WE'RE ALL MANCHURIAN NOW: Lithwick discusses what Donald Trump said!


Part 2—Does anything ever make sense: Are we all Manchurian now?

Before we consider what Candidate Donald J. Trump has been saying, consider a scene from the classic 1962 film which inspires our question.

Major Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra) has been brainwashed in Manchuria, just like his superior officer, "poor, friendless Raymond Shaw." Unfortunately, though, in Sinatra's case, the brainwashing hasn't quite held.

Sinatra has been having nightmares. In these nightmares, he recalls what actually happened when Shaw's platoon was captured in the Korean War, then taken to Manchuria.

Sinatra reports his nightmares to his military superiors in Washington; they decide he's suffering from combat stress. In the scene to which we refer, a highly sympathetic Colonel Milt comes to Sinatra's home to tell him that he's been placed on leave.

Upon arrival, the colonel asks Sinatra where he gets his piles of books. As Sinatra fixes a drink for the colonel, this strange conversation occurs:
COLONEL: My God, where do you get all the books?

MARCO: Oh, I, uh— I got a guy picks 'em out for me. At random. Water all right?


MARCO: He's in, uh, San Francisco. A little bookstore out there and, uh, he ships 'em to me wherever I happen to be stationed.

COLONEL: You've read them all?

MARCO: Yeah. They also make great insulation against an enemy attack.

But the truth of the matter is that I'm just interested, you know, in, uh, principles of modern banking and history of piracy, paintings of Orozco, modern French theatre, the jurisprudential factors of Mafia administration, diseases of horses and novels of Joyce Cary and ethnic choices of the Arabs—things like that.
The Sinatra character seems a bit off-kilter in his general demeanor. And of course, his rambling comments don't seem to make too much sense.

On its primary level, The Manchurian Candidate revolves around a literal act of brainwashing—an act of brainwashing which produces a state of homicidal hypnosis. On the secondary level, the film is stuffed with surreal conversations and decisions which suggest that a type of secondary hypnosis and/or self-hypnosis is marbled all through our waking lives.

These weird conversations and chains of events are most striking in a pair of romances—the romance between Sinatra and Janet Leigh, and the romance between poor Raymond (Laurence Harvey) and the lovely, highly peculiar young Jocelyn Jordan (Leslie Parrish).

But the air of hypnosis is also there as Sinatra explains where he gets his information. As it turns out, Sinatra gets his information from "a guy"—from a guy who selects his books for him, at random, from three thousand miles away.

The guy mails the books to Sinatra. Hypnotically, Sinatra reads them—even though they cover a bewildering array of topics which seem to betray no internal connection or coherence.

"Things like that," Sinatra says, referring to an array of topics which display no apparent connection.

After Sinatra's weird explanation, the colonel stresses that he's been ordered to go on leave. The modern viewer may be left with a further thought, in which Sinatra's disordered discussion of his source of information is reminiscent of the disordered stream of random, incoherent assertions and claims which comprise the modern American discourse.

Last night, we thought of the Sinatra character midway through the 9 PM Eastern hour. We clicked through the programs which were airing on the three "cable news" channels. As we did, we found an inane discussion being conducted on each one.

Don't get us wrong! The three discussions were quite unique; each was inane in its own special way. But good lord! We thought of the random flow of information which was reaching Major Marco as we pondered the stream of corporate-licensed misdirection and distraction emerging from our "TV machine thingy," as one of the three cable news purveyors might entertainingly have said.

We found a random flow of inanity being offered to voters last night. In fairness to Cooper, Kelly and Maddow, we have to say that we had the same reaction to Dahlia Lithwick's new essay about Candidate Donald J. Trump for Slate.

Donald J. Trump has been making a series of claims about a federal district judge. These claims have provoked a wave of outrage across the realm of Punditstan.

For ourselves, we've been struck by the difficulty pundits and reporters have had in merely describing what Candidate Donald J. Trump has said about this federal judge. But then, incoherence is a basic part of the culture in this hypnotic realm.

Last night, on one of those three cable shows, we finally saw a journalist evaluate the specific claims Donald J. Trump and his spokespersons have been making. That journalist was Megyn Kelly. Tomorrow, we'll show you the rubble that was left on the ground after she finished shredding the Trump camp's basic claims.

Later in her program, Kelly was peddling inanity, as described above. But in one segment, she actually did what Lithwick didn't seem able to do—what very few journos have bothered to do in the surreal, hypnotic state which now passes for a national discourse.

Lithwick's essay makes little sense, but neither do the accounts of Trump's remarks which have appeared on the front page of the New York Times. Are we all Manchurian now? Are we all immersed in semi-hypnotic states as we receive the blizzard of reactions and claims which pose as our national discourse?

Frank Sinatra's Major Marco would have felt right at home reading the accounts of Trump's remarks offered by Lithwick and the Times. He could have moved on to a blizzard of claims about diseases of horses and novels of Joyce Cary—"things like that."

Our public discourse rarely makes sense in these highly Manchurian times, in which disordered players like Mika and Joe are shipping the public its books. To judge from that one surreal scene, Major Marco had already made his peace with this highly disordered game.

This game was all over cable last night. Is it possible, could it be, that we're all Manchurian now?

Tomorrow: Lithwick v. Kelly


  1. "CNN Jake Tapper Rips Into State Dept's Lies and Deceit on Video Editing"


    1. My! The State Department posted a video, taken in a public press session which had an exchange with a television reporter, who no doubt had his own videographer there to record it, edited out. Mercy.

      No wonder Jake is pissed. This is the most outrageous thing that has happened to Jake since Obama dared challenge his excellent olfactory by denying smoking a cigarette. And even worse than when Obama "played the race card" by telling a huge crowd of mostly white voters his face looked different than those of Presidents on our currency.

      Poor Jake. I wonder why Bob Somerby has never told us how much Jake makes.

    2. @2:59

      Everywhere else it is impossible to predict the future, but in the Obama State Department it is impossible to predict the past.

    3. cicero, this non story is ancient news now, it didn't stick, move along. Possibly it may return when the State Department discovers it was republican operatives that propagated the video edit.

    4. 6:59

      Libs believe all evidence of Obama and HRC being the antithesis of transparent are non stories.

      If there were any chance of this being done by some mysterious GOP operative, Obama would be ordering a massive investigation instead State Department John Kirby says he "finds no reason to press forward with a more formal or deeper investigation."


    5. CNN Wolf Blitzer joins Rosen and Tapper on Stalinesque Foggy Bottom editing of video

      "Jen Psaki Pressed By CNN’s Wolf Blitzer On State Department’s Video Editing"


    6. Wilson's ThicketJune 8, 2016 at 3:05 AM

      Pootie's favorite St. Petersburg trollbot is still pissed at Psaki for this:


  2. Let's start with this. By launching an attack on Lithwick Bob doesn't seem to agree that no truly sane person can defend Donald Trump’s vile, racist slander against Gonzalo Curiel.

  3. Ah, but the brainwashing, that’s, that’s where Bob had them. They laughed at him and made jokes, but he proved beyond the shadow of a doubt, and with geometric logic, that liberals were being brainwashed by strawberries even if MSNBC transcripts did not exist, and he could produce that proof through the magic of old movie scripts.

    1. All the effort you're putting into making yourself look foolish is really starting to pay off.

  4. You say, "Major Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra) has been brainwashed in Manchuria, just like his superior officer, poor, friendless Raymond Shaw."
    What??? In the flashback scenes Sinatra as Captain Ben Marco is superior to Sargent Shaw.

    1. Rank can be tricky. Take Colonel Sanders. He was actually an enlisted Teamster in the Army, but he is sometimes called The Colonel, much like Rachel Maddow is sometimes called The Nun.

      Little known fact: Colonel Sanders was actually born in Indiana, like Judge Gonzalo Curiel.

      Well known fact press won't discuss: Anderson
      Cooper's mother once dated Frank Sinatra yet nobody has suggested he may be Ronan "The Barbarian's" brother.

    2. Bob simply needs to take more care with the facts. Superior officer Captain Marco is brainwashed to recommend Sargent Shaw for the Medal Of Honor. If Shaw is the superior officer it is much less convincing. This distinction is an important part of the plot.

    3. As an alternative to taking more care with the facts, perhaps Bob could recognize he has little left of interest to say about what happened to Al Gore.

  5. Does anything ever make sense? Before we consider what Candidate Donald J. Trump has been saying, lets do several posts on one week old Rachel Maddow programs we consider snarky and hypocritical.

    Because really, if you get down to it, racist comments indicating an insensitivity to judicial independence from a man who might be appointing all out federal judges pales in comparison to the melting of our culture caused by the high salary of some faux prude woman I make up names for.

    And then there is this rambling woman is Slate, for heaven's sake. At least she isn't young....ish.

  6. A large, SMOKY ROOM full of American
    GIs and Korean hookers. The GIs are the members of Raymond's patrol. A few of them play poker. The rest sit/kiss/fondle/chat with their hired women. Most everyone drinks beer and smokes cigarettes. A
    portrait of General MacArthur (saluting, no less) hangs on the wall behind Raymond as he looks the place over in disgust. In one corner of
    the room, an ugly dragon wearing an army helmet is labeled "Sarge" in honor of the much-despised Raymond. Phrases like "Home Sweet Home" and
    "God Bless America" are written in chalk on the walls.

    One of the girls approaches Raymond and takes his arm but he shrugs her off while pulling a whistle from his pocket. Raymond BLOWS the whistle
    and everyone looks up. One KOREAN GIRL panics and tries to jump out of the lap of Corporal ALAN MELVIN, the patrol's only African-American.

    Joint raided!?

    No, no.

    ED MAVOLE, standing at the bar between two ladies, twists his undershirt
    in frustration.

    It's just our Raymond. Our
    lovable Sergeant Shaw.

    All right, let's go, you men! Come

    Universal GROANS and GRUMBLES greet the bad news. The men reluctantly make ready to leave.

    Let's go!

    Madame GERTRUDE, sensing the imminent loss of clientele, approaches Raymond.

    Come on, Sarge. Gertrude buy you

    Raymond brushes her off and exits.

    HOOKER #2
    What's a matter him?

    I'm afraid our Saint Raymond, he
    don't approve.

    BOBBY LEMBECK, the patrol's youngest member at age sixteen, just got laid for the first time tonight and is in a sympathetic mood.

    Well, maybe he's got a girl back
    home or somethin'.

    Melvin puts on his boots. His woman moves at once to lace them.

    Him? Our Raymond? Are you kidding?

    One of the hookers reads an old issue of Movie Life magazine as SILVER, in a bathrobe, starts to leave.

    Hey, Silver, how 'bout the robe?

    What do you mean my robe? Get out
    of here.

  7. Interesting take on the film. Didn't care much for it on first viewing but worthy of a second chance.

  8. Lots of things don't make sense, and this has been going on for a long time. Kafka, and other writers (e.g. William Gaddis, Lewis Carroll) reveal this deeper truth. Right here we regularly receive reports from the nightmarish Kafkaesque world of Cicero.

  9. Cicero reminds me of the MORONs from Atrio's [sic] comments sections who refreshed their NETSCAPE web browsers of comments like these... FIRST! Frist!! LOL.

  10. I think we would all be better off at this point if Bob simply stuck
    to Turner Classic Movies and left issues of media assessment
    alone. This. Makes. No. Sense.

    1. You probably were not a big fan of the glove scene in On the Waterfront?

      Blue Crush? That's my sister!

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