Category Archives: Propaganda

9/11:  History in a Vacuum

I never watch any 9/11 anniversary television coverage. I was in DC on 9/11 and for all of the months after it. I watched the Pentagon burn from the roof of my office building, just a few blocks from the White House. It was a terrifying day and I’m not here to relive it.

But Americans love to relive it. And somehow the round number of 20 has ramped up coverage to take over this entire week. We should absolutely remember those who died and the bravery and selflessness of the first responders who risked and gave their lives so others could live. We should remember the family members left behind.

The 9/11 commemorations always happen in a vacuum. One moment the United States is minding their own business going about a Tuesday, and the next moment the nation is under attack. It’s treated as if the country were sucker punched on the street for no discernible reason.

When you remove 9/11 from its previous context it becomes a cheap way for people who never put their lives on the line, ever, to spend the run up to it and the day itself policing how people feel about it and making it into some kind of patriotic holiday. But it’s the removal of the post 9/11 context that does the most damage.

9/11 was the result of complete carelessness by the Bush administration which was tight with the Bin Laden family to the point of getting them out of the country to shield them from having to provide necessary information. It was the excuse for the Bush administration to launch a war in Afghanistan so they and their cronies could make billions, and then to launch another, even more pointless war in Iraq, to further enrich people like Eric Prince, where the United States committed war crimes.

And it was all sold to us as a triumphant exercise of democracy, and if you opposed it you were asked “what is wrong with you?” I just got asked this question yesterday when someone asked me about 9/11 and I told them the stuff I’ve written here.

Well fuck all that. 9/11 should be a day of introspection and apology to the first responders left without medical care. It should be a day of thanks and asking forgiveness of the men and women who went to Afghanistan and Iraq and came back with mental and physical injuries. It should be a day to apologize to the families who lost people, in the towers, the Pentagon, in PA, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and who were left to fend with cancer and other illnesses after their service and sacrifice. It should be a day to castigate those member of Congress who refused to fund healthcare for first responders.

And it should be a day to do some serious work on beating our swords into plowshares.

 I Won’t Forget

Our fearless leader has written 2 thorough and excellent pieces about the Afghanistan War and how we got where we are. If you haven’t read them, please do:  here and here. I have some thoughts, too.

There sure are a lot of familiar faces on the TeeVee over the last few days, blathering on about Afghanistan and tut-tutting over President Biden’s decision to get the hell out of, well, hell. They seem to think they have a blank slate for selling their snake oil. Well, I remember who they are and what they did.

In 1990, Iraq annexed Kuwait and we were supposed to feel it was justified because Kuwaiti women weren’t allowed to drive. Hey, it was going to be awesome! The US was going to beat back these sexist bullies and Kuwaiti women would be able to drive!

In reality there was no reason for the US to go to war with Iraq. But there was plenty of incentive for the Saudi-loving Bush family to protect their monster friends’ oilfields which were close enough for the invading Iraq army to take over. And so the propaganda machine took over. A DC public relations firm, Hill & Knowlton, funded by the Kuwaiti government, began pumping out disinformation to convince Congress to authorize war.

The nadir of the lying was the Congressional testimony of a nurse who said she saw Iraqi soldiers take babies out of incubators and throw them on the floor. This was all it took to convince Congress to go to war. The truth was that she was a member of the Kuwaiti royal family lying and playing a role. But the damage was done.

George H.W. Bush set a deadline of midnight January 16, 1991 for US demands to be met. On the evening of January 16 I attended an interfaith peace service at National Cathedral that culminated in a silent candlelit protest walk to the White House. Houses along Massachusetts Avenue had candles in their windows, and residents stood in their front yards holding candles in solidarity. Of course it didn’t work. But I won’t forget what happened.

The Iraq War was advanced by even more egregious lies and a news media drunk on ratings. Taking their cue from CNN’s non-stop coverage of the Gulf War, this time all of the networks threw in big time. And the Republicans had upped their propaganda approach:  instead of a Kuwaiti royal playacting to tug on the heartstrings of unsophisticated rubes, this time the government made sure reporters got to go play soldier, complete with flak jackets and Jeep rides with the troops. War was exciting! There were big guns!

I didn’t buy any of it. Just like in 1991, I wholly opposed this war because it was all fake news. I took a lot of crap for telling the truth then but the Iraq War was wrong. It was founded on lies related to the 9/11 attacks and it was sustained by media outlets who put profit over truth. And eventually the whole house of cards collapsed.

Now that Biden has taken the steps to end 30 fucking years of wars built on lies, fought by other people’s sons and daughters and designed to make money for people who are already obscenely wealthy, all sorts of stuck pigs are squealing. A bunch of cowards who won’t make their names public are whispering to reporters at the outlets that are the most complicit in repeating the propaganda of rich people with power—CNN, Politico, Axios—about how it’s not their fault. Multiple sources looking to cover their asses after they put their fingerprints all over the Afghanistan fiasco are now bleating self-interested lies to organizations that love to uncritically print pre-digested GOP talking points.

People who perpetuate lies are always angry when their lies are uncovered and they will scramble to drown out the truth by making more noise. I’ll let Jack Mirkinson have the last paragraph as he excoriates some of the worst people liberals made heroes by not thinking critically enough during the Trump years:

But too many in our media cannot seem to admit this, and too many outlets are rolling out the red carpet for the usual gallery of unrepentant hawks. In the Washington Post, Max Boot called the withdrawal “the worst U.S. foreign policy failure since the fall of Saigon in 1975,” which would be news to anyone with even a passing familiarity with the Iraq War, and wondered (yet again) why the U.S. couldn’t just keep troops in Afghanistan forever. NPR decided it was a good idea to ask John Bolton what he thought. In the Atlantic, Tom Nichols told readers, “Afghanistan is your fault,” castigating the American people for demanding an end to the war:

Biden was right, in the end, to bite the bullet and refuse to pass this conflict on to yet another president. His execution of this resolve, however, looks to be a tragic and shameful mess and will likely be a case study in policy schools for years to come. But there was no version of “Stop the forever war” that didn’t end with the fall of Kabul. We believed otherwise, as a nation, because we wanted to believe it. And because we had shopping to do and television to watch and arguments to be had on social media.

So Biden was right to end the war but Americans are still the villains because we care about shopping. Makes sense. Maybe what is happening is the fault of the people who have presided over this calamity for 20 years?

The last word goes to Depeche Mode:

Kevin And Karen Can F*%K Themselves

Kevin Can F Himself

You know, for a nice Canadian gal she sure has a habit of picking titles that are potty mouthed

My new favorite TV show is called Kevin Can F*%K Himself. If you don’t know, the premise of the show is that that main character, Allison, lives in two different television realities. In the brightly lit multi-camera sitcom world she is the perpetually put upon wife of the titular man child character. Think Leah Remini in The King Of Queens. In the other darker single camera world she is a woman on the edge of a nervous, potentially homicidal, breakdown ready to do anything to escape the hell that her husband has made of her life. Think Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad. The combination of the two is a phenomenal deconstruction of both styles. I’m particularly drawn to the point it makes about how situations perceived as benign one way are tragic in another.

Which brings me to vaccines. In particular, the COVID 19 vaccine.

Let me just begin by saying that if you are a Kevin or a Karen who still hasn’t gotten the vaccine, you can go f*#k yourself. I don’t want to hear your excuses. I don’t want to hear about how the FDA hasn’t fully approved it (this is an emergency dickwad and it was approved for emergency use so f**k you use it). I don’t want to hear about how you HEARD it might mess with your DNA (no more than that six pack of Coors before dinner every night does and probably a lot less). I don’t want to hear about how you’re just being cautious and once the science comes in you’ll decide from there (like you care about science or could even read a scientific report let alone understand it). And if you say but people who have been vaccinated have still tested positive for COVID I swear I will punch your lights out. Learn what that really means. If you want this pandemic to be over there is only one way for that to happen and it’s for everyone to get the vaccine.

So f*^k you if you haven’t gotten it.

We had it beat. We were starting to reopen, to get back to normal, to come out on the other side. All you had to do was get the jab, once for J&J, twice for the others. The first day I was eligible I made an appointment to get it. More importantly the wife (Cruella) made an appointment to get it as well. Put a pin in that point, we’ll come back to it after the jump.

On June 15 California declared that anyone who was vaccinated could go without a mask, not have to observe social distancing, and in general get back to life as we knew it. Last week many counties in California were forced to reintroduce those precautions because the Delta variant, which it has been shown the vaccine protects against, has spiked here and across the country. Who’s getting sick? Not those of us vaccinated. Only those who are not. In other words, those of us who did what we were asked to do, what we were pleaded with to do, now have to go back to Pandemic Days because little Karen Kouldn’t Kare with her degree in epidemiology from the University of Fox News has to be kept alive and well.

I’ll do it, cause I’m just that kind of community minded person, but Karen can go f##k herself.

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A Victim of FOFO

Prince George At Euro 2020 Final

I feel for ya kid. If my dad made me wear a suit and tie to a sporting event AND my team lost I’d be pissed too.

A few years ago a new acronym entered the lexicon- FOMO. It stands for Fear Of Missing Out, the notion that because via our phones we can see in real time events our friends and relations are engaging in we are somehow missing out on those events by not actually being there.

This past Sunday I became a victim of FOFO. Like FOMO, FOFO involves our relationship with technology and the toys that bring the tech to our fingertips. But FOFO isn’t about missing out on something, it’s about the active desire to not want to know something. FOFO stands for Fear Of Finding Out.

The particular event this relates to was the final of the Euro Cup Soccer Tournament between England (the good guys) and Italy (the less good guys). Out here on the Left Coast the match began at noon. I could not watch it then. There was business to attend to, business that would not be finished till well after the end of the game. No problem thought I. I would simply record the game, avoid any information about what happened in the game, and watch it in pure unadulterated sports ignorance bliss when I got home.

And that’s when I encountered FOFO.

It might not be a big deal here in the US of A, but the Euro Cup IS a big deal everywhere else in the world. While I had disabled all the alerts I have for sports stories and even went to the extent of disabling alerts from news organizations on the off chance a score would find it’s way to my binging phone, I so wanted to know nothing of the match in order to better enjoy it via tape delay that I took to not even looking at my phone the entire afternoon.

That’s a lot more difficult than you would think. I didn’t miss out on anything really important, but every time there was a vibration and a bing in my pocket (is that a bing in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?) I felt I had to ignore it on the oft chance it might contain information I didn’t want to know.

And suddenly I understood the Fox News viewer better than I ever have.

While I didn’t want to know who scored or what team was ahead, the Fox News viewer doesn’t want to get information from any other source on the oft chance he or she might have their preconceived notions of right and wrong challenged. Their FOFO is directly connected to their own self image or perhaps to the lack of same.

Their FOFO is so strong that their elected officials are taking them up on it. January 6th? Never heard of it. Did something happen that day? I just remember there being a lot more than usual tourists traipsing through the building. No big deal.

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Jesus Was Born On The Fourth Of July

Hobby Lobby July 4 Ad

I’ve spent a good amount of my life in the retail sector.

My parents owned retail stores. I worked in them from the time I was old enough to make correct change. For many years I owned retail stores, a case of the apple not falling far from the tree. Or maybe I was just too lazy to learn another way of making a living. Whatever.

One thing I learned is that it’s bad business to discuss politics or religion with a customer. No matter if they hold the same beliefs as yourself or if they are diametrically opposed to your own beliefs, bringing up those subjects is a certain way to make sure their money never ends up putting food on your table.

I also learned never to congratulate a woman on her pregnancy till SHE mentioned it. That’s another story.

The point is that in retail you smile a lot, eat your personal feelings, and make the sale.

Which brings us to our topic for the day, Hobby Lobby and their insulting 4th of July advertisement.  

Now we all know Hobby Lobby is as Christian conservative as you can get. You have to be to take it all the way to the Supreme Court just to get out of paying for your female employees’ reproductive health care. But to state with such impunity that you believe the United States of America was founded to be a Christian nation and live under the dogma of the Protestant Christian Church, well that’s as meshuge as you can get.

As I have stated before I am an atheist. If you want to believe that is fine with me, but we both live in the land of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and nowhere in that sobriquet does it mention Jesus of Nazareth. Nor is he mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, or any other of the founding documents. Do they mention god? Yes they do, especially that first amendment that says Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. As a matter of fact it’s the first sentence in the first amendment. And god or a creator or a divine being is not mentioned at all in the main body of the Constitution. I guess the founding fathers really had a thing about wanting to make sure that government and church were kept apart.

Hobby Lobby’s ad wasn’t even a plea for bringing god into political discourse. If it was I’d dismiss it as a waste of some true believer’s money. What it was was a declaration that this particular form of worship, and only this form, is the founding principle of the USA.

Representative government, the will of the people, the enshrinement of liberty and freedom as the cornerstone tenets of the nation, all that goes out the window. According to them, America was founded to be a playground for the true Christian believers. Not even the original believers are good enough; Catholics need not apply. And Jews? I’m sure Hobby Lobby would approve of the answer I once got from a bible thumper when I mentioned Jesus was born Jewish. “Well sure, but then he got smart and converted”.

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Why We Travel

Mark Twain on Travel

During World War II the Antifa government of the United States commissioned their great factory of propaganda called Hollywood to produce a series of films called WHY WE FIGHT. These films were the product of the best and the brightest of American cinema; written by the Epstein brothers of CASABLANCA fame, scored by the dean of film music Alfred Newman, shot by the father of the documentary Robert Flahtery, and directed by three time Academy Award winner Frank Capra. They told in a simple and easy to understand style the reasons America was in the war. In fact they were so good the Feds decided the films, which were made for the troops, should be released to the general public.

I think we need the Biden Administration to underwrite a new series of films for our times. Maybe have them star all the Marvel superheroes, they’re popular. Call the series WHY WE TRAVEL. And then get people to travel.

63% of Americans don’t have a passport. Most say they don’t need one because they don’t see themselves leaving the country…ever. Some though say they don’t feel the government should be mandating “papers” for citizens. That might account for why 43% of Americans are against the idea of a vaccine passport. Of course most of them don’t have a driver’s license either. Sarcasm.

Personally I’ve held a passport for 40 years. My oldest ones are filled with entry and exit stamps from countries around the world, some that don’t even exist anymore, some where travel by Americans was limited. I’m actually peeved now when an immigration official doesn’t have one of the old “ker-thump” style hand stamps that rattle the desk with an imprimatur of official recognition. Hell, the Swiss don’t even stamp your passport at all, your comings and goings simply noted via barcode scan sent to a central computer deep inside an Alpine mountain.

Or some goatherder’s hut on top of the mountain. The Swiss, whatcha gonna do?

Travel broadens your horizons as the saying goes. As Sam/Mark says above, it’s hard to stay bigoted about someone once you’ve seen their home. Strongly held beliefs tend to wither away in the face of actual experience. Being in the Soviet Union in 1986 gave me greater understanding of Gorbachev’s Glasnost plans and why they had to be implemented. Walking the streets of Havana is truly the only way to understand the resilience of the Cuban people. Spending an hour in a pub in Belfast brings the knowledge that though tempered, The Troubles are far from over. Exploring the back alleys of the old city of Jerusalem made me realize that all this bloodshed, all these tears, all this drama, is over a bunch of rocks.

In that same vein I highly encourage anyone who is anti-immigration to spend some time in Central or South America. Or someone who is against socialized medicine to spend some time in any country that has it. Or anyone who can’t understand why African Americans don’t just do what the nice police officer who pulled them over for no reason says to do to spend some time in a third world country like the Philippines or Nigeria and learn what it truly means to have no power over a situation.

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Fractured Fairy Tales

Fractured Fairy Tales Logo

 

I was a cartoon kid. I grew up on them, devoting endless Saturday mornings to the careful study of the various nuances of Underdog, Top Cat, or Yogi Bear. But far and away my absolute favorites were anything that came out of the Jay Ward factory. Bullwinkle and Rocky, Tom Slick, Dudley Do-Right, Peabody and Sherman. I may not have understood every joke, in fact there were times I knew something was a joke but too “adult” for me, but I loved the way they just kept spitting them out.

One that I generally did get the jokes for was Fractured Fairy Tales. Take a story that even at the age of seven or eight I had heard a zillion times and put a funny modern twist on it. Add that great narration by Edward Everett Horton and I’d say I would be on the floor laughing but I was already on the floor and laughing.

I bring this up because whenever there is fighting between Israel and an Arab entity (be it country or terrorist group) as there has been the last two weeks inevitably there will be a wag out there opining that this is just two peoples fighting over which Middle Eastern desert sect wrote down the better/correct fairy tales.

Both sides fairy tales are fractured. As are so many of the fairy tales we tell.

Personally I’m an atheist. Where did the world come from? Don’t know, don’t care. I deal with what is, not what might be. I wish the rest of the people in the world saw things as I see them, I think we’d all be better off, but I’m willing to respect a person’s right to their own opinion. You want to believe in God, Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, the Church of Bob, that’s your belief system and if it works for you then as the kids these days say, you do you.

Where I do have a problem is when you want to take your personal belief system and impose it on everyone else. I’m not in favor of universal excommunication of all religion, but if your religion says in effect “Only our fairytale is the correct way to live your life, follow or we will make your life worthless” then I’m going to have to say “With all due respect, bullshit”.

Throughout human history we have told these fractured fairy tales. Ancient civilizations were mostly structured by fairy tales. What is a king or royalty but a construct by which a fable is told that this person, by right of family or maybe because he pulled a sword from a stone, is to rule over the rest of the land. As humans have evolved many societies have done away with that particular fairy tale or at least turned it into a profitable center of entertainment.

Yeah, I’m looking at you QEII.

The fairy tales did serve a somewhat useful purpose back in the day. They taught children to not steal from their neighbors or to be careful of the wolf in the forest or to not judge a beast too quickly for he may be an enchanted prince (or at least a nice guy). They also gave hope in a time when many lives were frankly hopeless. Maybe your fairy godmother will get you to the ball or a handsome prince will wake you from a spell or that even an ugly ducking can turn into a beautiful swan.

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Have We Considered Banning Bullshit?

This kind of “differing corporate culture” nonsense always makes my eyeballs itch: 

Rick Santelli, the veteran CNBC correspondent, recently got into an on-air spat with one of his longtime colleagues. Whether he will be given leeway to spar in similar fashion with new co-workers elsewhere in the company is something executives at NBCUniversal ought to work quickly to decide.

During an early-December panel on the business-news network’s “Squawk Box,” Santelli began to yell at Andrew Ross Sorkin, who pressed him on comments he had made about coronavirus restrictions at restaurants. Sorkin pushed his colleague to exercise greater caution about suggesting viewers should be able to crowd into restaurants the way they do into retail outlets.

“Who is this? Who is this?” asked Santelli, even though Sorkin has been a co-host of the program for almost a decade. As Sorkin prodded Santelli to reconsider what he said, the correspondent went into an on-air huff. “I disagree. I disagree! I disagree!” said Santelli, his voice rising with the issuance of each short sentence. “You can have your thoughts and I can have mine. I disagree.”

The piece goes on to describe the “culture clash” between people who are loud but mostly harmless and occasionally say a true thing, and people like Santelli and Bartiromo who are saying things that are not true and are actively hurting people. It is not a “culture clash” when one part of a news division says hey, maybe it will hurt our credibility to have science-deniers on TV all day every day jerking Trump off. That’s not, like, a problem with the decorations at the office party.

What if, instead of having a policy encoded in the HR manual, you just … didn’t hire dishonest political actors and/or, when the mostly normal people you hired turned Tea Party-feral on live television, you disciplined or fired them?

CRAZY TALK. I’m aware. Okay, let’s not make it about people and their sincerely held beliefs that COVID cannot travel inside a restaurant. How about just having a policy of individuals, whatever their private Facebook posts may say, not spouting dishonest shit on the air? Could we get behind that? How about our news policy should be that if you are demonstrably full of crap, if you are saying things that are not true, that can be debunked by a half-competent barn cat on shrooms, we don’t, you know, do that no more?

I KNOW, okay, there would be nothing to broadcast, this is why 24-hour cable news channels should be nuked from orbit or at least banned from the waiting rooms of dentist’s offices and airports. But this is the kind of that that, once it’s implemented at this high a level, filters down to your local fishwrap and becomes a cudgel to beat on anyone who speaks up about anything, regardless of substance.

Because that’s the thing. These aren’t regulated militias of relatively equal strength meeting for choreographed skirmishes on neutral ground. What someone is saying matters just as much as how loud and often they’re saying it. Are they being loud and obnoxious and combative in service, to, you know, the actual truth and the keeping of people alive? Or are they shouting things like BUY BEAR STEARNS when the company is about to go tits-up in a fashion that makes the Titanic look well-maintained?

Keeping that dude and his ten-a-penny imitators in the cocaine-piles to which they’ve become accustomed is not a problem with a “clash” of attitudes, it’s a problem with tolerating punditry being wrong all the time with zero consequences for said pundits, within the “corporate culture” or without.

Instead of making this about tactics and decibel levels and whether someone “glared” at the camera perhaps these fine news organizations should be examining if any of the information they’re giving to their audiences is remotely true or not. That would be a good place to start.

A.

ps. It is not okay for an entire network to be full of shit, broadcasting said shit 24 hours a day on the public airwaves, and for us all to shrug like “oh, that’s just Fox, you can’t expect a leper colony to not have any lepers.” It is not okay to just write off an entire propaganda network and let it exist so long as it doesn’t spread. Look around. It has spread some.

On Unity

I’ve been done since March 20th with shaming individual people for decisions that should have been handled by the institutions we task with such things. Mad at kids partying in a club?

That’s not on “college students,” who make terrible decisions, news at 11. It’s on the city, county and state, and the presumed adults who own and operate that club, to shut that shit down.

We keep acting like people aren’t people. The entire reason to have laws and regulations is because people are idiot assholes, and not just when they’re 19. I am a grown-ass woman who’s old enough to be embarrassing to her teenage nieces if she goes out dancing but I swear sometimes I feel like eff it, no one else is doing shit, why am I staying home?

You put out a tray of shots, I am taking one. SO STOP MAKING BUTTERY NIPPLES BY THE PITCHER, FER CHRISSAKES.

(This is a cousin to the news stories every year about stampedes for a waffle iron at Walmart on Black Friday. Everybody laughs at the poor people tripping over each other and nobody asks why the store encourages that shit.)

Periodically throughout this crisis we’ve heard about how we’re not united in our response to it, nor collectively experiencing it the way we have other major crises, and then told it’s all our fault: 

Still, focusing solely on Washington’s response to the pandemic would be letting the American public broadly off the hook, McElya said.

“We need to really consider this and talk about this as a collective national failure,” she said. “One certainly encouraged by our leadership. But people have to submit or commit to that narrative, and so many have, and that’s an enormous sadness.”

 

Look. I am not excusing people who’ve picked up on the anti-mask thing as one more way to be a belligerent dickhead to the sandwich girl, but someone sold them that line. A lot of someones, on a network that starts with F and ends with X and in the middle is an endless stream of grievances and resentments and fears. I don’t think you can let off the hook the people profiting from chaos and confusion.

Yelling at your neighbors on Facebook is where Republicans WANT you right now. They want you demoralized by the everyday stupidity of individuals instead of the rapacious greed of leadership. They want you to yell at me and me at you. Why? Because then we’re not yelling at them.

Christ, my neighborhood corona-info group had to BAN posts that were like I WAS OUT WALKING TODAY AND THERE WAS A PERSON NOT WEARING A MASK RIGHT because that’s all it was after a while, not the kinds of breakdowns of information that would actually inform anyone.

If we’re not focused as a nation on something, if we’re not facing something collectively, it’s not because young white people went to the bars and it’s not because somebody wasn’t wearing a mask in a public park. It’s because our president insisted we open the bars. It’s because the GOP’s propaganda network told people masks were tyranny.

Stop wishing for unity and then deploring your neighbors for the actions of your leaders. We don’t have time for this.

A.

Fox Gonna Fox

They were never a news organization: 

In one instance, according to emails revealed in a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the Sierra Club and reviewed by The Daily Beast, Pruitt’s team even approved part of the show’s script.

Fox & Friends has long been a friendly venue for Trump and his allies, but the emails demonstrate how the show has pushed standard cable-news practices to the extreme in order to make interviews a comfortable, non-confrontational experience for favored government officials.

And as long as we’re here, stop referring to Fox News as “state TV.” If they were “state TV” they’d have rolled over when Obama patted their bellies. They’re the GOP, through and through, always have been, and the only people this wasn’t obvious to on day one were their fellow journalists.

AKA the people who get paid to suss out bullshit and name it for what it is.

Those people demanded Fox receive entry into the hallowed press fraternity and derided as “liberally biased” anyone who said hey, this is a network full of crap at all times. They’re still covering for Fox, as is everyone who pretends Shep Smith is some kind of hero for occasionally talking sense while still cashing Murdoch’s slimy checks.

We were always heading toward the most dishonest of the warbloggers getting White House press credentials in a BRAWNDO administration once Fox stuck its nose in the henhouse.

A.

The MAGA Bomber’s Enemies List

As of this writing, here’s who the MAGA Bomber is telling to pipe down by mailing them a pipe bomb:

  • George Soros
  • The Clintons
  • The Obamas
  • Eric Holder
  • John Brennan 
  • Debbie Wasserman Schultz
  • Maxine Waters
  • Joe Biden
  • Robert DeNiro

Robert Fucking DeNiro? It’s a good thing that he’s not in his prime or he just might go Raging Bull or even Taxi Driver on someone’s ass.  I guess that makes him the Paul Newman of this dangerously crazy incident: the salad dressing mogul was on Nixon’s enemies list. Bobby D is in good company.

Trump made a statement yesterday at the White House. Here’s how some wise ass described it on the tweeter tube:

He was back in full tilt Insult Comedian mode at a rally in Wisconsin last night and tweeted this out this morning:

He seems to think his tiny hands are clean. They are not. I know incitement speech when I hear it. The MAGA Bomber has been paying attention to Trump’s stump rantings: the members of the enemies list have all been attacked by the president*. In a word, disgusting.

There’s evidence that the MAGA Bomber comes from the creepy world of Pepe the Frog:

The pipe bomb discovered Wednesday and addressed to former CIA director John Brennan via CNN features a parody of the ISIS flag with the words “get ‘er done,” a common right-wing meme, according to a Wednesday NBC report.

On the fake flag, the Arabic words are replaced by suggestive female silhouettes. The meme reportedly originated on a far-right parody site called World News Bureau.
So much for false flaggery. Pipe bomb trutherism is a pipe dream but Rush Limbaugh is still pushing it as were these MAGA Maggots yesterday in Florida:

We’ve had periods of political violence before in our history but the incitement never came from the White House. That’s what makes this moment in time so fraught with peril. Here’s how Charlie Pierce put it yesterday:
In the 1970s, there were no national politicians encouraging the Weathermen to involve themselves in the political process. Bernadine Dohrn didn’t get to visit the White House. Of course, in the 1950s and the 1960s, there were southern state politicians a’plenty who knew the people who were setting off the bombs, but the national government was pretty much on the other side; even though it was often dilatory in that regard, it got there eventually. (In 2002 and 2003, the last two culprits in the Birmingham church bombing were finally convicted by Doug Jones, now a senator from Alabama.)
The current president* of the United States trafficks in imaginary threats and encourages, by word and deed, feelings of dread and isolation and deep, familiar paranoia, the entire Hofstadter buffet. And there is an entire media infrastructure dedicated to reinforcing those feelings, 24-7, on all platforms of the modern communications industry. The Weathermen didn’t have their own TV network.
There’s only one palliative for the pernicious and mendacious fearmongering by the Party of Trump; VOTE on November 6th, and in every election thereafter. Democratic control of at least one House of Congress means oversight and investigations. A Republican victory means an emboldened president*, a cowed Congress, an expanded enemies list, and more right-wing domestic terrorism.

Civility Rights

Be polite while we kill you.

Be polite while we erase you.

Be polite while we cage you.

Be polite while we shoot you.

Be polite while we fire you.

Be polite while you’re less than.

Be polite while you’re ground under.

Be polite while you let us walk all over you. Kiss the foot that kicks you. Thank us for our scorn. Be polite. Be polite. Be polite.

Above all, be polite.

Don’t talk about politics. Don’t talk about war. Don’t talk about race. Don’t talk about the inherent inhumanity of ripping children from their mothers’ arms, about drone-bombing villages whose names you don’t even know, about paying someone $8 an hour to scrub toilets and calling it a good job. Don’t talk about local races, national races, international relations, sexual harassment, rape culture, gun control, climate change, factory farms. Don’t talk about where your kids go to school and how they get there and how it gets harder every day to raise them as people with compassion and grace when the voices that are raised up to the halls of power are calling down every day in hatred. Don’t talk about any of that.

Shh. Shut up. Everyone’s looking. Be polite.

Polite protects power. Polite and nice are unquestionably good and good is just as we are meant to be and good needs no defense. There’s no defense for their monstrosity. There’s no defense for the lies they tell and there’s no defense for the truth, either. Someone sent out a memo yesterday, the day before: several thousand poor and starving people are going to walk into your country and take what’s yours so you’d better vote for Republicans, because we’ll build a wall to keep them out.

Several million poor people are living in your country and they’re taking what’s yours so we’ll cut your taxes to stop them.

Just over a million people are living their lives out loud for the first time and it freaks you right out so we’ll write a law to wipe them out of existence.

Oh, you don’t like that? You object? You protest?

We’ll laugh at you, we’ll threaten you, we’ll fight you, we’ll kill you.

You fight back? You speak out? You stand up? How dare you.

Can’t have that. We’ll tell you to be polite. Everyone agrees it’s too loud and mean in here these days. Everyone agrees it’s colder than it used to be out there. Everyone agrees our country is divided. Became divided. The political divide, it deepens every day, because of this incivility.

Power is always civil. Power deserves courtesy, deference, respect. It wears a suit when it puts your daughter in a cage. It wears a uniform when it shoots your son. It’s never messy when it closes down your library; after all, it’s not like power burned those books, right? It has a prepared statement to e-mail to the press, blow-dried shiny hair, a podium to stand behind. It sincerely regrets. It wishes this could have gone another way. It tells you this can’t be helped. It’s so clean.

You’re the messy one. Yelling. Hair all wild, eyes wide, top of your lungs. Who do you think you are? What do you think you’re doing? Who is all of this shouting supposed to convince, anyway? Who is the audience for it? What is the BRAND?

If you really want to make a difference, you should sit on a stage next to the monster, calmly debate him for an audience of journalists and lobbyists and hobbyists at being human. Their opinions REALLY matter. They’re thought leaders leading thoughts. They get their op-eds published, in the name of “free speech.” Your speech should be just as free. You should sit next to the monster in the exact same chair as him, so we can judge his suit against your hoodie with the rude slogan, and find you wanting, if in no other way than appearance.

Don’t like it? Don’t think it’s fair? That’s the way the world works, kiddo. Sarah Huckabee Sanders had a right to that cheese plate. You risk turning everyone against you by standing on the public street.

With your rude T-shirt declaring your rights, human rights.

With your sign.

That says, please don’t kill me.

A.

Wingnut Sites That Are Wrong About Everything Are Wrong Again, Surprise Duh

If you come forward to accuse a powerful man, a content farm might aggregate your RateMyProfessor.com reviews, which are themselves a collection of anonymous bullshit from who-knows-where, and use them to savage you in a story that turns out to be ABOUT THE WRONG CHRISTINE FORD: 

Brett Kavanaugh’s formerly anonymous accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, has come forward. She’s a professor in the Social Work Department at California State University – Fullerton. Many interested in learning more about who Ford is have come across her students’ reviews on RateMyProfessors.com. 

They’re … not good.

Overall, she scores 2.3 out of 5 (a failing grade if the roles were reversed). The reviews span from 2010 – 2014, which rules out students tampering with her reviews as part of the current Kavanaugh controversy. 

[snip]

Editor’s Note: We apologize for the error, but we’ve since learned there are two Christine Fords working in clinical psychology in California and we wrote this report about the wrong Christine Ford. We regret not going to greater lengths to ensure this was indeed the same Christine Ford. Please do not share this article with anyone (and if you have, delete it/withdraw it); we are only leaving the page up so you can see this important update.

So this gets posted, picked up by a bunch of wingnut sites, and goes everywhere before the idiots realize that they’ve got the wrong person. And over something so dumb as RateMyProfessor reviews, which are about as reliable as Yelp reviews of a concert where somebody died on stage.

This isn’t even a smear job from someone in authority (though plenty of people treated as legit journalists cough*DRUDGE*cough picked this up), just a bad, dumb, clickwhoring stab from somebody who thought hey, I’ll get a piece of this roiling clusterfuck for my very own!

This is why women don’t come forward to accuse the powerful: There’s an army of bootlicks out there, ready to tear the accusers down. Not for power or money but because it’s fun to cackle and make a mess. They’re chaos-causing shitlords who don’t give a damn about the damage they create, and once unleashed will deny all responsibility for the trash fire they lit.

And this is why I keep beating the drum that national media who let these types of people into their parties and treat them like respected colleagues (“Matt Drudge Rules Our World“) have contributed to the very atmosphere they now deplore, where things like this happen and are corrected after the fact, like the strikethrough makes it better, like it’s just an honest mistake.

Via Doc.

A.

The Three Thousand & Where Power Lies

It doesn’t matter whose fault it is:

He’s a feral animal, of course, who can only see things in terms of how they affect him. You know this and so do I and I think so does he, not that it matters. I’m so tired of spending time in his psyche. Who cares if he’s crazy or evil or crazy-evil; three thousand still died.

And more will, and more. When this was all going down this week I thought of friends who died years after Katrina, after wars, after trauma. Kick and I drove home from a festival Saturday night listening to Springsteen’s concert in New Orleans in ’06, barely seven months after the storm:

And I thought of Ashley, who Adrastos wrote about this week, and Betty, and Morwen, and Greg, and all the people who died later, much later, because their lives got ripped to shreds and never quite got put back together, because everything that happens to you wears you down a little more, because it’s hard to tell when all the threads are woven together which one will unravel you when it’s pulled.

These things have long tails, have a half-life and you can’t just say the waters receded and then everything was all right again. More will die in Puerto Rico. More will die on the Carolina coast. More will die every day and the point isn’t how many, when. The point is we could have stopped it, and helped, and didn’t.

That’s all that matters to the three thousand.

The story in Puerto Rico, it matters less who’s to blame for it than who’s supposed to handle it. Yelling at Trump isn’t about finding someone to blame. It’s about getting someone to DO THINGS. Like okay, the bottled water isn’t getting where it should go, SO FIX IT ALREADY.

Government is, six days of the year, an actual job and not just cutting ribbons on new supermarkets and shit. I thought Trump was supposed to be this colossus. I thought he was this great legendary thing, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and overcome ordinary obstacles with his giant business penis or whatever the hell he was on about during the campaign.

“I alone can fix it” is a promise you’d best be prepared to make real, time comes.

The three thousand people who died in Puerto Rico don’t care if Trump is to blame or not. If he saved them, they’d just be glad to be alive. And we had the capability to save them; this “well, FEMA just drops stuff off, derp derp derp” is horseshit. We can override laws and rules and regulations whenever we feel like it, and there are lots of people at, say, Mar-A-Lago and in Iraq who can attest to those things.

It’s amazing how Trump wants to violate every norm and rule when it’s time to put some money in his bank account, and how Republicans are all WHAT EVEN IS REGULAR ORDER when they want to put the personification of 6-month-old sour cream on the United States Supreme Court, but when there’s bottled water to be distributed in Puerto Rico it’s “well, somebody else was supposed to do this one thing and we were powerless to override that vague convention.” Like just send in the 82nd, you’ve already proved literally nobody is gonna fuck with you.

I mean, even if you grant that we have an imperial presidency and have since around 9/11/01: PUT IT TO USE ALREADY. Unless you just didn’t want to do that, in which case, fucking own it. Admit that you have power where you want to have it, so that we can assess, and make decisions, without somebody throwing a giant tantrum all day long about FAKE NEWS and DEMOCRAT PERFIDY and other shit that doesn’t matter one bit to three thousand dead.

A.

Confederates or, Who You Are in the War

Ta-Nehisi Coates: 

Storytellers have the right to answer any question they choose. But we do not need to wait to examine all the questions that are not being chosen: What if John Brown had succeeded? What if the Haitian Revolution had spread to the rest of the Americas? What if black soldiers had been enlisted at the onset of the Civil War? What if Native Americans had halted the advance of whites at the Mississippi? And we need not wait to note that more interesting than asking what the world would be like if the white South had won is asking why so many white people are enthralled with a world where the dreams of Harriet Tubman were destroyed by the ambitions of Robert E. Lee.

The problem of Confederate can’t be redeemed by production values, crisp writing, or even complicated characters. That is not because its conceivers are personally racist, or seek to create a show that endorses slavery. Far from it, I suspect. Indeed, the creators have said that their hope is to use science fiction to “show us how this history is still with us in a way no strictly realistic drama ever could.” And that really is the problem. African Americans do not need science-fiction, or really any fiction, to tell them that that “history is still with us.” It’s right outside our door. It’s in our politics. It’s on our networks. And Confederate is not immune. The show’s very operating premise, the fact that it roots itself in a long white tradition of imagining away emancipation, leaves one wondering how “lost” the Lost Cause really was.

Others with more at stake have said much of what needs saying about this garbage (we get THIS but have to wait forever for the next David Milch project) but I’d like to talk about it in the context of the reimagining of history generally and the dystopian stories of the past decade. The earth caves in, there’s a nuclear devastation or famine or a plague, and then what?

There’s always an element of wish-fulfillment in these stories, that the last-millennium skills you’ve been nurturing would come to be of value after all, that your foresight in stockpiling liquor and ammo would attract fertile females and fierce warriors to your side, that everyone who thought you were a loser in the old world would value you in the new. So many people go through life thinking they don’t matter, or can’t matter, without some fanfare and a smoking crater where their home used to be.

But in walking that line, the best of our TV stories — 12 Monkeys, Galactica, The Expanse — come back around to the point that if you say you know who you’re gonna be in the war, if you long for the war so that you can be a certain person, you’re a bankrupt idiot who has no idea about anything. You think you know who you’re going to be? You have no idea.

You think that there’s some moment, where history hinges, at which you could rise up a hero and what, prove yourself worthy of mighty deeds?

As if you don’t have those moments every single day.

Jesus tits, look around you. Are you seeing a shortage of people to save? In the past WEEK the political party leading this country in every way that matters has tried to take away chemo from sick kids, ban refugees and asylum seekers based on religion, make legal immigrants tally up their virtues to prove they need to be here, close clinics that provide breast exams to poor people, and that’s just the stuff I remember off the top of my head after two glasses of wine at the end of a very long day.

You think you need a fantasy about the South winning the Civil War in order to overthrow slavery? Every political issue group on earth is offering free blowjobs to anyone who’ll campaign for them on a dozen issues that would impact racial equality in the United States, you don’t need this fanfic. Hell, buy and donate half a dozen books by young writers of color to your local library and you’ll have done more work than you would have in front of your TV every week. I know it’s not as sexy as imagining yourself part of the super-underground Underground Railroad, but it’s necessary and good nonetheless.

If your heroic fantasy just will not be satisfied without a firefight it’s not like the local recruiting station turns people away.

We think there’s some point at which we had more at stake. Than today?

If that’s truly the case, then you already know who you are in the war you’re imagining. You’re the guy sitting on the sidelines, telling himself he’ll fight when another conflict — one worthy of his magnificent gifts — comes along.

A.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Disturbance At The Heron House

Elijah and the Ravens by Ralph Chessé, 1945.

Winter played a fleeting return engagement in New Orleans this week. Unlike the Mid-March blizzard in the Northeast, it wasn’t anything to write home about but we ran the heater and shivered a bit. I’m not a fan of the new practice of naming winter storms even if the first one is named after a famous theatrical character, STELLA. Unless, that is, it’s named for the Hunter-Garcia ballad Stella Blue. The mere thought of a blizzard makes me blue so that could be it.

It may have been chilly of late but Spring allergy season is upon us with a vengeance. I have a mild case of red-eye but I’m used to that. A worse pestilence is this year’s flea crop. We haven’t had a hard freeze for several years so the nasty little buggers are dining on Oscar and Della Street. All we can do is treat the house, medicate the cats, and hope for the best. The idea of putting a flea collar on Della is particularly unappealing. She’s been known to draw blood so I’ll pass. Chomp.

This week’s theme song comes from R.E.M.’s classic 1987 Document album; more on the album anon. It’s my favorite record in their catalog and Disturbance At The Heron House is the kat’s meow. The lyrics were inspired by George Orwell’s Animal Farm, which is another reason I like it so much.

Here are two versions. The original studio track and one from R.E.M.’s appearance on MTV Unplugged. The second video has Radio Song as lagniappe.

The “followers of chaos out of control” indeed. In fact, they can follow me to the other side after the break. I hope it’s sufficiently chaotic.

Continue reading

Save One

We are arguing about how much of the house is on fire, with the refugee/immigrant ban. We are arguing closet versus attic versus living room, instead of picking up a damn bucket and putting the fire out:

President Trump and his aides love to cite a small number and a big number in order to minimize the impact of the president’s executive order suspending the visas of citizens of seven countries.

But these figures are incredibly misleading, so let’s go through the math.

Let’s not, because it doesn’t fucking matter. I don’t care if this executive order affected one person.  I don’t care if this hadn’t affected ANYONE yet. In no possible world are any of our laws tested constitutionally based on how many people they affect. That’s not the measurement. That’s not the qualifier. You don’t get to say well, we only screwed over a dozen immigrant kids, so until we get to triple digits we’re cool. That’s not how any of this works.

Our laws were not designed to save as many as possible. Our laws were designed to save us all, and that means saving one. One person. One child. One family. One mother or father or brother or sister. Our laws were designed to weigh us all, one against the other, and say no one of us is worth more than any of the others.

It’s why our presidents, our congressmen, are subject to our laws. It’s why you can bring suit against those holding the highest offices in the land. It’s why you and I can — or should be able to — avail ourselves of the same legal system as someone who got here last week.

And that includes potential terrorists, for all the wingnuts in the cheap seats. I know you all think life is a nonstop episode of 24 and if President Trump doesn’t personally electrode a Syrian dude’s balls in the Roosevelt Room then we’ll all die in a nuclear attack, but a) that is not how anything is going to happen and b) at no point would such a scenario be endangered by said Syrian dude invoking a right to counsel. If Trump is hooking jumper cables to his nethers he’s already figured out that nobody can hear him scream.

Meanwhile, the non-terrorist families that just want to come here, get jobs, spend money at the local Wal-Mart and watch American TV are going to get handcuffed and deported back to the places we explicitly encouraged them to flee, and you’ll pardon me if I don’t want to wait until they’re a certain percentage of travelers or if they’re especially promising at geometry or any of the other bullshit narratives that have sprung up in the past 72 (holy shit, only 72) hours.

They’re human beings, and we are America. Let’s not go through the math.

A.

Bannon’s B3 Brownshirts & The Chaos Principle

It’s official: Donald Trump had the worst first week of any President* in American history. It was so bad that I debated with a friend as to whether he was already the worst ever. I still think it’s too early to tell since Buchanan and W are responsible for wars and economic calamity. Trump hasn’t passed Andrew Johnson either BUT he’s building a strong case for worst ever and he’s only been at it for 10 days. I don’t think our cause benefits from hyperbole and overstatement. You can only fight lies with the truth and delusion with reality.

I admitted the other day to knowing very little about higher maths. I have, however, heard of the Chaos Principle:

Chaos is the science of surprises, of the nonlinear and the unpredictable. It teaches us to expect the unexpected. While most traditional science deals with supposedly predictable phenomena like gravity, electricity, or chemical reactions, Chaos Theory deals with nonlinear things that are effectively impossible to predict or control, like turbulence, weather, the stock market, our brain states, and so on.

It looks like Steve Bannon and his B3 Brownshirts are inspired by the Chaos Principle, at least by analogy. Team Trump is trying to inject so much chaos and confusion into our polity that repression will be required to maintain order. I seriously doubt if the Insult Comedian himself has such a plan: all he ever does is wing it without thought to the implications. Bannon, however, has emerged as first among equals in the West Wing. He’s capable of complex, devious, and downright evil thought. Bannon has Trump’s ear and the Dear Leader Wannabe seems to agree with the last person he spoke to.

In short, Bannon and his fellow white nationalists want to create the circumstances in which a right-wing revolution is possible. Those circumstances do not currently exist. Bitching about the government is as American as apple pie, it doesn’t amount to instant homegrown fascism. That is definitely a long-term threat but we have the mechanisms to stop it: people power and lawyers, lawyers, lawyers. Political courage on the part of elected officials seems to be in short supply but the longer this constitutional crisis lasts the bolder they will become. Talk of collaboration with the Trumpers has become much less common since they came to power.

The good news is that Team Trump’s Muslim ban was issued without co-ordination with the agencies obliged to enforce it and they didn’t even run it by their own lawyers. That makes it eminently susceptible to legal challenge. It was, apparently, pulled out of Rudy Noun Verb 9/11’s ass:

I’ll tell you the whole history of it. So when he first announced it he said, “Muslim ban.” He called me up and said, “Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.” I put a commission together with Judge Mukasey, with Congressman McCaul, Pete King, a whole group of other very expert lawyers on this. And what we did was we focused on, instead of religion, danger. The areas of the world that create danger for us. Which is a factual basis. Not a religious basis. Perfectly legal, perfectly sensible, and that’s what the ban is based on. It’s not based on religion. It’s based on places where there are substantial evidence that people are sending terrorists into our country.

That is, of course, nonsense. The order discriminates against people because of their religion, and all the lies in the world won’t change that. The fact that an exception was made for Christians from the affected countries is proof of discriminatory intent as is Giuliani’s need to brag about his role in the ban. He’s really turning into his master. Giuliani’s success in masterminding the Comey coup has gone to his head, and he was already a raging egomaniac. This is terrific evidence for the legal eagles to pounce on. Thanks, Rudy. I can imagine Justice Anthony Kennedy’s head spinning as I write this. I am as likely to vote Republican as he is to uphold this executive order if it reaches SCOTUS.

This policy is based on Islamophobic fantasies, not reality. That’s a recurring theme for Team Trump’s Bannon wing. In addition to the Chaos Principle, they believe in what one might call the Goebbels corollary: the bigger the lie, the more believable it is. This is propaganda, not spin. The MSM is finally showing signs of coming to grips with that. It’s a pity that they didn’t do so during the late campaign. The MSM and the “Clinton is just as bad as Trump” crowd bear a lot of responsibility for the mess we find ourselves in. I hope the Steiners and Busters enjoyed the events of this weekend. They have a share of the blame. I may “Nazi punch” the next purity troll who tells me their vote didn’t matter because they were in a red state or some other lame excuse. Every vote in every election matters.

The Trumpers have clearly overreached. The order placing Steve Bannon on the National Security Council is the best example I can think of. That body has been moribund for many years BUT excluding the Director of National Intelligence and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff sends a dangerous signal that Steve Bannon is running the show. It doesn’t get much worse than that but the order’s impact is symbolic for now. For now. That’s always the rub with this crowd.

One thing I’ve noticed about Bannon and his B3 Brownshirts is that they admire Soviet-style tactics. They’ve done some things that Stalin would have applauded such as placing what amounts to “political commissars” at cabinet departments and agencies. This sort of convergence of the far left and extreme right doesn’t surprise me at all.  This creeping Sovietism/Putinism is also reflected by their Holocaust remembrance day proclamation. It’s the first time an American administration has referred to the Holocaust without mentioning Jews. They’re pandering to the Holocaust denialists and minimizers. What’s next? An invitation for Davids Irving and Duke to visit the White House? Nothing would surprise me in the Chaos Principle era.

The one piece of advice I have for the nascent anti-Trump movement is to pace yourselves. The world is a complicated place and it cannot be changed in a day. This is going to be a long, hard slog and burn-out is a risk. Make sure to do whatever it is you do for fun It’s a lesson that New Orleanians learned during the post-Katrina/Federal Flood era. We were widely criticized for having Carnival in 2006. We knew better. It was necessary for our collective mental health. We continued rebuilding and pressuring the local, state, federal government for assistance but we took time out to enjoy life. It’s something that we can teach the rest of the country. There *is* a constitutional crisis now but stopping it won’t be helped by freaking out. Instead of freaking out: become better informed about American political history, and organize, organize, organize.

Vive les Maquis.

“Fuck You Nation” – National Edition

A year or two back, I coined the term “Fuck You Nation” to capture the general sense of how people in this country were tending to treat one another. The argument at the time was that when it came to the rise of Donald Trump, the mistrust of the media and the general sense of political discord, people were less “pro” something and more “fuck you” toward people they saw as “the opposition.” At the core of the argument was a general sense of self-righteousness, absolute certainty and an overwhelming sense of anger and bile.

If President Trump’s first week in office is any indication, I might soon need to patent that term and put it on T-Shirts. That, of course, presupposes we all survive long enough to have shirts printed and that the First Amendment isn’t outlawed.

“ALTERNATIVE FACTS:” We used to call these things “lies” or “bullshit” but now we have a whole new term. For fronting a party that hates politically correct language, Kellyanne Conway is doing a great job of coming up with some of her own. In defending Sean Spicer’s argument that the crowds at Trump’s inauguration were record-breaking and larger than Obama’s, she said it’s clear that Spicer just used “alternative facts.” In other words, “I see that you are saying X by supporting it with all sorts of information, but clearly it isn’t within my narrative, so I’m going to just tell you that you are wrong because the public has the attention span of a meth-addled squirrel.” In short, “Fuck you and your faggy little reliance on facts. REAL AMERICANS KNOW BETTER!”

We are so close to changing the national anthem from the “Star-Spangled Banner” to Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me.”
“OPPOSITION PARTY:” Steve Bannon, who seems to be sporting the “probable cause” look, granted an interview to the NY Times this week in which he told the paper that the media is “the opposition party.” He also said the media needs to keep its mouth shut,” something that is not only grammatically incorrect but runs counter to the whole purpose of the media.

Bannon’s case is a simple one and it rests at the core of Fuck You Nation: We won, you lost, so go fuck off for a while. He relies on the narrative that reeks of populism and group-based conflict studies: Demonstrate superiority, cite things in an authoritative way without providing documentation, rally support within your group through glittering generalities and call into question the motives of people who disagree with you, rather than focusing on the disagreement. Perhaps most reflective of all these elements is a single quote:

“The elite media got it dead wrong, 100 percent dead wrong,” Mr. Bannon said of the election, calling it “a humiliating defeat that they will never wash away, that will always be there.”

Bannon’s quote ignores key elements of reality (the popular vote, the media weren’t running for anything) and uses a single fact to create an overreaching singular reality (Donald Trump won the presidency, ergo all things he said are clearly 100 percent right and should be supported by this nation.)

In short, “Fuck you and your whiny bullshit. Shut up and get out of our way while we fix things.”

“GASLIGHTING:” During the past nine years, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what makes the asshole in my department tick. His ability to manipulate reality to fit his needs, rely on rules one minute while discarding them the next and the absolute certainty in which he took positions I knew were wrong fascinated me. I’d never dealt with someone like this and I had to understand it. About three years ago or so, I came across the book, “The Gaslight Effect” by Robin Stern. I remember reading through it and thinking, “Holy shit, this is a real thing. I’m not going crazy.”

Gaslighting is now the hot term and it has come to represent an “Emperor has no clothes” moment for the Left. However, it’s a lot more complicated than ego, manipulation or trying to create the Fourth or Fifth Reich (whichever we’re on now…). Gaslighting is both psychological manipulation and unyielding abuse that removes an individual’s sense of self and crushes the human spirit for another person’s selfish gains.

In a psychological sense, this is easy to understand, as manipulation, groupthink and other concepts have been studied for decades. Asch’s seminal work on conformity makes it easy enough to see what happens when something that appears so real and obvious to one person is contradicted repeatedly by others. Sane people tend to want to “see it from another point of view” or “avoid upsetting the apple cart” to the point of subjugating their own (accurate) reality to that of others. In other words, when Line B is clearly the longest, you still want to figure out why it is that everyone else in the group (all confederates for the experiment) is picking Line A. Eventually, like Picard, you come really close to saying there are Five Lights.

This leads to the second part (crushing opposition) and it is why the lines about voter fraud and crowd sizes are so scary. If people are willing to go against all present data to agree with an obvious lie, what happens when the stakes are higher? Say, a border fence? Or a war?

The problem with the Gaslighting Effect is that those who use it will never admit they are wrong. They might eventually give up the topic or change strategies on it, but they’ll never say, “Yep, you got me there!” A perfect example of this came yesterday when Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto cancelled his meeting with Trump in the wake of Trump’s continued movement toward a border wall. Nieto came out and said, “Look, if you’re going to keep this shit up, I’m not going to come and even bother talking with you.” Rather than let it look like he got stood up for prom, Trump said this:

“We have agreed to cancel our planned meeting,” Mr. Trump said in a new conference Thursday afternoon. “Unless Mexico is going to treat the U.S. fairly, with respect, such a meeting would be fruitless, and I want to go a different route. We have no choice.”

By recasting this as a mutual thing, it looks less like Trump got stuck holding the bag and more like he was the one saying, “Look, unless you’re going to build this wall, you can stay on your side of the river and suck a burrito.”

This is what makes Trump so dangerous and it’s also what makes him so popular. Again, Fuck You Nation rears its ugly head: “You want me to say I’m wrong? Fuck you.”

 

In the end, the core of Trump will always be tied to “Fuck You Nation.” I read his inaugural and, honestly, it was really appealing and unvarnished from a middle-America perspective. There are a shit ton of empty factories in places where I live (and have lived). There aren’t a lot of good jobs for people of all walks of life can get. It often seems like we’re running around the world looking for something to fix instead of investing in people back home. If you want to be the president of the United States, shouldn’t you put the needs of the U.S. and its people at the front of the line? These things, on the flat face of them, do make a lot of sense to a lot of people who feel they have been forgotten because we now all have to worry about who gets to use which bathroom.

Trump makes the big picture small: You personally got shafted. I’ll help you get yours. However, this is like playing chess with a myopic obsession of moving a rook repeatedly. It’s never supposed to be about one piece for a president. It’s supposed to be about the board.

But when you are that one piece, everything he does makes sense:

“The world has told you, John Q. Public, ‘Hey, buddy, fuck you.’ Now, let’s turn this around and tell those people, ‘No, FUCK YOU.’”

Don’t Change a Thing? Um. Change EVERYTHING

Jack Shafer hypothesizes that Trump, Spicer et al are not something new, which is … interesting: 

I don’t recall anybody calling for a boycott of Barack Obama or his myrmidons for his media scheming and for tipping the “balance of power between the White House and press … unmistakably toward the government,” as the Politico past-masters put it. The press mostly carried on, threading the thicket of treacheries as best it could. Governments always have and will always impede the press from doing their job, and they will use any means necessary. “All governments lie,” as journalist I.F. Stone once wrote, “but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.” From my vantage, the Obama administration got Choom Gang stoned on their media pirouetting and the Trump administration seems to have come close to matching them in just a couple of days.

Okay, look. I get that reporters were just as guilty of tire-swinging with Obama as they were during the Bush administration, but Obama incited crowds to attack precisely nobody in the Washington press corps so maybe not so much with the Both Sides Do It when one of the sides is Trump.

As to Shafer’s point about tactics, however, we are agreed IN PART:

Boycotts and bans may fill a journalists’ heart with vengeance, or at least keep it from being bruised. But their maker designed reporters to be resilient, to take disparagement, derision, scorn, and sneering from lying government officials in stride. And for good reason. To quote from Jon Ronson once again, “It’s good for journalists to feel demeaned. It means we’re onto a story.” Rather than treat the Spicer, Trump, Conway ingenuities as an excuse to pout and leave the field, the experienced members of the press will be propelled by the weekend to pick up their mobiles and notebooks and go maximum Fahrenthold on the administration.

You can do what Fahrenthold did and refuse to sit there in the White House while they feed you lies. We hear lots and lots of talk about how there’s no money for journalism, so why pay someone to hang out in the dumbest, ugliest clubhouse there is? It’s not like the old days when that was the only way you got to speak to the president or his advisors. We have these telephone thingies now. I hear our current president is fond of broadcasting his thoughts on the internet.

Margaret Sullivan gets closer: 

Journalists shouldn’t rise to the bait and decide to treat Trump as an enemy. Recalling at all times that their mission is truth-telling and holding public officials accountable, they should dig in, paying far more attention to actions than to sensational tweets or briefing-room lies — while still being willing to call out falsehoods clearly when they happen.

Jay Rosen, too: 

When I say #sendtheinterns I mean it literally: take a bold decision to put your most junior people in the briefing room. Recognize that the real story is elsewhere, and most likely hidden. That’s why the experienced reporters need to be taken out of the White House, and put on other assignments.

All of these still spend a lot more time than I think is really healthy talking about what is good for the press, and not what serves readers/viewers. The whinging in response to Sullivan & Rosen’s commentary was epic, natch: But our access! Our traditions! Our routines and we HAVE TO book the president’s people, we HAVE TO call them for comment! Blah blah blah please don’t make me change my contact list.

And I get that certain formats have certain constraints. If you have a panel every Sunday then you need people for that panel. So … why have a panel, then? If a panel isn’t working for you, throw the panel out. Why do journalists perpetuate formats that require people like Kellyanne Conway (or some equivalently vacant and nominally Democratic creature like James Carville) to weigh in? Gosh, I wonder if the president’s advisors are going to defend his policies! I wonder if someone from “the other side,” on the rare days when genuine opposition is actually heard, will oppose them! I wonder if any news is being made here or anyone is being told anything they don’t already know!

Seriously, who is this supposed to be serving? Who is the audience here? Is it other journalists on Twitter? Is it congressmen and their staffers who watch this stuff religiously? Because nobody else is learning a single thing here.

A lot of professional press critics are coming around to the idea that they need to flip the script in terms of how they cover the White House. They should be coming around to the idea that they need to take a look at how they cover politics, and not just flip the script. They need to make a different movie.

A.