A heckler is commonly defined as someone who “interrupts a performer or public speaker with derisive or aggressive comments or abuse.”
It’s been six months since the heckling stopped. Six months since the last White House press briefing. Six months devoid of noxious nonsense.
The national media think they’re in some kind of priesthood. Their very noble occupation is written right into the Constitution. They act like an anointed, entitled holiest of holies who cannot be questioned and whose authority to opine, often without any facts, cannot be challenged. A recent case in point: national outlets like CNN have happily doxed private citizens over creating anti-media video memes. But when citizens turned the tables and started collecting and publishing the problematic tweets of reporters at the New York Times, the entire media had a collective tantrum. “How dare you do unto us exactly what we have gleefully done unto you for years?”
When any Republican is president, at least one or two reporters become hecklers at the White House press briefings. It’s their ticket to liberal media fame. It started with Dan Rather heckling Richard Nixon. Then Sam Donaldson badgered President Ronald Reagan all the way to national stardom, despite looking like a muppet and acting like a grinch. Who can forget how David Gregory of NBC went after Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer during 43’s first term?
Ninety-nine percent of children suffer from a disease called “hey look at me,” but since when is that a career?
From the beginning of the Trump presidency, multiple so-called mainstream reporters got into the heckling game. Now, hecklers usually have three reasons to heckle a comedian—or anyone else for that matter. They’re malignantly seeking attention. They’re drunk. Or they actually think they’re helping either the comic on stage or the people in the audience to understand the joke. They have superiority complexes.
We can (probably) rule out the first two in the case of Trump heckler Jim Acosta. CNN’s White House correspondent showboated every day, badgering White House press secretaries Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders with gotchas designed not to illuminate or inform, but to make himself the star of the perverse show. Sanders always handled him with a grace he never deserved. Acosta may have believed he was helping the audience—the American people or, more likely, his fellow anointed scribes sitting around him—but he was only helping himself. He used the justified revocation of his “hard pass” to rally more media hecklers to his side. And then he got a book deal out of it. All while he and his fellows in the anvil chorus pretend that every time President Trump pushes back against their insults and petulant on-air rants it’s somehow a new and unprecedented threat to democracy.
Quick quiz: Who said, “I deplore… the putrid state into which our newspapers have passed and the malignity, the vulgarity, and mendacious spirit of those who write for them.”?
Answer: Not Donald J. Trump. It was Thomas Jefferson. Despising the media literally goes back to the author of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson was no fan of garbage reporting.
One of the most memorable scenes on NBC’s Seinfeld showed comedian Jerry getting heckled by Kramer’s girlfriend Toby during one of his most important sets—he had NBC suits in the audience considering giving him his own show. She ruined his set. Instead of just taking it, like most comedians do, Jerry turns the tables by going to her office job and heckling her. Trump has learned to turn the tables too. No more White House press briefings. Instead, you get Mr. Warmth personally on his walk to Marine One twice a week. Heckle at your own risk, or get a Queen’s haircut.
Seinfeld once said, “Comedy is purely the result of your ability to withstand self-torture.” Sounds a lot like being White House press secretary.
The media loved Donald Trump for decades—when he was an accessible real estate mogul and author, when he was a reality TV star, and whenever they needed a pithy quote about anything. But from the day he announced his run for the presidency as a Republican they’ve smeared him, heckled him and tried to ruin him. Trump has tried dealing with the national media in various ways, including returning their heckles from the stages of his massive rallies. They just go on distorting everything he says and does and giving him no credit for the booming economy or anything else. The media hecklers aren’t helping anyone and never were. By eliminating the White House press briefing, Trump has simply removed the hecklers’ opportunities by halting the daily spectacle.
Always remember the heckler’s purpose is not free speech; its purpose is the suppression of free speech. It has been half a year since the last White House press briefing. When Sarah Sanders left, the daily briefing went with her, though the White House still delivers printed information to the press corps.
And do you know what? Clocks didn’t stop. Bees didn’t stop pollinating flowers. The time-space continuum has not been torn asunder. The republic still stands.
We’re no less informed as a country now than six months ago. We’re fine. The economy is fine. The heckling cacophony has had to find a new pastime. Trump has taken away the hecklers’ mic.
A.J. Rice is CEO of Publius PR, a premier millennial-owned co