I didn’t mean to do it, but in short order this morning I had collected three worthy snippets on how Donald Trump manipulates us. (The third is my favorite, sublimely succinct and almost poetic.)
Every president has his own strategy for dealing with periods of acute difficulty. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan worked to disarm their opponents with charm, grace and humor. Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton moved to the center. George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama tried to get down to business and to do something significant and concrete.
By contrast, Donald Trump heightens the contradictions. He tries to provoke unrest and discontent, with a clear intuition that they are his best friends. He creates demons and scapegoats. That’s also Stephen Bannon’s approach, and it captures what drew the two men together.
That might be smart politics. But more fundamentally, it appears to be Trump’s gut instinct, his go-to approach when cornered or in trouble. In some cases, his statements look uncomfortably like Russia’s Facebook ads.
While Trump’s characteristic strategy is to intensify social divisions, and to make what divides Americans as salient and visible as possible, that approach is more often associated with the left than the right (true to its Marxist origins).
In the year since Donald Trump was elected president, the national news media has congratulated itself on a new golden age of accountability journalism.
And it’s true in many ways. The scoops have been relentless, the digging intense, the results important.
But in another crucial way, the reality-based press has failed.
Too often, it has succumbed to the chaos of covering Trump, who lies and blusters and distracts at every turn.
Of course, given the differences among news organizations, generalizing is a fraught exercise. Nonetheless, each news cycle is an exhausting, confusing blast of conflicting claims, fact-checking, reactions and outrage.
Trump drives the news, all day and every day, a human fire hose of hyperbolic tweets, insults, oversimplification and bragging.
And then there’s the huge influence of Fox News, which early last week was discussing hamburger emoji as the rest of the national media was reporting the indictments of Trump associates.
The president has been sowing those seeds of mistrust for many months, and cultivates them daily with extra-strength fertilizer.
Reporters “have so-called sources that, in my opinion, don’t exist,” Trump told Lou Dobbs of Fox Business recently. “They just ― they make it up. It is so dishonest. It is so fake.”
Of course, that’s not true. Reporters for legitimate news organizations do not make things up. Those few reporters who fabricate sources get fired and are driven out of the business.
(Margaret Sullivan, Media Columnist for the Washington Post, in Trump’s message of mistrust is sinking in, even in journalism’s new ‘golden age’)
[T]he president grabs the public’s attention like a spider monkey running through a church with a lit stick of dynamite.
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“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)
There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)