The vote totals are climbing and Hilary is beating Trump by 2.2 million votes in the popular election, or what in other countries they just call “the election.” And Trump is throwing a hissy fit of President-Elect proportions.
He says he won the popular vote if you don’t count the millions of illegal votes that were cast for Hillary. Illegal votes? Why are we just hearing of these illegal votes now? And who are we hearing about them from? Why, Trump, of course.
He’s not the only one who knows about the illegal votes. He got the number from InfoWars, a source dedicated to conspiracy theories so wild they make alien abductions seem like reasonable possibilities.
The press reaction ranged from “Pants on Fire” from Politifact to the more nuanced, “Trump says this, Democrats say that” from other mainstream sources.
While this was going on, Kellyanne Conway took to Meet the Press to denounce Mitt Romney as a possible choice for Secretary of State. As if Trump didn’t know her position or that she was going to appear on TV, he declared he was very angry about her statements.
Puh-leez! Can the media not see the contrivance here? This is a standard carny barker/shill setup. (What the Trump team has in mind for Romney or what he has in mind for Trump is another story.)
Of course they can. They just don’t know what to do with it. Until now, politics involved all sorts of means of persuasion. Politics is the realm of persuasion. Logic and figures are used, but of course stories, tall tales, lies and damn lies are often more persuasive. But always it was assumed that there was some hint of public service at the bottom of all the bamboozle. Sure, maybe you had to throw some red meat to the supporters or keep telling a lie so often it becomes the truth, but it was never an attempt to create a complete Bizzaro World to stroke the ego and extend the wealth of just one person.
But it is now.
The media has sought to maintain a sense of even-handedness and professionalism, to get to the truth. But now those instincts are being used against them. Trump will lie big and bald knowing that the press will never call his lies lies and him a liar. That’s not professional. It’s not even-handed. They just don’t do that.
Sure, they fact-check him, but then he calls them liars for citing facts and he calls them unfair for throwing his words back at him. His crowds love this the way the Romans loved the gladiator contests. Their lives were close to the edge; it is fun to watch somebody else get bloodied.
From the beginning Trump has used the most basic rhetorical and sales devices to great effect. At his rallies he uses the tones and patter of an after-dinner speaker, which until the campaign is the only kind of public speaking he did. He compliments the location. Cheer! The size of the crowd. Cheer! He singles out individuals for praise. Cheer. He picks on a common enemy—Hillary, the media. Boo! Boo! He might as well hand out the club trophy and go home. But then he shifts to another pattern, the salesman. Trump has mostly been selling his brand, since he has shown he can’t actually run a business, not even a casino. When you go into an advertising/branding meeting, the first thing you do is tell the audience its current representation stinks. Maybe it does. They must have doubts or you wouldn’t be here. Then you make grandiose promises. You don’t give details; you can’t give away trade secrets. But if you hire Trump, he’ll deliver. Believe me. Trust me. That’s all you’ve got to go on. You won’t know if he’s right until after you close the deal. And then it’s too late.
There is nothing ingenious in this; it’s right in the standard playbook. First year marketing. Trump’s genius is in bringing it to politics. But the media can’t report on an after-dinner speaker. There’s nothing there except the roar of the crowd. They can’t report on vague promises in an even-handed way. There’s nothing there at all. So they just report on the phenomenon. The horserace. So Trump’s nonsense is as good as Hillary’s policies. And more entertaining.
For example, Trump is often compared to a stand up comedian, to the horror of stand-up comedians everywhere. He shouldn’t even be compared to the ventriloquists’ dummies. The reason is, he did not tell jokes. Trump never said anything that was funny or was structured as a joke. He just made outrageous statements, usually vicious attacks and slanderous remarks and then like a lame performer spread his arms and begged for approval. But instead of reporting Trump’s slander, the media reported the cheer.
He’s doing it again as President, playing a media who has not downloaded the latest upgrade. When he lies, the media is going to have to report the lies and when he lies a lot, the media is going to have to make a story out of his endless lying. Is he evil? Is he pathological? Does he have no respect for the American people?
And they are going to have to do it even though Trump has attempted to immunize himself against them by calling them lying and unfair. Some people will believe it. After all some people think Fox News if fair and balanced just because it says it is.
I don’t envy them. Going into the swamp that is the Trump media machine must be grueling and constantly having to tell the same story—he lied—and correct facts like a schoolteacher can’t be glamorous life the reporters expected to lead. But we’ve got Trump and it’s either that or be his lapdogs, which can’t be very glamorous either. Just ask Melania.
They should take hope. There is good ratings in hating Trump and more than half the country does. He’ll pay off as the guy we love to hate, so there’s no financial disincentive.
And I’m not sorry for them. They helped make this mess. Now will they have the guts to clean it up?