thin man

The ballad of the thin skinned men – Trump at war with the press – escalated in a way that actually produced a worthwhile result: Trump backing out of the annual White House Correspondents Dinner. According to a story from the Guardian,

Donald Trump on Saturday capped a week of tumultuous relations with the press by saying he will not attend this year’s White House correspondents’ dinner, which is scheduled for 29 April.

“I will not be attending the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner this year,” the president wrote on Twitter. “Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!”

The news came as relations between the Trump administration and the news media, which he has called “the enemy of the American people”, have sunk to new lows. On Friday, leading outlets including the New York Times, CNN and the Guardian were excluded from a briefing by press secretary Sean Spicer while friendlier conservative organizations were admitted.

We’re all enemies now
The political culture has been so divided and divisive for so long, that we’ve become inured to the idea that choosing sides is the only way to think and behave. With the two main parties playing identity politics for decades, pitting pro-choice against pro-life, gender against gender, urban yuppies against the working class, and so on, the idea that you can break bread, and find common ground with citizens across the socio-political divide seems certainly out of the ordinary. The disdain for fellow Americans with differing views and beliefs has caused us to “otherize” our fellow citizens. Forget about civil, we’re in the midst of an uncivil war being played out on the pages of Facebook and Twitter. And that’s the way the overlords want it. Better we battle each other than focus our rage on them.

The enemy of my enemy
The roots of the adage “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” trace back to a Sanskrit root around 4th Century BC. While it’s been a reliable go-to in determining alliances from interpersonal to geopolitical for millennia – America’s alliance with the Soviet Union to defeat the Nazis is a gold star example – the world today is so turned on its head that no saying is reliable. We may have entered the post-adage age, whereby the enemy of my enemy is also my enemy.

Nowhere is this dynamic more evident than in the opposition to President Trump, where resistance is demonstrated by allegiance to the Democratic Party, and to the “press.” I put press in quotes because what’s parading today as a trusted institution is nothing more than a dumbed-down, homogenized breed of self-seeking, career ladder-climbers, willing to compromise any semblance of journalistic independence for a chance at TV celebrity stardom (the Rachel Maddow model), or for a favorable relationship with the White House. Gone is the era of the investigative journalist whose independence drew fear and scorn from the executive branch. Seymour Hersh is a name who comes to mind. Today we have a corporatized media where bottom-line profits supersede the public’s need for an independent press.

So deep is the incestuous relationship between the corporate Washington press corps and the White House that the concept of a White House Correspondents Dinner does not emerge as obscene and corrupting to the whole idea of an independent press adversarial to the executive branch. It’s also become a celebrated entertainment event. So kudos for the Trump for backing out, despite his reasoning, which probably has more to do with his thin skin than presidential principle.

Ballad of a thin man
The “Mr. Jones” Bob Dylan was decrying in his “Ballad of a Thin Man” has been interpreted as the press that pummeled him incessantly with the most moronic questions. Dylan was anything but thin-skinned, though, in contrast to everyone today from Trump on down. Hence the public sobbing by the establishment press after Trump’s live television smack-down of the White House press corps at his press conference a few weeks back. I’m not really sure what they expected from the Twitter king of media insult, but, for the most part, they got what they deserve. And, in case you don’t think you’re being played with the entertainment value of a president/media spitting match, CNN president, and fake news king, Jeff Zucker has actual news for you, according to a story in the NY Times,

He is a favorite target of President Trump’s ire, the leader of a television network that the White House routinely accuses of peddling “fake news,” and a contentious figure in his own right whose showcasing of Mr. Trump in the presidential campaign led to howls from the political establishment.

But nibbling filet mignon in a private dining room overlooking Central Park, Jeffrey A. Zucker, the president of CNN, did not look like a man perturbed.

“Our folks are just doing their jobs,” Mr. Zucker declared at a recent lunch with journalists, who prodded him about the slings and arrows that Mr. Trump has gleefully lobbed his way. “They wear those insults as a badge of honor.”

And when you add to that the very real news that CNN earned an additional $100 million in ad revenue as a result of overindulging Trump with media coverage during the campaign, the actual plot line should be emerging.

The inherent danger in getting whipped into a frenzy about every breath of nonsense that leaves Trump’s lips is that you become fodder for equally nonsensical parties in supposed opposition to him: in this case the corporate press and the Democratic Party. If you don’t think the varying facets of political establishment institutions are beating to the same oligarchic heartbeat, there’s probably little I can say that’s going to open your eyes.

In the aftermath of another establishment power grab in “electing” a new Democratic Party chair, and the corporate press trying tooth-and-nail to drag us into a new cold war with Russia, it’s pretty clear that from the Trump administration to the Democrats and the establishment Washington press corps, the enemy of my enemy is also my enemy, and that their fighting is on behalf of the 99% is as a fake as pro wrestling.

Ah, you’ve been with the professors and they’ve all liked your looks
With great lawyers you have discussed lepers and crooks
You’ve been through all of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books
You’re very well-read, it’s well-known
–Bob Dylan