Distraction and Disinformation: The Stakes of Lessons Not Learned

The other night (I’ve lost track of which night — they’ve all blended together), when Trump’s campaign first rolled out the rent-a-mobs and invent-a-law challenges to the MI election, I was frantically trying to get journalists I know and respect to do two things: stop reporting that Trump had sued until they had paperwork in hand, and stop using a term for the mobsters, “challenger,” which has a specific legal meaning in MI.

Challengers are defined individuals provided credentials to operate under specific rules. While there are NGO challengers as well, each party gets two challengers in a precinct, but just one can watch the actual vote tally. The GOP had the designated number of challengers in the polling room when the rent-a-mob got called (indeed, aggressive challengers are reportedly what caused a delay in the counting of my own vote in Grand Rapids, assuming it did get counted), and yet the mobsters were referring to themselves as challengers.

The frivolous lawsuit filed well after the mobsters descended claimed that challengers weren’t being given access.

In other words, the Trump campaign had created a disinformation event by obscuring the law and creating a media event for the media to cover.

That’s not new. It has been going on for five years. Indeed, Trump’s success at using disinformation and distraction to tell a false story of victimhood surely is part of why he did better in 2020 than he did in 2016. COVID Donny is a story-teller, and many Americans in the post-exceptionalism era gravitate to stories that explain away personal failures to victimhood. (There has been some of this on the left, too, though usually with more basis in fact.)

To be fair, the press has done a less bad job of falling for Trump’s distraction and disinformation since Tuesday than it has for most of his presidency. (That may be because they’re increasingly certain they won’t need to rely on access going forward.) Even Fox is insisting that Trump provide actual evidence for the claims being made — before, often, treating those claims as credible whether or not evidence supports it.  Most outlets even turned away from a presser where Trump falsely claimed victory.

Still, one after another paranoid hoax — a red wagon pulling camera equipment, an alleged sticky note, former senior Administration officials sprinting away from cameras — has been floated and taken as credible long enough to make it appear like Trump’s manic claims of fraud and those of his conspiratorial followers might have merit.

The press has done a good job demanding proof, and dismantling the claims by showing what would be necessary for proof one by one. GOP officials are adopting one of two stances — either admitting there is no proof, or stating that before Trump claims fraud he has to provide it (even while giving air to some of the claims that have been debunked) — that may eventually bring us to closure.

Still, the press is chasing every one of these claims without caveating that this delay was intentionally caused by the GOP, Trump telegraphed he’d be using this strategy even before the election, and all evidence suggests that when the counting is done Joe Biden will have a solid victory in the Electoral College and a far bigger one in the popular vote.

In any other election, we’d be pestering Biden to learn who will be Attorney General and who will be Secretary of State, but instead we’re still chasing Donny’s distractions.

Still, it is an improvement. It will likely get us through this period, possibly even before any of Trump’s supporters succeed at unleashing violence (though a handful have been trying).

I wonder what it would have taken to accomplish this far earlier in the presidency, before Trump used it to undermine a very damning Russian investigation, before he used it to successfully beat back impeachment, before he used it to undermine any response to COVID, and before Trump used it in an effort to criminalize Joe Biden. We need to think about this because the right wing has gotten this manic hoax-chasing into its bloodstream, and for far too many of these hoaxes, the press just ignores the claims rather than shows how a basic adherence to truth will debunk them.

We need to find a way to better debunk and ignore this guy, otherwise he will become a dangerous martyr doing further damage to this country.

81 replies
  1. GKJames says:

    Even if the air goes out of his balloon, for the 70 million he’s likely to be a martyr regardless. What’s curious is that his pathology has been in plain sight all along. Good journalists have critically and accurately reported things. Investigations have produced plenty of facts. Nearly a quarter million dead in part from his indifference. Yet none of these very real things changed minds. (Sure, Republicans in the Senate could have altered the course of things, but they were simply catering to their constituents’ wishes.) All to say that, with a customer-driven news culture, the hoax/robust skepticism/access dilemma for journalists is a permanent feature. Hoaxes pay … twice, first with the spreading, then with the de-bunking. As does access to those in power. Unglamorous as it may be, the solution is for high-quality journalists to keep doing what they’re doing. If their work happens to mitigate the toxicity of the cultists among us, great.

    • TimH says:

      Don’t forget that even if MSM know the story may be a hoax, they’ll cover it because it’s a story they get for free without doing any foot-work. Infommercial screening: same deal. Free copy.

  2. JTnTX says:

    Maybe it’s overdramatic to say but it really feels like we’re living in California and it hasn’t rained for 6 months. And Trump and co are shooting off Roman candles like it’s the grand finale on the Fourth of July. The question is how long will it last and can our country put out the fire.

    • Smeelbo says:

      It constantly amazes me that practically anyone can download and read practically any document, and not just don’t, but refuse to.

    • Bardi says:

      I’d like to see that verified (after so many administration lies, I am not certain how they would do that). The timing seems, um, interesting in that this may be a very convenient time to retreat into the shadows for a while.

      • bmaz says:

        I dunno, how about you consider that this result has been baked in for two, actually three, days and not celebrate that the clickbait generator producers at CNN finally had to give up the ghost and admit it?

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Apart from a general East Coast bias of the New Yorker sort, I suspect the MSM was welded to a preordained headline: “Pennsylvania Puts Hometown Boy Into White House.”

        • Franktoo says:

          Bmaz: In this case, it doesn’t make sense to criticize the clickbait. The calls are made by statisticians who began the evening with present targets of statistical certainty that need to be achieved to make a call. Based on historical records from past elections, if 50%, 80%, or 90% of the vote from a certain precinct or county or group of mail-in or provisional ballots has gone 53.1% for one candidate, they will have preset 95% or higher confidence interval for the final count that may be something like +/- 4.2%, +/-2.5%, and +/-1.2%. Then their computers properly combine all those uncertainties to calculate the uncertainty in the final vote. Then they will need a projected range with a lower confidence interval higher than 50.01% to make a call. How confident are they in the reported number of ballots still to be counted? Then they may consider the threshold for an automatic recount. All of the authorities called Pennsylvania immediately after Biden’s margin crossed the 0.5% threshold for an automatic recount. Everyone in the news business wants to be the first with the news, but after Florida 2000, the bar for calling critical states is pretty high.

          Fox News called Arizona for Biden on election night when the margin was something like 3.5% (IIRC) and the margin is now down to 0.4%. Looks like a bad call to me. The statisticians review all of their bad calls (mostly made in thousands of races the public doesn’t notice) and refine their models and procedures.

    • John Paul Jones says:

      Politico is reporting Matt Gaetz is also positive for COVID.

      I don’t know about anyone else, but for the last four years, listening to Trump’s congressional supporters, I get the feeling that I’m back in highschool, with the jocks trying to push everybody around.

      • Molly Pitcher says:

        Oh PLEASE let this be so. The ugly, dark side of my little heart REALLY wants this to be true. Not proud of it but very happy.

  3. ThomasH says:

    I suppose it’s beyond the realm of possible that the Fairness Doctrine could be reinstated? It would certainly help to keep the media more carefully focused on truthfulness and accuracy.

    • timbo says:

      While I agree that it would be great to do this, the fact is that the old media of only OTA and limited cable has been circumvented now by the Internet, social media platforms, cellphone access to any news or psuedo-news site. How you would manage a fairness doctrine under these new technologies is not clear… unless you want to just clamp down on things like has been done in China?

  4. David Steele says:

    The press access issue has to be solved as well, since vast tracts of the USA are subjected to only RWNM stations under Sinclair’s thumb. In many cases these are people who don’t know any better because they never hear anything else for years. It is frequently seen that people will believe the first thing they hear about something and resist being corrected later. Add to that the “snob appeal” of being privy to “insider information” from Q and part of a like-minded group and the makings of the cult are solidly entrenched.

    However, the old rules about ownership in single markets (1 station per company IIRC) that would permit independents to survive would help (as well as the Fairness Doctrine, imagine if HRC got as much free airtime as DJT does on Faux).

    • timbo says:

      It’s clearly a real problem in many parts of the country. There might be ways to sell this to the incoming congress indirectly…things like “entrepreneurial media grants” or loans might be one way to get both sides in Congress to do the right thing for the wrong reasons?

  5. BD Mac says:

    Re: “possibly even before any of Trump’s supporters succeed at unleashing violence”

    Peaceful thoughts. Breathe in. Breath out. Imagine sitting on a lotus flower floating on Lake Sukhavati – serene as a Buddha.

    Re: “I wonder what it would have taken to accomplish this far earlier in the presidency, before Trump used it to undermine a very damning Russian investigation, before he used it to successfully beat back impeachment, before he used it to undermine any response to COVID, and before Trump used it in an effort to criminalize Joe Biden.”

    Yes! You, me and 74,815,999 other U.S. citizens as of this morning’s vote count. I’d be erroneously inflating that number if I included the rest of the world, but my sense of “things” is that I wouldn’t B 2 far off the mark. Crystal balls are hard to come by (in this world).


  6. madwand says:

    As Yogi said it’s not over till it’s over. As I write this Biden leads in four of five states with his tally increasing in 3 of them. It also looks as if in Georgia there will be two Senate runoff elections to be held in January. Here is hoping Stacy Abrams can keep the votes coming!!! Regardless it looks as if we are in for a month of angst where recounts and mostly frivolous law suits are dismissed, appealed and dismissed again. From what I understand most recounts only affect the vote total in a state by a few hundred and Biden’s leads in battleground states are sufficiently higher. Two articles in the Atlantic today illustrate the short and long term problems associated with Trump and authoritarianism in general.



    The first article entitled “Trump won’t accept defeat, ever” argues that what we are seeing is a carefully thought out political strategy sowing distrust in the electoral process and this bodes ill now and in the future. So this won’t end soon and Democrats need to sustain their enthusiasm, relaxation is not an option.

    Zeynep Tufeki argues in the second article that Trump is just the first in line of authoritarian leaders and while he deserves what he gets (mostly because he is inept and a grifter and only looks out for himself) a far more sophisticated authoritarian capable of showing deference for the norms may arise. She also argues that Republicans have achieved mostly what they have wanted to and the loss of Trump while regrettable, is not that important compared to what they have achieved.

    Quoting from the article “I suspect that the Republican leadership is sanguine, if not happy, about Trump’s loss….For them, what’s not to like? The Supreme Court is solidly in their corner; they will likely retain control of the Senate; House Republicans won more seats than they were projected to; and they are looking at significant gains in state Houses as well, giving them control over redistricting for the next decade.” So while the two Senate seats are still up for grabs in Georgia, one thing should be clear, as this election has shown, Republicans seem ever capable of mobilizing voters to go to the polls. Democrats need to do this in Georgia in order to have a chance.

    One final thought, they need to call this election, extending it merely increases support that something is wrong in the electoral process.

    • Ruthie says:

      I’ve heard speculation aplenty that Trump won’t go quietly as past presidents have.

      IMO, one way to neutralize the Trump crime family is to investigate aggressively. Putting them on the defensive might be the only way to stop them. Undoubtedly there will be candidates eager to take up the mantle, but I doubt that Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley or Ted Cruz will be able to muster the same enthusiasm.

      Of course, if past is prologue, Democratic leadership won’t have much appetite for “looking backward”.

      • BobCon says:

        EW has made the important point that Trump has a critical weakness in the Trump businesses. Simply having lenders on the run combined with financial investigations is a bigger threat than trying to get him on something like obstruction.

        Which is not to say they shouldn’t go after influence peddling and the rest, but even a go soft approach by leadership isn’t releasing a lot of the pressure he is under.

        • Ruthie says:

          To your point, there was a news story just this week that Deutsche Bank was planning to cut him loose. I’m sure the timing was just a coincidence…

        • Matthew Harris says:

          In addition, the Trump business is also in the hospitality industry at a time when that industry faces a historic crisis, and that crisis is not going to get better if the pandemic continues to accelerate through the winter.

          How much debt Trump has is hard to say, but even a healthy business without debt would be facing a very challenging time right now.

      • timbo says:

        The incoming Congress can certainly resubmit their requests for documents and information surrounding many of the investigations so far stymied by Twitler and his Twisslerings. It would be interesting to see all those documents finally and follow up on any (all!) the illegality that may be uncovered therein.

    • BD Mac says:

      Zeynep’s article is prescient, if not spot on. Let’s hope and pray for a sea change in the minds of the Trump cult’s electorate before 2024 arrives. We got “lucky” having an imbecile this time versus an evil genius that could have destroyed even more of the quality of our institutions and our already flailing reputation in the world.

  7. PeterS says:

    “a carefully thought out political strategy sowing distrust in the electoral process”. Well he succeeded in lowering faith in the media (“fake news” etc.), and it was his strategy, so it’s hard to be optimistic. Much work ahead.

  8. DAT says:

    To talk about our future… (Biden just called on CNN!) I want to quote Driftglass, who paraphrases the Lincoln Project as saying “OMG! The Republican Party is full of Republicans! ” in other words, expecting Trump’s defeat to be the end of our battles is wishful thinking.

  9. Peterr says:

    We need to find a way to better debunk and ignore this guy, otherwise he will become a dangerous martyr doing further damage to this country.

    I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Trump will NOT be ignored.

    The only hope I can see is that a combination of ruthless accountability (from “No, that claim about the election is NOT true” as the media reports on him to matters adjudicated in courtrooms) and relentless mockery will make public life miserable for him, and maybe he will slink away to avoid more of both of these.

    Pete Souza understands this, and uses his photos on Twitter to great effect.

    • PeterS says:

      Yeah, I’ve never understood why his opponents and critics didn’t use mockery much more. Such an easy target!

      • BD Mac says:

        The Lincoln Project’s: Tara Setmayer, Rick Wilson, Stuart Stevens, Reed Galen, Michael Steele et al R ON IT!

        Look at their billboards of Jarvanka. If Darth Imbecile manages to get his helmet put back on after following through this repudiation’s gravity well, they’ll be on it. If the obese turtle manages to flip itself over from belly-up; they’ll flip him back on his shell. Be glad they’re on team blue for this semester. They’re going after all 51 senators (minus Romney) that didn’t vote for Trump’s impeachment.

        Read Stuart’s book, ‘It Was All a Lie’, (if you have the time) to get a feel for their conviction. The moniker ‘Never Trumpers’ doesn’t begin to cover their newfound political ideology as Independents. The idiom “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” comes to mind. I know; it’s hard to trust, but the “enemy” of my enemy is my friend with this relationship. Call me naïve – time will tell.

    • Eureka says:

      Oh gosh, Pete Souza is a multi-factorial *genius”. “The Way I See It” is an amazing documentary, too — I was captivated with an intention to NOT watch it at the time (should be available On Demand via MSNBC/NBC).

      But let’s not let said genius distract from these shiny baubles:

      matters adjudicated in courtrooms

    • BobCon says:

      Democrats need to do a lot more gaming out of how a vengeful Trump works from the GOP side before they assume the worst.

      If you are, say, Ted Cruz, is it really good to have him on the loose? How? Maybe it works, but like riding a nasty mule it is just as possible he gets kicked in the head as he ends up anywhere close to where he wants to be.

      • Peterr says:

        Some republicans are clearly moderating things – Lindsey Graham has said he’s willing to be very open to Biden having his cabinet (thought with a certain amount of “assuming they aren’t leftwing whackjobs” [my paraphrase]. On the other hand, Josh Hawley is embracing Trump wholeheartedly, with the idea that he will be the Second Coming of Trump which will lead him to victory in the 2024 GOP primary race.

        If I had to guess, I’d say that more GOP folks are going to be acting like Hawley. “We wuz robbed!!1!”

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Lindsey Graham knows as much about yanking Lucy’s football as Mitch McConnell.

          Josh Hawley is as evil and narcissistic as Trump, but his IQ requires three digits to measure.

        • BD Mac says:

          Peterr said: “I hate to be the bearer of bad news”

          Applying your above caveat to this reply, re: “some republicans are clearly moderating things – Lindsey Graham…”:

          “Search your feelings Luke”

          You can’t trust Lindsey or Mitch full stop! They’ve gone completely to the dark side of the political force.

          I could make some historical analogs to the roles these two power mad expletives have played, but I won’t for brevity’s sake; just know that for those two the trust ship has sailed – game on! Maybe even a little payback on Ruth’s behalf – total disrespect of a Titan.

          Both my heart and my head tell me this. Lindsey and Joe may have been friends back in the day (we know this would’ve helped), but post-Kavanaugh hearings [shitshow] followed up by the Barrett [not qualified] rush job proved Lindsey is beyond political redemption in this life; you can judge these hypocrites for what they are because they’ve done everything they possibly could to maintain power (sorry for stating the obvious with the latter but it punctuates the following). They’re simply put, very sick from being drunk on power for so long – their faces are emblematic of nothing but hubris. Both knew they’d won re-election against McGrath and Harrison before a single vote was cast. McConnell will not “clearly moderate things”; he will “not be open to Biden”.

          Stick with your Josh Hawley example, and apply it to the other senior members of the senate. It’s no longer a cooling saucer of the “wise men”; it’s an effing boiler plate!

          You may have gleaned I seriously disdain Moscow Mitch and Lyndsey Graham. It’s for good reason. I honestly don’t know what we do if the GA electorate doesn’t go blue for Ossoff/Warnock. Grid-lock all over again Obama 2.0.

          I’ll pray for a miracle.

        • madwand says:

          Yep the fight has now moved to Georgia. Conservatives will move heaven and earth to elect two people who attended the infamous briefing on the coronavirus and then sold and bought stock while telling the rest of us it was just a mild flu. The only way to send Mitch to the showers is to vote blue and elect Ossoff/Warnock. Failure to do so will result in the same obstruction McConnell has perfected since he became Majority Leader. We owe it to all those people who on CNN are jumping through the roof in Midtown Atlanta right now. It is fucking great to watch.

        • BobCon says:

          He can’t stick with Trump.

          Cruz wants to be President. Trump doesn’t want anyone to be president.

          There are tensions that may be papered over for a matter of months, but Cruz knows he will never be Trump’s favorite son — that role is already taken by Ivanka, who has about much chance as getting nominated as Jared.

          I have no doubt you will see at least five GOP contenders trying to be Trump’s favorite, with a strong chance Trump screws them all for kicks. You will see a “moderate” set of candidates and at least a couple who try to claim they are outside of it all.

          They may coalesce after a fight, like in 2000, but it is also possible they never really get it together like in 2008 and 12.

  10. What Constitution? says:

    EW, I note you’re working on a “List of Trump’s Worst …” over on Twitter. It’s a good idea and a good effort in progress. FWIW, I was shaken to the core when Olbermann took a shot at listing 50 such characters about a week ago. It’s a helluva list and all undeniably are worthy of “attention” now — there are some horrendous mistakes, human stains and “schemers” that need to be undone. It can’t be limited to 10 or 15 “important” ones, there are way more than that. Olbermann’s list (delivered with his usual degree of insouciance) is here:


    Donald Trump’s presidency has been a litany of “showstopper banality”, any single instance of which would likely have been considered the “largest scandal” of any other presidency, but has been so mindnumbingly persistent that trying to itemize or rank individuals and events results mostly in sheer amazement at the number of things we’ve all essentially pushed out of our RAM to make way for the latest one. We must, as they say, never forget (a slogan that, all by itself, beggars disbelief that Stephen Miller isn’t in any “top three” here).

    And as I type this, CNN and NBC have called the election for Trump (who is golfing).

    • Chris.EL says:

      Yay for Biden/Harris!! Congratulations!!


      On a more somber note, T-rump has found a way to recycle all those maga caps:

      Make America Golf Again

      Well, we did it.

  11. BobCon says:

    I think a basic problem is that as long as the press tries to play catch up with Facebook, they will lose.

    The recent example of the Stop the Steal organizing captures the problem. It’s been noted that the press overwhelming follows Twitter but not Facebook, so they missed the volume of organizing that was going on.

    The press also doesn’t understand Facebook, so when Facebook announces they finally shut down the group, they missed key facts. Facebook was slow to act, allowing the propaganda to spread far beyond the boundaries of the group itself; Facebook was continuing to allow similar groups to exist and grow; most critically, Facebook was not taking action against the people and organizations involved.

    The press still does not get a basic issue — as long as Facebook treats propaganda as a problem of groups and messages rather than specific bad actors, the bad actors are free to keep creating more.

    It is like newspaper editors of the 1930s refusing to think critically about the way Father Coughlin was using his radio broadcasts to spread Anti Semitism.

    It isn’t a huge challenge to do well, a few reporters already are, but the institutional resistance to tuning in to the new media is enormous.

    • John Paul Jones says:

      I know one guy on Facebook who is a diehard Trumpista (we don’t talk politics) and yesterday he was posting links to YouTube videos with the same message as “Stop the Steal,” and links to videos purporting to show you how to get around Facebook’s labelling. So yeah, the FB folks need to up their game.

      • BobCon says:

        And it is astonishing to me how the press doesn’t ever get past Facebook’s framing that they are controlling propaganda by deleting groups.

        It’s trivial to see through the framing, and ask why people aren’t facing penalties, but they won’t.

  12. What Constitution? says:

    Uh, called the election for Biden and against Trump. Not that it has affected me, but for over a year I have conversationally been saying “Trump” when I meant to be referring to Mike “Trout”…. Now that’s a psychological something or other, which I hope I can move past now.

    • timbo says:

      Alas, I’m still “living the dream” until such time as the electors are actually certified in all 50 states. Let us go forth with hope and renewed vigor, yet not avoid the perilous reality that we are in until Twitler is gone from DC for good.

  13. SaltinWound says:

    I am relieved if you’ve downgraded your fear to Trump being a martyr. You alarmed me on Twitter the other day when you were asking what if he refuses to leave.

    • BobCon says:

      The rapidly fading risk is court interference, but the reality that Trump should have thought harder about when negotiating with McConnell is that lifetime appointees don’t owe him squat.

      The risk of him staying without institutional backing at the White House was zero. The kitchen stops taking his orders and the wifi password is changed. That’s it.

  14. CD54 says:

    @ThomasH at 7:24 am

    At the very minimum, and immediately, any local media outlet — TV, Radio, Newspaper/Magazine — which is not completely locally owned should be subject to the Fairness Doctrine.

      • Rayne says:

        Nope. Quite the opposite.

        We need to regulate social media platforms like we regulate both broadcast television and telecommunications systems, because they rely on publicly-funded and publicly-owned resources while providing cartage of communications.

        There’s no good reason why we can’t look at Rep. Louise Slaughter’s (D-NY, RIP) Fairness and Accountability in Broadcasting Act for a base from which to regulate social media platforms.

        We also have a serious problem with media consolidation, whether print or digital. Failure to stop increasing monopolization — and a monopsonic advertising market — means the public’s general welfare is not being served.

        Look at what happened and is still happening to the Rohingya of Myanmar because of Facebook’s monopolistic presence in that country — a genocide enabled by a lone social media platform which has failed in its responsibility to mitigate the damage. We’re allowing a Radio Rwanda to develop here in the U.S. by not checking this kind of commercial enterprise.

        The Constitution may guarantee us Free Speech, but the Constitution isn’t a suicide pact. We the people have a right to determine what kinds of business our country will permit and how those businesses will operate when they use our commons.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          You raise an important point that is typically swept under the carpet. The government’s job is to regulate business in the public interest.

          Obtaining and operating under a business charter, for example, is a privilege. It can and should be lost for bad or unvirtuous behavior (to borrow Barrett’s description of the vote). Governments also create and regulate the so-called “free market.”

          That is not government “going beyond its mandate.” It is government doing its job.

        • P J Evans says:

          Regulate them like public utilities. And the drug manufacturers, as well. Federal regulators. Include a couple of consumers in each regulatory group, and add them to groups that haven’t had such.

  15. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Something else the MSM woefully ignored is that claims of “fraud” are especially damning to the alleged perpetrator, and so must be made with particularity – detailed facts (eg, person, time, place, conduct) that, if true, would prove the claim. Mere suspicion is inadequate. The MSM chased every suspicion, regardless of how feeble or bent. That’s wrong and incompetent.

    Trump is now where he thought he’d be in 2016: a burnt martyr, ready to spit out ever more outrageous propaganda, to keep himself in the limelight and to pay his mounting legal bills.

  16. jplm says:

    Congratulations to Joe and Kamala. It feels such of a relief even from across the pond.
    Let’s hope the news didn’t interfere with Trump’s swing, too much.

  17. Bobster33 says:

    I have been posting “BIDEN WINS!!!!” on several right wing websites. I usually get called a stupid idiot, but the last few days, the trolls have been amazingly reserved.

  18. Eureka says:

    I saw some of that journalism class you conducted on twitter, and am really thankful that you do such things (i.e., not the first time) which would only enhance the quality of reportage for all of our benefit. I also wonder if such tune-ups and advice are more necessary now than before, and if so because of Trump, or because of cohort effects with who gets hired to report, how basic training is done, and so forth.

    The perennial problem with Trump is that it’s so hard to get out of a social posture of reactivity, especially as more people with power join or emulate his behavior. Besides the conditioning (or even just a simple fear-based trigger), all of us are people too — and most of us have encountered toxic folks like Trump. But saying, “No” to him (and meaning it) works (true, he moves onto another target, but he also cultivates his targets). Anyway, there is already some proof of concept that standing up to him is not only effective, but that weakness in the face of his assaults fails. (I have in mind the contrasts of how he/Barr reacted to different cities telling them to eff-off — or not — with their federalizing troops business; the delayed and limited impeachment proceedings as well.) So it’s great that you give specific tips/tools to journalists so they can practice de-looping and gather a social momentum of confidence to stop the steamroller.

    • BD Mac says:

      Re: “hard to get out of a social posture of reactivity“

      Exactly. The amygdala hijacking is really hard to break free from in our culture without proper training (e.g. daily relaxation/meditation/leisure time) in addition to excellent maintenance of one’s physical & mental health (e.g. proper diet, significant sleep, safe environments, and manageable work stress levels). Think traffic jams leading to a road rage incident as a prime example of inexplicable reactivity – it’s almost on autopilot when getting cut off (queue middle finger and potty mouth).

      If you recall, we’re biologically designed to evade predators (65 million years of mammalian evolution) in addition to being predators ourselves so that’s a double whammy to use a technical term, but how often are we being stalked or hunting for our meals? I shop at the local store; how about you? Not much tackling or gun fire going on there; I keep my spear in the garage. We’re the selfish-apes on a strictly corporeal classification level so we’ve got that ancient wiring we have to manage in addition to the metaphysical and/or spiritual (non-specific) wiring we all share that allows us to reach higher more attentive, focused states of consciousness like this blog discussion we’re in engaged in. When I said all share, that didn’t include DJT per Mary Trump. He earned the latter insult on this fine day.

      Re: “especially as more people with power join or emulate his behavior”

      Oh God! I wish you’d hadn’t triggered my amygdala with that, but I immediately think of Lyndsey Graham’s imprinting onto Trump (like gosling to mother goose). If I go deeper, that relationship was actually transference using the clinical psychological term since he went from McCain to Trump as the new father figure. Without digressing into Freud or Jung, that relationship is, in a nutshell, what you’re pondering. I read something someone here or elsewhere linked to the other day that did a much better job than I’m doing here explaining why people (not all, but many living in fear or physical/economic insecurity) follow the “strong man” autocrat who makes all the promises of paradise/utopia. Historians, sociologists, and psychologists are all still competing for a Nobel prize to solve that mystery of human civilizations. Nazi Germany being a favorite example since it was so extreme. To be honest, I skip the former aforementioned disciplines as much as I can and go straight to a spiritual/cosmic explanation and stay out of the weeds of those professions. For me it’s all about light vs. dark, good vs. evil. Etc….Within the latter explanations I try to build a bridge to the conventional theories. I learned this observing my brother and other people who are susceptible to Jedi mind tricks [FOX news watcher].
      You’re right about standing up to bullies. It works if they don’t kill you. Working with one for 20 years. Gave him a taste of his own medicine 5 years into the dysfunctional work relationship. Karma took care of the rest.

      Hope this was cogent. I’m celebrating at the moment.

  19. CD54 says:

    @Rayne at 1:30 pm (plus others)

    Oh come on, God, this is rich!

    You dismiss the effect local media contamination has on the lowest information voters — that’s your “lost” parents and senior family members who don’t know reality from right-wing national media disinformation. Which local TV/Radio stations are you claiming that these people follow?.

    Please — please tell all of the media analysts in this country why FOX, Sinclair, Clear Channel, Murdoch Properties, etc. have spent the last 25+ years buying up and consolidating local station footprints.

    Even better, why don’t you contact Dan Froomkin ([email protected]); Brian Buetler ([email protected]); Jay Rosen (pressthink.org); Parker Malloy ([email protected]) and request that they back up your position. I double-dog dare you.

    You think some Federal “authority” will accomplish your sparkle pony UNICORN dreams at the exact same time when the FCC and the FEC are effectively powerless — are you dreaming?

    A hard, Federal rule which I’ve described gives dreamers like you a clear, litigable avenue to effect change which your shallow, toothless alternative is pre-designed to pre-empt. Seriously, how old are you people — have you observed nothing over the last 40 years?

    • Rayne says:

      Nice temper tantrum. You know why FCC and FEC are powerless, right, even though their essential missions haven’t changed?

      Also calling bullshit on your claim I dismissed the effect of local national media, when I specifically mentioned consolidation and monopolization are problems in the comment I made at 1:30 pm.

      I don’t think you know who you’re unloading your little rant on. The last two posts tagged “Sinclair Broadcasting” at this site are mine. And about the only think the FCC has done right in the last 10 years is squelching the Sinclair-Tribune merger. We dodged a bullet that Sinclair was fairly inept this time, likely because of the pandemic.

      As for your “sparkle pony” bullshit: funny how legislation (Chapter 5 of Title 47 of the United States Code, 47 U.S.C. § 151) has worked for decades to regulate telecom as a common carrier.

  20. greengiant says:

    The #45 lies have been running non stop since 2016. Calling them out in my circles is preaching to the choir except for ones who joined the cult. Had a relative flip on #45 because of Covid but have no other successful strategies to report. The Limbaugh, Beck, Alex Jones, 4chan, Qanon, WSJ, Fox channels have done their work. Finally the so called MSM and outlets like TMZ and dailymail bite down hard on the ratfuckers’ spin every single time. Hundreds of protesters and it is the fake punch to Trump guy that hits the press. Bugaloo guy fires rifle at Minnesota precinct and all the press has been on the Floyd protesters.

  21. x174 says:

    an effective antihelminthic in the form of a national election has been administered to effectively eradicate our parasite-in-chief.

    as our toxified parasite and its free living progeny lack any meaningful basis of evidence, their farcical efforts will have no remedy and will fail.

    • P J Evans says:

      I hope. But there’s two months left before they have to leave, and that’s two months when they can still do a lot of damage.

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