The Duties of the Press in a Truthless Campaign

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You don’t actually need a paradox to understand Trump’s lies.

In an essay yesterday for The Atlantic, Connor Friedersdorf tackles the question of media bias against Trump, particularly in light of his “Obama founded ISIS” claims. The thrust is that some people are upset that the media was deliberately twisting his words to be their most literal, and therefore their most easily disprovable. I’ll readily admit that when I saw the headline last week during a brief moment of internet connectivity, I rolled my eyes a bit, assuming (oddly, I know) that this was an obvious bit of rhetoric and the palpitations were of the clickbait variety.

Friedersdorf does a good job demolishing that, showing how Trump doubled and tripled down on it, and, most importantly, how he’ll say anything at any given time, to inflame some audiences and then claim he was doing no such thing, and it’s frankly disgusting of you to think otherwise, ok? The basic thrust is that Trump says so many outrageous and insane things (Ted Cruz’s loathsome father killed JFK) that the media has to evaluate everything like a policy statement, and debunk it as such.

It’s an interesting question about the role of the press, and to dig into it, I think it is helpful to look at Chicago politics in the 60s and 70s, at another straight-shooting authoritarian who frequently made no sense: Da Mare, Richard Daley.

Earl Bush, the long-serving press secretary for Richard J. Daley, wasn’t like most of the people surrounding the old man. He wasn’t a Bridgeport crony brought up in the rough-and-tumble world of South Side Irish politics, where loyalty and cunning were prized over book smarts. He was well-educated, and was considered to be “Daley’s translator.” He’s probably best remembered for chiding reporters who covered the mayor to play fair, in a way: “Don’t print what he said. Print what he meant.”

It is a line that’s easy to mock, but it actually raises some interesting questions. Daley was far from dumb, and was himself educated (putting himself through law school while climbing the machine ranks and raising a brood), but he had a tortured relationship with the language. What he meant to say often came out garbled, and nonsensical. So, for reporters covering him, what was there to do? On the one hand, they had a duty to convey the policies and politics of City Hall, and not just get a cheap laugh over a syntactical slip, the kind we all make when speaking, some more so than others. Reading the unedited transcript of nearly anyone can be cringeworthy. On the other hand, seeing the unvarnished mind of our political leaders is a service.

On the other hand, seeing the unvarnished mind of our political leaders is a service. We get to see how their minds work, or don’t, and how much they struggle to connect their talking points with any actual thought (think Marco Rubio here). Sometimes, you get a great quote out of it, one that seems more Freudian than Kinseyian. The best example of this is when Daley said of reports of police brutality in the city: “The policeman is not here to create disorder; he’s here to preserve disorder.” That seemed to encapsulate the role of the police in the racial powderkegs of the 1960s.

On the other hand…you know what he meant. Should reporters gleefully transcribe something that is the opposite of what he meant? The above quote seems to reveal a hidden truth, but that is metaphorical, and not legalistic. If Daley had said “I ordered the police to beat the hell out of the Negro” and then Earl Bush said “no no- he clearly meant to say ‘treat them well, the Negro'”, you print the former, for sure. But when it is just a slipup?  Is making it clear what a subject means a distortion, or is it observance of the truth?

I personally think it is the duty of any reporter to make sure that they print what is meant, even if they report what is said. But what happens when you have a man like Trump? To say he’s a liar is far too faint. All politicians lie (especially when they say they will never lie to you). It’s part of the job. By definition, you have to please far too many competing constituencies to always tell the truth 100% of the time. It’s impossible. And to an extent, we all know that’s acceptable.

But with Trump is is a different thing altogether. He isn’t so much lying as running an entirely 100% truthless campaign. The entire campaign is a fake, of course, an attempt to make someone who couldn’t pass a basic civics test and who can’t be bothered to learn anything about the world into a President. He himself is entirely truthless, as he sees everything in the world in relationship to himself, and interprets it to how it will benefit him and how he can use it as self-aggrandizement. That’s why he can’t go two sentences without bringing it back to himself; his own empty ego is the sole basis of his knowledge.

So the media should do what Connor was getting at: print what he says, and ignore what he pretends to mean. Or, report that too, and show how it is in direct contradiction with what he just said, and repeated. Trump is a man who thinks that being rich alchemizes his idiot proclamations into truth, so run with that. If he says “Obama probably killed MLK”, investigate it, and show how wrong and idiotic Donald Trump is. Don’t let him get away with saying “I never said that, and anyway, when I said it, it was a joke, ok, but I never said it.”  He thinks his off-the-cuff lies are correct when he says them (because he says them) as much as he believes it is correct when he later claims to have never said anything. He gets away with this because he’s been surrounded by flunkies his entire adult life. Every statement is timeless and unalterable truth, until he decides to alter it, and then it was never said. Evaluate them like that. Don’t give him any room. Don’t treat this like normal. Print everything the way it was meant.

 

 

 

“Gonna Be Rigged”: The Next Stage of the Con Steps Toward Violence

 

Classy! Big success. 

 

Donald Trump’s entire career has been a testament to the chicken-in-the-rain stupidity people get when surrounded by money, or at least the trappings of money. Despite being a serial failure, he’s been able to get investors in his bankrupt casinos and optimistic gulls to enroll in his phony school, because he seems really rich. One of the tricks to pulling this off is supreme confidence. People love to see that, and get sucked in. They feel that if this person, who seems rich, is saying “we’re all going to make so much money and we’re going to win” then by gum, we are. It’s seductive.

To say he’s run his campaign as a long con should be a cliche by now (it is on this blog). It’s carried on entirely by brazen lies and force of personality, which, amazingly, many millions of people don’t find ungodly repellant. But what happens when the casinos go bankrupt? What happens when the con is exposed? That’s easy: blame everyone else. Oh, this would have worked if it wasn’t for these people getting in the way or gumming it up. And I’ll tell you what: it’s no accident. They’re jealous, ok? Of our success. But we’ll get them next time. “The game was rigged” is always the cry of the conman when he isn’t able to properly rig it himself. It is absolution and conspiracy, and if successful, draws the mark even closer in.

If it is successful in an election, though, it could lead to violence and discontent like few of us have seen in our lifetimes. That’s the game Trump is playing now, and we’re all on the board.

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Quick Hits On Trump’s Press Conference: Non-Russian Edition

 

Might be the next President

 

Until the convention, Donald Trump’s insane and near-treasonous bafflegab of a presser yesterday dominated the news, especially his call for Russia to interfere with our election. That’s been pretty thoroughly covered elsewhere, so I want to make a few additional comments. I know writing about something some 20 hours after the fact is way too late, but I don’t think this news cycle should be over. There was so much in that press conference that defied imagination. It deserves to be talked about again and again, because, remember: this man could be President.

No way to get to it all now, but I want to highlight not specific policy things, because there are none except “Russia’s fine, ok?”. Instead I want to point out just how impossibly shallow this man is. The statements on Russia might have, as many said, “disqualify” him from the Presidency in a moral sense. But the rest of the words show that isn’t qualified, in the professional sense, to teach 3rd-grade social studies. He refuses to learn even the basics about the world, and can’t get through more than a tweet-length of a sentence without

He refuses to learn even the basics about the world, and can’t get through more than a tweet-length of a sentence without doubling-back, repeating himself, resorting to the verbal tricks of agreeing with himself, or (most often) self-aggrandizing. Insane anti-democratic fascistic tendencies aside, he’s really the most baffling incomprehensible public figure we’ve ever seen. Sarah Palin knew more about the world.

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Erick Erickson and the Obama Lookingglass

The GOP offered a vision of doom, despair, and division. Tonight the President I think divides us offered optimism. I hate this year.

There’s a tell here in Erick “Erick” Erickson, Son of Erick’s, baffled shoulder-shrug of a tweet. The tell is “I think”.  There are of course two ways to read that: the assertive, and the tentative, backpedaling way. It all depends on the inflection. If you emphasize the “I”, you’re taking ownership over the thought, claiming that this opinion is yours, and by dint of agency, you are transubstantiating it into fact. Imagine saying “Actually, your honor, I think that you’re the one drunk in court.” Bold, yes?

The second way is the emphasis on “think”. It’s hedging. It’s what you say when you are deeply unsure of something, and don’t want the responsibility for being wrong. “I think I can land a blimp?” It’s also used when the world is crashing around you, and the edifice of unreality you’ve been creating is knocked over. For Erick, Son of Erick, think he intended his tweet to be the former, but it is, almost unwittingly, the latter.

Last night’s DNC speech by The President of the United States Barack Obama was pretty much universally well-received, except by Donald Trump. On Twitter, at least, conservatives were calling it great, unifying and optimistic, in stark contrast to the “last call at Ragnarök” vibe we got in Cleveland. There was a certain teeth-gnashing about how Obama was using the language of hope and uplift, taking it from Reagan, whereas their party was one of doom and despair. Part of it was a sort of rueful pride and maybe even unconscious politics: see, they win only by acting like us. But I have to think there was also a bit of shock and even awakening. After all– this was not new.

It seems disingenuous for them to pretend that the Obama message, that of an imperfect union where we work together, strive together, look failure straight in the eye and learn from it, and reject the calls of demagoguery and hatred, is new. He’s always said these things, from his first major speech until last night. He’s tied the liberal values of community and togetherness, of not letting people be crushed by an invisible hand, into the theme of what America was founded on, and what it has too often failed to be. He’s always been the best at tracing that jagged, crooked, and often-broken line between who we want to be and who we can be, recognizing who we are, but not despairing. You can fairly say that the line shouldn’t lead to liberalism, or statism or whatever, and that’s fine. But to pretend he hasn’t always been who he was last night is incorrect.

I said “seems disingenuous” instead of “is, in fact, wildly and comprehensively disingenuous” because I think the level of cognitive dissonance was so great that it took a Trump to break it. They were so deeply vested in the idea of Obama being a divisive President, for reasons that go from normal (for our elevated and rabid times) political disagreements to a vast well of newly-tapped racial hatred. The thinking went. A) There are a lot of people who hate him partly or largely because he’s black.  B) Those people are on “our” side, therefore, I can’t say they are racist. C) I myself don’t like his idea of government, and let’s be honest, don’t love the idea of a successful black liberal, because then what does the party have. D) Therefore, the hatred isn’t coming from our side, but because he’s divisive.

Everything was contained in that shattered lookingglass. The whole theory of Obama- aloof, American-hating, jihad-loving, police-killing, Panther-adjacent, the real racist– had to spring from the idea that he was the divisive one. It was raw cynicism, and the opposite of any of his deeds and actions. Yes, he wanted Democratic policies to succeed. He was a Democrat. But they had to pretend that every action and every statement was so far beyond the pale that he was shattering every norm. And that left them deeply emotionally and intellectually unprepared when the caricature of Obama they created– a dumb, shallow, callow, vain, divisive, narcissistic, thin-skinned, hateful racist authoritarian demagogue– took over their party.

So yeah, that must have been tough for Erick “Erick” Erickson. This was the real Obama, the one whose has always moved to unite. The imperfect President with whom they can have serious and substantive disagreements, but who is clearly thoughtful, clearly intelligent about America and American history, and who clearly cares deeply about the country. They are forced to pretend that this is a reaction to Trump and that Obama is stealing from Reagan and all that, but I’d like to think that for a moment, before the gauzy veil of political hatred fell back down again, that they recognized, for a moment, the lies of the last eight years. And maybe they were saddened for a bit that hatred, paranoia, and petty small-brained bullshit made them miss entirely the most remarkable politician of our lifetime.

Julian Assange Casts His Vote

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His vote will ultimately be worth more than yours.

When you’re thinking free and open society, you’re thinking Donald Trump, right?

Six weeks before the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks published an archive of hacked Democratic National Committee emails ahead of the Democratic convention, the organization’s founder, Julian Assange, foreshadowed the release — and made it clear that he hoped to harm Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the presidency.

(The Times immortally invaluable Charlie Savage put this all together)

So, one could have initially, if one ignored the Russian angle cast this as an attempt to throw a corrupt and evil “democracy”, the world’s great evil and enemy of freedom, into a state of real higgedly-piggedly. But that’s clearly not the case.

Mr. Assange replied that what Mr. Trump would do as president was “completely unpredictable.” By contrast, he thought it was predictable that Mrs. Clinton would wield power in two ways he found problematic.

First, citing his “personal perspective,” Mr. Assange accused Mrs. Clinton of having been among those pushing to indict him after WikiLeaks disseminated a quarter of a million diplomatic cables during her tenure as secretary of state.

“We do see her as a bit of a problem for freedom of the press more generally,” Mr. Assange said.

I’m going to ignore the middle part, where he is mad at Mrs. Clinton for moving to indict him after, you know, breaking the law. I get why he sees her as an enemy, but did that really come as a surprise? Regardless of what you think of the justice or efficacy of the Wikileaks diplomatic dump (and I think they are a different type than Snowden’s heroism), it stands to reason that the US government would be miffed. I get why Assange sees her as an enemy, but really, shouldn’t take it so personally.

It’s the first and third bits that are either idiotically naive or completely sinister, depending on where you stand on Assange. Seeing Clinton as “a bit of a problem for freedom of the press” is fair: the Obama Administration has a terrible track record on press freedom, and Hillary has never been known for her openness, exactly. I think being peeved at the cable dumping, in which legitimate diplomatic communication was exposed and lives were put in danger, doesn’t in and of itself mark her as an enemy. But I get it.

However, the contrast is, and was known at the time Assange made these statements (about six weeks ago) Donald Trump. Donald Trump. Donald Trump. He’s made it…very clear where he stance on the media, the role of antagonistic journalism, and the role of the press in a free society, which is: fuck the press. If they aren’t subservient to him, they are useless. He’s shown it in his willingness to excommunicate anyone who is “unfair” (by which we mean fair) to him.  He’s shown it on his ravaging Twitter feed, where he demonstrates that trying to keep the media in line is a bigger goal than talking about policy or anything else. This tweet— “I was at and met Juan Williams in passing. He asked if he could have pictures taken with me. I said fine. He then trashes on air!”– is a perfect example of his childish authoritarianism.

Not all his authoritarianism is childish and petulant (though really, aren’t those the emotions at the heart of tyranny?). He has made it very clear that he intends to, or at least wants to, “open up libel laws” so that he can sue unfriendly press out of existence. He’s been trying to do that for decades. One could argue the pursuit of this power is one of the driving goals of his Presidency. So even he won’t be able to open up libel laws, as that wouldn’t come close to holding up in court, he’s clearly a man who wants to quash press freedom, either de facto or de jure, in order to burnish his own heroic image. Not exactly an ally of an open society.

So when Assange says Trump is “completely unpredictable”, he’s lying, or else he’s not paying any attention, which doesn’t strike me as plausible. Trump has made it very clear he’s a huge fan of waterboarding, and of even more torture. He’s been clear about that his entire run. That Assange chooses to ignore that, and, worse, accommodate it, raises a few questions about motivations.

The charitable interpretation here is that Trump is an agent of chaos, will rattle America, will end the neoliberal agreement that is underpinning much of the world’s immorality. He’s ignorant about who Trump actually is, and underestimates the racism and nativism that undergirds the campaign, focusing on globalization and isolationism.

That’s actually dovetailed with the uncharitable interpretation, which is that Assange sees the US/EU as the real enemies, and any of their enemies– including the ruthless and literal-press-murdering Putin regime– as his friends. That’s pretty sinister, but when someone sets himself against one party, in this case the war-mongering, trade-hawking, and press-stifling US (and all these are legitimate charges!), he tends to cling to any port in the storm.

You are free to question if he is pro-freedom, merely anti-West and pro-Russia, pro-authoritarianism if it’s the right person, or anywhere in between. I don’t think there is a cut-and-dry answer, though I lean toward him being a bit of an authoritarian creep with libertarian clothes. All I know for sure is that with friends like these, freedom doesn’t need the many enemies it already has.

Day 1 Quote of the Day: Ted Cruz Might Be Lacking In Self-Awareness

 

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America’s Sweetheart

 

Politico has a long interview with Ted Cruz, who raised more money than Donald Trump and had a much stronger ground game, but still lost. He has a theory, though, on why that’d happen.  And you’d never believe it, but it was a media-driven conspiracy against the most likeable man in America.

Cruz himself doesn’t exude bitterness or regret — he literally calls himself a “happy warrior” — but he has a deeply jaundiced view of the process that ended with him suspending his campaign after Trump’s big victory in the Indiana primary in May. He sees collusion, if not an outright conspiracy, between the reality TV candidate and the titans of cable news: Their goal, he told me, was to elevate a hard-to-elect Republican nominee while shoving aside more appealing candidates like himself.

First of all, Cruz can go jump for giving himself the same nickname as Hubert Humphery.  Secondly, if you are describing yourself as “the happy warrior” even though literally everyone you’ve ever worked with despises you, and your whole campaign is built on anger and lies, you might not be accurate. And third…I mean…

shoving aside more appealing candidates like himself

shoving aside more appealing candidates like himself

shoving aside more appealing candidates like himself

I think Ted Cruz might be overestimating the idea of himself as appealing. He’s loathed outside his family, and even that demographic is questionable. He’s a nasally, self-righteous hyper-conservative hateful regressive little prick, whose entire career has been self-serving nihilism. The more you get to know him, the more you hate him, and just a glance at his face makes you hate him from the jump.

Look, Donald Trump is literally the worst. But I don’t think that the imaginary liberal media cabal got together and said, “guys, America loves Ted Cruz. I mean, loves him. Like, enough that it’s a pretty sure thing he’ll win every state against Hillary Clinton. We have to act quickly!”

Ted Cruz will have his moment on Wednesday, and it will be glorious. It’ll make Donald Trump look humble. And Cruz will be back: he’s running in 2020 whether Trump wins or loses, I bet. There’s no limit to his ambition, and to his political skills, though they run against the natural limit of his personal and political appeal. Because no matter how many lies he tells, I doubt presented a greater one than the image of himself as being appealing.

1968 and 2016: Convention Violence and Anger in America

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Peshtigo, 1871.

Politico

For the GOP insiders most concerned about violence in Cleveland, many cited protest groups tied to liberal causes, like the Black Lives Matter movement. Nearly a half-dozen Republicans mentioned the Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros, who is a prolific donor to liberal causes. But few thought violence would ensue from an effort to fight Trump’s nomination on the convention floor. “It’s simply too big of a target for the malcontents and violent left to miss,” said an Iowa Republican. “George Soros’ money will pay for thousands of disaffected screaming thugs. Think Seattle [1999], Chicago 1968. Riots and looting. They are the tools of the liberal left.” “I say this with no joy whatsoever,” a Republican in the host state of Ohio added, “but the far-left agitators in Cleveland will make the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago look like a fourth-grade slap fight.

Now, I don’t expect an “Iowa Republican” who thinks that George Soros is bussing anarchists to Cleveland to understand this, or for that matter an Ohio Republican, but it is worth noting that the violence in the 1968 convention did not come from the far-left. It came from the cops. There was provocation, sure, but it was the police that were rioting. As the Walker Report indicated, the refusal to allow permits, the wish to cordon American citizens away from where the powerful were meeting, led directly to the bloodshed.

I would hope that when covering the protests this week, the media remember that. There will almost certainly be Seattle-type violence (and that is the actual far left), but chances are high a lot of the violence will be coming directly from those sanctioned by the state to levy it, and who should take the responsibility seriously.

Or hell, it might come from all the armed lunatics gathering in an open carry state, many of whom feel that these far-left weirdoes and blacks are threatening America and conspiring to ruin Donald Trump’s chances. Would you be surprised if these patriots opened fire? If they saw, incredibly, an anarchist of a Black Panther with a gun, and had to protect themselves? Does any of this seem implausible? A firefight between on-edge police, right-wing militia types, angry protestors, and lone gunmen types like in Dallas and Baton Rouge?  This is Peshtigo in the hot summer of 1871. The sawdust is baking in the heat, and the firestorms are being born.

Cleveland is on Lake Erie, but the closet analogy is up the Great Lakes system, up Michigan, near Green Bay. This is Peshtigo in the hot summer of 1871. We’re on the edge on conflagration. Little fires burst every day. The skies are increasingly choked with soot. The sawdust is baking in the heat, and the devouring and murderous firestorms are being born.

After Weeks of Violence, What Is Legitimate Protest In The Age of Trump?

 

Oh beautiful, for spacious skies…

 

Sunday struggled awake to the news of another mass, targeted killing of police by a lone gunman, trained by the military and motivated by racial, anti-police anger. This time it was in Baton Rouge, one of those American cities that is a simmering racial flashpoint, as we’ve all learned in these last few hot, tense weeks.  It already feels like we’re living in a documentary about that terrible year, 2016, where everything sped up, where the divisions between white and black, between those who believed in the police and those who believed the police were just a tool of oppression, boiled over. Where economic anger, racial hatred, xenophobia, and several strands of populism

It already feels like we’re living in a documentary about that terrible year, 2016, where everything sped up, where the divisions between white and black, between those who believed in the police and those who believed the police were just a tool of oppression, boiled over. Where economic anger, racial hatred, xenophobia, and several strands of populism distorted our politics. Reading the news has the uneasy feeling of watching that documentary, that every day is part of the central montage of an uneasy summer. We’re watching the flash points scroll by in real time, all leading up to that violent week in Cleveland, where the least-qualified and most dangerous candidate in American history grabbed his nomination, against a backdrop of horrible violence.

Obviously, as Sunday gave way to Monday, that hasn’t happened yet. But everyone believes it is going to. The Cleveland police certainly do, as Reason reports. 

To prepare for that, Cleveland has reportedly purchased over three miles of “Blockader” steel barricades, plus over 3,000 feet worth of six foot-high barricades, over 2,000 sets of riot gear, and 10,000 sets of plastic handcuffs.

Almost half of downtown Cleveland, roughly 1.7 square miles, will be under major restrictions as the designated “event zone.” Within that area, according to the New York Times, everything from glass bottles and tennis balls to “large bags and backpacks, mace, loudspeakers, tents, coolers and canned goods” will be prohibited. The Washington Postnotes that it has provided a “standard kit” to its staff attending the RNC, including “helmets, gas masks and flak jackets,” but gas masks are among the items banned from the event zone.

That is, simply put, a police state. And maybe it is needed. There is no doubt that this year is a far angrier one than 2012, or even 2008, when the world was collapsing. We say every four years “this is the worst”, but things are qualitatively different this year. For one thing, you no longer have Barack Obama. For another, you have Donald Trump, and that leads to the question: what is legitimate protests in the face of a quasi-fascist, white nationalist campaign?

For many people, the only good form of protest is peaceful, maybe marching in the designated areas, maybe giving a speech to fellow freaks at some kind of jazz club, but preferably at home. Anything else — anything that smacks of violence, or even without humble acqueisence to the men in the riot gear, pushing back with their truncheons — is beyond the pale of reasonable discourse. This year, after the killings, the desire by the media and all the establishment for absolute calm will be even more severe. We’re too divided and too on edge, and the natural deference toward law and order will be a full-throated scream.

Even anti-Trump Democrats and liberals are hoping for nothing distracting in the streets, nothing to take away from the spectacle of watching Donald Trump become the candidate, hoping that the mere sight of that will jar people into awareness that this is really happening. And I’m in that camp as well. I’m hoping that the focus will be on the surreal nightmare that is the Trump candidacy, and not on juvenile anarchists thinking that smashing up a Starbucks is a counterstrike against Trump, or really against Trumpism (neither, by the way, is the naked woman protest, as the libertine Trump won’t exactly be scandalized. Still, highlighting female autonomy to the GOP is always a good idea).

But then, what is? This is a completely different candidacy than we’ve ever had, one that is explicitly trying to divide the nation into “us vs. them”, with “them” being everyone who isn’t white, Christian, and already a Trump voter. I don’t feel like we have a duty to treat this as politics as normal, to respect the process, and to assume that this convention is, well, conventional. I feel that the media, and the protestors, should do everything they can to highlight the grotesque nature of what is happening, and just how dangerous it is.

To me, I think that means following the letter of the rules, but not the spirit. Don’t bring in any restricted items, and don’t throw down the barricades, but protest everywhere. Make it so that people can’t go anywhere without seeing protestors, being strong and forceful, though not violent. Make every street corner an area for speeches. Make all of Cleveland one big bughouse square. Drown out the lunacy inside Quicken. Hold a mirror to the wild madness inside.

Because, to be clear, the violence that is spreading in America is reflected in the gaping, stupid mouth of Donald Trump. Elections matter, and he’s legitimized the howl. He’s the candidate of the authoritarian right. He’s the candidate of having armed goons and rabbled supporters brutalize anyone who dares question him. He’s the candidate of the truncheon and the flak jacket, of the newly-deputized posse, of the flurry of arms and legs pummeling the prone and terrified outsiders. He’s cranking the wheel on the projector, speeding up this documentary, to where all the images blur together. The people marching in the center of the frame move toward a lockstep while around them the film burns att he edges. It is his carnival, and the only response seems to be just as mad.

There are smart responses to Trumpism, and intelligent, helpful ways to protest this week. There are ways that can make everything worse, and heighten this unbearable tension. There are ways that can empower the candidate of “law and order” (his law, and his order). But when it comes down to it, there are no illegitmate ways to protest this candidacy. Its very existence is already a protest against reason and decency. It’s a savage axe-blow to the heart of the American experiment, and any reaction pouring from that supperating wound is justified.

Is Trump Gozer or The Marshmallow Man? A Response on Trump’s Racism

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This was always weirdly hot, right?

Last night over at Slate, Jamelle Bouie had an excellent piece on how Trump is defying every political norm. Not the ones where he is winning despite not having a campaign, or any idea of anything going on anywhere in the world, and being completely unlikeable, but rather that where any indecency is not only excused, but expected, and largely ignored. His argument is that the political class, including the media, really has no idea how to deal with it.

For now, it suffices to say that it’s happening—that the Trump campaign is a superhighway for an organized horde of hate that defines much of the pro-Trump grass-roots presence online. Rooted in online communities like Reddit and 4Chan, these supporters—who often identify as “alt-right,” a current of conservative politics on the internet where racism thrives and anti-Semitism flourishes—are virtual shock troops against journalists who criticize Trump or scrutinize his campaign and its personalities. Jewish journalists, in particular, face the worst abuse.

…If political media exists to do anything, it’s to reveal this flow from the fringe. To educate audiences on what these ideas mean, to give context for symbols like the one we saw on Saturday. Thus far, the media seems ill-equipped for the job. For every display of “pro-truth” bias, there are a dozen examples of mindless coverage, as reporters present racist rhetoric as simple “controversy” or frame anti-Semitic propaganda as a “he said/she said” dispute.

…In short order, the boundaries of political speech expand to include outright bigotry. Right now, Trump is showing his dedicated following of white supremacists that you can deny the humanity of other people and still thrive in mainstream politics. If this all feels dangerous—like the beginning of a new, more frightening kind of politics—that’s because it is.

He’s absolutely right. This has happened stunningly fast, the mainstreaming of his hate, and that of his followers. Trump knows, somewhere in his jackal heart, that everything he does will quickly be placed in the framework of normal political discussion. “Well, he did take a meme from a noted racist/anti-semite site, and tweeted it out, and lied about it, but on the other hand, he says he didn’t, so discuss the controversy.” It’s remarkable, and terrifying. We should be marching in outrage against it, but most of us, at best, just sort of blog about it. The more elite talk about how he is “breaking the rules.” The worst and most gutless still back him.

The question I have is if Trump is the destroyer, or just the outcome of how we’ve destroyed ourselves. He seems to me to be the logical (and completely irrational) culmination of a million trends: our idiot media with its constitutional inability to recognize that one party has gone completely insane, its addition to “both-sides-do-itsm”; the way that social media has amped up all our tendencies toward hatred and loudness; our addiction to pseudo-reality spectacle and personality over character and intelligence; our national inability to reflect on mistakes; and more. The system is broken, and we’re huge and unwieldy and angry and bitter and dispossessed. It seems almost impossible that a barking mad know-nothing wouldn’t appear, especially one who already embodied a lot of those trends.So is Trump Gozer, who is creating the destruction, or is he merely the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, who is the avatar of our destruction. Choose and perish, right? The

So is Trump Gozer, who is creating the destruction, or is he merely the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, who is the avatar of our destruction. Choose and perish, right? I personally lean more toward Gozer, because this galumphing ball of hate and artifice is who he has always been: a racist, misogynist strongman with a pea-brained sense of the world and a galactic idea of a deserved destiny. He’s helped to create the media and cultural environment in which he thrived.

But then, it wouldn’t have worked if we didn’t let him come in, if we didn’t, on some level, choose to accept this. To keep accepting things until they became inevitable, and suddenly we’re saying it is “too PC” when we condemn him for retweeting outrageous and inflammatory racist stats from a white nationalist website.

The Ghostbusters thing is not an accident. This summer, we’re having a new Ghostbusters movie, with an all-female cast. This is: fine. They are all funny actors, and it could be good, or it could be bad. It probably won’t be as good as the first, but it might be better than the second. But the fact that they are females sent a certain sector of dickless morons into a frothing frenzy. Men’s Right’s Activists, who are literally the worst, conspired to make the trailer the most “disliked” of all time.  Because, as we know, it is emasculating and a symbol of PC run amok for females to bust ghosts. That’s a man’s job, and has, throughout American history, been the traditional prerogative of men. Busting ghosts. This is all Shillary’s fault. People actually believe this. 

That’s the culture which Trump has come to dominate. People who see aggrievement in everything, and who believe that everything the have is being taken away, and who can, with the strength of like-minded people online, convince themselves that they care even more than they actually do, until it becomes a reinforcing circle of amplified anger. That circle is where Trump lives. He’s not just Gozer, and not just Stay-Puft: be built the circle. He’s our own Ivo Shandor, and his buildings keep going up.

Hillary and Donald Tied! Almost. In One Poll. Sort Of.

 

A dialogue. 

 

Times:  Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump are deadlocked less than a month before the Democratic and Republican presidential conventions, according to a new national poll that shows the American electorate feeling disappointed in each candidate.

Me: Holy crap! His…strong? stance on Brexit must have really resonated! Go on.

Times: A Quinnipiac University survey released on Wednesday found that 42 percent of voters supported Mrs. Clinton while 40 percent backed Mr. Trump. The poll represents a slight improvement for Mr. Trump, who trailed by four points at the beginning of the month, and has a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points

Me: OK, so, just like one poll? From a poll that had Trump doing slightly better than average, anyway?

Times: …

Me: What do some of the polling averages say?

Times: …

Me: Oh, RCP still has her up by six? HuffPolitics, used by Sam Wang, has her up by 7?  And Wang himself still has Hillary with a 70-85% chance of winning, depending on if you use random drift or Bayesian projections?

Times: Do you know what that means?

Me: …

Times: …

Me: Look, the point is, there’s really no need to inject drama. We have a dangerously ignorant white nationalist only a few weeks away from accepting the nomination, grubbing it with his greedy hands and shoving an entire political party into his malformed mouth. No matter what happens, he’s awakened a plague of blowflies that can blot out the sun. It’s goddamn dramatic enough. Don’t breathlessly report every poll. In this instance, your duty to the Republic and her people is to militate against Trump. I know the overlap between your readership and his likely voters is slim, but you don’t have to contribute to the narrative.

Times: Fine. You want to get a drink?

Me: It’s 7:30 in the morning!

Times: …

Me: Yeah.