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600 million years ago. In a fetid swamp of decay – the opaque water a slurry of rotten vegetation, air bulging with the upper bands of UV radiation, brown brown everything brown – a lungfish heaves itself up onto densely-packed shitmud. It can’t tell. Its senses cannot distinguish water from air, or light from dark.
Immediately the poison blanket of radiation falling from the sun starts to break its DNA. Enough slams into its cells that, in the few seconds before it collapses back to the stinking darkness of its sludge, the seeds of bulbous tumors are planted in every organ.
Everything bulges. Everything hurts. Suddenly it bumps into something in the blind muck. Maybe the diaphanous remains of a corpse. It robotically fucks whatever the thing is. The mindless twisting is weak and languid but still tears its cancer-ridden body down the length of its spine. The now inert, ragged, floating mass of carcinoma does not bob to the surface. The water is too thick for that.
The pre-fatal intercourse happened to have been with another (living) lungfish. And by a billion-to-one odds, the tangle of broken DNA in its malignant come twisted into place to produce offspring with the first photosensitive cells in vertebrates.
We are able to see because a tumorous shitfish blindly fucked itself to death in fowl brown filth.
There’s a silver lining to every situation, no matter how objectively disgusting.
Which brings us to Trump, and the media, and centrism. What are the silver linings, what are we able to see, now that it’s obvious to all what Republicans are as a party?
(skip down to The Prestige to get the summary answer)
They didn’t come from nowhere, these Trump supporters. They are Republicans. They were Republicans. Ten years ago, Republicans were people who, ten years later, would vote for Trump. (And let’s not forget the majority of the rest wanted Ted Cruz, who is more horrifying than Trump but, thankfully, butt-ugly as a shitfish.)
Here’s how the NY Times characterized the largest blocks of Republicans in 2005:
TRADITIONAL VALUES BLOC Primarily interested in the general decline of morals in society and the breakup of the family rather than abortion and gay marriage. Education is their top issue. VOTERS: Working and middle classes, suburban and exurban
ANTI-WASHINGTON BLOC The largest group. Dislikes regulation, government waste and pork-barrel politics; would move power to the states. VOTERS: Red-state voters who hate blue-state voters
BIBLICAL BLOC Religion drives politics. Allegiance is to causes, not to party unity. For this group, President Bush did not do enough to save Terri Schiavo. VOTERS: Conservative Christians
This was after 20 years of Rush Limbaugh, who was months away from “Barack the Magic Negro”. This was after the second-most-popular Republican reason for voting in 2004 was to “keep the faggots from gettin’ marital tax breaks and visitation privileges, as Jesus intended”. After torture became a plank of the Republican platform, after Katrina and the “shoot the
niggers looters yeahhh shoot ’em all good ‘n dead” rhetoric.
This was shortly before Bill O’Reilly busted a vein over immigration like he lost his favorite loofah, with Geraldo Rivera (one not widely known for being able to pick up subtle nuances of sociological trends) warning “You want your viewers to go door to door, ‘You’re an Illegal, I’m going to take you outside and do something to you.’ ”
To say nothing of Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Jim DeMint, and the rest of the unending parade of lazy authoritarians in the Web 2.0 era.
I wouldn’t use “disliking pork barrel politics” as a descriptor for these people, myself.
So, Trump’s Silver Lining Lesson Number 1: Pay attention to what’s happening, because the media won’t do it for you. Clear as day, and in real time, it was obvious that the Republican party was becoming the incompetent clowning fascism Trump and Cruz are championing.
Why wasn’t this a prominent theme in the media?
And why didn’t you realize it?
Clara Jeffery is Editor-in-Chief of Mother Jones. Broadly pro-union, anti-incarceral state, anti-middle class wealth stagnation, and all the other things you’d expect out of a publication that does actual journalism. And yet, the above.
Meanwhile, Krugman can’t figure out why the media are “objectively pro-Trump”:
It’s not even false equivalence: compare the amount of attention given to the Clinton Foundation despite absence of any evidence of wrongdoing, and attention given to Trump Foundation, which engaged in more or less open bribery — but barely made a dent in news coverage.
[…] Brian Beutler argues that it’s about protecting the media’s own concerns, namely access. But I don’t think that works. It doesn’t explain why the Clinton emails were a never-ending story but the disappearance of millions of George W. Bush emails wasn’t […] [or] the revelation that Colin Powell did, indeed, offer HRC advice on how to have private email the way he did […]
And I don’t see how the huffing and puffing about the foundation — which “raised questions”, but where the media were completely unwilling to accept the answers they found — fits into this at all.
No, it’s something special about Clinton Rules. I don’t really understand it. But it has the feeling of a high school clique bullying a nerdy classmate because it’s the cool thing to do.
These are related.
Think of your workplace (you know, the place you’re sitting right now). The industry it’s in. There are all sorts of weird idiosyncratic ways of doing things, of seeing the business, that are essentially irrational, right? That were created out of an organic process which no single person or entity is directing? Maybe sales have to be conducted in a certain way. Or a concept has to be explained like this and not like that in order to avoid looking like a rube.
The equivalents in journalism:
- Boomers are right and the kids today are wrong
- Republicans are serious
- Anything bipartisan is good
These are all ubiquitous enough to be cliches. The editor-in-chief of a lefty magazine can be confidently illiterate when bashing the young’uns; Erik Erikson can go on CNN for years; I can offer $100 for a pejorative use of “bipartisan” confident that it can’t be claimed. (Unless, of course, it’s pork-barrel spending, which is an example of why “Republicans are serious” for “opposing” it.)
For other examples, see Charlie Pierce, now and always.
The media’s treatment of Trump isn’t anything more than “Republicans are serious”. Trump is a Republican. He’s serious.
Like other Republicans before him, he’s serious when he says he has a “secret plan” to end the war; when he says tax cut incontinence will create a bazillion jobs; when he advocates immigration policy from 1933 Weimar Germany.
Hell, even Trump’s obvious and clumsy grifts have a rich history within his party.
Trump’s Silver Lining Lesson Number 2: Political journalism has its own dynamics that have nothing to do with the truth.
It’s clear as day now that the media doesn’t cover Trump objectively, but slots him into their typical political coverage: that is to say, it will treat any objectively insane policy proposal of his in a sober and serious manner.
But . . . why?
And why didn’t you notice it before?
The Centrist Ideology
“I’m not an ideologue.” “Both sides go too far.” “I don’t slavishly follow a party, I make up my own mind.” “I’m a moderate.” “I’m a fiscal conservative and a social liberal.” “I just care about what works.”
These are the siren calls of centrism, the ideology that marinates political coverage. The truth lies somewhere in the middle of the extremes of left and right, and partisan cheerleading for unbendable ideas blinds people from seeing what needs to be done. What could be more reasonable, more obvious, than that?
What’s missing is that the “extremes of left and right” do not exist out there in the world. They have to be built rhetorically. Picking a middle from the extremes involves picking extremes. What is the opposite of $4 trillion of tax cuts: infrastructure spending, or preventing the Federal Reserve from crushing wage increases?
Besides extending a spatial metaphor into uselessness, picking a middle from the extremes requires two extremes. If one set of ideas is generally plausible and sane, and the other set the equivalent of slapping a hornets nest with your hand to kill all the stingy things inside, there’s no need to bother with the second set, is there.
Finally, locating a political philosophy “in the middle” requires a large set of assumptions. A small sample:
- that political institutions are taken for granted the way they are
- that the norms of political behavior are taken for granted
- that the political economy framework within which policy is enacted is taken for granted
- that the goals of the policies “in the middle” have already been determined
Centrism is thus inherently an ideology of the status quo; it is inherently Establishment.
That the media should adopt centrism as their implicit frame for political coverage could be due to a lot of reasons: not wishing to upset access with their sources; subconsciously defaulting to the ideas that benefit the class and social strata most journalists come from; adapting to the political framework set out by their corporate owners.
But whatever the reason, notice that the centrist framing of political coverage drives the three trends discussed above.
- Boomers are the Establishment, run the institutions, and are tremendously invested in the status quo
- Republicans need to be Serious so that there can be “two sides” to be “in the middle” of
- Bipartisanship is “meeting in the middle”; in other words, of the status-quo institutions continuing to run as they have been run
Trump’s Silver Lining Lesson Number 3: The media’s coverage of Trump is not due to Trump, but due to the way they cover political events. The centrist ideology which frames political coverage necessitates covering Trump in a certain way. It necessitates covering Republicans a certain way. It necessitates covering issues a certain way.
And that’s why it took Trump waving his tiny hands around for you to notice how the media covers politics with a centrist frame: it took someone so obviously unfit and hateful, so cartoonish, so small-handed to demonstrate the framework the media uses to cover politics.
Here, then, in three sentences, is the point:
The media’s centrist framing of political coverage over the past thirty years helped create the conditions for Donald Jay Trump. Pay attention to that centrist framing. It’s insane and brings evil into the world.
That’s the reason for this blog.
One-man human centipede Grover Norquist, author of the anti-tax pledge that Republicans all have to sign in order to eat at Congressional cafeterias, said a very funny thing on a CBS morning show yesterday.
Tsk tsk, how improper. Thank you for disapproving of that uncivil comment, CBS lady.
(Quick tangent: is it me or is Charlie Rose starting to look more and more like some kind of Death of News Anchors from the Discworld?)
And on some level, she should, because it’s silly. She could have done the equivalent of a 360 dunk by pointing out Fox News has been screaming about Obama promising socialism and to take all of the money from the rich, a campaign platform that is a bit more expansive than “I’m not Mitt Romney”, but we live in a fallen world.
On another level, though, it doesn’t matter. What Norquist is doing is just an extension of what Romney’s campaign was premised on: just lie your fucking head off all the time. And guess what? It works. The Romney campaign lied its fucking animatronic zombie-eyed heads off and the media slurrrrrrped it up. Of course they’re saying now that Romney was pushed too far to the right by a rabid Republican party, which not only contradicts the “Romney has successfully re-branded himself” smegma they were slinging a couple weeks ago but happens to not be true; Romney’s share of the popular vote was very close to what the basic measures of the economy predicted he would get.
It’s clear what the basic strategy is: say what’s most opportune at the moment, and rely on media coverage to fart out enough of a smokescreen (like the stinky and sad “fact check” saga that played out) so that in the end it doesn’t matter. Norquist’s “poopy head” is just extending this past the election; say Obama ran a dirty and hollow campaign enough times and in enough ways and the question of just who really ran a good or bad campaign will become a dense banal cloud that no one can see through.
There’s something else going on here too, though, and it’s just utterly devastating to the typical centrist view of how media and political discussions more generally operate. A view like Jon Stewart’s Read the rest of this entry »
All my circuits are blown on this one I can’t even swear at it. It is proof that God has abandoned the up-keep of his creation.
The AP “fact checks” Clinton’s convention speech. I’ll ruin the surprise: no actual facts are checked.
Before the Fisking it’s important to just count the number of claims about politics that are presented as obvious truths without any repeat any evidence or argument to back them up. 1. “The inflexibility of both parties is to blame for much of the gridlock.” 2. “The problem with compromising in Washington is that there are few true moderates left in either party.” 3. is a little more abstract, but the piece faults Obama for “ensur[ing] the tough compromises would not get made” on Social Security and the debt. Why are “tough compromises” necessary on these things at this time? I dunno. Neither does the AP.
As always, the centrist scam is to hide a very particular political agenda behind “objective” analysis. If the parties aren’t working to enact the corporate consensus, they are inflexible partisans. Amazingly, this consensus can be found on every corporate media entity. What an astounding coincidence.
Enough sarcasm. ThinkProgress did its best on this turd but only got to about 15% of what’s wrong with it. Not good enough. Prepare to Fisk.
Clinton Claim: Obama be compromisin’ Republicans be obstructin’.
AP Fact Check: 1. The first “fact” is that Rahm Emanuel exists. No mention of anything he did. Just that he exists.
2. The “grand bargain” didn’t happen because Boehner couldn’t get Republicans to vote for it and Obama was criticized by some Democrats. CRITICIZED. BY SOME DEMOCRATS. Clearly a party is holding up legislation if some of its members are criticizing it.
3. Simpson-Bowles wasn’t enacted in legislation, even though the Republicans torpedoed the actual commission, and even though Obama adopted most of it for his own proposal. The AP acknowledges these things.
Good job, AP. Your fact check of the claim that Democrats compromise and Republicans are obstructing the machinery of government only ignores all the instances in which Republicans have been doing so to an historic extent. Recite it with me: record Senate filibusters debt ceiling ransoming record number of executive agency confirmations denied.
Now I’m just a simple country lawyer, but it seems to me that evaluating a claim that a party has been obstructionist needs to grapple with the objective ways in which that party has been historically obstructionist.
Clinton Claim: Health care spending has increased at a lower rate since Obamacare has been enacted.
AP Fact Check: 1. It’s mainly the economy
2. The two main cost-saving measures have yet to kick in
3. Anyway who gives a shit people still pay a lot for health care amirite
The only “fact check” here that has any logical connection at all to Clinton’s statement is the point about the economy. Interesting that the article can’t even keep it’s claims straight across paragraphs; first it’s due to “uncertainty”, then it’s about the economy being “lackluster”, which suggest two completely different mechanisms in how health care spending is affected. Either way though both should have been even more prevalent in 2009, when the rate of spending increased, than in 2010 and 2011, when it decreased.
Goddammit is there one fucking thing in here that isn’t undone with elementary logic.
Clinton Claim: Romney’s campaign said “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.” Remember that, America.
AP Fact Check: We remember when Clinton lied about Monica Lewinsky so it’s hypocritical for him to call out a campaign basically stating it will lie as much as it possible can.
Guess not. As logically insane it is for a “fact check” operation to be running political smears, THIS ISN’T EVEN A FUCKING CLAIM TO FACT CHECK IT’S JUST A FUCKING TRANSCRIPT OF-
Y’know let’s just move on to the last one. Because there is no larger order to which we are beholden and we all die alone, let’s just do it for kicks. Just to see if there’s one goddamn thing of value in this fucking thing.
Clinton Claim: Voter’s anger at the economy is understandable, but a political reaction to them wouldn’t be prudent. Voters were angry about the economy in ’94 and ’95, right before a huge economic expansion.
AP Fact Check: Clinton’s comments ignore the role his policies had in later economic troubles. The tech bubble eventually popped, and Glass-Steagall repeal set the stage for the ’08 collapse.
Those things did happen, AP, which have what to do with anything? Clinton makes a point about the political timetable moving too quickly to adequately judge economic progress and you bring up the bad parts of Clinton’s economic record? Is your point that voters should look five to ten years into the future to look at the economic effects of who gets elected, and then compare that to what they think would have happened under the other guy? But wait: if they’re looking into the future, then how can they change what’s going to happen? Unless it’s only a possible future . . .
That’s right. The only way to read the AP fact check article in a way that doesn’t make it out to be completely mendacious is to imagine the intended audience is a nation of Kwisatz Haderachs. Centrism at its finest.
via lots of folks but the precipitating factor was Atrios.
The deal here is that an ABC news correspondent gave three minutes to Honeywell CEO and member of Obama’s debt commission David Cote: asked him a few questions, got a few answers, put it on the air. Of course Cote said within thirty seconds of each other “The reason there’s so little hiring is because of uncertainty about the debt” and “The reason Honeywell is not hiring is because of slow orders”, ie lack of demand. So the reporter, Devin Dwyer, or asshead Devin Dwyer to use his professional title, could have asked a quick follow-up to explain that contradiction. Or he could have asked Cote about whether there is a lot of debt reduction to be had by performing an audit on the 15% of its revenues Honeywell gets from government coffers in the form of aerospace contracts, one of the ugliest wings of the military industrial complex in which no-bid offers and unnecessary procurement have the run of the place. Of course the next question he asked was “What advice would you give to President Obama?” And the little cherry on the sundae was Cote’s answer, “I’m not going to tell you that,” and Dwyer’s response, “Fair enough.”
Cote also let himself indulge in a bit of centrist rhetoric to just make this latest boning of the public discourse extra special. “Republicans and Democrats need to come together and, I think, quit saying that the hole is on the other guy’s side of the boat. We’re all in the same boat.” Yeah, but some of us are in the filet mignon dining area and some of us are in the rape chambers. Why they put rape chambers on the boat, I don’t know, but there are a lot of them, filled to capacity.
And look this is another instance of getting all sweary and invoking the metaphor of testicle consumption over insignificant media production which is just designed to fill up space, a three minute clip of an interview that maybe tens of thousands of people actually saw, and about twenty-seven actually paid attention to.
But that’s the thing again, isn’t it. If the centrist equation holds for even this; if reporters value access and not-giving-a-fuck-ness to this extent; if public figures are not called to task even when they flat out contradict themselves or have the grossest conflicts of interest in even a quick little story; then of course the stuff that matters will be so thoroughly integrated within the centrist framework that it will be more centrist spin than fact, its viewpoint twisted and evil.
So we’re up to speed here, yes?
Cory Booker declared criticism of the industry where his campaign donors come from off-limits, released a youtube video where he doubled down on that declaration, and hit a few softballs that were walked up to a tee for him by asshole Rachel Maddow in an interview where he refused to address what he said re: declaring his campaign donors off-limits.
But the donors were mighty titans of the financial industry, so no serious media person gave a shit, of course. It’s all “process” and “tone” and “campaign positioning” and look a baby panda who convulsively sneezes in a funny way. None involved will ever be punished for polluting the public discourse, and we all die alone.
BUT. Centrists are unique among members of the class Insecta in that they run toward wherever the media is shining light at any particular time.
SO. It is time for that cherished ritual, a children’s treasury of lolCentrists which makes fun of all the asinine and terrible things centrists say whitewashing objectively awful comments by a centrist colleague.
There are a lot of them so they are off the main page. The last one is out of left field and is the funniest. The meat, as the samurai said to the courtesan, is below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »
So Cory Booker did on Meet The Press what politicians do on Sunday shows: distort the media to benefit his political donors.
Then he made a youtube response to criticism where he distorted what he said to benefit his political donors.
I mean this isn’t really the discovery of the Higgs Boson. This is what the media is for. But the smug self-righteousness of preening about money in politics and superPACs in the middle of DECLARING CRITICISM OF YOUR DONORS OFF-LIMITS just pisses me off. Plus there are some people who seem not to notice what is going on.
One of those people happens to have a national cable news show who interviewed Cory Booker the day after he did all this shit. Guess who it is! And guess which bodily function the interview resembles!
Maddow’s interview is here I ain’t embedding it because both times I loaded it there were commercials for a Fuck Public Education Company and Boeing. I’m not having that on my conscience.
Suffice to say the vast majority of the interview is “You’re now a political football on both sides” and “How do you feel about your role in the Obama campaign at this point” and all that bullshit. The one question which could possibly be construed to be in the public interest comes about 3/4s of the way through the interview and is “What would you say the limits are to criticism of the private equity investment industry.” Which isn’t exactly “Did you order the Code Red” but it’s not out of place in an interview which doesn’t actively try to mislead the public.
Of course, Booker responds to that question with the same line of bullshit he slung in his youtube response: he’s tired of “negative advertising” and “the money in politics” and “the flood of SuperPAC money” and “the negative campaigning that is turning Americans away from politics”. And of course Maddow follows it up with an unrelated question about how the Obama campaign is using him at this point.
Fuck Rachel Maddow. If you want to prance about as a serious journalist who gives a shit from a progressive perspective the absolute fucking minimum requirement for that is to point the fuck out when politicians are running interference for their political donors in the name of “objectivity” and “caring about the political process”. Especially when it’s on the platform of a Sunday morning show. And especially when the politician issues a response video that slings the same obfuscatory bullshit. And especially when you’re doing the first interview after all this shit drops.
And again this isn’t the biggest thing in the world but I’m tired of being intellectually insulted. Especially by someone who promises not to do that.
So Cory Booker released a follow-up video to his execreble Meet The Press appearance in which he refused to even acknowledge that Romney’s business practices involved taking over companies, liquidating labor and assets, finding buyers or declaring bankruptcy, and pocketing modest eight-figure consulting fees in the process. Said it made him “very uncomfortable” to talk about.
He released a follow-up video “after getting social media feedback” and . . . ugh just watch.
You can’t even use this to play Centrist Cliche bingo, because everyone would win.
“My political superiors have done a fantastic job”
“This negative campaigning hurts the process”
“I don’t like the SuperPACs that I am currently pandering to”
“My biggest concern is for the voices that are not being heard and voices not being shared”
“Let’s not bicker over small things, let us not denigrate each other or paint with a small brush, let us unite around ideas”
Some of that is typical politico pablum but is kinda jarring to hear IN A VIDEO APOLOGIZING FOR ACTING TOO MUCH LIKE A POLITICIAN.
But my favorite absolute best part is when he actually gets around to his Romney remarks 3/4s of the way into the video. “Romney’s not being completely honest about his business record, and I encourage examination and discussion of that record.”
So. He’s on a show where Romney’s record is being discussed. When Romney’s record is being discussed accurately and fairly he says “private equity in general is a bedrock financial institution and my wallet is on a centrist diet and gets queasy when we start criticizing this stuff.” Then he makes an apology video 5/6s of which is claiming to rise above partisan muck and saying “I encourage examination of Romney’s record.” None of which, I hope it is unnecessary to point out, contradicts or qualifies his earlier “open for business” statement to private equity firms he’s apologizing for.
Fuck Cory Booker.
We all know what Evan Bayh is. He was a preening centrist cock in the Senate and cashed out to suckle at the scummy teat of corporatism when he left. He also became a Fox News contributor, because if you’re already going to Hell, why not. Typical use of the Curb Your Enthusiasm Double-Transgression theory.
But Christ on a cracker he just does not give a vapor of a fuck. In the span of a few minutes on Fox News Sunday this morning he said the following:
“The stimulus shows there are no shovel-ready projects.”
“The stimulus worked because of the tax cuts, but there should have been more. We need more now.”
“That’s what Europe needs too, sure. Greece, Spain; tax cuts would stimulate the economic growth necessary to fix the problem they’re in.”
There’s a term for this, but it’s pretty nasty so it’s below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »
Via LGM and Steve Kornacki comes this sordid little episode from Meet The Press this morning. Cory Booker, an Obama campaign surrogate, refused to criticize Romney’s business record when given amble opportunity to do so.
And he used several tried-and-true centrist methods to do so. When talking about specific deals Romney made which resulted in lost jobs, failed companies and yet millions of dollars of Bain profit, Booker lays a jujitsu move and tries to make it appear like even discussing this stuff is an attack on the entire concept of private equity investment. He then fails to even take a position on whether private equity investment as it’s generally practiced can be criticized, saying that “they create a lot of jobs” and that when people start making these criticisms “I’m very uncomfortable.” Weasel words which no one pays attention to and cannot possibly come back to bite him should Savior Lord Jesus come down from the heavens and it becomes politically popular to reign in the financial system and private equity investment.
The people who are paying attention are noticing his refusal to attack Romney’s business record. Steve Kornacki thinks that he’s cultivating them as a funding stream for his potential 2014 Senate run. This blog wishes Booker godspeed on his quest to man the USS Centrist, and hopes he succeeds in his goal right before the ship crashes and drowns all hands.