I meant what I said a year ago: “…almost every opportunity the mainstream media has had to moderate or qualify themselves in relation to the Russian collusion narrative has been rejected in favor of all-out attacks. They had better be right. Like most American cultural and civic institutions, the old media is already distrusted by…
“…almost every opportunity the mainstream media has had to moderate or qualify themselves in relation to the Russian collusion narrative has been rejected in favor of all-out attacks.
They had better be right.
Like most American cultural and civic institutions, the old media is already distrusted by historic numbers of Americans, but has not yet been dealt a knockout blow. If it turns out that there was no collusion, CNN has become the Ivy League version of InfoWars.
Trump has already begun to wrest the #fakenews spear—hand-forged for use against him by titans like Obama, Clinton, CNN, and the New York Times—from their hands. The question is whether he’s able to drive it right through their beating hearts over the next year on the matter of collusion. Their hands are wrapped around his so tightly it looks—and, if he is right, will continue to look—as if we are witnessing a kind of old media seppuku.
It is the fact that they are waging total war against an active opponent in the White House that makes this a potential last stand: regardless of the usual obfuscation in the aftermath, if it turns out old media is wrong about Russian collusion and digital media, its collapse will be complete. It will diminish over the next few years, to be re-processed and subsumed forever into a new digital landscape.
For most Americans, the results will be deeply unsettling, but mesmerizing: like watching the old family car catch fire, crackle, and melt as it goes up in smoke.”
The car has caught fire. No doubt 30-40% of the nation expected to see St. Robert Swan Mueller III personally put the Orange Bad Man in cuffs for everything from soliciting micturation to daring to fire St. James Brien Comey Jr.—never mind conspiring with Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin to steal the 2016 election from Hilary Clinton the Gray in order to become the Orange Bad Man of the United States of America.
It’s ironic that conspiracy theory maestro Alex Jones was banned by legacy digital media companies even as CNN sounded increasingly like Info Wars. CNN went “all in” on their own conspiratorial narratives, and will never be regarded the same by the American public. Info Wars was at least entertaining—the digital news equivalent to professional wrestling.
As I’ve also said repeatedly over the last year, CNN will likely either go out of business or be bought up and completely overhauled in the next few years. MSNBC is second place because it doesn’t pretend about who it is or what it does. CNN, which doubled down on the collusion conspiracy while continuing to pretend to being the sole objective cable news channel, has thus been doomed to third place. And third prize is—you’re fired.
Elsewhere, bratty Harvard Law grads get jobs at the New York Times because and not in spite of performative racial temper tantrums that fall flat with all but a tiny percentage of the population (the recently miseducated elite). The news relentlessly focuses on divisive identity politics, through the lens of identity politics. Instead of asking real questions and making new hires to reflect the obvious lessons of 2016, the American media energetically doubled down on on fist-clenching resistance.
But its brain activity remained strictly low energy.
Anti-Trump fervor and the hatred and revenge-based energy that identity politics provides are almost all that’s left, and thus the fires had to be stoked daily at full steam. At least one of the two might be an outdated fossil fuel—an increasingly unsustainable resource.
A media that prostitutes itself to the demands of the Left is decades old news, however, even if it is less trusted now than ever. As with the Kavanaugh fiasco, the real culprits are the politicians who shamelessly pushed the collusion narrative from the start, and the government officials who aided and abetted them.
And yet again, they failed.
The wildest part of it all to me is just this: the Democratic party took an unpolished, scandal-prone President who hijacked the Republican party and rendered him bullet proof. He’s been galvanized. Dipped in zinc.
After suggesting he worked with a foreign enemy of the United States of America for three years, what the hell are you going to throw at him now? And who’s gonna believe you?
From the start, when Obama and Clinton rolled out the narrative, it had a hare-brained “the deplorables don’t like Russia” and a too-clever-by-half “anything to delegitimize the election results” sheen to it. Think about how simultaneously arrogant and dumb the gambit was—and thus representative of our pathetic, ham-handed leadership class.
They could have addressed—God forbid—real political issues, or actual political disagreements. They could even have focused on making a scandal out of something much less exotic, like tax returns, instead of going for an all out national disinformation op.
Then again, our fearless leaders are often in their 80s, or the scions of dumb wealth and even more moronic fame. The youth are generally highly ranked ignoramuses and obvious hot house flowers. They lack prudence, or, in modern language, the higher level predictive capacity of the frontal lobe.
Kamala Harris is not dumb, and she may be sacrificially stretched in a series of politically correct purity tests to hold the fracturing coalition together one last time, but the Left’s 2016 rivening will not be long now—if not 2020, in 2024.
What the Right and Left become is still a wide open question; the leaders of the right have been at least temporarily dethroned, and those on the left will be soon to follow. The revolution has only just begun.
Meanwhile, the media and the Democratic party are busily committing repeated acts of public self-harm.
I don’t want to minimize the very real possibility that President Trump sabotages himself, or the certainty that the feckless and confused Republican establishment does its best to sabotage him.
But right now mainstream American media is at its lowest point in the history of the last century, the Democratic party is about to rip itself into pieces in their primary season from hell, the last parts of the administrative state the Right respected are wholly discredited, and Donald Trump is basically bulletproof.
As a friend suggests, maybe we should rename the Democratic Party the “Committee to Re-elect President Trump.”
5 points that cancel each other out, with the final score to be determined. 1) A positive. What’s clear is that amidst the extreme and bordering-on-insane media narratives—which show no signs of abating—every time Trump gets a chance to speak directly to the people with a normal political speech in hand, he does rather well….
5 points that cancel each other out, with the final score to be determined.
1) A positive. What’s clear is that amidst the extreme and bordering-on-insane media narratives—which show no signs of abating—every time Trump gets a chance to speak directly to the people with a normal political speech in hand, he does rather well.
His first State of the Union was a case in point: all sides admitted it went very well, reality briefly shone through the clouds (“I guess this man’s election was not the end of the world, after all”), and then the turbulence of the news cycle suddenly began again.
Since the campaign against Trump—begun by Obama and Clinton with the power of the federal government—aims to fundamentally de-legitimize him, any time he gets to speak in traditional ways he is “normalizing” himself and thereby obtaining at least a marginal win.
In fact, one could make a case that a normal, “just read the words” political speech tour and a habit of giving them every so often from here on out would solidify a 2020 win and a place in history beyond. As Michael Uhlmann suggests.
2) A potential short term positive. Given his solid floor of 40% support, it’s the deeply confused 10-20% of the electorate that matters.
Along with everyone else, Trump’s likely given up on Congress to come up with a suitable compromise on immigration and the budget. If so, the question is how the speech plays to actually wavering voters and meandering independents in the context of ferocious media narratives, especially if Trump starts to make the case for emergency powers for The Wall on the basis of both this speech and his previous compromise offer: “I tried to reason with Congress, but…”
In other words, will this speech undercut the Left’s inevitable response to emergency wall building (Executive Branch Tyranny!) in the eyes of swing voters? What Trump needed to accomplish rhetorically is determined by the ways in which the media tries to browbeat and shame that 10-20% from supporting him, and this speech seemed to give him cover and favor with them, in part because it set forth a plausible argument for immigration reform to the confused and undecided.
3) A historical neutral. The two points above also apply in some ways to previous Republicans, and it often failed to work for them.
Of course, one might well wonder how much the State of the Union really matters for any President, ever.
4) This was a squandered opportunity to call out Congress’s bipartisan failures and put the pressure on it directly, with authority, on immigration and the budget. He could have better described the history of immigration over the last decades and all the broken promises by members of both parties that led to millions of illegal immigrants. He could have condemned Congress for not passing an actual budget for many years. And then he could have said in even stronger terms, to them, in front of the people: “Get it done, or I will do it myself.” Granted, he did say “I will get it built.” And much of the argument could and likely will be accomplished in an emergency powers speech that specifically deals with immigration, or a speech explaining a deal—if one is somehow reached. But the entire framework for this argument could have been—but was not quite—set last night in front of a larger audience. We will find out if the “kinder, gentler” gambit worked soon enough.
But only political victory can stop elite mobbery of our political discourse. Between the “bombshell” Buzzfeed story that, “if true,” was finally going to sink Donald Trump, and the savaging of the MAGA hat wearing Covington High School teens, the tired old media has had another banner week. This promises to be yet another year…
But only political victory can stop elite mobbery of our political discourse.
Between the “bombshell” Buzzfeed story that, “if true,” was finally going to sink Donald Trump, and the savaging of the MAGA hat wearing Covington High School teens, the tired old media has had another banner week. This promises to be yet another year of its protracted seppuku with the very #fakenewsspear the media forged with Trump in mind.
Distrust and animosity deepen. Contradictions heighten. And as the media’s slow motion suicide rolls on, people are daily inoculated from the old illusions of “news” media.
This inoculation is what matters most, as after the cheap propaganda tricks of the televisual era are seen for what they are, they bring diminishing returns. (I’m following our Editor-at-Large James Poulos in making the word “televisual”—and Marshall McLuhan—great again.)
People have only just begun to see the cheap ideological sophistry of the televisual era, in which racism and sexism and other -isms were held up as the greatest, unpardonable sins possible and used as blunt instruments to bludgeon opponents right the hell out of the public square.
For an ever increasing number of people, this tactic isn’t going to work any longer.
In the case of the Covington kids, of course, the intended effect was to obscure and discredit the reason so many tens or hundreds of thousands of people were marching in Washington, DC.
Further, the story was supposed to reinforce the idea that you aren’t allowed to wear a hat supporting the President of the United States. Worse than passive racism, wearing the hat is active “white nationalism” and could lead to the justified public destruction of your life on national television.
Finally, the story was meant to reinforce the narrative that (smirking!) young white men are racists, especially if from private Catholic schools or privileged positions from which they might soon lead.
But, as Poulos might say, digital technology doesn’t care about your televisual narratives.
This realization came too late for the ruling class, which is why they are struggling to control digital forms of communication.
As Poulos points out, they thought the woke future was ensured by digital technology. But digital technology is simply memory and retrieval of information. As opposed to television, which remains the continuous flow of heavily controlled and produced imagery.
In principle, at least, digital technology gives the role of interpretation over to anyone who can retrieve the data.
Thus the era of imaginative narrative fantasy is over. Now everyone begins to deconstruct television. The old morality plays don’t work. Even old forms of advertising don’t work.
So you get what we got: this time around, it’s much harder to execute the Anita Hill/Blasey-Ford gambit, and 30 seconds of Covington video doesn’t cut it, either. Digital technology records and retrieves in potentially all directions, bringing us nearer to the complexity of the real (which TV was used to controlling and simplifying), and rendering propagandizing pundits irrelevant.
The powers that be are racing to control the early forms of digital communication (FB, Twitter, etc.), but it’s a thankless task. You can’t ultimately control digital the same way you could TV. But as they feel their control loosening and watch their formerly manicured narratives begin to grow wild, they are doubling down in response.
Considered in itself, the Covington kids incident was marginal and meaningless in the grand scheme of things happening under the sun. The absurdity of thinking a brief clip of moving pictures of a few people milling about in a throng of thousands constitutes objective “news” about the goings on of the world should be obvious to all but those still stuck in the idiocratic era of TV.
But while the news was fake, the intended effect by the Left of their latest classic cut-and-paste is quite real.
1) Don’t let your kids wear hats supporting a President of the United States we don’t like.
2) Don’t criticize us when we yell out derogatory and hate filled language at high school kids for hours on end.
3) Don’t let your 16 year old look old hippie protestors in the eye and smile.
If you do, we will publicly destroy your life and ignore and drown out your popular protest movement in real time.
Many speak as if the lesson of the last week is that we all need to avoid rushing to judgment and issuing Hot Takes, as if there was some larger goal for much of journalism and political discourse today other than using Hot Takes as weapons in a war based on longstanding judgments on both sides that the opposition must be vanquished.
Our more intellectually-minded pundits would like to think their audience sits waiting to “rationally” evaluate their columns, pining to be persuaded by op-ed reasoning. To “moderate” pundits, such “reasoning” often means either utilitarian policy arguments, laden with data and social science research that can be used as evidence by either side, or a some form of “But both sides…” sermonizing that splits up blame.
In our present circumstances, such reasoning is not persuasive.
There is a portion of the population that is persuadable, of course, by either side. But there is also a political war on, which requires victory (and defeat). And political victory is also a form of persuasion—in fact, it forms the very environment within which political discourse takes place.
This sort of elite mob behavior will never stop because any one of us writes another article on civility, cautioning against Hot Takes and rushing to judgment. It will stop only when such behavior involves tangible losses in the aforementioned war.
Real public cultural consequences—punishments—are necessary to counter outrageous propaganda and vicious mob attacks on the innocent. And the same is necessary for those on the Right who refuse to acknowledge reality. Public shaming and mockery is a two-edged sword.
The barbarous New York abortion bill passed this week reminds us that we live in a nation of technologically advanced savagery. And in one-party states like New York and California, where anything the Left wants now goes, things are about to get much, much worse.
Before Trump, the one-party, failed republics of California and New York were what the Democrats were hoping for nationally for the foreseeable future. Many still think they represent the inevitable destiny of America itself.
As California’s Attorney General, Kamala Harris didn’t hesitate to send the SWAT team into David Daleiden’s apartment, using the full power of the state to shut him down and punish him with the full force of the law, arm in arm with Planned Parenthood and the media.
Here’s a taste of what you had to be able to argue (in Latin) in order to graduate from Princeton in order to graduate back in the day. Robby George would (no doubt gladly!) find himself the leebearal on campus… ETHICS, 1762 1. The highest perfection of men depends on their liberation from all sin….
In the founding era, one graduated by means of a scholastic practice in which seniors argued various propositions (in Latin) in a public forum. These lists of theses give one a sense of what the institution thought, as an institution, ought to be taught to all of its students. Here’s the “Ethics” section for Harvard…
In the founding era, one graduated by means of a scholastic practice in which seniors argued various propositions (in Latin) in a public forum. These lists of theses give one a sense of what the institution thought, as an institution, ought to be taught to all of its students. Here’s the “Ethics” section for Harvard in 1810, translated from the Latin:
Ethics is the science which treats everything pertaining to (mores) manners and morals.
1. Moral precepts are deduced only from the will of God.
2. The precepts which are called the laws of nature reason unfolds to mankind.
3. Wisdom consists in the recognition of the precepts pertaining to morals ; virtue consists in their assiduous observation.
4. The difference between good and evil, virtue and vice, set up by God is immutable; because it is founded on the nature of things.
5. The expectation of reward or punishment connected with the command of God is absolutely necessary for moral obligation.
6. God demands the actions which beget happiness; He prohibits those which bring misery.
7. Therefore when concerning any action there is question of knowing the will of God by the light of nature the investigation must determine whether that action seems to be connected with the increasing of general happiness or the lessening of it.
8. It is necessary that the will of God as a criterion be the test of the happiness of our actions.
9. The divine laws concern especially thought; because on them our actions depend.
10. An action done for the sake of praise or reward ought not only to be good in itself but ought to be done from a just motive and out of reverence for the divine will.
11. Anyone who omits a duty equally with one who violates a clear obligation is to be considered a criminal (omission is as bad as commission).
12. Men are accustomed to act more from habit than from thought
13. Therefore care must be taken that we mold ourselves to good morals by habit.
14. The chief sources of virtue and happiness are the worship of God and the exercise of social feelings.
15. The divine laws for the most part regard the actions which spring from the affections of the soul; therefore care must be taken that we make these affections obedient to reason.
16. In the accomplishment of all duties of benevolence this must be particularly cared for that everyone whose need is the greatest shall receive the most help.
17. Those crimes are less serious which happen suddenly through some perturbation of mind; than those which are premeditated and deliberated upon.
18. Loyalty in the keeping of promises and pacts is particularly necessary in commerce and in social life.
19. Promises and pacts which agree with the laws of nature are always to be observed and fulfilled.
20. Promises which are forced from one by unjust violence or which were made because of deception need not be kept.
21. Even if advantages should accrue to us from violating the law, greater disadvantages will surely come from the same source,
22. Therefore it is not allowed to do evil that good may come from it.
23. To neglect the laws of nature is a crime that must be recognized; those who do this are worthy of punishment.
Matthew J. Peterson is Vice President of Education at the Claremont Institute and Editor of The American Mind. He directs Claremont’s annual fellowships and heads our initiative for a new center to support graduate level scholarship.