#TrumpDerangementSyndrome : Do you have it?

July 28, 2018

Political editor, Dr Martin Hirst, confesses to a slight obsession with “The Donald”, but, he argues, it is not what you think.

I AM MILDLY OBSESSED with following the news of President Donald Trump. There’s part of my brain that still has trouble processing the fact that this low-rent reality TV “star” actually won the 2016 U.S. election. I really don’t think he could have done it without Russian help.

My fascination with Trump is borne out of my long and deep interest in politics and world affairs. It is impossible for me – a child of the Cold War – to ignore the historic role of the U.S. President as so-called “leader of the free world”. I know that this is an ideological trope that hides a century of imperialist aggression and mass slaughter (by the “fine people” on all sides), but it holds a certain truth because it is a boast backed up by the world’s largest arsenal of nuclear (and conventional) weapons of mass destruction.

Trump’s instability and his fat, little fingers hovering over the launch button should be grabbing the attention of most half-woke people. We are literally one Twitter meltdown away from Armageddon. However, I do not believe my dedication of serious thinking time to the Tangerine Fascist in the White House is a case of “Trump Derangement Syndrome” (TDS).
What is TDS?

In mid-July the pro-Trump Fox News personality (I use that term loosely) “Judge” Jeanine Pirro was on Whoopi Goldberg’s TV chat show (Why, Whoopi, why?) and they got into a slanging match. In a widely-reported exchange, Pirro accused Goldberg of having “Trump Derangement Syndrome”.

What Pirro meant by this is that Goldberg’s criticism of Trump – which verges on visceral hatred like it does for many of us – is unwarranted and that inability to cope with the Trump presidency is a sign of mental illness.

This is the definition that you get from a quick check of the Urban Dictionary:

Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) is a mental condition in which a person has been driven effectively insane due to their dislike of Donald Trump, to the point at which they will abandon all logic and reason.

Symptoms for this condition can be very diverse, ranging from hysterical outbursts to a complete mental break. TDS can also often result in the sufferer exhibiting violent, homicidal, or even genocidal desires.

Sufferers have also been known to wish direct self-harm on themselves (such as increased taxes, a desire for an economic recession and even nuclear war), provided that an action might in some way hurt Donald Trump.

That the entry was written by a Trump fan, most likely dressed head-to-toe in MAGA merch (which is mostly made in China and Bangladesh, BTW), is not surprising — the term did start with the pro-Trump lobby back before the election.

USA! USA! *Made in China (Image via Wikipedia)

A New York-based real estate attorney named Stephen Meister is credited with coining “Trump Derangement Syndrome” in a Washington Examiner op-ed on 1 October 2015.

The column, simply headlined Trump Derangement Syndrome begins:

Bitter hatred is a dangerous emotion: It destroys one’s objectivity and judgment. When journalists become true haters, the results can be cringe-worthy. Presently, there seems to be a hate-induced epidemic sweeping the nation’s journalists — call it “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” Infected pundits have been spewing idiotic, unsupported and intemperate opinions, even vulgar outbursts, about Donald Trump. Ironically, this is only helping The Donald.

You get the point. Meister is sympathetic to “The Donald” and, who knows, maybe they’ve done business or hung out.

Oh, what’s this?

As you know, I like to be thorough, so I checked out Mr Meister.

Here’s a sample of his earlier work for the Washington Examiner:

As an attorney who’s worked for Trump (I have not represented him for the past year and a half) — and many years ago, against him — his success on the campaign trail comes as no surprise: Trump’s a man of exceptional tenacity and guts, insightful intuitions, clear purposes, an intelligence that’s expressed forcefully and directly, always without regard to political correctness and a world class negotiator. Trump intuitively understands what troubles Americans and boldly states their concerns; I guarantee he’ll never be an appeaser of foreign governments; there’ll be no Neville Chamberlains or hapless apprentices for domestic or foreign policy, in his administration — if you’re not doing your job, you’ll be fired.

This piece, from a week before the TDS article, is headlined A personal assessment of Donald Trump, and this how it ends:

‘In a match up against Sanders, Clinton or Biden, the GOP is better off with Trump, whose business experience, successes and star power can overpower an ageing socialist, a corrupt dynastic politician, or the vice president of the most pathetic administration in modern history.’

As you might have guessed, the Washington Examiner is a very conservative and pro-Trump publication.

So, TDS has become a signal catch-cry for the Trumpsters and it allows them to vent and troll those of us who don’t swallow the party line parroted by Trump supporters.

It has also made its way to Australia thanks to the imitative behaviour of certain Newscorpse agitprop recyclers who ran out of original insults several election-cycles ago.

Luckily our good friend @thekennydevine was on hand to document it for those of us who are blocked by the best and brightest of the Murdoch hacks.

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TDS has become a meme-worthy go-to deflection tactic for Trump supporters who hate the fact that some of us are willing to call out the President’s erratic behaviour. Behaviour that I have previously argued verges on potential mental illness or brain injury. It’s fair to say I believe that the Donald himself is possibly suffering from undiagnosed Trump Derangement Syndrome.
Reclaiming TDS for the sensible side of this debate

You know it’s time to address an issue when Trump tweets about it.

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This tweet kick-started a wave of explainers in the news media that attempted to define and contextualise Trump’s tweet. The Daily Dot piece sets out the history of the “syndrome” in a calm fashion and points out that it has become weaponised by both Trump supporters and critics.

CNN got in on the act and re-upped an interesting piece from 2016 by Trump booster Justin Raimondo, which is still relevant, but not for the reasons Raimondo espoused two years ago.

In the first stage of the disease, victims lose all sense of proportion. The president-elect’s every tweet provokes a firestorm, as if 140 characters were all it took to change the world.

The mid-level stages of TDS have a profound effect on the victim’s vocabulary: Sufferers speak a distinctive language consisting solely of hyperbole.

As TDS progresses, the afflicted lose the ability to distinguish fantasy from reality.

FYI, Justin Raimondo runs a website called AntiWar.com, but it is a gaslighting operation that simply regurgitates pro-Trump and pro-Russia nonsense, such as this recent piece which attempts to equate Trump’s disgraced former campaign manager, Carter Page, with Julian Assange and to argue that they are ‘martyrs to the cause’. The “cause” is taking the plunge into the rabbit hole of “deep state” conspiracy theories.

Just take a second to reflect on Raimondo’s definition of TDS symptoms.

If you look at these three “symptoms” with a cool head, you can’t help but reach the (quite valid) conclusion that they more accurately describe Trump supporters who cling to the President like demented barnacles.

In other words, it is TDS that makes hardcore Trump supporters what they are.

Trump’s “deplorables” are willing to believe Trump’s obvious lies and to be willingly gaslighted and led by the nose and Trump himself is pouring fuel on this already raging dumpster fire.

Just this week, Trump’s ongoing campaign to confuse and corral his base moved to a new level. The President of the United States told his supporters not to believe anything they see or what they read in the news.

In other words, Trump told his supporters that they should only believe him and what he says. That he alone is capable of defining truth. This is a descent into Orwellian doublethink and echoes down through history as the favoured tactic of dictators who want to goad the faithful into mass hysteria and unquestioning loyalty to “the leader”.

This is also the point of Trump’s incessant tweeting about “witch hunts” and conspiracies to undermine his legitimacy.

It is unlikely that Trump himself believes that there is a conspiracy and he almost certainly knows (because he’s implicated) that the Mueller probe is a real threat to his continued occupancy of the White House. However, by casting doubt on the legitimacy of the investigation and constantly muddying the waters with chump bait, Trump hopes to deflect attention away from his own crimes and to mobilise the deplorables to defend him.

Beyond that, the desired effect is to make it so difficult for interested observers to get to the truth that they give up and stop looking. If the allegations of collusion and Russian interference can be reduced to a “he said, she said” back and forth, the truth and import gets lost and people switch off.

The other form of TDS is the one on display at Justin Raimondo’s AntiWar.com website. It is a delusion shared and fostered by some on the “libertarian”, “progressive” side that somehow, Hillary Clinton would have been (and still is) somehow worse than Trump.

I find this form of TDS intriguing because it is combined with a form of politics (Libertarianism) that objectively helps Trump, while subjectively claiming to be independent and challenging the left-right dichotomy.

The founders of Antiwar.com were active in the Libertarian Party during the 1970s; in 1983, we founded the Libertarian Republican Organizing Committee to work as a libertarian caucus within the GOP. Today, we are seeking to challenge the traditional politics of “Left” and “Right”.

The totalitarian liberals and social democrats of the West have unilaterally and arrogantly abolished national sovereignty and openly seek to overthrow all who would oppose their bid for global hegemony. They have made enemies of the patriots of all countries and it is time for those enemies to unite — or perish alone.

These two statements, in consecutive paragraphs on the AntiWar.com ‘About us’ page, are totally incompatible and simply highlight that conservative (anti-Left) nature of the site’s intent.

The ideology behind this politics – and made explicit at AntiWar.com – is disorienting to newcomers and ultimately politically sterile as a form of intervention.

In the end, it is just another form of Trump Derangement Syndrome and, like the hardcore of deplorables, those most infected are in denial about their condition. Perhaps TDS is related to Dunning-Kruger Effect too; certainly, it is one psychological diagnosis of Trump that appears to have some credibility.

In the past week, the mainstream media has made the reasonable link between Trump’s gaslighting operation and George Orwell’s 1984 in which the propaganda of Big Brother could be adjusted to ensure that the Inner Party was always in control of the narrative.

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Ensuring that his supporters – the real victims of Trump Derangement Syndrome – keep drinking the Kool-aid is a key strategic aim of the pro-Trump media and his top officials.

Everything else – inconvenient facts, actual truth, or contradictory narratives – is just shovelled into the memory hole to be burnt and erased from history.

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On Disruption: An insider’s view of the collapse of journalism

July 19, 2018

Can journalism and the news industry survive the perfect storm of digital disruption? Dr Martin Hirst reviews Katharine Murphy’s essay On Disruption.

Katharine Murphy’s brief essay On Disruption lays out for the reader a useful insider’s view of how the news industry and journalism are struggling to cope with the changes wrought by digital technologies and collapsing business models.

If you have any interest in understanding how the news establishment sees itself, and its prospects for surviving the crisis of profitability and trust, it is worth reading this pamphlet.

At only 120 pages, it would be unfair to expect Katharine Murphy to provide fully-articulated solutions to the almost panic-inducing problems confronting the mainstream media. Having said that, On Disruption is an insight into how establishment journalists see themselves, their mission and the state of their industry.

The key theme that Murphy explores is that the internet and social media instituted a period of disruption that has unsettled the news media and left it in a state of uncertainty that persists today.

This is true enough, but my criticism stems from the technological determinism that frames her view:

‘… the boss has decreed this is the future, not because he or she necessarily wants it to be, but because it is the future, and we are powerless to argue with it.’

This is a classic trope of technological determinism: the belief that technological change is the root cause of everything. In this case, it is the pessimistic, and ultimately passive, view that the future is somehow pre-ordained by the technology and that we are “powerless” to shape the future for ourselves.

Inevitably, Murphy argues, journalists must adapt to the new ways, rather than challenge them. The second telling point about the quote I’ve used here is the reference to “the boss”. This metaphorical figure is present in a long anecdotal metaphor that Murphy uses to explain how disruption has affected the news industry.

The analogy involves substituting the car industry for journalism. In the analogy, the reader is asked to imagine themselves as a worker in a car factory that is confronting technological change. Okay, it’s only a metaphor, so perhaps not be taken literally, but it is a key section of the first half of Murphy’s argument, so it is worth deconstructing.

Murphy begins by suggesting that the car analogy is ‘possibly psychic penance on my part’ for her previous work on ‘structural adjustment’, which emphasised ‘disruption as an economic homily’ while ignoring ‘the human dimension of the story’. As Murphy acknowledges, when there is personal interest involved, the human dimension suddenly becomes very real.

The take-away from this is that the structural adjustment process now being applied to journalism is a necessary corrective brought about by digital disruption. Read the rest of this entry »


​Canberra Press Gallery black bans Nauru forum coverage (except for News Corp)

July 18, 2018

The Canberra Press Gallery has announced its members will boycott the Pacific Islands Forum in solidarity with banned ABC journalists. Political editor Dr Martin Hirst says this is an historic decision by the Gallery.

The Republic of Nauru — pretty much all of it (Image by Tatters via Flickr)

THE CANBERRA PRESS GALLERY has announced its members will boycott the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) in September in an act of solidarity with ABC journalists refused a visa by the Nauruan Government.

I’m very pleased about this. You could say it’s something for Gallery members to be proud of, but my only fear is that news organisations will find a work-around to make sure some reporters can break the black ban.

It’s not a surprise that the pro-Nauru, pro-gulag Newscorp papers have announced they will be sending a team.

In a strong statement, Press Gallery President, <a

The Nauru Government’s decision to block an ABC journalist from joining a media pool to cover the Pacific Islands’ Forum has been widely condemned by media rights organisations and by the journalists’ union, the MEAA. But it seems that, for some, it is difficult to condemn something that they secretly condone and would love to do themselves. It seems that, for some political leaders, free speech is great — but not for the ABC and not in Nauru Yes, I’m talking about the Prime Minister. All that Malcolm Turnbull could muster is that the decision is “regrettable”, but that it “must be respected”. In other words, I love freedom of the press, but not for the ABC and not in relation to Nauru.

If you watch the clip you can see that Turnbull is very uncomfortable with the words coming out of his mouth. His vocal cues show that he is insincere and suggest that he’s really delighted with the actions of the Nauru Government.

Clearly, you know, we…

We regret…

It’ll be regrettable if the ABC is not there. We’d love to have you there with us…

But we have to remember and respect Nauru’s sovereignty.

It is up to Nauru who cones into their country just as it is up to our Government – my Government – as to who comes into Australia.

And that’s the nub of it really. Turnbull is powerless to say or do anything against Nauru because his Government is totally dependent on the Pacific island nation as an offshore gulag in which to imprison women, children, and men who are refugees and who – according to international law and human rights convention – should be allowed to enter Australia.

Of course, we all know that Australia’s inhumane and potentially illegal incarceration of legitimate asylum-seekers is at the heart of the Nauru Government’s visceral hatred of the ABC.

Unlike the compliant Murdoch hacks who’ve been given access to Australia’s prison camps on Nauru, the ABC has covered the refugee issue and other human rights abuses by the Nauru Government accurately.

Which, of course, leads to the Nauruan accusations of “fake news” against the ABC.
Free press, but not you, or you, or you Read the rest of this entry »


Class war? Yes please!

July 18, 2018

According to senior Press Gallery journalists, Bill Shorten is guilty of class war for exposing Malcolm Turnbull’s unearned wealth. Political editor Dr Martin Hirst disagrees and argues public figures are legitimate targets when they duck for cover.

First published on Independent Australia.

HOW SEPARATE are the public and private actions of politicians and their high-profile staffers? Is it “class war” when the Left exposes the hypocrisy of the conservatives, but not when the Right wants to attack workers and welfare recipients?

We have cause to consider these questions this week, because several examples are presented to us from the White House and from our own domestic politics.

Let’s take the American cases first. They involve high profile staff in the Trump White House — staff who are controversial and who were in the spotlight this week for having aspects of their private lives exposed.

First, consider Stephen Miller, a speech writer and confidant of the President, who was profiled recently in The Atlantic as “Trump’s Right-Hand Troll”. The kindest thing one might say about Miller is that he’s a very well-dressed White Nationalist. He’s widely known as the architect of Trump’s infamous “Muslim ban” and the policy of separating families at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Miller was apparently trying to keep a low profile this week, but to no avail. First he was heckled in a Washington DC restaurant – a Mexican restaurant, would you believe – and then protestors started texting him after his mobile phone number was published on news website Splinter.

Following the publication of Miller’s phone number in a number of places a reporter for The Nation, David Klion posted it to Twitter. Twitter’s response was to suspend the journalist for a violation of the rule prohibiting the posting of private information.

Klion defended his actions in an interview with The Wrap; it’s worth considering his justification.

“This is war,” said Klion. “I think that what is happening right now at the border is child abuse. It is systematic child abuse. It is racist child abuse. It is being carried out for cynical political purposes.”

Klion also said that Miller’s status as a high public official made him fair game in a way which was different from the many right-wing doxxing campaigns against journalists.“Power differentials matter here and Stephen Miller is one of the most powerful people in the country. He is the architect of these inhumane policies. There is a power imbalance,” said Klion. “Anything that allows us to speak directly to the most powerful people behind this is something I would support. Doxxing a random person or a journalist is not something I would support.”

I must admit I have some sympathy for this position. Miller’s role in the White House must mean that his actions should be open to public scrutiny, but they are too often shrouded in secrecy. Pulling back that veil is sometimes necessary in order to make a point.

Read the rest of this entry »


The democracy deficit: It’s an economic problem too

June 29, 2018

WE LIVE IN a democracy, right?

It just seems like common sense, something so secure and simple it’s hardly worth thinking about, right?

But what if I told you that what we have is not a democracy?

Would you be outraged? Would you think I’m some sort of unhinged leftie? Or would you be prepared to at least consider my arguments?

I’ll assume the latter, because you’re still reading. Aren’t you?

My argument, in a nutshell, is that despite the formal features of our political system matching most aspects of the dictionary definition, any sense of real democratic practice is an illusion. This is because our apparently democratic institutions are functionally designed to give power to money, not people.

Let’s start with an example from last week.

We will, or we will not, sell the ABC

I don’t know about you, but I was not at all surprised when the Liberal Party’s Federal Council voted overwhelmingly to sell-off the embattled national broadcaster at its annual conference on the weekend of 16-17 June.

The Liberal Party apparatus has been captured by conservative forces inspired by the Institute of Public Affairs and loyal to factions led by Tony Abbott in NSW, Peter Dutton in Queensland and Eric Abetz in Tasmania.

We can only expect this rightward drift to continue into the future, too. Moderates were roundly defeated in votes for the incoming executive and the Young Liberals grouping engineered the vote. The overlap between wealthy student apparatchiks and the besuited, bespectacled cadre of the IPA is very evident in the ranks of the Young Libs.

No delegates spoke against the sell motion, not even the several ministers who were present.

So, we can assume from this that the Liberal Party rank-and-file are committed to privatising the ABC and probably SBS as well.

Okay, we might disagree with this policy position (here at IA we certainly do), but in a democracy, the people have spoken.

In this case, the people are members of the Liberal Party — they elect a leadership, set policy and pre-select party candidates to stand in elections.

Yep, all totally democratic — except for the fact that the parliamentary grouping of the Liberals have said they will ignore the party’s rank-and-file.

The parliamentary wing of the Liberal Party has apparently been wedged by the conservative wing of the party. In the days after the Federal Council, senior Liberal ministers, from the PM down, were publicly vocal in claiming the Government has no plans to privatise the ABC.

What?

That’s right, the Liberal Party representatives in Parliament – those whose positions on the comfy leather benches depends on the party rank-and-file – have no intention of carrying out party policy as set by the Liberals’ highest decision-making body.

Well, that’s one interpretation if the loud protestations of “never, never” from Turnbull cabinet are to be believed.

But are they to be believed?

I think we have earned the right to be cynical and wary when it comes to the COALition and honouring commitments.

It’s no secret that this Government hates the ABC and would love to see it sold off. The Minister for Communication, Senator Fifield, has demonstrated his loathing of the national broadcaster in a series of vexatious, but nevertheless damaging, complaints. The Government stripped out over $100 million in funding to the ABC in the 2018 Budget, forcing cuts in news and other divisions. The appointment of former Murdoch executive Michelle Guthrie as managing director is also widely seen as a Trojan horse for dismantling the ABC.

None of us should be surprised if the Dutton/Turnbull Government moves to chop up the ABC if it wins the next Federal election.

The take out from this is that either way, democratic processes – both inside and outside of party structures – are a sham, a veil of decency to give a shred of respect to an otherwise broken, decrepit and corrupt system.

And, just so you don’t think I’m being one-eyed about this, the ALP deserves some criticism in this area, too.

In May this year, the so-called “left” unions (a block of bureaucrats and careerists) procedurally shut down the Victorian conference of the ALP so that a motion on ending offshore detention of refugees could not be debated. But it’s actually worse than that: motions on several key issues were blocked by the suspension of business.

On Sunday the industrial left teamed up with the Labor right to close the Victorian state conference, shutting down urgency motions on live exports, gender inequality in superannuation, closure of offshore detention centres, the right to strike, the rate of Newstart and recognition of Palestine.

The same grouping also combined to vote against senators being preselected by an equal vote of rank-and-file members and affiliated union delegates to state conference.

How is this different in principle to the Liberal leadership ignoring the wishes of the rank-and-file over privatising the ABC?

Read the rest of this entry »


Full Nuremburg: Trump versus the Press

June 24, 2018

This week, after a quick stopover in Singapore, Donald Trump was keen to return to his favourite topic (beside his own greatness): his feud with the American news media. Political editor, Dr Martin Hirst, argues that journalists need to continue pushing back, or risk being swamped by Trump’s aggression.

[First published on Independent Australia]

ANYONE WHO’S HALF-AWAKE would know that Donald J. Trump has a very conflicted relationship with the American news media.

He loves Fox & Friends and is more than willing to sit down to be interviewed by his good friends on the Murdoch-owned network.

On his way back from the “tremendous” tete-a-tete with mass murderer Kim Jong-un, Trump did a one-on-one with Fox News. He hasn’t done a sit down interview with any other media outlet for over a year.

Despite the very controlled access, many U.S. (and Australian) news outlets were initially quite excited by the Trump-Kim PDA in Singapore. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for the lipstick to wear off and the true piggishness of Trump to re-emerge.

Within 24 hours of touching down in the ever-deepening Washington swamp, Trump was up to his old trick of lambasting serious and critical journalism as “fake news”. Luckily, we have former journalist and current conscience-pricker Dan Gillmor to remind the shell-shocked American news media of their true purpose.

In fact, I was so drawn to this Trump tweet, I actually also retweeted it myself, with the appropriate commentary.

Yes, we’re all used to the Tangerine Fascist’s unhinged tweeting but, as I argued in July last year, we need to take Trump’s tweets seriously.

Here’s what I wrote at the time:

Supporters of the “ignore the tweeting” camp say that Trump is deliberately pumping out the outrage and confected offence in order to keep the media occupied and away from the more serious and nefarious plans he has to turn the United States of America into the Principality of Trumpistan.

On the other hand, there’s an argument that Trump’s tweets represent the “thoughts” of the United States President and should be taken seriously. His own staff are now also running with this line, arguing that President Trump is taking his message straight to the American people and needs to do this because the news media distorts his words and does not report the great things he’s doing to “Make America Great Again”.

As Trump himself wrote, nearly a year ago, his tweeting is “modern day presidential”.

Convinced yet?

Just take a look again at the last sentence in this week’s “fake news” broadside:

‘Our Country’s biggest enemy is the Fake News so easily promulgated by fools!’

Does this remind you of anything?

It is a not-so-subtle reference to a rallying call of his neo-Nazi supporters, who have adopted Trump as their Great White Hope.

This is very inflammatory language from the President, but it is also very deliberate. Trump is on record as saying he uses Twitter to make an end-run around a hostile media and to speak directly to his base in language that they will easily understand.

This is also clearly the reasoning behind his almost-daily tweeting about the Russia investigation being a “witch hunt”.

Nobody outside of his inner circle and his welded-on supporters actually believe any of this. Unfortunately, we can’t afford to just ignore Trumpers — they are heavily-armed, overwhelming angry white, and disenfranchised, and still capable of electing more Trump-like politicians to Congress and the Senate.

Trump’s base is increasingly limited to the hardcore – and quite ignorant – racist and conservative rump of the Republican Party, and a few Republican members of Congress, who are rightfully scared of decimation in the upcoming “mid-term” elections.

Trump needs the woke Nazis and the small but tight coterie of ordinary Americans who think that Mexicans are stealing their jobs, and that the European Union is most likely a George Soros-funded conspiracy to weaken America before it can become “great again”.

The Nazis are just cynical thugs with vague hopes that Trump would deliver them a racially pure homeland.

Trump has a history of appeasing them. Remember his disgusting support for the white supremacist cause following the Charlottesville murder of civil rights activist Heather Heyer by a neo-Nazi fringe-dweller, who weaponised his American-made car in August last year.

Fake News is the new “Lügenpresse”

Trump supporters began calling the critical mainstream news media “lügenpresse” during the 2016 election campaign. It became a feature of his campaign rallies to direct the anger of his supporters towards journalists in the venue, leading to exchanges like this from October 2016.

Rosie Gray is a White House correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, which will certainly be a target of the Trumper’s hatred — it carries some good journalism and has taken a consistently anti-Trump line editorially.

Gray interviewed Trump supporter and avowed white supremacist Richard Spencer following the incident she tweeted out from the Cleveland rally and he gleefully told her that lügenpresse had become a buzz word among the so-called “Alt-Right”.

The term has a long history in Germany, where it emerged in a government propaganda booklet during the dying days of World War One. The Nazis appropriated it after their ascension to power in the mid-1930s. It was a powerful weapon used to mobilise the Nazi party supporters behind anti-Jewish pogroms.

It is regarded as a taboo word in Germany today, but it is still used there by the hard-right nationalist parties. Trump has cleverly adapted it by using the term “fake news”.

He thinks this gives him plausible separation from the neo-Nazis, while dog-whistling them and gaslighting the more gullible members of his base.

He’s fooling nobody. The links between Trump’s use of “fake news” and the neo-Nazi chants of lügenpresse are blindingly obvious. Or at least they should be.

However, it seems that, to some extent, Trump’s constant attacks on the news media are working for him.

The strategy is designed to raise doubts in the public mind about the credibility of the news media. Trump knows that most of the critical reporting about him is based on extensive research and – often – interviews with some of his closest advisors. He is also a proven leaker in his own right, often creating the narrative thread that he then denounces as fake.

But Trump doesn’t have to disprove the facts; by simply throwing chump bait into the water, the feeding frenzy takes over, amplified by Trump-friendly outlets like Fox and the other conservative outlets, who either support him or see value in exploiting his presidency for their own white nationalist ends — think Breitbart and so forth.

These are indeed difficult times for the news media trying to cover Trump. However, there are lessons to be learned and past mistakes not to be repeated.

It’s worth reminding ourselves that the news media needs to be aggressive in its coverage of the Trump White House and the many Trump surrogates – such as Rudy Giuliani – who do the rounds of the talk shows blowing smoke and covering for their master’s gaffes.

If journalists try to treat the Trump presidency as anything but abnormal, they risk giving him the control he craves. We saw the normalising of Trump begin to take hold during and just after the Singapore summit.

Headline-hungry reporters were offering their praise and hot-takes about peace on the Korean Peninsula; I was one of the few who held out against this by carefully parsing his media conference and pointing out the obvious anomalies.

The 60 per cent of Americans who instinctively know that Trump is a monster and underserving of his elevated position need to know they can rely on journalists to continue to pursue the stories of corruption, nepotism, cronyism and sheer idiocy that emanate from the Washington swamp under Trump’s watch.

The Mandarin Maniac is yet to go “full Nuremberg” (though we have seen the tiki torch rallies), but we might see something of it when he makes the inevitable rhetoric-heavy speech during the planned $30 million military parade that is being prepared for him on Veterans’ Day in November.

If “chaos is the new normal” then the news media has to cut through, stand tough, take Trump’s hits and keep asking the difficult questions.

Fortunately, there are a handful of brave journalists and correspondents who are willing to stand up for what’s right and show no fear.

You can follow political editor Dr Martin Hirst on Twitter @ethicalmartini.


Chaos is the new normal: Trump and Kim PDA in Singapore

June 14, 2018

The mainstream media will now try to normalise Trump’s abnormal behaviour by focusing only on the “optics” of this week’s “historic” Singapore meeting with Chairman Kim Jong-un, writes political editor Dr Martin Hirst.

TUESDAY 12 JUNE 2018, will go down in history as the day that a U.S. President sat down with a North Korean dictator to attempt a settlement of a 70-year-old conflict that has bedevilled the world.

It is impossible to say, just 48 hours later, if there will be success, or if there will be nuclear annihilation when the peace efforts crash and burn. But what is clear so far is that the Tangerine Fascist met his “Mini-Me” in the North Korean Supreme Leader.

Chaos is the new normal. Both Donald J Trump and Kim Jong-un are highly unpredictable, we cannot know what either of them will do next. Both of them thrive on chaos and a dangerous delusion of authoritarian narcissism.

However, this might not be immediately obvious. That’s because this simple truth has been forgotten in the rush to celebrate, deify and mythologise the few hours that Trump and Kim spent together this week in Singapore.

I spent a few hours watching coverage of the “historic summit” on Fox News.

There was wall-to-wall gloating and waves of “I told you so” and “fake news media were wrong about him” smarm as the Fox presenters lined up to kick the non-reverential American news media and bow down before Trump.

It was sickening. But, to be fair, the coverage was not much better on the ABC.

What Fox and the ABC shared was an overwhelming desire to normalise Trump’s self-aggrandising and far from normal behaviour.

The “optics” and the “atmospherics” of Singapore were endlessly replayed because there was very little else to actually report right up until Trump’s extraordinary news conference at the end of the day.

It was extraordinary, but unless you watched it, you are unlikely to get the full weirdness of it. It lasted for just over an hour and Trump’s impatience to talk about himself meant that most reporters didn’t even get to finish their questions before Trump talked all over the top of them.

And it was all about Trump.

He lambasted all the previous U.S. administrations who had not been able to handle the North Korea situation. It didn’t matter that Trump’s historical knowledge is negligible, he just kept on repeating the few simple lines he’d managed to practice with his advisors/enablers.

On the whole “peace regime” thing, (former President) Obama couldn’t do it, but Trump could because he’s such a good deal maker. “That’s what I do”, he reminded the assembled journalists — and by extension the entire planet!

Read the rest of this piece at Independent Australia.