Alice Ollstein and Caitlin MacNeal are covering the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this week. While they’ll have a number of articles about what they see there, we’ll be collecting a few of their additional, stray observations here.
The crooked media: One sign of the Trumpification of CPAC can be seen in the increasing attacks on “the media,” Alice points out. CPAC always had harsh words for those in the press pen, but they’ve dramatically increased in number and intensity since Trump won the presidency. One speaker encouraged the audience to turn around “wave goodbye” to reporters, and they clapped for the “slow death” of the mainstream media. NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch singled out several outlets by name for criticism, and played a video that circulated online in which she sets a copy of The New York Times on fire.
Interestingly, when CPAC speakers direct the crowd’s ire at the media, they point to the riser where TV networks have their cameras set up, not the pen where hundreds of print and online reporters are sitting. There’s lots of talk of the media caring only about their “ratings.” But, as Alice points out, the occupants of that press pen are something of a mixed bag. “They credential so many people as press who are right-wing/partisan bloggers,” she writes. “It’s always jarring to see the people around you in the press pit screaming and applauding for the speakers.” One credentialed reporter is sporting an NRA hat, another a shirt that declares “veterans before refugees.” Yet another, Alice observes, has a display of his own books about Christianity. Are they for reporters to buy?
Embracing Trumpism globally: Two years ago, Donald Trump was too controversial to speak at CPAC. Now, CPAC welcomes not just Trump but Trump-like figures from abroad. Among those speaking at CPAC are representatives of two of Europe’s most prominent right wing movements: Nigel Farage, the former leader of the UK Independence Party, and Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, the niece of Marine Le Pen.
Nigel Farage is likely much more well known among American conservatives — he campaigned with Trump in August 2016 and for Roy Moore last year. His speech isn’t until tomorrow.
But Maréchal-Le Pen’s speech this morning gave a sense of the degree to which Trumpism in the U.S. is tied into the lurch toward right-wing nationalism that is happening across the western world. Alice and Caitlin report that when Maréchal-Le Pen embraced Trump-like ideas in her speech — “I want America first for the American people, I want Britain first for the British people, and I want France first for the French people” — the CPAC crowd cheered her on. And when her speech turned to European politics — not a typical topic of discussion at CPAC — the audience of American conservative activists was quick to boo at each mention of the EU.
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