Yesterday, according to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Donald Trump said in response to the wave of desecrations of Jewish cemeteries:
sometimes it’s the reverse, to make people—or to make others—look bad.
Shapiro noted that he used the word reverse “I would say two or three times in his comments.” Trump has not denied this report. Also yesterday, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces laid the blame of the botched raid he authorized in Yemen at the feet of his generals.
“This was something that was, you know, just—they wanted to do. And they came to see me and they explained what they wanted to do, the generals, who are very respected. And they lost Ryan [the Navy Seal killed in the raid].
On Monday, a manchild who was in high school during the Vietnam War lamented that America’s army doesn’t “fight to win.”
We have to start winning wars again. I have to say, when I was young, in high school and college, everybody used to say ‘we never lost a war.’ We never lost a war—you remember. Some of you are right there with me and you remember, we never lost a war. America never lost, and now we never win a war. We never win. And we don’t fight to win. We don’t fight to win.
There is no other president in history who would even dream of uttering traitorous nonsense like that, yet this statement had legs that didn’t even last a day in our pathetically shallow media landscape. Sadly, all that crap spewed in the last 48 hours didn’t matter to the starfuckers populating our mainstream media, who were all too eager to declare Dear Leader Don un-Trump’s milquetoast non-State of the Union last night as wholly “presidential.”
Chris Wallace of Fox News said “I feel like tonight; Donald Trump became the president of the United States.” George Stephanopoulos of ABC remarked that the speech was “Quite a traditional structure.” Scott Pelley of CBS praised him for stepping over the bar buried six feet underground: “The fewest personal pronouns of any Trump speech we’ve heard.” Katy Tur of NBC tweeted that Trump exploiting a newly widowed woman’s grief in front of the entire nation was “capital P Presidential.” Carrie Dann of NBC linked to a video of this exploitation, describing it as “Full video of that emotional moment honoring the widow of William ‘Ryan’ Owens here.” Anderson Cooper of CNN called it “a truly extraordinary moment” with no hint of derision in his voice.
David Bernstein of Boston Magazine missed the point almost as much as anyone when he tweeted “A lotta liberals insisting, in effect, that it shouldn’t be called an effective speech b/c they really dislike his policies.” Nicole Wallace of NBC said it was “the best speech of his political career—his short political career. ... It felt like an intervention had taken place.” Bloomberg View called it “Trump’s teleprompter triumph.” Brian Stelter of CNN titled today’s edition of his newsletter “Trump surprise; widely praised speech.” Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post complained “Why can’t Trump be praised for delivering a good speech full stop?”
This speech had nothing to do with policy and everything to do with optics. I said that Bernstein missed the point almost as much as anyone, because no one surpassed the level of cluelessness that self-professed member of the resistance, Van Jones, demonstrated on CNN when he said after Trump milked a grieving woman’s public agony for his political gain that:
“He became President of the United States in that moment. Period. There are a lot of people who have a lot of reason to be frustrated with him, to be fearful of him, to be mad at him. But that was one of the most extraordinary moments you have ever seen in American politics period. And he did something extraordinary and for people who have been hoping that he would become unifying—hoping that he might find some way to become presidential—they should be happy with that moment. For people that have been hoping that maybe he would remain a divisive cartoon, which he often finds a way to do, they should begin to become a little bit worried tonight. Because that thing you just saw him do—if he finds a way to do that over and over again—he’s gonna be there for eight years. Now there is a lot that he said in that speech that was counter-factual, that was not right, that I oppose and will oppose, but he did something tonight that you cannot take away from him—he became President of the United States.”
Got that kids? You can declare that a wave of attacks on Jewish cemeteries is a false flag operation when even fucking Infowars hasn't gone that far (INFOWARS!!!!!), say that American soldiers don't fight to win, and heap the entire blame on your generals for a possibly failed mission that you authorized (while also asserting that it was a success), but just so long as you look into the camera for an hour, say some normal things, take shots at everyone but the media, and pretend that you give a shit about a deceased soldier's widow, you can come out the other end smelling like roses. Ever since Donald Trump declared war on the media and called them “the enemy of the people,” I've considered that to be perhaps his most abhorrent phrase yet. However, after watching the mainstream media's rush to crown a clearly manipulative event aimed directly at them as proof that our toddler-in-chief won't burn the house down when left alone with a box of matches and an open can of lighter fluid, I'm honestly starting to sympathize a bit. They can't be this stupid, right?
Even the White House is shocked at how quickly the media is rushing to proclaim someone who declared themselves their enemy as a sober, reasonable, head of state.
We're at the point where either the elite media truly is so dumb that they can be distracted from their mission like a cat with a laser pointer, or they desperately want to write a “centrist Trump” narrative that doesn't, never will, and never has existed. No one makes it as far as these reporters have while being that stupid without a Scrooge McDuck pile of money—as our commander-in-Cheeto has demonstrated—so my bet is on the desperation for a centrist narrative. There is no centrist Donald Trump, nor left, nor right—there is only Trump—fueled entirely by ego. But I do have to give our president some credit, as he clearly is more savvy than the lapdogs populating some of our most formerly hallowed institutions: he understands them better than they understand themselves. He can say some of the most abhorrent, un-American things imaginable, but so long as less than 48 hours later, he feeds them the “down the middle” red meat they so badly desire, all is right with the world. If he can exploit a grieving widow while wrapping himself in the flag, even better.
Which reveals the true sickness inherent within our media: the belief of a True Middle. That all our problems on the “left” and “right” can be solved by meeting in the amorphous and indescribable Middle, overseen by the broadcasters granted special access by the most powerful among us. This space that they so desperately want to invent and then take ownership of exists so they can reclaim their legitimacy, but one glance at history demonstrates the folly of this belief. Walter Cronkite, who had more integrity in his pinkie finger than all our current major journalistic institutions have combined, famously spoke out against the Vietnam War, and almost single-handedly scuttled a second term for Lyndon Johnson because of it. The unattainable Middle is an Imaginationland created by clueless cowards who don't know how or don't want to search for the truth.
The world is far messier than Left, Right, and Center, and the media has no idea how to navigate their way through this maze, so they invent a simplistic narrative to fit their own ends. It's not that far off from what Donald Trump does—perhaps that is why the mainstream media was so eager to give him billions of dollars' worth of free coverage during the campaign, and nearly single-handedly fueled his meteoric rise to the top of the Republican primary. They are not so different. If only everyone followed the media to this amorphous center, America would unify once again—all thanks to our benevolent overlords populating our coastal centers.
The reason why the media lost their way is simple: access journalism. At some point over the last few decades, advancing in the world of journalism stopped being about what you knew and became about who you knew. An entire generation of reporters came of age only knowing how to retweet their sources instead of vetting them. Once the populace became aware of this lazy sham, the media pivoted to a more defensive stance, and the Very Serious People emerged. Explanatory journalism began to sound more like lectures sent down from Mount Olympus. If only Those People outside the elite centers of America knew what We knew, then They would truly understand.
After the Iraq War blew up in the New York Times' face (among others), the jig was clearly up. Most of the mainstream media have not adjusted to this more truthful narrative forced upon them by their consumers, and is still trying to find its way in this messy, new world (well, not new, but new to them). When access is all you have, and that access loses legitimacy in the eyes of your readers, so do you.
The Jake Tapper's of the world understand this, and one look at his program demonstrates the lessons that have been learned from The Daily Show. Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Samantha Bee, and a whole host of online stars(ish) rose to prominence through the vacuum that access journalism created. By simply playing video clips of contradictory past and present statements from powerful people, they practiced more journalism in an eight-minute segment than an entire year's worth of CNN holograms did.
The immediate reaction to last night’s speech proves that the media still doesn’t get it and I’ve given up hope that they ever will. The news is not about them, yet that’s the only lens they view anything though. When Trump is bashing them, they’re the guardians of democracy, but when he leaves them alone, they all rush to open the gate to let the wolf into the chicken’s den. It’s the height of self-indulgence, which is rapidly leading to self-immolation. Donald Trump won the election not because he promoted his own policies (and I use “policies” in the loosest of terms), but because he espoused a worldview which stood opposed to Hillary Clinton’s obvious and traditional corruption, along with its near-mirror image presented in the mainstream media. ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, etc…were defeated at the ballot box almost as much as Hillary Clinton was, and if last night was any indication, they clearly haven’t learned from their mistakes. The mainstream media are not our enemies like our fascist tangerine asserts, but the last few days have proved that they sure as hell aren’t our allies either.
Jacob Weindling is Paste’s business and media editor, as well as a staff writer for politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.