Sunday, July 2, 2017

Anesthetizing Outrage

It was shocking enough that he accused a female colleague in the NBC infotainment family of copiously bleeding from a face-lift. But not content with that gleeful provocation, Donald Trump has finally gone over the edge in what's being ballyhooed as the ultimate faux pas of his entire presidency. Trump actually sent out a video of himself mock-pummeling a WWE star whose face was replaced with the sacred CNN logo.

How dare he terrorize the Terror Channel, whose patriotic neoliberal purpose is to sell endless bloody war and domestic paranoia on behalf of the Military-Industrial Complex? And only two days before the birthday of Our Great Nation!

Trump's CNN spoof is all the proof you apparently need that our president is inciting violence against all actual human journalists. It's the umpteenth coup de grace for this misbegotten presidency. 

Like Pavlovian dogs, Big Media stars are falling all over themselves to win the prize for outstanding performance by an actor or actress in a supporting role in the Trump broadcast franchise. Ingenue Mika appeared to be a shoo-in only yesterday. But by Sunday, it was CNN's Jim Acosta, who obligingly played straight man to Trump's comic evil genius by pointing out that the professional wrestling video is a refaked fake. He eagerly left himself wide open to Trump's riposte that CNN is fake news. It was as tightly scripted as anything ever read from a TelePrompTer.

And round and round they go, to the cheers and jeers and yawns and snickers and gasps of a TV-addicted America.

Trump, far from attempting to repress free speech and civil dissent, relies on it and thrives upon it. The more he can control the news cycle with his outlandish performances, the more that he can render coverage on issues relevant to the public both meaningless and boring. He makes the pundits targeted by his insults look ridiculous and powerless. Just witness Mika's response to Trump's face-lift insult. To avoid the stress of coming up with an original statement, she simply appended the corporate "little hands" Cheerios cereal advertisement to her counter-Tweet. That taught him, all right.

The "discourse" has devolved into a Battle of the Brands. Celebrities are lining up, jostling to get maximum saturation news coverage of their regular microbursts of anti-Trump outrage. Maybe one of their Tweets will get a personal insult from the Big Guy himself and their online profile will be boosted to Number One on the Yahoo trending list. One can only hope.

Every time Donald Trump violates taboos and political norms, eliciting knee-jerk responses on demand, the more powerful he becomes. And while he so effortlessly riles up what political theorist Bifo Berardi calls "the custodians of severity" with his systematic repertoire of antics, he is also entertaining and gratifying his base of fans.  Who knew that a president of the United States could be such a zany stand-up comic who exposes establishment hypocrisy at every turn!

Trump had apparently lifted the doctored wrestling video from a fan site, making said fans duly ecstatic that their idol is also a fan of theirs. From the New York Times:
Mr. Trump’s fans on Reddit were exuberant about what they viewed as validation from the country’s most powerful man. “I love this,” wrote a user identified as American_Crusader. “You know he saw it, chuckled, and knew he could control the media narrative for days by hitting the ‘post’ button. So he did.”
The president’s allies say that his attacks on the news media are justified, arguing that the president is merely defending himself from coverage that his supporters view as biased. Mr. Trump’s war of words with CNN is especially popular with his voter base.
Trump absolutely requires what Berardi calls "the proliferation of chatter, the irrelevance of opinion and discourse, and making thought, dissent and critique banal and ridiculous."

What's really scary is the way Trump's cruel theater of the absurd - a literal information-overloaded "siege of our attention" - enables his fellow oligarchs to conduct the real work behind the curtains. How do they blow up the planet and all the living things on it in the name of profits for the very few? Let us count the ways. Or not, because Trump just Tweeted out another insult to another very important serious person or organization.

He has the media stars who pose as journalists way too busy defending their personal brands, pleasing their corporate paymasters, taking personal umbrage, and collating daily lists of Trump's lies and spelling mistakes to pay sufficient attention to the real oligarchic agenda. Not that they ever paid much attention to the agenda before, seeing as how the oligarchic agenda-setters are the sponsors who pay them their salaries.

With the TV and Internet-addicted public so distracted by all this carefully scripted Trumpian dramedy, it's much easier for "politically correct" villains to meet behind closed doors to destroy health coverage for millions of people. It's so much easier for Congress to pass xenophobic anti-immigrant laws just slightly less inhumane that Trump's. It's so much easier for the Supreme Court to give at least a preliminary carte blanche to Trump's Muslim travel ban. It's so much easier for Democrats to priggishly protest Trump's boorishness and to fund-raise off fear and loathing than it is to introduce any progressive legislation as a counterweight.

If we find it hard to forget the carefully manufactured images of a woman's bleeding face - and a corporate media logo getting punched in the face by the president of the United States -  that leaves us with an even more severely reduced mental capacity to visualize the actual bleeding bodies of the thousands of people getting bombed and droned to death in out-of-sight, out-of-mind Yemen and Syria and Iraq.

In end-stage capitalism, nothing succeeds like excess, whether it be the Mother of All Bombs, draconian social welfare cuts, or Trump himself. Made-for-TV catalyst for mass indignation and outrage that he is, he knows full well that his words need contain neither meaning, nor truth, nor consistency in order to be effective. He owns his words and he controls his message. As he brayed in yet another speech castigating the media on Saturday night, "I'm president, and they're not."

And so far, they haven't shamed him, let alone stopped him. Not that they really want to. He is very good for business. His brand elevates their brands, and vice versa. They're mutual parasites who nibble off one other like expensive hors d'oeuvre before really gorging themselves on the main course: you, and me, and the wealth of our entire endangered planet. Capitalism can never be sated in a system where ruthless competition takes precedence over decency and competence.

So God bless Donald Trump as well as damn him. For all his alleged ignorance, he is a master at revealing the hypocrisy of political language every single time  he opens his mouth. To paraphrase Berardi, Trump has shown the whole world that the emperor has no clothes - while paradoxically wearing the emperor's clothes himself.


Steve Smith said...

Hi, thank you for spelling this out for us. The state of our journalism is abysmal, coinciding with the arrival of Fake News as a legitimate player at the info table. We get the government we deserve. We get the news we deserve, having deprived ourselves as a nation of the ability to discern real from unreal.

CNN is a perfect example of the extension of Naomi Klein's cautionary work of the dangers of logo worship. CNN is a tool with its Wolf Breaking News Blitzer and General Barbara Starr, a Pentagon spokesperson permanently on loan to the network. They do all of us a disservice whether from their obsequious dependence on all things marketing to their flowery selectiveness to what they cover. They are often indeed fake news in that they chose not to cover what really matters.

Keep these articles coming. I'm a new fan.

Thanks, Steve Smith

Zee said...

Trump is indeed a pig.

But there is an old saying of uncertain origin that says: Never wrestle with a pig. You get dirty and the pig enjoys it.

Our Fake News Networks seem unable to recall this adage, and just keep getting dirtier and dirtier.

voice-in-wilderness said...

As Zee says, never wrestle with a pig. But if commentators are going to wrestle anyway, they need to be more understanding of the Trump psyche. Perhaps to try saying:

"Where is the wall Trump promised? Where is the funding?"


"These tweets show that Trump has become part of the swamp instead of draining it."

stranger in a strange land said...

During the 'campaign' CBS chief Les Moonves said of the election: "It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS" - referring to all the dark money blowing around in the advertising 'marketplace.' Media corporations, like virtually every other bloated institution sitting on our heads, serve Mammon, not you. As Karen points out - you're not even a valued customer, you're the main course ("To Serve Man").

Or as Frank Zappa put it: "They just takes care of Number One. And Number One ain't you. You ain't even Number Two."

Jamie said...

As a Marxist, I love what Trump is doing to the corporate media. It really exposes their hypocrisy and sense of privilege. They can call Trump Hitler, sponsor plays showing him executed, make videos chopping off his head ... yet when he clinically describes a journalist, he is somehow the devil:

"She was bleeding badly from a face-lift."

If liberals want to paint Trump as fascist, they will need to start discussing material facts, like when Obama actually armed Nazi groups in the Ukraine:

And then put Joe Biden's sleazy son, Hunter, on the board of the largest gas company there:

annenigma said...

Off-topic, but check out 'The American Conservative'. Here are a few comments about it from the learned folks at Naked Capitalism. (Jerry-Lynn Scofield is one of the NC 'Links' contributors)

July 3, 2017 at 8:34 am

I find it ironic that the American Conservative often expresses more left leaning sentiment than any liberal publication (think the Atlantic, Huffpo, etc.)

And I place the quality of many of the articles near the Jacobin/Baffler level.

Strange times indeed.
Reply ↓

Arizona Slim
July 3, 2017 at 9:02 am

Count me as another admirer of American Conservative. Never thought I would say that.
Reply ↓

Jerri-Lynn Scofield
July 3, 2017 at 10:51 am

Me neither– but when I find myself compiling Links, I almost always find at least one or more must-read pieces there. Strange times indeed.
Reply ↓

Clueless It Seems said...

Today - yes the 4th of July - is my dead brother's birthday. He would have been 62 today. He died at 44. Me? I stopped watching TV more than 40 years ago (missed out on lots of amerikan popular kultur) and since there's no "acceptible use" policy on the 'net (which there was in the early days before domains).

Great read. Tell it like it is Ms. Garcia.

stranger in a strange land said...

@annenigma: Hmmm... browsed through a few of the current offerings on americanconservative - not really impressed.

An article by the editor posited that if/when the American people choose to expel Trump from office (as if the American people have any choice in any of this nonsense!) the country will swing to leftist socialism. If only!

And a kinda expose'-ish piece about Gulf monarchies clownish 'governance' of their lazy entitled populations seemed to end up as an 'Iran = Bad' memo, somehow.

And the article titled "Is America Still a Nation?" by one Patrick J. Buchanan reminded me of an old Jon Stewart quip: "Why don't you just grow the mustache, Pat?"

Elizabeth -- Marysville said...

I am seeing a similar thing, annenigma. For instance...

Truthdig's recent headlines regarding Bethany Kozma being "another unfit to serve" Trump appointee to the "role of senior adviser for gender equality and women’s empowerment in the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)."

They conveniently included a link to her writings, which supposedly serve to show how awful she is. Personally, I don't care for the fact that she served in the Bush administration and worked for DHS, per the Truthdig article, but her three writings were very well done, especially the third one. Radical feminists are finding common ground with many conservatives, although for different reasons, in some cases. The liberal sphere conflates being pro-woman and child as being transphobic.

Here is the link provided by Truthdig:, for anyone who is interested.

Yes, these are such strange times.

stranger in a strange land said...

@elizabeth: "Radical feminists are finding common ground with many conservatives, although for different reasons, in some cases. The liberal sphere conflates being pro-woman and child as being transphobic."

Interesting, care to expand on / synthesize either of those assertions here - or do we have to read the truthdig article and the linked writings by a Bush admin DHS alum to extrapolate what you might mean?

I'd be curious, even, to hear some defining of your terms. Conservative as in neo-con full spectrum dominance death mongers? Liberal as in 'we're capitalists, that's just how it is' free market globalist death mongers? Transphobic as in not enthrall to the ID politics divide and conquer bullshit proffered by the faux opposition party? Pro-woman and child as in pro-marry and-reproduce breeder consumerist pyramid scheme until the world collapses?

*Whew* Just askin'

Elizabeth -- Marysville said...

@stranger: to answer your first question, No.

In response to your remaining questions, it appears I triggered some strong feelings, but I don't feel it is my job to lead you along the path of the understanding you desire.

The link offered was optional, should anyone care to learn more. My knowledge of the subject has grown over many years, and along the way, I have recognized when people are open to expanding their understanding, and when I am likely to be expending much more energy than is worth my time.

Have a nice day.

stranger in a strange land said...

Is Bethany Kozma a radical feminist? Are the narrow views she espouses in the daily signal article she wrote compatible with radical feminism? She comes across as an uptight overpriveledged square in the thick of a ludicrous scenario that only overpriveledged hyper-pc elites will ever encounter:

I actually had to withdraw my daughter from her Fairfax County public elementary school over concerns for her personal safety and privacy. Her former school is currently allowing a biological boy to use the girls’ facilities, without any parental notification.

My synthesis is that yes, the so-called liberal line is to push the bathroom rights BS real hard at the expense of silly little issues like healthcare for the hoi pilloi (as Karen has written about).

And if radical feminists are finding themselves aligning with real conservatives like, say, Wendell Berry, then I say power to 'em.

But if we're talking about 'conservative' in the context of USAID (CIA) and other adventures of the PNAC gang, well, then, I guess I'm just not sure what we're talking about.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Happy Fourth of July, America, whatever that means to you.

After the desertification of Leftland over decades under Democratic Party faux liberals, we may be excused for casting sheep's eyes at the rich meadows of conservatism.

The terms liberal and conservative, 'left' and 'right' no longer mean so much, not even in old Europe. There are no tight definitions. Look how the right in the US is fighting among themselves even while they hold power. On the left timeless issues of the masses are, for some factions, of no more consequence than the concerns of a minority steeped in identity politics.

We can read every day about how both sides, left and right, fight among themselves. On some issues of identity politics not even His Certitude, Chris Hedges, can make up his mind. This week, on the subject of what it means to be female, to include a lot of space devolted to the imponderables of the trans wars, Hedges let two views within the women's 'left' take over his column with their best shots. Tough call for sure on that trans issue...which affects at most perhaps thousands. Instead of fitting square pegs into round bathrooms, why don't we make every public bathroom small and private. No more 'his' and 'hers." Such reconstruction might be cheaper and will save us from a lot more distraction so we can get back to basics.

Elsewhere, classicist Mary Beard takes us through the subject of "Women in Power" (subject of another internecine war within the left, as well as between the left and the right) since Agamemnon was first performed in 458 BC right down to today in the update of Trump as Perseus holding up the detached head of Hillary as Medusa.

Today is the Fourth of July. Aaron Copland's "A Lincoln Portrait" is almost inescapable if you listen to classical music stations like Performance Today. Yup, there it was again today. If you're not familiar with Copland's composition with Lincoln passages interspersed with the music, you can find it here at 40:45 minutes of Hour 1.

I find there, in a commonplace Lincoln passage, a better definition of the "sides" we choose to adhere to in the economic, political and social wars we cannot escape. This is how Lincoln drew the dividing line or marked the poles. In its simplicity and clarity, it tells us better where we stand today on the central issues affecting billions of people.

In his book about the Gettysburg Address, Gary Wills reminds us that Lincoln's inspiration was always the Declaration of Independence as distinct from the Constitution, although Lincoln pursued a very bloody war to uphold that Constitution. Much of the establishment's emphasis on the Fourth today will celebrate in a subtle way the values expressed in the Constitution more than the words and follow through demanded by the Declaration of Independence.

To which pole do you gravitate without exception in Lincoln's great divide below or between the Constitution and the Declaration?

"It is the eternal struggle between two principles, right and wrong, throughout the world. It is the same spirit that says 'you toil and work and earn bread, and I'll eat it.' No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation, and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle."

"As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy."

Jay–Ottawa said...

Wendell Berry is a "real conservative"? That's news to me. I doubt he voted for Reagan, Bush father or son, or Trump. You should have heard Berry in the old days denounce the Vietnam War. He's one hell of an ecologist, not a denier of global warming. And I doubt he loves the disparities brought on by cowboy capitalism. But if he really is a real conservative, in that case I wish every liberal or lefty to be as conservative as Wendell Berry.

darwinslapdog said...


Could you elaborate a bit on why Biden’s son is “sleazy”? I don’t have a dog in this fight, just curious as I’d always thought the Biden’s a pretty good bunch, but that’s based on a fairly superficial rendering as I have never delved into the subject in any depth.

Thanks. I’m not a regular, here but i’ll check back.

stranger in a strange land said...

Clueless It Seems said...

I stopped watching TV 40 years ago. I am NOT part of "...TV-addicted" amerika. And I am "au courant" as they say. All one has to do is READ and read the bold black screaming headlines on the internet to stay abreast of things (are we allowed now to say or write that?!)

Jay–Ottawa said...

In addition to Trump's ceaseless distractions keeping a majority of Americans from ever becoming "mindful" about the key issues of global warming, money, war, healthcare and civil rights, there's another issue: the blurring of causation for who was responsible for allowing a rich, bigoted and ignorant jerk, someone who ignores those issues, to take over the Executive Branch. Who really lost the White House?

Despite the prevailing myth, it was not the uneducated working class from the sticks and the Rust Belt who put a clown on top of the American heap; it was the well-off families (usually with college diplomas) who earned over $75,000 per year who swelled the vote for Trump.

The lower classes, a big chunk of the once-upon-a-time Democratic base, stayed home in sufficient numbers to allow a Trump win by default; or, if they were still of a mind to stick with the Democrats, they were turned away in large numbers through weakly-countered voter suppression.

In addition to Paul Street's update on who really elected Trump, this thought. Instead of taking the cabinet post of Secretary of State in 2008, Hillary should have insisted on becoming the Attorney General. In that office, focused on domestic matters and inside party issues, she might have done more to secure her eventual takeover of the presidency.

She could have stopped the hemorrhage of Democratically-held elected offices, local and national, that totaled around 1,000 by the end of Obama's term as the head of the party, a traditional responsibility he coolly neglected. Hillary, focused on homeland issues and the party, to include galloping gerrymandering, might have become more sympathetic to the problems and needs of average Americans––as well as of the party.

As AG she might never have come around to the view that 50% of the population of poor and near poor were "deplorables." It matters whether you visit slum housing or foreign embassies. As Secretary of State, she was blinded by the glitter of the rich at home and abroad. In the end, the low-income voters who stayed home, the moneyed classes who read the faux-populist Trump right, and the accumulating distortions of Republican-controlled redistricting resulted in Hillary's being crowned as the most deplorable of the two deplorables available.