Donald Trump wowed the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) – a lollapalooza, conservative love-in. The crowd was so eager to show their devotion to the great man they waved Russian flags with “TRUMP” emblazoned across them.
In fairness, the poor devoted didn’t know they were Russian flags – they were simply taken in by tricksters. It wasn’t the only time during the service that a con artist sold the giddy galoots a bill of goods. Nearly every speaker spooned the crowd with sugary, low-fact philosophy.
Trump sank to the occasion – throwing out easily digestible inanity to the uncritical hordes. The so-called ‘fake media’ was given a ritual spanking. ‘Anonymous sources’ was a particular target of his vitriol. Which was odd as he referred to a ‘very, very substantial guy’ – anonymous, known only as ‘Jim’ – as his authority on the dangers of traveling to Paris.
He stepped up his war on the media by doling out special punishment for the headliners on his enemies’ list – The New York Times, CNN, the Los Angeles Times, Politico, BuzzFeed, the BBC and the Guardian. Stabbing the first amendment in the eye, these worst of the worst were banished from Sean Spicer’s untelevised press conference – aka the ‘gaggle’.
Further, the administration tried to mute the drumbeat of negative news reporting on its unsavory and unAmerican relationships. The reliably ingratiating toady, Reince Priebus was dispatched to strong arm the FBI. He demanded America’s police tell the media there was no truth to Trump’s Russian connection. The FBI told Trump’s pet badger to bugger off – they weren’t about to lie for the liar.
Trump wasn’t done for the day. Much like the crazy uncle who intersperses complains that ‘the “Price Is Right” is fixed’ with mutterings about the Illuminati and pedophilia, Trump snorted awake and blurted (tweeted) out:
“FAKE NEWS media knowingly doesn’t tell the truth. A great danger to our country. The failing @nytimes has become a joke. Likewise @CNN. Sad!”
There is irony in this. No one is more invested in the media than Trump. Richard Nixon – another President famous for his expressed hostility to the media – would have been happy to see the media of his day disappear. Trump is of a different opinion. He lives in dread that the NY Times and CNN will drop coverage of him. His nightmare is to be ignored. Without the oxygen of publicity, he would have no reason to be.
I have no doubt that the editors and journalists of the news outlets targeted by Trump privately express abomination for the buffoon. But in their hearts, they know that he is good for business. The NY Times has struggled in the digital age. Yet as the butt of scorn, they have added subscribers.
And these subscribers are living in a media age where the ‘serious’ news comes ever closer to resembling ‘Entertainment Tonight’.
It is an abomination. Trump is President of the United States. And what his administration does affects the lives of many both American and foreign. The US – despite acting like a drunk, moody teenager – still has the economic might to make markets. It is still the only viable power against old time imperial aggressors like the Russians. Upstart pissants with nuclear pretensions like the North Koreans. And inexorable economic competitors like the Chinese.
Yet the average Trump voter now treats news of the administration with the same mindset as a viewer of a slasher movie. They may be terrified – but only in the same way as a swimmer is of a shark. They don’t really believe that they are going to be a victim – but psychologically they act as if the moment is inevitable.
It is a paradox that, while these poor deluded live with an existential dread of terrorists, illegal aliens, and North Koreans, they are blissfully unconcerned by the things that will hurt them – poor healthcare, rapacious bankers, poisoned food, and Republicans promising that they have what ails them.