The New York Times, which has provided aggressive coverage of President Trump’s staff turnover, his use of bathrobes and the investigation of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, grabbed a sweet story from southeastern Ohio for its Sunday paper. Erik Hagerman, a 53-year-old Ohio resident who would gag at Trump’s banter in a Monday ceremony with the Houston Astros, has shut himself off from all news about national and international politics since Nov. 8, 2016, when Trump prevailed over Hillary Clinton and proceeded through a rocky presidential transition. “The Man Who Knew Too Little” chronicles Hagerman’s high-maintenance efforts to stay away from sources that might inform him that Trump has recently flip-flopped on immigration and gun control. It’s a team effort all the way to shield Hagerman from awareness that national security adviser Michael Flynn lasted less than a month in his job, for example.
Even personnel at the Athens, Ohio, coffee shop frequented by Hagerman helps with the so-called “Blockade” against news about Elliott Broidy, for instance. “Our baristas know where he’s at so they don’t engage him on topics that would make him uncomfortable,” Angie Pyle, Donkey Coffee’s co-owner, told Sam Dolnick of the New York Times.
Given the stringency of this artifice, how would Hagerman read the profile about himself? After all, it contains mentions of recent political events, including Charlottesville, the site of a rally attended by neo-Nazis this past summer. “I think there is blame on both sides,” said Trump after the event. The answer: “I got a redacted version from my good friend David Segal,” said Hagerman in a chat with the Erik Wemple Blog. Others, he said, have sent him paper versions with the “national news content blacked out,” an effort that would have stricken a brief mention of Trump’s hastily implemented travel ban. “It’s like one of those Pentagon Paper things.”
This being the Trump White House (highest turnover of any White House in modern memory) and this being the New York Times (which sustained a backlash over its profile of a white nationalist, among many other stories), people voiced objections to Dolnick’s portrait of the national-news-averse Hagerman, who probably knows nothing about Hillary Clinton’s 2017 book “What Happened.” Kellen Beck, writing for Mashable, riffed:
He doesn’t know about the turmoil of Trump’s White House. He doesn’t know about the white supremacists and neo-Nazis that marched in Charlottesville. He doesn’t know about the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He doesn’t know who won out at the Oscars.
Ignorance, in Hagerman’s case, is bliss. But that bliss comes at the cost of not being a member of the democratic republic of the United States. And that bliss wouldn’t be possible without a lot of privilege and a lot of demands from family, friends, and strangers.
Fair enough, though Dolnick did point out that Hagerman — a 53-year-old former Nike executive with what sound like sizable investments; has he benefited from a robust stock market under Trump? — enjoys the privilege of getting to ignore, for example, the degradation of American democracy that comes with Trump’s “fake news” attacks against CNN, the New York Times and many others. May it not be said, however, that Hagerman isn’t civic-minded. He told the Erik Wemple Blog that he does indeed monitor local news, and that he had volunteered for John Kerry’s 2004 presidential bid and spent three months knocking on doors in Ohio on behalf of Clinton herself, who did a poor job of reacting to a sexual-harassment situation stemming from her 2008 presidential campaign.
“It wasn’t so much because I was a fan of Hillary,” says Hagerman. It’s because he couldn’t abide Trump, whose MO he observed in the 1980s. “He’s just not a decent man, he doesn’t exhibit any of the qualities that we raise our kids to grow into,” continues the Ohioan, perhaps unaware of Trump’s Stormy Daniels hush-money scandal. “I’d say, ‘I agree she’s not the person I’d prefer to be in this role and it’s weird that I find myself out here talking about her, but the other guy’s nuts,’ ” says Hagerman. “Every single person would admit, ‘Yeah, he’s just not a good guy,'” says Hagerman, who might get chuckle out of the Trump two-scoops-of-ice-cream tale.
C’mon, dissenters: The New York Times was complying with The Clash’s imperative that you’ve got to give the people something good to read on a Sunday. In a country famous for individuals, not everyone will react to Trump’s election with hashtags and fundraisers. It’s the job of a national paper to chronicle some of the more interesting responses. And please forgive the insufferable non sequiturs and asides in this post: Their purpose is to frustrate anyone who might be tasked with redacting this post for Hagerman. Our policy here at the Erik Wemple Blog is to inform.