Friday, November 27, 2015

Much Of The GOP Base Doesn't Mind Trumpf's Lies-- They Revel In Them


In my neighborhood there aren't many election campaign signs on peoples' lawns yet-- half a dozen for Bernie scattered around. One weirdo put up a Hillary sign up the block but only for one day. I don't know if she was embarrassed and took it down herself or if someone ripped it down-- although this isn't that kind of neighborhood. But what happens if some reclusive old bigot-- and I suspect someone up the hill of being that guy-- puts up a Trumpf sign? What happens then? Is Trumpf so beyond the pale with normal people-- we don't have Republicans here-- that even a campaign sign wouldn't be tolerated in such a tolerant area? I mean, Los Feliz isn't exactly Trumpf territory... and nothing like Colorado Springs or Birmingham, Alabama.

As Matt Taibbi reminds us in the new Rolling Stone, Al Gore never even said he invented the internet, but a vicious and partisan media was able to pin that on him and forever brand him a liar. The actual lie-- that he said it-- has "followed him around like as STD for the rest of his (largely unsuccessful) political life." Now media has to figure out how to deal with a bunch of bona fide pathological liars running with an utter disregard-- or, in Trump's case, disdain-- for the truth. And the media is incapable of doing anything about it. Republican primary voters are so filled with anger and hatred and frustration about anything and everything "establishment," that they seem to delight in Trump's defiant lies. And the rest of GOP field has caught on. It's open season on The Truth.
Politicians are quickly learning that they can say just about anything and get away with it. Along with vindication, apology and suffering, there now exists a fourth way forward for the politician spewing whoppers: Blame the backlash on media bias and walk away a hero.

This season has seen an explosion of such episodes. Carly Fiorina, in a nationally televised debate, claimed to have watched a nonexistent video of evil feminists harvesting fetal brains. Ben Carson has been through a half-dozen factual dustups, including furious debates over whether or not he stabbed someone and whether or not he once won $10 for being the only honest student in an (apparently nonexistent) Yale psychology class.

Trump, meanwhile, has been through more of these beefs than one can count, even twice blabbing obvious whoppers in live televised debates. Once he claimed the Trans-Pacific Partnership was designed to help China, moving Rand Paul to point out that China isn't in the TPP. Another time he denied that he once called Marco Rubio "Mark Zuckerberg's personal senator." The line was on Trump's website as he spoke.

In all of these cases, the candidates doubled or tripled down when pestered by reporters and fact-checkers and insisted they'd been victimized by biased media. A great example of how candidates have handled this stuff involved Fiorina.

The former HP chief keeps using a roundly debunked line originally dug up by the Romney campaign, about how 92 percent of the jobs lost under Obama belonged to women. The Romney campaign itself ditched the line because it was wrong even in 2012. When confronted this year, Fiorina simply said, "If the liberal media doesn't like the data, maybe the liberal media doesn't like the facts."

This latest episode with Trump and the 9/11 "celebrations" was fascinating. When Trump started to take heat, he at first did something one journalist I know calls "panic-Googling." Panic-Googling is saying or writing something dumb, then frantically rushing to the Internet to see if you can luck out into evidence for what you've already blabbed in public.

Trump thought he lucked out, digging up a September 18, 2001, Washington Post article by reporters Serge Kovaleski and Frederick Kunkle. The old clip claimed a few people had been detained after allegedly being spotted celebrating in "tailgate-style" parties on rooftops in northern New Jersey.

Seizing upon this factoid, Trump tweeted, "I want an apology! Many people have tweeted that I am right!"

Forgetting that this didn't come close to being an affirmation that he'd seen "thousands" of people celebrating on television, Trump's supporters howled in outrage. Who were these biased witch-hunters to accuse him of lying? The Donald was right all along!

Other supporters referenced an article by Debbie Schlussel, Detroit's schlocky Ann Coulter knockoff, who long ago insisted in print that she once watched an MTV news report describing post-9/11 celebrations by Arabs in Paterson, New Jersey. It wasn't Jersey City, Schlussel said, and Trump got the numbers wrong, but aside from those minor issues, he was dead right.

Next in the progression came Rush Limbaugh, who came to Trump's defense by saying that "regardless of the specific details," Trump was right about Muslims on American soil celebrating the collapse of the towers on 9/11. "The bottom line is that a lot of Americans are well aware that Muslims were cheering," Rush said. "Maybe not in New Jersey in great numbers, but around the world they were because we saw the video."

As if the "regardless of the specific details" excuse wasn't weird enough, Trump spokesman Corey Lewandowski next went on Breitbart radio to explain that the campaign had in fact provided material about celebrating Muslims to mainstream news outlets, who were now collectively declining to run it because of an ongoing conspiracy against Trump.

"They want to try and discredit as many people as possible so they can have an establishment candidate come in," he said. "Because they are all controlled by special interests and all controlled by the media."

This is a horrible thing to have to say about one's own country, but this story makes it official. America is now too dumb for TV news.

It's our fault. We in the media have spent decades turning the news into a consumer business that's basically indistinguishable from selling cheeseburgers or video games. You want bigger margins, you just cram the product full of more fat and sugar and violence and wait for your obese, over-stimulated customer to come waddling forth.

The old Edward R. Murrow, eat-your-broccoli version of the news was banished long ago. Once such whiny purists were driven from editorial posts and the ad people over the last four or five decades got invited in, things changed. Then it was nothing but murders, bombs, and panda births, delivered to thickening couch potatoes in ever briefer blasts of forty, thirty, twenty seconds.

What we call right-wing and liberal media in this country are really just two different strategies of the same kind of nihilistic lizard-brain sensationalism. The ideal CNN story is a baby down a well, while the ideal Fox story is probably a baby thrown down a well by a Muslim terrorist or an ACORN activist. Both companies offer the same service, it's just that the Fox version is a little kinkier.

When you make the news into this kind of consumer business, pretty soon audiences lose the ability to distinguish between what they think they're doing, informing themselves, and what they're actually doing, shopping.

And who shops for products he or she doesn't want? That's why the consumer news business was always destined to hit this kind of impasse. You can get by for a long time by carefully selecting the facts you know your audiences will like, and calling that news. But eventually there will be a truth that displeases your customers. What do you do then?

In this case, as Rush said, "Americans are well aware Muslims were cheering" after 9/11. Because America "knows" this, it now expects the news media to deliver that story. And if reporters refuse, it can only be out of bias.
I get that so many of the GOP primary voters are just so angry and damaged that they are supporting Trumpf as a way of "getting back at the system." Filled with hatred, bigotry, frustration, anomie, unfocussed aggressiveness, pitiful hopelessness... they don't care how badly they hurt themselves and their own families as long as the hurt "the man," especially the black man. Arguments about how many fewer people are uninsured now or how much the unemployment rate has dropped since Obama became president doesn't matter at all-- unless to make them even angrier that someone else appears to be doing well. And to tell them that Obama is going to push for regulations to protect ordinary American families in his last year just makes the pot boil over. These are people for whom the world has moved too fast and left them behind. It's part of what self-identifying as a Republican-- albeit a Republican who loathes the Republican establishment-- means.

In The Atlantic yesterday, Molly Ball, covering Trumpf, wrote that "as the public’s fear and loathing surge, the frontrunner’s durable candidacy has taken a dark turn." His fans, she writes, are "rapturous," their anger and fear intensifying. One old white guy tells her, "The fact is, politicians have not done anything for our country in a lot of years... Like he says, people have got to abide by the law. And unfortunately, a lot of minorities don’t" and he's wearing a button that says "TRUMP 2016: FINALLY SOMEONE WITH BALLS." Someone else is waving a giant homemade sign that says "TRUMP: FOR THE VOICE OF THE AMERICAN WORKING CLASS CITIZENS."
I hear, over and over again, that illegal immigration is the biggest problem we face. Almost everyone says their second-choice candidate is Ted Cruz, the senator from Texas; many express a wish that he and Trump would run on the same ticket.

...The people wave and make faces at the press as they go by. One gray-haired lady in a sweatshirt keeps pointing at her butt and sticking out her tongue at us as she ambles by. She has a savage look on her face.

This is the thing Trump knows: You can stand around fretting about truth and propriety and the danger of pandering to baser instincts.

Or you can give the people what they want.
A normal person reads or hears that "President Obama is moving to complete scores of regulations as he looks to cement key parts of his legacy in the face of a Republican-controlled Congress openly hostile to many of his top priorities" is optimistic that something good might come of it. These Trumpf-Republicans hear it and it further infuriates them. That "the White House quietly released its formal rulemaking schedule late last week, revealing the administration’s latest plans for regulations currently in the works at agencies across the federal government," drives them even more insane. And that "the fall Unified Agenda suggests Obama has no intentions of slowing down the process during his final year in office" is like waving a red banner in front of a bull who's been worked over by the picadores. Time is running out for Obama to put in place environmental, financial, health and safety regulations-- one everything from food safety (like a rule requiring importers to verify that foreign suppliers are meeting U.S. safety standards), drones, electronic cigarettes and workers’ exposure to silica dust to the rules Wall Street is spending millions of dollars in campaign bribes (called "contributions") to prevent, like the ones that will force companies to compare top executive pay with overall company performance and a rule requiring publicly traded companies to disclose their hedging policies. This is all good stuff for ordinary Americans. But the Trumpfites want nothing to do with it. Regulations-- even regulations that help them and their families-- just further infuriate and inflame them. And their revenge is Trumpf. As for Politifact and their "Pants on Fire" decisions... well just look who has nearly all of them and see how that computes with the Republican polls.

And, yes, Ted Cruz's neo-fascist campaign has already cut this up into an ad that he's using to lure the sheeple-- or at least prepare them for the eventual and inevitable slaughter:

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At 6:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in a conservative town in a conservative state(unfortunately for me.) I drive by a field every day that has a white semi tractor trailer parked in it with a Trump for President sign painted in red. It has his motto of "make America great again" also painted in red. I told my husband I would pay him a lot of money if he would sneak over there some night and white out "great", replacing it with "white," as in "make America white again." As yet, he has not taken my offer. If only someone with a good sense of humor would do that, it would make my day.

At 10:00 AM, Anonymous will_f said...

Arguments about how many fewer people are uninsured now or how much the unemployment rate has dropped since Obama became president doesn't matter at all -

How much should those arguments matter, though? Many thousands of people who have insurance through the ACA now find that they have purchased a policy that they can't afford to use, because of narrow networks, high copays or outrageous deductibles. And you can't talk about the unemployment numbers without mentioning the labor force participation rate, which is at a historic 38 year low. The unemployment numbers are dropping not because of new good jobs, but because people are falling off the unemployment rolls (remember the 99 weekers?).

If you really want to give people a reason to stop clinging to their guns or religion, you have to show them you have a way that works for everybody. Democrats aren't doing that, and haven't for years.


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