Macho Macho Man


On Wednesday, Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate for Montana’s lone seat in the United States House of Representatives, allegedly body-slammed and then punched a reporter for The Guardian newspaper, Ben Jacobs. Listening to the audio of the encounter, however, and reading the eyewitness reports of others who were present, there really was no “allegedly’ about it. Gianforte was supposedly upset with Jacobs over a question he asked and maybe how he asked it. As much as the Gianforte campaign tries to spin it, all that really doesn’t matter except to the true believers for whom he can do no wrong. Gianforte assaulted another man who was simply doing his job, and whether Gianforte and his supporters agree with the reporter’s politics or his methodology matters not one whit and is no excuse for Gianforte’s actions or reactions. Gianforte is in the rough and tumble of politics now, and he’s no longer the big shot in charge of his own business empire who dare not be questioned by the hoi polloi: grow a thicker skin or stay out of politics, Gianforte, a lesson you could learn alongside your colleague, Markwayne Mullin (R-OK).

Chris Masters and MVP (Dec 2009)
World Wrestling Entertainment superstars Chris Masters (left) and MVP (right) perform for the troops on December 4, 2009, in Holt Stadium at Joint Base Balad, Iraq; photo by US Army Sgt. Ryan Twist.

Not to excuse Gianforte in the least, but this kind of incident has been in the works for the past year or more, and the mainstream media has been complicit in its development. The Thug-in-Chief, when he was on the campaign trail in 2016, routinely ostracized the media at his rallies and encouraged his supporters to berate them to the point of violence. Mainstream media outlets walked a tightrope regarding this behavior, because while it demeaned their efforts and made life harder for individual reporters, ratings were great and ad revenue was way up. Viewers and readers appeared to want some Jerry Springer style mayhem in their political reporting, and the media executives were prepared to give it to them and count the dollars rolling in, never mind that there would be a reckoning some day. The reckoning is now, but holding it in check may be too late for all of us. We were the ones who tuned in for this ugly, violent show, after all, and blaming the media does not get us off the hook. There’s no denying the television remote control comes with a channel changer and an off button, and there are other news outlets, particularly online, that do not cater to the basest urges of the voting public.

Greg Gianforte, now the Republican Congressman from Montana after his win on Thursday, has his own hypocritical tendencies to wrestle with after his assault on Wednesday, if in fact he is capable of that much introspection. Probably not. It wouldn’t be in character, given his background and proclivities. Public apology aside, he nonetheless probably feels entirely justified in his actions and recognizes no hypocrisy in them whatsoever. His supporters certainly don’t. The more important question that needs answering is how we the public will ultimately react to the ongoing freak show of thugs seeking political office, or already in office, who have been encouraged to let loose their worst behavior by the signals they are getting from the top. Do we reject them and say we will tolerate no more like them? Or do we continue to watch passively and ghoulishly like rubberneckers at a traffic accident, or the even more base viewers of the trashy Jerry Springer show? Don’t count on media executives to elevate the tone of civil discourse. They’re interested only in profits, make no mistake about that, and pay no attention to anything they say in contradiction to that imperative. In a democracy, what’s left of it at least, we get the government we deserve. Looking around at our politicians now, that doesn’t speak very well of us, does it?
― Vita