Sure, Donald Trump's presidential campaign is basically a never-ending sludge pile of human wretchedness and toxic self-tanner residue — but, as a journalist, I've discovered at least one positive outcome: I am no longer concerned about seeming biased. Granted, this is something that has always worried me less than it's worried others in my profession — what's different is that I am not alone.
This week, BuzzFeed decided to forgo a $1 million–plus advertising relationship with the Republican Party because, said CEO Jonah Peretti, the Trump campaign is “directly opposed to the freedoms of our employees in the United States and around the world.” Last week, CNN made its chyron display the network's second most combative personality by amending a Trump assertion — "I never said Japan should have nukes" — with the blunt parenthetical, "(He did)." The network’s most tenacious interrogator is Jake Tapper, whose persistence deserves its own meticulously updated Wikipedia page and perhaps a Nobel Prize. He pressed Trump 23 times about Trump's suggestion that Judge Gonzalo Curiel could not rule impartially on the Trump University case because "he's a Mexican" and "I’m building a wall. It’s an inherent conflict of interest.”
Do these seem like the actions of a biased media? Well, Trump has bullied "unbiased" out of existence. He pegs any criticism of himself to some facet of the critic's identity. And this chiaroscuro worldview was on display long before the business of Curiel put Republicans in the uncomfortable position of being honest about their nominee's views — that, you know, they're racist. (Hang in there, guys!)
Trump's fanciful assertion that those calling foul on his slander of Curiel "are the racists" only makes sense if you realize that Trump actually is, on some level, color-blind. I'm not just talking about the Pantone disaster site of his face and hair; Trump really doesn't see race in the same way that most of us do — as a construct of heritage, culture, biology, and society. For Trump, there are only two races: Trumpish, and everyone else.
When Trump has made sweeping assertions about race and gender, they’ve been easy to recognize (or should have been easy to recognize!) as bigotry. But Trump's vision of the world is even more primitive than the handy nativist categories of "us" and "them." It's "me" and "them." There's no such thing as having a negative opinion of Trump based on what you think or believe. No, people who dare to criticize Trump do so because of who they are. Megyn Kelly? On the rag. Evangelical leader Russell Moore? A "nasty guy with no heart." Ted Cruz? The son of an assassin's accomplice.
For those in the media, Trump has made it clear that there is no upside to granting him the benefit of the doubt, to sorting out his diatribes from his policy proposals: There is no difference between them, for one thing. What's more, he's helpfully eliminated one side of the usual calculus that goes into how aggressively we call bullshit on what is clearly bullshit. Usually in a presidential election, a certain amount of mincing deference to a candidate ("on the one hand, his proposals are monstrous; on the other hand, Hillary's email server!") might translate into a direct line into the White House press office, or a juicy exclusive at just the right time. But Trump does not recognize the utility of pampered, access-driven press corps: He hates all of us ... especially those of us with Latino-inflected last names, sure, but in general, all of us. His thug of a campaign manager manhandled a Breitbart reporter, remember? His campaign promise to "open up our libel laws" is a nuclear option for the First Amendment, a sunny postapocalyptic vision in which none of us survive — Trump's constitutional atom bomb will lay waste to the Jake Tappers and the Mark Halperins alike.
Trump has all but explicitly asked the media to choose sides. And so we should. The beauty of his rudimentary understanding of the world is that it has the power to unite us, if we let it. I want to encourage my colleagues to throw their lot in with everyone else Trump has insulted, bullied, threatened, coerced, and harassed. There are more of us than him, and we have nothing to lose.