Part of this problem, unfortunately, is Serge Kovaleski's own fault. When he answered that he "didn't recall" seeing any such video that Trump was talking about, with "thousands" of Muslims in New Jersey "cheering" 9/11, thinking that would serve as a polite way of saying that Trump was full of shit, he should have understood what sort of prick he was dealing with. Kovaleski should have said, "If such a video exists, then Trump should be able to produce it and show us all. Has he not heard of the YouTube? His kids can probably show him how it works."
Let me put it this way: Donald Trump is to the media what ISIS is to Europe and America -- a noisome, toxic presence, built up in part by the very forces it attacks, that needs to be shut down already, before it does any more damage. The vile sentiments that Trump unleashes from the shit-brains who support him are getting worse and worse, and are bound to erupt at some point.
If the media can be counted on to at some point shift to a more skeptical, even antagonistic approach to covering Trump's post-Palin burbling improv, shameless fabulism, and obnoxious persona -- a questionable proposition at best, given their institutional timidity about such things -- it must be thorough is such an undertaking. This means, among other things, not letting his fan base off the hook.
The idea that these boobs and loudmouths are "joyous" lets them off a hook that they richly deserve to be hung on. They are "joyous" only in the most technical sense of the word, in that they appear to derive an inordinate amount of joy indulging their hatred of Obama, of liberals, of immigrants, uppity blacks, anyone who doesn't conform to their permanently aggrieved view of a world and a country that has become too diversified and complex for them to understand.
So the question is not really whether Trump himself is a fascist, but rather how adeptly he is exploiting a startlingly thick vein of proto-fascism that courses through the (to indulge in the jargon) proles and petit bourgeoisie. It is always there, somewhere, everywhere, at varying levels, precisely because of the characteristics Umberto Eco describes in the above link: the obsession with "traditionalism" in their selective interpretation; the uncritical acceptance of easily disproved falsehoods, the enthusiasm for the most brainless, boorish bafflegab; the self-aggrandizement of the wampeter, through which each individual in the audience ventriloquizes their desires and (for them) self-actualizes as a unified group.
That last is very important; in the lizard-brain reactionism of the Trump rally attendee, by definition a more distilled version of the random "drunk uncle" sort who jabbers at their keyboard and posts stupid Facebook memes of support, to change one's mind or even listen to mitigating evidence that conflicts with the master's chosen narrative would be a betrayal -- to Trump and to the rest of the hive-mind.
Ultimately it may become a question of just how much of Trump's shit journalists -- as individuals and as a group -- are willing to take. He has made it clear that no bar is too low for him, that he's more than willing to crack wise about their disabilities and their menstruation and whatever else he can find. Anything for a laugh. He has members of the press who attend the rallies cordoned off, lest they pester the addled herd of dipshits attending this nonsense.
What if those members of the fourth estate, penned like veal and held in open contempt by their host, decided to actually grow a pair and say, without the false pretense of "objectivity", that Trump is a toxic asshole, and that the maroons that comprise his base are even worse? What if they decided that each rally was simply another fresh outrage, a gabbled mishmash of insults and bullshit by an old man who neither as smart or as well-hung as he thinks he is, that one is as bad as the next and thus none of them are worth covering anymore?
It's tempting to characterize Trump, in this week of finding and defining that other f-word in context with his verbal perambulations, as a Mussolini type, a small man in search of a balcony, as Jimmy Breslin once famously referred to Rudy Giuliani. Maybe a more apt comparison would be the (barely) fictional Buzz Windrip, who in turn was based on Huey Long, a man of inordinate charisma who made it his stated goal to empower his double-digit-IQ followers. (Except that Long at least was an actual populist.)
Trump does, as the Atlantic article says from the start, know what his fans want -- they want, to paraphrase Mencken, solutions to complex problems that are simple, clear, and wrong. They hear what they want to hear, and it does no good to point out to them that it's all bullshit. But the media need to point those facts out.
Stop characterizing these people as "nice" or "like your neighbors" or some such. Like their stupid resurrection of the "Silent Majority" phrase, they are neither of those things, neither silent nor a majority, and while they may be your nice neighbor, it is unhelpful in this context. They're a bunch of fucking crybabies, following an asshole with a bad haircut and a worse attitude, who is promising the moon and will fix nothing for them.