The media’s tendency to focus on horserace issues—who’s up and who’s down, what the cosmetics are of an event rather than the substance—is routinely derided by media critics, and mocking it has become something of an election year tradition. But one 2016 topic in particular, terrorism, has become the hot horserace topic of the year in a way that goes beyond the silly to the potentially damaging:
- Clinton, Trump Jockey Over Who Would Best Fight Terrorists (WNBC, 9/20/16)
- Who Has the Upper Hand on Terrorism, Clinton or Trump? (Politico, 9/20/16)
- Terror Threat Clash: Trump, Clinton Accuse Each Other of Boosting Enemy (Fox News, 9/19/16)
- Clinton, Trump Spar Over Terrorism in Wake of Latest Attacks (USA Today, 9/20/16)
Something missing from these reports is any discussion of the relative danger of terrorism. The reporters begin with the premise that voters are afraid of it, never challenging the underlying rationality of those fears.