Interlude—Aimed at Ridiculous Us: This morning, at an unnamed cable news site, we learn of heroic action.
At the very top of the site, access to a videotape is offered. Beneath the featured videotape, this synopsis appears:
Otto Warmbier, former North Korea captive, dies leaving questionsHeroically, a certain cable news host "reported" last night on the death of Otto Warmbier, and on the questions that remain about how he was treated by North Korea. The presence of this report at the top of her site was a rather obvious statement about her moral greatness.
Rachel Maddow reports on the death of Otto Warmbier, the U.S. student released from 17 months of captivity in North Korea just a week ago, and [on] the questions that remain about how he was treated by North Korea.
That said, there's one more line to that synopsis, a line we've so far withheld. It appears directly beneath that stirring synopsis. Enjoy a bit of comic relief! This is what it says:
That's right! Last night, this major cable star's "report" lasted some 55 seconds. During that time, she "reported on" this young man's death, and on the questions that remain about how he was treated by North Korea!
Did she also swim the Yangtze, like Chairman Mao before her? Based upon that synopsis, we aren't entirely sure.
Alas! North Korea is a cult of personality. Increasingly, so is the cable news show which is highlighting the videotape of last evening's "report."
Last night, this major star opened her cable show with that 55-second report. After that, it was on to her program's only real product, the thrill of the highly dramatic chase as we try to lock them up.
(Last night's initial targets? Paul Manafort and his wife. For years, this cable star has seemed to take a special weird joy in including the spouses and kids.)
That heroic 55-second "report" is the way last night's program began. The final segment of last evening's show was pure political propaganda at its stupidest, least varnished and worst. It was a sequel to the worst part of the stupid and faux 14-minute segment with which the major cable star had opened last Friday night's program.
In yesterday's report, we extracted a bit of comic relief from that ridiculous fourteen minutes—from the ridiculous work aimed at Ridiculous Us. That said, even we were surprised to see the segment which aired last night, a sequel to the ugliest part of Friday night's dumb, faux, slippery work.
That said, as was once the case with Them, the same is now true with Us. As Rush once worked to dumb The Others down, this extremely peculiar multimillionaire star is now attacking the brain cells of Us.
As The Others couldn't see through the cult of Rush, we can't seem to see through the cult of this increasingly ridiculous corporate star. That said, there is no transcript, at this time, of her closing segment last night. For that reason, we'll postpone today's report till tomorrow so we can discuss the topic involved here in full.
That said, we thought of this major cable star as we read today's New York Times—more specifically, as we read a book review by Michiko Kakutani.
Kakutani reviews a "harrowing new book" by Edward Luce, a columnist for the Financial Times. This is the gloomy headline which sits atop her review in the hard-copy Times:
"In 'The Retreat of Western Liberalism,' How Democracy Is Defeating Itself"
We thought of the cable star's assault on Ridiculous Us as we read Kakutani's review.
The review is gloomy right from the start. Here's how Kakutani begins:
KAKUTANI (6/20/17): In his insightful and harrowing new book, Edward Luce, a columnist for The Financial Times, issues a chilling warning: “Western liberal democracy is not yet dead,” he writes, “but it is far closer to collapse than we may wish to believe. It is facing its gravest challenge since the Second World War. This time, however, we have conjured up the enemy from within. At home and abroad, America’s best liberal traditions are under assault from its own president. We have put arsonists in charge of the fire brigade.”We agree that Donald J. Trump is engaged in a type of assault on Western liberal democracy. But so is the major cable news star, along with all the other talk radio/cable propagandists who have preceded her in this brave and disordered new world.
Kakutani's review doesn't mention these corporate creatures. At the same time, she says that Luce sees Donald J. Trump as a symptom of our deeply serious cultural problem, not as its actual cause.
We agree with that assessment. That said, it seems to us that Luce and/or Kakutani is ignoring one of the most significant causes:
KAKUTANI (continuing directly): Luce does not see Donald J. Trump or populist nationalists in Europe, like Marine Le Pen, as causes of today’s crisis in democratic liberalism but rather as symptoms. Nor does he see President Trump’s victory last November as “an accident delivered by the dying gasp of America’s white majority—and abetted by Putin,” after which regular political programming will soon resume.Is downward pressure on the middle classes fomenting nationalism and populist revolts? Are these forces creating a challenge to the West's Enlightenment faith in (and practice of) reason?
Instead, he argues in “The Retreat of Western Liberalism,” Trump’s election is a part of larger trends on the world stage, including the failure of two dozen democracies since the turn of the millennium (including three in Europe—Russia, Turkey and Hungary) and growing downward pressures on the West’s middle classes (wrought by the snowballing forces of globalization and automation) that are fomenting nationalism and populist revolts. These developments, in turn, represent a repudiation of the naïve hopes, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, that liberal democracy was on an inevitable march across the planet, and they also pose a challenge to the West’s Enlightenment faith in reason and linear progress.
Presumably, yes. But so is the conduct of people like Rush and this major unnamed cable star.
We haven't read Luce's book; we've only read this review. That said, we know something from past experience—if Luce criticized trends in our rapidly evolving news business, a reviewer in the New York Times might be inclined to skip that part of his book.
Why do we mention that possibility? Because we agree with this description, but we also think something is missing:
KAKUTANI: In his prescient 2012 book, “Time to Start Thinking: America in the Age of Descent,” Luce uncannily anticipated the politics of resentment and the bitter fights over immigration that would fuel “Brexit” and last year’s American election. And in this new book, he lucidly expounds on the erosion of the West’s middle classes, the dysfunction among its political and economic elites and the consequences for America and the world.We're inclined to agree with that economic analysis. But do you know what else leads people to "seek scapegoats for their woes," with "consensus becoming harder to reach" as "politics devolves into more and more of a zero-sum game" as "things tend to take a dark turn?"
The strongest glue holding liberal democracies together, Luce argues, is economic growth, and when that growth stalls or falls, things tend to take a dark turn. With growing competition for jobs and resources, losers (those he calls the “left-behinds”) seek scapegoats for their woes, and consensus becomes harder to reach as politics devolves into more and more of a zero-sum game.
It isn't just dysfunction among political and economic elites which may lead us in those directions! Dysfunction within our (so-called) journalistic elite can and does serve that end too.
Increasingly, our big cable star is engaged in entertainment-fluffed demagoguery in service to a low-IQ personality cult. This pleasing porridge is served each night to Ridiculous Us in the guise of journalism.
Her segment last Friday was clownishly faux. To see her continue that conduct last night, her closing segment is here.
You may not see what's wrong with that work, in which she's aggressively selling the car known as her own moral greatness. Alas! Just as with Ridiculous Them, so it increasingly goes over here, in the tents of Ridiculous Us.
Tomorrow: An emerging demagogue
Thursday: An immensely ridiculous lineup