journalist from the conservative Free Beacon, was escorted from a rally of Democrat Jon Ossoff. Ossoff’s campaign was apparently upset about a story on how many miles the candidate lived outside the district’s boundaries.
Taken together, all of this adds to a disturbing trend. Since the Donald Trump launched his campaign for the White House, the media has found itself being increasingly sidelined, attacked and mocked.
Trump himself repeatedly referred to the press following his campaign as “terrible people” and “scum”, and accused them of peddling fake news. And he would watch, with an apparent sense of glee, as his supporters would turn to the media, sitting in the press area, and boo and hiss.
It would be wrong to pretend Trump is unique is his derision for the media, or to think the way in which the “mainstream media” is frequently condemned and ridiculed is especially new. Barack Obama’s administration prosecuted reporters over stories he considered damaging to national security, and locked up whistleblowers who leaked information.
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And as the silly, counter-productive behaviour of the Ossoff campaign shows – the Free Beacon’s story was an entirely legitimate and smart piece of enterprise reporting – such shutting down of access is not limited to the Republicans.
But since Trump entered the White House, the war against the media has stepped up. Last month, a reporter from the Guardian was assaulted by a Republican congressional candidate in Montana. The politician was charged, and eventually apologised, but many conservatives applauded his actions.
“In Montana – ladies and gentlemen, I must do something. I must join the chorus of people condemning what happened out there,” leading talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, said on one of his shows. “This manly, obviously studly Republican candidate in Montana took the…