The above quote is Edward Murrow about Joseph MacCarthy from the 1986 movie, Murrow, with Daniel Travanti playing the title role. The words were probably written by the screenwriter rather than a direct Murrow quote. No matter.
As it was valid for MacCarthy, so too is it for Donald Trump.
The dynamics of anti-intellectualism that enabled MacCarthyism then is the same that enabled Trumpism today. The basis of anti-intellectualism is a demagogic Right feeding fear and mis- and dis-information to their constituency for generations. That "the ends justifies the means" has been the GOPs driving force is and has been self-evident. With that "directive," deceit is simply a tool.
For the GOP, falsehoods and lies are acceptable if they get their laws, budgets and regulations implemented - and if they can obstruct any others'. Weasel words, false equivalencies, strawmen, twisted and circular logic... dog whistling - kind of expected. But it's their falsehoods that corrupt those willing to listen un-critically.
Therein is the source of their sway over their constituency. But it goes deeper - and worse - than mere falsehoods, for since they have been doing this for generations it means the the current crop of GOP grew up being told falsehoods and now probably believe what they are repeating.
If someone believes in and repeats a falsehood, they are not lying. They are just repeating a falsehood that they were taught. Their failure is one of ignorance and a lack of critical thinking.
Consider these (few of many) false narratives perpetuated by the GOP:
- That crime has been going up for decades.
- That most drug users are African Americans.
- That voter fraud is rampant.
- That The Media are "Liberal".
This is standard GOP fare: "Crime is rampant, your family is not safe and the Federal Government wants to take your guns." This has been their message for decades. The real rising prison population may seem to bear this out. Not really.
Property crime rates have been falling steadily since 2006. Violent crime have been falling steadily since 2006, with the exception of a slight rise to 2012, falling again to 2014, then a slight rise to 2015. This is according to the FBI.
So why the rising incarceration rates?
Standard GOP policies: "Get tough on crime"'s increases in mandatory sentences; "three-strikes you're out" laws turning misdemeanors into felonies; "the war on drugs"'s sentences for minor drug offenses; increasing prison sentences for failure to pay debts; increasing rates for the mentally ill; higher bail rates meaning more people in jail without even being convicted of a crime.
Top all this off with a Private Prison system that profits by increasing incarceration, the U.S. has the highest per-capita incarceration rate by far (second to the island nation of Seychelles).
(The "war of drugs", invigorated by Ronald Reagan, and it's increasing of the prison population, triggered the creation of new, private, for-profit prisons to make room.)
I will sum this up with what Chris "Hardball" Matthews said on his show after actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died:
"I didn't know white people used heroin." Chris Matthews
(Such a "Crass Act" Mr. Matthews is. A total softy in actuality who lets his guests walk all over him, and that quote exposes him as the cloistered ignoramus and fool that he is.)
The cry of "rampant voter fraud" - all from Republican state governors and legislatures - is the biggest con of them all, cooked up in backrooms in a deliberate attempt to suppress votes from "those people". Documented and prosecuted cases of real voter fraud have been so few for voter fraud to be considered rare.
But, since Conservatives think the Media are Liberal...
"Truth and news are not the same thing." Chris Hedges
While having been debunked over and over this lie persists among Conservatives simply as "a given". One simply has to go to a newspaper stand and count the "left" and "right" leaning publications to debunk it. The Boston Globe has the Boston Herald; the New York Times has the New York Daily News and the New York Post; the Washington Post has the Washington Times. And it is the same for the magazine stand and the Internet.
(And it seems that many of the "left" newspapers have their token Conservative op-ed columnist: Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe is far-right with an "It's Obama's fault" slant; Nicholas Kristof is the NYT's similar "dig up dirt" on Liberals guy.)
Of television, let's put ABC, CBS and NBC news in the left column; MSNBC is decidedly left as FOX News is decidedly right; CNN almost defies categorization but strays to the right more than to the left - but let's say it is 1/2 left/right. Looks "Liberal", yes? It's four and 1/2 to one and 1/2, yes?
But ABC, CBS and NBC news are 30-minute long shows aired each weekday. Cable channels are a constant 12 hours of "news" each weekday, and roughly 8 hours of "news" on weekends. FOX News outweighs MSNBC and CNN for the amount of commentary aired, which is not news at all, but opinion. In terms of number of hours, it's decidedly not balanced at all.
(And do not forget FOX News' many local affiliates that compete with all the other 30-minute local news shows.)
"Except for Antiques Roadshow, PBS is Liberal." caller on CSPAN's Washington Journal
"Big Bird must go." Mitt Romney
Of course PBS is Liberal! We all know that!
Yet you would find that it is not if you were to actually spend some time watching. Their "news" is the weekday PBS News Hour (and it's 30-minute version on Saturday), and like most "liberal news" they always have "balanced" guests, one for each "side" of an issue. The News Hour actually airs more news reporting than commentary.
Then there are all the other shows that are most of PBS content. Which of these are Liberal:
NOVA, Nature, American Experience, Frontline, Austin City Limits, The Woodwright's Shop, or Aurthur?
Oh, and guess who gives money to PBS? The Koch Brothers.
But here is the ultimate conclusion of the GOP's conning of their constituency into believing this canard: Conservatives don't watch any news but FOX News. (And making things worse: Conservatives don't read books.)
This "The Media are Liberal" has had it's effect on Conservatives alright, making them distrust all of the media but their own. But it has had the horrific side effect of a constituency that is poorly educated and ignorant of science, critical thinking and of history and worldly affairs.
But there actually is one segment of the media that do look quite "Liberal", with few exceptions: Late Night TV. But why? Well, to understand that, one has to watch them. And if one does, you will see that nothing is sacred to a comedian - they'll crack a joke about anything if will make their audience laugh, as that it their job.
The most popular late night comedians do make more jokes about Republicans than Democrats, and therefore are labeled partisan, biased and liberal. But why? Again, one has to watch, but I will offer this: There is more material from Republicans for jokes!
Think about that for a minute. Why is Donald Trump made the butt of jokes so often? Why was Sarah Palin? And why Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders not as often? Because the former say or have said more outrageous, outlandish, hypocritical and stupid things than the latter!
That is all there it to this.
Republican claims of Hillary and President Obama lying may sometimes be true. But how can that be made funny? There are no jokes there! As for Bernie, he just doesn't tickle anyone's funny-bone - he's too serious.
The Fourth Estate
The GOP would not have such a sway over their followers without a coddled and a ratings obsessed News Media. The Media are utterly failing the American People, with FOX News' viciously racist "lies as commentary" about Black Lives Matter, such as the movement "incites violence against police"; MSNBC & CNN repeating their same narrative du jour hour after hour after hour. Anything actually important to people's health and well-being is non-existent.
This is partly due to the last decade of "TV news'" obsession with titillation over sexual infidelity of the political and celebrity kind. (Starting to go downhill after Monica Lewinski and Anita Hill, eventually going off the cliff together like TV lemmings.)
There is no "journalism" on television - except for from guess who? PBS!
The News Media has been degenerating since the days of Murrow and Smith and Cronkite. Donahue was driven off the air for attempting "Truth to Power."
Though incorrectly labeled "fake news," it's only the comedy shows that now speak "Truth to Power". By providing us an honest - yes honest - look at the frauds and hypocrites that make up the GOP that the Media do not provide, those shows expose "real news" as the fraudulent, corporate shills they are.
The Trump Monster
So Trump's rise should surprise none. It was the many "Liberal/Progressive" pundits though, who told us over and over that Trump would never make it, as he was too crass and an obvious cretin - and it was they who failed the public as much as the TV Media.
The more Trump made an ass out of himself, ridiculing and insulting the other GOP wanna-bes, the more the TV Media gave him the camera.
Of course, the rest of the GOP contenders were not up to the task of defending themselves against a bully, because they were all frauds themselves, only able to repeat the same old GOP talking points propped up by fear and mis-direction. And Trump's vulgar, direct assault unhinged them. But worse, Trump preempted any "debate" by getting the TV Media's almost sole attention.
Trump is a great many things, but he has - and anyone who knew of his career - an almost instinctive ability to get the attention of his audience. And anyone who knew the history of TV, should have known TV News was going to go give him the camera. (The rest of the GOP candidates being "fools and knaves" as Paul Krugman called them not-withstanding.)
Part two of the "Trump Story" is the GOP cons that have so fooled Trump's followers for the last generation. The "Liberal Media" con is just the tip of the iceberg. "Entitlements" is another one: Social "welfare" dollars are a fraction of Corporate "welfare" dollars. "Jobs moving overseas" are by American Corporations themselves moving them there.
The list goes on.
Trump's followers are less angry white males and more conned white males, duped by GOP lies and propaganda.
Trump boosts that he's "smart" because he pays no taxes. Well, that's "boardroom talk", and all members of the "Fortune 99 Percent" not only take part in it, but actively try to control the global economy to allow it. (Who are the people who keep repeating, "We're gonna lower taxes on the wealthy!"?)
In order to read "the news" and not be left with a binary "agree/disagree" understanding, a bit of basic knowledge is required:
- Principles of Critical Thinking.
- History of the United States of America.
- Principles of science: of research, experimentation and evidence.
Without such basic knowledge, none of what one reads or views - nor the commentary here - will have meaning beyond an initial "gut" reaction of whether or not it "fits" in one's belief structure. If it "fits", it's deemed true, if not, it's deemed false (or worse).
Also, just as important, without this basic knowledge, one will not be able to detect faulty arguments, bad reasoning and replaying of popular myth.
There is a question one needs to ask about "the news" that trumps (do we all have to say "pun not intended" with for that word now?) all the others: "From where do you get your information?"
All editorials, op-eds, and - most importantly - Internet essays, should be required to have some kind of bibliography or links to more original sources (and not links to pages on their own website as is often done by the "Alt-Right").
See Eric Alterman's call, Time for Newspapers to Abandon Unsigned Editorials.
Crime:Crime in the U.S.
Prison Policy Initiative
Criminal Justice Fact Sheet
Incarceration in the United States
Crime in the United States
Voter Fraud:Election Crime Wave Involving 7 Million Americans & The GOP Scam Behind The Hype
Judge: Give Florida voters chance to fix vote-by-mail ballot