• The Media and the Myths of Trump

    December 1, 2017

    Tags: , , , , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Post-Constitution America


    Donald Trump’s victory was so loathsome to journalists that instead of acknowledging their cultural and partisan blindness lead to them misreport the election, they doubled down, growing two overlapping myths to delegitimize the presidency they never wanted to happen.

    The two myths are Trump did not really win the election, and that once in office Trump is so unfit to serve that he is a danger to the nation and must be removed as a people’s act of literal self-defense. Psychiatrists call this denial; political scientists may call it a kill shot to democracy.

     

    The myth Trump did not actually win exploded outward like the Big Bang from November 8, 2016. There were the Jill Stein recounts, and false claims of voter fraud, gerrymandering, and racist voter suppression that lead to an “unfair” win. This all morphed into what stands as one of the most ignorant themes ever expressed in American politics, that because Clinton “won” the popular vote she was somehow entitled to the Oval Office. Reporting on all this came close to claiming the Constitution itself conspired against Hillary. “We’re in uncharted waters,” proclaimed CNN’s Anderson Cooper; the network also featured an ex-CIA officer calling for a new election, what in CIA-speak is better known as an overthrow.

    Instead of dismissing such unconsitutional nonsense, the media featured elaborate justifications, and coined the term “Hamilton Electors” to tie the quixotic effort to one of the few Founding Fathers voters knew via song. An online petition to declare Clinton president that in normal times would have been seen as a crank call was instead promoted into gaining the largest response in Change.org history. Editorials called for the Electoral College vote to be unconstitutionally postponed. Once-cogent pundits like Lawrence Tribe and Robert Reich were handed mainstream platforms to morph themselves into human cottage industries proclaiming the impeach-ability of various Tweets and statements.
    Even today, the New York Times’ White House correspondent beats the fan fiction drum for the importance of the popular vote. Her paper continues to focus on the urgent need to do away with the Electoral College after 220 years, the system that put Obama and Clinton and Carter into office, before the next time Trump runs. In what under normal times would be dismissed as a conspiracy theory, Huffington Post features interviews saying the election may not be “legitimate,” over a year later.

     

    The efforts to somehow keep Trump from office continued right up to the swearing in ceremony, itself boycotted by Democrats who did not want to “normalize” the election.

    It was at that point the second myth came to the fore: Trump was unfit to serve. The uber-disqualification is that Trump is literally a Russian agent (“Is Donald Trump Working for Russia?” asked New York magazine, in a headline that would have made reporters blush during the McCarthy Red Scares), directly under the control of the Kremlin, who holds power over him via some sort of pornographic pee tape no one has seen, or sweetheart real estate loans no one has seen, or in return for buying Trump the election demonstrated by evidence no one has seen.

    Alongside the “Trump is a Russian agent” disqualifier are a handful of memes never before seen in American politics. Trump’s hotels make his presidency illegal under the Emoluments Clause, a Constitutional snippet that generally escaped notice for 220 years (that Obama might get a $60 million book advance to write about things he did in office but only paid out, alongside six figure speaking engagements, after he left office, or that foreign governments donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary was Secretary of State, are not discussed.) Trump’s tax returns, available to the IRS for decades, are a media strawman; only if the people of Twitter examine those old 1040s can democracy be saved, IRS auditors and their technical knowledge be damned. Maxine Waters, a Member of Congress, said Trump should be impeached because he is boorish and crude.

    Waters’ statements and other similar, albeit slightly more coherent ones, are addendums to the myth, the idea that Trump is on borrowed time. The media fans the flames of Mueller, expecting the smoking gun that has so far eluded the CIA, NSA, FBI, IRS, and NYT to emerge any day. The 25th Amendment, created after the Kennedy assassination to codify the line of succession should the president become incapacitated, has been crowd-sourced into some sort of psychological failsafe mechanism whereby the Vice President, et al, will wake up one morning, realize the Washington Post has been right all along, and force Trump out of office.

    Ensuring that Trump is to appear as unqualified, the media focuses on “evidence” of that. Looking at his trip to Asia, the main story out of the Japan leg was some silliness over Trump overfeeding fish, not what was discussed with the Japanese regarding North Korea. CBS News’ White House Correspondent purposefully pulled a quote about Japanese auto manufacturing out of context to make Trump appear uninformed, whereas the full statement paints the opposite picture. From China, the theme was Trump was “rolled,” cajoled into, well, something, via a VIP visit to the Forbidden City. The main point of the APEC meeting in the Philippines? A silly photo. His speech in Korea, focusing on the problems with the North, was largely reported based on a irrelevant cherry-picked sentence about a Trump golf course. Back at home, the New York Times headlined Trump taking an awkward drink of water.

     

    Running alongside such spot reporting is a steady stream of anonymous source-based predictions war is imminent in Iran or North Korea, and that DeVos, Mueller, Sessions, Kushner, Tillerson, Mattis, and Kelly will be fired or resign. That such things haven’t happened in a year is irrelevant; the media says without evidence they still might. A silly Trump tweet criticizing a reporter becomes “evidence” the President has abandoned the First Amendment. Journalists, who as a group once took pride in their objectivity, now openly proclaim their “not Trump” political allegiance.

    Routine tussles of government, the stuff of our system, are overstated to a rube-like public such that courts doing what they are supposed to do, ruling on the President’s immigration orders, are inflated into “constitutional crisis.” It’s not a crisis if the system functions as it was created to do.

    Journalistic standards of evidence, typically requiring multiple sources and/or on-the-record witnesses, are replaced by the egregious use of anonymous sources that are little more than gossip from interns. Watch the mushroom-level growth of headlines with colons, such as Revealed:, Sources: or Reported: and passive constructions such as “I’m told…” that get around the fact that the story is not really based on facts.

    Reporters compete with one another to show how aghast they are at the “latest.” Newsweek is gleeful at the possibility Trump won’t finish his term. CNN talks of deposing the president. Politico runs an innuendo-heavy but fact-free piece claiming the KGB, seeing into the future, compromised Trump in 1987.

    The sum of such snarky, non-substantive reporting is clear: America is on the lip of chaos, Trump is not leading America, he is accomplishing nothing of substance, he is unfit.

     

    But the most unprecedented element of myth is the steady stream of reporting the President of the United States is so mentally ill that his continued presence in the White House is a suicide plan for America. Never before have mainstream media so freely and casually declared the President to be medically, legally, insane, and all based on little but fear and a few Tweets. The media has normalized this into common knowledge; as an example, an article pitch I made to a global media outlet explaining why war was not imminent in Korea was rejected because I could not “prove” Trump was not insane (The American Conservative bravely published my story.)

    The myth is buttressed by medically unethical remote diagnosis, such as that of Dr. John Gartner, former assistant professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University Medical School. “I don’t think people have any idea how close we are the point of no return,” Gartner said. “I think that there is an 80% chance he’s going to push that nuclear button. Why? Number one, Trump is a malignant narcissist. As far as I know, I cannot recall a single malignant narcissist in history who did not start a major war.” Gartner concludes “the noose is tightening around their necks and unlike Richard Nixon, Trump and his cabal are not going to leave gracefully. Donald Trump is going to be really like Bonnie and Clyde; he’s going to shoot his way out.”

    Though the nation’s nuclear command and control procedures have for better or worse been left relatively unchanged since the Truman administration, it is only now, under the guise that Trump is insane, that the media and some Members of Congress are promoting the idea that change is needed. Media outlets champion the idea the military could refuse to launch missiles, advocating insubordination, essentially a coup, as the best hope our nation will survive. Such paranoia exceeds the worst of Cold War fears.

    Along the way the myths have created their own new normals; it is now perfectly acceptable to call out the President with schoolyard-taunts: Trump has small hands, a joke about Cheeto Jesus, the orange man-child, homophobic jokes about Putin and bromance, that sort of thing. Writers like Charles Blow in the New York Times build whole columns out of lists (“ignorant… churlish… tacky”) of personal insults.

     

    For the first time in our nation’s history powerful mainstream forces are trying to change the results of an election. Shocked by Trump’s victory, many in the media wanted to stop him from entering the White House. Failing that, they delegitimize the president in the manufactured-from-thin-air belief that he is such a threat that it is necessary to destroy democracy in America to save it.

    At some point Trump will leave office. CNN and others would be expected to return to their originally scheduled programming at that time. The problem is once you let the genie of trying to overturn an election loose, you won’t be able to stop it. It’s foolish to think this process won’t be used again in 2020, or 2024. The clumsiness of the Obama birth certificate conspiracy to delegitimize a president is nothing compared to the approach being tried with Trump. People are getting more skillful at the game, learning more about the tools available. A new political weapon has been unsheathed. America is playing with fire.

     

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    Copyright © 2017. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

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  • Recent Comments

    • John Poole said...

      1

      The MSM dreams of a coronation parade with Hillary on a gilded gurney leading to the White House. After a short exile the rightful heir is now sitting on her throne. She would cackle, “He was here, I waited and now he’s gone!”

      12/1/17 12:53 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      2

      Good news: Rex isnt going anywhere. If Trump fired everyone who called him a moron, then Kelly, Mattis and everyone not named Trump would be looking for work.

      12/1/17 4:03 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      3

      “A new political weapon has been unsheathed. America is playing with fire.”

      “Character assassination? Hell, that is nothing.” – JFK

      12/1/17 4:05 PM | Comment Link

    • Larry Robert said...

      4

      “,,,on little but fear and a few Tweets”. Did you inadvertently leave out a word between “few” and “Tweets” – “dozen”, “score”, “hundred”?

      12/1/17 7:27 PM | Comment Link

    • Mitch said...

      5

      Peter.

      I see your frustration levels are at maximum.
      Well done….

      However… I do think you have missed the point of the chaos.
      Or… Perhaps…. Left out a couple of components.

      First…. 1 year and 1 month later… ??? 19 intelligence agencies have evidence of the Trump/Russia connection ?????…. Still waiting….suppose there is time to run and get popcorn and a super-size slurpee from the corner market …in Moscow….before the show starts???

      Second….just think for a moment if ALL reference to those horrible slave owning founding fathers are removed from every building, monument… Document… makes you ponder …. (btw… Hiding history is no way to make it right… )

      Point is….

      Unsubstantiated claims against public figures have become the norm…
      All the “metoo” … Once…. There were TRIALS … Things called “courts of law”… Did things happen??… Sure looks like it… But evidence has been so tainted… Never get a fair and impartial jury…

      Now… Un-named sources… So and so from 39.8562 years ago says who ever looked at whoever…

      Gossip and slander have replaced fact and debate… A Mob screaming a lie.. Has replaced common sense.

      M

      12/2/17 3:50 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      6

      Mitch,

      Good thing we have Trump then.

      12/2/17 7:39 AM | Comment Link

    • Mitch said...

      7

      Rich.

      Told you before… Ideal…. Oh hell NO!!!

      Better than Hillary… Oh Hell Yes!!!!!

      Personally… Its not that big a deal to solve this nations problems. Could easily be done… In about a week…..

      Once the corruption influence was removed.

      M

      12/2/17 11:47 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      8

      Mitch- most of the signers of the Declaration of Independence owned slaves. Sort of makes me proud that America went Biblical (lots of deity sanctioned slaves in the so called good book). What surprised me was that Ben Franklin had two slaves- oops- I mean undocumented domestic servants.

      12/2/17 11:52 AM | Comment Link

    • jim hruska said...

      9

      PVB,
      Didn’t the horse get out of the barn in the GWB overthrow of the election results?
      if the republican party could pull a coup then why not allow the dems to reciprocate?
      wasn’t the 2000 election a perfect example of a coup?
      jim hruska aka rangeragainstwar?

      12/2/17 1:28 PM | Comment Link

    • Mitch said...

      10

      John.

      Yes… I know… Absolutely…

      What I was referring to…. If all mention… Reference… Etc… Is removed… Such as the ‘current’ trend is… That would require little things like the Jefferson Monument… Washington Monument…. Declaration Of Independence… The Constitution of The United States of America … To also be removed and voided.

      Like I said… The little things.

      As the general public is so fixated on Matt Lauer…. Antifa… Etc…

      When they should be glued to any information about the trade and currency agreement China and Russia just signed.
      With the addition of Russia buying All of Venezuelan debit… Loans etc….
      That places the United States in a Very BAD position… Give it a couple three or five years…. Reserve Currency status is not going to mean much.

      M

      12/2/17 2:32 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      11

      Mitch, I’ll meet you at the Washington Monument over the holiday to start the great rectification! I’ve got a 20 pound sledge and maddock. I figure it might take the two of us 700 years working every day with maybe Sunday off to bring it down but like they say -every take down starts with a single swing. You just keep on swinging after that. You game? If so you’ll need gloves.

      12/2/17 11:21 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      12

      Jim, I never felt that Gore wanted to be POTUS. That might explain his reluctance to battle the results. Obama gave us Hillary when Biden should have gotten the nod. Biden’s excuse for not running made no sense since his dying son wanted him to run for POTUS. Some are predicting the Dems will run Michele Obama in 2020. I doubt I’ll be polled for my opinion on that choice because I’m registered as a so called Independent.

      12/3/17 8:48 AM | Comment Link

    • Mitch said...

      13

      John.

      Sorry, my friend…. I’m quite pleased with where it stands. .. Actually quite fond of it….
      Besides…. With out it being there…. The insect/ mosquito people would have no idea of where to find the reflection pond…..
      Then it would really turn into a swamp. After that… The frogs arrive.. Then the snakes…. Then the alligators…then the rest of the creepy,crawling lifeforms…… Oh… Damn….. Forgot….. They already are all there…. Damn…. But…. At least there’s still a landmark so they don’t miss the pond with the drone spraying…

      Besides…. I might have to wait for the Amazon Delivery person… Wouldn’t want any extra packages left.

      M

      12/3/17 9:00 AM | Comment Link

    • Mitch said...

      14

      Michelle in 2020 ???????????????

      Wonder if Russia is allowing for immigration????
      That school lunch thing did it for me…..

      M

      12/3/17 9:02 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      15

      Mitch- if you choose Russia don’t do the legit arrival-sneak in. That way if you find that you’ve shot and killed someone “accidentally” you won’t have to worry about a conviction. Oh, I forgot maybe Russia doesn’t have insane jurors like in Frisco, America. The rule in America is that being in the country illegally isn’t a criminal offense in itself even though entering illegally is indeed a criminal offense. Kafka is scratching his head in the great beyond.
      Does a juror have the right to demand all the background on a defendant and to see how a firearm might be fired in a certain way? Nope, too prejudicial. Where is the doofus federal agent who left his loaded gun in the trunk of his car? Was he part of the defense or prosecution? I’m clueless.

      12/3/17 1:37 PM | Comment Link

    • Mitch said...

      16

      John.

      Your not the only one trying to figure out that miscarriage of justice.

      WTH!!!!! Let me guess… He was stoked on his favorite homeless food… “Twinke’s”… Or cupcakes???

      Bizarre part… Is WHY… In a state where you can not legally own a gun without having a gun safe..is said Federal Agent not facing charges????
      In California… If your gun is stolen and used in a crime… You WILL be charged as an accessory to said crime. No matter the crime.

      And somehow…. I think if I tried that crap in Russia.. They would televise my execution.

      Or… At least I would.

      M

      12/4/17 8:41 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      17

      Mitch: regarding The Frisco Warf Shooting. Would it be immoral to implant a chip into someone who reenters the USA after say……..five deportations? Such a chip could come in handy at the local food bank. OK, fella, you’ve had your three authorized meals for the day we see by our scanning tally. Might he sue the food bank for not making the food of his native country available at least three times a week? In Frisco he might win! The follies of this empire keep surprising me.

      12/4/17 9:53 AM | Comment Link

    • Sarah said...

      18

      Bravo, PVB!

      12/4/17 12:42 PM | Comment Link

    • Mitch said...

      19

      John

      Immoral….. Oh hell yeah that’s immoral….. Unless you’ve want the “mark of the devil’ crowd and the “BIG brother ” crowd after you.

      That said…. The logic of that suggestion borders on Genius.

      M

      12/4/17 12:44 PM | Comment Link

    • Joe said...

      20

      @PVB: Long time fan and lurker here. I figured I’d finally post a comment, in part to say how delighted I am to see you blogging again! In addition I have to say that, as usual, I think your analysis is spot on. (Are you sure you weren’t a Political Officer when you worked for the Department?) I’m certainly no fan of Trump, but like you am amazed at some of the tactics being used to “resist” him. My chief concern is how the concepts of media reliability and objectivity seem to have evaporated. Besides being a double edged sword, all the media hysteria over Trump has also tended to minimize any significant mainstream discussion of how shenanigans within the DNC allowed Trump to win. Instead of “fixing” the Electoral College, what the NYT and others should be focused on is what needs to be done to fix the Democratic Party – and also restore media credibility.

      12/4/17 1:12 PM | Comment Link

    • wemeantwell said...

      21

      Thanks, Joe. I am not blogging per se, but reposting articles I am writing for others at Reuters, American Conservative and elsewhere. As you know, most of my career at State was spent doing consular work, the majority of which I still feel was reasonably honorable. As best I can tell, only one thing I wrote even made it to the Wikileaks dump, and I have only one slight mention in the Clinton emails released to date. I’m trying to make up for lost time.

      12/4/17 6:02 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      22

      Three Days of the Dodo

      INTERCEPT –THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION is considering a set of proposals developed by Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a retired CIA officer — with assistance from Oliver North, a key figure in the Iran-Contra scandal — to provide CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the White House with a global, private spy network that would circumvent official U.S. intelligence agencies, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials and others familiar with the proposals. The sources say the plans have been pitched to the White House as a means of countering “deep state” enemies in the intelligence community seeking to undermine Trump’s presidency.

      The creation of such a program raises the possibility that the effort would be used to create an intelligence apparatus to justify the Trump administration’s political agenda.

      “Pompeo can’t trust the CIA bureaucracy, so we need to create this thing that reports just directly to him,” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official with firsthand knowledge of the proposals, in describing White House discussions. “It is a direct-action arm, totally off the books,” this person said, meaning the intelligence collected would not be shared with the rest of the CIA or the larger intelligence community. “The whole point is this is supposed to report to the president and Pompeo directly.”

      A CIA inside the CIA. We know how THAT went.

      12/5/17 10:06 AM | Comment Link

    • Lisa said...

      23

      PVB,

      We are much in agreement about this dangerous media precedent. “The media has normalized this into common knowledge” — yes, and I feel so patronized and deeply insulted.

      Your earlier piece, prior to your adieu, re. the mandatory smirking re. the “Orange Man” (i.e., our President) has alienated me entirely from my former liberal fellows.

      I will soon write a short bit on my local observations.

      ISTM almost all have gone mad.

      12/5/17 12:58 PM | Comment Link

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