Monday, April 4, 2016

The Times Is the Pits (and the Pendulum)

Edgar Allan Poe, who blended fact and fiction in his dual careers as journalist and horror writer, would have had a field day working at the New York Times.

  For what other reason than fear-mongering would the Times conduct a premature Bernie Sanders burial service right on its most coveted plot? (top left corner of its homepage)

In what macabre liberal pundit Paul Krugman gleefully calls a "premortem," the newspaper has grimly collated several Bernie eulogies from Canned Obituary Central.

However, to avoid any appearance of hackery or complicity, the news ghouls were very careful to use the smarmy passive voice in the headline: "Early Missteps Seen As Drag on Bernie Sanders's Campaign."
The morning after he lost the Nevada caucuses in February, Bernie Sanders held a painful conference call with his top advisers.
Mr. Sanders expressed deep frustration that he had not built a stronger political operation in the state, and then turned to the worrisome situation at hand.
His strategy for capturing the Democratic presidential nomination was based on sweeping all three early-voting states, and he had fallen short, winning only New Hampshire — to the consternation of his wife, Jane.
Actually, he did build a good operation. And he has ended up winning Nevada after all, a factoid which the Times conveniently doesn't see fit to print. The truth might take all the fun of out its exercise in S & M. It might take the fun out the premature burial festivities. It might even relieve the pain from the editorial torture.

So, although Sanders is gaining ground and "campaigning more effectively," he is still the Walking Dead as far as the media establishment is concerned. The subliminal message in the Times article is this: "Don't even bother to come out for the primaries, Wisconsinites and  New Yorkers and Californians. It's over before it's even over."

But to be fair, The Times does have a point when it chides Bernie for not attacking Hillary in the very first debate, when he so gallantly claimed that Americans are "sick and tired of your damned e-mails!" He had been polite to a fault, always careful to criticize the corrupt system rather than the corrupt Clinton machine. And, I suspect they're right when they posit that at the outset, Bernie's main goal had been to spread the social democratic message without seriously expecting to win contests and raise more money than any other presidential candidate in history.

And Cornel West, his surrogate from the Black Left, is right that Sanders should have engaged sooner with Southern black voters.

But the Times is revealing itself as a passive-aggressive propagandist, criticizing Sanders from two separate directions. He's not nearly mean enough. He's way too mean. Reading his political obit reminds me of the Pushmi-Pullyu character from Doctor Doolittle. His critics, their toxic centrism so deeply ingrained, seem to want to have it both ways.

Doctor Krugman the Undertaker, meanwhile, is forging ahead with his own obsessive-compulsive smear campaign against both Bernie and his progressive supporters. He, too, thinks we don't know our brains from our asses. So he pulls and he pushes and achieves diddlysquat for his efforts. 
 As I see it, the Sanders phenomenon always depended on leaving the personal attacks implicit. Sanders supporters have, to a much greater extent than generally acknowledged, been motivated by the perception that Clinton is dishonest, which comes — whether they know it or not — not from her actual behavior but from decades of right-wing smears; but Sanders himself got to play the issue-oriented purist, in effect taking a free ride on other peoples’ character defamation. There was plenty of nastiness from Sanders supporters, but the candidate himself seemed to stay above the fray.
Facts are such troublesome things. It is so much easier to bury someone than to  damn him with even the faintest of praise. Krugman actually sounds like a Grand Inquisitor here, purporting to know the inner workings of the minds of vast numbers of people. Whether we know it or not, our asses-for-brains have been taken over by the Republicans. We are no longer capable of reading books and even thinking for ourselves.

He is sounding more and more like his fake nemesis, David Brooks, all the time. He even indulges in a little liberal colorblind racism with this verbal belch:
But it wasn’t enough, largely because of nonwhite voters. Why have these voters been so pro-Clinton? One reason I haven’t seen laid out, but which I suspect is important, is that  they are more sensitized than most whites to how the disinformation machine works, to how fake scandals get promoted and become part of what “everyone knows.” Not least, they’ve seen the torrent of lies directed at our first African-American president, and have a sense that not everything you hear should be believed.
And now the hidden thoughts of Sanders are coming out in the open, endangering the chances of the Empress of Waiting even when Bernie himself hasn't the faintest chance of survival. Does it get any meaner, more gruesomely political than that?

My published response to Krugman:
I suspect that black and brown people ("non-whites") have a lot more on their plates than honing their sensitivity about the fabled Clinton Disinformation Machine.
Black Agenda Report has run several pieces about the lack of enthusiasm of Blacks for Bernie Sanders. Its leftist writers posit that black voters from the South were settling for Clinton out of sheer terror of what the GOP would do to them. At least Hillary wouldn't go so far as to overturn the Civil Rights Act. She doesn't hold rallies like Trump's, which actually resemble racial cleansing sites more than political rallies. She's a relatively safe bet.
That said, black (or as Krugman euphemizes them, "non-white") voters are not some sort of monolithic block. Northern black voters are supporting Bernie in higher numbers. And that includes Northern black politicians. James Sanders (!) of New York is primarying Hillary supporter Greg Meeks for his seat in Congress, and both Sanderses are giving each other support. So much for Bernie allegedly not caring about down-ticket races.
 Vile as the vast, right wing conspiracy is, the Clintons have always paradoxically thrived on it. It helps to tamp down and delegitimate fact-based criticism of them from the left. That Krugman is now accusing Clinton's progressive critics of enabling the Republicans is the oldest trick in their political grimoire. It's as anti-democratic as the super-delegate system.
The coronation of Hillary is as premature as Bernie's funeral.

So, contra Krugman and the Times, who is to say where exactly the boundary lies between political life and political death? As Poe wrote in the fictional version of  "The Premature Burial,"
 To be buried while alive is, beyond question, the most terrific of these extremes which has ever fallen to the lot of mere mortality. That it has frequently, very frequently, so fallen will scarcely be denied by those who think. The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins? We know that there are diseases in which occur total cessations of all the apparent functions of vitality, and yet in which these cessations are merely suspensions, properly so called. They are only temporary pauses in the incomprehensible mechanism. A certain period elapses, and some unseen mysterious principle again sets in motion the magic pinions and the wizard wheels. The silver cord was not for ever loosed, nor the golden bowl irreparably broken. But where, meantime, was the soul?
The coverage of the endless presidential horse race of death by the Times and other corporate media outlets does indeed seem incomprehensible to us mere mortals.

And then Wisconsin happens. (tomorrow) And that unseen mysterious principle known as the Living Electorate sets in motion those magic pinions, those wizard wheels which have so befuddled the pundits this season.

Unlike most of Poe's fiction,"The Premature Burial"  actually does have a happy ending.

The narrator, used to being declared dead due to a condition called catalepsy, (or in modern times, burial deep within the pages of the Paper of Record) lives in constant fear of being interred alive. And then one night, his fears come true. He has been entombed despite taking what he had thought were all the necessary precautions.(telling the truth to anyone who would listen.)

And then he wakes up. He dreamed he was moribund because he was actually aboard a ship, sleeping in a very cramped space quite similar to a coffin.
My soul acquired tone—acquired temper. I went abroad. I took vigorous exercise. I breathed the free air of Heaven. I thought upon other subjects than Death. I discarded my medical books. "Buchan" I burned. I read no "Night Thoughts"—no fustian about churchyards—no bugaboo tales—such as this. In short, I became a new man, and lived a man's life. From that memorable night, I dismissed forever my charnel apprehensions, and with them vanished the cataleptic disorder, of which, perhaps, they had been less the consequence than the cause.
Hopefully, Bernie and his supporters have already given up reading bugaboo Weird Tales of the Times, so full of the charnel apprehensions of Paul Krugman and the whole banal coven of hack writers.

And hopefully, any new "tone" that Bernie acquires will not be of the politically correct variety being urged upon him by Clinton surrogates, whose own campaign talking points seem to be suffering a cataleptic disorder of their very own. And temper? Bernie has never lacked it. You don't bellow about how sick and tired of the corruption you are without possessing a very healthy temper.


Meredith NYC said...

Let me be the 1st to congratulate Karen on her virtuoso witticisms in pulling all this together. But piling on the horror metaphors and pictures, while maybe fun at first, also gets to be rather repugnant pretty quick. Depends on your taste I guess. So that’s mine.

Getting to be a bit much as I read down the blog---horror, fear, torture, grim, grand inquisitor, S&M, burial, death, charnel. What a thesaurus –how much can I stand of this, especially after the horrors of the daily news in all it’s obnoxious facets? I haven’t yet become calloused enough to double down on it.

Maybe it does our politics justice and Karen’s outrage is apt ---but we have to be able to stomach this stuff. Maybe would be more effective to step back a bit to keep at least more objectivity, less emotion and outrage, thus less ugliness and pushing our faces into crap.

I am deciding that it’s important to keep commenting to the Times, as unpleasant as it’s getting. It richly deserves reader’s disgust, which is increasing. Krugman is getting stomach turning at this point, it's embarrassing---he's running away with his emotions. I'll try to keep my comments targeted to refute the Times nonsense with some contrasting facts and examples they ignore. We can't get too demoralized and furious, or we can’t do it any more---then the rw achieves its purposes.

I’m thinking that commenting to defy the powers that be now, is sort of like attending a street protest, say for Occupy or against police injustice---you go to just lend your body to the crowd, one small part of the bigger picture, you are there in order to swell the multitude, and register your input for the TV cameras, or for the Times and readers. We have to hold our nose and keep our heads.

I think I'll read some Robert Reich and Bill Moyers, anyway.

Pearl said...

Let us hope Bernie does well tomorrow but mainly to torture Hillary and expose her ugly side more and more. Especially with a debate when hopefully Bernie will strike a nerve or nerves hard..Otherwise it is up to how people view the issues in such an ugly river of filth.
We have to give it all we have and inspire his supporters, mostly the leaders of the future.
You went all out Karen, with your current article and much appreciated.

Karen Garcia said...

I've cut back greatly on Times commenting myself so more power to you, Meredith. Congratulations too on getting top recs on your Blow offering. Repost here if you would like.

Yes, Pearl, I think Bernie is finally throwing at least some caution to the winds and relishing getting under Hill's skin. He has got enormous leverage over both her and the party at this stage. For him to endorse her without her agreeing to campaign on at least some of his proposals would be the height of folly and a slap in the face to his supporters. Anything to make it uncomfortable for her if/when she is crowned.

I also hope he gives any left-over campaign cash to charity and not to the DNC. It would be fine if he shared some of it with some of progressives primary-ing centrist Dems.

Pearl said...

Bernie Sanders Has Already Won His Revolution

He has convinced more Americans to proudly claim radical left positions

Meredith, NYC said...'s my comment to Charles many recs because I happened to up so late and was 1 of the very 1st comments! But I am wondering how worthwhile it is to post to Blow's column lately.

my post:
It must be repeated to sink in to our thick American heads. Other countries have greater voter turnout because they schedule voting on a holiday, or make voting day a holiday, or have voting over a few days. Plus there's no difficulties in registering, it's automatic in many places at a certain age.

The child care provisions of many advanced societies remove that impediment to voting. Here, the necessary publicity about long lines, needing half of a work day to vote make people avoid voting. So many ways to make voting either harder or easier, and the USA makes it harder.
The Gop has expressed a clear aim to suppress voting.


NYT Roger Cohen today is equating the influence of the elites on the US with similar in other countries. He's thus downplaying the extreme influence here of the rw on both our parties. He could instead explain how voting rights are better protected abroad, and how their public election funding protects their majorities against Koch type big money influence. But then he might look too 'left wing'.

And a recent op ed re Citizens United--finally--focused more on 'foreign influence from multi national corporations on our politics---than it did on American big money poisoning our elections and democracy.

Pearl said...

A great great speech from Bernie after being declared winner in Wisconsin and was praised on CNN for not attacking Hillary although they still cut him off after a while.
But everything he said was an attack on who she supports. I wonder what she will have to say tomorrow morning on CNN.
Very exciting.