“We’re all mad here,” says a fellow named the Cheshire Cat.
“Contrariwise, if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic,” says a fellow named Tweedledee.
“They just make it up,” says a fellow named Rush Limbaugh.
Not as poetic, that last line, as the two preceding it. But just as punchy, no?
Tweedledee (L) & Tweedledum
It’s from a New York Times piece Sunday on how the Right is, as one, launching a campaign to discredit the mainstream news media. Or, more accurately, to cast doubt upon any report that contradicts their dopey-addled view of this mad, mad, mad, mad world. And should the dreaded MSM uncover any dirty underwear in the Right’s newly embraced hero L’il Duce‘s laundry, why then they can shriek, Hey, it’s all lies! We told ya!
Leading the way is the thankfully dead Andrew Brietbart’s parting gift to the planet, his eponymous shitsack website. (No link because fuck him and his site.) The beautiful, delicious irony is, breitbart.com et al have for years manufactured horseshit and peddled it as news. But in this post-fact era, any scoundrel’s best bet is to point at anyone and everyone else and yell, “Scoundrel!”
The Right’s been playing this turnabout foul play footsie for the better part of the last half century, beginning back in the late 1960s, a time when corporate lobbyists carrying satchels-full of dough, powders, contact numbers for the finest hookers, and other treats strove to get legislators to do their bidding. Lobbyists for Dow Corning, Boeing, General Electric, McDonnell-Douglas and any no. of other war profiteers bribed the bejesus out of the entire roster of American Honorables so their — the lobbyists’ — paymasters might have and keep their exquisitely bottom-line enhancing Southeast Asia war and billion-dollar arms race with the Russkies. The libs and the Left railed morning, noon, and night about how these particular “special interests,” as well as those fouling the entirety of the environment, corrupted Wash. DC.
The Right sensed correctly that Ma & Pa America weren’t subscribers to the newspapers and magazines that tended to carry such squawkings and so were largely unfamiliar with the term and its connotations. So, the Right simply turned it around and bellowed that it was really the blacks, the Puerto Ricans, the women’s libbers, the peaceniks, the fags and the dykes, the goo-goo types, and every other subgroup of the demographic whole known as The People who were really the corrupt, venal “special interests.”
And so, since then, “special interests” has meant only what the Right intended.
It’d have been like Charles Manson claiming in court it was really Sharon Tate who’d invited his followers to dinner and then tried to slice them into ribbons. And that gambit actually working.
Welcome to a perverse world where we’re all mad.
Rotten To The Press Core
Imagine how hard these last two months have been on me and any other political junky made nauseous by the impending coronation of L’il Duce. I still can’t bring myself to keep up on a daily basis with all the news and twaddle from the politico front. I’m still like the guy who can’t bear to see his ex-girlfriend showing up at a party with her new fiancé.
So what do I do to get my political fix? Simple. Just go back in time. I’ve ordered and received a couple of used copies of Richard Ben Cramer’s What It Takes, his thousand-plus-pager on all the characters and their hijinks during the 1988 presidential election, and Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72, his gonzo take on that landmark beauty contest.
Cramer (L) & Thompson
For all my hollering about how pusillanimous, genuflecting, careerist, misdirecting, and overall outright bullshitting today’s TV, radio, newspaper, and online reporters are, what was once known as “the press” was as bad or even worse both 28 and 44 years ago. Here’s an example, from Thompson’s “Author’s Note” introduction. A little background first. 1972 Democratic nominee for president George McGovern selected at his party’s convention that July a little known US Senator from Missouri named Tom Eagleton as his running mate. This came about after half the damned party’d turned down his entreaties to join the ticket. (Well, okay, at least seven high profile Dems, including Ted Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey, had given McGovern the finger. In their stead some 70 ne’er-do-wells and unknowns jockeyed to get on the ticket.) No one of substance wanted to be tainted by what surely was going to be a catastrophic drubbing at the hands of incumbent Richard Nixon. The mere fact that Eagleton jumped at the chance should have been prima facie evidence he was a wrong one.
Eagleton was a young, good-looking, neo-moderate who was wildly popular in his home state. The rest of the nation had never heard of him. It turns out he was as unfamiliar to McGovern as he was to some truck driver in Georgia. McGovern had tabbed Eagleton in a panic, with mere hours to go before he was scheduled to introduce his running mate at that night’s nationally televised convention session. What he didn’t know was Eagleton had a history of mental health issues including hospitalizations and several rounds of electro-shock therapy. When that news broke about a week later, the Republicans jumped on Eagleton with both feet, baying about how crazy it would be to have…, well, a crazy person a heartbeat away from the nuclear button. The whole incident pointed to the McGovern campaign’s essential lousiness. How could such a vital bit of info been missed by McGovern’s staff? McGovern at first stood behind Eagleton “1000 percent” and then, in the snap of a finger, dumped him. Nixon must have giggled himself to sleep every night through August.
Eagleton (L) & McGovern
Anyway, back to Thompson. In his intro, he talks about reporters on the campaign beat, how they cozied up to sources, protected them, withheld news that’d embarrass them, kept their personal peccadillos secret, and so on. Eagleton’s history of mental exhaustion (read: nuttiness) was no secret at all to many reporters. But, for whatever their reasons, they kept it to themselves. Thompson writes:
The most consistent and ultimately damaging failure of political journalism in America has its roots in the clubby/cocktail personal relationships that inevitably develop between politicians and journalists…. When professional antagonists become after-hours drinking buddies, they are not likely to turn each other in….
A classic example of this was the disastrous “Eagleton Affair.” Half the journalists in St. Louis and at least a dozen in the Washington press corps knew Eagleton was serious boozer with a history of mental breakdowns — but none of them had ever written about it, and the few who were known to have mentioned it privately clammed up 1000 percent when McGovern’s harried staffers began making inquiries on that fateful Thursday afternoon in Miami.
Of course, news like this would never go unmentioned in today’s climate. Hell, if you’d wanted pix from Tim Kaine’s most recent colonoscopy, you could probably find them on the internet. And if it were revealed that Mike Pence had undergone electro-shock therapy, L’il Duce would simply have tweeted it was evidence his running mate had an electric personality and a quarter of the nation would have tittered while another quarter would have flooded the inbox of the the reporter who broke the story with death threats.
So maybe it’s not the mainstream news media that’s so lousy these days. To borrow a line from cartoonist Walt Kelly, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
What’s The News Around The Nation…?