Category Archives: MSM

Der Spiegel’s cover captures TrumpPsychosis™


The cover of the latest edition of Der Spiegel, Germany’s leading news magazine makes a statement:

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More from Deutsche Welle:

In this week’s editorial, “Der Spiegel” editor-in-chief Klaus Brinkbäumer dubbed the president “Nero Trump,” after the notoriously brutal ancient Roman emperor.

Trump’s action and pose depicted on the cover clearly invokes that of Islamist terrorist – and that was always its intention.

The cover’s illustrator, Edel Rodriguez, a Cuban political refugee in the US, told the “Washington Post” newspaper that he was prompted to channel his anger into the piece of art following Trump’s visa ban.

“It’s a beheading of democracy, a beheading of a sacred symbol,” Rodriguez said. “And clearly, lately, what’s associated with beheadings is ISIS, so there’s a comparison. Both sides are extremists, so I’m just making a comparison between them.”

One word to describe Donald Trump: Bullshitter


As we’ve noted before, Donald Trump is a textbook narcissist.

Here are the diagnostic criteria from the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the standard reference for psychiatrists and other mental health professionals. We opted for it rather than the subsequent fifth edition, which uses a lot more words to say the same things:

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
4. Requires excessive admiration.
5. Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
6. Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

One consequence of the disorder, which typically proves intractable to treatment, is a never-ending stream of hastily improvised statements designed to buttress the narcissist’s delusions of grandeur and bearing only tangential relationship to the truth.

In other words, an endless stream of bullshit.

But what does it mean to have a narcissist in the White House?

For a partial answer we turn to University of Florida sociologist and journalist , writing in The Conversation, an academic journal written in conversational English:

If you’ve been paying attention to the news over the past week or so, you know that over the weekend America was introduced to the concept of “alternative facts.” After Trump administration Press Secretary Sean Spicer rebuked the media for accurately reporting the relatively small crowds at President Donald Trump’s inauguration, senior White House aide Kellyanne Conway told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Spicer wasn’t lying; he was simply using “alternative facts.”

News outlets are still working through the process of figuring out what to call these mischaracterizations of reality. (“Alternative facts” seems to have been swiftly rejected.) Many outlets have upped their fact-checking game. The Washington Post, for instance, released a browser extension that fact-checks tweets by the president in near real-time.

Other outlets have resisted labeling Trump’s misstatements as lies. Earlier this year, for instance, the Wall Street Journal’s editor-in-chief Gerard Baker insisted that the Wall Street Journal wouldn’t label Trump’s false statements “lies.”

Baker argued that lying requires a “deliberate intention to mislead,” which couldn’t be proven in the case of Trump. Baker’s critics pushed back, raising valid and important points about the duty of the press to report what is true.

As important as discussions about the role of the press as fact-checkers are, in this case Baker’s critics are missing the point. Baker is right. Trump isn’t lying. He’s bullshitting. And that’s an important distinction to make.

Bullshitter-in-chief?

Bullshitters, as philosopher Harry Frankfurt wrote in his 1986 essay “On Bullshit,” don’t care whether what they are saying is factually correct or not. Instead, bullshit is characterized by a “lack of connection to a concern with truth [and] indifference to how things really are.” Frankfurt explains that a bullshitter “does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.”

In addition to being unconcerned about the truth (which liars do care about, since they are trying to conceal it), Frankfurt suggests that bullshitters don’t really care whether their audience believes what they are saying. Indeed, getting the audience to believe something is false isn’t the goal of bullshitting. Rather, bullshitters say what they do in an effort to change how the audience sees them, “to convey a certain impression” of themselves.

In Trump’s case, much of his rhetoric and speech seems designed to inflate his own grand persona. Hence the tweets about improving the record sales of artists performing at his inauguration and his claims that he “alone can fix” the problems in the country.

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Likewise, his inaugural address contained much rhetoric about the “decayed” state of the country and rampant unemployment (a verifiably false statement). Trump then proceeded to claim that he was going to rid the country of these ailments. The image of Trump as a larger-than-life figure who will repair a broken country resonates with his audience, and it doesn’t work without first priming them with notions of widespread “carnage.”

A stinky, slippery slope

There are several problems with Trump adopting the bullshit style of communication.

First, misinformation is notoriously hard to correct once it’s out there, and social media, in particular, has a reputation for spreading factually inaccurate statements and conspiracy theories.

Continue reading

The way it works: Fox bleats, then Trump tweets


If there was ever any doubt that Rupert Murdoch plays a dominant role in thinking of Donald Trump, consider this from the Guardian:

Donald Trump has called whistleblower Chelsea Manning an “ungrateful traitor” and criticized Barack Obama’s decision to commute her 35-year sentence by declaring that she “should never have been released from prison”.

Trump’s tweet on Thursday morning is the first time he has addressed Manning’s impending release, since Obama commuted her sentence in his final week in office:

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As Mediaite noted, Trump tweeted his response using the same language that had appeared in a Fox News segment just 14 minutes earlier. As a picture of Manning was shown onscreen with the words “ungrateful traitor” brandished across it, Fox News anchor Abby Huntsman announced: “In a new article for the Guardian, the disgraced former army private is slamming President Obama as a weak leader with few permanent accomplishments.”

Minutes later Trump, who is known for getting his news from cable television, particularly Fox, tweeted using the same “ungrateful traitor” and “weak leader” language. This is the third such instance of Trump echoing Fox News coverage recently: Trump’s tweet about threatening to “send in the feds” to eliminate Chicago’s gun violence on Tuesday, and about flag-burning in November, also followed Fox News segments on those same subjects.

In a column for the Guardian on Wednesday, Manning wrote that the country needed a strong progressive president since the Obama administration’s policy of compromise would not work in a divided nation.

“Barack Obama left behind hints of a progressive legacy. Unfortunately, despite his faith in our system and his positive track record on many issues over the last eight years, there have been very few permanent accomplishments … The one simple lesson to draw from President Obama’s legacy: do not start off with a compromise. They won’t meet you in the middle. Instead, what we need is an unapologetic progressive leader.”

Yep, the network owned by Murdoch and shaped by fellow sexual predator Roger Ailes, has become a script writer for President Pussygrabber.

Headline of the day: Explain Trump? Let George do it


From CNN:

Publisher printing more copies of George Orwell’s ‘1984’ after spike in demand

  • The book publisher Penguin is printing more copies of George Orwell’s dystopian classic “1984” in response to a sudden surge of demand.
  • On Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning the book was #1 on Amazon’s computer-generated list of best-selling books. The list reflects hourly book sales.
  • The 68-year-old novel appeared on the list on Monday, hovered around the #6 spot for much of the day, rose to #2 by Tuesday afternoon and then hit #1.

The reason for the sudden surge?

Perhaps this clip from north of the border adds context.

From CBC News:

Donald Trump’s ‘alternative facts’


Program notes:

Trump’s press secretary scolds media for allegedly lying about the crowd size at last week’s inauguration, CBC’s Paul Hunter reports.

Headlines of the day: It’s sorta like gilding a turd


From the Washington Post:

Challenged on falsehoods, adviser says Trump team has ‘alternative facts’

  • President Trump’s aides are under fire after his press secretary made easily disproved claims about the size of the inauguration crowd. Chief counselor Kellyanne Conway sparred on “Meet the Press” with Chuck Todd who said, “Alternative facts are not facts.”

And some reaction to all that infantile umbrage from the New York Times:

Even Top Aides Are Troubled by Trump’s Rocky First Weekend

  • President Trump spent his first two days in office lashing out about crowd sizes and rewriting the history of his dealings with intelligence agencies.
  • His lack of focus, at a time when a new president can maximize his leverage, frustrated some senior members of his circle who had urged him to move on.

And from the Independent:

And as for that crowd size, where Donald Trump claimed the largest crowd ever to witness a presidential inauguration and said he personally “saw” between one and one-and-a-half million people standing before him when he spoke. a side by-side comparison of crows at the first Obama inauguration [right] and Saturday’s swearing-in [left] tell a vastly different tale. From the Independent:

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And there was an even bigger turnout for another event in Washington that dwarfed the Trump throngette, reported the New York Times:

The women’s march in Washington was roughly three times the size of the audience at President Trump’s inauguration, crowd counting experts said Saturday.

Marcel Altenburg and Keith Still, crowd scientists at Manchester Metropolitan University in Britain, analyzed photographs and video taken of the National Mall and vicinity and estimated that there were about 160,000 people in those areas in the hour leading up to Mr. Trump’s speech Friday.

They estimated that at least 470,000 people were at the women’s march in Washington in the areas on and near the mall at about 2 p.m. Saturday.

UPDATE: And, of course, Trump tweeted his own response for the anti-inaugural protests [and we feature one response as well]:

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And things get even more petty. . .

UPDATE II: From CNN:

After the National Park Service retweeted messages that negatively compared the crowd sizes at Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration to Donald Trump’s inauguration Friday, representatives from the new administration asked the Interior Department’s digital team to temporarily stop using Twitter — a decision the agency now claims was out of a concern the account was hacked.

The National Park Service Twitter account retweeted this observation from New York Times reporter Binyamin Appelbaum on Friday: “Compare the crowds: 2009 inauguration at left, 2017 inauguration at right.” The tweet contained images from both events showing an apparent difference in crowd size. The retweet has since been deleted.

After the retweet began to get attention, a career staffer at the Interior Department instructed employees that the “new administration has said that the department and all bureau are not supposed to tweet this weekend and wait for guidance until Monday.”

The message continued, “Please make sure that any scheduled tweets are no longer scheduled,” and referred all questions to another career staffer at the department.

On Saturday, the National Park Service called Friday’s retweets “mistaken.”

UPDATE III: We just spotted this from the editorial cartoonist of the Los Angeles Times:

David Horsey: Trump loathing unifies the diverse

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Chart of the day: Murdoch’s machine dominates


Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News gave us President Pussygrabber.

From a new survey from the Pew Research Center [click on the image to enlarge]:

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Quote of the day: The rush to kiss Trump’s ass


The day Littlefingers became president of the united States also brought down the curtain on the 2017 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, the gathering of 2,500 leading corporate moguls, banksters, elected officials, economists, celebrities [George Clooney attended this year], and media figures in the elite Swiss resort town of Davos.

One of those in attendance was former World Bank Chief Economist, U.S. Treasury Secretary, and Harvard University President Lawrence Summers, a man who played a central role in the deregulation of American banking and the unleashing of the derivatives market.

In of the other words, he bears much of the responsibility for bringing on the Crash of 2008 and the ongoing global Great Recession.

But even he abhors the rush to embrace President Pussygrabber by his fellow Davos elites, as he writes in Financial Times [subscription only]:

I am disturbed by (i) the spectacle of financiers who three months ago were telling anyone who would listen that they would never do business with a Trump company rushing to praise the new administration; (ii) the unwillingness of business leaders who rightly take pride in their corporate efforts to promote women and minorities to say anything about presidentially sanctioned intolerance; (iii) the failure of the leaders of global companies to say a critical word about US efforts to encourage the breakup of European unity and more generally to step away from underwriting an open global system; (iv) the reluctance of business leaders who have a huge stake in the current global order to criticise provocative rhetoric with regard to China, Mexico or the Middle East; (v) the willingness of too many to praise Trump nominees who advocate blatant protection merely because they have a business background.

>snip<

My objection is not to disagreements over economic policy. It is to enabling if not encouraging immoral and reckless policies in other spheres that ultimately bear on our prosperity. Burke was right. It is a lesson of human experience whether the issue is playground bullying, Enron or Europe in the 1930s that the worst outcomes occur when good people find reasons to accommodate themselves to what they know is wrong. That is what I think happened much too often in Davos this week.