Tuesday 1/24/17

  1. Dictatorship of the Trolletariat
  2. Michael Gerson warns of spiritual peril
  3. Tipsy also warns
  4. Scientology SLAPP


1

Barton Swaim is onto something:

Mr. Trump has little but contempt for the mainstream media. Or at least he wants the media to think so. He realized some time ago, as many a Republican presidential candidate realized before him, that most journalists covering his campaign would interpret his pronouncements and decisions in the worst possible light. Mr. Trump decided not to play their game. Instead, he would troll them. Constantly, mercilessly troll them.

The effect was to stop them from covering his candidacy in the usual ways—with the kind of one-sided analysis guaranteed to make his Democratic opponent look superior—and instead to send them off on crazy “fact checking” errands in search of intrinsically worthless data …

Now that he is president, reporters assigned to Mr. Trump are in a tough position. They have to pay close attention to what the White House says, but they know the White House may give them garbage and dare them to spend an entire working day trying to verify or debunk it. Meanwhile Mr. Trump will make the ordinary decisions any president must make—court nominations, executive orders, negotiations with foreign leaders—while reporters are off trying to disprove some idiotic claim about the president’s approval ratings. They’ll feel as if they’re in an impossible bind, trolled into looking the other way, futilely insisting on their authority as the nation’s guardians of truth.

I find Mr. Trump’s way of handling the news media highly disorienting and regrettable. But it is a strategy, and the news media had better regroup and figure out how to deal with it. One obvious way is to ask whether each truth-claim the administration’s giving them is important or not. All administrations fudge the truth, mislead and sometimes just lie. But is it an important lie, one calculated to evade the law or expand executive power? For claims about inaugural viewership, the answer is surely no.

Mr. Trump has decided, rightly or wrongly, that the press is not the people. A ridiculous “lie” to the press, in his view, is not a lie to the people. The press rejects that distinction, believing themselves to be the crucial link between the people and the government—indeed, between the people and reality itself. Right now, though, it doesn’t matter what they think. They must deal with reality.

(Trump, the Press and the Dictatorship of the Trolletariat)

The Washington Post is among those who haven’t figured it out yet. An actual headline online Tuesday:

Breaking news: You can’t believe what President Trump says

Seriously: “Breaking news.” But perhaps it’s intentional irony, or whatever we’re supposed to call it when the press trolls us for money about how Trump trolls them for sport. The story is better than the headline.

2

Michael Gerson sounds a warning that I think is very timely early in the administration: “Under Trump, Christians may have it easier. They’ll also be in grave spiritual danger.” He’s actually, I think, addressing “my brethren,” the conservative Christians who supported Trump, and he does so in a good Evangelical three-point sermon:

  1. Resist Trump’s nativism, which probably isn’t why you voted for him anyway.
  2. Remember than religious freedom is for every religion, including Islam.
  3. When religion identifies with a political order, it is generally not the political order that suffers most.

I’m a Gerson skeptic since I soured on his former boss Dubya and all things neoconservative. But I’ll trust him this time to have nailed the spiritual risks to his tribe, which is a very large one. I think particularly of an old friend (specifically, of more than 50 years), a member of Gerson’s tribe, who actually wrote that Trump was the best candidate she’d ever had the chance to vote for.

3

Trump supporters aren’t the only folks at risk spiritually for however long this regime stands. I need to quell my own inner rage-monkey, too, when it comes to Trump’s narcissistic/trolling outbursts on matters that don’t matter. The election really is over.

4

According to yesterday’s Madison County Herald Bulletin, Paul and Chelsea Wysong who are former employees of the Anderson, Ohio-based Continental Design Co. filed a religious discrimination lawsuit in state court in Darke County, Ohio last week.  Plaintiffs charged that company CEO Judy Nagengast required them to participate in Scientology religious practices, such as audits and training. They were told to attend Scientology courses in California, Indiana and Florida. Nagengast denies the allegations and said she plans a counter-suit.

(Religion Clause blog) Do tell! Scientologists counter-suing critics! What won’t they think of next?!

Unfortunately, I don’t think SLAPP statutes apply to lying counterclaims.

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.