Sunday, June 16, 2024

Wait? You Mean I Coulda Been Getting *Paid* For This?!?


The time: Peak George W. Bush administration.

The place: The American media landscape.

And the challenge:  If you are moved by cataclysmic circumstances to write about politics and the media, what is the shortest and surest route to becoming a complete media pariah? Giving slight offense will not get it done.  Treading, once and lightly, on the corns of a specific editor will not do.  You need get your picture  laminated next to every door into the mainstream media so that whichever bouncer is on duty today at whichever point on ingress knows not to let you pass.  You're shooting for the total persona non grata package, so what can you do that is so transgressive that you can never, ever be forgiven?   

The answer: Write about how fucked in the head the Republican party had become and write about how fatally compromised the mainstream media is for aggressively refusing to report on how fucked in the head the Republican party had become. 

I'm going to repost excerpts from two things I wrote in April of 2005.   The reason I'm reposting them is because they're from my very first month as a blogger, and because nearly 20 years later, rather than being kicked out of the media for ever whispering such things, an entire cottage industry of recently-former Republicans who are being offered top dollar for proffering exactly the same analysis.

If this stuff bores you, skip over it.  The moral of the story is way down at the bottom.  You will find it under the heading, The Moral of the Story.

First example, is from April 5, 2005.  That's +19 years ago.  It covers the rise of the crazies in the GOP.  How they're taking over the party.  And how the money guys and the "moderates" whistling past Lincoln's tomb thought thing weren't going to get so much worse.  Here you go:
The Fundies vs. The Funders.

The money guys are getting nervous. This whole patched-together GOP Dark Tower arrangement is visibly shuddering, and those up in the penthouse on the tippy-tippy-top can feel the swaying of the edifice more pronouncedly than anyone.

Something is coming.

Might not get here for awhile, but the coming Schism is already shaking the ground. The GOP’s own internal Cuban Missile Crisis. Their own third reel of “Reservoir Dogs.” Everybody pointing guns at everyone else and nobody willing to back off. Question is, who’s gonna shoot Nice Guy Eddie?
Very dangerous game -- chicken -- and we liberals should know; we’ve been playing it every election cycle for decades, but now we seem to be slowly learning how to stand together. The Republicans, OTOH, seem to be learning how to tear themselves apart in public like a German kinetic sculpture. Maybe there’s some kind of Cosmological Political Self-Immolation Constant in the Universe that always finds a way to balance itself out. Who knows?

What we can say is the Republican party is sick, and has been for a very long time. And the Moderates and Money guys are getting really, really scared of the increasingly deranged Fundy hired help, while the Fundies are getting louder and louder about their “Apocalypse Now!” agenda.

I have friends who used to describe themselves as Moderate Republicans. With these people, I could have gotten along. Found common ground. You know: “governed.”

9/11 made a lot of them lose their right minds in a lot of ways, but most acutely, it gave them a kind of Hysterical Political Blindness. Through sheer willpower (and cranking up the Limbaugh until their ears bleed) they try to drown out the clamor of the race back to the Dark Ages that their frenzied fellow-travelers are pursuing so feverishly.

Some virulent form of Spinal Dennis Milleritis, but now the Tower rumbles, and chunks of concrete are hitting the pavement, and a few of these moral sleepers are rubbing their eyes and wondering who the hell is making all the damned racket.

It’s the Fundies, pal. And the Funders are getting freaked.

The dirty Republican Secret that they hide right out in the open is sooo simple: Without their cross-burners, their Fundies, their militia groupies and their assorted other Hate-based Civic Organizations, they can't win anything. Without them, the Original GOP Gangsters would poll no higher than 30-40% from now until the end of time...and they know it.

So the whole of the GOP Noise Machine is (and must be) devoted to pandering to the Ultras, appeasing them. Fox News and Scream Radio are the damned cheering section for these Special Wingnut Olympics: devoted exclusively to telling stupid. hateful slugdumbs that they are not stupid and hateful. That their asinine, Jack Chick cartoon “religion” is somehow not ludicrous.

It is Hungry Tiger on whose back the whole Republican Party rides. Bush 41 made the mistake of not knobbing their rotting peckers hard enough and it cost him the election: since then who’s the Boss and who’s the Bitch has been crystal clear, and the split is starting to gape wide and ugly. The Ultras aren’t backing off this time: they smell arterial blood and they're hungry.

The Moderate and Money Republicans thought they were safe. Thought they could dispatch their Fundy thugs to beat-down and demonize Democrats whenever we got too close to victory. Thought their Imperial litters would be borne into Neocon Heaven on the broad backs and pin-heads of the Red State Shining Path Evangelicals.

Unfortunately, the trouble with having a Magic, 500,000 watt Demonizing Cannon in the hands of crazy people is that they have no compunction about turning it on anyone. Anyone at all.

Shit baby, they turned their shit-hoses on to genuine War Heroes -- in your own Party -- and didn’t bat a fucking eye. So what makes you think for a minute that they’re not going to swing those big guns around and fire them right into your wheelhouse if they believe you aren’t 100% down with their whole American Fascist Theocracy program? Because they’re realists? Because they believe in compromise? Haven’t you been paying attention!

There’s an old saying from World War II that “A Jew is anyone that Hitler says is a Jew.”
And a Commie is anyone that Joe McCarthy says is a Commie.
And a terrorist is anyone that George Bush says is a terrorist.
And an America Hating Enemy of Christ is anyone that Tom DeLay says is an America Hating Enemy of Christ.

Jesus, these fucks just never, ever learn do they? Always think you can get away with being a little bit pregnant and a little bit fascist, and skip out before the check comes.

Moderate Republicans (and non-voters) is where we win. We need to talk to them. Arrange pen-pal correspondence with them. Whatever.

Have one or two fresh Fundy outrages ready to slip into the conversation. Be firm but sympathetic: Every time you pulled the lever for the GOP, you handed over power to your worst nightmare...
The second core sample from the Age of Bush is from just four days later.  April 9, 2005.  It is a vivisection of a column by Mr, David Brooks of The New York Times, who was already fully committed to the Both Sides Do It lie.  He was busy cautioning this Republican party that, well-intentioned though they may be, Mr. and Mrs. Average Murrican were getting a wee bit nervous about a few of the GOP's more ambitious proposals -- like gutting Social Security -- and a few of its more enthusiastic supporters.

This was how Mr. Brooks described the situation:

The Republican Party is running into a problem: the conservatism of the American people. Over the past decade, the Republicans have set themselves up as the transformational party... [But the American people] have a taste for order and a distrust of those who want too much change on too many fronts too quickly...
And here was my helpful translation:

Translation: They are scared shitless that the Crazier’n a Shithouse Rat Theocrats that the Evil Liberals have always warned them about might actually exist and have the keys to the car. Oh and all the Mapquest Route Planners they left behind as clues have a place called “Armageddonville” circled in big, red Crayon.
Hey, remember Mapquest?!  What a time it was!

Brooks went on at some length trying to gently remind his Republican party that their most effective strategy had always been was keeping their racism and crazytalk hidden behind a genial, smiling Reagan mask, so put the fucking mask back on already!   

Then there was the problem of the Dear Leader of the Republican party being, y'know, a terrifying lunatic.  

Sound familiar?

In 2024 that Dear Leader is Donald Trump.  In 2005 that Dear Leader was Tom DeLay.  

Here's Brooks:

House Republicans like what DeLay has done, and few have any personal animus toward him, but his aggressiveness makes them - and his own constituents - nervous. Only 39 percent of DeLay's Texas constituents said they would stick with him if he were up for re-election today, a Houston Chronicle survey found.

Here's my translation:

DeLay has their nuts in his medicine bag and they don’t fucking dare say a word against him. DeLay makes a viper like Gingrich look like a charming Southern Gentleman, that’s how de-ranged he is. Don’t fuck with The Hammer, dude. My cousin said she had a friend who saw him beat a homeless guy to death with a congressional staffer. Then he ate him, whole, like an Anaconda eating a rabbit. He’s Kaiser Fucking Sose, man. Prince of Darkness. On the plus side, two-out-of-every-five ambulatory humans in Sugarland, TX would still support him even now that he has been outed as the Satan’s Wingman. Gotta love Texas: It’s like a whole other Special Olympics Purgatory.

However, Mr. Brooks also warned, that Democrats should take no comfort in any of this because Mr. and Mrs. Average Murrica found both sides equally yadda yadda yadda:


This does not mean good news for Democrats. That party is at risk of going into a death spiral. The Democrats lost white working-class voters by 23 percentage points in the last election, and now the party is being led by people who are guaranteed to alienate those voters even more: the highly educated and secular university-town elites who follow Howard Dean and believe Bush hatred and stridency are the outward signs of righteousness.

My translation:

America has had a chance to test drive Irresponsible Cowardly Stupid for a few years now and they luvs it! Even though they will climb over corpses to send their kids to college, Americans hate “elites.” Jeez, just saying that word creeps me out. ElitesElitesElites!    Stop it dude: you’re scaring the Fundies. Nothing more frightening than a citizen with a book. And positively terror-ific if they went to college...except Bob Jones...who Rock! Go Fighting Antimiscegenists!

And for +19 years and +11,000 posts (and 811 podcast episodes), to this very day, though I've veered here and there and around the block again from time to time, I've been on this beat.  Which has been rewarding in more ways than I can count, but it also provides a thoroughly Mapquested route to media ostracism. 

Go after the monstrousness of the Republican party without surcease?  Check.

Go after the Both Sides Do It lie without letup?  Check.

Go after the Very Serious Persons of the mainstream media -- especially The New York Times -- for using the Both Sides Do It lie to deflect, diffuse and otherwise run cover for the monstrousness of the Republican party?  Check.

And now, The Moral of the Story.

I read this Bulwark article yesterday evening, and after laughing all night, and right through breakfast, I thought maybe I'd write about it.

And then I got this wave of what I can only describe as precognitive deja vu.  The uncanny sense that, whatever I write today as a disreputable pariah Liberal blogger, 20 years from now I shall read the exact words I type today staring back at me from the pages of an elite media publication, under the byline of someone who built their career stomping the shit out of everything we Liberals cherish.

Anyway, here's the first few paragraphs from that Bulwark headline story:

1.  Both Sides

At this point, I think the New York Times has moved past trolling and on to attempted homicide. Here’s a paragraph in a story about Eric Adams:

Mayor Adams is far from the only notable elected official who has been criticized for making comments that seem inappropriate. President Biden has made remarks about people’s physical appearance. Former President Donald J. Trump often mocks people’s physical appearance and was found liable in a civil trial for sexually abusing the writer E. Jean Carroll.

Both sides.


BotH SiDeS!

It goes on like that for another 12 paragraphs.  

And then I read a thing that kicked my laugher up from rueful guffaws to something else:

Here's the thing I read:

At this point it’s clear that if we want better media, we have to build it ourselves. Which is what we’re trying to do, right here.

Yes, with the aid of wealthy benefactors, a quarter of a million subscribers, and, most importantly, in-kind promotional contributions from MSNBC worth tens of millions of dollars every year that got them a quarter of a million subscribers, The Bulwark is building its "better media".  And they are building it out of [checks notes] former Republican comms people, former Republican office holders, and former employees of Bill Kristol's now-defunct Weekly Standard.

From a long profile in The Washington Post, May 28, 2024:

The Bulwark: How could it be wrong when it feels so center-right?

...The Bulwark, a franchise of 11 podcasts and six Substack newsletters, has become an outlet for a lot of people. Not nearly as much so as Trumpism, but, well — that’s kind of the whole idea. It has picked up those that MAGA, and polarization in general, left behind...

And it’s been growing. This spring, the Bulwark added a podcast on Trump’s trials hosted by conservative lawyer George Conway; Adam Kinzinger, the former Illinois Republican congressman who voted in favor of Trump’s second impeachment, will become a regular contributor and podcast guest. It also hired political scribe Marc Caputo to send dispatches from Florida in a newsletter vertical titled “MAGAville.”

Meanwhile, the anti-Trumpers of the center-left are, as always, looking for conservatives who agree with them. Together with the refugees from the right, it amounts to a market. With 267,000 subscribers — 37,000 of whom pay for a fire hose of additional content and live chats — the Bulwark ranks third among Substack’s political sites. The company counts Kathryn Murdoch, Rupert’s daughter-in-law, among its early investors, and brings in about $5 million a year in gross revenue. Longwell says the venture is close to breaking even.

The Bulwark’s live shows are another way for all those people to know that they’re not alone in their starry-eyed desire to Make Centrism Great Again. 

Ah, yes.


I Am The Liberal Media

1 comment:

SteveSteve said...

Wait until next year when the Never Trumpers on MSNBC start talking about cuts to Social Security and Medicare. They want to party like it;s 1999.