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CSotD: Distant images coming into focus

As is often the case, Clay Jones‘ essay is as good as his cartoon, and, in this case, the writing does a more in-depth job of advancing a critical conversation.

Jones addresses both parts of the caravan issue: The first is whether or not this caravan is of any particular significance — and he provides evidence that it is not — and, second, he addresses the fact that Donald Trump has moved on from spin and exaggeration into absolute, downright, unquestionable lies.

His contention that Democrats, or George Soros, or both, are funding the caravan is not quite as ridiculous as his demented assurance that this group includes people from the Middle East.

He is barely a step from claiming that Polish forces have attacked a radio station, and it would be nice to dismiss it as lunacy, to say that nobody could possibly believe there were Arabs marching alongside the Guatamalans, but we’ve been here before and, more to the point, we’ve heard the crowds cheering this errant, obvious, toxic nonsense.

And, if Dear Leader hasn’t admitted to being a Nazi, he did, last night, proudly declare himself a “nationalist,” which is close enough.

After all, we’ve built the concentration camps and begun filling them with children. The fact that we aren’t gassing them and burning their corpses seems like a fine point in the grand scheme of things.

 

There will always be lunatics, bigots and paranoid, psychotic people willing to believe nonsense and to line up behind a charismatic bully, but Nick Anderson notes the fact that even those who recognize Trump’s ability to lie, insult, denigrate and belittle are not even simply, silently allowing him to rage, but are actively assisting him.

Henry Clay once said “I’d rather be right than president,” but that was a long time ago and today the urge for power is enough to overcome ethics, patriotism and common decency.

Two years ago, if someone said that, I’d have dismissed it as paranoia or political extremism, but look around you. Indeed, the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

Surely, some revelation is at hand, and November 6 may be the last chance to roll things back in a civilized manner.

 

Matt Davies notes the current partnership between personal greed and political ambition, and there was a time not so long ago when an attack on Social Security and Medicaid would bring forth a deluge of negative votes.

I wish I thought it would happen again, but I’m not sure Dear Leader has not, in fact, embedded his propaganda into the national consciousness such that his distractions will be effective.

 

And, while Trump’s Congressional enablers may be playing for power and for the favors of their One Percent patrons, Pat Bagley points out that Trump is in it for personal gain, for the enrichment of his family and inner circle.

There is a rant that keeps appearing on social media — perhaps originating from Russia but spread by sincere Americans — which claims that the revelations in the New York Times article about Trump’s finances should have created a scandal but have, instead, been ignored.

This is simply untrue. As noted here before, it’s an issue of such complexity that any competent reporter trying to build on it is going to need time.

And it has not been ignored. There have been several editorial cartoons on the topic and there have been articles based on it.

Which brings us to our …

Juxtaposition of the Day

(Phil Hands)

(Chip Bok)

These may not seem closely related, but there’s a point to be made and it has to do not with the individual stories themselves, but with how we report the news. And it’s personal both in terms of my own experience as a journalist and my own experience driving around New England this past weekend.

Phil Hands boils down much of the New York Times reporting into a single image: Trump is a liar about the amount of help he got from his father. He received tens of millions of dollars in under-the-counter money, in no-payback loans and in dubiously legal gifts.

And if you wonder why the old man sent the little shit off to military school, consider the fact that, after all the money he was given willingly, he made a move to steal the rest and his father had to remove him as executor of his estate.

Meanwhile, Chip Bok points out the truth behind the Saudi government’s latest public relations move, which itself turned out to have a chilling, fraudulent subtext: Women can drive, but female critics are still seen as traitors.

And while I was driving around, I heard Terry Gross interview two of the three reporters on the NYTimes Trump story on Fresh Air, and I also heard Brook Gladstone interview a Saudi expert on On The Media.

Both interviews were, as you might expect, excellent in-depth discussions. But what struck me, and what justifies the juxtaposition, is that, in both cases, the interviewees made a point of singling out the fact that previous reporting had missed strong clues and, instead, had lazily passed along mythology.

Gladstone’s guest, a professor, made too much, IMHO, of the notion that journalists were actively, consciously serving US political interests by repeatedly, over decades, extolling a democratization of Saudi Arabia that never happened.

Never attribute to evil that which can be explained by foolishness, and the journalists on Fresh Air were dead-on in blaming laziness and a lack of background in business for the way reporters swallowed Trump’s “self-made man” claims and repeated his glorious, self-promoting mythology without examining it.

However, let’s not lose focus of the reality in which journalists operate: Even energetic, curious, well-informed reporters can be muzzled in under-staffed newsrooms where beancounters instead of editors set the standards.

After all, the NYTimes gave those three reporters a full year to work on a single story. Most reporters are given a number of stories to turn in each day, and they may also have social media quotas to fill as well.

Who needs censorship?

 

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