Common Dreams - "Framing the problem of political violence as a struggle of 'us' against ' them,' of creating a demonized other by stoking fear, is a tried and true strategy for building an audience," Jim Naureckas, the editor of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting's watchdog journal Extra!, told Common Dreams.
"The debates are seen not as a public service but as a money-making opportunity for the networks," Naureckas added. "More than anything, they want high ratings."
Such a strategy, Naureckas argued, was egregiously displayed Tuesday night when CNN debate moderator Hugh Hewitt indicated that, to qualify for the presidency, a candidate must be willing to kill "thousands" of children.
Addressing retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Hewitt posed: "People admire and respect and are inspired by your life story, your kindness, your evangelical core support. We're talking about ruthless things tonight—carpet bombing, toughness, war. And people wonder, could you do that? Could you order air strikes that would kill innocent children by not the scores, but the hundreds and the thousands? Could you wage war as a commander-in-chief?"
"It's horrifying to see our leading cable news network offering, as a litmus test for becoming president of United States, a willingness to kill thousands of innocent children," Naureckas argued. "To equate that with toughness and seriousness about protecting the United States is a violent fantasy of the sort that motivates the people who carry out mass shootings."
Such violence also surfaced in statements by veteran anchor Wolf Blitzer, the main host of the debate, critics note.
In addressing multi-billionaire Donald Trump's call for a ban on non-American Muslims from entering the United States, Blitzer appeared to accept that the proposal, widely acknowledged as racist and discriminatory, is worthy of debate—and that those who oppose the plan should be on the defensive.
Turning to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Blitzer stated: "You called Mr. Trump 'unhinged' when he proposed banning non-American Muslims from the United States. Why is that unhinged?"
What's more, the fact that Trump has previously sought to justify his proposed ban on non-American Muslims by drawing comparisons with the U.S. internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II at no time entered the conversation as a cause for alarm.