What I hope we don’t see, when the next race or a parade or festival looms up in front of us, are layers of extra stops and searches and checkpoints, wider and wider rings of closed streets, the kind of portable metal detectors that journalists remember unfondly from political conventions, more of the concrete barriers that Washingtonians have become accustomed to around our public buildings … more of everything that organized officialdom does to reassure us, and itself, that soft targets can somehow be eliminated entirely, and that everything anyone can think of is being done to keep the unthinkable at bay.
When broadcaster Edward R. Murrow wrapped up a 1954 documentary on Joseph McCarthy, the demagogic anticommunist senator from Wisconsin, he said that McCarthy “didn’t create this situation of fear—he merely exploited it, and rather successfully.” Murrow added that this was not the time for people who opposed McCarthy’s methods to remain silent. Today no one in the news media today has the stature or the audience that Murrow had in the 1950s. Most reporters and commentators have been reluctant to push back against Donald Trump’s rhetoric and falsehoods, lest they be charged with partisanship. However, when leading Republican figures speak out against Trump, reporters are given some cover for challenging Trump’s claims (Columbia Journalism Review, July 15).