Banter M Issue 70: 'Thunderdome is On': Fake News, Nihilism and the Battle for American Sovereignty

In this issue of Banter M:

'Thunderdome is On': Fake News, Nihilism and the Battle for American Sovereignty - Bob Cesca declares war on the Trump administration and urges Americans to get ready for the battle of their lives over the next four years. 

Conversing With The Enemy - Ben Cohen recounts spending a week with hardcore Trump supporters over the New Year and coming away with a renewed sense of optimism. 

Pre-Trump Depression Blues - Anticipating the incoming Trump administration, Chez Pazienza has been drinking far too much.  "I'm angry, furious even, because I can't fix what's wrong," writes Chez. "And what's wrong is very wrong, a rot at the very center of who we are and what we supposedly stand for. 

'Thunderdome is On': Fake News, Nihilism and the Battle for American Sovereignty

by Bob Cesca

Like it or not, we have no choice but to vigorously and relentlessly fight against the Donald Trump crisis -- today, tomorrow and onward throughout the next four to eight years. All of us. And it's not just about policy, it's about the very existence of American sovereignty knowing how the incoming president is giving Vladimir Putin's hijacking of the 2016 election a free pass, if not tacit praise. Not just that -- but a free pass with effusive praise via Twitter.

But we're not just fighting on one front, which, during previous Republican presidencies was usually focused on legislation or executive actions, we're now fighting on at least three intertwined fronts. In addition to battling the Trump GOP and its efforts to completely unravel the entire social safety net, along with civil rights and environmental safeguards, it's now become imperative that we swat down the mindblowing nihilism of his loyalists as well as this notion of "fake news." 

Sure, I get it. There's actual fake news out there: the blight that Facebook, among many others, is attempting to purge. We've documented it thoroughly here at The Daily Banter -- pop-up sites that wholly fabricate news for the sake of scamming social media users into liking, sharing and clicking. It's not that kind of fake news that I'm writing about today, it's real news that the GOP doesn't like and therefore mislabels as fake. In other words, whatever statistics we come up with, no matter the golden reputation of the source -- if Trump Republicans don't like the sound of it, they're labeling it as fake news.

Case in point. The other day on CNN, anchor Carol Costello interviewed former Republican senator Jim DeMint, who's now a spokesperson for the conservative Heritage Foundation -- you know, the think tank that invented Obamacare. During the segment, Costello mentioned several positive aspects of the Affordable Care Act, such as the fact that it cuts the deficit and has greatly reduced the rate of increase for annual premium hikes. These facts -- and I underscore facts -- were gathered from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Not all of the CBO's projections are spotlessly accurate, but it's the most reliable and least partisan referee in the game.

Nevertheless, what was DeMint's response? 

He called the CBO statistics "fake news."

Yes, the CBO, which vets and scores dozens of pieces of legislation every month to determine the efficacy and budget impact of most if not all proposed laws, is now regarded by the anti-Obamacare minion as "fake news." Put another way, the Congressional Budget Office -- again, the gold standard on Capitol Hill -- is basically playing on the same level as fake news sites like USUncut, Newslo and Huzlers.

So, now, on top of everything else, it won't matter how unimpeachable our facts, the opposition will simply sidestep it all by labeling our sources as fake. I suppose the only solution is to dig through the horseshit at FoxNews.com or The Wall Street Journal for items to support the existence of Obamacare, abortion rights, the climate crisis and so forth. And even then, Trump has made it clear that all of it -- the entire American news media is composed of "those dishonest people." 

And most if not all of his legion of 62 million voters believe whatever the hell he says.

Even if they don't believe Trump, it really doesn't matter to way too many of them. The only thing the Trumpers care about now is the Joker theory of politics: watching the world burn. The nihilism on display from the Trump disciples is truly terrifying to observe. To illustrate my point, here's an actual Facebook status posted by an actual Trump supporter, circa last Summer, long before any ballots were cast (reprinted as-is):

"Truly, the more Donald Trump offends, the more absurdly he blathers, the further he pushes the assault on political correctness, the more I love his candidacy. When people freak out, accuse him of you name it, when I see the panic in people's expressions and voices, the more determined I am to support him. If this describes your reaction to him, it is because of YOU that I choose to support him. Keep freaking out, he'll be President soon enough. And I hope he obliterates everything you are and believe in. It is because or what you allowed this country to become that I freely grant my consent to him to do as he chooses. Hell no he isn't perfect by a long shot. But you insipid liberals did this. You posed boundaries so far, so hard, so quickly that you have only yourselves to blame. I do NOT give a damn how foolish he may get, I will fight tooth and nail to support him and his election. Get ready, because I and millions of others don't give a damn about you or your bullshit liberal dreams. Whatever he offers, good or bad, it's coming. Fuck you."

They simply don't care what the consequences will be in elevating an incompetent, erratic, unqualified maniac to the highest office in the world. As long as liberals get screwed, they'll be okay with whatever happens. This is what they say now.

The problem with this upside-down logic, of course, is that whatever series of existential crises we face, the fall-out won't be restricted to just voters who supported Hillary -- or Evan McMullin, for that matter. When the orange shit hits the orange fan, everyone will get splattered. Perhaps not Trump or his wealthy pals, such as convicted felon "Joey No Socks," but just about everyone else, especially lower income Trump voters who stupidly decided to vote for a spasmodic berserker whose promises they never thought he'd actually try to implement.

Contrary to their mass delusion, there's no special dispensation for Trumpers against recessions or terror attacks or Taepodong missiles or the collapse of the healthcare system. Their #MAGA hashtags and poorly-made red baseball caps won't shield them from the fallout (figurative or literal fallout) and they'll be dead or devastated right along with the rest of us.

All of this -- the whole taco bowl of madness, as it were -- will make our fight much more difficult. But it also makes our fight vastly more important than, say, the fights against Nixon or Reagan or Bush 43 or Newt Gingrich or Fox News combined. We're fighting the most illogical and unhinged group of domestic enemies we've faced since the Civil War and we have no choice but to engage every day without flinching. Otherwise, we're simply resigning ourselves to letting the inmates take over the asylum. Suit up. Thunderdome is on.

Next: Conversing With The Enemy - by Ben Cohen

Conversing With The Enemy

by Ben Cohen

Over the New Year, my wife and I spent almost a week with a group of people in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. We were staying with an old friend who owns a house in the beautiful, colonial era city situated in Mexico’s central highlands, 170 miles outside of Mexico City. 

I knew some of the other guests my friend had invited, but there were others I had never met before. Given my friend is an extremely liberal, I presumed they'd be similarly animated about the state of American politics and deeply troubled by the incoming Trump administration. My instincts were for the most part correct -- were were a ragtag bunch of Colorado hippies, artists, writers and Los Angeles creative media people, and the group even included a fascinating character who was Dr. Martin Luther King's private driver for a number of years.

But then one night at dinner, I discovered that one of the couples on the trip weren't so liberal. During a discussion about Donald Trump's total lack of qualifications to run the country and why Obama has been a pretty good president, the wife -- who was in her early 40's -- suddenly interjected. 

"Yes, but Obama is a Muslim," she stated without a trace of irony. 

I looked at her face to see whether she was joking and quickly determined she wasn't. 

"What makes you think that?!?" I asked incredulously. 

"Well he's only letting in Muslims into the country. Like Syrians. He's not letting in any Christians."

Somewhat taken aback, it took me a moment to get my senses back. There is some truth that the United States hasn't taken many Christian Syrian refugees, but this has more to do with the makeup of the refugee camps (Christians in the main United Nations refugee camp in Jordan have reportedly been subjected to persecution, so they tend to flee the camps and are not included in the refugees referred to the U.S. by the U.N. President Obama has rejected calls to base refugee selection on a religious basis, calling it "offensive and contrary to American values.” This apparently makes him a Muslim).

"Hold on, how does that make him a Muslim?" I asked. 

"Why is he not letting Christians in?" she shot back. 

"He is, but there are many, many more Muslim refugees. Also, he's a Christian, was married in a church, and regularly attends service. Again, how does that make him a Muslim?" I continued. 

The husband then got involved. 

"So you don't think Obama wants to bring Sharia law to America?" he asked. 

Surely this was a joke, I thought. But I studied his face and there was no hint of irony. He was being dead serious. 

"No," I said. "I don't think he wants to bring Sharia law to America, and I think you'd have to provide some evidence before making a claim like that."

The conversation then moved on to Hillary Clinton -- a subject even the mildest conservatives tend to work themselves into complete rage over. 

"She's a crook," the husband asserted. "She's responsible for people dying in Benghazi, and has had people murdered."

"Ok, who did she have murdered, and why has she been cleared of any wrong doing after every official investigation into her alleged crimes?"

"She probably threatened to have them murdered," the husband went on. 

At this point, I wanted to end the conversation as quickly as possible. Sensing there being no point discussing Hillary Clinton, I tried to talk about Obama's success at covering millions more Americans with health insurance after passing the ACA, but the wife interjected again, stating flatly that Obama was a socialist.

"He brought socialized medical care to America," she said firmly. 

"How exactly is expanding private insurance to more Americans socialized medical care?" I asked. "Obama is more right wing than Richard Nixon on a policy by policy basis, so it's ridiculous to claim he is a socialist."

The wife stared at me blankly as if I were describing a completely alternate reality. Thankfully others on the table moved the conversation along and we didn't bring up politics for the rest of the vacation. But for a day or two afterwards, I must confess to being completely shocked and unsure of how to conduct myself around this relatively young, affluent couple who had appeared to be well educated, reasonable people. I have a diverse group of friends, and even some who voted for Trump -- but none were this vitriolic, and none believed Obama was trying to bring Sharia law to America. 

After a while, it dawned on me that they probably viewed me the same way I viewed them and had an equally low opinion of my political opinions and moral compass. Because if Hillary Clinton did have people killed, and Obama did want to bring Sharia law to America, I was supporting murder and the oppression of women. Of course this is complete nonsense, but in their Fox News framed reality, it was true to them. I then began to feel somewhat sorry for them, particularly as I got to know them over the following days. They were decent, generous people with two children they adored and a good sense of humor. I stopped seeing them as the enemy and began to look at them as victims of a truly insane culture that produces millions of people just like them. The decades of shitty public education, shitty corporate news and relentless consumerism had turned them into fearful people incapable of rationally and empathetically analyzing the world around them. Of course they did have some responsibility for the ludicrous views they held, but I couldn't help but feel they were just two well meaning people trying to make sense of things the best they could. 

It then became my mission to connect with them on a human level and try to show them that liberals weren't baby killing Marxists trying to take away their guns. I'm not sure whether it worked, but we got along just fine and the husband even suggested we meet for dinner when he was in DC next month. I came back from my trip with a renewed sense of optimism that Trump supporters are not all bad, and they can be reasoned with if liberals are willing to invest the time. I don't think my new friends changed any of their opinions during the trip, but a I do believe they will now think twice about making sweeping generalizations and perhaps look a bit further into the issues they spoke so ignorantly about. More than that, if they don't see liberals as being the enemy, then there is hope for common ground and a chance for dialogue. 

The next four years are going to be incredibly difficult, and I am sure I will fail on many occasions to see the best in those advocating some of Trump's more heinous policies. But I am going to do my best not to direct my anger at those who are ultimately victims of right wing American culture, even if they are a part of it. 

Next: Pre-Trump Depression Blues - by Chez Pazienza

Pre-Trump Depression Blues

by Chez Pazienza

I've been drinking too much lately. I'm aware of this and it's admittedly disconcerting. That's something about me: I've never been one to deny when my vices are getting the better of me; I'm not the kind of person who can pretend nothing is wrong with me when something very well might be. Too much whiskey downed far too often, leaving me to understand that I have to cut back and most certainly will, because if not something very bad is going to happen. I'll awake one morning realizing I've done something not easily fixable, or far worse, not realizing I've done something not easily fixable. I've always been a social drinker, but something has changed recently. I'm no longer drinking for fun. I'm drinking because I'm angry. I'm angry all the time. It's an anger that comes with it a sense of helplessness and hopelessness, which are always the basis for the worst kind of pain. I'm angry, furious even, because I can't fix what's wrong. And what's wrong is very wrong, a rot at the very center of who we are and what we supposedly stand for. 

To those who relish drinking the tears of the "libtards," this confession will no doubt provoke joyous taunts: that I'm angry because this fucking idiot nation elected Donald Trump president -- a reality show buffoon, serial liar, misogynist asshole, illiterate clown, classless vulgarity, neo-Nazi icon and cartoonish villain installed by a hostile foreign government who's about to usher in an era of unprecedented corruption. I get it: buckle down and wait four years -- or until such time as he can be dragged kicking and screaming from office after being impeached -- and everything will hopefully return somewhat to normal. But it won't and that's the problem. Trump is such an unapologetic authoritarian demagogue that he has the ability to change things almost fundamentally, both in how our republic operates and in how it's perceived abroad. And that's not even taking into account his impulse control issues and affinity for nuclear weapons, a combination which could very well lead to a cataclysm.

But it goes beyond just who he is and who he'll be as a president. This rage and depression and sadness and sense that it's not even worth giving a shit anymore runs deeper than that. It's the fact that this country was shown, day after day and night after night, from one news cycle to the next, at full volume, what a monster Trump is, and yet it chose him anyway. It passed up every chance to stop his ego-feeding campaign to line his pockets and make himself a permanent part of history. He mocked the handicapped, admitted to sexual assault, insulted both the families of the military and an esteemed POW, and stirred up political violence reminiscent of 1930s Germany and still enough people voted for him that our archaic electoral college system could make him president rather than doing what it was designed for and stopping him in his tracks. No matter what happens, the mere fact that he was allowed to become our president crushes underfoot the notion that the United States as the "shining city upon a hill" that Ronald Reagan once spoke of.

But, you know this. Even if you're merely someone who, unthinkably, gets your commentary only from me. Because I haven't stopped repeating some form or fashion of these very words for almost two months now. Because I've fixated on how daunting and disheartening and outrageous this turn of events is, what it means for all Americans, but most specifically for those closest to the firing line in Trump's America: minorities and women and the LGBT and anyone who's benefitted from the progress of the Obama years, people who are already being targeted by those who believe Trump's victory means their racism, sexism and xenophobia has been given sanction. 

And so, I get pissed. In more ways than one. I drink because I know things. 

The specter of a Trump presidency and what it means for us as a nation is always there, like a dark cloud. It's still possible to have a nice time with friends or family or to escape briefly through music or art, but those are always temporary salves. Eventually, the thought that we're about to enter a truly shameful, chaotic and dangerous era always asserts itself again. I speak to my young daughter now and I feel guilty that she's going to have to grow up in part under the banner of this bully who not only mistreats women but who disproves everything we've ever told our children about the intelligence, decency and humanity it takes to become President of the United States. Because of the singularly frightening nature of what's coming and the fact that the Trump era will be all-encompassing -- no one will be able to escape its hallucinatory madness -- fear from it is largely inescapable. You want to have some hope, but it's hard as hell right now, especially given that we're already seeing the predictable, newly empowered paleoconservative legislative crackdown. 

I want to offer some kind of hope and God knows I'd advise unquenchable fury over paralyzing sadness, since at least fury will power you to fight back against this monstrosity and his West Wing where reality show villains have replaced people who actually know what the fuck they're doing. But I'm not sure I'm there yet. I've even tried telling myself it won't be that bad, but, again, what we're already seeing from Trump and his shameless sycophants -- the daily cavalcade of awfulness dominating the news cycles -- proves that kind of thinking amounts to delusion. I've said before, more than once in fact, that the Trump era has made me -- for the good of my own mental health -- seriously think about getting out of political writing and podcasting. I don't want to have to pay attention. I want to concentrate on working in TV, on shows that have nothing to do with politics, and keep my head down. But not only can I not do that, but there's no doubt that the Trump calamity -- cultural, economic, and so on -- will reach down into your lives no matter who you are or what you do.

And here's the worst part: This may just be the beginning. 12 years ago, we re-elected a man who'd proven himself to be a blithering idiot willing to get us into wars we didn't need to be in. Eight years ago, the Republican party actually nominated as the potential second most powerful person in the United States -- Sarah Palin. The conservative movement has been de-evolving and every time it does so, and the dumb-shit rabble it appeals to eats it up, the bar is then lowered and the standards we demand of our leaders become that much worse. Trump is literally incapable of telling the truth. He's proven to the GOP, an entity already without shame in its quest for power, that the easiest way to dodge those who want to hold them accountable is to simply not accept the truth of the criticism. To make their own reality. That's terrifying when you consider what might be to come after Trump. Imagine what the next offering from the Republicans will look like. Go ahead, give it a try.

Maybe there will come a time when we'll settle into our discomfort. When I at the very least can console myself with the fact that I live in a state, California, that's promised to fight the Trump "regime" every step of the way and which has the political and economic clout to do so. Maybe after a while everything will simply become a dull ache rather than an open wound. Maybe. But right now it doesn't seem like it, mostly because I honestly do care, in spite of the self-preservational apathy I'm willing to admit may be necessary to survive in Trump's America. I do give a shit. That's why I'm so angry. That's why I drink. That's why I've been trying to drop out in some small way. At some point there will be the hope that rebellions are built on, but for the moment the flag of the Empire flies crushingly high across the galaxy. Then again, we all know how that story eventually ended.