Part 4—Notes from our failing Oran: At the end of Camus' famous novel, The Plague, the sun-splashed city of Oran has been liberated from the grip of a pestilence.
The gates to the city are open again as a long quarantine is lifted. According to Camus' narrator, "ecstatic couples, locked together, hardly speaking, proclaimed in the midst of the tumult of rejoicing, with the proud egotism and injustice of happy people, that the plague was over, the reign of terror ended."
It's left to Dr. Rieux, newly revealed as the story's narrator, to note that "the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good...and that perhaps the day would come when, for the bane and the enlightening of men, it would rouse up its rats and send them forth to die in a happy city."
With that unpleasant observation, Camus' famous novel ends.
Do we live in our own Oran? Has the bacillus roused up its rats again? Is Trumpism our own modern plague? If so, is there any real likelihood that we will emerge from its grip?
Regarding those questions, we tilt toward the negative. In truth, the pioneers of our current infestation began crawling into our lives at least fifty years back.
The people we liberals trust most have agreed to ignore the conduct of these pioneers. Indeed, by the early 1990s, the people we liberals trust most had, in many cases, become pioneers themselves!
Today, Rachel Maddow is the heralded star who sits atop our "liberal" world. She has vouched for virtually every one of these pioneers, pioneers who might elsewhere be taken for bearers of cultural pestilence.
Matthews, Greta Van Susteren, even Howard Stern? Maddow has vouched for each! But she's so good at selling the car, and she's part of so wide an act of denial, it rarely occurs to us in Oran that this conduct is deadly and strange.
The plague of Trumpism didn't begin with Donald J. Trump! The stupidification he keeps selling entered our city a long time ago. So too with the misogyny which had the press corps so upset at this exact time last week.
The mainstream press corps was selling that dumbnification long before Trump came along. Meanwhile, anyone offended by misogyny should be revolted by a corporate star who hails the greatness of Chris Matthews—or who appears on the Howard Stern Show, while hailing Stern as "my hero."
(Inevitably, she made that remark in a Playboy interview! For fuller context, click here.)
The art of the con is endless and vast within the upper-end press corps. Donald J. Trump has taken Trumpism to a deeply stupid new level, but he's built on an ugly, stupid foundation laid by our favorite stars.
By "our," we refer to us in the liberal world. We refer to the stars of our own pathetic brigade, not to the stars Over There.
Has long has it been since the pioneers of Trumpism began to creep into our homes? Earlier this week, we suggested that Trumpism may have begun with the brief, meteoric rise of Les Crane, who invented a broadcast style which linked feigned partisan anger to rude insult and shock-based dumbnification.
Thanks to the bosses who count the money, the basic elements of that broadcast style spread, though perhaps somewhat slowly at first. Eventually, dumbnification and overstatement became the reliable norm on our political shouting-match programs. Within the more secular realm of the morning "shock jock," programming was built upon the two-step Howard Stern plan:
Step 1: Select the least appropriate thing to say.Les Crane was gone, but Howard Stern and Don Imus eventually thrived. Because their dumbnified, shock jock conduct drew many ears, pioneers from our mainstream press corps were eager to go on their programs.
Step 2: Say it as quickly as possible.
These people pretended they didn't know the nature of the product Stern and Imus were selling. When Imus overreached in 2007 with an explicitly racial sliming of the Rutgers women's basketball team, these mainstream press corps pioneers declared themselves to be "shocked, shocked" by Imus' surprising conduct.
They quickly swam from the sinking ship. Pioneers are like that!
It wasn't hard to get from figures like Imus and Stern to a figure like Rush Limbaugh. In 1984, he replaced the dumbnified shlock jock Morton Downey, Jr. at Sacramento's KFBK. According to the leading authority, here's what happened next:
"On August 1, 1988, after achieving success in Sacramento and drawing the attention of former ABC Radio President Edward McLaughlin, Limbaugh moved to New York City and began his national radio show."
Back in 1962, ABC had loved Les Crane. Now, the network loved Rush Limbaugh. By 1994, he was pretending that Hillary Clinton was involved in the death of Vince Foster. Presumably fearing his audience power, mainstream news orgs left him alone, as they did with the stupidified conduct of Jerry Falwell, who was peddling a videotape about the Clintons' long string of unfortunate murders.
With that deference to Limbaugh and Falwell, our biggest mainstream news orgs joined the many pioneers crawling into Oran. As Crane had shown in 1961, dumbnification leads to big money. Many folk wanted to play.
By the time of Vince Foster's death, the mainstream press corps had largely thrown in its lot with the pioneers who were infesting our culture. Major players like Jack Welch had taken "news" in a mercantile direction. Major players repeatedly showed that they were willing to play.
Let's ignore the many years devoted to the Whitewater pseudo-scandals. By 1999, one of the most remarkable episodes in this long infestation arrived center stage.
With pioneers like Chris Matthews leading the way, our major mainstream news orgs declared a war on Candidate Gore and, in some cases, on Candidate Hillary Clinton. And yes, we're talking about the mainstream press corps, not the right-wing machine.
The dumbnification was astounding. Outright dissembling ruled. Beyond that, Matthews' misogyny was endless and rank. All your favorite liberal stars pretended they couldn't see this.
(Later, the Corns and the Walshes became cable stars through Matthews' program. We hope their money is spending well as Oran crumbles around them.)
Did Donald J. Trump invent Trumpism? Deluded liberal, please! During Campaign 2000, Maureen Dowd wrote seven columns which centered on Candidate Gore's bald spot, a male version of the face-lift. This included her column on the Sunday before the fateful 2000 election, a column which started like this, pathetic headline included:
DOWD (11/5/00): I Feel PrettyThat was her seventh such column. That would also be an earlier version of facelift-style dumbnification.
I feel stunning
Feel like running and dancing for joy . . .
O.K., enough gloating. Behave, Albert. Just look in the mirror now and put on your serious I only-care-about-the-issues face.
If I rub in a tad more of this mahogany-colored industrial mousse, the Spot will disappear under my Reagan pompadour.
Dumbnification is part of Trumpism. Has Donald J. Trump ever been dumber than Dowd was that day? Than Dowd was on so many days?
Last week, we were told that misogyny is also part of Trumpism. Has Donald J. Trump ever been more so than Dowd was in 2004, when she authored one of her patented attacks on Candidate Howard Dean's wife, Dr. Judith Steinberg?
Steinberg's coiff was not just so. Also, her wardrobe was wrong. Behold our Pulitzer-winner:
DOWD (1/15/04): The doctors Dean seem to be in need of some tips on togetherness and building a healthy political marriage, if that's not an oxymoron.You could imagine Limbaugh slagging Steinberg. But you could read Dowd doing it!
Even by the transcendentally wacky standard for political unions set by Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Deans have an unusual relationship.
She is a ghost in his political career. She has never even been to Iowa, and most reporters who have covered Howard Dean's quest here the last two years would not recognize her if she walked in the door, which she is not likely to do, since she prefers examining patients to being cross-examined by voters and reporters.
The first hard evidence most people had that Howard Dean was actually married came with a startling picture of his wife on the front page of Tuesday's Times, accompanying a Jodi Wilgoren profile.
In worn jeans and old sneakers, the shy and retiring Dr. Judith Steinberg Dean looked like a crunchy Vermont hippie, blithely uncoiffed, unadorned, unstyled and unconcerned about not being at her husband's side—the anti-Laura. You could easily imagine the din of Rush Limbaugh and Co. demonizing her as a counterculture fem-lib role model for the blue states.
Has Donald J. Trump ever been more stupidified than Dowd was that day? Shrugging off complaints from the rabble, Dowd returned to this topic ten days later, describing a TV interview conducted by the ludicrous Diane Sawyer, she of "was sex with The Donald the best you ever had:"
DOWD (1/25/04): The flagellation peaked with Diane Sawyer prodding the Deans and making them watch the yelping tape and the Bill-and-Hillary "stand by your man" tape until you thought he would leap at her buttery throat. Dr. Dean, who has not practiced medicine in 12 years, entwined his fingers with those of Mrs. Dean, as Dr. Steinberg said she preferred to be called when she's not at her medical office.Dowd did this to quite a few daughters and wives. Democrats only, of course!
It's impossible to know how her style of being a style agnostic would wear during a campaign, and some reporters thought that thrust into her first national television interview, Judy Dean seemed as fragile as Laura in "The Glass Menagerie."
At moments on ABC, the couple seemed so far from mainstream American life and so disconnected from each other's careers, they were like characters who had walked into the wrong play.
Howard Dean suddenly talking about "leading with my heart" and being "a dad and a human being" was a bit much. But I found Judy Dean, gussied up with unfamiliar lipstick and blush, charming. She seemed as antithetical as possible to the notion of a first lady—and that ain't all bad.
At any rate, stick a pin in that stupidified indecency. As Dowd continued to weave her gong-show gender magic, Matthews was in the midst of a decade of astonishing gender-based attacks on Hillary Clinton, who he routinely disparaged as "Evita Peron" and, of course, as "Nurse Ratched."
Go ahead! Drink in the squeals which followed Trump's remark about Mika's alleged face-lift. Try to find even one of those highly principled pseudo-journalists who has said a word about this decade in Matthews' disordered career.
The Trumpism of Donald J. Trump is heavily built around factual misstatements, which the children and the pioneers have decided to refer to as "lies." Ask yourself this:
In all of Trump's misstatements, has any misstatement ever been more extreme than the two-year campaign, by the entire mainstream press corps, to pretend that Candidate Gore was telling a series of ludicrous lies? By the press corps' claims that these puzzling lies seemed to suggest that Candidate Gore had some sort of mental problem?
By the craziness with which the press corps picked at his troubling clothes? By the ugliness with which they savaged Naomi Wolf?
Starting on his first day in office, President Trump has emitted a string of bizarre misstatements. Have any of them really exceeded the conduct displayed by the entire mainstream press corps over those two years? Without a peep from our liberal leaders.
Our leaders, who are so troubled today, now that it's too late?
Last week, you heard endless wailing about Trump's face-lift remark. You heard zero, all those years, about the astonishing conduct of players like Matthews, who kept trashing Candidate Gore as "today's man-woman."
You heard nothing for an obvious reason: what happens within the guild stays within the guild! The Chaits, the Dionnes, the Robinsons, the Marshalls will never discuss the giant volume of Trumpism which was dragged into our own Oran by the people whose ascots they kiss before Trump came on the scene.
They will squeal long and loud about Donald J. Trump. Concerning the guild, these deeply principled fiery liberals always bowed to the code of silence, thus paving the way for Trump.
Our own Oran was being devoured long before Donald J. Trump stumble-bummed into the ring. Our own Oran was being eaten long before Trump began to pretend that he had sent investigators to Hawaii to examine Obama's birth.
Our own Oran had been infested long before Trump endorsed Trumpism. Today, your favorites complain about Donald J. Trump. But they cheered, or they averted their gaze, as pioneers from their own guild crawled into Oran.
Rachel Maddow, a consummate con man, has vouched for virtually every one of these pioneers.
She sings the praises of Chris Matthews, her amazing colleague/dear friend. She says Howard Stern is her hero. She even appears on his loathsome program, which is built, as everyone knows, on the firm foundation of stupidified misogyny.
(To review her hero's many chats with Trump, you can start here, or here. Warning—wear a raincoat. Eventually, you'll find Rachel's hero asking Trump about the size of his new baby daughter's breasts. This is our leader's hero!)
When Donald J. Trump threw his hat in the ring, he was four years into his birther campaign. Astonishingly, Maddow announced that she had no problem with Trump the night before he announced.
Over at Fox, Greta Van Susteren was the principal caddie for Trump's birtherism over the course of those years. When Greta got hired by MSNBC, Rachel announced that Greta had long been her wonderful pal, also her drinking buddy.
Recently, chatting with Howard, Rachel even described her friendship with Roger Ailes! But we the liberals are so weak, so desperate for true tribal belief, that we aren't even prepared to be puzzled by this string of behaviors.
Stupidification and falsification were devouring our own Oran long before Trump ran for office. For ourselves, we were already so troubled by this emerging plague that we began planning this site in 1997!
Your favorite stars refuse to discuss such things because 1) they're chasing the dream and 2) they're cashing the checks. In truth, the conduct of your favorite stars has long since eaten away at Oran. Donald J. Trump has merely bumped their repellent conduct to a different, more clownish level.
Will this new pestilence be turned back, as occurred in Oran?
The devastation has already gone quite far. Does Putin want to "undermine our institutions?" People like Matthews and Dowd beat him to it, way back!
Will this latest pestilence be turned back? We know of no reason to think so.
Just look at your tribe's "intellectual leaders!" Why aren't they all mere handmaids to Putin, Donald J. Trump included?