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[Essay]

Swat Team

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All politicians love to complain about the press. They complain for good reasons and bad. They cry over frivolous slights and legitimate inquiries alike. They moan about bias. They talk to friendlies only. They manipulate reporters and squirm their way out of questions. And this all makes perfect sense, because politicians and the press are, or used to be, natural enemies.

Conservative politicians have built their hostility toward the press into a full-blown theory of liberal media bias, a pseudosociology that is today the obsessive pursuit of certain nonprofit foundations, the subject matter of an annual crop of books, and the beating heart of a successful cable-news network. Donald Trump, the current leader of the right’s war against the media, hates this traditional foe so much that he banned a number of news outlets from attending his campaign events and has proposed measures to encourage more libel lawsuits. He does this even though he owes his prominence almost entirely to his career as a TV celebrity and to the news media’s morbid fascination with his glowering mug.

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is the author of Listen, Liberal (Metropolitan Books). His most recent article for Harper’s Magazine, “Nor a Lender Be,” appeared in the April 2016 issue.

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