The George Bush chimp meme set off the meme wars, if only because he was president when Facebook took off in a big way. As soon as Obama was elected the Right–especially the Tea Party–went nuts with their own vicious memes. And now with Trump we return the favor. And it’ll keep happening because each side holds the other side to rules that they themselves do not abide by. Which is nothing new, the pamphlets and newspapers in the 18th and 19th century were incredibly offensive and insulting and just as low brow as anything you see on your iPhone today. And both sides back then raged the same way we are all raging now, mortally offended by what the other side posts and finding all sorts of excuses for posting their own. Calls for censorship abounded, like they abound now, though the First Amendment prevented that for the most part. Now, though, with Facebook and Twitter essentially privatizing communication in ways that Ronald Reagan never imagined, wholesale censorship is possible in social media because the internet is somehow not considered to exist in the same heady constitutional air as the airwaves. Funny seeing the conservative stance on the internet suddenly condemned by outraged conservatives bewildered by the First Amendment. And funny too watching progressives defend social media as privately owned and free from those First Amendment restrictions. Meanwhile memes are fading, replaced by furious bursts of words. Not particularly intelligent words, necessarily, but words nonetheless. We’re getting oddly literate in the Age of Trump, even as Trump himself can barely tweet a coherent sentence.
This is the first time that my perennial not giving a damn about the Golden Globes is best not said aloud. The manichaean politicization of everything, so that not being the least bit interested in awards shows is a counter revolutionary act, no matter how unintentional.
No TV, so I was listening to a bit of the coverage of the James Comey hearing on KPCC just now and it’s not exactly a murderers’ row of famous journalists and analysts. Competition must be fierce and KPCC is down to the D listers. Anybody who is nobody is on TV or the radio or online somewhere experting away. What an exciting time to be a reporter. The press has never been this famous. I mean, all these journalists are rock stars now. They tweet like mad and write long pieces we all read the first paragraph of. They show up on TV daily. They have unnamed sources to die for. They pal around with movie stars and directors. Imagine the perks and the swag and the people who want to meet them, to touch them, to take a selfie with them. Living the reporter’s dream. A Pulitzer. A bestseller. George Clooney playing you in the movie. I confess I always wanted to be a political reporter. Alas I was born too late for Watergate and too early for Trump. It’s all in the timing. People loathed the press only a year ago, mistrusted them, assumed everything it said was a lie. That was then. Now it’s Beatlemania for reporters. I watch these guys on those giant CNN panels and I think to myself man, I bet they’re getting laid like crazy. Maybe not a second time but still, they’re getting laid like crazy.
The self-crucifixion of Kathy Griffin has nothing to do with political correctness. It has to do with a Hollywood egomaniac who went way over the line (when it was Obama in a sniper target you all flipped out), and then had the pathetic audacity to claim that she was some sort of victim, trying to make herself the martyr of the resistance, knowing how much money that might mean. She dominated the news for a day or three, burying whole news cycles of genuine tales of horrors that Trump is inflicting upon the Constitution, working people, women, children and the poor. Her publicist must have been thrilled to death. But real blood on London sidewalks popped that balloon real quick. Nothing makes stage blood look sillier than real blood. Her publicist must have despaired. Damn that ISIS anyway, stepping on Kathy’s big finish. It’s too bad reality isn’t happening on a Hollywood set. Too bad reality ain’t reality TV. But maybe Hollywood should stop trying to score ratings and higher ticket prices by loudly announcing themselves as our consciences. We don’t need celebrities to tell us how to think. We don’t need comics to feel our pain. You have to be goddamned fool to think that Jim Carrey proclaiming that comedians are the last line of resistance against Trump is anything more than celebrity ego inflated to the size of the Hindenburg. Oh the humanity.
It wasn’t so long ago that Bernie Sanders supporters hated the press, and Bernie held events that the press was barred from. Much of Bernie’s own stump speech railed against the media. He wanted reform. His first big event after conceding a discussion of how to change the nature of mass media in America. He said instead of a media like we have now–which he insisted was entirely corporate, all of it–we need to have a network run by the Democratic Party to promote a progressive agenda. He wanted a progressive Fox News. Trump wanted, and got, Breitbart. Both Bernie and Trump ran against the media. It’s just that Trump was elected. What you are seeing now is what happens when a campaign that ran on an anti-media platform wins the presidency. The antipathy toward the press in America is equally strong on both ends of the political spectrum. Most people prefer to read or hear only what they agree with, a tendency that has been reinforced by Facebook, where people do not like to see opinions they don’t agree with. Probably at least half the population of the U.S., perhaps a lot more, would support some sort of restrictions on the freedom of the press in this country. It’s just that since Trump is the one in the White House, progressives suddenly love the independent press again. But that creepy totalitarian streak when it comes to the news is not far beneath the American surface, and should another progressive candidate with so little regard for a free media come along like Bernie Sanders (left over from his hard left days, where Marxists cannot abide a free press), then you could have both Democrats and Republicans running against the media, and our tradition of a free press could be in serious jeopardy. Of course, that is a tradition that neither Trump and the alt-right nor most Progressives are particularly attached to.
I think when it comes to Donald Trump on the media, the progressives of America are looking at a hideous, distorted funhouse mirror reflection of their own attitudes toward the media and the First Amendment not too long ago.
Put a bounty–say, a hundred thousand dollars, or a half million even–on verified copies of Donald Trump’s tax returns and they’ll appear soon enough. I’ve been waiting for some website to do this. TMZ would be perfect. They’re sleazy enough, have the cash, and would love the notoriety. It’s not that there is just one copy of each missing return secured in a safe under The Donald’s bed. There are multiple copies, some on paper, some digitized, perhaps some even online, that are available and worth a helluva lot of money to the right buyer. Some one has to be greedy enough, or desperate enough, to need that money. And inquiring minds want to know.
(January 4, 2017)
So Trump is gunning for the CIA and other agencies for disagreeing with him? You do that and pissed off and/or worried agents begin having secret meetings with reporters…all off the record, of course. The last prez who did this was Nixon, though he never went after the institutions themselves. He just distrusted them. Too politicized, he thought, too full of JFK people. Eventually they turned on him. Deep Throat meeting Woodward in a parking garage. Now you can expect dozens of Deep Throats, revealing all of Trump’s dirty underwear. His sleazy dealings with the Russian mob, his creepy connections with Russian intelligence, and that is just for starters. Follow the money you keep hearing people say. That’s what Deep Throat said about the Nixon White House. And as with Woodward and Bernstein, the patron saints of the Washington press corps, there are Pulitzers to be had, and hundreds of reporters are already digging. Trumps hates the press, as Nixon did, and they will return the feeling, just as they did with Nixon. Now the entire “intelligence community”, as they call it, and the whole of the Fourth Estate (except Sean Hannity) are looking for blood. Trump will bleed from a thousand cuts. Once someone gets ahold of Trump’s tax returns, the game is over. They are the Holy Grail.
Those MSNBC and CNN political journalists and analysts are still on the air? I would have fired most of them last week. What a bunch of fuck ups. Blind, deaf and lazy. Not one saw the Trumpslide coming yet even the rumbling was there, the polling data was there, and it would have taken very little work to have seen it coming. Instead, aside from (I hate to say) Joe Scarborough, who is not even a trained journalist, not one of the reporters, commentators or analysts who wasn’t a surrogate on MSNBC or CNN claimed to have had a clue this was coming. They just stared dumbfounded into the camera and hoped we wouldn’t notice.
If they can’t fire them all–they can’t, they have contracts and fan clubs and groupies–at the very least network executives need to stamp out the celebrity journalist TV culture that values preening on panels (and laughing at each others jokes, incestuously popping up on each others shows, egomaniacal self-assurance and hours spent following each others tweets) over genuine reporting.
The lack of issues reporting and the complete inability to see trends among the working class in the very battle ground states these people had been reporting from since the conventions is completely the fault of lazy, self aggrandizing, piss poor journalism. Fire ’em all and hire new. Or cancel a couple shows, anyway, just to show them there is a price to be paid for such astonishing incompetence. Otherwise, you just reward stupidity.
So has political journalism hit the skids or what? Has it ever had a lower moment? You have to wonder how many viewers are taking these guys seriously anymore. I know I am having trouble, a bunch of crazies in the White House and we’re stuck with journalists who may or may not have a clue as to what is going on. It’s like feeling sick and having idiots for doctors. Well, not quite. You can sue your doctors. Reporters just get their own shows.
All the online news sites from traditional media to the fringe blogs will be experiencing a huge spike in traffic in the next few days, sending their online advertising, SEO and links revenue to very high levels. The timing is perfect with the Christmas shopping season underway, the Ferguson grand jury’s decision coming the very week of Black Friday. They’ll be nice fat holiday bonuses for management this season. But if they want to maintain this high traffic through Christmas, they will have to keep pounding away on controversial stories to try …to get them to go viral. Bill Cosby is fucked.
His only hope is some celebrity will die tragically, though the heroin overdose and suicide thing has been done. But the editors will think of something. Keep checking Slate, they tend to be ahead of the game on this.
I’m not making light of a serious issue, but I do think people should be aware that their anger, outrage, grief and emotion can be manipulated to maximize revenue. News, like everything else, is a product now. The news is real, the stories are real, the reporters deadly earnest and photos often stunning. But that’s content. It’s how website editors present and market that content that gets questionable. News becomes malleable, the audience infinitely suggestible, naïve, a marketer’s dream.
I’m amazed at how the media is plunging into all the hacked Sony stuff without ever mentioning the right to privacy. What a quaint thing that was. I keep reading and hearing these Sony emails in the press as if they were public property and thinking when are we next? Apparently anything ever written on a computer keyboard is now considered fair game. And that means you and me, not just big corporations or government employees. It’s a stunning shift in attitudes toward privacy. People apparently have the right to peer into and publicize whatever we write in a digital format. You send an email, it’s public property. Where does this stop? Are phone conversations next? This is completely creeping me out. The vicious thugs who run North Korea get pissed at a movie that makes fun of them and splatter the studio responsible’s information all over the web, right down to individual employee’s social security numbers. Reporters, bloggers and the public go nuts publicizing it, without compunction. Somehow hacking is no longer a crime, and our very thoughts are now public property, WikiLeaks expanded ad infinitum. There’s no limit. And this isn’t 1984, it wasn’t the government that did this, or big corporations, or any mega anything. It was the people. Just people. The North Koreans realized this, and used our own creepiness to spread the information. They understood that deep down we’re basically people peeking into other people’s windows. All they had to do was dump all the info they stole onto public sites and watch the rats race to feed on it. We’re the ones who are so ravenous for all these intimate details. We’re the ones who crave other people’s secret thoughts. We’re the ones who love the dirt. We flushed our own right to privacy down the toilet. We created this nightmare. Though almost none of you see it as a nightmare. But this is just beginning, people. Any of you could find yourself gone viral, and have no control over it, even as it destroys your life. This will happen more and more and more. Now that we’ve given away our right to privacy, we don’t even have the right to complain. This is a brand new world and I, for one, don’t like it at all.
You might laugh now, think this is just paranoia, but when it’s your photo-shopped fake sex offender mugshot registering a couple million hits a day, you’ll remember the old days.