TUESDAY, AUGUST 22, 2023
But here's what Weissmann said: Us and Them is the oldest, and perhaps the most powerful, of all known human drugs.
With that in mind, ponder this:
Yesterday's Morning Joe began with 59 references to the claim that Trump voters are members of a "cult." To watch the full onslaught as it unfolds, you can start right here.
Today, Morning Joe's 7 a.m. Eastern hour (no links available yet) took us in a similar direction, with Mika describing support for Trump as "a disease"—a disease afflicting people who have ingested a "poison."
Why do tens of millions of fellow citizens—friends and neighbors!—still support Donald J. Trump? On MSNBC programs, you will never see a Trump supporter asked this basic question.
You'll never see a Trump supporter asked to explain his support. You'll just continue to hear the hammering as the silos get reinforced.
For the record, yesterday's extensive reference to cults hadn't appeared out of nowhere.
According to the Morning Joe gang, there was no other way to explain the results of a brand-new CBS / YouGov poll. One day before, two major mainstream figures had authored this somewhat aggressive reaction to that same CBS survey:
Brian Klaas, an associate professor of global politics at University College London, reacted to the poll on Sunday writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, "Trump voters believe Trump is more likely to tell them the truth than their friends and family. Again: to understand the modern GOP, you need to understand what an authoritarian cult of personality is, because that's what it has become."
Tom Nichols, staff writer for The Atlantic, also posted to X in response to the poll and wrote, "Insanely cultish."
So wrote Anna Commander, reporting on the new CBS survey in this report for Newsweek.
Klaas and Nichols had paved the way. One day later, everyone on Morning Joe had the exact same reaction!
For ourselves, we'd rather see the Morning Joe squad interview some Trump voters. However appealing it may be, it's our impression that name-calling of the type on display yesterday morning isn't likely to help.
At any rate, yesterday morning's extensive name-calling wasn't "happy talk." For that, we return to Lawrence O'Donnell's performance last Thursday night, when the gang on MSNBC's The Last Word were pleasuring blue tribe viewers with such presentations as this:
O'DONNELL (8/17/23): Amy Copeland, one struggles to imagine what anyone could seriously say in Donald Trump's defense at [Trump's newly canceled] Monday event, which is why I read just that one page of the [Fani Willis] indictment, which contains thirteen lies told in the famous phone call to Brad Raffensperger, lies that usually get ignored by us in our coverage of the phone call because we're just stuck on the solicitation part of it, which is the "Get me the 11,000 votes."
But if you are defending Donald Trump against this accusation of this being a criminal enterprise, you have to take on each one of those grotesque lies in those thirteen lies in that phone call. I just don't see where the Trump defense begins on material like that.
Last week, Lawrence had gushed about the brilliant writing in the newly-released Fani Willis indictment of Trump (and 18 others). Now, he said that he couldn't imagine where a defense of Trump could even start at trial.
As we noted yesterday, Copeland replied with a snarky quip, and the panel enjoyed a group laugh. This is the type of Complete and Total Group Agreement with which the blue tribe viewer will be rewarded when he or she decides to watch this ratings-based blue tribe "news channel."
During his famous phone call with Raffensberger, Trump had told thirteen "grotesque lies," and Willis had listed them all! Lawrence couldn't begin to imagine where a defense could start.
It's the sort of comfort food on which our tribe has long fed. But then, to his undying credit, legal analyst Andrew Weissmann briefly broke through the happy talk.
The gang had been enjoying some happy talk. Then came this killjoy buzzkill:
WEISSMANN (8/17/23): [W]hat you would say here, if you were a defense counsel, is, "You know, I had lawyers telling me this is what happened. I had people doing this data collection, so I was relying on things. So even though I may have been wrong, I didn't kn— I wasn't knowingly lying."
Because remember, you can't— It's not enough that he was just saying it and he was wrong. It has to be with knowledge, intentionally, at the time.
Oof! For one brief, shining moment, this reminder from Weissmann briefly broke through the somewhat cultish spell.
According to Weissmann, it's not enough to show that Trump made the thirteen statements in question. It's not enough to show that the statements turned out to be wrong.
According to Weissmann, a prosecutor would have to show that Trump had made those false statements "with knowledge, intentionally." Willis would have to show that Trump had known that his claims were wrong.
In fairness to Weissmann, he went on to say that it would be hard to show that Trump had believed his false claims. But ever so briefly, the happy talk had been interrupted among the circle of very dear blue tribe friends.
(As you know: On MSNBC, every pundit falsely claims that every other pundit is one of his or her "friends.")
Cable news of the red and blue kinds are now broadcast from alternate silos. Seldom is heard a discouraging word to those from the blue or red tribe.
Weissmann provided a service that day—a traditional journalistic service. That said, traditional expectations are rarely allowed to intrude on the pleasing experience offered to us when tribal gatherings on MSNBC serve us our comfort food.
At this point, we offer a few quick reminders:
It will take only one juror, out of twelve, to kill hopes for a conviction of Donald J. Trump in some forthcoming trial.
If a Fani Willis jury votes 11-1 or 10-2 in favor of conviction, no conviction will be forthcoming. And that result will instantly be bruited as an acquittal. It won't actually be an acquittal, but it will be successfully bruited that way far and wide.
Tomorrow, we'll continue along from the happy talk-based comfort food Lawrence was serving last Thursday night. For today, we'll leave you with this observation concerning blue tribe cable:
Sometimes we get served happy talk and comfort food on our blue tribe cable. Other times, we get pleasured with sweeping denunciations of the Others, who all come from a cult.
Us and Them is a cherished drug, but we'll leave by asking this. If the Others are so brainwashed, what makes Lawrence, or anyone else, believe that a unanimous verdict could ever emerge from a trial?
Tomorrow: Concerning that famous telephone call