Courtesy Bombing Coverage Will Stoke Trump’s Underlying Pathologies

Valued commenter Oldgold made the following observation in the morning thread:

For Trump reality is what he observes on TV. Almost nothing else matters. It is the key to understanding this bizarre and limited man.

Sounds about right to me, but I’d add this related point: There’s strong evidence (i.e., every scrap of his observed behavior over the decades) that Trump is a flaming narcissist on a scale rarely seen outside tragic tales of fallen empires. So, he’ll filter reality through the lens of TV and his untreated personality disorder.

The TV coverage of this routine courtesy bombing is what it always is — anchors framed by hastily contrived martial graphics somberly querying analysts about What It All Means and running film of missiles streaking through the sky on continuous loop.

I’ve been watching this same shit since our last dementia-addled president, Ronald Reagan. But leaving aside questions of whether this bombing was hatched to knock the Russia story off the front page, pump up Trump’s flaccid poll numbers, give Trump an excuse to lift sanctions on Russia after a tough-guy display, etc., consider how the coverage must play in his diseased mind. I’m rerunning the clip Doug posted earlier because it’s a perfect example:

As Doug observed, pundits just lose their fucking shit over anything remotely related to the military. Van Jones beclowned himself with the exact phrase Zakaria used above when Trump told the widow of the Navy SEAL killed in the botched Yemen raid that her husband was smiling down from heaven at the sustained applause generated by a shout-out in Trump’s speech. War boners do seem to be distributed on a bipartisan basis.

One of the things that makes narcissism so destructive is that the sweet, sweet ego hit the afflicted receives from admiration is irresistible. Like a meth head scouring a squalid slum in search of another bump, Trump will feel compelled to return again and again to any source that alleviates his soul-annihilating insecurity with an ego boost, consequences be damned. And if the richest vein of the ego-boosting narcotic is found in bombing shit, FSM help us.

Oh, and this pencil-necked, foppish, know-nothing heir to a larcenous real estate empire — along with his equally clueless bag-and-shoe mongering wife — is supposed to be the moderating force on Twitler’s megalomania:

Like I said, FSM help us. Sorry to be a gloomy gus. But electing a mentally ill demagogue is going to have consequences, and I’m afraid they’ll be more far-reaching than seeing Injustice Gorsuch’s chiseled mug on our TVs for the next 40 years as he divines new rights for corporations from the US Constitution. If Trump gets a serious war jones, Injustice Gorsuch might be the least of our problems.



Sky rockets in flight

I’m agnostic about US military action in Syria. But it just blows my mind how uncritically establishment media is praising Trump’s action. It’s not just open wingers like Cupp.

Fareed Zakaria:

BriWi:

“We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two U.S. Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean,” said Williams “I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: ‘I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.’”

And there was the usual moral seriousness, heart/God bullshit:

The nonsense continued throughout Thursday night and Friday morning. Matt K. Lewis, the Daily Beast writer and CNN personality, took note of the references to God in Trump’s statement on the airstrikes, and salivated over the president’s moral seriousness. Even worse was Mark Landler’s “news analysis” in the New York Times on why Trump greenlit the attack, given that the president has shown a strong affinity for dictators and little concern for suffering. Failing to mention that Trump was in the process of banning refugees from America, Landler painted a laughable picture of a man consumed with grief because of images of children dying. (“On Syria Attack, Trump’s Heart Came First,” the Times tweeted.) Not only does coverage like this badly distort an important issue like Syria, but it serves as a reminder (as if one were needed) of exactly the boost—not to mention the political capital—Trump would gain in the case of a national emergency or terrorist attack. As if a Trump with normal powers wasn’t horrifying enough.

This isn’t much of a left/right thing, in terms of the punditry. I remember the media getting all excited when Obama had those Somalian pirates killed; not that Obama wasn’t right to it, but it was revolting just how much Joe Klein et al. got off on it.

Atrios reminds us just how prescient Alex Pareene was about this when he was writing about the Navy SEAL operation in Yemen:

Now that Trump has learned that there is a direct relationship between a president’s body count and how “presidential” the mainstream political press considers him to be, the whole world is fucked.



Late Night Sketch-y Comedy Open Thread: Sgt. Peeper’s Lonely Pharts Club Band

[Laughter]

Here is the interview from which that quote came:

The Haberman/Thrush interview is getting all kinds of attention, because it is just full of what might be called “nuggets” (aka “lies”). This no doubt pleases them, since H&T seem to have decided to play court jesters in Lord Smallgloves’ four-year promotional project, but what seems IMO to be under-discussed is the degree to which the people around Donald Trump just don’t trust him to be left unsupervised. The NYTimes “partial transcript” reads like a reboot of the Marx Brothers’ Night At the Opera stateroom scene

At least six White House aides were sitting in: Gary D. Cohn, President Trump’s lead economic adviser and a former president of Goldman Sachs; Reed Cordish, an assistant to the president; Sean Spicer, the press secretary; Hope Hicks, a long-serving Trump aide; and eventually Vice President Mike Pence and the chief of staff, Reince Priebus…

Also — and not for the first time — if your grandpa couldn’t stay on topic any better than this, you’d be planning to hide his car keys and checkbook before something terrible happened:

GLENN THRUSH, White House correspondent: Why do you think Democrats feel the need to oppose Gorsuch? What do you think the politics is?

TRUMP: Well, I think that some of it had to do with the election. They thought they were going to win. You know, winning the Electoral College is, for a Republican, is close to impossible and I won it quite easily. And I think they are still recovering from that, but they are recovering now. I think the Susan Rice thing is a massive story. I think it’s a massive, massive story. All over the world, I mean other than The New York Times.

HABERMAN: We’ve written about it twice.

TRUMP: Huh?

HABERMAN: We’ve written about it twice.

TRUMP: Yeah, it’s a bigger story than you know. I think —

HABERMAN: You mean there’s more information that we’re not aware of?

TRUMP: I think that it’s going to be the biggest story…
******
HOPE HICKS, White House director of strategic communications: Can we get to infrastructure? [Laughter.] Because I know we are sensitive about time.

HABERMAN: I understand. I just want to ask one last follow-up on that note, and then we’ll move on, not on O’Reilly.

TRUMP: You certainly covered O’Reilly big. Not Susan Rice, boy, O’Reilly [unintelligible]. He’s taking my place. He’s taking my place.

HABERMAN: Sir, if you could give us more information about Rice. If the administration would give us more information —

TRUMP: No, you have a lot of information. No, you have so much information…

THRUSH: [Transportation Secretary] Elaine Chao said that [Trump’s infrastructure bill] would likely come “later in the year.” Are you thinking about accelerating?

TRUMP: I am. I’m thinking about accelerating it. I’m thinking about putting it with another bill. Could be health care, could be something else. [Cross talk.] Could be tax reform.

HABERMAN: What’s your time frame, at this point, that you’re looking at as an accelerated?

TRUMP: Well, we’re working — you know when people said, when you guys, because you know we have a very solid administration. We have some very, very good people. This man was the president of Goldman Sachs. I mean, he was, like, the president of Goldman Sachs…

It’d be mildly funny, in an improv skit, with the right cast. But I actually found myself thinking, Well, I’m 61 years old, I’ve had a pretty good run, if they manage to break the world…

We.Are.So.Fucked.

THANKS, REPUBLICANS!



Three Full Shifts Running Round the Clock At the Bullshit Factory

Great piece by Alex Pareene on the result of decades of profitably telling lies to stupid people:

But the complete and inarguable disaster of the Bush administration—a failure of the conservative movement itself, one undeniable even to many consumers of the parallel conservative media—and his abrupt replacement by a black man, caused a national nervous breakdown among the people who’d been told, for many years, that conservatism could not fail, and that all Real Americans agreed with them.

Rather rapidly, two things happened: First, Republicans realized they’d radicalized their base to a point where nothing they did in power could satisfy their most fervent constituents. Then—in a much more consequential development—a large portion of the Republican Congressional caucus became people who themselves consume garbage conservative media, and nothing else.

That, broadly, explains the dysfunction of the Obama era, post-Tea Party freakout. Congressional Republicans went from people who were able to turn their bullshit-hose on their constituents, in order to rile them up, to people who pointed it directly at themselves, mouths open.

Now, we have a president whose media diet defines his worldview, interests, and priorities. He is not one of the men, like most of those Tea Party members of Congress, whose existing worldview determined his media diet—who sealed himself off from disagreeable media sources. He is, in fact, something far more dangerous: a confused old man who believes what the TV tells him.

If you want to see this in action, yesterday I tweeted up a string about the whole Susan Rice unmasking nonsense:

Basically, it works like this. Some lunatic (in this case, Mike Cernovich, but it could be literally anyone- Jim Hoft, an anonymous poster named IHATEBLACKS at the Free Republic, some random at Red State, the Confederate Wanker Bob Owens, one of the retrograde morons at the Powerline- anyone, really) pukes up some utter nonsense about Susan Rice. It is quickly picked up and amplified by the wingnut noise machine of inplace media sites like the Daily Caller, Red State, Breitbart, WND, etc., ad nauseum.

Then someone in the media will pay attention, in this case Eli Lake, and cover it and give the claim a veneer of respectability. Lake, who last week had to tell his readers he was a fucking idiot for believing the load he swallowed from Devin Nunes has either apparently learned nothing is just a fucking easy lay with a healthy thirst for choad.

From there it creeps into the “respectable” media, like Fox News, the NY Post, the WSJ, etc. That’s when the MSM really has no choice but to cover it, but since they have fired all of the reporters who cover beats and have a deep but narrow purview, it takes them some time to get caught up to speed. Meanwhile, the puke funnel keeps blowing out chunks, and Jake Tapper only has one foot in his HAZMAT suit and is already up to his knees in bullshit.

Additionally, this is another ripe target, for several reasons. First, Susan Rice is a professional and did nothing wrong, but we’re dealing with territory that not a lot of people understand, so it’s super easy to turn “unmasking” into some sort of nefarious deal. Second, civil libertarians tend to be absolutists, so even though Rice did nothing wrong, they’re just pissed she’s doing it at all. Third, the hard left has hated Susan Rice and Samantha Power from the get go. Fourth, Rice is, as we said, a professional, and isn’t going to go spewing top secret stuff to defend herself so the charges will just linger. Fifth, the Obama admin is no longer in power, so there is NO ONE to defend her. And finally, as is often the case, she is a woman and a person of color.

So that’s where we are, as the unmasking puke assault rolls over us. Sure, there are some rear guard actions. Ryan Lizza has a great piece, as doess Brian Beutler, but at this point it’s akin to charging a machine gun nest alone when the rest of your platoon is already dead- we’ve already moved on to Trump claiming Rice is a criminal.

That’s good, in a sense, that Trump is now involved, so this will continue until it has actually been debunked and Rice has been vindicated. But it will just happen again with something new tomorrow, because the bullshit factory never sleeps, and its workers are well payed and highly incentivized. The other day it was released the nutters at Breitbart make six figures, and Cernovich’s punishment for his latest sin against truth? A massive profile piece in the NY Times.

See also this excellent Media Matters rundown.



But now old friends they’re acting strange

Did *not* expect to see this in the NYT (from someone other than Krugman):

Mainstream news coverage has a hard time making subtle distinctions between the behavior of the two political parties. When Democratic and Republican tactics are blatantly different — on voter suppression, for instance — journalists are often comfortable saying so. And when the parties act similarly — both soliciting large donors, say — journalists are good at producing “both sides do it” stories.

But when reality falls somewhere in between, the media often fails to get the story right. Journalists know how to do 50-50 stories and all-or-nothing stories. More nuanced situations create problems.

The 2016 campaign was a classic example. Hillary Clinton deserved scrutiny for her buckraking speeches and inappropriate email use. Yet her sins paled compared with Donald Trump’s lies, secrecy, bigotry, conflicts of interest, Russian ties and sexual molestation. The collective media coverage failed to make this distinction and created a false impression.

Now the pattern is repeating itself, in the battle over the federal courts.



This seems significant…

Hot off the Twitters:

Read all about it here. (Fuck the Murdoch paywall.)



Stuck around St. Petersburg when I saw it was a time for a change

The “microtargeting” part sounds potentially like big data bullshit, but otherwise, yeah:

“This is a three-headed operation,” said one former official, setting out the case, based on the intelligence: Firstly, hackers steal damaging emails from senior Democrats. Secondly, the stories based on this hacked information appear on Twitter and Facebook, posted by thousands of automated “bots”, then on Russia’s English-language outlets, RT and Sputnik, then right-wing US “news” sites such as Infowars and Breitbart, then Fox and the mainstream media. Thirdly, Russia downloads the online voter rolls.

The voter rolls are said to fit into this because of “microtargeting”. Using email, Facebook and Twitter, political advertising can be tailored very precisely: individual messaging for individual voters.

One aspect of this that isn’t being discussed is the track record right-wing media has of taking money from foreign governments to run favorable stories. One example involves the Ukranian political party backed by Putin (the story is from 2013):

Several conservative bloggers repeated talking points given to them by a proxy group for the Ukrainian government — and at least one writer was paid by a representative of the Ukrainian group, according to documents and emails obtained by BuzzFeed.