Bob Franken




When talking to FOX News Sunday about the deadly Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol invasion, former President Donald Trump described the participants this way: “These were peaceful people; these were great people.”
Now, I’m as guilty as the rest of my reporter tribe in that I give former President Donald Trump far too much attention and what’s-his-name far too little. That interview snippet demonstrates all too well what Trump knows: “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” The guy has had a lifetime of bad publicity, the kind that only a bigoted, ignorant, con man demagogue can have. And he became president of the United States.
But in the media, that repulsiveness trumps Joe Biden’s competence every time. Ho hum. This is particularly true because Trump never ceases to show his brazenness, starting and ending with the “big lie” that he actually won the 2020 presidential election when he decisively lost. That whopper resulted in a mob going wild at the Capitol, where several died, and likely hundreds of his base will serve serious prison time for participating.
Meanwhile, Uncle Joe just plods: rescuing us from a pandemic and righting all the wrongs that Trump somehow got the millions of people in his base to blindly accept, probably because he pushed their xenophobia buttons. But Joe gets the short end of the stick.

Why? A pro-Biden PAC memorandum argues, “Democrats must communicate much more aggressively.” Nope. That’s not it. Democrats could hold their breath until they turn blue and they still wouldn’t match the red-faced Donald Trump, who never heard a fact that he couldn’t turn into fiction. Match that up against good old man river Joe Biden, who just keeps rolling along as he has for an eternity in Washington, which is what he brags about.
Experience is a wonderful thing. It’s what gets the job done in the long run, but that’s not the point. It is a long run, a tortoise-and-the-hare kinda thing. That’s no sparkle compared with the rush that comes from brash buffoonery. And those of us in media are attracted to brash buffoonery.
There is a danger in being the guy who relies on the message of steadiness. Because if something goes dreadfully wrong — say, after the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, the Taliban takes over with little resistance (and that’s a “when” not an “if”), there will be second-guessers crawling out of the woodwork; Trump and others loudly proclaiming, “I told you so,” no matter what they actually said — then your conclusion will be thrown in your face.
The same reaction will happen the next time you utter one of your world-famous gaffes, even if it’s something trivial. Count on everyone, and I mean everyone, musing publicly about how addled you are, even though your main enemy was addled from the day he was born.
And what do you call your Republican adversaries? They are either wild conspiracy theorists or calculated political robots that exploit the fact that their millions of people base is made up of citizens whose befuddlement is targeted because they don’t know what to believe anymore. That’s because “lying politician” is a redundancy.
So that’s our dilemma. I’m asking for sympathy for us soulless souls in the media. We’d love to cover substance and issues and stuff like that, but we’d be talking to ourselves. Besides, our bosses, who answer to money-grubbing corporations, watch ratings and circulation figures very nervously and will get rid of us relics and go for the young sensation, who’s cheaper anyway.
So those of us who can comply, and learn what the hell search engine optimization is, comprehend very quickly that Donald Trump drives traffic, and Joe Biden does not. So blame it all on the tyranny of algorithms. And us.

© 2021 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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