Media More Dangerous Than Russia, Says Conservative Radio Host

A Reddit user created a meme featuring Trump appearing to wrestle CNN. Screenshot/Reddit

The pen is mightier than the sword, the old saying goes. Apparently, the pen is also mightier, and more dangerous, than a country with the largest nuclear arsenal in the world, a standing army of 845,000 soldiers and a stated desire to reassert its dominance over its Western competitors.

That, at least, is according to conservative radio host Dennis Prager:

The news media in the West pose a far greater danger to Western civilization than Russia does.

— Dennis Prager (@DennisPrager) July 14, 2017

Prager did not respond to a request for comment over the weekend, so it is impossible to know how earnest he was in this opinion. Others, however, have voiced similar opinions. Most notable among them is President Donald J. Trump, who has called the media "enemy of the people."

Prager's tweet is only interesting in its inadvertent insight into the right's mindset. When referring to "the media," the right often seems to connote a group far greater than literally those men and women who report, produce and broadcast the news.

Rather, the term has come to mean what Ralph Benko, a gold standard enthusiast, called in a blog post for Forbesthe "politico-media complex," a nexus of coastal elites that seems to include journalists, public intellectuals (what few remain of them in the United States, in any case), establishment politicians and corporate figures. "The media," then, comes to encapsulate all those who subscribe to, contribute to or promulgate the generally centrist narrative one might find, on any given day, on CNN or in The New York Times.

The narrative has had few kind things to say about Trumpism, which is why Trumpism regards "the media" as a foe. When it sends its own on CNN – White House surrogates like Sebastian Gorka, Jay Sekulow or, in the old days, Kellyanne Conway – the enterprise is regarded as a brave foray deep into enemy territory.

"We observe the formation of a powerful narrative, created by the politicos and amplified by the media," Benko wrote. "That narrative exerts more power over our lives than the military-industrial complex ever dreamed of doing." That appears to be in line with Prager's musings on Twitter.

As for Russia, it may seem discordant to some that the party of Ronald Reagan is suddenly fawning over the dying remnants of the evil empire. But to cultural conservatives like Prager, "Russia" is as much a symbol as "the media." In the former case, that symbol is of muscular, masculine nationalism, openly Christian, contemptuous of all dissent, unafraid to assert its military might. It is also uniformly white, at least in the right's imagination.

Prager's tweet, which has been shared thousands of times, sheds clarifying light on why Trump attacks the media on a daily basis, unlike any president before him, while doing his best to say nothing unkind about Russia and its dull-eyed despot, Vladimir V. Putin.

For Trump and his staunch supporters on the far right, "the media" broadly represent the cosmopolitan, worldly view that President Obama embraced. Russia, meanwhile, is the inward-looking authoritarian regime that used to be the stuff of Republican nightmares, at least until 2016.

In the warped ideology of Trump, Russia has become our national aspiration.