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CSotD: Changing Times

A potpourri of cartoons today, but I’ll start with this commentary by Ann Telnaes (WashPost) on the latest, and perhaps shortest, rejection of yet another Trump lawsuit.

The justices declined to hear the case with no more explanation than it merited:

The application for injunctive relief presented to Justice Alito and by him referred to the Court is denied. 

It brings to mind Nixon v United States — one of the best-named cases in history — in which the Court decided 8-0 that Nixon could not claim executive privilege to hide the White House tapes and other evidence from investigators, Justice Rehnquist having recused himself as a former Nixon staff member.

Up until that moment, it had still seemed possible that Nixon would escape to serve out the rest of his term and retain his honor.

After years of discriminatory justice and FBI/CIA spying on civilians and the encouragement of hard-hat “patriots” inflicting violence on peace marchers and Panthers murdered in their beds and students shot to death by the National Guard, it was hardly surprising that many of us had expected a great tut-tutting and washing of hands in place of justice.

But there it was: The system worked, and Nixon, a crook but not a traitor or a fool, resigned 16 days later.

We can’t expect a different man to take that same route, but we can at least feel good that our justice system seems to be intact.


But, as Steve Brodner (Ind) notes, it’s not 1974, and, while Nixon invented the Silent Majority, Trump has weaponized the mob.

I particularly like the term “Infodemic,” because this bizarre movement is built not simply on spin but on outright, deliberate, pathological lies, and it is indicative of how the elites have misjudged the frustrations of those at the bottom of the ladder, and misjudged how far up the ladder they reach.

When Trump first emerged as a political figure, his outrageous lies drew laughter and contempt, but, indeed, who’s laughing now?

The days of Nixon were the days of gatekeepers. There were people who felt Nixon had been given a bad deal, but they were dismissed as kooks and nobody gave them a voice, just as, a dozen or so years later, there were people who insisted that Elvis had faked his death to achieve privacy.

In those days, people who seemed gullible or extremist or slightly nuts were not granted air time or interviews in the papers except when presented as entertainment for the sane and sensible, along with people who collected corkscrews or handfed polar bears.


But the same Internet that allowed left-handed flutists to find each other also allowed gullible extremist nuts to gather, while the expansion of broadcasting and cable allowed for the exploitive niche programming which has resulted in the style of gutless, offend-nobody media here satirized by Tom Tomorrow (Ind).

It’s important to realize that journalistic neutrality, as a deliberate policy, only emerged as WWII shortages forced mergers of the two papers that had battled things out in most towns of any size. As the stronger paper absorbed the weaker, it promised to present news acceptable to both audiences.

Which worked pretty well, until those audiences began to include large, vocal numbers of gullible, extremist nutcases.

Eventually, it meant that, if someone said X was bad, reporters had to find another expert who would say that X was good, regardless of how obvious it might be that X was absolutely, inherently evil.

That’s not “fairness,” nor is it “neutrality.”

It’s pandering.


In the political realm, pandering has a long history, with various charismatic figures stepping up to enthrall the populace.

History, not being neutral, often makes it had to sort the Billy Sundays from the William Jennings Bryans, though both take blows in movies like “Elmer Gantry” and “Inherit the Wind,” neither of which make pretense of fairness or neutrality, but which do proudly claim to be correct.

Now Joel Pett (Trib) charges the GOP with the bad kind of pandering, and the challenges his “citizen” flings in the elephant’s face make it hard to claim that the party is being fair or neutral in its choices.

Nixon resigned after being slapped down by the Court, but, as Ed Hall (Artizans) puts it, Donald Trump is no Richard Nixon. If repeated bankruptcies didn’t stop him from going back to banks to borrow more money for more doomed enterprises, there’s no reason to think he won’t at least proclaim, if not honestly believe, that his legal setbacks are part of a massive conspiracy.

Massive doesn’t begin to cover the level of conspiracy it would require, and I say that as someone who worked the polls Election Day. To fake the results would require the cooperation of street-level volunteers and city clerks and county officials across the entire country. It’s ridiculous. It’s preposterous.

It doesn’t matter.

As Jonathan Last has written, Trumpism is a religion, and his true believers cannot be argued out of their faith.

If someone believes the story of Noah as history rather than folklore, you will not change their mind by asking about kangaroos and llamas or by the greater effort of comparing square footage with obvious requirements.


Neither can you expect to reason with this fellow in Bob Gorrell (Creator)’s cartoon, who thinks you’re picking on him because he voted for Trump, rather than seeing his vote for Trump as evidence of a much deeper, lifelong sense of (perhaps justified) bitter alienation and rejection.

Trump is simply the end result, but he’s become the focal point and his exact place in the grand pageant is irrelevant.


Mike Thompson (USA Today) cites Charles Dickens as capturing our current moment, and I have referred to both “A Christmas Carol” and “A Tale of Two Cities” recently.

But maybe the one to read is “Great Expectations,” in which a poor boy is elevated to the middle class and immediately becomes ashamed and dismissive of the good people among whom he was born.

Pip learned his lesson, which is almost always fiction.

At least until we offer more support to make those stories come true.



Community Comments

#1 Kip Williams
@ 11:38 am

Boy, remember when Republican justices used to recuse themselves over obvious and clear-cut conflicts of interest?

#2 Bob Crittenden
@ 1:35 pm

Odd coincidence – the 1946 version of Great Expectations aired on TCM last night (which is a little easier for me to remember than the book, which I read a half century ago).

#3 gezorkin
@ 6:31 pm

Can the cartoonist who drew the poor fellow in Gorrell’s comic be reasoned with?

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