Mar 132019
 


René Magritte Personal values 1952

 

Commenting on my own essays has never been my favorite activity, because before you know it you land into Russian doll territory. But a few recent comments from readers have me rethinking that, for once.

Of course I understand that my expressed views over the past two years and change on the era of Donald Trump and his presidency do not please everyone out there, whether they’re long time Automatic Earth readers or new to the site. It’s just that a surprising -to me- number of people let their thoughts and opinions be shaped by media that primarily follow the color of politics and money, not objective facts.

Or perhaps it shouldn‘t be all that surprising, given the amount of attention the mainstream media still manages to gather. Then again, if the MSM would have been right on more issues, there would never have been a place for the Automatic Earth and many other ‘alternative’ media sources. So yeah, I’m a bit of two minds on that.

What I am sure about is that I don’t think the advent of Donald Trump has been the main event since 2016, I have very few illusions about US politics. For me the big story has been how the media has shifted from reporting the news to manufacturing it. I’m seeing the Russiagate narrative falling apart in real time right now and I think: I saw that coming, because none of all those collusion stories were based on facts to begin with.

And I’ve said exactly that for two years now as well. It started off with supporting their favorite candidate, who was a shoe-in anyway, then it turned into being angry when she lost, and it ended up with figuring out that denouncing Trump ten times a day was a goldmine that could save entire papers and TV channels, because Americans are addicted to scandals, even if they’re invented and/or inconsequential.

 

In my view, media making up stories and narratives from scratch is a much bigger threat to America than Donald Trump. Obviously, people believing the made-up tales is just as bad. You don’t have to be pro-Trump, let alone even like the man, to be very wary of reporters and papers and news channels and everyone and their pet hamster with a social media account, publishing a dozen anti-Trump stories every single day, most of them entirely made up and most of the rest just plain dumping on him.

And you certainly don’t need to be pro-Trump to point out that this is happening, or to agitate against it. But that’s how it’s presented, and that’s how many people, including no doubt many readers of the Automatic Earth, see it. In this day and age, if you wander too far from what the MSM tell you the truth is, you get punished even by somewhat smarter people.

If you don’t support the anti-Trump narrative, and elect to stay out of that echo chamber, you become a Trump supporter. And we all know what happens when you actively resist the narrative.

The reason why one so easily gets labeled a Trump supporter only for pointing out that stories contain no facts, provokes interesting questions, but none of them will have me shy away from saying what I think of it. I mean, just take a look at the Reuters/Ipsos poll that came out last week, which shows that Americans have made up their minds about Trump-Russia way ahead of the Mueller report being published.

Only a small number of Americans have not yet made up their minds about whether Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign coordinated with Russian officials, according to new Reuters/Ipsos polling, which also showed deep divisions in the United States in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election. Eight out of 10 Americans decided almost immediately about Trump campaign ties to Moscow and only about two in 10 appear to be undecided; about 8 in 10 Democrats said they thought the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, while 7 in 10 Republicans said they did not.

Now how is that possible, the majority ‘knowing’ what to believe without knowing the facts? Easy, the media made up their minds for them, and they did it without knowing the facts either. A much bigger story than Trump. And you would think old-fashioned journalism could have gotten a lot of real dirt on the Donald, but the entire MSM chose to go for unproven smear instead..

The Old Gray Lady and her consorts have made it entirely acceptable to disrespect the Office of the President of the United States. They’ve made doing so an honorable thing to do. All on the basis of rumors about Vladimir Putin pulling Trump’s strings. How this can fail to have terribly dramatic consequences for the US I do not see. Once the respect for the office is gone, how do you get it back? By putting a different questionable person in it?

 

But now I’m doing what I swore not to do: repeat myself. Inevitable when commenting on your own essays perhaps, but still. So let’s move on to the comments. Both came in by private emaiI, and I haven’t asked for permission to use real names, so they’ll be anonymous.

The first one was from a highly respected -and not just by me- retired US professor and writer I’ve had contact with for a decade or so, and came after I published The House Hit A New Low, commenting on Michael Cohen’s testimony before the House on February 27. Which I thought was about nothing at all, “A phishing expedition with a willing whale in the center who sort of volunteered to be harpooned..”, other than Democrat showboating.

But my friend the professor wrote:

Just so you know……… I thought Cohen courageous, believable and completely on target. I think people see what they are predetermined to see…. You and I see different things. As Congressional Republicans and apparently you do not see the problem is Trump, and as he said those who are blinded by him. Not Cohen. We should all speak out. The “conservatism” of your columns sometimes annoys me, but your insights are often good. I try to get different perspectives.

As I said above, and often before, I agree that “people see what they are predetermined to see”. It’s just that I think that originates at the NYT, WaPo, CNN, and my friend does not. But what struck me in his comment is him calling my writing “conservatism”. Nobody ever called me that, I don’t see myself that way, and I doubt that anyone did before I started talking about the way Trump has been treated.

And again, you don’t have to like Trump to dislike the made-up narratives that dictate what ‘news‘ in America has turned into. And that’s not conservative. Not that I think that conservatism is a wrong thing per se, but I don’t see many ‘conservatives’ these days conserving anything at all, other than their privileges.

See, I would think MAGA means protecting bald eagles, mountain lions, humpbacks and even mom-and-pop stores, but what counts as conservative today is the opposite of that. It basically revolves around making a few people rich at the expense of everyone else and the natural world they all depend on for their survival.

Other than that, as I said, I have few illusions about US politics, on either side of the aisle. Which is why I welcomed Trump three years ago, and I welcome Ocasio, Tulsi Gabbard and Ilhan Omar today: something better change, because if things don’t change fast, we’re bound to see the 21st century American version of pitchforks; yes, that would be rifles and handguns.

I hope perhaps that clears things a up, even if just a little, for my friend. But still, I didn’t think Cohen looked “courageous, believable and completely on target”. I thought he looked like a worn out tool of Nadler and Schiff’s committee, telling obvious lies about not having asked Trump for a White House job or a pardon. But let’s agree not to agree.

Then I mentioned the professor’s mail in the Automatic Earth comments section the next day, saying:

Someone mailed me yesterday talking about the conservatism of my columns. Never saw that before. And I don’t agree. Raging against the empty narratives of the anti-Trump machine does not make me a Trump supporter. (People should read more carefully. The world is not divided into two camps.)

… and a second mail came from someone who’s, let’s say, one of my more critical readers (he seems to think I’m full of it, and uses that as a reason to keep reading me):

You’re right: to the extent that you agree with anything Trump says or does to reduce US aggression in different parts of the world, the anti-Trumpers should be shouted down.

You’re wrong: your refusal to even mention racism, sexism, anti-democratic voter suppression, gerrymandering, campaign finance laws, electoral college, gun control, health care, tax cuts and the wholesale attack on the environment by Trump and Republicans (Trump is representative not an outlier among Republicans) is what makes you conservative.

Your silences speak louder than anything you say or print. Your alleged concern for the environment is comical compared to your total silence on American (Trump) policies on the environment. Keep up your selective silences. Its what you do best.

That’s a nice list, but it doesn’t appear to be all around fair. Criticizing Trump over all these things is at best a double-edged sword. But first of all, I don’t refuse to mention them, but I’m not here to provide a fully balanced picture. I’m here to balance out the one-sided positions the Old Gray Lady vents on a daily basis and 27 times on Sunday.

As for racism and sexism, I see those as America-wide issues, not Trump issues. Anti-democratic voter suppression: go ask Bernie Sanders and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. Gerrymandering ditto. And campaign finance laws. How one can hold such things against Trump and not others in US politics is beyond me. But let’s talk.

The electoral college problem, if it indeed is one, has absolutely nothing to do with Trump. America as a society would need to come together to move to the popular vote. But what are the odds of any such unity happening given the anti-Trump campaigns?

Gun control: I can’t recall Obama doing anything much about that, so how can one hold it against Trump? Guns seem to be too big a problem for the US to deal with, and I see it leading to the American version of France’s pitchforks: the one tool the unwashed masses have left to defend themselves and get their grievances across. A good thing? No. But Trump’s fault? No.

When it comes to health care, things are a bit more confusing and clearer at the same time. The conservatives who conserve dick all, stand quasi-united against universal health care, while the Democrats, who long held a similar position, are starting to shift.

Health care is a much more worthy topic than the ones before mentioned in that comment, but that particular discussion, like so many others, has been stifled by the neverending accusations of Russia collusion that the MSM have placed -the vast majority of- their bets on.

Trump has been president for two years, and not one day has gone by in which he was not accused of sitting on Putin’s lap in some way or another, so how are you going to get him to open up to your different point of view? He’s had to retreat into his trenches just to survive and go about the business of being a president. He was never given a chance to open up and change his mind. Is he to blame for that?

What else was there? Tax cuts. Yeah, well, conservatives and their privileges. And a short-term way to make the economy look better. Long-term economic benefits? Maybe not so much. But don’t let’s go there, because Pandora would open and reveal, again, very little that’s Trump-specific. It’s simply Washington.

Last thing is the environment, and because I post many articles on that topic in my daily news aggregators, it’s obvious that my views are not the Donald’s. But that, again, is conservatives refusing to conserve. It’s not just Trump, and it’s not just Republicans either. From what I see, America has destroyed far too much of its natural world already, and I haven’t seen a single voice in Washington with a convincing story to stop it, not AOC and the Green New Deal either.

 

To summarize: the Automatic Earth has sought, and continues to seek, to provide a balance vs one-sided ‘news’, because it is a much bigger problem than any single presidency. Reporting in the age of Trump has not just been one-sided, most of it has been outright falsehood. Why does it happen? Because it sells. You are prone to believe fictional accounts, you have a tendency to become addicted to scandal, and so you are targeted.

Now, the reason the Automatic Earth exists is that it tells people things they don’t want to hear. That goes for the odd professor, no matter how much we appreciate him or her, for all those who dislike an individual like Donald Trump so much they let others form their opinions for them with trumped-up narratives, it goes for Trump himself, and for everyone else we think fail to think for themselves any longer.

If your opinions are shaped by people who seek to make a profit off of doing that for you, you are merely one among millions who fall into the same trap. It’s ironic and funny too that the Old Gray Lady et al could never have started out on their new business model without the internet and the social media it spawned, while the very same business model makes entities such as the Automatic Earth necessary.

It gets more ironic still: the MSM developed the model because the old one, just plain reporting, wasn’t paying them enough to survive. Orwell was never that easy to understand. After all, he was talking about things that existed only in his mind’s eye when he was alive, and came alive themselves long after he was gone. But look at us today.

One last thing: I can’t perhaps speak for the entire Automatic Earth, because Nicole Foss, though she may have been silent for a while, appears to detest Donald Trump. That gives her and I something to talk about.

 

 

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This topic contains 10 replies, has 11 voices, and was last updated by  Stone Lodge 4 months, 1 week ago.

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  • #45958

    René Magritte Personal values 1952   Commenting on my own essays has never been my favorite activity, because before you know it you land into Ru
    [See the full post at: Conservatism]

    #45959

    regionswork
    Participant

    Problem is the Neo-Republican Party. Trump is the diversion that allows the dismemberment of government services to the people. Government can do nothing and it elects people who ensure that is the case. MAGA supporters LOVE the Donald and so addled, have really no judgement. Such tribal responses are of course human; and warlike. The rich people who designed the U.S., gave the Southern colonies an advantage in the electoral college. It persists. The States where extraction is the main industry have an advantage, those more easily controlled by the wealthy. The blame game is entrenched. The scapegoat strategy makes sure there is a majority not at the bottom. Note that the government shutdown delayed work on a solution to the Boeing 737 Max according to the WSJ https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2019/03/boeings-fixes-to-737-max-software-delayed-by-government-shutdown-report-claims/

    The privatization band wagon rolls on. Communities may correct, but Nature’s systems are slower. #FailureOfIntelligence rolls on. Very few in any media have the knowledge and experience to understand what they are reporting about. I’ve attempted to train many cub reporters who were assigned to cover my organization.

    Who funds the controllers of the controllers? Competition at the bottom; collusion at the top. The only coordination needed is use of similar playbooks. Protection rackets abound.

    Divine Disorder enables progress inspite of cultivated human ignorance. The greatest abuse is to not educate.

    #45960

    sinnycool
    Participant

    Ilargi, you do it very well please do not have the slightest doubt. Sometimes we don’t know how you mange to hold out in the face of the emotional tides that swirl around us all and make it so hard to push against their currents.

    You have the singular ability not just to see clearly and articulate what you see beautifully and succinctly but most importantly – you do not bend with the remover to remove.

    🙂

    BTW, it’s a lovely day in Tasmania.

    Best hopes, P.

    #45961

    Doc Robinson
    Participant

    Yes, the label “Conservative” is now a misnomer, as is the “Labour” party. But one can be anti-Trump without swallowing the media spin.

    Donald Trump reminds me of Silvio Berlusconi, there are many similarities. Berlusconi’s “antics”, from the distance of another country, didn’t seem so personally alarming to this reader in Trump’s USA. But when Trump’s actions and policies affect the environmental quality in my home state, I’m alarmed. When Trump’s actions and policies affect the perceived safety of family members and friends, I’m alarmed. And so on.

    I imagine that the Automatic Earth posts are written from a distance that allows a certain amount of detachment, like my detachment as I read about Berlusconi’s “antics”.

    What does Italy’s Berlusconi like about Trump? His wife (Reuters)

    While the center-right leader was ejected from parliament after being convicted of tax fraud four years ago, he has remained the undisputed leader of his party, the country’s third or fourth most popular, depending on the poll.

    The flamboyant former prime minister has a history of making politically incorrect comments, many of which seemed to fuel his popularity.

    Last month he praised newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron as a “nice lad with a good-looking mother” — widely taken to be a reference to the 39-year-old French leader’s 64-year-old wife, Brigitte Trogneux.

    He also raised eyebrows in 2008 for calling U.S. President Barrack Obama “suntanned”. A year later he repeated the quip when talking about the First Lady, Michelle. “They went together to the beach to get a tan because even his wife is suntanned.”

    During his last stint in office, Berlusconi was embroiled in a sex scandal involving a teenage nightclub dancer, Karima El Mahroug, who went by the name “Ruby the Heartstealer” and attended “bunga bunga” parties at his mansion near Milan.”

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-italy-berlusconi-trump-idUSKBN19E1T3

    “Berlusconi was Prime Minister for nine years in total, making him the longest-serving post-war Prime Minister of Italy… he was convicted of tax-fraud by the court of final instance, Court of Cassation, confirming his four-year prison sentence (of which three years are automatically pardoned) along with a public office ban for two years. As his age exceeded 70 years, he was exempted from direct imprisonment, and instead served his sentence by doing unpaid social community work. … Berlusconi was the first person to assume the premiership without prior government or administrative offices. He is known for his populist political style and brash, overbearing personality. In his long-time tenure, he was often accused of being an authoritarian leader and a strongman… critics accused him of having pursued only his personal interests, allowing his companies to grow thanks to the policies promoted by his governments, of having mismanaged the state budget, increasing the Italian government debt, of having a huge conflict of interests due to his media empire with which he restricted freedom of information and of being a blackmail leader because of his turbulent private life.”
    Wikipedia

    #45962

    John Day
    Participant

    Ilargi, Amigo…
    I’ve consistently appreciated your insights and analysis since spring 2008, when a friend advised me to take a look.
    Why do people who disagree with you still read, and write to you? Are they a little uncertain of the beliefs of their church? Inwardly questioning?

    If you can’t please everyone, then you’ve got to please yourself.”

    #45963

    rapier
    Participant

    When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

    The political narratives of the media have about as much to do with whatever it was AE was supposed to be about as the price of tea in China.

    Where is the examination of the complete collapse of the peak oil narrative, or delay if you will. And along with it the collapse or delay of Nicole’s energy economics narrative. With the resultant guarantee of the further concentration of power and wealth of those already at the top and more importantly the extension of the atmospheric CO2 increase. If the liberals are mean to the fascists, in service of the neoliberals, is irrelevant.

    The main questions become if and when climate change will become catastrophic for billions of humans and or the political economies of the world. Also, when will oil production or consumption peak and then how steep will the slope be. Bleeding again into climate change. Or perhaps if the debt based monetary system is going to dislocate, with or without some large scale change in fossil fuel supplies. Note in both cases, climate and monetary, I say if.

    Let’s not forget the alteration of human minds and societies by the harnessing and control of information and let’s not discount the advance of let’s call it a trans-human future now unfolding as a dream or possibility.

    These thing are not amenable to daily updates.

    #45964

    V. Arnold
    Participant

    So far, so good; keep on trucking Ilargi…

    No word on Patreon?

    #45965

    sumac.carol
    Participant

    Wow! The last label I would give you is conservative. I like your idea of seeing yourself in the role of telling the stories people don’t want to hear – I think this is the first step in the process of social change, although the person telling the story will have to endure slings and arrows. Thank you for doing what you do.

    #45966

    toktomi
    Participant

    I frequent a fair number of alternative news and blog sites. Over time I have stuck with those where I find the content to be intellectually compelling. Some of the sites are hosted by people who, in my opinion, are educationally and intellectually waaaaaaaaaay above average. I find that to be the case at TAE.

    The one thing that I would wish for at ALL of the sites that I visit, especially the ones that I highly respect like this one, would be the elimination of the words [and their derivatives], FACT, REAL, KNOW, and TRUE.

    My position is that knowledge is an illusion and that truth is a weapon used by some in an attempt to influence or control the opinions of others.

    I believe these things to be true because the brain is completely isolated from the external environment and does hear sound or see light or feel or taste or smell. The brain “hears about” external stimuli as bio-electrical nervous chatter that it receives from sensory nerves and organs. It cannot possibly “know” anything about the Universe. To imagine that a 3-pound chunk of meat could possibly “know” anything strikes me nowadays as at least illogical and probably absurd.

    Of course, these are only my opinions. I could be wrong.

    #45981

    zerosum
    Participant

    My influence on reality is next to zero.

    I do not crave to be an elite.

    #45983

    Stone Lodge
    Participant

    Hi Raul. This morning I log on and see this piece by you, and it bemused me.

    I once had a brother and an uncle argue, between themselves, as to whether I was conservative or liberal. As you can imagine, one of them was liberal and the other conservative (at least they thought so), and each thought I was the opposite of them – the liberal thought I was conservative, and vice-versa. They even placed a bet upon what they thought my answer would be when they put the question to me, which they did, and then “all bets were off.” Because I told them they were both wrong.

    Although I was not anarchist at the time, I was heading in that direction. Requiring evidence over opinion, acceptance over judgment, fact over ideology, justice over oppression, community over profit – these disjunctive concepts cannot be reconciled by those conditioned by the MSM and its corporate overlords. Calling me (or you) conservative/liberal falls on the wrong side of that ledger because understanding cannot occur when you believe that you already know.

    Although I do not comment often, I read your blog pretty much every day, and have for years. (I met Nicole several years ago, and all here applies to her too.) In fact, you are one of my first check-ins. I have never perceived you to be conservative or liberal, which is one reason why I continue to read your work. Your heart seems, to me, to be in the right place. Hence you cover the financial repression of neoliberalism, the destruction of our biosphere, and reject the patently false and ridiculous narratives regarding, for example, Russia-gate. That doesn’t make you a Trump supporter. It makes you considered and honest. There is so little of that these days.

    On the evening of July 21, 2016, I lay in my sweltering unconditioned van, trying to rest before our cross-country, non-stop, 2800-mile drive home from Cleveland. NPR (National Propaganda Radio) carried Trump’s acceptance speech live, and I recall thinking, “Well, this should be interesting.” I was not there to support Trump (or anyone but the homeless we fed at the communitarian church that gave us a place to flop), but because we thought the convention might turn out to be as exciting as the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago. We arrived to find, instead, 20,000 cops from the Secret Service down to city beat cops, and I took hundreds of photos of cops and more cops surrounded by people taking pictures of cops and more cops. By that time, the DNC’s corruption had been exposed, and I had enough information to make it apparent to me then that the U.S. political system would only continue to become more absurd. I was correct that hot night in Cleveland.

    It has been a balm, since then, that other people – yourself and TAE included – have been steadily available to confirm that I am not the only one to perceive this farce for what it is. The criticisms are not about you; the criticisms are about the people making them. Stay true to what you do, keep doing your good work, and the false narratives will die the deaths they deserve, as it finally appears is happening with the Russian collusion narrative.

    Peace. Out.

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