BREAKING: Rutenberg gets it majorly right!


The power of the Enquirer:
If it's sheer stupidity you enjoy, we recommend a news report in this morning's New York Times.

The report was written by Trip Gabriel. In hard-copy editions, it appears beneath this headline:
Iowa Poll Gives Biden an Edge Over Sanders
On-line, the headline's even dumber.

Truly, it doesn't get much dumber than that. That said, they love to write about the horse race. They love it so much that they start to do it long before the race has even begun.

That report is defiantly pointless. That said, similar piddle was being discussed all over "cable news" this weekend. This kills time and lets corporate "journalists" avoid what their handlers abhor—discussions of matters of substance.

That report is characteristically dumb. But also in this morning's Times, Jim Rutenberg gets it very much right in his Mediator essay.

Rutenberg writes about the deeply unfortunate, corrupt and corrupting power of one of our dumbest, most dishonest institutions. We refer, of course, to the National Enquirer.

Forget the way the Enquirer played "catch and kill" in the last campaign, an act for which we think they ought to receive a major award. Instead, Rutenberg focuses on the Enquirer's ability to corrupt the minds of us the people through such garbage can conduct as this:
RUTENBERG (12/17/18): The Enquirer’s power was fueled by its covers. For the better part of the campaign season, Enquirer front pages blared sensational headlines about Mr. Trump’s rivals from eye-level racks at supermarket checkout lanes across America. This stroke-of-genius distribution apparatus was dreamed up by the man who made The Enquirer the nation’s biggest gossip rag: its previous owner, Generoso Pope Jr.


The Enquirer spread false stories about Hillary Clinton—illnesses concealed, child prostitution, bribery, treason. Each cover trumpeting these tales was arguably more powerful than a tweet from an account with millions of followers.


[T]he company pulled up files on the Clintons that it had collected over decades—some two dozen cardboard boxes filled with promising material.

A.M.I. began a painstaking effort to sort through the old clips and tips concerning “pay-for-play” deals, rumors of affairs and Vince Foster conspiracy theories. But as the campaign wore on, The Enquirer’s covers favored stories similar to those coursing through Infowars, Russian trolldom and, increasingly, your uncle’s Facebook feed.

According to one headline, Hillary was “Corrupt! Racist! Criminal!” In another, she was “Eating Herself To Death!”

The Enquirer also reported—make that “reported”—that she had suffered “three strokes,” had “liver damage from booze,” and was prone to “violent rages.”

A couple of weeks before Election Day, as Russian bots pushed a narrative into Facebook of a “Clinton body count,” an Enquirer cover line screamed: “Hillary Hitman Tells All.”

The false narratives built to a frenzy
that included an appearance by the A.M.I. chief content officer Dylan Howard on Infowars and a cover promising that Mrs. Clinton and her aide Huma Abedin were “Going to Jail” for “Treason! Influence Peddling! Bribery!”
It's time to ask why supermarket chains are willing to take part in this assault on the public interest. If progressive groups want to stage a fight which could actually matter, they'll start to picket these famous stores until this garbage can conduct is brought to a halt.

The Enquirer is an evil force within American life. But even as we read Rutenberg's report, we couldn't help thinking of the way his own newspaper, along with many other mainstream orgs, has taken part in this garbage can culture over the past thirty years.

From 1992 on, the New York Times played an extremely active role in the promulgation of crazy claims about Clinton, Clinton and Gore. In the realm of corporate cable, no one has peddled more of this garbage than Chris Matthews, with Rachel Maddow telling the world that he's her favorite pundit.

How pitiful has the New York Times been in coming to terms with this garbage? Citizens, please!

On Sunday, July 3, 2016, the Times ran a front-page report about Donald J. Trump's long, disgraceful history as king of the nation's birthers. That said, the Times was so eager not to offend that it shied away from asking the obvious questions:

Isn't it true that Trump was lying all along when he claimed that he'd sent investigators to Hawaii to check on the status of Obama's birth? Wasn't he lying all along when he said his gumshoes were absolutely shocked, just shocked, by the various things they learned there?

Had Trump been lying all along? The New York Times wasn't willing to ask! A few months later, they were back on the front page with silly, garbage can pseudo-reporting about the ways Hillary Clinton was alleged to have assaulted her husband's sex accusers.

Indeed, the Times was stuck so deep in EnquirerWorld that they even rehabbed Gennifer Flowers for that tabloid pseudo-report. Among three million other offenses, Flowers had pimped the "Clinton body count" claims—the claims which Rutenberg finds offensive when peddled by Russian bots.

(In response, Matthews spent half an hour telling Flowers how smokin' hot she was.)

Minor omissions to the side, Rutenberg's essay takes where we've long needed to go. He takes us to the place where corporate criminals set out to corrupt the public's understanding of even the most basic facts.

Safeway and Giant take part in this scam. But so does the New York Times.

The liberal world has tolerated this rank corruption every step of the way. Indeed, most of the people who invented crackpot claims about Clinton, Clinton and Gore came from the "mainstream" or "corporate liberal" camps.

We liberals! We're lazy and gullible and nobody likes us. Will we picket those National Enquirer racks in our supermarket chains?

Actually, no—we won't. At present, we're complaining that the Enquirer didn't feed us more of this dreck during the last campaign!

We're silly, and we're easily conned. In these ways, we elected George W. Bush, then moved to the harder stuff.

Trembling in their boots: Donald J. Trump was king of the birthers from 2011 on. That said, here's the headline the timorous Times put on its front-page report:
Inside the Six Weeks Donald Trump Was a Nonstop ‘Birther’
The Enquirer is a pernicious force in American life. That said, the deranged, influential food store rag isn't working alone.


  1. Yes, Bob, the National Enquirer. UGE improvement over the nytimes. I'm so glad your reading habits take this positive turn...

  2. Bob is absolutely right that "On-line, the headline's even dumber." The on-line headline is
    Beto O’Rourke Places Well in Iowa Poll, Behind Biden and Sanders

    A poll this early is totally meaningless. It's just name-recognition. I don't think the Dems will be foolish enough to nominate any of these three people.

    But, the Times gives a boost to the 3rd place finisher by saying "Beto O’Rourke Places Well"

    1. Do you understand how “primaries” work?

  3. “Had Trump been lying all along? The New York Times wasn't willing to ask!”

    According to someone named (checks notes) Somerby, the media aren’t supposed to use the word “lie”. If we learned anything from Somerby, we learned that.

    Perhaps Trump was mentally ill when he made those claims.

  4. “At present, we're complaining that the Enquirer didn't feed us more of this dreck during the last campaign!”

    As we learn more about the unholy and corrupt relationship between Pecker and Trump, including collusion to commit campaign finance violations, we realize that the National Enquirer was more than just a ludicrous rag pushing “alien baby” stories. The mainstream media that Somerby so despises has done two things here: 1) they failed to report on the connection between Pecker and Trump during the campaign, and 2) they are now fully informing us of that connection. Of course, ironically enough, Somerby thinks AMI should get a *medal* for its activities involving the suppression of Trump’s philandering, activities which were illegal and thus actionable, thus removing one very compelling line of attack against this corrupt enterprise.

    1. I don't see how AMI's efforts on behalf of Trump are actionable. What's your theory here?

    2. “The deal that Trump reached and executed with AMI violates federal campaign-finance laws. AMI made an illegal corporate in-kind contribution to the Trump campaign, and the campaign and Trump share in the liability by accepting this illegal support. “

      Of course, AMI agreed to “cooperate”, so probably won’t be prosecuted.

    3. Yes, I understand the argument that AMI violated campaign laws, but that's a matter for the DOJ. I just don't see how AMI can be sued for its malfeasance.

    4. If they violated the law, they can be prosecuted. That’s what I meant by “actionable.” What are you referring to?

    5. OK, got it. Actionable usually refers to tort violations serious enough to sustain a lawsuit for private damages.

  5. Interesting to note that Somerby includes *factual* reporting about Trump’s affairs as “dreck” along with:

    rumors of affairs and Vince Foster conspiracy theories.

    she had suffered “three strokes,”

    Hillary Hitman Tells All.”

    Mrs. Clinton and her aide Huma Abedin were “Going to Jail” for “Treason! Influence Peddling! Bribery!”

  6. Not surprising if you've been reading TDH for any length of time. He thinks the fascination with the private lives of politicians degrades political discourse. Particularly the fixation on the sex lives of politicians. YMMV, of course.

    1. Except that nobody in the press is really talking about Trump’s sex life. That was a fleeting moment. Now, it’s about violations of the law, of which campaign finance is a very small part. Of course, YMMV whether you think Trump should be held to account at all, for anything.

    2. I don't watch much TV for reasons having nothing to do with snobbery and everything to do with refusing to choose between AT&T and Comcast. But fleeting? For a while there wasn't it Stormy Daniels all the time? And by "there" I mean before Cohen flipped? Now it's about how the Idiot-in-Chief turned a civil infraction by his campaign into his own felony. But not back when AMI was killing stories.

      Whether I think Trump should be held to account for anything isn't germane to the question of whether our political reporting should dwell o the private lives of politicians.

    3. In some ways, I agree about the press and the sex lives of politicians. Certainly, they actively pursued Gary Hart, and they hounded Bill Clinton. I agree that was and still would be improper. With Trump, it’s less clear to me. He spent his whole adult life degrading our discourse by bragging about his sexual encounters, and the press didn’t really seek out Stormy Daniels. She came to them. Of course, major outlets gave her air time, so yeah there’s that. Certainly, the Democrats weren’t involved in the Stormy story the way the GOP was involved with Paula Jones.

      Anyway, Trump is just so sleazy that it seems maybe we *need* to know the depths of his sleaziness. And anytime someone decides to engage in what for many would be unacceptable behavior, like extramarital sex, then that person runs the risk of losing control of the narrative. After all, is Stormy not entitled to say what she wants about the relationship, or does only Donald get to control that narrative?

    4. "Except that nobody in the press is really talking about Trump’s sex life. That was a fleeting moment. Now, it’s about violations of the law"

      What about Bubba The Demigod's 1998 impeachment, dembot? Was that all about sex, or was it about violations of the law?

      Please enlighten.

    5. The 1998 impeachment was about sex. Republicans don't believe in the rule of law, unless the perpetrator is black.

    6. Well-done, dembot. You meet and exceed my expectations.

    7. If you want to hold Trump to the same standards that the GOP held Clinton, then Trump could be impeached, with a thousand different charges for a thousand different lies. Of course, the Democrats won’t do that, because they’re not the GOP.

      Trump’s campaign finance violation is far more serious than Clinton’s “lie” in any case, but the present circumstance of Trump and his possible crimes needs to be evaluated on its own, and not in relationship to what happened in 1998 anyway, so it ultimately isn’t relevant why the Republicans chose to impeach Clinton.

    8. Everyone seems to be glossing the difference between sex between consenting adults and sexual assault, which Trump has been accused of many times. The latter is illegal, a crime. The former is what adults do, even Republicans. When a president or a presidential candidate is accused of a crime, that is legitimate news, not underwear drawer sniffing (as Somerby likes to put it). Crimes are real, even when they are assaults against women. To treat them as anything less is to tell women that they don't matter to the law or to voters. I cannot believe Somerby wants to say that, but he has implied it so many times here. It is part of why I have been saying that Somerby has major problems with women. It is also unusual that someone who is liberal or progressive would be so blatantly sexist and keep on being sexist after he was called on it. That's part of why I believe that Somerby is not liberal or progressive, but may be working for the Russians, may be a Southern fellow traveler of the good old boys, or someone with some serious mother issues.

      The Republicans chose to impeach Clinton on flimsy grounds in order to keep him busy and tie his hands as president and to get revenge for winning the election. Newt and his scorched earth, take no prisoners approach to politics undid any previous bipartisanship and Clinton was the first victim of that approach, in all of its ugliness. He didn't have to do anything -- much as Obama didn't do anything either but Republicans never let him govern. Their current approach, repealing the powers of those offices won by Democrats, is even more direct. Republicans are out for blood and don't need a reason to do anything nasty any more.

    9. Anonymous @4:08,
      Please stop responding to Mao in Cal. His point is to bait you into a reply, which is all he wants. This isn't just my personal view; he's freely admitted such on this blog.

      And by the way, Republicans are not interested in the rule of law when it comes to black citizens. Check out the case of Marissa Alexander, who couldn't use Florida's stand-your-ground law.

    10. Everyone seems to be glossing the difference between sex between consenting adults and sexual assault....

      For values of "everyone" equal to "no one."

    11. Deadrat, Somerby is glossing this. He thinks the press shouldn't be interested in crimes committed against women by Trump. Women care about this. Somerby doesn't, so he says the press shouldn't report it. A crime is still a crime when it involves sex and use of force against women. So, because Somerby is calling for the press to ignore these crimes instead of reporting them, everyone is not equal to no one. It is equal to Somerby.

    12. Anonymous @3:22P,
      Do we really need to know the depths of Trump's sleaziness? As far as I can tell, that's without bottom. I agree we need to know the depths of his public malfeasance, but I'm not sure that includes knowing that a porn actress once spanked him with a magazine that had his picture on it.

    13. @deadrat @6:42
      That was perhaps TMI. But still, if that’s what Stormy wanted to tell us, then so be it. At any rate, it was never just about the sex in this case, even for the media. It was always more the shadiness of Trump and Cohen, setting up phony companies to shuffle money around and to pay off various inconvenient women, and as it turns out, the money finagling was illegal, which renders the underlying thing they were trying to hide moot.

    14. *** Public Service Announcement ***

      Anonymous @6:36 has joined David in Cal as this blog's resident moral and intellectual idiots. You may safely ignore anything either of them posts.

      Needless to say, there isn't a single word that TDH has written to the effect that the press should ignore Trump's crimes against anyone. I've tried to get his commenter to back up previous claims like this. They won't because they can't.

      Don't waste your time trying.

    15. @deadrat @6:50
      I am not anon 6:36. I don’t think Somerby is a Russian agent, or conservative, or whatever. But I do know this: Somerby did say Cohen and now AMI should get a medal for paying off Stormy Daniels. (Did he say the same about Karen McDougal? Can’t remember). The arrangements involving that payoff were illegal. And he has scoffed at the notion that “campaign finance crimes” are even winnable in court or important enough to worry about. He called former members of the SDNY “thugs” just a day or two ago.

      Plus, whenever the media reports on Trump’s misdeeds, Somerby says something like “YayYayYay we just want to put the Others in jail.” (He says “we”, not “the press”).

      He has questioned Mueller’s motives.

      None of this means he has specifically said “don’t prosecute Trump” or “the press should ignore Trump”. But it sure leaves that impression.

    16. Anonymous @6:49,

      Just to be clear, I'm not in favor of any law restricting the Stormys of this world from telling their stories or anybody from reporting those stories. I'd just rather that our societal judgment was that these stories aren't germane. Fond hope, that.

      Let's be careful here. The phony companies and the money finagling were not illegal. (Assuming of course, that Trump is telling the truth -- always a big if -- that the money came from him personally.) What's illegal is the failure to report. (Assuming that the payoffs were intended to influence the campaign, which is probably true although not a slam dunk.)

      Watergate gave us the maxim that the coverup is always worse than the crime. In Trump's case, the coverup turns out to be worse than a legality.

    17. @deadrat @7:04
      Actually, AMI made an illegal contribution. They weren’t allowed to donate. Period. It wasn’t just a matter of reporting. The other violation was the amount was too high. Not just a matter of reporting in either case.

    18. *** Public Service Announcement ***

      Anonymous @7:02 has just volunteered to join this commentariat's club of moral and intellectual idiots. The signature line of this idiot is "Well, OK, Somerby didn't actually write what I claimed he did, but he left that impression."

      If you can't tell that telling disparaging lies about someone is wrong, you're a moral idiot.

      If you can't tell that you're lying, then you're an intellectual idiot.

      In both cases, you're not responsible for your actions, and in both cases no one should waste time taking you seriously.

    19. Anonymous @7:15P,

      Yes, you're right about AMI. Their payoff was above the legal limit for a corporation.

      Not so for the Idiot-in-Chief. There's no limit on what you may give to your own campaign.

    20. "If you want to hold Trump to the same standards that the GOP held Clinton, then Trump could be impeached, with a thousand different charges for a thousand different lies."

      No, dear, I don't think so.

      Sorry to traumatize you, my dear, but perjury in court proceedings and obstruction of justice, in Bubba's case, are nowhere near your bullshit narratives of sex, lies, and audiotapes.

      "Of course, the Democrats won’t do that, because they’re not the GOP. "

      Ho ho, it don't get better than this. You're such a good dembot. Good, good dembot. Thanks for the laughs.

  7. Democrats must hammer out their own
    image and agenda and stop self
    destructively insulting half the
    electorate by treating Trump like Satan.

    1. Trump is a standard-issue Reagan Republican, with the same grifting loser hangers-on and their failed ideology.

  8. Most of this is correct and fairly important, but if
    you think the NE should get an award for catch and kill,
    what good are you?

    1. Greg - it's a writing device called "tongue in cheek".

      The point is that Michael Cohen/NE should be awarded the nation's top civilian honors for silencing Daniels because that would silence the media's coverage of her. Which is a way of saying if she was silent, a sustained sex scandal would not overtake the news at the expense of other more important topics. His reasoning is these sustained sex scandals, although good for ratings, "have caused immeasurable harm since being waved into existence in 1987" and that similar sex scandals where "a terrible waste of time and money and effort" and "not the most important thing." So, the tongue in cheek nomination for an award actually was a way to comment on the futility and absurdity of sex related topics that have overtaken the media in the past. It wasn't really meant as a sincere expression that they receive that honor.

    2. 12:52,
      Yes. If only we stopped talking about Daniels, the corporate-owned media would focus on the Right-wing grift machine. LOL.

  9. This is just current right-wing concern trolling: Dems shouldn't call Trump what he is -- incompetently criminal and criminally incompetent. If they talk about the corruption that infects everything he touches -- his cabinet, the Trump Organization, the Trump charitable foundation, the inauguration committee, every business he's ever run, etc. -- then that insults his followers. If Dems point out that he's a fellow-traveler of neo-Nazis, antisemites, and white supremacists or that he's a craven, draft-dodging bootlicker of murderous autocrats around the world, then that reflects not on Trump but on Dems themselves.

    Thanks for your concern.

    But don't worry, Dems have taken your advice. They didn't win the midterms by obsessing about Trump. Pelosi and Schumer didn't pants Trump in public by attacking him personally. The Trump name is going on the pending shutdown of the government and the ACA in lettering so large it won't even be necessary to say the name out loud.

    1. dadrat - I'll kick you ass, you don't know shit.

  10. What good are you if you think the NE did us a service by burying Trump's sexcapades? I don't know, but a helluva lot better than someone obsessing about Gödel and Wittgenstein.

  11. Greg,

    I'm deadrat. dadrat is my father. He can kick your ass into next Tuesday.

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