Trump and the Media
Trump’s tiff with the media this week was mostly a win. For my entire lifetime, the press has almost uniformly abjured its core responsibility to tell the truth fairly and instead engaged in leftist information warfare. Trump let them have it. And, like so much else about Trump, one’s thoughts on this episode likely reflect one’s preexisting view of him: he’s either a dangerous lunatic or a brash champion of the common people.
Whether Trump was impolitic or not, the media’s bad faith should not be deniable to anyone right of center. It’s why we had so little reporting on the Fast and Furious scandal and constant, drumbeat-style repetition against the most minor scandals of Republicans. It’s why stories like Trayvon Martin or Ferguson designed to make whites and cops look bad are reported constantly and untruthfully to fit the “narrative, ” while we see under-reporting of black on white crime. We hear about the national debt only during Republican administrations. We don’t hear about the disastrous war in Yemen under Obama, but heard about Iraq constantly under Bush. During the campaign, we heard little about Clinton’s email scandals–or her fraudulent actions in Whitewater or regarding cattle futures–while the media trotted out Trump’s ten year old jokes and ridiculous unverifiable accusations. The media pulled out all the stops against Trump, but the people were wise to the game, and Trump won without ever pretending the media were anything other than what they really are: the opposition.
On the whole, the media are dishonest, evil, malevolent people with a leftist agenda. They deserve no respect, no benefit of the doubt, and, on balance, they do more harm than good. They are both a corrupt and corrupting institution.
Yes, we need freedom of the press, but that has nothing to do with media. Anyone can report anything, and credentialism has nothing to do with it. Indeed, the media are worse at it than ordinary people, because while professional journalists may know how to write or have established sources, their agenda blinds them. In the age of blogs, big data, and twitter, the real truth often comes from obscure sources, personal experience, or primary documents getting out in other ways. Of course, this is not ideal compared to a functioning, patriotic, and honest press corps, and yes there’s some frothing on the margins, with rumors circulating faster than they would otherwise, but, overall, the power of the legacy media as gate-keepers is over.
Trump’s blistering attack earlier this week, coupled with his rally in Melbourne today, are simply extensions of his successful electoral strategy. It’s a strategy that reminds everyone who the media is and why most of what they say is not trustworthy, because they oppose what most ordinary people hold dear and that opposition is their foremost value, not honest reporting, balance, fairness, or anything else. Trump’s strategy cuts out the middleman and gives unfiltered information to ordinary Americans.
Media and the Deep State
The media does not live on an island. It’s part of, broadly speaking, the establishment: the donors and leadership of the major parties, the universities, the CIA, the GS-14s, the think tanks, the Federal Reserve, Wall Street, the McCains and Petraeuses and Bushes and Clintons.
And those institutions and people share a broadly similar viewpoint on important matters: pro-global trade, pro-immigration, pro-multiculturalism, pro-gay, pro-abortion, pro-feminism, pro-welfare-state, pro-“big,” pro-“maintaining international stability,” which all is collectively an anti-white, anti-Christian, anti-tradition, anti-private-property, anti-freedom, anti-small-business, and anti-Middle America agenda. In other words, their end product is the corporatist leftist smog that floats throughout our society, which affects everyone and everything. It includes every school that un-names itself for Robert E. Lee, every “diversity awareness” seminar in corporate America, every jobless millennial in deep student debt after doing what she’s told by counselors and TV, every general who thinks its ridiculous to protect our own borders, but normal to protect those of Iraq, every Church that cares a lot about Islamic refugees but never mentions priests killed by Islamists, and all the rest. It’s Davos People, the Cathedral, elites, or whatever term you prefer.
More dangerously for Trump and his agenda, the Establishment includes the permanent bureaucracy of the entire federal government, whether in administrative agencies like the EPA, DOJ, or DOL, but also many career DoD and CIA personnel. And every president has found what is now being called the Deep State an obstacle.
Career civil service protection and the independence of quasi-legislative administrative agencies gives them power that would otherwise be in the hands of the executive. We saw examples of this opposition when the Army dragged its feet in Kosovo for Clinton, in the State Department’s griping about the Iraq Campaign under George W. Bush, and in the Air Traffic Controller strike under Reagan. Every president deals with this to some extent, but the resistance to Trump will likely be the most impressive yet, because unlike his predecessors, he came to power self consciously in opposition to this entire apparatus and the status quo it has created. Where the post-WWII establishment reflected a national, centrist consensus, today it reflects the globalist values of the corporate left. As in the later days of the Iraq and Vietnam Wars, it also now reflects a significant gap between decision makers and the ordinary people.
Trump opposes the Establishment and all of what they’re about. As he stated in his inaugural address, “What truly matters is not which party controls our government but whether our government is controlled by the people. January 20th, 2017 will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.” He won because those institutions have lost legitimacy in the truest sense of the word: they no longer reflect approval by the majority, they have failed to deliver the goods that their policies promised, and people feel that the Establishment is hostile to their way of life . . . and they’re right.
The Deep State’s Soft Coup
Trump has faced particular opposition from the intelligence agencies, who claimed a scalp in the form of proposed National Security Advisory, Michael Flynn. Their actions here should be worrisome, because the power of the spy agencies is immense: they can gather dirt through exotic means, leak it to the press, and present information to make Trump appear either irresponsible or unable to control his subordinates.
They’ve employed this playbook in such varied locales as Libya and Ukraine, and now they’re employing it at home. This used to worry many Americans back when it was used by Nixon against “domestic enemies” in the form of COINTELPRO program, but now that the left has become the Establishment, much like the Soviet KGB, the left sees the intelligence agencies as guardians of the elite and the status quo. I’ve done some reading regarding the last days of the Soviet Union, and the most common complaint of ordinary people did not relate to abstract freedom, nor concern for their human rights, but the hypocrisy, double standards, and special privileges of an elite, who were seen as self-serving and arrogant. People don’t need to be well versed in political theory to know when they’re being screwed, and they’re doubly insulted when they’re being told simultaneously that they’re not.
Equally worrisome, Trump’s enemies have cheered on this soft coup, in spite of, or perhaps because of, its anti-democratic nature. Bill Kristol, the prominent Republican analyst who founded The Weekly Standard, wrote on Twitter, “Obviously strongly prefer normal democratic and constitutional politics. But if it comes to it, prefer the deep state to the Trump state.”
Russia is just a prop in all this; the allegations against Flynn were flimsy, unsourced, and repeated breathlessly by the media and Trump’s enemies, but the recent hysteria directed against Russia–whether with regard to hacking the DNC or its actions in Crimea–are falling on deaf ears. Russia is not a communist country anymore with global ambitions, and people who were around during the Soviet Union’s prominence can easily see the difference. Post-Soviet Russia is also not a weak lackey to the West anymore, and they’re not so crazy about the West’s dictating how they deal with their neighbors and internal matters, such as gay rights, Islamic extremists, or meddlesome oligarchs. In addition, their traditionalism hits a positive note with the American Right; it is the “West” now fighting for transsexual rights and open borders to the Islamic World, and Russia is standing up for normalcy. Thus where the Soviet Union (or Castro’s Cuba) had a progressive cachet, traditionalist white countries are always painted as nascent fascists.
Most Americans aren’t buying the Establishment’s propaganda on this or much else. They don’t want wars in Syria to depose Assad, they don’t want war with Russia, they don’t want America to resemble Mexico City, and they don’t lose any sleep over deporting illegals. In other words, they support what Trump said he will do, but the Deep State doesn’t like it and is trying to shame and bully and fear-monger them into supporting the status quo ante.
First, the Deep State believe in the Establishment’s views across the board, because they are coextensive with it. They want our money and troops and influence everywhere. Second, they are self-interested, and know Trump is their enemy of business as usual. Trump will reduce their influence, because he’ll shrink their portfolio. They’re not relevant in a world where American “leadership” doesn’t include wars in faraway places like Ossetia and Yemen. Finally, they don’t want their sins exposed. In addition to the Iran deal–which apparently Obama’s people left behind in the CIA are trying to protect–Flynn knew what they were up to in Syria, and the evidence points to something truly nefarious, namely tacit or possibly explicit support by the CIA for ISIS, which our government was ostensibly opposed to.
Who Will Win?
Backing down on Flynn was a loss for Trump. He may have also been annoyed at some fibbing by Flynn, as was the official explanation, but I fear he finally blinked. He’s stood up to constant attacks for a year and a half, but every man has his limits. And this victory will embolden his opponents.
Desperate, self-satisfied, selfish and anti-democratic elements in the Establishment–that is to say the entire Establishment–will continue to wage direct and indirect warfare against his agenda, openly defy his directives, and have shown willingness to break the law to hurt him. I’m concerned his experiences to date and the monumental task of dismantling and redirecting the infrastructure of the Deep State will be outside his level of expertise, as well as that of his team, if it were even possible for anyone. Finally, I’m worried that folks in his team engaged in infighting–not always a bad thing–will selectively ally with the Deep State to oppose rival factions within the White House. In other words, I’m concerned that Trump will try, but won’t succeed. He’ll play whack-a-mole with the Courts, the Congress, and the Deep State, two out of three of which will be aligned against him regarding various issues at any one time. And I’m concerned his full court press strategy–simultaneously issuing executive orders, nominating controversial people, cajoling businesses to invest in America, and dealing with other day to day issues–lacks the kind of single-issue focus needed to accomplish the dismantling of the Deep State piece by piece.
This opposition, of course, is superficially by design. We have a system of divided government, with checks and balances, and a “run amuck” majority is supposed to be slowed down to catch its breath through these deliberately undemocratic checks. But the system is not a perfectly balanced mechanism that always yields good results. It depends on the integrity and composition of the American people, was not designed around modern party politics, and the founders did not consider that an unelected and powerful apparatus–the administrative state and the permanent bureaucracy–would have a say in all this. It is precisely the presence and agenda of this extra-constitutional element to which Trump has directed his energies, and its powers are almost entirely alien to our constitutional structure. It ostensibly works for and is accountable to the President, but it has been described by commentators accurately as the Headless Fourth Branch. It will be the problem, along with its allies in the media and the courts.
Politics is more than politics. Certain issues define the nation and its purpose as a whole. These questions–slavery, war, immigration–often yield Manichean conflict, because unlike tax levels, they’re not issues where the goals are largely agreed upon, but instead present questions of first principles: Who does the government work for? Who should be in the country? What is our country’s defining characteristic? Who are its friends and enemies?
Trump’s presidency is fundamentally a referendum on majority rule and the rights of the American majority: do we reject open borders, job-killing trade, and endless foreign wars–as the American people want–or do we continue on this course because it is the desire of the Deep State, the Establishment, and its middlebrow cheerleaders? The question is important for obvious reasons. It is a question of what kind of country we live in, whom are our countrymen, and whether most of them will flourish or simply act as servants to the Establishment. For Middle America, it’s fundamentally a question of survival and the survival of self-government.