Well, I’ll tell you one thing that Patty Hearst book — and the study of history in general — has been good for: It’s convinced me the current era isn’t the darkest in our recent history. In the ’70s, during the Hearst kidnapping era, Kathy Soliah worked with a small group that placed bombs around the Bay area, set to explode during evening hours, when no one would be around. Just, y’know, to make a statement.
I’ve been tipping toward despair with regard to our current situation. It’s temporary, I’m sure, but after reading this regarding the Joe-Mika-POTUS affair, which already seems like it happened two years ago, despair seemed the only option:
According to three sources familiar with the private conversations, what happened was this: After the inauguration, Morning Joe’s coverage of Trump turned sharply negative. “This presidency is fake and failed,” Brzezinski said on March 6, for example. Around this time, Scarborough and Brzezinski found out the Enquirer was preparing a story about their affair. While Scarborough and Brzezinski’s relationship had been gossiped about in media circles for some time, it was not yet public, and the tabloid was going to report that they had left their spouses to be together.
In mid-April, Scarborough texted with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner about the pending Enquirer story. Kushner told Scarborough that he would need to personally apologize to Trump in exchange for getting Enquirer owner David Pecker to stop the story. (A spokesperson for Kushner declined to comment.) Scarborough says he refused, and the Enquirer published the story in print on June 5, headlined “Morning Joe Sleazy Cheating Scandal!”
David Pecker was, perhaps not coincidentally, profiled last week in the New Yorker. Talk about depressing:
Throughout the 2016 Presidential race, the Enquirer embraced Trump with sycophantic fervor. The magazine made its first political endorsement ever, of Trump, last spring. Cover headlines promised, “DONALD TRUMP’S REVENGE ON HILLARY & HER PUPPETS” and “TOP SECRET PLAN INSIDE: HOW TRUMP WILL WIN DEBATE!” The publication trashed Trump’s rivals, running a dubious cover story on Ted Cruz that described him as a philanderer and another highly questionable piece that linked Cruz’s father to the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
It was even tougher on Hillary Clinton, regularly printing such headlines as “ ‘SOCIOPATH’ HILLARY CLINTON’S SECRET PSYCH FILES EXPOSED!” A 2015 piece began, “Failing health and a deadly thirst for power are driving Hillary Clinton to an early grave, The National Enquirer has learned in a bombshell investigation. The desperate and deteriorating 67-year-old won’t make it to the White House—because she’ll be dead in six months.” On election eve, the Enquirer offered a special nine-page investigation under the headline “HILLARY: CORRUPT! RACIST! CRIMINAL!” This blatantly skewed coverage continued after Trump took office. Post-election cover stories included “TRUMP TAKES CHARGE! SUCCESS IN JUST 36 DAYS!” and “PROOF OBAMA WIRETAPPED TRUMP! LIES, LEAKS & ILLEGAL BUGGING.”
Pecker and Trump have been friends for decades—their professional and personal lives have intersected in myriad ways—and Pecker acknowledges that his tabloids’ coverage of Trump has a personal dimension. All Presidents seek to influence the media, but Trump enjoys unusual advantages in this regard. He is also in close contact with Rupert Murdoch, whose empire includes Fox News and the Wall Street Journal. (While the Times and the Washington Post have produced repeated scoops about Trump and Russia, the Journal, which employs a large investigative staff, has largely been silent on the issue.)
So that’s why we don’t have Middle East peace or a fix for the opioid crisis: The 36-year-old dilettante in charge of both projects is trying to broker an apology to his father-in-law from two cable-TV personalities.
Despair, despair, despair.
Then there was Saturday. I went to Columbus for fewer than 24 hours, to attend a high-school reunion one-off, for our 60th birthdays. I had been chatting cordially with one guy off and on all night when the health-care bill came up. The situation escalated so quickly that I picked up an empty beer bottle between us, pressed the bottom to his chest and gave him a little push, to let him know I found his leaning in almost physically threatening. (I didn’t think a jab-cross-hook combination was called for just yet.) When he finally hissed, “Barack Obama! He’s the biggest racist in the world,” I stood up, announced I had to pee and was not going to listen to any more of this bullshit anyway, and left. I did pee, but I didn’t go back to the party. And I think it’s safe to say that’s the last reunion I’ll be attending, too.
Despair. Oh, woe.
Neil Steinberg appears to be in a similar frame of mind:
The first 4th of July under the Trump presidency. A buffoon king propped up by his court of cringing underlings, flattering toadies, traitors, psychopaths and henchmen. The first of four, or eight, depending on how things go. And we really have no idea how that will unfold. Are we in the lull before the true calamity starts? Is it spring 1914? August 1939? Where all the elements of disaster are in place, waiting for the spark to touch it off. Half the nation is already in lingering shock that we could have elected someone so unfit. Will the other half quickly learn the cost of their folly, when some irreparable harm is done? Will they never learn, and race off toward calamity with an enthusiastic whoop?
Has that harm already happened? Are we on the other side of the mirror now, bouncing down the proverbial slippery slope, watching mileposts of the unimaginable, boundaries of the unacceptable, flash past as we tumble into our new world? Will we look back on Trump with nostalgia as we squirm under the boot of a true tyrant?
But rallies in his final grafs:
With a conscienceless buffoon swinging a pick axe daily, if not hourly, at our institutions, nothing is certain. The battle is going on right now, today, this minute. Anyone who ever wished they could have been there at the nation’s birth, a cobbler in Lexington, a baker in Concord, so he could have heard the call, set down his hammer, his bowl, taken up his flintlock and rose to the defense of our aborning country, has to be a little grateful to be alive at this moment, this 4th, when the country needs every sound head and every stout heart it can muster. Every man and woman who believes in the United States of America at its best, not at its worst. This is the gravest sort of crisis—one self-imposed, by the cowardice of our leaders, the selfishness of our electorate, the loss of faith in ourselves and in each other. People have never needed an America more, and America has never needed her people more.
So, that’s my head on the Fourth. My body? This helped a lot:
Wendy the photobomber. It was a good day to be out. We had dinner later that night at an old-fashioned ’50s drive-in, so she could come along and help us eat the french fries. The place appears to be a hangout for hotrod people, all of whom appeared to be at least 60. One had a convertible Corvair, the car I learned to drive on, a model my mother believes was the victim of a great, great injustice thanks to Ralph Nader. All I know is, it went well in the snow.
So, change of subject? Change of subject. You might as well get your knees replaced, although I’m holding out. The pain’s not that bad. Yet.
Oh, and some data. Gotta love data. American carnage? No, Latin American carnage. U.S. cities are still pretty safe, as any city resident could tell you.
Finally, this is a few days old and you may have seen it, but no one writes better about internet trolling than Lindy West, and she did so over the weekend in the NYT.
Back in two days, then. Don’t despair.