Thursday, March 15, 2018

I Am David Roberts

No, I am actually not David Roberts.

But in our current words-by-Kurt-Vonnegut-music-by-Philip-K-Dick universe, it is a genuinely surreal experience to crack open a real "paper" with a paid writing staff and read things for which many of us on the Left were cast out of polite society as untouchable pariahs for saying on our dirty, hippie "blogs" not so many years ago.

From Vox:

The real problem with the New York Times op-ed page: it’s not honest about US conservatism

It wants to challenge its readers, but not with the ugly truth.

By David Roberts @drvoxdavid Mar 15, 2018, 9:30am EDT

[New York Times editorial page manager James] Bennet clearly believes liberals live in a bubble. He wants to challenge them. It still hasn’t occurred to him to challenge them from the left, so he goes out looking for more conservatives.

But what kind of conservatives are on offer at NYT?

Consider, oh, David Brooks. His conservatism, of Sam’s Club affectation, fiscal conservatism, tepid social liberalism, and genial trolling of center-leftists at Davos — whom does it speak for in today’s politics, beyond Brooks?

Or Ross Douthat. He is sporadically interesting, often infuriating, but above all, pretty idiosyncratic. His socially conservative “reformicon” thing — whom does it speak for in today’s politics, beyond Douthat?

Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss are a familiar type of glib contrarian. Their opposition to Trump has given them undue credibility among Washington lefties, whom they relentlessly (and boringly) troll. But whom are they speaking for? What has the Never Trump movement amounted to?

These writers are, to a (wo)man, alienated from the animating force in US conservatism, which is Trumpism. They command no divisions. They have nothing to do with what is going on in American politics today.

They might serve the purpose of challenging liberal thinking, but they do not serve the purpose of exposing NYT readers to the people and the movement from which they are allegedly alienated.

If Bennet wants to do that, he needs to be clear-eyed about what the right is today...

So how many of these “true” conservatives did there turn out to be? Almost none! A few intellectuals and writers have jumped ship (David Frum, Bill Kristol, George Will), but the Wall Street Journal, Fox, Breitbart, and the rest have happily adapted to acting as state media. For all intents and purposes, Trump commands the support and loyalty of the GOP coalition.

The ragged band devoted to the principles of conservative governing philosophy is in exile, with no home. It was, it turns out, almost entirely epiphenomenal to the movement; its roots were an inch deep.

So what motivates this swell of right-wing support for Trump? At this point, though many people on all sides still refuse to acknowledge it, the evidence is overwhelming: It was cultural backlash, against immigrants, minorities, uppity women, liberals, and all the other forces seen as dislodging traditional white men from their centrality in American culture.

The people who support Trump have been embedded in a hermetically sealed right-wing media bubble for so long that they only know liberals as horrific caricatures and only experience politics as a war to save white Christian culture from its sworn enemies. They are exposed to endless lies and conspiracy theories designed to keep them in a frenzy, convinced that antifa is around the corner and Sharia law is imminent.

If the New York Times wanted to expose its readers to the motive force of contemporary conservatism, that’s the kind of stuff it would run.

But let’s be real, James Bennet is not going to run that stuff in the NYT...
Obviously, I agree with almost everything in the article, because it is virtually identical to what I have been writing on my own blog every day for the past 13 years. And saying out loud (often very loud) to friends for much longer than that. 

What bothers me is where the author stopped short.  He got the "who" and the "what" right.  Screwed up on the "when" somewhat, considering that this madness has been loudly metastatizing inside the Republican Party for decades.  But I was really let down in the "why" department.  Because if the facts presented here are true -- and I certainly believe them to be -- then the indictment of The New York Times op-ed page also applies to the Washington Post op-ed page, which enthusiastically participates in the same farce.  It is also an indictment of every major network Sunday morning political show.  Every PBS political discussion program.  Every public affairs program on NPR.  And the overwhelming majority of cable news network programming. 

And so the question remains, why?  What is the motive behind a conspiracy this comprehensive to deny the existence of a calamity this huge?  And remember, this conspiracy of conspicuous and malignant silence is not being carried out by dentists or farmers or long-haul truckers.  It is being carried out by journalists: members of a professional which enjoys unique protections which the founders wrote into the Constitution so that our free press would be able to tell us the truth about what the rich and powerful are getting away with behind closed doors without far or favor.

I have my own theories derived from decades of careful observations, deduction, and refinement.  And they hold up remarkably well.

But for all of that, I'm still just some guy in a cornfield in the middle of Middle America who is not David Roberts.  I have no access to primary sources.  No friends in the business who owe me a favor or will confirm or deny my informed speculations.  There is almost no one in the media who has ever replied to an email from me and none who is ever going to spill the beans to me about exactly why the corporations who own the Beltway media have made a fetish out of protecting this particular lie at all costs.  The closest I have gotten so far is when I asked Dave Weigel at Netroots Nation why in the nine billion names of God do people in his industry media still fete Newt Gingrich like a favorite uncle and put him on teevee as if he has something to offer other than unalloyed wingnut bullshit.

Mr. Weigel laughed and laughed and walked away.

Behold, a Tip Jar!


Donald Walsh said...

C’mon DG you know the answer to this. In 1971 the Powell Memo called on the wealthy to take over the reins of power to counteract unions and the middle class cutting into their profits (see Thom Hartmann’s book Heist). Eventually the media outlets were bought up by billionaires whose passion was not for journalistic integrity and the democracy-sustaining power of the press, but for choking off the dissemination of ideas that would run counter to billionaires’ best interests. Basically they refuse to acknowledge your existence DG, because to do so would tend to raise awareness that there is actually an alternative to their intravenous drip of pro-capitalist anesthesia. If you ever get disappeared DG I know who I blame.

trgahan said...

"The ragged band devoted to the principles of conservative governing philosophy is in exile"

Fuck that! As you've detailed Driftglass, these are the very people who BUILT today's Republican Party. They aren't exiles, they are the architects.

They are the ones who took America's White Nationalist Fascist movement and taught them to do things like say "Christian Values" instead of "Racial Segregation;" to insist on "State's Rights!" when they didn't control the White House, then insist on authoritarian loyalty to executive when they did.

The only difference is David Brooks et al. is they look over their shoulders before dropping the N-bomb.

Jeff Olson said...

Maybe, Driftglass, it is time to look at other sources to both apply pressure and get answers to these questions.
Of course, it is not answers you are really looking for, but admissions of guilt and complicity.
The Guardian from Manchester doesn't have a horse in this race. For what it is worth, I have had pretty good luck getting answers from their columnists on the opinions pages. Direct and in my email box.
So, just a thought.

In Solidarity, Arctic Socialist Hellscape of Brown Cheese and Waffles.

R Middleton said...

I hope that you will be gentle if you choose to reply to this comment from a long-time fan.

I agree with you almost completely, but I think I see a contradiction. The main course seems to be you agreeing with Roberts' point that the Times editorial page props up Potemkin conservative thinkers who "command no divisions" instead of the true, even uglier face of the Republican party. You close your entry with dessert, describing that you once confronted Weigel as to why Gingrich is taken seriously. Isn't Gingrich more in line with GOP voters? Does his rhetoric not offer a more useful window into "what we're up against"?

The reason I ask is to say: What is the answer? Is there even a "polite society" to cast the monsters out from when perhaps 40% of our fellow citizens agree with any vile lie that's offered? I have been reading you for years and you are right about the deceptions. Again, please excuse my bold naivete in asking: What can be done?

jim said...

I suspect tech right now (editing software in particular) is giving historiographers raging shit-fits as they notarize essential analog & digital footage for dear life.

The first casualty of Blitz-FUD is certainty.

Aurora Silvermane said...

I believe the “why” is tied to much more important biases than “liberal” or “conservative”, and that “pleasing the donor class” falls a bit flat as far as a motive for peddling Both Siderist bullshit and cradling Republican testicles. They may be egotistical, but you can’t take mere flattery to the bank.

Teh Media is primarily focused on cultivating and harvesting human attention to sell to advertisers. Republicans have found an effective formula to harness the anger and fear of the Perpetually Aggrieved and turn it into power and profit. I think Teh Media is attempting to hitch their wagon to this method while casting a wider net. It comes off as disingenuous and half-assed because the Faux News/GOP method works on a very specific personality type and Faux, et al. has that market cornered. They’re trying to scoop up those who haven’t drunk the kool-aid using a version of the Faux method (repeat something until it becomes “true”, then indulge people’s confirmation bias); Both Siderism has the staying power for the notoriously cynical Gen Xers.

Robt said...

* " The ragged band devoted to the principles of conservative governing philosophy is in exile"

It has always been about developing elusive ways to gain power to give to the that power to the highest bidder. To use how ever they new power owner decides. And the NYT like other speech protected organizations receive revenue for promoting their paid advertising even when it is thought control advertising.

Being exposed to such differing and opposing thought has it's place. Problem has always been if the recipients of hearing this propagandizing speech. If they are adequately provided with the education to discern and critically think for themselves in the midst of over whelming unfounded facts.

* "So what motivates this swell of right-wing support for Trump? At this point, though many people on all sides still refuse to acknowledge it".

The long term funding to never let the people become what they were in days of FDR, Johnson. Where freedoms perused get revealed. The was cheap labor and profits in slavery before the Civil War ruined that "free Market" that Adam Smith seems a bit shy to discuss for all the quoting the right cites of him.
The masses are resources to extract from. Not people with rights to pursue happiness/ Silly preamble jokes. It is why Citizens United . make legal the purchasing of Government selling of laws to those that can afford to buy them and maintain their power over other with it.

The nasty ugly truth of seating Gorsuch to SCOTUS. Bought and paid for.
To own the appearance of judicial equality from a judges mouth that owes everything to his owner. Slavery reborn and at times they convince people to submit their freedom to slavery. For profit.

The wealth has used it promise of greed, (where Poor southerners used to think they might become a big plantation owner) Today they use money and its power to run the facade of conservatism.
And ideology that is what it is paid to be at the moment in time those who pay for it to exist desire it be identified in that floating needed moment.

Where is the ideological truth and purpose to "small and no government" When they use government (big government) to make laws to force the masses to abide as they place the privileged above such laws.

Conservatism corporate faithful have only cheap labor to profit from in producing their products with that labor under a communist nation void of those American ideals they abandon. . After their wealth and freedoms provided the very existence they enjoy.

We all witnessed The Wall Street Bail outs.

Socialism for the banks and rugged individual on your own and government out of the way for everyone else.

Conservatism will dive into a pool not knowing how to swim. Expect someone to rescue

It is rules of survival and suppression of others. Once rescued, they will toss an anvil to others in the water in need.

Reggan courted the white supremacists in his day. hell, as Governor of Calif. when he saw black people with rifles marching around. he became all restrictive of the 2nd Amendment and banned that in Calif.
The John Birch Society is as vile as it was just like the Federalist Society.
The war profiteering and treasury theft during GW Bush and Trump is different how Called a populist? Popular among white supremacists?

All this and tons of other mindless sales pitches promoted even through the NYT. Because they want some of the profits. And the GOP is a financial racket of organized crime. Root being the money and all it greases.