In case you have been concerned about the demise of big budget journalism, you might be able to cross that problem off your list.
The Washington Post just sent two expensive reporters — David Maraniss and Robert Samuels – on a five-week tour of the United States. If my impression of the on-the-road activities of reporters is accurate, many cocktails found their way on to memorable expense reports.
The five weeks of reportage resulted in a four part 20,000-word series entitled “Looking for America.” (The Old Man and The Sea was 27,000 words.) Each part had its own brow-furrowing title: The Great Unsettling; Longing for Something Lost; Awaiting a Political Awakening; and A Nation Divided.
Yes ladies and gentlemen, the Washington Post spent a ton of dough sending two reporters away from Washington to find out about anger, especially anger about politics.
Here is how they began.
“So much anger out there in America.
Anger at Wall Street. Anger at Muslims. Anger at trade deals. Anger at Washington. Anger at police shootings of young black men. Anger at President Obama. Anger at Republican obstructionists. Anger about political correctness. Anger about the role of big money in campaigns. Anger about the poisoned water of Flint, Mich. Anger about deportations. Anger about undocumented immigrants. Anger about a career that didn’t go as expected. Anger about a lost way of life. Mob anger at groups of protesters in their midst. Specific anger and undefined anger and even anger about anger.”
If journalism is in such dire financial straits, why not give the lads a pair of Metro cards and send them up to Capitol Hill, or over to the White House, or the length of K Street, where political anger is mass produced?
Should evidence of the success of this mass production be needed, try a short sidebar on some words recently added to the Oxford English Dictionary. Apparently the old standby from which these were derived no longer does the job.
Anger is rising for several reasons, both good and less so. (The reasons are good or less so, not the anger itself.)
Some people are angry because they have a right to be. I am not writing about them today.
More are angry because they have been told to be. I am writing about the people telling them.
If I am in politics, I can tell you that you are getting screwed.
If I can convince you of your victimhood, I can get you to “stand with” me.
If I can convince you to “stand with” me, I can promise to “fight for” you.
And if I can get you to believe that I will “fight for” you, I can get you to send me a check.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the point.
Mass-producing anger is for fund raising.
Now imagine that you are a campaign strategist, a pollster, a speechwriter or any of the other on-hangers who gets a paycheck for promoting a candidate.
Would you prefer a big paycheck or a little paycheck? Probably no need for wink-wink hand size comparisons here, everyone wants his paycheck to be “Yuge.”
Yuge paycheck? More fund raising.
More fund raising? More anger.
Not rocket surgery.
Might there be a problem with this plan?
Well, not for the people who get a candidate elected. They don’t have to govern. Governing is somebody else’s job. Let his mother worry.
According to Ron Faucheux, “Attacks are no longer meant to just take votes from the opposition; they’re increasingly aimed at destroying their legitimacy and credibility. Worst for the country, they’re also meant to impair their ability to govern should they win.”
I suppose, if you write 20,000 words about anger, it is best to end on a high note. Maraniss and Samuels did so.
“He has created a real divide in this country,” Troy said. “He is always calling out the rich so the poor people can get mad and vote for other people. The whole model is to divide and conquer us so he can get his way.”
But “all the nastiness and name-calling on the telly from Mr. Trump” — that was beyond him. And so was the notion that America was not great. “This is still basically the land of opportunity, is it not? If you work at it, you can still get on with it, can you not? It is a beautiful country. If I had it to do over again, and I were a young lad, this is where I would want to live.”
Okay, maybe a few people get it but, if Maraniss and Samuels had been given Metro cards and asked to write about where the anger came from, they might not have been so upbeat.
As long as anger pays, you can depend on there being more of it. It’s a good business.