Category Archives: So Called Liberal Media

Don’t Let Them Come Back From This AGAIN

You guys, I am enjoying, so much, the humiliation of Donald Trump and Paul Ryan, the jackass Trump rented to run Congress for him so he could play president.

I should be a bigger person, but THEY TRIED TO LET INSURANCE COMPANIES OUT OF COVERING NEWBORN BABIES, so I’m gonna keep laughing for a few more days and I don’t really care if it gives some imaginary non-racist non-sexist Trump voter who just wants a job a sad.

But as I point and laugh at President Failstick and as I give all due credit to the Democratic voters who jammed phone lines and went to town halls and hounded Republican stooges who hadn’t heard from their constituents in months, I get angrier and angrier, because they never should have been allowed to get this far.

We keep letting them off the mat.

We keep letting them be a party. They pull shit, over and over, as should disqualify them from polite society, and we keep pretending they simply have a different point of view.

The GOP started an illegal war that killed thousands, based on nothing but lies, and we said we need to look forward, not back.

The GOP instituted a regime of torture and spying and we said bygones.

The GOP led a festering mass of racists as they burned Obama in effigy for being a black man. They invited the people who made Trump into their homes, and gave them space in their elite conservative publications.

Their conventioneers put Purple Heart Band-Aids on their faces to mock a war hero. Their advertising vultures morphed a triple amputee into Osama bin Laden. Their commentators said journalists deserved to be raped and murdered.

The president who led their party during this time — a man currently described as a very nice fellow who paints quite well — refused to meet with the mother of a dead soldier because she questioned his war, ignored an American city as it drowned, presided over the worst financial crisis in almost a century, and ignored intelligence briefings that might have warned him about 9/11.

This is just the stuff in recent memory, for the GOP. This isn’t even getting into Ronald Reagan and AIDS, Iran-Contra, Watergate, any of the shady shit the first Bush pulled at the CIA, any of it. This isn’t even mentioning the impeachment charges over a blowjob, the hit pieces they put out on a 15-year-old First Daughter, anything they did to Jimmy Carter. This is just THE LAST GOP PRESIDENT.

After all that, we let them be a party again. For eight goddamn years they howled and screeched that a free-market capitalist moderate, who would have been a member of their party in a less racist Eisenhower era, was a screaming pinko commie crackhead. For eight years, they courted every crazy they could in an effort to ruin anything Obama accomplished.

For eight years, they promised that they would repeal Obamacare. THEY SHUT DOWN THE GOVERNMENT, and they were given airtime and column inches and treated, again, like just another opposing point of view. Like we had two parties with sensible disagreements, because Both Sides Did It, and We Can’t Be Bothered With Details.

Then they ran Donald Trump for president, and he grabbed America by the pussy, and they pretended not to see. They pretended they were better than the serial sexual predator and deeply unintelligent person they nominated, whose convention they ignored. They clung to his voters and they pretended he didn’t exist as he moved into the Oval Office.

Like he’s doing his thing, and we’re doing ours. And once AGAIN, America said okay, let’s listen to you. So what is your thing?

Kicking newborn babies off their health insurance.

That’s their thing.

Joking about mammograms.

That’s their thing.

Telling cancer patients to go to the ER.

That’s their thing.

They put out a bill so breathtakingly cruel even Republican voters were like goddamn, son. Do you know what you have to do to shock a mainstream white suburban Republican? You have to propose eliminating a minimum standard of care, that’s what you have to do.

We let them up again after this, where the hell do they even GO? I mean it, what do they even do from here? Their president wants to eliminate Meals on Wheels while carpet-bombing the Middle East and giving tax cuts to billionaires. We haven’t even talked about Russia.

What more do they need to do? At this point it would be a fucking thought experiment, if actual lives weren’t at stake: What does it take to destroy a modern political party? A year ago I would have said one’s presidential nominee being caught on tape bragging about sexual assault would do it, but here we are. Ten years ago I would have said the Iraq war being proven bullshit would have done it, or getting caught up in Planned Parenthood hoax videos, or paying lip service to someone who thinks Sandy Hook was a fake. Here we are.

How much farther does the GOP have to fall to prove it’s not a party anymore? To prove it’s not a set of ideals?

Should I check back in a year, when we’ve sold the nuclear codes on Ebay for 50 bucks? Is that what’s next? Fucking hell, how many times do they have to tell us what they are before we believe them?

A.

Stop Pretending We Ain’t Seen This Before

Of the many tired arguments that this is a New Era to which Journalism Must Respond (most likely by cutting newsroom jobs and reducing distribution), FAKE NEWS is maybe my least favorite: 

The production of fake, semi-false, and true but compromising snippets of news reached a peak in eighteenth-century London, when newspapers began to circulate among a broad public. In 1788, London had ten dailies, eight tri-weeklies, and nine weekly newspapers, and their stories usually consisted of only a paragraph. “Paragraph men” picked up gossip in coffee houses, scribbled a few sentences on a scrap of paper, and turned in the text to printer-publishers, who often set it in the next available space of a column of type on a composing stone. Some paragraph men received payment; some contented themselves with manipulating public opinion for or against a public figure, a play, or a book.

But … but … you mean to say satirical and/or politically motivated AND/OR just plain bullshit publications have always existed and maybe a bunch of Macedonian teenagers are not responsible for the stupid-ing of America forever? You mean maybe critical thinking skills and the nurturing thereof might be more important than the blaming of Facebook? YA DON’T FUCKIN’ SAY.

A.

Margaret Sullivan Did Not Come to Play with You Hos

Press hos, specifically: 

With this uplifting example, I inaugurate an occasional feature: Access Watch, tracking the special treatment — phone calls, interviews, perhaps the lone press seat on the secretary of state’s plane — that can result when media people play nice.

True, it is not the proper job of journalists to provide favorable coverage but rather to hold powerful figures accountable.

But that doesn’t get you far these days, at least in terms of access.

So we’ll be taking note of what does.

I wanted to pull this bit out, because it’s telling:

Marantz quotes a more veteran journalist about the newcomers: “At best, they don’t know what they’re doing. At worst, you wonder whether someone is actually feeding them softball questions.”

Really? You wonder if someone is feeding them softball questions? Like what, something like this? 

Mr. President, as the nation is at odds over war, with many organizations like the Congressional Black Caucus pushing for continued diplomacy through the U.N., how is your faith guiding you? And what should you tell America? Well, what should America do collectively as you instructed before 9/11? Should it be pray?

Mr. President, how is your faith guiding you to attack Iraq and how can Americans be your prayer warriors? What parts of the Bible are you reading to guide your decisions about bombing Baghdad and is there a Psalm you’d recommend we keep in mind to ease our thoughts of murdered children?

Jesus shit, nobody has to feed these people softball questions. Their natural inclination in good times is to spend the day complaining that some blogger has their favorite chair, and this year they’re mostly pissed because the correspondents’ dinner won’t be fun anymore. They’d rather be covering something NORMAL, and this is all just such a damn bummer, man, with the unhinged fascism.

They gasp when someone has the nerve to ask the president what every single one of us is thinking, which is “… dude, the fuck?”

I watched video of that moment and she could not have been more polite in asking why America was suddenly a xenophobic trash fire in public and if extortion was really the way we wanted to go with NATO, and the gasps were audible.

But sure, the real danger is that somebody is giving Breitbart a heads-up about which Fox chyron pissed the president off this morning.

A.

1040 Blues: From Sizzle To Fizzle

I’m uncertain how to best characterize the Rachel Maddow-David Cay Johnston 2005 tax form story. It was hyped as a bombshell but was greeted as if it were a dud or damp squib. I missed the build-up on social media so I’m sort of in the middle: we learned a few things but it didn’t live up to the advance hype about tax forms plural. The most interesting thing was Johnston’s speculation that Donald may have leaked the form itself. Otherwise it was all sizzle and no steak; not even a overcooked Trumpian steak with ketchup slathered all over it.

The main reason people are so disappointed is that they’re hoping for a magic, nay a silver bullet to slay the monster. This is real life, not fantasy fiction. The Insult Comedian’s downfall won’t be caused by an hour-long cable news program. It’s not “fake news” but it’s not a major breakthrough either. If Trump is brought down by his cartoon villain corruption, it will be by the accumulated weight of his criminality, not by one year’s 1040. As Slate’s Willa Paskin put it, Rachel “had the goods but oversold them.” Believe me.

Since we all have the 1040 Blues, I’ll give Robert Cray the last word:

No One Ever Is To Blame

Have you noticed how fucking allergic we are to saying who did what to who and why?

Jesus H. J. Giles Band Christ:

I mean SEEN AS?

He basically said, “White women need to have more white babies so that we can have a nation of white people,” and we are so … I don’t know, what, pussified we can’t say, “This was some breed-for-the-Reich straight-up eugenics shit, son?” What on EARTH? How did we as a nation ever manage the Paris peace talks if right now we can’t put together a definitive headline? Eighty-seven people work  in this newsroom or something. How many said, “Erm. Seen as?”

King put it on the tee for you. You don’t have to say the part about eugenics, even. You can just say, “Iowa Congressman repeats racist rhetoric of the past.” “Racist” is not an insult, it’s a descriptive. Steve King, bless the pile of rusty nails that passes for his heart, is arguing for a distinction based solely on race. That is RACIST. Objectively, if that matters to you while the fucking world burns.

Is it shocking and upsetting to say that? FUCK YES IT IS. It’s shocking and upsetting that it happened. It’s shocking and upsetting that a member of Congress, a job I used to actually think you had to not be a total jello mold to get, thinks there aren’t enough white babies for America to look like his vision of it.

It’s shocking and upsetting that that exists in the world. The very least our nation’s elite media can do is come up with a headline that reflects the shock and the upset.

It is not the newspaper’s job to keep everyone from getting upset. Sometimes it is the newspaper’s job to make sure everyone IS upset, and if everyone is not upset, to fucking deliberately upset them. With every word, you set an agenda, and this agenda says there is no collective interest worth being disturbed about. It’s all an abstract discussion between David Brooks and Thomas Friedman at the Aspen Ideas Festival and who can really know the truth?

Meanwhile King is out here flat-out telling my fellow white people we need to breed out the savages.

Or so it’s being “seen,” anyway.

A.

If Only There Was Money for Journalism

Jesus H. Tits: 

Tronc (TRNC) , the third-largest U.S. newspaper company, is closing in on a deal to buy Us Weekly from Jann Wenner’s Wenner Media. The purchase price likely would be in the $85 million to $95 million range, sources said, with Tronc chairman Michael Ferro believing the acquisition will move Tronc toward becoming a major player in the celebrity news business and add both to its digital earnings and its digital transformation credibility.

NOTHING says credibility like Us Weekly.
Air Ferro: Latest financials show $2.7M in leased jet charges, equiv of 317 hrs at $8500/hour, = entire retail ad increase in 2016
So, an hour = roughly a month and a half of an experienced reporter’s salary.
I don’t want to hear anymore about how the Internet is killing newspapers, please.
A.

Resist Smart

The good news is that this will not be another episode in the ongoing saga of <cue soap opera organ riff> how the blogger’s stomach turns. It was a helluva bug but I’m on the path to recovery. I’m about 70% today but still jittery about drinking coffee or anything acidic, so a nice cuppa tea it is. I look forward to a cuppa joe tomorrow. The worst thing about that stupid MSNBC show is that it’s ruined a perfectly good phrase. I’m fighting back. Why? I’ll never know.

I’ve been pondering how best to resist the Trump-Bannon regime. My social media feeds are full of people over-celebrating minor triumphs. Yes, it’s great that Jeff Beau was caught in a stupid lie and while it damages his credibility as AG, it’s not going to bring either him or Trump down. Or if it does, it’s going to take time.

We have a predominantly 18th Century removal process in place. Impeachment is designed to be a slow, arduous process. That’s why only two Presidents have been impeached by the House and none have been removed by the Senate. Some of the Senators who voted against Andrew Johnson’s impeachment, hated the drunken, racist moron. They just didn’t think he’d committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” as constitutionally required. It’s supposed to be hard and slow to prevent injustices such as removing Bill Clinton for being horny and needy.

The 20th Century wrinkle on the removal process, the 25th Amendment, requires Republicans to turn against Trump. If they cared about the country, they would but tribal Republicanism got us in this mess and all they care about are tax cuts and placating angry Trumpers. The hardcore MAGA maggots are still out there, but had difficulty mustering crowds to support their dear leader this weekend even in the Gret Stet of Louisiana:

I am also perturbed by those who are praising former President Beavis for implicitly criticizing the current occupant. Remember: the Bushies lied their way into an unnecessary war, intimidated the media, outed an undercover CIA agent, and smeared their opponents. W has never recanted or regretted any of this. I’m willing to give him credit for being a better man than Trump but, given his track record, that’s faint praise. Repeat after me: the enemy of your enemy is not always your friend.

Then there were the people who fell for Trump’s diversionary tweets. You know the Obama bad/sick guy who bugged Trump Tower one. Yes, it was inflammatory and untrue but it was tirade with a purpose: to get his opponents to take their eye off the ball of the slowly unfolding Russia scandal. It’s a classic reality show tactic: one-up an accusation with an even more inflammatory one. If you watched the Real Housewives of Atlanta last night, you know what I’m saying. (I’m Team Kandy all the way, y’all.) Keep your eye on the ball and don’t fall for Trumpian smoke blowing. It’s what he does best; that and lie like a gaudy orange rug.

Another surreal moment took place on MSNBC’s AM Joy last Saturday. Let me preface this by saying that I love and respect Joy Reid but nobody’s perfect. She was discussing Trump’s obsession with Arnold Schwarzenegger and The Celebrity Apprentice. Joy actually said that Arnold was an ideal foil for the Insult Comedian because he was “an immigrant and conservative.” Unfortunately, Joy also dismissed Arnold’s extensive record of groping and pussy grabbing as not as bad as Trump’s. This is akin to saying it’s okay to praise GW Bush because he isn’t as big a liar as Trump. The current term for this is normalization. I hate the word but if the shoe fits, throw it. Repeat after me: the enemy of your enemy is not always your friend.

Back to the post title. Smart resistance requires neither getting too high over momentary triumphs nor too low over setbacks. This is going to take time and patience, which are qualities that seem to be in short supply in the 21st Century. There’s no scandal genie to grant your wish of removing Trump from office. The genie is out of the bottle and is hanging out with Bannon at the Brown House. They’re mocking the mugs who think this will be easy.

The people who think a quick fix is possible are the same ones who thought faithless electors would deny Trump the Presidency even if they were hazy on the details of how the electoral college works. Smart resistance also requires being better informed and taking some time to digest the news as opposed to issuing hot takes and fighting with strangers on twitter. I know people who do that but it’s not worth it, as the line from a film classic goes, “It’s Chinatown, Jake.”

These are surreal times. If anyone had told me in 1987 that Senator Al Franken would be a leading critic of president* Donald Trump thirty years later, I would have told them to stop bogarting the joint and share. One advantage the resistance has is that, as Athenae pointed out yesterday and I’ve said repeatedly, Trump has no plan, he’s making it up on the fly. In fact, Winging It With The Insult Comedian was the title of a post I wrote way back on December 9, 2015. I make no claim to be a prophet but while Bannon may have a plan, his boss has ADD or something much worse. The best response to chaos is to organize, organize, organize.

Resist smart and remember: the enemy of your enemy is not always your friend. The last word goes to the late, great Paul Kantner and Jefferson Airplane:

Vive les Maquis. I continue to have trouble sticking to that whole last word thing. Oh well, it’s the era of a demented president* who says shit like “the leaks are real, the news is fake.” So it goes.

Tell Me Again How Critical the Press Considers Itself

Have some goddamn pride: 

President Donald Trump is holding court with “regional press affiliates” in a private dinner on Monday, the White House said.

The meeting is comparable to the off-the-record lunch Trump will host Tuesday with major network anchors ahead of his first address to Congress.

In the past month the messages from institutional media leaders have been only slightly more consistent than those of Trump’s spokespeople. Subscribe to us, because these are extraordinary times, except we need to preserve traditions at all costs, because that’s how things are done! Trump’s administration is de-legitimizing the press, which is UNAMERICAN, but it’s not like we’re pissed enough to decline a dinner invitation over it!

And this:

Tonight’s dinner will be closed to the press.

EXCEPT THE ONES THAT ARE THERE. Dear God, if you’re going to throw yourself a martyrdom every other week for being the last sacred guardians of democracy in these troubled times, you’ve got to actually get up on the cross sometime.

A.

Do What Works

It’s almost like if you do things well, everything will be okay: 

It recently launched its 23rd edition, in Richmond, Texas, and has 186 employees and 11 open positions (that’s up from 7 editions and 63 employees in 2010). And this year, to help it expand further, Community Impact committed fully to dead-tree-ness and took the unusual step of opening its own printing plant. The 36,000-square-foot, $15 million facility opened in October in Pflugerville, next door to Community Impact’s main offices. (Here’s what the print product looks like.)

“We were outgrowing the capacity of the printer we’d worked with over the years,” Garrett said. “We traveled the Southwest United States and looked at facilities and were really thinking, man, we’re in trouble if something happens with our current provider.” His team went to New York to watch Goss Magnum compact presses, which they ended up buying, in action.

“The day we got back from New York was the day the [Austin American-] Statesman decided they were going to shut down their plant,” Garrett recalled. “That, to me, was just a sign that I needed to control my own destiny.”

Time was, EVERY newspaper had its own printing plant and sure, expensive, but then to Garrett’s point nobody can mess with you or tell you what to do.

I keep saying this: Print declined so precipitously not because it was OLDSAUCE or because nobody liked to read anymore or because Kids Today with Their iPhones and Craig with His List murdered it. Print declined because the owners of print newspapers deliberately undermined it as a model, used their losses to justify cuts, used those cuts to justify further cuts, wrote the whole thing off, and parachuted out the window leaving a steaming dump on the boardroom table.

Just do your goddamn job:

In addition, Community Impact’s new printing presses can zone editorial content at the carrier-route level. “If we’re covering two school districts, we’ll be able to piece those districts up,” said Garrett, so that recipients living in different school districts in the same town would receive papers with different covers and news targeted to the school districts they’re in.

The ability to do such extreme targeting means Community Impact’s in-paper advertising is a viable competitor to Facebook. “A business owner can run, for $500, an ad in my paper and reach 80,000 households around their business,” Garrett said.

Distribution and marketing are the easiest things to do right and papers fucked them up left and right. Brands would commit MURDER for the kind of customer loyalty, nurtured over generations, that newspaper companies pissed away doing stupid stuff to their routes and timing in the mid-2000s for no reason other than short-term greed.

A.

 

Today on Everyone’s Obsession with the Gaggle

Could we please stop jerking ourselves off about this crap?

Press gaggles — on-the-record scrums with communication staffers that disallow video recording — are a staple of White House reporting, and it’s highly unusual for a reporter to be barred from the meeting. Today, after Trump delivered a stinging (and contradictory) critique of the media, The New York Times, CNN, the L.A. Times, Politico and BuzzFeed were prevented from attending.

The Associated Press and Time boycotted the gaggle in solidarity with their colleagues. Other news organizations, including The Wall Street Journal, One America News Network and Fox News were allowed in and did not boycott the gaggle.

Go or don’t go. But I gotta say, I find the constant bitching about this incredibly annoying and tiresome.

The importance of this shit, of standing around in a room waiting to be fed, dates from Ye Olden Tymes before the president and his staff tweeted everything that popped into their heads. There is no reason why two people should have to stand next to one another to get the same information. Swallow your pride and retweet somebody else’s tweets.

I know the club of the most of us were just taught to re-report something somebody else reported so that it doesn’t look like we’re giving credit to competitors. But if this is truly the extraordinary moment we’re being told we should subscribe to respond to, maybe put your shoulders into finding another way of doing things that suits the urgency of the times instead of insisting your chair be where it always has been.

Or, you know, don’t. After 20 minutes of no attention this administration and every other one on earth (sigh, yes, including Obama’s, you people are so tiresome) will be gasping for oxygen and offering donuts to anyone who wants to come back in. At that point you can send people if you want or you can flip them the double birds, who cares.

This is not the greatest threat a free press currently faces. The greatest threat a free press currently faces is being cowed and penned up and herded into various structures after which its members act like they have no choice but to amble along mooing. The greatest threat a free press faces comes, as ever, not from whatever dick is manning a political podium but by stupid cowards who think their cowardly stupidity isn’t being noticed.

The greatest threat a free press currently faces is that the people who own one don’t want to pay for it to operate and keep throwing shit-fits over where to put their highest-paid stenographers instead of devoting those dollars to challenging denials of FOIA requests. If Trump spurs a few more news organizations to say fuck to this WHOLE ENDEALMENT, I say well done.

A.

This Thing is Working. Let’s Kill It.

So I went on a bit of a tear on Sunday because I am sick of this shit.

To which Whet responded by showing me this: 

Texas Monthly bears the tagline “The National Magazine of Texas”–and it has lived up to the billing. Since its founding in 1973, the magazine has won 13 national magazine awards for public interest, politics, feature writing, and general excellence.

It was a mantle embraced by former owner Emmis Communications Corp, which sold the magazine in October 2016 to Genesis Park, a private equity firm co-founded by Paul Hobby, grandson of former Texas governor William P. Hobby, who owned the now-defunctHouston Post. The buyers quickly found a new editor in Taliaferro, 33, the former vice president for communications and digital strategy for Texas Exes (the University of Texas alumni association) and the editor in chief of Alcalde, UT’s alumni magazine.

Taliaferro spoke with CJR about his plans for Texas Monthly, which are a departure from the magazine’s long history of in-depth political coverage and longform journalism. Of his plans to scale back local political coverage, he says, “Texans don’t care about politics.” As an example of the coverage he plans to cut back on, Taliaferro cited stories on transgender bathrooms.

GAAAAAH.

Texans. Don’t. Care. About. Politics.

Jesus TITS.

This, however, is almost worse:

A statement on the Genesis Park website notes that “Genesis Park is the third owner of the Texas Monthly brand and will use its deep Texas relationships and media history to drive the brand into digital content, social media, expanded events, merchandising and a broader custom publishing business for the next chapter in Texas Monthly’s storied career.”

All of which is shorthand for “we will do anything BUT journalism.” I will grant that digital content and social media can enhance and even be journalism if done correctly, but it was like six seconds ago that publishers were falling all over themselves to produce A THOUSAND LIVE VIDEOS A DAY and then were like no, we will not do that now. Ditto slobbing Facebook’s knob for publication revenue that never really materialized.

So what the hell do merchandising and custom publishing have to do with running a good magazine? Events? Oh, goody, because there aren’t 10,000 event planners in the world. Isn’t it hard enough just to run a magazine? Why do you have to load it up with all this other bullshit too? Fer chrissakes, is it impossible to resist sticking your dick in every bees’ nest you see? If you have a thing that is making money, for God’s sake don’t poke it.

A.

On Enemies, and Their People

As the kids say, read the thread:

Okay, we’ve covered before the idea that this media hate is something new, either for Trump or the Republican party, but one thing we haven’t talked about is the money behind the media hate, the money that made it happen.

I’m not talking about the financing of Fox News. I’m talking about the money that left Fox News the only game in town.

Here’s the last 20 years, roughly. Large corporations bought up local papers in places like those Arnade travels, and then systematically killed those papers. This serial murder was helped along by TV news and the mobile Internet, but make no mistake, this was a slaughter sponsored by and enthusiastically supported by corporate interests in the name of profit and it would have happened even if Craig never made a List.

Local newspapers were the major source of news for Trump’s demographics, 25 years ago. Older, white, traditionally small-c conservatives and their slightly wealthier suburban children, who grew up picking up a paper from the porch. They likely would have done so forever if, you know, the local paper hadn’t fired half the staffers worth reading, filled its pages with AP and entertainment bullshit, cut the size of the paper, doubled the price, and then stopped delivering it altogether.

NONE of this was anything the journalists so stridently defending their existences on Twitter had anything to do with, but it is at the heart of both why Trump won and why his anti-media message is central to his appeal. It’s why “the media” looks to his voters like an unrecognizable conglomerate of what Arnade calls “front-row kids” talking about things they don’t care about.

I grew up in Trump country, in a small town in Wisconsin ruined by the collapse of manufacturing jobs and the weakening of organized labor and YES, by racism and isolation and resentment. I am 100 percent leaving everybody I know on the hook. But they — working and middle-middle-class people — knew “media.” They knew a reporter. A working reporter who went to their schools and lived next door and walked the dog on their block. They knew a sportswriter, a photographer, the kid who delivered the thing.

Kill the local paper, and you kill that familiarity, not just of the reporter for his community but of the community for its reporter, for ITS media. You make “media” an abstraction, at enough remove to hate.

And oh, boy, came the hate. Into the vacuum left by the death of local papers came conservative talk radio, head-first and stupid fast. And talk radio is the place where Trump’s voters learned there was another “media,” one that “hated” and “looked down on” them, one that didn’t share their “values.” Into the space once occupied by the voices of their neighbors came the voices of Rush Limbaugh, and Mark Belling, and Charlie Sykes, saying over and over that there is a force out there loathing and despising you and you’d better hate them right back.

Limbaugh and his ten-a-penny fascisti imitators were rich assholes bankrolled by other rich assholes, natch, but that didn’t matter when they were the only ones there. It was a 24-7 onslaught over the airwaves, and instead of countering that then, when it could have  been stopped, the leaders of media corporations bought those radio talkers and elevated them to respectability. Producers booked them on national shows. Editors ran (and still run) those hateful screechers on their opinion pages. And anyone who fought back was overreacting.

I can’t tell you how many times I heard I was overreacting, to a “joke” about a truck bomb killing my friends.

We’ve heard a lot since the election and especially since Trump started his latest crusade about subscribing to the Times and the Post to “support the media” and there are hashtags and pizza funds and such, all of which I think is nice. I like supporting big papers, though I’d like their own leadership to support them and stop publishing shite like this. However, trying to counter Trump’s anti-media message by buying into the Times and the Post and only watching CNN is a little like trying to rebuild your street by kicking in 10 bucks toward repaving the Brooklyn Bridge.

We’ve heard a lot since the election about rebuilding all kinds of infrastructure in small Midwestern towns and in neighborhoods where indifference and “did not vote” was the choice of 2016. Party infrastructure, the 50 State Strategy, fighting for every vote, all of that is important. We MUST, those of us who call ourselves progressive and care about a free press and a free society, include media infrastructure in that rebuilding.

I am not arguing for more condescending, fly-in Times stories about white racists and their clothes. I am arguing for more stories about their city councils, their local schools, their water boards, their police departments. I am arguing for stories about their crime and courts and I am arguing not to the local reporters trying to do this work already, but to the corporate bosses so reluctant to fund it for the amount of time it takes to make a damn dent.

“We tried local news sites,” they’ll protest. Yeah, for six seconds. Local newspapers built loyalty over LIFETIMES in communities, and people get mad when they can’t just yell “hyperlocal” three times and make Beetlejuice instantly appear.

This crap is also not helpful:

For rich companies’ rich employees like Chuck Todd to rage on Twitter about the devaluing of the press, well, Chuckles and all his friends could pool their pocket change and buy six small city or suburban papers, staff them, and get them on people’s goddamn porches every day. THAT would be valuing the press.

But are local papers still that important, with the Internet phone sand the Facebooking and the FakeNewz? Um, yeah. Seventy-five percent of Americans don’t use Twitter. Ten percent of the country doesn’t have high-speed Internet. Even in a huge city, how often do you get handed a flyer about a thing happening? Absent texting every single person on the planet (and ignoring that there are vast stretches of America where cell service blows goats) it is still HELLA efficient to print the news on a dead tree and physically give it to someone.

“Nobody on the subway with me today is reading the paper! They’re all on their phones!” Yeah, and everybody in my parents’ kitchen is reading the paper, so maybe neither of our experiences is universal. Yet media companies have utterly given up on print customers. They’ve decided “older, and not as many of them as there once were” means “not enough to give a shit about” and they’ve cut those people loose. So to make a local paper work you might have to give lots of papers away. You might need to market the shit out of your paper. You might need to invest in some newsboy-capped urchins to hand the thing out. It’s still gonna be a hell of a lot cheaper than literally anything else media companies are currently doing.

TRONC.

Absent a paper, a radio show might also be a good thing. The best thing, though, is to find the people already doing the work in these communities and support the shit out of THEM. Build up in the places you aren’t, instead of hunkering down where you are and hoping the President, whose entire appeal is imagined elitism, stops yelling at you. Stop hiding out and then wondering why nobody anywhere else knows you or loves you or values what you do.

Of course they don’t. You abandoned them years ago, on purpose, for money. I’m one of you and I hate you a lot of the time for it, too.

A.

Today in Things That Were Always Bullshit: WCHA Dinner

Keep pretending Trump doesn’t hate you and maybe it will magically be true! 

The White House Correspondents’ Association dinner is not a mood ring. It doesn’t care if President Trump — or any president — likes, dislikes, celebrates, scorns or ignores White House reporters. The annual gala does not indicate, illustrate or represent the relationship between the White House and the reporters who cover it. It is an institution that celebrates one bedrock American value, the First Amendment, and two journalistic goals: to highlight excellent reporting and to award scholarships to the next generation of American journalists.

That has always been true. But the Trump presidency has inspired some in the press corps to boycott this year because — if I have this right — reporters are too good for Trump.

Or  because he directly threatened and encouraged his supporters to threaten and in some cases attack them for having the gall to show up and record his rallies.

Samesies.

My outlet, CBS News, will participate this year and proudly so. If they back out now, organizations that attended last year ought to explain what is different about this year. Is it Trump? Or is it them? Skipping needlessly hands an evidentiary cudgel to Trump and his acolytes that reporters cannot and will not cover his presidency objectively.

Lord knows that they’re waiting for evidence before making any claims, lest they be accused of exaggerating or outright lying. Heaven forfend.

They don’t need evidence. They already hate you. This would just provide an opportunity for them to hate you more. And the idea that there’s some unwritten rule that you have to laugh while they do so in front of others is just ridiculous.

Besides, Trump is hardly the first president to see the press as his enemy. Other presidents have at times demonstrated contempt for journalists, limited our access, circumvented us and questioned our motives. I’ve covered three of them.

And every single time you should have told them roundly to fuck right off.

Look, I’m sorry you’ve been debased in the past and made peace with your debasement, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep letting that debasement go on. You can start to stick up for yourself right now today at any damn time, so why not pick right now today? Why not pick Trump?

You’re afraid they’ll accuse you of bias? Do you think these people pay attention to FACTS? Have you met the election we just had? Have you seen these fucking frog-boys and their elderly enablers? All they want is to scream LOCK HER UP at some chick. They do not want to thoughtfully consider that my oh my, the press has now demonstrated willingness to treat Trump fairly and therefore we shall cease calling for your fiery death.

Schmuck.

A.

But They’ll Let Me Cut Taxes, Mom!

Republicans were always gonna be okay with it: 

In effect, congressional Republicans have sought to compartmentalize Mr. Trump’s presidency, adopting a cafeteria-style approach. They reach for the more appealing offerings, such as the Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, and avert their gaze from less appetizing or, to some, downright indefensible elements (America is not so different from Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia), which would have surely drawn relentless rebukes if uttered by President Barack Obama.

Some lawmakers take comfort knowing that the president’s behavior last year didn’t hurt their campaigns, and they have used the electoral result as a justification unto itself, suggesting — as Mr. Trump has constantly — that his campaign success validates his approach.

“He’s a unique personality, to be sure,” acknowledged Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the Republican whip. “But he’s gotten this far the way he is, and I think that probably leads him to think, well, it’s working for him so far, so why change?”

And Republican lawmakers do not mind?

“As long as we’re able to get things done,” Mr. Cornyn said.

They were always gonna be fine with basically being in hock to the Russian mob.

They were always gonna be fine with unsecured e-mail, unhinged Twitter, incoherent interviews, babbling speeches, and lie after lie after lie after lie.

They were always gonna be fine with a cabinet run by Goldman Sachs and the oil industry.

They were gonna be fine with whatever they had to be fine with, because Donald Trump will let them cut taxes.

They were gonna be fine with whatever they had to be fine with, because Donald Trump will let them repeal Obamacare.

They were gonna be fine with whatever they had to be fine with, because Donald Trump will let them push their 20-week abortion bans and personhood laws, their birth control restrictions and defunding of mammograms for poor women.

Oh, sure, one or two of them might say something mean to a reporter or on Twitter, but none of them were actually going to hold a hearing, or vote against a cabinet nominee, or encourage others in their party to break ranks.

Why would they? He lets them get things done.

This was all obvious to anyone with half a brain who was doing anything like actually looking at what was happening during the Republican primaries, but we still had six months of stories about how surely, any minute now, the grown-ups in the GOP were going to take control back from this tangerine-tinted madman and restore order in the land.

Surely his cabinet would save us! Surely he would surround himself with smart people who would run things while he just, like, golfed or something. Surely he would jettison all the white supremacist rhetoric and govern as a moderate! The office will change and mature him! The party will keep him in line!

Those of us functionally awake during the Obama era, during the Sarah Palin’s Facebook Rules Our World era, during the Don’t You Want to Fuck George W. Bush era, during the Senator Saxby Chambliss era, during the Purple Heart Band-Aid era, said no way no how is any of this going to happen, because we are not idiots, and we know what the Republicans of the last 20 years are about.

They’re about cutting taxes, repealing Obamacare, gutting business regulations, slapping their foreign policy on the table, and punishing women for having sex. And they are willing to put up with anything they have to put up with in order to get that stuff done.

So spending time with them now asking REALLY? REALLY THIS IS OKAY WITH YOU? isn’t going to shame them into acting right, into filing articles of impeachment or invoking the 25th amendment or even written a sternly worded letter or two. I keep seeing these bewildered stories, like, “Isn’t there anything that would convince you your party’s president has gone off the rails?”

No. There’s nothing that would convince them of that. There’s nothing they are willing to do about it and there never was.

There’s something we can do, however.

We can remember that they’re like this. We can, for once in our ahistorical, nonsensical political lives, internalize and forever recall that the GOP has no loyalty to anything but the concept of itself, and the next time we’re offered a choice between one of them and another candidate, we can vote for their opponents.

A.

‘only the players are flipped’

Ugh, peak “both sides:” 

Republicans are getting an unexpected jolt from both the left and their own anxious base at these town halls — and it’s a moment that looks like a mirror image of the national mood almost a decade ago. The common thread between then and now: One party in control of Washington undertaking a massive change to Americans’ health care. When Democrats were in Republicans’ situation in 2010, they lost control of Congress and haven’t regained it since.

Let’s back up. In 2009, Democrats had large majorities in Congress and controlled the White House. They quickly drew on their political capital to pursue one of the biggest changes to the American health-care system in decades.

That summer, before Obamacare became law, Democrats across the nation went home to their districts and were caught off guard by passionately angry constituents — mostly conservative — at town halls, fearful of how Obamacare might take away their rights.

Here are some major differences for everyone in this room who is an idiot.

  1. The Republican concerns about the ACA were completely baseless and in some cases outright falsehoods: death panels murdering people in their beds and so on.
  2. Those concerns came from Republican politicians and Republican-controlled media pushing scare stories nonstop.
  3. The current protests and pushback on GOP legislators are coming from no one in office since most Democratic senators can’t find their asses with both hands and a posse right now.
  4. That pushback is occurring not on one issue but on many: climate change denial, cabinet appointees either unqualified or evil or both, ethical violations that would give Richard Nixon multiple orgasms, and an immigration “policy” as incoherent as it is racist. Oh, yeah, and proposing to repeal the only health insurance option many people have.
  5. With the exception of the latter, these are not hypotheticals. The constituents who are so rudely confronting their GOP reps are reacting to actual things that are happening right now or have already happened: Legal immigrants getting harassed and detained at the border, ICE going door to door asking for people’s papers, journalists being threatened and charged with felonies, and oh yeah, that really bitchin’ torture ban (weaksauce though it was) getting thrown out the window. Plus actual votes on repealing Obamacare.

So please do not come at me with this:

In 2017, the initial script appears to be the same, only the players are flipped.

Only the players. Sure.

Only the players, their intentions, the consequences of their actions, the relative power of the people their actions will affect, and OH YEAH IF THEIR ACTIONS HAPPEN TO BE IN ANY WAY REAL OR JUST SOME MADE UP TALK RADIO BULLSHIT DESIGNED TO GET PEOPLE TO VOTE REPUBLICAN. For fuck’s sake, it’s no wonder everybody just gives up on politics when the journalism is this goddamn dumb.

Are Thursday’s town halls early warning signs of a historically major loss to come for Republicans in the 2018 midterms? (Not likely in the Senate, given the map is so favorable for Republicans.) Is this a movement that will give rise to new liberal leaders in a party that many believe desperately needs them? Or will moments like Thursday’s events pull the Democratic Party further to the left in a way that hurts its electoral chances? Will these people even vote in 2018, given they expressed their frustration after the election?

THREE MILLION MORE OF US EXPRESSED OUR OPINION ON ELECTION DAY BUT YOU CONFEDERATE-ENABLING GOATFUCKERS HELD A THERAPY SESSION FOR THE WINNERS INSTEAD OF TALKING TO US.

I’M SORRY I’M YELLING SO MUCH.

Really.

But this whole “politics is a big giant game of pieces moving and none of it really affects people” genre needs to die a fiery death. Instead of comparing how people are mad today versus how people were mad eight years ago, maybe figure out what they’re mad about and if that anger is based on reality or crap, and adjust your editorial agenda thusly.

A.

‘your husband will do anything for you—slay the dragons, kill the beast’

Ladies, stop agreeing with your husbands only when you … agree with them: 

Alpha women aren’t exactly new, but they were once a rarer breed. Today they abound. There are several reasons why, but it’s in large part due to women having been groomed to be leaders rather than to be wives. Simply put, women have become too much like men. They’re too competitive. Too masculine. Too alpha.

Strangely, this is never a problem faced by a human male.

Every relationship requires a masculine and a feminine energy to thrive.

I have some questions.

How is such energy measured and quantified? Is there a test strip, like a blood sugar monitor, where you can prick your finger and see how much masculine humour you contain that day? Is it something you can smell in the air? Does this apply only to heterosexual relationships, or do same-sex couples need to test regularly as well? Have you ever asked a gay couple which one is the woman? I feel like you have.

The roles may have changed, but the rules haven’t. All a good man wants is for his wife to be happy, and he will go to great lengths to make it happen. He’ll even support his wife’s ideas, plans or opinions if he doesn’t agree with them.

Lady, I do not know who you are married to but get out now. Someone in your relationship is an asshole. I don’t know which one of you it is (probably both) but I know if this is how you look at things, neither of you should be there.

What men want most of all is respect, companionship and sex.

Women hate these things.

If you supply these basics, your husband will do anything for you—slay the dragons, kill the beast, work three jobs, etc.

The 1150s  called. They said be sure to salt the beast-meat or it gets gnarly in the cellar and also your brave knight just died of something called “the pox” which apparently he picked up from a serving girl in the next village.

(Also? Plenty of people working three jobs for another person’s joy are fucking miserable and resent the living shit out of it and aren’t shy about saying so.)

Your husband’s actions are more often than not reactions. He’s reacting to something you said or did, or to something you didn’t say or didn’t do. He’s reacting to your moods, your gestures, your inflections and your tone. That’s how men are. Your husband wants you to be happy, and when he sees it isn’t working he thinks he’s failed. That’s when he acts out.

That’s when he gets sent to time-out to think about what he’s done and if he tells you that you started it, you take away his pacifier. Jesus Christ, ladies, don’t we have enough to do without adding another toddler to the mix?

I’d think to myself, How can I possibly make sure my husband isn’t negatively affected by my every mood swing? I’m a Pisces, for God’s sake!

Astrology is not a real thing. Nor is any of this Mars-Venus crap. When you were born is not an all-access pass to behave however the fuck you want.

Girls, embrace the laziness that comes from submitting to your husband’s every whim!

I’m an alpha all day long, and it gets tiresome. I concede that I thrive on it; but at the end of the day, I’m spent. Self-reliance is exhausting. Making all the decisions is exhausting. Driving the car, literally or figuratively, is exhausting.

If driving the car is that tiresome, reconsider either the particulars of your commute, or the make and model of your vehicle. Or, you know, suck it the fuck up. Being an adult IS exhausting. Everybody wants to just lie down and eat pie for lunch. Yet somehow most of us persist.

First I’d handle something the “right” way—i.e. by not arguing with him, or by not directing his traffic, or by being more service-oriented—and marvel at the response. Then life would get busy, and I’d resort to my old ways. Sure enough, I’d get a different response. So I’d make a mental note of how I messed up and make sure to get it right the next time. Eventually, it became second nature.

“Eventually, treating my relationship like an experiment in which I provided differing responses to various stimuli became second nature, and I no longer saw my husband as a person in the same house but as a lever I could push to get a pellet. Then life REALLY started kicking ass!”

This garbage is the same as any other relationship advice garbage, which is that, delivered to everyone in the house, it makes a lot of sense: Don’t pick fights just to pick fights, don’t agree to shit just to agree to it, try not to be assholes to each other or have to be in charge all the time, etc. But somehow this advice never DOES get delivered to men and women.

It gets delivered to someone who’s unhappy in a relationship because she doesn’t feel valued and respected, and the advice always boils down to: Don’t ask for that. If it’s making you unhappy to want to be treated like a human, learn to want something else.

To which all I can say is that it is absolutely ASTONISHING that fewer young people are getting married, or marrying later, with people like this out there making it look like this much fun.

A.

The Fog Of History: Explaining Trump

Ron Rosenbaum wrote one of the best books about the Hitler phenomenon and its persistence through the years: Explaining Hitler. In that brilliant work, Rosenbaum talked to some of the explainers-from the crazy to the reputable-to try to understand how Nazism could have taken hold in a country known for its literature, music, art, and cinema. Rosenbaum also endeavored to understand *why* Hitler’s demonic spell continued after his catastrophic failure and revelation as the war criminal’s war criminal. If you’re interested in the subject, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. What’s not to love about a book that has a chapter titled The Hitler Family Film Noir?

Rosenbaum was approached by some publications to explore comparisons between Hitler and the man some call Hair Fuhrer and I call the Insult Comedian: Donald J. Trump. He was initially reluctant to do so for reasons he explains in a brand spanking new piece in the Los Angeles Review Of Books:

Until the morning after the election I had declined them. While Trump’s crusade had at times been malign, as had his vociferous supporters, he and they did not seem bent on genocide. He did not seem bent on anything but hideous, hurtful simplemindedness — a childishly vindictive buffoon trailing racist followers whose existence he had mainstreamed. When I say followers I’m thinking about the perpetrators of violence against women outlined by New York Magazine who punched women in the face and shouted racist slurs at them. Those supporters. These are the people Trump has dragged into the mainstream, and as my friend Michael Hirschorn pointed out, their hatefulness will no longer find the Obama Justice Department standing in their way.

Bad enough, but genocide is almost by definition beyond comparison with “normal” politics and everyday thuggish behavior, and to compare Trump’s feckless racism and compulsive lying was inevitably to trivialize Hitler’s crime and the victims of genocide.

As a believer in Godwin’s Law until the 2016 election, I understand where Rosenbaum is coming from. It’s why I still prefer using the term Fascist to describe the Trump-Bannon “movement” and their loathsome followers.

Now that they’re in power, Rosenbaum detects a methodological similarity between the Trumpers and German Nazis. It’s rooted in both the big lie technique and the war on the press. In Hitler’s case, his fiercest foes back home in Bavaria were the reporters of the Munich Post who were referred to as “the poison kitchen” by the Nazis.

I really should let the master explainer explain himself:

But after the election, things changed. Now Trump and his minions are in the driver’s seat, attempting to pose as respectable participants in American politics, when their views come out of a playbook written in German. Now is the time for a much closer inspection of the tactics and strategy that brought off this spectacular distortion of American values.

What I want to suggest is an actual comparison with Hitler that deserves thought. It’s what you might call the secret technique, a kind of rhetorical control that both Hitler and Trump used on their opponents, especially the media. And they’re not joking. If you’d received the threatening words and pictures I did during the campaign (one Tweet simply read “I gas Jews”), as did so many Jewish reporters and people of color, the sick bloodthirsty lust to terrify is unmistakably sincere. The playbook is Mein Kampf.

Trump, of course, is not only incapable of writing a book on his own, he’s a notorious non-reader. Instead, he’s the teevee-watcher-in-chief. But Hitler was *not* an intellectual. He was a demagogue with an acute sense of his audience and what we would call his base. Trump may not be a true believer in the white nationalist ideology that Bannon and Miller have cobbled together BUT he *is* its best salesman.

Back to Hitler and the poison kitchen. The Munich Post did its best to expose the petty criminality and nationalistic bigotry that drove Hitler and the Nazis but in the end, we know what happened. They lost the kampf: Hitler came to power and plunged the world into an orgy of chaos, hatred, and violence. Steve Bannon is on the record as wanting chaos and destruction in order to bring on his own B3 new order and I’m not talking about the band of that name. He’s a right-wing Leninist. I’m a John Leninist myself.

Rosenbaum is even more worried about the normalization of Trump now that he’s the Current Occupant:

Cut to the current election. We had heard allegations that Trump kept Hitler’s speeches by his bedside, but somehow we normalized that. We didn’t take him seriously because of all the outrageous, clownish acts and gaffes we thought would cause him to drop out of the race. Except these gaffes were designed to distract. This was his secret strategy, the essence of his success — you can’t take a stand against Trump because you don’t know where Trump is standing. You can’t find him guilty of evil, you can’t find him at all. And the tactics worked. Trump was not taken seriously, which allowed him to slip by the normal standards for an American candidate. The mountebank won. Again.

Suddenly, after the inconceivable (and, we are now beginning to realize, suspicious) Trump victory, the nation was forced to contend with what it would mean, whether the “alt-right” was a true threat or a joke to be tolerated. Did it matter that Trump had opened up a sewer pipe of racial hatred? Once again, normalization was the buzzword.

And I remembered the Munich Post, defending Weimar Germany. I reflected on how fragile democratic institutions could be in the face of organized hatred. Hitler had been tricky about his plans until he got the position and the power to enact them. Trump had been tricky, neither accepting nor rejecting the endorsement of KKK leader David Duke. David Duke! The KKK! In this century! He claimed he didn’t know who he was. He couldn’t be disqualified because of someone he didn’t know. That’s where we all went wrong, thinking he was stupid and outrageous, not canny and savvy and able to play the media like Paganini. The election demonstrated the weakness of a weak democracy, where basic liberties could be abolished by demagoguery and voter suppression.

Rosenbaum is concerned that normalization is taking place in too many sectors of the public and press. The MSM wavers between exposing Trumpian excesses and normalization. I am cautiously optimistic that vast swaths of the American people do not accept Trump’s legitimacy and will never normalize his “movement.” Look at me: I am fundamentally a center-left Democrat who belongs to the “get shit done” wing of the party. That’s been suspended along with my adherence to Godwin’s Law. I am committed to resisting Trumpism and everything about it. This is not the time to make a deal with the devil. Trump regards offers of compromise as signs of weakness. I will continue to show him the same level of respect that Republicans gave to Barack Obama: zero, zilch, bupkis, nada.

People need to be patient. Given the current make-up of  Congress, Trump can only be removed if Republicans turn on him. That will only happen when they think the cost of supporting him outweighs the cost of pissing off rank and file Trumpers. That’s why public displays of disapproval are so vital. And the much ballyhooed 25th Amendment solution requires the support of his cabinet. It’s one reason why, with the exception of Generals Mattis and Kelly, the cabinet is loaded with wealthy political non-entities, sycophants, and right-wing ideologues. They *might* rebel if Trump continues his manic ways but it will take time. You know things are bad if I think Mike Pence is less horrific than Donald Trump. Why? He’s less likely to plunge us into a war caused by the last thing he saw on teevee. Trump puts the boob into boob tube as well as the idiot into idiot box.

Pressure and patience must be the watchwords of the resistance. We didn’t get into this mess overnight and we won’t get out of it quickly either. Satire is one of our best weapons. It hits Trump where he lives: he wants to be loved and admired. It’s our job to see that he’s neither. We don’t want him to think he’s Chaplin’s Great Dictator, Adenoid Hynkel. If Trump tries to dance with a global balloon, we need to pop it.

Vive les Maquis.

Your President* Speaks: Into The Muir Woods Edition

The advent of the Trump administration means it’s time to revive a recurring feature that predates my time at First Draft. It was predominantly used by Holden when he was the press gaggle maven here and President Malaprop was in office. Like Charlie Pierce, I have added an asterisk to the word President* since I vow to never refer to the Insult Comedian as such. Holy Ford Fucking Frick, Batman. That was the name of the baseball commish who put an asterisk in the record book after Roger Maris’ 61 homers in ’61. His middle name was not fucking but what’s a bit of dramatic license between friends? Frick the motherfrakker anyway.

Speaking of amateur theatrics, the whiner-in-chief gave an interview to ABC anchor David Muir. It had nothing to do with either Muir Woods or Stephen Sondheim but a pun is a pun is a pun. Hmm, Demure Woods sounds like a porn star name…

Let’s start with Trump’s “illegals cost me the popular vote” lie. I’ve heard of sore losers before but a sore winner is a new one on me.

MUIR: What you have presented so far has been debunked. It’s been called ….. false.

TRUMP: No, it hasn’t. Take a look at the Pew reports.

MUIR: I called the author of the Pew report last night. And he told me that they found no evidence of voter fraud.

TRUMP: Really? Then why did he write the report?

MUIR: He said no evidence of voter fraud.

TRUMP: Excuse me, then why did he write the report?  According to Pew report, then he’s — then he’s groveling again. You know, I always talk about the reporters that grovel when they wanna write something that you wanna hear but not necessarily millions of people wanna hear or have to hear.

You know what the old song says, true love travels on a grovel road.

Next up, Trump’s dubious claims that his CIA speech (wherein he said the word I 120 times) was a tremendous success:

 MUIR: Mr. President, I just have one more question on this. And it’s — it’s bigger picture. You took some heat after your visit to the CIA in front of that hallowed wall, 117 stars — of those lost at the CIA. You talked about other things. But you also talked about crowd size at the inauguration, about the size of your rallies, about covers on Time magazine. And I just wanna ask you when does all of that matter just a little less? When do you let it roll off your back now that you’re the president?

TRUMP: OK, so I’m glad you asked. So, I went to the CIA, my first step. I have great respect for the people in intelligence and CIA. I’m — I don’t have a lot of respect for, in particular one of the leaders. But that’s okay. But I have a lot of respect for the people in the CIA.

That speech was a home run. That speech, if you look at Fox, OK, I’ll mention you — we see what Fox said. They said it was one of the great speeches. They showed the people applauding and screaming and — and they were all CIA. There was — somebody was asking Sean — “Well, were they Trump people that were put–” we don’t have Trump people. They were CIA people.

That location was given to me. Mike Pence went up before me, paid great homage to the wall. I then went up, paid great homage to the wall. I then spoke to the crowd. I got a standing ovation. In fact, they said it was the biggest standing ovation since Peyton Manning had won the Super Bowl and they said it was equal. I got a standing ovation. It lasted for a long period of time. What you do is take — take out your tape — you probably ran it live. I know when I do good speeches. I know when I do bad speeches. That speech was a total home run. They loved it.

Peyton Manning spoke at Langley? We all know the Darnold brought a claque of sycophants along to cheer him on just in case the “CIA Nazis” were unresponsive. The ovation was tremendous. Believe me.

After going on some more about the inaugural crowd, Trump compared himself favorably to past Oval Ones:

I can be the most presidential person ever, other than the great Abe Lincoln.

I have my doubts. With the obvious exception of W, most past Presidents could speak the language above a 3rd grade level. It’s nice that Donald thinks at least one previous President ranks above him though.

There was more crazy in the interview but I think three entries will do. I don’t want to, uh, torture you with Trumpisms, after all. Elsewhere on the internets, I referred to this interview in a Graftonesque manner: B is for bonkers, berserk, and bat shit crazy. That about sums it up.

That concludes this edition of Your President Speaks.

 

 

Newspapers Will Pay For Anything Besides Journalism

ANY. THING. 

Even as the Chicago Sun-Times clings to life as a metro daily news organ, the publication says it has launched a new digital marketing agency called Digital 312, with the shop’s name incorporating the primary Chicago telephone area code.

Launched with a staff of around 11 people, the plan is to harness the experience the newspaper itself has gained in transitioning to a digital first news organization and apply that to clients of the agency that are looking for marketing expertise in the digital arena.

When I look at the money that’s gotten pissed away by newspaper companies in the past two decades, I don’t see the influence of the Internet or Kids Today Not Reading Anymore or That Rat Bastard Craig and His Rat Bastard List or Steve Jobs’s special phones stealing our attention spans. I see stupidity and a willingness to spend too much, too late, on things that don’t matter.

There are approximately 11,000 agencies that will help clients buy advertising, digital and otherwise, in the Sun-Times. But if nobody’s reading the Sun-Times, and nobody’s picking up the Sun-Times, and nobody can fucking find the Sun-Times if they scour the city for it because they only distribute four copies to every other 7-Eleven lately, and even if you do find it there are two good stories and 20 pages of week-old city hall gossip billed as a MAJOR SCOOP MUST CREDIT, well, I don’t care how swank your new ad agency sounds. Nobody’s going to put their products in your (digital or physical) pages.

If your name means nothing because you’ve spent 20 years destroying it with one ill-advised but loudly announced initiative after another, from a bloated, heaving website littered with auto-generated ads to a “national news network” that now redirects to a bunch of repeating clickbait advertorials, lurching onto yet another thing instead of supporting the one good thing you have left (your city room) will not help you.

Has newspaper revenue declined precipitously with the rise of mobile/digital devices? Natch. But there was still plenty of money to spend, on everything from endless rebrandings and redesigns and new divisions to replicate what other companies already did. On just about everything except journalism.

A.

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.