Thursday, December 07, 2023

Professional Left Podcast Episode #762

“I'm not writing to make conservatives happy. I want them to hate my opinions. I'm not interested in debating them. I want to stop them.” -- Steve Gilliard



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Tuesday, December 05, 2023

Professional Left Podcast Episode #761: No Fair Remembering That Time Michael Steele Pretended He Was a Democrat

“You say I acted atrociously. Yes. I did. I do it for a living.” -- Mike, House of Games



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Saturday, December 02, 2023

Even Stranger Wine: The Late Stage Teevee Brain

This is an excerpt from my late friend Harlan Ellison's introduction to his book Strange Wine

Revealed at Last! What Killed the Dinosaurs! And You Don't Look so Terrific Yourself.

I used to know Dan Blocker, who played Hoss Cartwright on Bonanza. He was a wise and a kind man, and there are tens of dozens of people I would much rather see dead than Dan. One time, around lunch-break at Paramount, when I was goofing off on writing a treatment for a Joe Levine film that never got made, and Dan was resting his ass from some dumb horsey number he'd been reshooting all morning, we sat on the steps of the weathered saloon that probably in no way resembled any saloon that had ever existed in Virginia City, Nevada, and we talked about reality versus fantasy. The reality of getting up at five in the morning to get to the studio in time for makeup call and the reality of how bloody much FICA tax they took out of our paychecks and the reality of one of his kids being down with something or other . . . and the fantasy of not being Dan Blocker, but of being Hoss Cartwright.

And he told me a scary story. He laughed about it, but it was the laugh of butchers in a slaughterhouse who have to swing the mauls that brain the beeves; who then go home to wash the stink out of their hair from the spattering.

He told me–and he said this happened all the time, not just in isolated cases–that he had been approached by a little old woman during one of his personal appearances at a rodeo, and the woman had said to him, dead seriously, "Now listen to me, Hoss: when you go home tonight, I want you to tell your daddy, Ben, to get rid of that Chinee fella who cooks for you all. What you need is to get yourself a good woman in there can cook up some decent food for you and your family."

So Dan said to her, very politely (because he was one of the most courteous people I've ever met), "Excuse me, ma'am, but my name is Dan Blocker. Hoss is just the character I play. When I go home I'll be going to my house in Los Angeles and my wife and children will be waiting."

And she went right on, just a bit affronted because she knew all that, what was the matter with him, did he think she was simple or something, "Yes, I know . . . but when you go back to the Ponderosa, you just tell your daddy Ben that I said . . . "

For her, fantasy and reality were one and the same...

Bonanza ran from September 12, 1959, to January 16, 1973.   That's 14 seasons and 431 episodes; the second longest running Western television series in U.S. network history.  It was also the first Western series televised in living color.  So, this conversation probably happened sometime in the mid- or late-1960s.   Back when teevee was still a magic box that brought you Three!Count!'Em!Three! networks to choose from.  When color teevee was still a rarity.  When Blocker would come into your home as Hoss Cartwright every week, year after year.   

You would have known who Hoss was and what he was about.

Another part of your brain would have also known who Walter Cronkite was and what he was about. He was serious. The news mattered. And however addled you might get, you'd never have mixed up the news of the day with life on the Ponderosa.  But somehow, through the magic of teevee, sometimes some element of that fictional drama on teevee would get to feeling familiar and real.  Especially if it was part of an ongoing drama that you spent time with over and over again for years.

Even though a part of that teevee brain knew it wasn't, it seemed like it was 

This was a principle theme of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.  

Mildred kicked at a book. “Books aren’t people. You read and I look around, but there isn’t anybody! . . . Now. . . my “family” is people. They tell me things; I laugh, they laugh! And the colours!”
The "family" she's referring to is the television program that's playing all day, every day on the walls of her "parlor".

Back to Ellison:

There was a woman who had the part of a home-wrecker on a daytime soap opera. One day as she was coming out of Lord & Taylor in New York, a viewer began bashing her with an umbrella, calling her filthy names and insisting she should leave that nice man and his wife alone!

One time during a college lecture, I idly mentioned that I had actually thought up all the words Leonard Nimoy had spoken as Mr. Spock on the sole Star Trek segment I had written; and a young man leaped up in the audience, in tears, and began screaming that I was a liar. He actually thought the actors were living those roles as they came across the tube.

The teevee brain is still with us, but in some incredibly toxic ways it has changed.  It has evolved to deal with 300 channels instead of three, and in the process, the teevee brain has, in a way, reversed the flow of credulity.  

Today, teevee viewers are used to seeing the same actor play many different parts in many different places.  No one is trying to arrest Bryan Cranston for cooking meth or Idris Elba for running a Baltimore drug empire, because [spoiler] A) both of the characters they played died in-series, and B) both actors (especially Elba) are well known for a variety of other standout roles.  

Similarly there is no confusion over who Julia Louis-Dreyfus is.  Or Edie Falco.  Or Danny DeVito.  They are talented professionals, who can put on a costume and inhabit a role that makes us laugh or cry or both. What we feel while we are being entertained is real, but by now the teevee brain knows that the actors are not the characters.  They're playing a part, and then they'll move on to the next part.  Different costume, different character, different feelings.  Then they'll move on once again.  Maybe a movie this time.  Maybe the stage.  

What the teevee brain now processes coming through the magic box is an overwhelming, kaleidoscopic tsunami of comedies, dramas, biopics, animation, docudramas, reality teevee, politics, westerns, news, science fiction, reruns, ancient aliens, cooking shows, bitchy housewives, wealth porn, porn porn, all stitched together with a million ads for better sex, sad dogs, happy dogs, eczema cures, floppy penis cures, baldness cures and Little Pills with Big Stories to Tell.

It's all just teevee.  

And the teevee brain has learned to expect performers to go from one role to the next, just as the sports brain has learned to expect that today's heel who pitches or QBs for our rival, might be tomorrow's hero when he's traded to our team and performs his miracles for us.  We'll cheer them when they play the hero, and boo them when they play the villain, but there are no world-ending stakes because it's all a game.  All just teevee.  And when they come through the magic box, the teevee brain accepts them for who they are now, not for who they were in their last series or when they wore a different number on their jersey.  

As I said, the teevee brain has reversed the flow of credulity: it now values how the performance makes it feel over whether or not the performance is strictly "real".

And the teevee brain doesn't care whether the person on the screen right now has ever been in anything else.  It is impossible to imagine watching, say, this season of Fargo with someone who rolls their eyes at Juno Temple's amazing performance because, "Who's she trying to fool?  Everybody knows that's Keely Whatshername from Ted Lasso.  I mean, she's not even American?!?  And OMG, that guy's not a sheriff.  That's Don Draper!" 

Now hold that thought in your mind while considering this story, which, if you're of a certain age, you might remember as making national news 26 years ago:

This is during the same period when when television networks began demanding that news division start showing a profit.  

From Nieman Reports, a quarter of a century ago:

The Transformation of Network News

How Profitability Has Moved Networks Out of Hard News

Twenty years ago, there was no network news “business.” The Big Three broadcast television networks—ABC, CBS and NBC—all covered news, but none generally made money doing so. Nor did they expect to turn a profit from news programming. They presented news programming for the prestige it would bring to their network, to satisfy the public-service requirements of Congress and the Federal Communications Commission, and more broadly so that they would be seen as good corporate citizens.

Back then, the networks earned enough money from entertainment programming that they could afford to run their news operations at a loss. And so they did. Former CBS correspondent Marvin Kalb recalls Owner and Chairman William Paley instructing news reporters at a meeting in the early 1960’s that they shouldn’t be concerned about costs. “I have Jack Benny to make money,” he told them.

It is no exaggeration to say that just about everything has changed since then. Today, ABC, CBS and NBC operate in a competitive environment in which most viewers have dozens of channels from which to choose. That has transformed not just TV news but the entire television industry. Those most severely threatened by the way the broadcast business operates are the Big Three. The ABC and CBS networks (now subsumed into larger corporate structures) are losing money, according to Wall Street analysts. NBC’s network profits are also falling sharply. Those who own these networks—Disney (ABC), CBS Inc. with its major stockholder, Mel Karmazin, and General Electric (NBC)—all demand that their news operations make money...

So that's what was happening to the news.  And it's no secret when the line separating "actor/entertainer" and "politician" began to collapse:

Conservative media figured this out the minute Reagan and his henchmen killed the Fairness Doctrine.  Radio and teevee were powerful tools for making listeners and viewers feel something, and that's exactly what Rush Limbaugh and all his imitators, and Fox News and all their imitators sold their customers.  Feelings.  

While Democrats were out there trying to sell policy solutions to actual problems,  Fox News was selling its customers rage and thinly-veiled racism.  Paranoia.  Patriotism.  Moral superiority.  Sexual arousal.  The vindictive joy of making Liberals cry.  And because the consumers of Conserative media were also the base of the Republican party, the language of Republican politics quickly became indistinguishable from the language of Fox News and Hate Radio. 

From The New York Times, December 12, 1994:

Republicans Get a Pep Talk From Rush Limbaugh

...The freshman class, which included not a single "femi-Nazi," one of Mr. Limbaugh's favorite epithets for supporters of women's rights, whooped and applauded, proving itself one big fan club of the man it believes was primarily responsible for the Republican avalanche in November.

Mr. Limbaugh was made an honorary member of the class as its members tonight finished a three-day orientation here sponsored by the Heritage Foundation and Empower America, two conservative Washington research organizations.

Barbara Cubin, an incoming freshman from Wyoming, told Mr. Limbaugh that because 74 percent of the nation's newspapers had endorsed Democrats, "talk radio, with you in the lead, is what turned the tide." On behalf of the women in the class, she gave him a plaque that said, "Rush Was Right." He also received a pin like the ones the freshmen wore, saying, "Majority Maker."

"Rush is as responsible for what happened here as much as anyone," said Vin Weber, a former Representative from Minnesota, now of Empower America. Citing a poll taken after the election by Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster, Mr. Weber said that people who listened to 10 hours or more a week of talk radio voted Republican by a 3-to-1 margin. "Those are the people who elected the new Congress," he said...

At this point the trajectory was clear.  As traditional news networks became more and more focused on entertaining and soothing their viewers rather than alienating them with information that made them uncomfortable, the Republican party devolved further and further into a for-profit division of Conservative Media, Inc. incorporated.  

Tony Snow could go from having his own show on Fox News and being the primary guest host of Rush Limbaugh's radio program, to being George W. Bush's press secretary and no one said "boo".

Karl Rove could go from being "Bush's Brain" in the White House ...  to Wall Street Journal contributor and Fox News political analyst ... to advisor to Donald Trump's 2020 presidential campaign, without breaking stride.  

And as the language that brought the Republican customers into the tent and kept them there -- the language of  rage, racism and paranoia -- was amped up and up and up, the mainstream media kept increasing the dosage of the anesthetizing language it uses to hang onto its customers.  Over and over again, mainstream news customers are told that there is nothing to be alarmed about.  That whatever noise you might be hearing on the Right, it's just a kooky fringe, which is loud but mostly harmless, and just as loud and just as mostly harmless as the kooky fringe on the Left.  And you all are safe from all that mishegoss here beneath the sheltering bower of the Sensible Center.

And anyway, it's all just teevee.  There's nothing dangerous going on here.  No need to raise an alarm.  It's just actors changing costumes.  Everyone knows the four walls of our democracy are solid and eternal.  Everyone know the inerrant, Capraesque wisdom of the American people will always kick in during the third act and save the day, so nothing really really bad can happen here.  Things might get weird every now and then, but the stakes aren't really real life or death, so remain calm and keep shopping.  

And this dynamic goes on and on until we arrive at a place where the entire Republican party can go very publicly insane and plunge right off the cliff into out-and-out fascism...while the Great Middle of America still can't decide whether to go with Biden or Trump, because aren't both parties pretty much the same?

Never doubt that the people at the helms of the media corporations and the political party that brought us to this precipice began this project decades ago with very definite agendas in mind.  Eliminating taxes on the wealthy.  Deregulating everything.  Gutting social programs.  And for the leaders of  Conservative Media Inc., turning the Republican base into a zombie army of reprogrammable meatbags who would believe any nonsense that was shit into their skulls as long as it made them feel righteous or furious or giddy began as nothing more as a means to those ends.  

But now -- as we on the Left warned them over and over again would happen -- the leaders of  Conservative Media Inc. have lost control of the monster they made.  Now, feeding the insatiable, junkie-hunger of that rage-drunk mob has become an end in itself.  It's either feed the monster, or lose your seat in congress.  

Feed the monster, or watch your audience share drop as the mob finds someone else to tell them what they want to hear.  

Feed the monster, or they'll come for your family.   From The Washington Post:

The role of violent threats in Trump’s GOP reign, according to Republicans

Tim Alberta is out with his latest must-read this week — a profile of freshman Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.). Meijer joined Congress just days before the Capitol insurrection and almost immediately jeopardized his political career by supporting Donald Trump’s impeachment

It’s a must-read, but a tough read. That’s because it describes an exceedingly ugly situation: one in which lawmakers are disregarding private principle in their votes and often doing so out of literal fear. Not only does Meijer describe members who advocated for invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office later voting against impeachment, but he cites fears of physical violence directly impacting such votes...

This is the late stage teevee brain of the MAGA mob.  Completely immune to facts.  Lost to reason.  Unmoored from their own past.   Moved to action entirely by the ganglia-twitching trigger-words they get from the magic box.  

Meanwhile, bathed in the soothing, narcotic hum of Both Siderism, the late stage teevee brain of the mainstream media customer is barely aware that any of this is happening.  And if it is, well it can't possibly be as bad as all that...because...uh...Both Sides Both Sides Both Sides.

And finally, let's not forget that late stage teevee brain is what makes it possible for "liberal" MSNBC to run a full-time reputation laundromat for a whole menagerie of current and recently-former Republican scumbags.  For example, does anyone doubt that, sooner or later, Steve Schmidt's old friend Nicole Wallace will find a way to get his mendacious, grifting ass readmitted yet again into the circle of the Heroes of the Resistance?  Just like she has already done?   Twice?

Remember, Schmidt was the GOP mercenary that put Sarah Palin into our lives.


But then he Came to Jebus and started calling Trump a poopy head on MSNBC, and almost as one, Liberals on social media threw themselves at him like a drunk prom date.  


He loves us!  He says all these beautiful things that no one else says!  OMG, let me get my checkbook and how much should I make it out for?

And my oh my didn't these same credulous dopes loudly and angrily scold those few of us that could not fucking believe they were falling for this guy.

Then he threw all those pretty words out the window for a Howard Schultz payday.


He said he loved us?  How could he have betrayed us like that?  

But Howard Schultz show eventually closed down and once again Steve Schmidt found himself "at liberty" as the vaudevillians used to say.  

And so, once more through the MSNBC Reputation Rehab Laundry and...he's back baby!  


Spinning all those beautiful words.  Saying things that no one else has the guts to say!  OMG, do you prefer Venmo or PayPal!!

And once again, I'm over here in my little corner of the internet wondering how the hell are these otherwise intelligent mopes falling for this con man again?

Then Schmidt threw all those pretty words out the window for a Dean Philips payday.


He said he loved us?  How could he have betrayed us like this?

Schmidt could do this, because Shmidt understands late stage teevee brain.  He was a performer, playing the role of Hero of the Resistance.  The pay was good.  The hours were good.  The reviews were good.  Then he got offered a better part as Howard Schultz's political consultant.  Six weeks.  No heavy lifting.  And when that show closed, Schmidt changed back into his Hero of the Resistance costume at MSNBC.

And the late stage teevee brain was willing to go along with it because, really, it's just teevee.  So whatever parts he had played before in any other teevee drama, what did that matter?  At that moment Steve Schmidt was giving the audience the feels it craved, and that's all that mattered.

You can go right down the line at CNN and at MSNBC and watch this happening.  Joe Scarborough. Bill Kristol.  Matthew Dowd.  Michael Steele, who will now be given his own weekend show.   Liz Cheney was a performer who worked for the political division of Conservative Media, Inc. and when she played that part she repeated the horrifying, unforgivable lies about Democrats.  

Now Cheney is this month's hot property on the not-Fox News cable news and book circuit, and she's playing that part by spilling the beans about what went on behind closed door while she was the third most powerful person in the GOP.

This is why it doesn't really surprised me when I see someone like Chris Cuomo saying trash like this:

Cuomo is a media creature and he understands the various species of late stage teevee brain.  He knows that, in the long run, whatever outrageous garbage he spews today to hang into the spotlight a minute longer, it won't be a barrier to being welcomed back into the media insider club tomorrow.  A change of costume and a new script and he'll be right back in the good graces of enough credulous chumps to make it worth his while.  

After all, it's just teevee.

I Am The Liberal Media

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Professional Left Podcast Episode #760

“Patience, n. A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.” -- Ambrose Bierce



The Professional Left is brought to you by our wholly imaginary "sponsors" and real listeners like you!

All Hail Liz Cheney... the title of a podcast I will be reviewing today.  

It's from those kooky kidz over at The Bulwark, and I patiently skimmed the "All Hail Liz Cheney" podcast (with MSNBC regular Tim Miller, and MSNBC regular Sarah Longwell, and Jonathan Last) waiting for what I knew would inevitably be there.  

Twas as if I were at a familiar fishing hole at dawn. It's cool. There's a little rain.  You know they'll practically jump into your net. All you have to do is put a line in the water and wait a few minutes..

First came the lavish praising of Liz Cheney.  She wrote a book!  Which is apparently a great thing because it "exposes" stuff.  Just like Mitt Romney's book.  And Adam  Kinzinger's book. And the other +2000 books about Trump.  

But of course they're not really "exposing" anything, are they?

1. make (something) visible by uncovering it.
"at low tide the sands are exposed"

2. reveal the true, objectionable nature of (someone or something). "he has been exposed as a liar and a traitor"

(Kind of a cheat to use the word "reveal" to define the word "expose" since they mean virtually the same thing -- 

make (previously unknown or secret information) known to others. "Brenda was forced to reveal Robbie's whereabouts"

-- but whatever.)

Anyway, nothing mind-changing or soul-shifting is being revealed or expose in these books because, after all this time, who is there left to persuade one way or another?  

Nobody.  It's all trench warfare now.  A "game of inches" as the sports people say.

If you want to add one more books to the mile-hile pile of Trump books that have already been published because you have some fantasy that someday, some historian is going to paw through the billions of words written about Trump and the Republican party, find your particular book, crack it, read it, and say "Aha!  Now I get it!"...well, OK.  Great.

And of your pals at the Recently Former Republicans media corporation want to pimp your book, well that's fine too.  

But just between you and me and George Soros, everyone knows that there's nothing anyone can write -- no series of words, no matter how cunningly constructed -- that is gonna make anyone who is still a Republican jump the fence.  Or any committed Both Siderist climb down off that fence. Or open the eyes of any Liberal any wider about all the shit we already knew about the Republican party decades  ago.  

So all of that just breezed past me.  Don't care.  Don't care.  Don't care.  Well, 90% "don't care" and the other 10% is a kind of pity I guess.  After all, these people have had their noses rubbed in the reality that virtually every Conservative they have ever trusted, virtually every Republican political client they have ever worked for and pretty much all of their professional colleagues and friends...are scum.  Unprincipled cowards and grifters at best.  At worst, outright fascists.  And the base of the Party of Reagan?  A shitpile of bigots and imbeciles.

In other words, pretty much everything we Progressives had been warning them about all along.  

And they're all trying to find a way to square that with their own self-images as savvy, smart, insightful political professionals.  They want to mount a righteous high horse and scowl down at the ruins of their recently former party and shout "We told you so!  We warned you!" while at the same time retaining their contempt for us Progressives who have been shouting "We warned you!  We told you so!" at them for decades.

So if you do nothing more than wait at that fishing hole for not-very-long, eventually they'll get around to shitting on Progressives.

And thus it was that after all the lavish talk that medals be struck and paeans be penned and statues be raised to Liz Cheney in every Middlesex village and farm, Sarah Longwell took time to gripe about "Progressives" in the most Never Trump imaginable:  by calling out a specific Progressive by name and then very carefully skipping right over the actual issue that person raises.

Sara Longwell:  The question is, what does Liz Cheney do next? What... how does she try and defeat Donald Trump?   And I thing I... One of the things that's really complicated aout this moment is... Tim was talking about the Progressives who still kind of hold it against her.  Like Don Winslow or somebody, who just, like, re--lent--lessly pumping out stuff like, here's what she said about abortion and here's what she said about this.  And what's disappointing or, uh, um, I don't kinda know what to do with is what...what is the role of Liz Cheney next.  

This right here is absolutely Bulwark in-house policy.  I've heard many of them do it.  Hand-wave away what Liz Cheney said about Democrats and abortion without ever actually addressing what Cheney actually said.  Instead, it's airily dismissed as a mere difference of opinion, and then on to the ritual Slagging of the Liberals for not getting with the program and joining the Liz Cheney for Sainthood parade.

What the fuck is wrong with us that, for the greater good, we can't get past a little disagreement over policy?

This is  MSNBC contributor Tim Miller in conversation with Bulwark co-owner and fellow MSNBC contributor Charlie Sykes more than a year ago on a different Bulwark podcast as documented by me because, as I said, the Slag the Liberals fish are always jumpin' down at the Bulwark:

Sykes:  Let's flip the card a little bit though.  How do you explain the psychology of -- and you... you... you... alluded to this -- the psychology Progressives activists including people like Don Winslow, who's a filmmaker, y'know, and, like, anti-Trump Progressive novelist and everything.  Y'know, big Twitter guy who is obsessively -- I mean obsessively -- attacking, right now, Liz Cheney.  It's like this is the moment when Democrats are facing a wipeout in the midterms... 

driftglass: What the hell does how the Dems may or may not do in the midterms have to do with Liz Cheney?

Sykes:  ... when we are facing this existential challenge of the coup... at this moment they've decided... 

driftglass:  "they've" decided?  Who is "they"?  Because the only person Sykes has mentioned is Don Winslow?

Sykes continues:  "No, we can't like Liz Cheney because, y'know, she's a Conservative Republican and pro-lifer and therefore we gotta make sure we tell all Progressives ...

driftglass:  "we gotta make sure we tell all Progressives"?  Who is "we"?  Because, once again, the only person Sykes has mentioned is Don Winslow? 

Sykes continues: ....don't give any credit to these folks who have thrown themselves on the grenade to protect democracy because X, Y, Z."

driftglass:   "these folks"?  Who are "these folks"? Because the only "folks" Sykes has mentioned is Liz Cheney?  Also more about this "X,Y,Z" bullshit at the bottom of this post.

Miller continues:  And... and... and the coalitions on the Left and on the Right.  There are more antibodies on the Left to the crazy and the rage.  That doesn't mean that there aren't also parallels...

driftglass: And then , after all the assurances that this is not an attempt to draw an equivalence, comes the equivalence.

Miller:  And what I write about in the backwards section of the book -- where I write about my complicity is working with Conservative media types -- is [long pause] this addiction.  To the rage juice.  Right?  This addiction to the daily outrage.  Where you are made to feel like you are good and your other... your fellow Americans as made to be seen as evil.

driftglass:  Let us pause to reflect on the fact that Tim Miller is whining about the insidious effects to the Outrage Media...on a media site that routinely carps about the Republican base being deranged, and 96% of Republican leadership as being either outright fascist or cowards or amoral opportunists willing to ally with fascist to advance their careers.

Miller:  And people like Don...and other Resistance media types...

Sykes [barely audible]:  This is so good.

driftglass:  Here comes another shot at fence straddling  

Miller: I do think there is a big difference between Left media and the Right media...

driftglass:   Golly, thanks Tim.

Miller: ...and there are some Left media who are being good and, y'know, are praising Liz Cheney, so it's not uniform like it is on the Right media.  

Translation:  I hope you don't think I'm talking about you guys on MSNBC. You guys are the best!  No, we're talking about all those other Progressive media outfits.  The ones who are naughty bad and don't have half the staff we have here at The Bulwark on juicy contributor contracts.  So don't give any of this a second thought.

driftglass:  And here comes the pivot...

Miller:  But there are people on the Left that use that same tactic on the Right.  

driftglass:  And here is where Tim Miller, confessional writer slips out the side door, and Tim Miller, veteran Republican hatchet, man slips in.

Miller:, you need to be mad at Liz Cheney because she was pro-life and she said this mean thing about Ralph Northam four years ago.  And, like, you need to be mad at Adam Kinzinger because he didn't vote for this bill.  And you need to be made at even need to be mad at Joe Manchin, mad at Kyrsten Sinema, and mad at Nancy Pelosi and mad at Chuck Schumer and mad at anyone who's not, like, walking the right line. 

driftglass:  And in the blink of an eye, Tim Miller escalates all the way from scolding people for being "mad at Liz Cheney" to scolding anyone who gets mad at anyone for any reason for being an Outrage Juice addict.  Which I'll remind him of in my calmest voice when the Supreme Cult comes for his gay marriage. "Hush now, Tim. That's just the Outrage Juice talking, and not your perfectly justified fury."...

Except this is not in any way just a spirited disagreement over Roe vs.Wade, or being mad at Liz Cheney for "being pro-life", and every one of these recently-former Republicans fucking well knows it.  They all know perfectly well exactly what Cheney said; they just don't own a sledgehammer big enough to pound the square peg of Cheney's utterly despicable comments into the round hole of their insistence on her unalloyed heroism.  So every time this comes up, they very deliberately skip over what she actually said and hurry on to the Slagging of the Liberals.

And when you hear what Cheney actually said, you'll understand why.  

It's not from way back when Liz was selling out her own sister to clamber a little higher up the greasy pole of politics, or ruthlessly defending her daddy's slaughterfest in Iraq.  This clip is from the House Republican YouTube channel.   It's from just four years ago, when Cheney was the third most powerful member of the Republican caucus and a staunch supporter of Donald Trump. It's entitled "Conference Chair Liz Cheney on Democrats’ Horrifying Pro-Abortion Stance".

This is not merely being pro-life, nor is it merely a "mean thing about Ralph Northam", nor is it whatever the fuck "X,Y,Z" means.  It is a full-on, Blood Libel attack on the "Democrat" party as a cabal of "pure evil" who sanction the murder of children after they are born.

In tone and intention, there is not a dime's worth of difference between Liz Cheney claiming that it is the policy of the "Democrat" party to murder babies after they are born and that Democrats are "pure evil", and Trump's branding us as lying, cheating "vermin".  

And Miller and Sykes and Longwell and all the rest of them fucking well know it.

I Am The Liberal Media

Monday, November 27, 2023

American Dad, Like Tears in the Rain.

This is from a now-virtually-lost-to-history post by a gentleman named Russell King (aka "American Dad") from May of 2010.  I am reproducing it here in it's entirety because, like so many of the millions of words Liberal bloggers spilled during the Before Time warning about the direction the Republican party was taking, the original post and most of mirror sites where it was once stored are now gone. 

Like tears in the rain.

In case you weren't there or just don't remember, this Open Letter to Conservative Americans landed like a bombshell back in 2010.  On the Left, it went everywhere, was cited by everyone.  I believe I referred to it at the time as the Bayeux Tapestry of Republican take-downs: a prosecutorial summation so epic, thoroughgoing and irrefutable that surely it would alter the trajectory of the GOP, even it it were only by a couple of degrees.

Here it is.  I'll catch you on the other side:

Dear Conservative Americans,

The years have not been kind to you. I grew up in a profoundly Republican home, so I can remember when you wore a very different face than the one we see now.  You’ve lost me and you’ve lost most of America.  Because I believe having responsible choices is important to democracy, I’d like to give you some advice and an invitation.

First, the invitation:  Come back to us.

Now the advice.  You’re going to have to come up with a platform that isn’t built on a foundation of cowardice: fear of people with colors, religions, cultures and sex lives that differ from your own; fear of reform in banking, health care, energy; fantasy fears of America being transformed into an Islamic nation, into social/commun/fasc-ism, into a disarmed populace put in internment camps; and more.  But you have work to do even before you take on that task.

Your party — the GOP — and the conservative end of the American political spectrum have become irresponsible and irrational.  Worse, they’re tolerating, promoting and celebrating prejudice and hatred.  Let me provide some examples — by no means an exhaustive list — of where the Right as gotten itself stuck in a swamp of hypocrisy, hyperbole, historical inaccuracy and hatred.

If you’re going to regain your stature as a party of rational, responsible people, you’ll have to start by draining this swamp:


You can’t flip out — and threaten impeachment – when Dems use a parliamentary procedure (deem and pass) that you used repeatedly (more than 35 times in just one session and more than 100 times in all!), that’s centuries old and which the courts have supported. Especially when your leaders admit it all.

You can’t vote and scream against the stimulus package and then take credit for the good it’s done in your own district (happily handing out enormous checks representing money that you voted against, is especially ugly) —  114 of you (at last count) did just that — and it’s even worse when you secretly beg for more.

You can’t fight against your own ideas just because the Dem president endorses your proposal.

You can’t call for a pay-as-you-go policy, and then vote against your own ideas.

Are they “unlawful enemy combatants” or are they “prisoners of war” at Gitmo? You can’t have it both ways.

You can’t carry on about the evils of government spending when your family has accepted more than a quarter-million dollars in government handouts.

You can’t refuse to go to a scheduled meeting, to which you were invited, and then blame the Dems because they didn’t meet with you.

You can’t rail against using teleprompters while using teleprompters. Repeatedly.

You can’t rail against the bank bailouts when you supported them as they were happening. (It was Bush who came up with that one.)

You can’t be for immigration reform, then against it.

You can’t enjoy socialized medicine while condemning it.

You can’t flip out when the black president puts his feet on the presidential desk when you were silent about white presidents doing the same.  Bush.  Ford.

You can’t complain that the president hasn’t closed Gitmo yet when you’ve campaigned to keep Gitmo open.

You can’t flip out when the black president bows to foreign dignitaries, as appropriate for their culture, when you were silent when the white presidents did the same. Bush.  NixonIke. You didn’t even make a peep when Bush held hands and kissed leaders of countries that are not on “kissing terms” with the US.

You can’t complain that the undies bomber was read his Miranda rights under Obama when the shoe bomber was read his Miranda rights under Bush and you remained silent.  (And, no, Newt — the shoe bomber was not a US citizen either, so there is no difference.)

You can’t attack the Dem president for not personally* publicly condemning a terrorist event for 72 hours when you said nothing about the Rep president waiting 6 days in an eerily similar incident (and, even then, he didn’t issue any condemnation).  *Obama administration did the day of the event.

You can’t throw a hissy fitsound alarms and cry that Obama freed Gitmo prisoners who later helped plan the Christmas Day undie bombing, when — in fact — only one former Gitmo detainee, released by Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, helped to plan the failed attack.

You can’t condemn blaming the Republican president for an attempted terror attack on his watch, then blame the Dem president for an attempted terror attack on his.

You can’t mount a boycott against singers who say they’re ashamed of the president for starting a war, but remain silent when another singer says he’s ashamed of the president and falsely calls him a Maoist who makes him want to throw up and says he ought to be in jail.

You can’t cry that the health care bill is too long, then cry that it’s too short.

You can’t support the individual mandate for health insurance, then call it unconstitutional when Dems propose it and campaign against your own ideas.

You can’t demand television coverage, then whine about it when you get itRepeatedly.

You can’t praise criminal trials in US courts for terror suspects under a Rep president, then call it “treasonous” under a Dem president.

You can’t propose ideas to create jobs, and then work against them when the Dems put your ideas in a bill.

You can’t be both pro-choice and anti-choice.

You can’t damn someone for failing to pay $900 in taxes when you’ve paid nearly $20,000 in IRS fines.

You can’t condemn criticizing the president when US troops are in harm’s way, then attack the president when US troops are in harm’s way , the only difference being the president’s party affiliation (and, by the way, armed conflict does NOT remove our right and our duty as Americans to speak up).

You can’t be both for cap-and-trade policy and against it.

You can’t vote to block debate on a bill, then bemoan the lack of  ‘open debate’.

If you push anti-gay legislation and make anti-gay speeches, you should probably take a pass on having gay sex, regardless of whether it’s 2004 or 2010.  This is true, too, if you’re taking GOP money and giving anti-gay rants on CNN.  Taking right-wing money and GOP favors to write anti-gay stories for news sites while working as a gay prostitute, doubles down on both the hypocrisy and the prostitution.  This is especially true if you claim your anti-gay stand is God’s stand, too.

When you chair the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, you can’t send sexy emails to 16-year-old boys (illegal anyway, but you made it hypocritical as well).

You can’t criticize Dems for not doing something you didn’t do while you held power over the past 16 years, especially when the Dems have done more in one year than you did in 16.

You can’t decry “name calling” when you’ve been the most consistent and outrageous at it. And the most vile.

You can’t spend more than 40 years hating, cutting and trying to kill Medicare, and then pretend to be the defenders of Medicare.

You can’t praise the Congressional Budget Office when its analysis produces numbers that fit your political agenda, then claim it’s unreliable when it comes up with numbers that don’t.

You can’t vote for X under a Republican president, then vote against X under a Democratic president. Either you support X or you don’t. And it makes it worse when you change your position merely for the sake obstructionism.

You can’t call a reconciliation out of bounds when you used it repeatedly.

You can’t spend taxpayer money on ads against spending taxpayer money.

You can’t condemn individual health insurance mandates in a Dem bill, when the mandates were your idea.

You can’t demand everyone listen to the generals when they say what fits your agenda, and then ignore them when they don’t.

You can’t whine that it’s unfair when people accuse you of exploiting racism for political gain, when your party’s former leader admits you’ve been doing it for decades.

You can’t portray yourself as fighting terrorists when you openly and passionately support terrorists.

You can’t complain about a lack of bipartisanship when you’ve routinely obstructed for the sake of political gain — threatening to filibuster at least 100 pieces of legislation in one session, far more than any other since the procedural tactic was invented — and admitted it.  Some admissions are unintentional, others are made proudly. This is especially true when the bill is the result of decades of compromise between the two parties and is filled with your own ideas.
You can’t question the loyalty of Department of Justice lawyers when you didn’t object when your own Republican president appointed them.

You can’t preach and try to legislate “Family Values” when you: take nude hot tub dips with teenagers (and pay them hush money); cheat on your wife with a secret lover and lie about it to the world; cheat with a staffer’s wife (and pay them off with a new job); pay hookers for sex while wearing a diaper and cheating on your wife; or just enjoying an old fashioned non-kinky cheating on your wife; try to have gay sex in a toilet; authorize the rape of children in Iraqi prisons to coerce their parents into providing information; seek, look at or have sex with children; replace a guy who cheats on his wife with a guy who cheats on his pregnant wife with his wife’s mother.


You really need to disassociate with those among you who:

assert that people making a quarter-million dollars a year can barely make ends meet or that $1 million “isn’t a lot of money”;
say that “Comrade” Obama is a “Bolshevik” who is “taking cues from Lenin”;
ignore the many times your buddies use a term that offends you and complain only when a Dem says it;
liken political opponents to murderers, rapists, and “this Muslim guy” that “offed his wife’s head” or call them “un-American”;
say Obama “wants his plan to fail…so that he can make the case for bank nationalization and vindicate his dream of a socialist economy”;
equate putting the good of the people ahead of your personal fortunes with terrorism;
smear an entire major religion with the actions of a few fanatics;
say that the president wants to “annihilate us“;
compare health care reform with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a Bolshevik plot the attack on 9/11, or reviving the ghosts of communist dictators;
equate our disease-fighting stem cell research with “what the Nazis did”;
call a bill passed by the majority of both houses of Congress, by members of Congress each elected by a majority in their districts, an unconscionable abuse of power, a violation of the presidential oath or “the end of representative government”;
shout “baby killer” at a member of Congress on the floor of the House, especially one who so fought against abortion rights that he nearly killed health care reform (in fact, a little decorum, a little respect for our national institutions and the people and the values they represent, would be refreshing — cut out the shouting, the swearing and the obscenities);
prove your machismo by claiming your going to “crash a party” to which you’re officially invited;
claim that Obama is pushing America’s “submission to Shariah”;
question the patriotism of people upholding cherished American values and the rule of law;
claim the president is making us less safe without a hint of evidence;
call a majority vote the “tyranny of the minority,” even if you meant to call it tyranny of the majority — it’s democracy, not tyranny;
call the president’s support of a criminal trial for a terror suspect “treasonous” (especially when you supported the same thing when the president shared your party);
call the Pope the anti-Christ;
assert that the constitutionally mandated census is an attempt to enslave us;
accuse opponents of being backed by Arab slave-drivers or are drunk and suicidal;
equate family planning with eugenics or Nazism;
accuse the president of changing the missile defense program’s logo to match his campaign logo and reflect what you say is his secret Muslim identity;
accuse political opponents of being totalitarianssocialistscommunistsfascistsMarxists;  terrorist sympathizersMcCarthy-likeNazis or drug pushers; and
advocate a traitors act like secessionviolent revolutionmilitary coup or civil war (just so we’re clear: sedition is a bad thing).


If you’re going to use words like socialismcommunism and fascism, you must have at least a basic understanding of what those words mean (hint: they’re NOT synonymous!)

You can’t cut a leading Founding Father out the history books because you’ve decided you don’t like his ideas.

You cant repeatedly assert that the president refuses to say the word “terrorism” or say we’re at war with terror when we have an awful lot of videotape showing him repeatedly assailing terrorism and using those exact words.

If you’re going to invoke the names of historical figures, it does not serve you well to whitewash them. Especially this one.

You can’t just pretend historical events didn’t happen in an effort to make a political opponent look dishonest or to make your side look better. Especially these events. (And, no, repeating it doesn’t make it better.)

You can’t say things that are simply and demonstrably false: health care reform will not push people out of their private insurance and into a government-run program ; health care reform (which contains a good many of your ideas and very few from the Left) is a long way from “socialist utopia”; health care reform is not “reparations”; nor does health care reform create “death panels”.


You have to condemn those among you who:

call members of Congress n*gger and f*ggot;
elected leaders who say “I’m a proud racist”;
state that America has been built by white people;
say that poor people are poor because they’re rotten people, call them “parasitic garbage” or say they shouldn’t be allowed to vote;
call women bitches and prostitutes just because you don’t like their politics     ( re – pea  ted – ly );
assert that the women who are serving our nation in uniform are hookers;
mock and celebrate the death of a grandmother because you disagree with her son’s politics;
declare that those who disagree with you are shown by that disagreement to be not just “Marxist radicals” but also monsters and a deadly disease killing the nation (this would fit in the hyperbole and history categories, too);
joke about blindness;
advocate euthanizing the wife of your political opponent;
taunt people with incurable, life-threatening diseases — especially if you do it on a syndicated broadcast;
equate gay love with bestiality — involving  horses or dogs or turtles or ducks — or polygamy, child molestation, pedophilia;
casually assume that only white males look “like a real American”;
assert presidential power to authorize torture,  torture a child by having his testicles crushed in front of his parents to get them to talk, order the massacre of a civilian village  and launch a nuclear attack without the consent of Congress;
attack children whose mothers have died;
call people racists without producing a shred of evidence that they’ve said or done something that would even smell like racism — same for invoking racially charged “dog whistle” words (repeatedly);
condemn the one thing that every major religion agrees on;
complain that we no longer employ the tactics we once used to disenfranchise millions of Americans because of their race;
blame the victims of natural disasters and terrorist attacks for their suffering and losses;
celebrate violence , joke about violence, prepare for violence or use violent imagery“fun” political violence, hints of violence, threats of violence (this one is rather explicit), suggestions of violence or actual violence (and, really, suggesting anal rape with a hot piece of metal is beyond the pale); and
incite insurrection telling people to get their guns ready for a “bloody battle” with the president of the United States.

Oh, and I’m not alone:  One of your most respected and decorated leaders agrees with me.

So, dear conservatives, get to work.  Drain the swamp of the conspiracy nuts, the bold-faced liars undeterred by demonstrable facts, the overt hypocrisy and the hatred.  Then offer us a calm, responsible, grownup agenda based on your values and your vision for America.  We may or may not agree with your values and vision, but we’ll certainly welcome you back to the American mainstream with open arms.  We need you.

(Anticipating your initial response:  No there is nothing that even comes close to this level of wingnuttery on the American Left.)

As I said, above, the hope was that this epic, thoroughgoing and irrefutable summation of the disastrous course the Right was was on might prompt them to change course, even just a little.

But nah.  Didn't make a dent. Or a crease.  Or a scratch.  

On the Right it went over like puerco pibil and blood sausage at a vegan family picnic, because by 2010, for the post-Bush Right, the past no longer existed.  Whatever bullshit principles they had sworn they believed in just years or months before had been magically ablated via the Fabulous, Tea-Baggulous Bush-Off Machine along with the rest of their disgraceful history.  

And the mainstream media did their part as well.  During the Bush Regime, the mainstream media -- which had already been conditioned by the Clinton years to reflexively attack Democrats and defer to Republicans to prove how "fair" they were -- obediently rolled over for every Republican atrocity.  They no longer cared about the eight years of trauma and catastrophe the Republican party had just inflicted on the country: instead they fell slobberingly in love with this new, upstart group of "independents" called the Tea Party.  

Which, of course, turned out to be nothing but the same old scumbag Republicans in brand new stupid hats.  

But this utterly craven complicity by the media was the key to understanding where the GOP would go next.  For the Right it unlocked the breathtaking truth that no matter what they did -- no matter how much they lied, or what they smashed or who they put in office -- the gelded media would never hold them accountable for any of it.  That, at worst, the media would go right on blaming Both Sides for every Republican atrocity.  

This guarantee of perpetual blamelessness put a terrible political weapon into the hands of the worst people.   

Which brings us to this long, long Twitter chain by Ryan Shead, which he published almost exactly one decade after Russell King's epic work.  I commend the whole thing to your attention:

Like Mr. King's post, Mr. Shead has published a magisterial and panoramic answer to the question,‘Why do liberals think Trump supporters are stupid?’ which he has updated a few times since.  

There are virtues to taking the time and trouble to "document the atrocities" in essays like this.  I find them useful.  Maybe you do too.  And theoretically, it may provide some future historians digging through the rubble of the 21st century some insight into what happened to us.  I also wish such works were published in a less transient medium than pixels on a site which can be wiped out at the whim of  the site's madman proprietor. Ideally between the covers of a real, hold-in-your-hand paper book.  And as long as I'm making wishes, why not wish for such a book to sell 25 million copies and top the New York Time Bestseller List for 18 months?

All that would be great, but I long ago gave up any illusions about such works changing any minds on the Right or in the Center.  It doesn't matter how many facts you marshal, how much history you have at your command, or how skillfully you build your case: the Right are dug in like ticks, and Centrists would rather crawl a 1,000 miles to find a fence to straddle than give up their "Both Sides Do It" dogma.

It's trench warfare now. 

And it will probably be this way for the rest of our lives.

I Am The Liberal Media