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Thanks MSM, for the Very Special Gift of Trump!

Saturday, December 24th, 2016

philjerryhatshameAt first glance, today’s lead photo might suggest that your Calbuzzards are heading out to stick up their neighborhood 7-11. Or perhaps that they’ve just been booked for trying it.

In fact, the double mug shot represents something far more noble: two virtuous journalists fulfilling their professional ethical responsibility to be “accountable and transparent” by publicly acknowledging mistakes, in this case, our inaccurate report that Hillary Clinton had been elected the 45th president of the U.S.

A close reading of that world exclusive, filed 12 hours before Election Day voting kicked into gear, reveals a slight hedge: a promise that if the story was wrong, Calbuzz would publish a photo of Our Founders wearing Dodger hats. So today, Christmas Eve 2016, we hereby hold ourselves accountable for our teeny-tiny error. If you look really closely, you might even see the dog-ass Dodgers’ logo.

wolf-blitzerBut what about the other guys? Having accepted full culpability for our journalistic sin, we eagerly await the actions of the MSM in doing the same for their unspeakably disgraceful performance in 2016.

To be sure, a host of crucial factors contributed to the global existential threat represented by the words “President Donald J. Trump.” Asshat lawman James Comey comes to mind, as does Vladimir Putin and the strategic ineptitude of Clinton handler Robby Mook, who somehow got lost peering deep into his Big Data spreadsheets and forgot to book Hillary a couple union halls in Michigan (devil’s advocate here, but who hires a campaign manager named “Mook” anyway?).

Right at the top of that list, however, also stand the Trump-enabling reprobates and evildoers of the national media.

To the extent that newspapers still matter, it must be said that the Washington Post’s coverage excelled overall, the NYT did first-rate heavy lifting on Trump’s business record and the LA Times offered some bright spots, most notably Cathy Decker’s consistently spot-on analyses (don’t get us started on the stupid Dan Schnur Poll).

Alas, the extent to which newspapers still matter: not much.

So with most of the voting public addicted to their echo chamber Facebook feeds, favorite confirmation bias web sites, white supremacist organs and infotainment shows, responsibility for serving as best-obtainable-version-of-the-truth-tellers fell to the networks and cable “news” outfits.

Christ.

The nets rarely bothered with Actual Reporting on serious issues, which would have interfered with all the clever tweeting and Instagram posts from their armies of 12-year old “embeds,” an unintentionally damning phrase if there ever was one. And, with the exceptions of Steve Schmidt’s sustained virtuosity on MSNBC, Van Jones’s thoughtful insights on CNN and Megyn Kelly’s badass act on Fox, all you need to know about the rest of the monstrous pack of baying cable morons is that “The Most Trusted Name in News” allowed Trump hatchet men Corey Lewandowski and Jeffrey Lord to sit there and pose as earnest commentators.

A brief recap of how TV news ushered in the Age of Trump:

howardbealeAll Trump all the time. Beginning in summer 2015, the money-grubbing TV suits behaved as if Dickhead Donald was a mega-hit carnival act, handing him more than $1 billion in free advertising. CBS honcho Les Moonves said it all: “It may not be good for the country, but it’s good for CBS.” Ha, ha.

False equivalence. Amid Trump’s serial blatant lies and endless racist, sexist, xenophobic, dictatorial, First Amendment-hating, war criminal statements, the MSM pretended that journalistic duty required that the filth flowing from his mouth, all day every day, be “balanced” with bogus on-the-one-hand-on-the-other criticisms of Clinton: But What About the Emails?!?!?

From the phony outrage about her private server to the breathless reporting on the quotidian revelations in John Podesta’s message stash, Trump’s media pimps refused to focus on two basic facts: the email “scandal” was first and last a vicious partisan congressional leak attack and the Podesta hack was just, you know, the no-big-deal matter of Putin hijacking the election.

Policy, what policy? While wallowing in weighty subjects like Podesta’s risotto recipe, the ‘nets were sooo bored reporting on what the candidates proposed to do about the economy. There’s no denying that Clinton was a weak courier for her middle class message – if she said “go to my website HillaryClinton.com” one more time during the debates, we would have started mainlining Metaxa through our chemo ports — but she actually had serious, substantive detailed proposals that went unreported.

And Trump had…what? So we’re only learning now that he’s an Ayn Rand fanboy whose plan all along was to destroy the government in 100 days, going back to undo, not just FDR, but likely the most fundamental pro-consumer, pro-worker health and safety regulations of rough riding cousin Teddy.

Who knew, the MSM now cries, meekly.

rosenHere’s the thing: Underlying such criticisms, of course, is the meta-problem that Trump poses to journalists: he has “crashed the system” that made political reporting possible, as NYU professor Jay Rosen has argued trenchantly:

Everything that happens in election coverage is premised on a kind of opinion: that our votes should be based on reliable information about what the candidates intend to do if elected. Remove that assumption and the edifice crashes. But this is exactly what the candidacy of Donald Trump does. It upends the assumptions required for the traditional forms of campaign journalism even to make sense…

One of the newer parts of that system is fact checking, but this is also a practice with a premise. The premise is that fact checking will have some shaming effect on the kind of behavior it calls out…

Trump shatters this premise. As FactCheck.org put it: “He stands out not only for the sheer number of his factually false claims, but also for his brazen refusals to admit error when proven wrong.” Said Glenn Kessler, The Post’s Fact Checker columnist: “What’s unusual about Trump is he’s a leading candidate and he seems to have no interest in getting important things factually correct.”

One of the assumptions of campaign coverage was that candidates would never use their huge platforms to spread malicious rumors and unreliable information for which they have no proof: Too risky, too ugly. Trump has crashed that premise too.

crazy trumpBottom line. Rosen, along with our old friend Tom Rosenstiel and Jack Shafer, leads the way in trying to think through the very scary existential problem of how the media can adapt and matter in covering Trump in a serious way.

Consider, for example, Trump’s tweet the other day: “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” If Trump understood anything about the cautious, discrete closely-parsed language of nuclear diplomacy, he would have said “modernize and upgrade” instead of “strengthen and expand.” That would have been in keeping with decades of U.S. policy, under Republican and Democratic administrations.

But Trump doesn’t know toxic waste from Shinola about nuclear arms policy, so he just tweeted whatever popped into his lame brain. Immediately, his repulsive spokespeople tried to walk it back, saying he didn’t really mean the U.S. needs more nukes. But Trump, afflicted with clinical narcissism, can never admit a mistake; so he doubled down and the next day told MSNBC TV host Mika Brzezinski, “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”

Why? Because he has no godforsaken clue what he’s talking about, its impact throughout the world and the implications for U.S. strategic nuclear policy. Rather than just saying so directly, however, the MSM courtiers leaped into spasms of “analysis” about what Trump was trying to imply. Does he intend to change U.S. policy? Is he looking to grow the U.S. nuclear arsenal after decades of trying to reduce it? In the process, they normalize his unhinged ranting, as if Trump had had a serious idea in his alleged mind when his pygmy fingers did the talking.

Angry-SantaThe principled, responsible and smart way to react to this would have been for news organizations to state — as a fundamental matter of fact — that Trump obviously has no idea what he’s talking about.* But that would require news organizations to actually perform as a check on the president-elect’s idiocy. Instead they fail as the only remaining balance to his power, in a world where Trump’s election represents a perfect storm of right-wing ascendance in Washington that has blotted out the quaint notion of political checks and balances.

Once again, the Fourth Estate had its pockets picked clean, just as in the campaign, and now stands quivering and scared to death of this authoritarian thug.

Merry fuckin’ Christmas. Beat L.A.

———-

* The closest thing to calling out Trump’s abject ignorance that we saw was a piece by Max Fisher of the New York Times that deconstructed all the possible ways in which Trump’s outrageous Tweet on nuclear weapons might be interpreted.

Done Deal: Crazy Person To Control the Nukes

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

trumpsmirkingThe political hacks that cast the ballots in the Electoral College on Monday made it official: a mentally ill and corrupt authoritarian demagogue will soon become the most powerful person in the world.

Donald John Trump, a big loser in the popular vote who captured one of the lamest wins ever in the pro-slave-state Electoral College system, in January will command the mightiest military force in the history of man. He is now assembling an astonishingly reactionary government composed of fellow plutocrats and science-denying right-wing ideologues whose highest political purpose is to cut taxes on the rich and transfer wealth to oil companies and the most moneyed 1% of Americans. And the Trump family itself.

God bless the United States of America.

Metamorphosis_of_NarcissusEven Shrinks Are Scared. We await with great trepidation but undeniable excitement, the inevitable, vicious four-year war the treacherous, Russian-backed 46% 45th president intends to wage against the progressive programs and values of California, which stands as a singular obstacle to his terrifying ignorance of the U.S. Constitution, let alone political norms that have governed the nation since its founding.

For today, however, we focus on the most menacing aspect of the venal barbarian: the genuine mental disorder that shapes his every action.

It’s a sad commentary that it was not until the very day he formally won power that a high-profile national news organization took the trouble to assert what has been obvious to those who bothered to research the tools of psychological diagnosis: Trump’s erratic behavior proceeds from the diagnostically distinct derangement syndrome known as narcissistic personality disorder.

In the Huffington Post, communications strategist Richard Greene reported receiving a copy of a letter sent to President Obama by three recognized professors of psychiatry who ”strongly recommend that, in preparation for assuming these responsibilities, he (Trump) receives a full medical and neuropsychiatric evaluation by an impartial team of investigators” to determine if he is mentally competent to rule over America’s nuclear arsenal.

“If someone does have “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” they can, indeed, wake up, see a Tweet or a news report from a foreign leader criticizing him, mocking him, calling him “weak” or threatening his ego in any way and order some kind of impulsive, vindictive, punishing, immediate response that could include an unhinged order to attack that foreign leader or foreign country with military force, even including the authorization of nuclear weapons,” the mental health professionals wrote.

dsm-5Toldja! This comes as no surprise, of course, to our loyal readers.

By dint of Actual Reporting, Calbuzz was the first media organization to sound the alarm about Trump’s psychological disease back in August 2015. At the time, we consulted the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, and aligned his behavior with the list of symptoms used by professional mental health workers to diagnosis the disorder.

DSM-5 criteria for narcissistic personality disorder include these features:

–Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance

–Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it

–Exaggerating your achievements and talents

–Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate

–Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people

–Requiring constant admiration

–Having a sense of entitlement

–Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations.

–Taking advantage of others to get what you want

–Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs or feelings of others

–Being envious of others and believing others envy you

–Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner.

So there’s that.

 

Donald-Trump-as-Julius-CaesarThe Triumph of Tyranny.  As Paul Krugman pointed out, the only guarantee that our republic will persevere is the consensus of political norms that has governed us since 1776, the shared standard of belief that the president should put country ahead of party, let alone the financial self-interest of himself and his grasping family.

Republican institutions don’t protect against tyranny when powerful people start defying political norms. And tyranny, when it comes, can flourish even while maintaining a republican facade.

“Famously, on paper the transformation of Rome from republic to empire never happened. Officially, imperial Rome was still ruled by a Senate that just happened to defer to the emperor, whose title originally just meant “commander,” on everything that mattered. We may not go down exactly the same route — although are we even sure of that? — but the process of destroying democratic substance while preserving forms is already underway.

Here’s the thing: The Mainstream Media bears a heavy and disgraceful responsibility for setting the stage for fascism in America. Mark our words, all it will take is a major terrorist attack – or riots in California – for this thug real estate developer and the Star Wars cantina throng of goons that surrounds him to declare martial law.

Or maybe just another bad restaurant review from Vanity Fair.

The MSM helpfully ushered Trump on to the White House throughout 2016 by persisting in framing the election with a false narrative built on a false equivalency: that his craziness was commensurate with the non-scandal of Hillary Clinton’s email use.

maralagomediaThen, piling on, they endlessly reported on the minor and quite ordinary revelations contained in hacked emails of her campaign chairman and the Democratic National Committee, with barely a nod to the meta-fact that these were stolen in attacks by a hostile foreign government and released by a white-haired megalomaniac who’s been closeted in a foreign embassy for years in a cowardly effort to avoid rape charges.

And all the while they acted as if Trump was merely a normal presidential candidate, instead of reporting on the madness that was hiding in plain sight.

Now, with few exceptions, that same MSM is shamefully engaged in normalizing his behavior, once again performing like courtiers instead of journalists. (For some world-class orange ass-kissing, check this out.)

Memo to Beltway geniuses: maybe you should check out Calbuzz more often.