Saturday, August 22, 2015

TRIUMPH OF THE TRUMP: THE MEDIA STARTS TO FALL IN LOVE, AND THE FANS BECOME NASTIER

Last night I saw this tweet from The Washington Post's Robert Costa, who was covering Donald Trump's rally at a football stadium in Mobile, Alabama:



It seemed that Trump, in a fit of hubris, had booked a too-large venue for his rally. If that was the case, I expected to wake up to news stories describing the rally as a failure and an embarrassment. Reporters would be telling us that Trump might finally be peaking; Trump would angrily deny it, of course, and he'd blame an aide for the stadium decision. The campaign would roll on, but the Mobile rally would be a bad moment.

So I turned to Costa's story, written with Dave Weigel -- and it's a love letter. Costa and Weigel may not be falling in love with Trump exactly, but they're head over heels in love with the Trump campaign. And that's dangerous, because coverage like this, if we get it from more and more influential journalists, is going to make a Trump presidency seem increasingly thinkable:
It was the most audacious Donald Trump spectacle yet in a summer full of them, as the Republican presidential front-runner, in his Boeing 757, thundered over a football stadium here Friday night and gave a raucous speech to one of the largest crowds of the 2016 campaign.

But Trump’s flashy performance was about more than showmanship. His visit to Alabama was coolly strategic, touching down in the heart of red America and an increasingly important early battleground in the Republican nominating contest.

The Manhattan developer, who strode onstage to “Sweet Home Alabama,” is trying to show that his candidacy has broad and lasting appeal across every region of the country -- especially here in the South, where Alabama and seven other states are holding a clustered voting blitz March 1.

The scene Friday night put an exclamation point on an extraordinary run in which the flamboyant mogul has thoroughly disrupted the presidential campaign and kindled a national discussion about not just politics but American culture itself.
Clearly the earth moved for Costa and Weigel.

I know what's going on: Our campaigns are interminable, and reporters whine endlessly about the tedium. The campaign press corps hates Hillary Clinton, so I've been expecting the journos to develop a crush on some Republican or other, but I thought they'd turn to whoever seemed like a frattish glad-hander, the equivalent of George W. Bush in 2000, who also ran against a Democrat the press loathed, just because he at least made his part of the trail a welcoming place. Instead, reporters seem to be delighting in the Trump spectacle more than Trump himself, because it's lively and entertaining and not at all tedious. They're having fun -- and the coverage is just going to get better and better as a result.

The press is now starting to see the Trump campaign as not only enjoyable but smart -- Costa and Weigel accept the campaign's premise that Alabama, and the South in general, might be the key to a Trump victory in the primary contest, a notion to which Bloomberg's Joshua Green devotes an entire non-skeptical article. Yes, the media is now treating Donald Trump campaign strategists as wily savants. We truly are in the last days.

Costa and Weigel are impressed by Trump's newfound friendship with Alabama senator Jeff Sessions, who was brought onstage at the rally and donned a "Make America Great Again" hat. (Costa notes on Twitter that Sessions still hasn't endorsed Trump, however.) This is also catnip for reporters -- they know that you're not supposed to be able to win the nomination without support from party elites, and now Trump has some. He's legit. Reporters are starting to swoon.

****

The coverage of the rally in The New York Times is less breathless, but it's still somewhat giddy: "Donald Trump Fails to Fill Alabama Stadium, but Fans’ Zeal Is Undiminished." Those fans are, um, a little creepy. Here's a quote about the candidate from one of them:
“Hopefully, he’s going to sit there and say, ‘When I become elected president, what we’re going to do is we’re going to make the border a vacation spot, it’s going to cost you $25 for a permit, and then you get $50 for every confirmed kill,’” said Jim Sherota, 53, who works for a landscaping company. “That’d be one nice thing.”
Costa and Weigel turn up this Trumpite:
Cheryl Burns, 60, was on a road trip from California when she heard that Trump would be in Alabama. She turned her car around and got in line, warning people of what happened to states when liberals took them over.

“There is no more California,” Burns said. “It’s now international, lawless territory. Everything is up for grabs. Illegal aliens are murdering people there. People are being raped. Trump isn’t lying about anything -- the rest of the country just hasn’t found out yet.”
Michael Froomkin writes:
Various online commentators have suggested that the two attackers of a homeless Hispanic man in Boston, who cited Trump as their motivation, are the forerunners of American Brownshirts.

... I’m always alert for those brown signals, but I didn’t find nearly as strong signal in the actions of a couple of thugs (so long as it remains just a couple...) as I do in quotes like the one above. If large numbers of voters are living a reality-distortion zone in which California is now Mad Max land, anything is possible.
Also in attendance at the Trump shindig, though perhaps more interested in picking up recruits than showing support, was this guy:
On the street, Olaf Childress, a neo-Confederate activist, gave out copies of “The First Freedom” newspaper, which had headlines about “Black-on-white crime,” “occupied media” and “censored details of the Holocaust.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center reported on Olaf Childress in 2008:
The neo-Confederate stalwart plans to transport a casket bearing a copy of the 14th Amendment from his southern Alabama home to the shores of the Potomac River for burial....

The vehicle carrying the deceased will be none other than Childress' "Death to the 14th Amendment" hearse. After buying the 1995 Buick Roadmaster about a year and a half ago, Childress outfitted it with magnetic Confederate battle flags on both front doors and the words "Death to the 14th Amendment" on the rear doors....

Childress, a 32-year resident of Silverhill, Ala., population 616, announced the amendment's upcoming interment in the September issue of his newspaper, The First Freedom (motto: "Inviting the Zionist-controlled media'cracy to meet a rising free South").
At one point in 2008, the SPLC story goes on to tell us, Childress and his hearse were stopped at a police checkpoint:
As he tells it on his website in a post headlined, "Alabama's Mossad-trained stooges capture politically-incorrect hearse," when Silverhill's police chief asked to see his license and insurance, he informed her that she had no legal right to stop him. He even offered to show her where it says so in the Constitution, a copy of which he just happens to keep in the hearse. But the police chief wasn't interested. Instead, because Childress refused to sign some papers, she hauled him off to jail. Not only did Childress have to spend the night behind bars, but also police impounded the hearse at Dixie Auto Body Repair. He had to pay $135 to retrieve it two days later.
(You'll notice that he wasn't shot or Tased or beaten to within an inch of his life. Childress, of course, is white.)

Childress continues to publish The First Freedom -- check out this article, in which he argues that the culprits in the Charlie Hebdo massacre were trained agents of the Mossad. This is a guy who thinks a Trump rally could be fertile ground for recruitment. And hey, who knows?

But is the mainstream press going to pay more attention to the ugliness of the Trumpites' rhetoric or to the increasing professionalization of the campaign? I fear it's the latter -- and thus I fear for America.

10 comments:

marieburns said...

So Politico's coverage of the same event should come as a surprise:

Ben Schreckinger: "It was immigration, not segregation, that brought some 20,000 southerners — far fewer than predicted — out for Donald Trump on Friday night, but the ghost of George Wallace loomed large. Wallace, an avowed segregationist, was the last presidential candidate to win electoral votes as a third-party candidate. The threat of Trump doing so, propelled by a hardline immigration stance that many have condemned as racist, looms over the Republican Party now as it did over the Democratic Party then, even as the enthusiasm of his following, for once, fell far short of expectations.... Trump invited Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, one of Congress’s most ardent immigration hardliners who helped the businessman craft his immigration plan, to the podium, where the two embraced."

Marie Burns

mlbxxxxxx said...

I do not see the downside to a Trump candidacy. He's clearly riling up the xenophobes and white supremacists and, consequently, highlighting the fact that the GOP is the party of white supremacists and xenophobes. I hear what you're saying about the media's focus, but I don't think the Hispanic media is going to miss his message -- they seemed to get it pretty quickly when he called them all rapists. And other minorities will take note of his fellow travelers from the Stormfront. Can he alienate them more than he has already? Don't know, but it looks like he's going to try. I can't see that as anything but good for HRC's chances.

Name a viable GOP candidate that would be better than Trump. I can't think of one. Jeb potentially seems safe to the Hispanic voters (big risk for HRC) and, if elected, dog forbid, represents the return of the Bushies. Maybe Doug Feith gets a really senior role this time. URP. I think that Trump is a net positive for our team. Shit, I think he'd probably be a tolerable president.

Victor said...

OY!
The rocks covering their holes are off, and every fucking bigoted loony-tune is out here crawling in rampage mode!

The "TEH STOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOPID" is loose upon the land.

The center cannot hold.

To quote the GREAT Yeats:
"Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


These are truly frightening times............

Victor said...

OY!
The rocks covering their holes are off, and every fucking bigoted loony-tune is out here crawling in rampage mode!

The "TEH STOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOPID" is loose upon the land.

The center cannot hold.

To quote the GREAT Yeats:
"Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


These are truly frightening times............

trnc said...

"... the flamboyant mogul has thoroughly disrupted the presidential campaign and kindled a national discussion about not just politics but American culture itself".

These guys think Trump kindled this discussion? Really? He didn't start it, he just made it fun for violent kooks to come out of the woodwork. When any sort of "discussion" takes place, mainly in the form of calling these racist nuts what they are, they scream "political correctness" and get handed larger microphones by the villagers.

Aunt Snow said...

I watched Trump's 'performance' with a kind of horror. It was like a scene from "Network." I could imagine him bringing an immigrant onstage to tear asunder limb from limb, to the cheers of that bloodthirsty crowd.

It's the American interhamwe, folks. Just you watch.

Daro said...

"TRIUMPH OF THE TRUMP"?
I've been saying "Trump Of The Will" riffing on Leni Riefenstahl.
Both work, I suppose...

Unknown said...

This is all so 1964.

Part of me says this is like in those primitive tribal areas where each side runs out towards the other side howling and holding up spears and other scary weapons, then stops just short and there insults get chanted; then the attackers retreat back a bit and the other side puts on their version of a similar show. Eventually something goes amiss and a spear gets thrown or sword gets thrust out and someone's wounded or even actually dies, and a huge magilla is made of the wounded guy's side holding up aloft and carrying him to safety or to a funeral pyre. Then's it's over for that month, or that season or that year, and a representative of the aggrieved tribe goes off and gets compensation for the dead guy's family, maybe goats or a selection of girls about ready for child bearing.

Kathleen O'Neill said...

@Aunt Snow

Well stated, and I can envision that scene as well (Network was so prescient in so many ways).

On the other hand, the only difference between Trump and the rest of the jackals is his bluntness. Based on what I've read, the other candidates have the same beliefs and they even use the same words but they aren't as flamboyant. But each and every jackal wants the same thing. Part of me is optimistic in the sense that if you want to heal you have to lance the boil and let the pus come out. Trump is the boil lancer and maybe in some way is performing a service to us all. People in denial about the danger the jackals pose to this country need to see and hear who the Rethugs have been pandering to and what they really want for this country.

Steve M. said...

Right-wingers are eagerly invoking Network in reference to Trump.