Thursday, February 23, 2017

Democracy Dies in Darkness

      One of the first things I do every morning is check the Washington Post to see what new assault against American values the Trump administration has cooked up overnight. It's a great newspaper—I subscribe and you should too. 
    When I looked this morning, even before the news registered, I noted the change in the masthead above, featuring the paper's new slogan.
     Journalistic sorts are debating its aptness. Some find it "awesome," others, melodramatic. A Huffington Post political editor jokingly tweeted the new HuffPo slogan, "The night is dark and full of terrors." 
     Hmm. It is dramatic.  But if the online world teaches us anything, it's that understatement and nuance end up working at Panera Bread. It's arresting, but perhaps rightly so. "Don't tread on me" worked wonders for the Tea Party. I would argue that despite reporting on the gathering tragedy in this country and world, journalists still don't emotionally grasp what it means. The president is out to kill the media and impale its corpse on the White House fence—how's that for a slogan?—because he's driven bonkers by even the slightest rumble of digression as he vomits forth his lies. We are, as Hunter S. Thompson would say, like a wild beast thrown into a sawdust pit to fight for its life (another contender).
     The media reports the iceberg, the gash, the listing ship, but doesn't quite understand the implications of the freezing water all around. They are, for instance, still going ahead with this year's Correspondents Dinner, a creaky Washington insider tradition that was ethically squishy before the president, who might not even show, labeled them "the enemy of the American people." That's like insisting on holding afternoon tea in the lifeboats, because it's on the ship's schedule. I can't imagine going. Then again, I can't imagine accepting the Congressional Medal of Honor from Donald Trump, not if I threw myself on a grenade to save my buddies.
     Maybe it's "darkness," which does have a whiff of the poetic. Not to play editor, but you could cut it in half, "Democracy dies,"  and sum up our moment just as succinctly and perhaps with more power. Because that's what we're seeing. It isn't dead but, at Monty Python would say, "it isn't at all well."
     Then again, the whole concept of slogans is fusty. "All the news that's fit to print," sounds as old-fashioned as a butter churn, in an era when a guy can brag about grabbin' 'em by the pussy and get elected anyway. 
    The "Democracy dies..." line has been bandied about by Bob Woodward, the Post's legendary Watergate reporter and editor, and that alone should cast suspicion on it, as his reputation is kinda checkered. Post spokesperson Kris Coratti told CNN it will be used online, and perhaps in print too. "We thought it would be a good, concise value statement that conveys who we are to the many millions of readers who have come to us for the first time over the last year. We started with our newest readers on Snapchat, and plan to roll it out on our other platforms in the coming weeks."
     How corporate. I too have a concise values statement about the business—"You've got to put the slop where the pigs can get at it"—but I'm not sure I'd want to see it under the Sun-Times masthead.  (The Sun-Times does have a slogan, "An Independent Newspaper," which is soft-spoken and I suppose could use freshening, though, in this day of media behemoths, that's actually quite an important distinction and something to crow about). 
   If we do change it, I'd put my bid in for "Death to Tyrants," but the Secret Service might pay me a visit, and I'd have to explain I mean only political death. I hope Trump lives to be 90 and sees his name a codeword for betrayal, like "Quisling."
    I do like the spirit behind "Democracy Dies in Darkness." Though, if forced to choose, I'd have to agree with those who find it a misstep.  When the dry facts are that the president of the United States is a cruel fraud and pathological liar who, along with his neo-Nazi buddies, are tearing at the heart of America, pithy slogans just sound trivial.  Arby's can say, "We've got the Meat," but the Mayo Clinic shouldn't dub itself, "The Illness Blasters."
     Plus, there's that alliteration—almost always annoying. "Trump Teaches Totalitarianism" is true too, but kinda kindergarten. Second, it's sort of a downer, isn't it? Why not "Freedom Grows in the Sunlight"? Darkness is certainly falling and Democracy shudders every time it gets an injection of poison from nice old Dr. Trump. I'm just not sure I want to be reminded of that every single time I look at the Washington Post. The news stories do that already.


  1. to me the trump administration is bringing the long slow death of democracy thats been going on in the darkness since the patriot act , out into the sunlight. with three generals our national security triumverit . their saying : voters? we don't need no stinking voters! the military takeover of our government may be just around the corner. what can the press do to stop that?

  2. (Third times a charm, right?)
    Call me a pathetic eternal optimist but I see democracy rearing it head. My 12 year old is watching Meet the Press. I'll say it again, "My 12 year old is watching 'Meet the Press!" He is engaged in politics at a time in his life when all I cared about was sleeping in. People are demanding, and cramming into town hall meetings. People are marching in the streets in unprecedented numbers. Personally don't think democracy is dead; I think it's waking up from a long slumber.

  3. That's not a bad choice by the Huffington Post. There's more than a few people I wouldn't cry over sacrificing to the Lord of Light.

    A more lyrical news organization might borrow a slogan from some other North Shore folks, declaring "My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark"…

  4. I too hope that Trump lives to be 90 (and to see his name a synonym for fraud) because his death (of apoplexy of course, live on TV) would launch a never-ending parade of nonsensical finger-pointing speculation and even a possible government takeover by his military appointees, whose trigger fingers are no doubt just starting to itch right now.


  5. My initial reaction to the slogan was positive, though thinking on it too long brings more critical opinion. "Democracy Dies" is truthful but too negative IMO, assuming the death is a given, though perhaps it's my stubborn optimism getting in the way. One thing good about Trump; he's not a sneaky dictator wannaabe, trying to trick everyone into his agenda, he's right out front screaming it from the hilltop.


  6. How about a question instead?

    "Will Democracy prevail?"

    Wendy C

  7. I read the Washington Post online and it doesn't show the slogan, "Democracy Dies in Darkness." Maybe it just hasn't rolled out to the online paper yet. I think it's a good slogan, because the media brings issues to light.

    1. It does show the slogan. You just aren't seeing it. Plug "Washington Post" into Google and look at the first hit. It's right there, hiding in plain sight.

  8. Thanks, Neil. I googled Washington Post and see it online. I don't see it on my Kindle version yet, but maybe they won't add it there.


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