Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Monday, November 7, 2016 7:30 pm

Jay Rosen on what the media missed, and me on what we need to work hard to miss

NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen has posted a piece titled “A Miss Bigger Than a Missed Story,” his final reflection before the election on how badly U.S. media have lost the thread of this election. It’s not that long, and its underlying thread is how politics simply doesn’t deal in reality anymore and how unprepared the media  have been for that change. He makes clear that this trend didn’t arise overnight with Donald Trump’s candidacy.

The real value of the piece, though, is this conclusion:

Yesterday I read something by a philosopher, Jason Stanley, that illuminated what I mean by “a miss bigger than a missed story.” Beyond Lying: Donald Trump’s Authoritarian Reality. Stanley made the point that fact checking Trump in a way missed the point. Trump was not trying to make reference to reality in what he said to win votes. He was trying to substitute “his” reality for the one depicted in news reports.

“On a certain level, the media lacked the vocabulary to describe what was happening,” Stanley writes. And I agree with that. He compares what Trump did to totalitarian propaganda, which does not attempt to depict the world but rather substitutes for it a ruthlessly coherent counter-narrative that is untroubled by any contradiction between itself and people’s experience.

The goal of totalitarian propaganda is to sketch out a consistent system that is simple to grasp, one that both constructs and simultaneously provides an explanation for grievances against various out-groups. It is openly intended to distort reality, partly as an expression of the leader’s power. Its open distortion of reality is both its greatest strength and greatest weakness.

Trump’s campaign was “openly intended to distort reality” because that is a show of power. Power over his followers. Over the other candidates he humiliated and drove from the race. Over party officials who tried to bring him to heel. And over the journalists who tried to “check” and question him.

That last graf is really what Donald Trump is up to, and it’s the one I want most to commend to the attention of my friends at the Times and the Post and Politico and CQ and The Hill and all the other primary drivers of national political coverage in this country.

I’ve made quite the pest of myself with y’all by emphasizing that this was the campaign that repealed Godwin’s law. That tenet of Internet dialogue holds that the longer a discussion goes on, the greater the likelihood that someone will compare someone or something to Hitler or Naziism. A corollary, also itself often referred to as Godwin’s law, is that whoever does so automatically loses the debate.

But in this campaign we have seen a candidate, Donald Trump, who has, in no particular order, advocated torture; advocated massive forced relocations; espoused racism, sexism (including sexual assault), many other forms of bigotry, xenophobia, and anti-intellectualismHe has embraced some of the most virulent anti-Semites currently operating in U.S. media and made them a key part of his campaign. His campaign’s final television ad was one long anti-Semitic dogwhistle. Look, I realize no one wants to look hysterical AND that comparisons to Hitler/Naziism have been overplayed on other subjects in the past. But, kids, at some point, if the jackboot fits, you’ve got to wear it. Trump and his campaign have been functioning in exactly the same way, with largely the same result, as all of the big totalitarian propaganda efforts of the 20th century, from the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany to China. And while some in the media get this, way too many are still in denial.

But, you say, Trump isn’t going to win tomorrow.

And as I write this, that looks like it’s probably true. My own prediction remains what it was once the two major-party nominees were determined last spring: Clinton wins with at least 310 electoral votes, and the Democrats tie for or retake the Senate. (Fun fact for us North Carolinians: Our polls close at 7:30 p.m. In 2012, the Associated Press called the state for Romney at 10:53 p.m. If North Carolina gets called for Clinton, particularly if that happens a lot earlier than it did in 2012, it’s game over for Trump. Clinton can afford to lose North Carolina. Trump cannot; he simply has no road to 270 electoral votes without us.)

But a huge number of Americans have supported Trump, and in so doing, they’ve demonstrated that they’re OK with the hatred, they’re vulnerable to the propaganda, or both. And those people will still be around and still creating trouble Wednesday and probably for years, perhaps decades, after. This campaign hasn’t just injected massive doses of hate into our political mainstream, as Rosen and Stanley point out, it has tried to make that the new reality.

Even worse, I can guarantee you that right now, this minute, someone both smarter and more disciplined than Trump already is plotting how to build on Trump’s accomplishments to capture those voters in off-year state and local races and in a race for the White House in 2020 and beyond.

That is what our news media will be facing, and denialism could be lethal to the American experiment as well as to nontrivial numbers of individual Americans. I realize that after this longest and ugliest of campaigns, no one wants to hear this — and God knows I’d love to be wrong about it — but I think the media, and all Americans of good faith and good sense, must fight this, starting immediately. I pray to God we’re up to it.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013 6:56 am

Tradition Projection, plus a footnote

Berkeley economist Brad DeLong includes in his blog a valuable daily feature, “Liveblogging World War II.” This is the installment from May 8, 1943 — two years to the day before the war in Europe ended — written by the Nazis’ propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels. The level of projection is mind-boggling, as if Goebbels had consumed magic mushrooms, but it’s also a reminder that there’s a boatload of projection, differing only in scale but not in type, in today’s political dialogue, and that, no, both sides don’t do it.

The War and the Jews

The naivete, not to mention ignorance, with which certain European circles see the Jewish Question in the fourth year of this gigantic struggle is astonishing. They cannot or will not see that this war is a war of the Jewish race and its subject people against Western culture and civilization. Everything that we Germans and Europeans, defenders of the principle of a moral world order, hold dear is at risk. The above-mentioned circles are too inclined to see the Jewish Question as a humanitarian issue. They make their judgments on the feelings of the moment rather than on the knowledge and insight resulting from clear and calm reason.

It is clear that if during this war we show the least weakening of our determination to resolve the Jewish Question, the result will be the gravest danger to our people and Reich and all of Europe.

Jewry wanted this war. Whether one looks to the plutocratic or the bolshevist side of the enemy camp, one sees Jews standing in the foreground as instigators, rabble-rousers and slave drivers. They organize the enemy’s war economy and encourage plans to exterminate and destroy the Axis powers. England and the USA recruit from among them bloodthirsty and vengeful agitators and political lunatics, and they are the source of the terror commissars of the GPU. They are the mortar that holds the enemy coalition together.

In the National Socialist Reich, they see a power that resists their drive for world domination both militarily and intellectually. That explains their rage and deep hatred. Do not think that the Old Testament tirades of their newspapers and radio are merely political propaganda. They would carry it all out to the letter, should they have the opportunity.

Our state’s security requires that we take whatever measures seem necessary to protect the German community from their threat. That leads to some difficult decisions, but they are unavoidable if we are to deal with the threat. This war is a racial war. The Jews started it and they direct it. Their goal to destroy and exterminate our people. We are the only force standing between Jewry and world domination. If the Axis powers lose the war in Europe, no power on earth could save Europe from the Jewish-Bolshevist flood.

It may seem surprising that such a small minority possesses such great power and is such a deadly danger. But it is so. International Jewry uses certain criminal methods to gain world domination that are not evident to uneducated nations. The same is true in private life. The Jews do not enjoy economic success because they are more intelligent than non-Jews, but rather because they follow a different moral code. They attempt to conceal their methods for as long as possible, until it is too late for the affected nation to defend itself. Then it takes a revolution to dislodge them. We know how difficult and tiresome that is.

We constantly hear news that anti-Semitism is increasing in enemy nations. The charges being made against the Jews are the same ones that were made here. Anti-Semitism in enemy nations is not the result of anti-Semitic propaganda, since Jewry fights that strongly. In the Soviet Union, it receives the death penalty. Jewry does all it can to oppose anti-Semitism. The word Jew itself, for example, is hardly to be found in the otherwise so talkative English and USA newspapers, not to mention the Bolshevist press. Still, anti-Jewish attitudes are growing among the enemy public. This is an entirely natural reaction to the Jewish danger on the part of the affected peoples. In the long run, it does the Jews no good to plead in parliament and the newspapers for tougher laws against anti-Semitism, or to haul out the highest secular and spiritual dignitaries, among them naturally the Archbishop of Canterbury, to say a good word for the poor innocent persecuted Jews. They did that in Germany before 1933 too, but the National Socialist revolution took place nonetheless.

None of the Führer’s prophetic words has come so inevitably true as his prediction that if Jewry succeeded in provoking a second world war, the result would be not the destruction of the Aryan race, but rather the wiping out of the Jewish race. This process is of vast importance, and will have unforeseeable consequences that will require time. But it can no longer be halted. It must only be guided in the right direction. One must also be sure to strike the weapon of public deception from Jewry’s hands, which it is desperately using to save its skin. One can already see that in the face of approaching catastrophe the Jews are shrinking into the background. They send their pet Goy to the fore. It will not be long before they will not want to do it any longer, and wash their hands in innocence.

As one has to grant, we have some experience in these matters, and are taking action to be sure they do not succeed. The Jews will have to answer for their countless crimes against the happiness and peace of mankind, and one day the whole world will give them the penalty that they are suffering today in Germany. We speak without resentment. The time is too grave to spin naive plans of revenge. This is a world problem of the first order that can be solved by the present generation, and must be solved by them. Sentimental considerations have no part here. We see Jewry as the embodiment of a general world decline. Either we will break this danger, or the peoples of the world will break under it.

No one should say that winners are boastful. At present, we are the victors only in our own nation. Our victory at home, however, drew upon us the diabolic hatred of World Jewry, whose advance members the Jews still with us see themselves as. They want to see the Axis powers defeated, for that is the only way for them to regain their old privileges. It makes sense for us to secure our rear so that we can continue the battle before us with full energy and enthusiasm.

When dealing with the Jews there are only two choices: to surrender to them or to fight them. We have chosen the latter. As our enemy attacks without mercy, so do we. The future will prove who is right. Developments to far, however, seem to be more in our favor than the enemy’s. Opposition to the Jews, not friendship with them, is growing around the world. We are convinced that at the end of the war, Jewry will face a humanity that fully understands the Jewish Question.

Recently a leading London newspaper, which is wholly under Jewish control, printed an article that wondered at the alarming increase in anti-Semitism. It received many letters in response, and had to admit that only a tiny percentage took the Jewish side. The pro-Semitic letters, though the newspaper did not say this, probably were written by the Jews themselves. The others made the strongest attacks on Jewry, and the readership forced the paper to print some of them. They included all the insults one could hope for. This anti-Semitism is not racially grounded, and its roots are not at all clear, but one may still establish with some satisfaction that healthy popular instincts are beginning to manifest themselves even in enemy nations, Things are not much different in the United States. One of the letters encouraged the newspaper to send reporters to streetcars and trains. There they would hear numerous opinions about the Jews that deserved more than ironic dismissal.

That is the way it normally begins. The Jews in England are reacting in the usual ways. First they look injured and unjustly persecuted. In the synagogues, the rabbis encourage people to be more careful in public, and to avoid provocative behavior. Then they rent a few respected, but buyable leaders from society, business or religious life to make their case. Their well-paid job is to condemn anti-Semitism as a cultural disgrace that is the result of enemy propaganda. They call for stronger laws against it. The poor Jews whine in public about everything they have done for the country, what wonderful and patriotic citizens they have always been and will continue to be, the important offices they hold, etc. The innocent citizen is persuaded by a flood of words that he must have been mistaken in always seeing Jews behind all major political or economic crimes. Soon they find some high church leader who is ready to condemn anti-Semitism as anti-Christian. By the end, not the Jews, but their enemies are responsible for every national misfortune. Then the game starts all over again.

One has to grant that extraordinarily clever tactics are being used, and that it takes some intelligence or sound instincts to see behind the Jewish facade. But here, too, the jug carries water until it breaks. International Jewry’s attack on the culture and moral order of the world is cleverly concealed, but not cleverly enough so that it cannot be seen through. One must keep at their heels, and give them no rest when they begin to tire. They are virtuosos at the art of transformation. They can appear in a thousand forms, yet are always the same. If one has caught them, they claim injured innocence and send their guard of pity on ahead to beg for mercy. But if one extends them even a finger of pity, they chop the whole hand off. They must therefore be kept in the fear of the Lord.

We know that they hate us from the depths of their souls. We take pleasure in their hatred. There is nothing that they would not do to us if they had the power. We cannot therefore give them even the slightest bit of power. More than that, it is our duty to tell the world of their nature and their depravity. We must again and again prove their sick role in beginning and carry on this war. We must attack them incessantly, accuse them without pity of the crimes of which they are guilty, until the nations begin to wake up. That may take a long time, but it is worth it. We are dealing with the most dangerous enemy that ever threatened the life, freedom, and dignity of humanity. There can be no mercy. We have pity only for the countless millions of our own people and those of other European nations who will be given over to the hate and destructive will of this devilish race if we become weak and give up the battle. Those Philistines who today are so eager to protect the Jews would be their first victims.

We must all keep alert. We must be on guard against the insidious cleverness of the international world enemy. In the depths of his soul, he realizes that this war that he so frivolously began, expecting it to be the last step to world domination, has instead become a war for his racial existence. He desperately seeks to stop the inevitable march of events. It will do him no good. We will keep at him. In the end, the Führer’s prophecy about World Jewry in 1939, which they laughed at then, will come true.

The Jews laughed in Germany too when they first saw us. They are not laughing any longer. They chose to wage war against us. But that war is turning against them. When they planned a war to totally destroy the German nation, they signed their own death warrant.

Here, too, world history will be the world court.

A footnote: My Uncle Frank, who, as a 19-year-old Army lieutenant in Germany, witnessed some of the camps and attended some of the Nuremberg trials, lies in hospital this morning after removal yesterday of what the pathologist called a “big, ugly” Stage III tumor. He’s an atheist — probably not the only one who experienced what he did — but I’m sure his family would appreciate your prayers.

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