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[personal profile] drwex

Sometimes the most insightful things about the dumpster fire are also the most depressing. This one hit me square between the eyes, and it starts with the simplest statement:
Wake up: Trump is not trying to win the support of anyone who is not naturally aligned with him.

Oh. *foreheadsmack* Yes. That is true and it explains so much.

Jay Rosen goes on to give examples and expound on it. For example, it explains why the administration has gone from unfriendly to hostile to outright war on the media. Mainstream media are the enemy. They exist solely to be demonized to froth up the faithful[1], who wouldn't read or watch those liberal eggheads anyway and who've been trained for years not to trust anything that appears outside the carefully constructed echo chamber. [2]

We're all used to situations in which our elected leaders try to broaden their appeal after victory. People have, I suppose, forgotten the degree to which Obama worked to reassure people that he was the President for all Americans, not just black Americans. We've certainly forgotten that Republicans used to talk about "big tent" ideals and tried at least to portray themselves as welcoming. Now the face of the Republican party is locked in a permanent sneer. Loyalty to DJT is valued above all else, and anything that questions whether the Dear Leader is right, or sane, or fit to rule is taken as evidence that the Dear Leader is under attack and needs the faithful to rush to his defense.

And it's all driven from the top. When Trump emits spectacularly hateful and misogynistic statements we might hear a little tut-tutting from the Republican establishment but they don't open up any space between themselves and the Dear Leader because there isn't a continuum anymore. There is either you are with us or you are our enemy and Republicans know they cannot win elections without the faithful. So they'll just go on like this was business as usual and this is exactly the process of normalizing the outrageous that I feared would happen.

But back to the mainstream media for a bit. Rosen argues (correctly I think) that this is a dominance game. Trump has all the power and he's using it to force the mainstream press to beg, to humiliate itself, to submit, and to support his agenda. That stupid yank-grab-squeeze handshake isn't an accident, folks. It's how he displays his dominance. The faithful lap it up and so he keeps doing it. To the extent that the press continue to play into this game they're signing all our death warrants.

Part of that denormalization is that "persuasion" gets written out of the equation. Dear Leader (Rosen argues and I agree) has no interest in persuading or convincing anyone who doesn't already believe. Thus being hateful and misogynistic is just fine because you're not trying to make anyone else believe your ideas - you're just trying to build up your dominance in a very playground-bully style. You issue insults and if people respond they're playing your game and reinforcing your style or if they ignore it they're normalizing bullying and reinforcing Dear Leader's bond with the faithful.

This applies to other supposedly outrageous behavior we've seen from the dumpster fire including blatant lying, put-downs, favoritism, and litmus-test loyalty. There's no effort to convince because that's not important; what is important is how forcefully you can attack your enemies - you heard this in the language that White House spokespeople used to defend Trump's sexist tweets. In their view Dear Leader is "attacked" and has to "fight back". This is exactly what the faithful want to believe, so lying to shape the narrative that way is normalized.

Rosen's piece stops there, but I want to go a couple steps further. First, what are the media to do? Dear Mainstream Media, welcome to being black or a woman in America. Not only do you have to be good at what you do, you have to be better than your (white|male) peers. Jackie Robinson didn't just have to be a good ballplayer - he had to be a f**king superstar, one of the best of his generation. Today if you're a woman in business or tech you have to be immaculate and beautiful and smarter than everyone else but don't let people know that. Et cetera.

Mainstream media have gotten used to playing on easy mode and suddenly Dear Leader has twisted the difficulty knob up to 11. The CNN story that had to be retracted is going to haunt us. I guarantee you that in 2018 and 2020 they're going to be chanting to the faithful about how CNN is fake news because they published a false story. Trump is already putting out videos of himself physically attacking "CNN". (https://news.google.com/news/video/e8ELJIc8HeE/d5z5Uh_6iaE4l1MEW8efv2_Wy6pAM?hl=en&ned=us) which is just absolute blood in the water for the piranha faithful. The media need to be on their A game and not giving away points and scoring own goals.

To be frank, being on their A game is going to be profitable. MSNBC, one of the earliest and most aggressive anti-Trump outlets, has seen a 73% year-over-year growth in viewership. (Numbers from Nielsen audience tracking, reported here: http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/340318-media-reaps-dividends-from-trump-attacks)

And what about us? You and me. Time to ante up, if you're not already doing so and your wallet can take it. Pick an outlet you like that's doing reporting you care about and subscribe. Put your dollars to work paying people who are going to help us win this thing. Reporters gotta eat, too. I've been a supporter of The Progressive for decades and I'm thinking about adding a Washington Post subscription to my list.

I find it depressing to be wrong. When Trump was elected I objected to the "not my president" movement, arguing that we needed to accept the electoral victory and acknowledge - just as we insisted for eight years that people on the other side acknowledge Barack Obama was their president. But if Dear Leader wants to give up the mantle of being my president, so be it. Now if he'd just abdicate all the way, instead of the half-assed way...

[1] an earlier draft of this piece referred to these core Trump supporters as "sheeple". I think that characterization is true to a large degree - groupthink and reflexive dogma dominate independent inquiry and deep insight for these people. But I'm trying to avoid overtly negative terms because I think it's important to emphasize that these people also deserve clean air and water, effective schools and safe roads-and-bridges. They need job opportunities and meaningful futures for their children. That they will never be our allies doesn't make them undeserving of fair treatment, the same as we demand for all.

[2] I deeply disagree with the accusation that the left is guilty of "bubble" thinking. Data show that people with left/liberal/progressive views get information from more and broader sources, and engage more with opposed viewpoints than do people with right/conservative/regressive views. Moreover, the right-wing bubble has been carefully and deliberately constructed to be a self-reinforcing echo chamber for the purpose of isolating the faithful from distressing ideas. That such cynicism exists among the conservative rich elites is unsurprising, but still depressing.


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