In this issue of Banter M:
No Mandate, No Respect - Ben Cohen sends a bold warning to Donald Trump: you get no respect, ever.
Welcome To the Idiocracy - Another of the more daunting aspects of the Trump era is the notion of its dropping the bar into a permanent new low, argues Chez Pazienza. And if this is true, what comes next?
The Fake News Era Takes an Even Darker Turn - Bob Cesca reveals some truly terrifying news about which media company might be given access to the president.
No Mandate, No Respect
by Ben Cohen
Tomorrow, Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as President of the United States. This is for lack of a better word, a travesty. In the most bitterly contested, disgusting and downright idiotic election in modern history, Trump took on the first female presidential candidate in US history by appealing to the worst elements of American society. Trump was vulgar, sexist and unapologetically ignorant, and enough voters bought into his vision of America to win the White House.
To call his victory shocking would be the understatement of the century. Literally no one, including Trump, believed he would win. But through the country's arcane electoral system that was designed to suppress the will of the general population and keep control in the hands of rich white land owners, Trump gamed the system and eked out an incredible victory while losing the popular vote by an astonishing 3 million votes.
Since then, Trump has been on a victory tour through the country (visiting only the states he won in) and grown immeasurably in confidence. After meeting with President Obama to learn about what the job actually entailed, there seemed to be a small glimmer of hope that Trump would approach his role with at least a modicum of humility. But then his old instincts kicked in and the soon to be Commander in Chief went back to berating celebrities on twitter and hiring the least competent people he could find to staff his new cabinet.
The Trump team is an unruly bunch of redneck billionaires who have dedicated their lives to enriching themselves at the expense of not only everyone around them, but the natural environment too. Oil merchants, climate change deniers and religious fruitcakes are now in charge of the biggest nuclear power humanity has ever seen, and with a failed businessman turned reality TV star at the helm, we can expect a disaster of truly epic proportions. The Bush Administration will be judged kindly when compared to the gang of thieves the American public have just elected to office -- that is if anyone is here to write about it.
The bleak warnings of chaos and disaster are not hyperbolic. Trump is a catastrophic threat to humanity, and we will be very lucky to come out of this with as many people as we went into the Trump era with. The president-elect is already stoking tensions with China, has promised to massively increase the country's nuclear arsenal, and is gleefully cheering for the dissolution of the European Union and NATO. The international framework humanity built after two deadly world wars last century is about to evaporate, leaving in place a fragmented world run by gangsters. Entwined in the most bizarre love story global politics has likely ever seen, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump will now get to decide how much of the world is carved up -- a thought so frightening it is enough to convince even the most patriotic liberals to pack their bags and head to Canada or Mexico.
Having said this though, it should be remembered that power -- as it always has -- remains in the hands of the people. While Hillary Clinton and our elected officials were unable to stop Donald Trump, an organized movement of mass resistance can stop him in his tracks. We have already seen the beginnings of this when the Republican Party announced they were going to gut the independent ethics committee. There was an astonishingly fast public reaction that led to a huge campaign to stop it, and Trump amazingly took to his twitter account to tell his party to stand down. And stand down they did, crumbling in the face of true people power. This can, and must be replicated over and over and over again. If Trump attempts to destroy public education, teachers, parents and anyone concerned with educating the next generation must rise up and force him to back down. If Trump attempts to pull out of the Paris Agreement, Americans and citizens around the world must rise up to stop him. If Trump attempts to privatize social security, repeal the ACA with no (better) alternative, Americans must take to the streets and not stop marching until he relents. We must network, organize and fight as if our lives depend on it -- because of course, they do.
Somewhere in Trump's deeply screwed up subconscious, he understands that he has no mandate. He lost the popular vote by an enormous margin to an unpopular Democratic candidate, and has such little credibility in mainstream society that no respectable musician will play at his inauguration. Dozens of high ranking Democrats are boycotting the event too, and millions of people around the country will be taking to the streets the day after to protest his vile misogyny. Donald Trump is not a legitimate president, and he knows it.
Traditionally, Americans show incoming presidents a certain level of respect. There is a long held custom of putting aside differences and pledging to work together for the good of the country. But this time, it is different. Trump deliberately ran a toxic, divisive campaign aimed at ripping apart the country along race, gender and religious lines. He won, and now he must face the almighty mess he created. There will be no forgiveness from the minorities he targeted with his hate filled rhetoric. There will be no forgiveness for his repulsive sexism, and there will be no forgiveness for the relentless lies he told. Trump waged a rhetorical war not only on foreign nations, but on his own nation too, and for this he will be subjected to an unyielding resistance that begins the moment he is sworn in as president.
Welcome to the Presidency Mr. Trump. It's going to be hell from day one.
Next: Welcome to the Idiocracy - by Chez Pazienza
Welcome To the Idiocracy
by Chez Pazienza
It's a strange thing to genuinely despise the President of the United States. There's a pretty good chance that by the time you read this Donald Trump will either be that -- the leader of the free world -- or be very close to becoming that. I don't like being this ashamed, this angry, this depressed, this outraged, this thoroughly hateful, but then again Trump is by no means your average president. He's an existential threat to the republic, a walking state of emergency, a man who simply by virtue of his existence and temperament is a threat to the stability of the globe, someone who for the first time in history enters the office as almost certainly the worst ever at the job. He's an unqualified disaster. His cabinet is filled with idiots who don't know how to do their respective jobs, hold worldviews that are violently opposed to the missions of the agencies they're being asked to lead, or simply have zero experience in those fields. (This, despite Trump predictably crowing, "We have by far the highest I.Q. of any cabinet ever assembled.") And his plans for the country involve reversing decades of social progress.
But the truly unnerving thing about what's to come over the next however-many years -- since it's safe to assume Trump will be impeached at some point -- is what Trump represents. It's been said many times before but it bears repeating, over and over again if necessary: Donald Trump's ascendance to the White House marks the official beginning of the Idiocracy. We're talking about a buffoonish reality show clown, a self-promotion machine with no actual leadership skills to speak of, becoming the most powerful person in America, the figurehead who allegedly acts as an avatar for us on the global stage. Trump has no business being president and yet he is, and none of us knows what kind of catastrophe that's going to herald for us as a nation. As of Friday at noon, Donald fucking Trump will have access to the codes to our vast nuclear arsenal and the authority to unilaterally use them as he sees fit. That's nothing short of terrifying. This ignorant toddler who can be baited into self-destructive overreaction with the tiniest of insults will have the power to destroy the world several times over.
Another of the more daunting aspects of the Trump era is the notion of its dropping the bar into a permanent new low. We've seen it so many times before: When a new norm is established, it tends to remain. In the case of our national politics, once an incurious fool like George W. Bush was elected twice via the absurd metric that he was "the kind of guy you could have a beer with," it paved the way for the rise of Sarah Palin. And once Sarah Palin, a screechy, blithering idiot "hockey mom" who sold willful ignorance as folksy "real American" charm, was allowed a place in the discourse, that paved the way for the good, infinitely stupid people of this country to look at Donald Trump and say, "Yeah, there's our president." So what comes after Trump? What follows a man who for the first time in our history has shown Republicans, people who seem to these days lack a moral center to begin with, that the truth just doesn't matter? That things like shame and guilt are for suckers and they can be shrugged off without much effort?
So the question then is, what do we do? How do we get through this? How does the decent, intelligent demographic within this country survive the era of Donald Trump, whatever nightmare might come next, and the general threat of Idiot America? The truth is I have no idea and that's always what's been so difficult about all of this: the sense of helplessness. Yes, more people voted for Hillary Clinton than for Trump and there's some comfort in that, in the knowledge that those with decency and humanity within our nation don't have to change a damn thing. It's true that despite what we've been scolded for, we don't have to "understand" jack shit about the morons who put Trump in office because there were and are, in fact, more of us than there are of them. But whether it was the fault of an electoral college technicality or not, Trump took the White House and now we all get to suffer accordingly. Ignorance and arrogance now have a seat at the highest level of our government. Trump, a man who's spent his entire life staying as far away from the Middle American rabble as possible, is now its hero.
In spite of all the whining we heard throughout the Obama years from angry, resentful white people -- those who bemoaned the loss of their America -- we always knew that we had as much if not more claim to the nation as those desperate to hold back progress. We believed in the future, while they clamored for the past and that's why, if we survive the Trump era -- if he doesn't do so much damage that it's irredeemable -- we'll eventually come out on top. But that doesn't help us now. The knowledge that the Idiocracy has engulfed the once-great United States of America and turned us into a global punchline is depressing enough as to be paralyzing. So, again, what do we do? How the hell do we get through this? How do we survive? I think the only real advice I can give is to under no circumstances become inured or immune to the madness, the chaos, the corruption, the sheer lunacy of this clown and his idea of governance. It's tough to imagine, given what we've seen just in the lead-up to his presidency -- the daily gangbang of incompetency and scandal -- that it'll be tough to normalize this kind of awfulness. But it's amazing what you can get used to. And we cannot get used to this.
It's going to be difficult. So incredibly difficult. Because we've had it good for eight long years. For eight years we've had a president so hyper-competent, so stable and calm, so scandal-free that it seemed like a given that it would go on forever. Barack Obama was such a powerful force for good that some of us began to actually take the progress he represented for granted. Now all of us know that it was always a tenuous situation, because there are far too many fucking stupid people in this country, people who believe nonsense and who are threatened by progress, people who vote for the regression they want to see. They've won that. A fifth of the population of this country put Trump in office. He's historically unpopular. He'll be loathed as a president, as long as we keep the pressure up. But for now he is the president. President Obama gave us a nation so promising that it sometimes felt like we didn't have to fight, since he was doing it for us. Now we have to fight. Human beings, Americans especially, are creatures of convenience, but we need to accept that nothing will be convenient in the coming years. Fighting day after day for your rights, for progress, to somehow stop the march of idiocy -- that's tough work.
It's work we need to do, though. Our lives depend on it. Our children depend on it. Our nation, and all it was meant to stand for, depends on it. We're in the Idiocracy now. But it doesn't have to last forever.
Next: The Fake News Era Takes an Even Darker Turn - by Bob Cesca
The Fake News Era Takes an Even Darker Turn
by Bob Cesca
Among the myriad handfuls of feces hurled in the direction of American democracy, the news media, the republic in general and, of course, the rules of decency and presidential-ness, Donald Trump and his regime of sycophants and propagandists announced this week that perhaps the press corps would be moved out of the White House and into the neighboring Old Executive Office Building (OEOB). Further, Trump told Fox News that he's planning to hand-pick which members of the "dishonest media" are allowed into the White House press room.
From what we've heard, the incoming administration will replace many of the otherwise respected news agencies with what Trump and his people are calling "bloggers" and "alternative media."
It's obvious that Trump wants to populate his press room with friendly news outlets that won't challenge him or report the, you know, truth. It's also obvious that "alternative media" includes a website that's been more than supportive of Trump's endeavors -- none other than Alex Jones's conspiracy theory site, Infowars.com. We don't know for sure whether Jones and his network of paranoiacs will get press credentials, but it's exactly the sort of thing Trump would do -- to reward Jones's loyalty with a seat inside the West Wing.
At one point last week, by the way, Karoli Kuns from Crooks & Liars heard from Jones's sidekick, Dan Bidondi, via Twitter who seemed to suggest that Infowars is, in fact, getting credentials. But consider the source before making up your mind. Bidondi also thought accusations of "lax security" at Sandy Hook actually meant "LAX security" -- "LAX" as in the airport in Los Angeles. Doy.
Toss into the mix the fact that sites like Infowars and Breitbart are being heralded by the alt-right as real news, while NBC, CNN, The Washington Post and so forth are, according to the incoming regime and its fluffers, considered "fake news."
Either way, it wouldn't be a stretch to assume that Infowars will have a place inside-the-loop with the Trump administration. If so, it'll be another nail in the coffin of our formerly reality-based, fact-based world, replaced by bogus, histrionic sites established for no other reason than to cynically exploit internet novices, the easily-led and mentally unbalanced grievance addicts. In other words: the Trump demographic.
Along those lines, you might've heard about a story floating around social media. Alex Jones's right-hand man and editor-at-large, Paul Joseph Watson, published a story the other day on Infowars in which he reported that 48 hours prior to the inauguration, Buzzfeed and CNN would be releasing publicly the infamous Tom Arnold tapes that allegedly show Trump using racial epithets while shooting The Celebrity Apprentice. The headline: "REPORT: CNN/BUZZFEED TO RELEASE DAMAGING NEW TRUMP TAPE 48 HOURS BEFORE INAUGURATION."
And guess what? It was a fake news story.
Evidently, a man from Scotland, Markus Muir of Glasgow, texted the "scoop" to Watson who predictably wrote and ran the story without doing any additional reporting to verify whether the information was legitimate. Of course it wasn't. Muir revealed his scam to Buzzfeed on Wednesday, describing how "he was the single source for the report in the form of an account which he set up solely for the prank." Buzzfeed also noted, "He said Watson did not ask for any evidence that he worked for NBC or about how he gained the information."
This is Trump's go-to news organization. This is the news that Trump likely considers to be real. Why? Not because Infowars earned his respect through airtight reporting. He considers it to be real because Alex Jones loves Trump, flacking for the incoming president every day on his nationally syndicated radio show. And, obviously, Infowars is willing to run poorly sourced gibberish that shows Trump in a positive light.
By the way, this isn't the first time this has happened to Infowars. You might recall how, several years ago, Infowars ran a bombshell story about how a Common Core teacher instructed kindergarteners how to use a dildo. Of course the story was fake, but that didn't stop Infowars from running with it -- only to remove the story later.
And yet Trump, Jones and Infowars have launched a jihad against the establishment press, summarily labeling every legitimate source as "fake." Ironically, when Buzzfeed contacted Watson for comment, his only reply was, “BuzzFeed is cancer. BuzzFeed is fake news.” Yep, it's the pot calling the kettle fake.
We can't allow them to win this one. The truth and, indeed, the American republic depend on the vast majority of us protecting and supporting news sources that are occasionally flawed but which generally publish legitimate news that reflects what's actually happening in the world. The bastardization of the news, and the upside-down rise of fake sources like Infowars, have to be contained before they lurch beyond the zero barrier, requiring all of us to cling tightly the embattled truth. We have to marginalize the nonsense, or else. Alex Jones and Donald Trump can't be allowed to win this one because once the truth is successfully re-branded as fake, the life's blood of our democracy dies with it.