Friday, November 09, 2018

"No man's a jester playing Shakespeare...."

Let's set the press straight by letting the press off the hook:

The challenge for the press is similar to the broader problem we all face: how to grapple with a man whose only concern is himself? We think it’s time to stop wondering what motivates Trump and focus instead on what compels people to react so strongly to him. The linguist known for his work on discursive “framing,” George Lakoff wrote about Donald Trump, “We are first governed in our families, and so we grow up understanding governing institutions in terms of the governing systems of families.” Trump succeeds because he taps into our unconscious (but felt-as-normal, i.e., familiar) emotional mechanisms, reinforcing patterns usually set during childhood and adolescence.

Trump “reminds” many people of the parental dynamics of authority they grew up with. In itself, this is not unique; most successful politicians tap into those feelings. But Trump’s case is wildly extreme; his tapping-in sets up a pathological call and response. The press responds to his call—and thereby reopens some of its own narcissistic wounds, both those inflicted in real time by Trump and those laid in by prior life experiences. Like the rest of us, journalists come out of families of origin. They work in a highly competitive culture in which aggressive self-promotion teeters on the edge of narcissism, in a culture that rewards clinical-level narcissism (as long as it is mostly male). It must be said (and Trump is living proof) that journalism isn’t the only profession that rewards narcissism. The most successful CEOs in this country register high on the scale of clinical narcissistic personality disorder characteristics.
Or, we could set aside the clap-trap pseudo-Freudianism and recognize the Press is covering Trump as if he were a rational human being driven by motivations we expect rational people to share.  The Press could, in other words, drop the narrative that the POTUS is our national daddy and must be treated as same.  The press, in the form of individual journalists, may well come out of "families of origin," but Hunter Thompson's far more reasonable (and accurate) assessment of Richard Nixon never fit the narrative of even Woodstein, and so he was always relegated to the status of writer, and never that of journalist (i.e., taken seriously by serious people for his writing, especially in 1972 and afterwards).  The Press has a narrative and that narrative is not allowed to be challenged because that narrative is "objective" and will not fail them, even when they are dupes for the right-wing in this country (see, e.g., they NYT and Whitewater and the NYT and WMD).  The irony is that only now does the press perceive it has a problem, and yet it still sees that problem as stemming from Trump, not from the funhouse mirror in which the Press and Trump both see distorted reflections of themselves and mistake them for the other.

It isn't time to "focus instead on what compels people to react so strongly to" Trump.  Motivation is the chimera of murder mysteries, not the reality of criminal prosecutions for murder.  We want to know what motivated the shooter in Thousand Oaks this week, but who cares?  Were those murders a function of motivation and the fact the police couldn't make a case against him to predict this horror, or was that horror a result of the loosest and laxest gun laws in the civilized world?  The time has not come to ask why people want to shoot rooms full of people, but why we continue to let them have the guns to do it.

Similarly the question is not why people react strongly to Trump's claims of "caravans" or vote fraud because Democrats are winning, the question is why we let the President make such claims and the most journalists can (finally!) bring themselves to say is that the President offers no evidence for his claims.  Hunter Thompson could call Richard Nixon a liar and worse (one of my greatest losses is my copy of Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail: '72) because he didn't care about the journalistic narrative that Nixon's actions were "problematic", he cared about writing stories about what he saw and knew.

George Lakoff's "framing" is a lame excuse for saying we can't help ourselves, and we aren't really responsible ("I was born this way!").  Bollocks.  The problem is not that:  "Trump 'reminds' many people of the parental dynamics of authority they grew up with," the problem is that there is only one narrative allowed to be told about the President, and when the President is manifestly unfit for office and manifestly incompetent, we don't have a narrative for that except "Run in circles, scream and shout!"

That's not down to "daddy issues."  It's a failure of the system.  It's more akin to the ST:OS episode where a society run by a computer which literally controls thought, is destroyed and the people scream for guidance and help, because their narrative is shattered and they don't know what to do now.

We don't need more gonzo journalism; but we do need journalists to take a sledge hammer to the strictures and narratives they are told all human events can be hammered into.  Trump is using that narrative for his own purposes, a skill he learned from Newt Gingrich 30 years ago.  The only way to stop that is to stop using that narrative to explain what the President did or said today.  Something like Charlie Pierce occasionally aspires to do, in a passage apropos of our discussion because Trump has sent lawyers, guns and money (he says) to Florida:

A reminder: what we are talking about here is the counting of votes, which is the basic fundamental process for every election. We are not talking about recounts and chads and all that other nonsense that is surely coming down the pike because this is Florida, man. We are talking about counting the votes. And Scott is using his authority as governor to ratfck that process with armed law-enforcement personnel. Somebody get this guy a white suit with some braid, and a balcony on which to stand. And he's doing so with the entire Republican political apparatus up to and including the White House supporting him by enabling and weaponizing what are so far baseless charges. There is a great deal at stake here. We should wait and see what gets traded away and what gets held hostage and which firmly held political positions are used as currency. The gators and cranes and invasive pythons in the Everglades should be watching, too.
That, of course, doesn't fit the "objective" narrative of "mainstream" journalism, so the best CNN can do is to report on the tweets or on Rick Scott's Trumpian press conference, but never, ever, EVER, break the narrative to point out both Scott and Trump are intoning "L'etat, c'est moi!" in a clear cry to shut down the most fundamental process of the republic before it yields a result they don't like.  The press can't even report that the Monsters have come to Maple Street:

“Putting aside the Russia investigation and the specifics, Vladimir Putin has won,” Schoen said. “He’s won because we are fighting among ourselves and we’re going to keep fighting among ourselves.”

Schoen agreed with fellow panelist and Washington Examiner contributor Beverly Hallberg that the U.S. electoral system is deeply flawed.

“The Russians laugh,” he said ruefully. “We can’t administer our own country, we can’t administer our immigration policy. We can’t even run our Congress.”

This is not about "daddy issues." This is about how our republic functions, and the failure of the press is a systemic and systematic failure of news reporting serious enough to deny them their "special status" under the Constitution as the "Fourth Estate."  They are barely court jesters.

And leave off the pseudo-psychoanalysis; it was never valid, and it makes you look stupid.*

*Because, how do you report this without saying the President is undermining the fundamental functions of democracy for partisan purposes?

In a functioning government he'd already be impeached, and the trial outcome would be a foregone conclusion.  If this doesn't violate the oath of office, I don't know what does.  And what's going on?

Four local Republican parties filed a lawsuit Wednesday night challenging the state's two biggest counties for allowing voters to help resolve problems with their mail-in ballot signatures after Election Day. If the signature on the voter registration doesn't match that on the sealed envelope, both Maricopa and Pima County allow voters to help them fix, or "cure" it, up to five days after Election Day.

Many other counties only allow voters to cure until polls close on Election Day.

The two biggest counties, presumably, have Democratic votes to be counted; the rural counties?  Eh, they're fine!  So, call for a new election?  Or count ballots?  Opinions differ.

I'm sure there's a daddy issue here, if I just look hard enough....

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