Saturday, December 25, 2021

It's Christmas! Let's roast some media chestnuts!

Through the years, the true spirit of Christmas never changes!

It's time to roast the chestnuts!

By Isaiah Thomas
Chair, Board of Editors

Jack Frost is nipping at our heels here in Massachusetts, and when Mr. Frost starts biting, it makes us think (for some reason) about roasting chestnuts over an open fire.

2021 has brought a bumper harvest of chestnuts served up to us by all media savants. They've dished many of them up for years, but to be fair they've also brought forward some new ones.  We can't let Christmas pass without roasting a few of the most fatuous ones hawked by the usual media suspects.

1.  Finally, the Former Loser Grifter Alienates His Base.  We'd have to vote this 2021 number one chestnut if only because it blew up so quickly.

Let's go back 1,000 years ago to January 2021, when a defeated President hatched any number of stratagems designed to topple democratic government in the United States.  After terror, death, and bloodshed, the violent insurrection was quelled by brave outmatched police forces and the election results ratified by the Congress.

It was clear to the meanest intelligence (by which we mean Republicans) that although many whack jobs had a hand in the mayhem, it was propelled and supported by the Tangerine-Faced Traitor himself.  As the entire nation recoiled in horror, we were told that this outrage had finally sundered the enduring romance between the depraved corrupt orange bigot and the Republican Party.  Here's The New York Times reporting on how the plutocrats who had profited so richly by investing in the GOP were now abandoning the party:

They'll never support violence, amirite?

But last week seemed to be a breaking point. Big business could evidently tolerate working with Mr. Trump despite his chauvinism, his flirtations with white nationalism and his claims of impunity, but the president’s apparent willingness to undermine democracy itself appeared to be a step too far. [Thanks, fellas – Ed.]

“This thing was a little different. I mean, we had sedition and insurrection in D.C.,” said Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase. “No C.E.O. I know condones that in any way, shape or form. We shouldn’t have someone, you know, gassing up a mob.”

The fallout has been swift. After the president exhorted his supporters to march on the Capitol, chief executives used their strongest language to date to repudiate Mr. Trump, and some of his longtime allies have walked away. Ken Langone, the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot and an ardent supporter of the president, renounced Mr. Trump, telling CNBC, “I feel betrayed.”

Oh, did he? But then a funny thing happened:

On Friday, supporters of Mr. Trump swarmed Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, at...National Airport, calling him a “traitor.”

“You know it was rigged, you know it was rigged,” a woman yelled as he was ushered away by a security detail. “You garbage human being. It’s going to be like this forever, wherever you go, for the rest of your life.”

A similar scene unfolded Tuesday night in the Salt Lake City airport as Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, sat waiting to fly to Washington. A maskless woman approached and called him a “disgusting shame” for not standing with the president. Once on board, Mr. Romney was greeted by supporters of Mr. Trump chanting “Traitor!” 

And when rabid Republicans lean on spineless empty suits like Graham and Romney, well, you know the rest

Republican revulsion toward the riot was, however, short-lived. Arceneaux and Truex, in their paper “Donald Trump and the Lie,” point out that Republican voter identification with Trump had “rebounded to pre-election levels” by Jan. 13. The authors measured identification with Trump by responses to two questions: “When people criticize Donald Trump, it feels like a personal insult,” and “When people praise Donald Trump, it makes me feel good.” 

As a result, the formerly outraged Republicans lined up to cover up the January 6 insurrection and pretend it never happened. This cover-up continues today, powered by the same angry white supremacist base that has kept the Republicans in office since 1968.  

Well, that media chestnut has been roasted to ash.  Let's look at one that's perpetually on the grill.

2.  Republicans are Angry Because Coastal Elites.  How can the Republican base hold on to views as insane as vaccines are really Bill Gates's microchips or the 2020 election was stolen?  It can't be that their views are warped by unjustified grievance and frustrated white supremacy.

It has to be the fault of those coastal elites.  And this media chestnut flourishes because you can get ancient Democratic hacks like Mr. Mary Matalin to parrot it:

Which coast was Viola Liuzzo from?

But if you’re asking me, I think it’s because large parts of the country view us as an urban, coastal, arrogant party, and a lot gets passed through that filter. That’s a real thing. I don’t give a damn what anyone thinks about it — it’s a real phenomenon, and it’s damaging to the party brand.

Let's ask somebody who has actually studied real data instead:

Racial attitudes among all Americans best explain the gap in vote choices between rural and urban areas. Controlling for racism denial, the gap in vote choice between rural and urban Americans drops to just eight percentage points. In other words, the different rates of racism denial among rural and urban Americans appears to explain about three-quarters of the urban-rural gap in voting for Trump. 

So it's white racism that accounts for the Republican love of extremist grifters like the FLG?  Not those chardonnay-sipping coastal elitists blithely trying to get health and child care for all?  Better get that media chestnut off the grill.  It's toasted.

3.  The Search for the Good Republican.  Some people search for decades for Sasquatch;  others for intelligent life in the universe of Real Housewives.  For the media, it's the search for the Good Republican, by which they mean any white man in a suit who can talk without spitting and screaming.  Over the decades, the search party has discovered a wide variety of corrupt or reactionary clowns from Nixon to – John Thune.

And yet the search continues.  Here's a recent example from that Niagara Falls of Conventional Wisdom, Das Politico.

The flaming responses to this ludicrous puff piece reduced this particular chestnut to a cinder:

That would be Stuart Stevens, who spent his adult life trying to elect Good Republicans. Let's just say his views on this one have a great deal of – validity. But we'll make one prediction: wait 10 minutes, and some media ham-and-egger will announce that he has finally, after years of searching, found The Good Republican!  

4.  Don't Worry, He'll Go Quietly.  This media chestnut was served up repeatedly in 2020, right up to Insurrection Day, 2021, whereupon it self-immolated.  Here's an example from the boy no one would have lunch with in Leverett House (and really can you blame his housemates?):

5.  Technology Will Save Us!  This chestnut has been served up since the days of DDT [No one will get that reference – Intern] and it continues today, along with lionization of the lucky white men who made hundreds of billions out of it, whether through timing, inheritance, rapaciousness, or some combination of them all.

Time Magazine, in a year when humanity was saved by tireless health care workers and researchers, had the audacity to make one of the most odious tech bros its Man of the Year.  Elon Musk, an exploitative employer and a terrible human being, offered this vision of the future:

In the future Musk envisions, no one tells you what to do. Robots perform all the labor, and goods and services are abundant, so people only work because they want to. “There’s, like, plenty for everyone, essentially,” he says. “There’s not necessarily anyone who’s the boss of you. I don’t mean to suggest chaos, but rather that you’re not under anyone’s thumb. So you have the freedom to do whatever you’d like to do, provided it does not cause harm to others.” 

And Time duly printed these chestnuts.

In addition to robots, rockets, and cars that drive themselves off the road, the latest tech miracle is the Metaverse, which means you and others making cartoon avatars of yourselves and then doing whatever it was you were doing.  This is supposed to usher in a new exciting era some touts are calling Web3.  Kara Swisher (who actually knows tech and reports on it) isn't so sure:

Web3 is supposed to be anathema to kings and other powermongers. But before you start imagining some digital utopia, many (with some justification) think the Web3 movement is also rife with hype, windbags and more than a little grift.

Despite the utopian chestnuts proffered by Silicon Valley brown-nosers, we'll agree with Ms. Swisher.  Our guess is that the Metaverse, like the Internet itself, will be a boon to three basic human instincts: (1) porn, (2) grift powered by anonymous untraceable fake currency, and (3) more billions for Lord Zuckmort made by strip-mining every movement and utterance you make in his metaverse for ad dollars.

And that's just a few of the chestnuts the media expected us to swallow without question in 2021. There were so many more: the fake battle about cancel culture, the meretricious assault on “wokeness,” and the supposed Republican concern, vanished after the Virginia election, about “education.”

Please enjoy these roasted chestnuts as our Christmas gift to you, at least while you're waiting for the Chinese restaurants to open.  Don't worry; next year there will plenty more chestnuts to be roasted, courtesy of the media gasbags desperate to gloss over the plight we are in.

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