May 14 Open Thread: He Who Commands the Media Has Command of Everything

Filed in National, Open Thread by on May 14, 2018

Despicable as he is, Trump is unquestionably great at one thing: Playing the media. That’s the answer to the perpetual question, “How did Trump win?” and it explains a lot of the daily mayhem surrounding his administration. He learned long ago that the best way to distract from controversy is with another controversy, and in his tabloid mindset, only one story at a time fits on the front page.

That’s why you’ve seen a parade of stories (not on the front page, of course) bemoaning the lack of attention paid to the horrors perpetrated by ICE, or the gutting of the EPA, or the dismantling of consumer protections. With Trump involved in both sex scandals and election scandals, Democrats are complaining that they can’t get booked on cable news unless they’re willing to bitch about Russia.

In response, Democrats are taking to the rest of the mediaverse to get their message out. The main problem with that is the shrinking legacy media, as this look at the revolt by Denver Post staff against the newspaper’s hedge-fund ownership. It’s a futile gesture and the journalists know it, but at least it gets out the message that, ever as the staff has been slashed by more than two-thirds, the paper maintains a profit margin of 20%.

For all its flailing before the mainstream media, the White House is obsessed with controlling its message, and so is obsessed with finding and punishing the leakers in its midst. This had heightened the naturally paranoid tendencies in the administration, leading some leakers to purposely use language common to others in the administration to throw the hounds off their scent.

One of the stories that couldn’t break through the Russia clutter last week was AG Jeff Sessions making it official U.S. policy to separate children from their parents at border crossings. Mind you, we’re not talking about people who are trying to cross illegally — these are people who are making official applications for asylum. You can tell Sessions is a Christian — the Old Testament is full of such tales of sadistic behavior. The problem with conservatives reading the Bible is that they identify not with the people but with Yahweh. They think punishing people is their calling.

For all of Trump’s manipulation of the media, it’s a two-way street: The media also manipulates him. How else to explain why the insecure blowhard of a president converses nearly every night with insecure Fox News blowhard Sean Hannity? One’s a supposed college graduate who I think paid someone to take his tests for him, the other didn’t even finish high school. It’s not just great minds that think alike — C- minds think alike, too.

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  1. Alby says:

    A late addition to the list: Axios has a story looking into the leakers behind the leaks. It doesn’t name them, of course, but does quote them on why they do it. Multiple factors are cited, but this one stands out:

    “You have to realize that working here is kind of like being in a never-ending ‘Mexican Standoff.’ Everyone has guns (leaks) pointed at each other and it’s only a matter of time before someone shoots. There’s rarely a peaceful conclusion so you might as well shoot first.”