Yes, Donald Trump is a serial liar who lays on nonstop Conservative bullshit with a fire hose. Yes, he is the loudest, shiniest freak at the wingnut goat rodeo. And, yes, he is living out Newt Gingrich's dream of being the...
- Advocate of American fascism
- Definer of American fascism
- Teacher of the rules of American fascism
- Arouser of those who form American fascism
- Organizer of the pro-American fascist activists
- Leader (possibly) of the American fascist forces
But by at least one measure -- his open contempt for the political press -- Donald Trump drops more barrel bombs of truth into the American political system than any other candidate running this year, because he understands the political media better and needs them less than any other candidate running this year.
At this point you should go now and read this "Gone Full Driftglass" article from Vox ("The real reason the media is rising up against Donald Trump") with will explain it all in vivid and engaging detail.
To catch you up. the core thesis of the Vox article you may or may not have just slipped away to read was this:
Their trepidation has less to do with the fact of Trump lying than with the way he lies. They don't mind being properly lied to; it's all part of the game. What they cannot countenance is being rendered irrelevant. Trump is not kissing the ring. He barely bothers to spin the media. He does not need them, or give two shits what centrist pundits think. Their disapproval only strengthens him. Media gatekeepers are in danger of being exposed as impotent bystanders.
Trump understands what we Liberal bloggers have long understood -- that the Beltway media gatekeepers are not guardians of the truth or the integrity of journalism, but are instead the deeply corrupt priesthood of the American political system, who live large off the awesome and terrible power of a Holy Fraud which they themselves have invented.
Extravagantly rewarded, deeply inbred, openly contemptuous of the people it is supposed to serve and as thoroughly rotten as Catholic Church at the time of Martin Luther, the Beltway media has used the one power it actually has -- control of the "respectable" teevee cameras, editorial pages and radio stations -- to enforce its baroque Both Siderist parody of actual journalism.
For as long as candidates and public figures have depended on the clowns who control the cameras, the high priests of the Beltway media have been able to position themselves as the indispensable intermediaries between The People and those seeking to fleece The People. For decades, they have been the absolute arbiters of Seriousness and Sin and the dispensers of excommunication and expiation. Play their game, follow their Both Siderist rituals --
This is the part played by the conservative network of think tanks and media outlets — to provide a "side" to back any conservative claim, so there are always two. That way, the media feels safe sticking to "he said, she said." It's a comfy arrangement.
-- and make the appropriate sacrifices --
...Lies about policy are fine; lies about trivial, personal, or easily verifiable claims are not.
The media has been cowed from making any judgments about policy, which is why Jeb Bush can claim he'll create 4 percent growth by fiat and not become a laughingstock. Every Republican candidate who has put out a tax plan has relied on a whole series of fantastical judgments about the ability of regressive tax cuts to spur economic growth, but Chuck Todd hasn't denounced them as liars.
Even as its power erodes, though, the rituals and habits of insider political media remain, a kind of polite fiction, one that politicians pay respect to by participating. There has been a kind of fragile detente. A certain style of lying has become more or less acceptable, as long as it follows unspoken rules.
But if you defy the Holy Church of Centrism, break the Both Siderist commandment and refuse to keep the Sunday Shows sacred, you are marginalized, ignored, cast into the irrelevant wilderness of (shudder) occasional MSNBC Saturday morning Liberal ballast guest appearances or (horrors!) blogging.
For decades, the Holy Church of Centrism has maintained its hold on power by capitulating more and more openly to the barbarians -- acceding to the whims of the Genuinely Insane Right by playing them off against an Imaginary Unreasonable Left through a series of more and more transparently ludicrous false equivalences. The whole, unholy contraption only holds together by an unspoken agreement among the primates of the church to never call attention to the absurdity of the bullshit they all must sling every day to keep up the charade...and to never, ever give the microphone to anyone who may point out that their empire is a sham and its petty emperors have no clothes.
This depraved collusion between a political party which has become ever more openly fascistic and a Beltway media which has become ever more committed to pretending it isn't happening has provided the perfect opening for someone like Trump to walk right into the main cathedrals of the Holy Church of Centrism, dick-slap its archbishops in the face, and dare them to call him out over it.
Trump is from money and fame and media, so he is not awed by the wealth and trappings of the Holy Church of Centrism. He understands that beneath the lights and makeup and costumes, it's just another whorehouse plying the world's oldest profession: providing it's clientele with titillating fantasies in exchange for money. And broadly speaking there is nothing wrong with that profession: an honest sex worker providing a needed service at a fair price is no less honorable a honest carpenter, or baker or author.
But it is a world where everyone is playing a role that depends on the temporary suspension of disbelief. After the clients are gone, everyone understands that Chantelle the Naughty Nurse, Margueritte the Submissive Librarian and Joe the Stud, go back to being Diane the single mom, Julie the student trying to work her way through a marketing degree at the University of Illinois, and Ernie the kinda schlubby divorced guy who works at Allstate and gets lonely sometimes.
The difference is, after the lights go on and the janitors roll their cleaning carts in at the Holy Church of Centrism, everyone goes right on pretending that Chuck Todd is a Serious Journalist, that Bill Kristol is a Brilliant Thinker and that David Brooks is a Wise Conservative Public Intellectual.
And they have gotten away with it too, for far, far too long.
But comes now Donald Trump, a man who knows both teevee and prostitution intimately, and knows that every time NBC or CNN or Fox points a camera in his direction, he is generating revenue and ratings for Comcast, Time/Warner or News Corp.
He's the one putting money in everyone else's pockets, which means he is the customer. And per ancient whorehouse protocol, as a paying customer who is raining money in every direction, he is entitled to be treated with deference and respect. His jokes are to be laughed at. His wild lies are to indulged. He is entitled to blow in telephonic-booty-calls whenever he feels like it and stuff a fistful of metaphorical Grover Clevelands into Chuck Todd's Speedo and tell him to shake his moneymakers.
Of course, if a client gets too wild and destructive, it is also ancient whorehouse protocol that the proprietor of the establishment can throw the rude bastard out on his ass. Ban them for life, or until the learn some goddamn manners.
Ah, but that would require taking sides. That would require articulating some kind of objective standards of conduct which Trump and Trump alone has transgressed. Which would, in turn, violate the Prime Directive of the Holy Church of Centrism:
Thus the dilemma. The old-guard political media has always seen itself as a disinterested referee. But what they confront now is aggressive, unapologetic nonsense, piped up from a nationalist, ethnocentric, revanchist conservative base through the mouth of one Donald J. Trump. He is forcing them to choose sides, to accept his bare assertions and make a mockery of their purported allegiance to accuracy ... or to call him out and, in the eyes of his supporters, formally align against him.
For months now, at event after event, Trump has pointed to the serried ranks of network news cameras and explained quite explicitly that the only reason they are here -- the only reason all those red lights are blinking -- is because of ratings.
Because Trump is putting money in their pockets.
Trump knows the high priests of the Holy Church of Centrism for what they are, and mercilessly names and shames them in ways no one but a handful of disreputable Liberal bloggers have ever dared to do.
And in that one, specific sense, he is currently the most honest man in politics.
Crossposted at driftglass' blog.