Part 5—Pundit corps strikes a pose: Are we all Manchurian now?
Current evidence says that we are! Consider the basic outline of John Frankenheimer's classic 1962 film, The Manchurian Candidate.
During the Korean War, Raymond Shaw and the rest of his troops are taken to Manchuria, where they're skillfully brainwashed. Two years later, Shaw returns to the United States as an apparent hero. In truth, he's now an unwitting "mechanism" designed to commit a political murder.
Raymond's fellow soldiers have been brainwashed too. Whenever they're questioned, they find themselves hypnotically repeating a standard line:
"Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life."
They know their statement isn't true. But they keep reciting.
In the past thirty years, robotic recitation of script has come to dominate American journalism. In Frankenheimer's famous film, Raymond Shaw's brainwashed admirers beat the Mikas and the Joes to this unfortunate culture.
This famous film turns on a literal act of brainwashing. At the same time, Frankenheimer portrays a wider set of hypnotic behaviors all through American life.
Romances start in semi-hypnotic, zombified ways. A zombified press corps barely takes note of the crazy, contradictory claims by Senator Iselin, Raymond's anti-Communist stepfather.
Robotically, Frank Sinatra reads a bewildering array of books which are sent to him by "a guy" who's three thousand miles away. Inevitably, the action leads to a costume party where all the players appear as someone they aren't.
From there, it's on to the final scene, where Raymond is dressed as a priest.
Today, a costume party is staged each day on Morning Joe, where robotic players have been repeating a set of lines all week. If you can't see this costuming for what it is, you can't see the basic outline of our current world.
Mika and Joe have been playing carefully costumed roles on Morning Joe this week. Hypnotically, their various guests have been reciting a standard line:
"Donald J. Trump is the most racist, bigoted, horrible person I've ever known in my life."
Left unexplained is the way Mika and Joe pimped this same ridiculous man for the bulk of the past year. Most disgracefully, his birtherism went unchallenged during this ridiculous time, along with a range of bizarre proposals and plans.
Is it true? Is Donald J. Trump the most racist person they've ever known in their lives? We don't know how to answer that question, but he's certainly the most disordered, diagnosable person who ever reached his current station as the presumptive nominee of one of our two major parties.
That said, our pundits largely ignored this mental disorder during the course of the past year. Most strikingly, Trump's birtherism has gone wholly unexplored by the "national press."
The current Manchurian episode has turned on Trump's alleged racism. Therein lies a long, hypnotic tale:
We've long told you that this is the only play our liberal tribe currently knows. In the past week, a remarkable pattern has emerged, in which both major tribes have agreed to recite the new hypnotic line concerning Donald J. Trump.
"Donald J. Trump is the most racist, bigoted, horrible person I've ever known in my life."
Remarkably, major players from both major tribes have been repeating this line. We haven't seen this type of tribal convergence since 1999 and 2000, when major pundits from both major tribes agreed to recite what follows over the course of two years:
"Candidate Gore is the world's biggest liar, just like his boss, Bill Clinton."
Also: Candidate Gore doesn't know who he is. Candidate Gore hired a woman to teach him to be a man. Candidate Gore will do and say anything. Candidate Gore will lick the bathroom floor to get to the White House.
(That last line was Chris Matthews only.)
For twenty months, major players from both major tribes repeated an array of such lines. This week, a similar convergence has occurred, the first such tribal convergence in the past sixteen years.
If both tribes agree to recite certain lines, doesn't that suggest that the claim involved may be accurate? Actually no, it doesn't. Consider a supplementary set of lines which everyone has been reciting. Hypnotically, Charles Krauthammer recites a variant in today's Washington Post:
KRAUTHAMMER (6/10/16): [Trump's] outrageous provocations have been brilliantly sequenced so that the shock of the new extinguishes the memory of the last. Though perhaps not his most recent—his gratuitous attack on a “Mexican” federal judge (born and bred in Indiana) for inherent bias because of his ethnicity. Textbook racism, averred Speaker Paul Ryan. Even Trump acolyte and possible running mate Newt Gingrich called it inexcusable.To what sub-recitation do we refer? We refer to this absurd notion, implied by hypnotized pundits all week:
No federal judge born in Indiana could possibly be biased against Trump!
Such a claim would make no sense, of course. But disordered versions of this suggestion have been bruited all week.
(Quick aside: Do you know how many times Chris Matthews has referred to individuals born in the United States as "Irish" or even as "Irishmen?" Because we researched the question, we do! For better or worse—as a general matter, we'd say for worse—many people speak that way, and Trump is an extremely careless, blunderbuss speaker. Hypnotized zombies with scripts to recite rarely consider such points.)
This brings us the week's central question. Is it possible that Judge Curiel actually has made "biased" rulingsagainst Candidate Trump in his handling of the "Trump University" case?
The answer to that is obvious—of course it's possible! That's obvious except in Manchuria, where an array of hypnotized pundits have simply recited this point:
"Gonzalo Curiel is the most wonderful, unbiased federal judge I've ever known in my life."
Instantly, let's be clear: We know of no reason to think that Judge Curiel has exhibited a bias against Trump. Indeed, it seems this claim is false.
On Monday night, we actually saw a major broadcaster address Trump's specific claims on this score. That major broadcaster was Megyn Kelly. As we'll show you below, she left Trump's claims in the dust.
Kelly did her job that night, in the traditional manner! But in the rush to recitation, almost no one else has bothered with this tiresome step.
Dearest darlings, could a federal judge be biased against Trump? Could a federal judge of Mexican ancestry be biased against Trump?
Could a federal judge of Mexican ancestry from Indiana be biased against Trump? Is it possible that such a thing could occur?
Dearest darlings! Of course these things are possible! As is true of everyone else, federal judges can betray all sorts of predispositions and biases. Such possibilities are discussed all the time—as, for example, this week.
This week, we've seen angry discussions of a judge's alleged bias or predisposition in the Stanford sexual assault case. We've seen a focus on the judge in the ongoing Freddie Gray trials, with a focus on the fact that the judge is black, not white.
This very morning, we learn that a judge in Philadelphia won't be allowed to hear an appeal in a death penalty case due to a possible or perceived conflict of interest. As Candidate Trump threatens to revive every past claim about Bill Clinton, we recall claims about the alleged political and personal biases of Judge Susan Webber Wright, who handled the Paula Jones case.
Can judges display some sort of bias in their actual rulings? Of course they can! This is even true if the judge was born in Indiana rather than somewhere else.
People can hold and display all kinds of biases; this is true of judges, as of everyone else. This raises an obvious question:
When a judge is accused of displaying a bias, how do we settle such a claim? In the Manchuria where we now live, we settle it in the modern way. Everyone starts to recite:
"Judge Curiel is the kindest, bravest, least biased, most wonderful human being from Indiana I've ever known in my life."
That's the way the bulk of our pundits have settled this matter this week. In a non-hypnotic realm, we would settle this question a more rational way. Megyn Kelly took that route on her cable news program.
Good lord! Even before she spoke to the Trump spokesperson who was her guest, Kelly addressed some of the specific claims Trump has made about Judge Curiel's rulings.
She didn't recite a mantra about Judge Curiel's obvious greatness. Instead, she assessed Trump's specific claims on the actual merits.
In her first segment Monday night, Kelly introduced Katrina Pierson, the highly skilled national spokesperson for the Trump campaign. A few hours earlier, we had seen Pierson run an unprepared Wolf Blitzer ragged on CNN.
Blitzer didn't know Schick from Shinola. Here's what happened when Pierson tried to make the same claims following Kelly's overview:
KELLY (6/6/16): Katrina, let me start with you on, you know, what—"Let me just stop you right there?" Earlier, Pierson had run roughshod over the unprepared Blitzer with these same presentations.
I'm offering my take there as a lawyer. You know, I've been doing legal analysis for the channel. I mean, Trump can argue—he can argue the merits. He's going to get his day in court on the merits. I have no idea if he's going to win or lose this lawsuit.
But your take on the— You know, he can't create a conflict of interest about a judge just by complaining about him.
PIERSON: Well, Megyn, the history of the case is extremely important too because you're right, this has been going on for a couple of years, but this was not the original judge on the case. When this judge got to the case, he appointed the law firm that you mentioned, as well as another one who does support Barack Obama.
KELLY: Let me just stop you right there...
Blitzer was thoroughly unprepared; Kelly interrupted. She was able to address Trump's specific claims about Curiel on the actual merits:
KELLY (fuller response): Let me just stop you right there, okay? Because I want to make sure that the record is clear."I want to make sure that the record is clear?" Are journalists allowed to say that?
What happened in this case, there was a judge. She retired. As she retired, her cases got reassigned. Judge Curiel took the case. He did not assign a law firm. The law firm that paid Hillary and Bill speaking fees was already on the case, Katrina. They were already on the case.
PIERSON: And the other law firm. Do you have that one?
KELLY: Already on the case. Yes. Three women. It was the first, law firm of three women that started the case, and then they brought in a big dog law firm, went to became a class action, and both of them were on the case before Judge Curiel was.
PIERSON: And this judge is a friend of that lawyer that used to work together in the U.S. Attorney's Office.
KELLY: They both worked together in the U.S. Attorney's Office. How does that make him biased?
Hours earlier, we had seen the hapless Blitzer get rolled by these same claims. To unprepared cable hosts of his type, it's enough to issue cries accusing Trump of racism, while pointing out that Judge Curiel was born in Indiana.
People born in Indiana can act on biases too! People born in Indiana can act on biases which derive from their feelings about their ethnic heritage.
That said, has Judge Curiel displayed any such bias in his various rulings? Kelly didn't start dropping R-bombs; she discussed his actual rulings. She knew what she was talking about; she shot down one claim after another.
Kelly was playing a famous old game. It's known as "journalism."
In the course of this past week, very few "journalists" have tried to do what Kelly did this night. In her essay for Slate, Dahlia Lithwick never mentioned the legal rulings around which Trump has based his claim of unfair treatment.
Lithwick simply dropped her bombs. This made us feel very good.
Are we all Manchurian now? In accord with modern pundit culture, pundits have been reciting their lines, in which Trump is a racist and Judge Curiel is the most unbiased person they have ever known in their life.
This is lazy, corrupt behavior by a costumed gang of hypnotized frauds. Liberals who settle for this kind of work are basically hypnotized too.
But rabbi, isn't it a wonderful thing when pundits denounce racism?
Actually no, it isn't. How helpful was it when Joe McCarthy—he's darkly satirized in The Manchurian Candidate—denounced Soviet Communism in the way he did?
McCarthy was denouncing a terrible system. He did lots of harm when he did.
Let us share some news: Your pundit corps doesn't care about basic issues of racial amelioration. They make this fact abundantly clear every day of the year.
In this instance, they've been taken to Manchuria, where they've learned a few new lines to recite. Such recitations tend to lead to nothing in the end.
Conceivably, this could still end up helping Trump more than it actually hurts him. Here's CNN's David Gergen, last night:
GERGEN (6/9/16): You know, we haven't—we haven't seen many polls yet, but it's interesting. One poll came out today, after Trump having terrible weeks and Hillary having great weeks: Pennsylvania, 44 apiece. So it's way too early to start calling this, but I can tell you what's been unfolding in the last two, three weeks, I think is critically important to the way this ultimately turns out.The country is full of dissatisfied voters who know our pundits are fakes. Even if we liberals can't see how phony they are in this current ploy, many others actually can. For that reason, it's hard to know how this play will turn out.
A costume party occurs near the end of The Manchurian Candidate. All the leading characters are there, in an array of costumes.
When Mika and Joe denounce Trump's racism, they're staging a similar party. What they say sounds good to you, but what they're saying is totally fake, and they have ignored, and will ignore, a million other events.
Candidate Trump is the most disordered, diagnosable human being we've ever seen at this political level. Your pundit corps has ignored this fact for years—and they'll continue to do so.
Kelly played the traditional game on her cable news program. It's rarely played by the costumed clowns who serve us from the deepest Manchuria, where we all currently live.
They're costumed as moral exemplars this week. Their ardent, heartfelt moral cries are just their latest pose.
Kevin Drum was also surprised: Kevin Drum was also surprised! To his surprise, someone examined Trump's specific claims about Judge Curiel's rulings.
This is the way you settle a claim. Our pundits prefer to sing their songs and feign vast moral greatness.