Jackpot!

Shortly after the Tr-mp nightmare began, The Washington Post adopted the motto, “Democracy Dies In Darkness.

We should be so lucky.

After watching as much cable news coverage of the Singapore Follies as I could stand last night, and after watching the continuing coverage this morning, I am convinced that the West, and the democratic ideas and values associated with it, will not die in darkness, if indeed it does die. It will die, or at least be lost, in the glare of the bright lights of a highly-produced, highly-manipulative gala, a festive celebration of celebrity, a made-for-TV festival of propaganda.

That’s what the so-called North Korea summit was.

This morning, taking a few minutes away from what one on-air reporter called “the big event last night,” CNN was doing a segment on the enrichment of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner—a cool $80 million “earned” last year, part of it from the Tr-mp hotel in D.C. that foreigners patronize to win his favor. That potentially informative CNN segment was just getting off to a start when the reporter was interrupted by the host with “breaking news.” What was it? Oh, it was Kim Jong-un possibly getting ready to head to the airport. Anderson Cooper was summoned to narrate the amazing scene. Except there was nothing visual to show the folks at the moment and Cooper ushered viewers off to a commercial break. In disgust, I switched channels to MSNBC. Not long into a critical discussion of the reality-show summit, the on-air host interrupted the guest and narrated what was now a visual of Kim doing nothing but walking. Such absurdities, including the strange presence of a weeping Dennis Rodman last night, is among the reasons why I am sick this morning and as worried as I have ever been about our future.

Donald Tr-mp once ran casinos, before they went bankrupt. But in a way he is still running a casino, a big one from sea to shining sea. Everyone knows that the environment inside of casinos is carefully controlled. No windows. No clocks. No distractions from the matter at hand: separating you from your common sense so that the casino owner can pick your pocket with your permission. Consider this description:

A casino is a cacophony of wonderful and alluring stimulation: bells ringing, siren-like lights flashing, change clanging, slot wheels whirring, digital sounds beeping – it’s all captivating. Why is it captivating? Because it’s non-verbal communication saying, “Win! Win! Win!”. It gives the impression that everyone is indeed winning when, in reality, most are losing.

However, even as these people are losing, whatever machine they are on is still blaring out festive, euphoric sounds. It makes people want to get in on the action and become part of the winning as well. It’s such a happy place, how can I lose?! Everything is slick, burnished, and gleaming with a hypnotic draw to it. On some level, everyone, regardless if they are a big or small bettor, is attracted to these ostentatious displays of excess and flamboyance.

That’s how we will lose this thing, this fragile thing we call democracy. Bells will be ringing. Sirens will be sounding. Lights will be flashing. Wheels will be whirring. There will be digital beeping and, for some of us, the gnashing of teeth.

A thousand times last night and this morning, I bet I heard some variation of these phrases: “You have to give Donald Tr-mp credit” or “It’s a good thing these two leaders met” or “This was a big win for Tr-mp” or, as David Axelrod put it: “I applaud the president [sic] for pursuing diplomacy.” On top of all that, there was the constant use of the term “historic.” And I mean constant. Even if you had the sound down, you still saw the phrase on your screen: “HISTORIC MEETING.” As I said, it was sickening.

Don’t get me wrong. There was plenty of criticism of what happened, or, really, what didn’t happen in Singapore. There were pundits who pointed out that North Korea is nothing but the world’s largest maximum security prison with a murderous warden who Tr-mp tried to elevate to an international star. There were pundits who pointed out the obvious fact that Kim was the real winner of this meeting between two cult figures, one a lying Stalinist and the other who is halfway there, having mastered the art of lying and apprenticing as a tyrant.

There were pundits who patiently explained that there was no substance to the meeting, nothing that hadn’t been promised by the North Koreans before as a way to buy time to continue developing their nuclear arsenal. There were pundits who lamented the lack of emphasis on human rights. There were pundits who noted that even if the impossible happened—denuclearization—that would not solve the problem of the massive amounts of conventional weapons that threaten our allies. And there were pundits who pointed out that, yes, this was a historic event precisely because no American leader had ever been stupid enough, or narcissistic enough, to give North Korea equal footing on a stage with the United States just to distract the gullible from his troubles with the law and other character deficiencies.

Image result for jackpotI said I am as worried as I have ever been about our future. And it’s not because of Tr-mp praising a ruthless killer like Kim, calling him honorable and trustworthy and smart and all that. I expected as much from Tr-mp, who orchestrated this madness just like the controlled madness on the floor of a casino.

I’m worried because we are now more than 500 days into this administration—into the larger madness. And journalists still don’t get it. They still don’t get how it all works. They haven’t yet figured out how to cover this freak of nature. Journalists can offer all the criticism of Tr-mp they want. They can debunk every false statement he makes. They can even call him a liar again and again. But as long as they do it from inside his casino, from inside the environment he has created, with all the bells and sirens and lights and wheels, not enough people will hear. They will only see and hear the “festive, euphoric sounds.” They will only see the “happy place” where losing is an afterthought. People really are attracted to “ostentatious displays of excess and flamboyance,” even if they are losing their rent money. No amount of good reporting, so long as it comes prefaced with phrases like “This was a win for Tr-mp” or “We have to give Tr-mp credit” or “This was a historic moment,” will dehypnotize those who crave the sights and sounds of the casino.

So, no, democracy will not die in darkness in the Tr-mp era, as long as journalists continue to broadcast and report from inside a superstructure deliberately designed to manipulate and distract and, more important, to optimize gullibility. Democracy, like that still, small voice of common sense that urges gamblers to go home before all is lost, will simply be ignored, drowned out by the intoxicating allure of JACKPOT!

 

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12 Comments

  1. Yessir. I have no words. We’re over.

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  2. Ben Field

     /  June 12, 2018

    Didn’t see the words “irreversible” or “verifiable” nuclear disarmament anywhere in the stories, so that means the Little madman won, and the Big madman lost.

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  3. Bbob

     /  June 12, 2018

    Trump’s base is euphoric. Sad commentary on the religious right. The press is (mostly) greatly impressed. Sad commentary on their intelligence.

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  4. Everyone knows that the environment inside of casinos is carefully controlled. No windows. No clocks. No distractions from the matter at hand: separating you from your common sense so that the casino owner can pick your pocket with your permission.

    Compare and contrast, from the most recent chapter of Eric Burns-White’s Interviewing Trey:

    There are no ‘days’ in Casinos. Daylight makes a man think he might wish to get something accomplished, and that in turn makes him think he should leave, and leaving means he wouldn’t be losing his money at the tables.

    (Some of the best writing about our time may be prose works about superheroes and supervillains and the sometimes blurry line between them. Interviewing Trey and its predecessor Interviewing Leather, John McCrae’s Worm and its now-in-progress sequel Ward, Jen A. Blue’s Near-Apocalypse of ’09 essays…)

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  5. JIM WHEELER

     /  June 13, 2018

    Thus far at least, the worst aspect of this feckless Singapore production is the impulsive cancellation of joint military exercises with South Korea. Trump contends this will save us money. It might, a piddling amount. But what he doesn’t understand (or does he?) is that training is essential to military effectiveness. In the Navy there is a common understanding in every ship’s crew that inactivity impairs readiness. The amount of time that a ship sits in port or in the shipyard is roughly proportional to the number of problems that occur when it finally goes to sea, and this pertains both to equipment and to crew performance. If a fighting force is to be effective, it must be exercised.

    The cancellation of joint exercises has to rank with dumbest presidential decisions ever made by a U.S. President.

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    • Yessir. Trump doesn’t believe in preparation — God knows how he would even spell it — as evidenced by his preamble to the event. Lazy and incompetent are his one-two punch. Add cruel and you have his triple play.

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    • Jim,

      My youngest son played high school and college baseball. There was rarely a day that went by that he wasn’t practicing some baseball skill or conditioning his body to perform or working out with his teammates. There is no substitute for practice in sports, no matter how talented you are. And there is no substitute in team sports for often grueling repetition. I can only imagine how much more critical practice and repetition are in preparing for action in the theater of war.

      Tr-mp, of course, doesn’t give a damn about any of that. There was a story in The Wall Street Journal months ago that gave away this move. Putin urged Tr-mp to stop the joint exercises with South Korea. That was all it took. And I am sure there are more bad moves to follow. But the real damage has already been done. We gave to Kim the international legitimacy he craved, we stopped the joint exercises that he hates, and for that we get to listen to Tr-mp brag about how much safer the world is since he “alone” has fixed it.

      Meanwhile, our allies no longer trust us or respect us. And I don’t blame them.

      Duane

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  6. I like your metaphor “Jackpot.” What people tend to overlook because of his sociopathic narcissism and total ignorance of international and domestic affairs is the fact that Trump is obsessed with money. He likes the casino atmosphere and believes everything he does is like winning the jackpot. He wants to save money by canceling military exercises with South Korea, he wants to put embargos on U.S. made steel and aluminum so the world will quit “taking advantage of us,” he wants NATO countries to start paying their “fair share,” he wants Mexico to pay for his “wall.” He claims his new tax bill will help the working class (while ignoring the windfall provided to the wealthy — like him.) And on it goes.

    Democrats should take note. If you want to deconstruct Trump in 2020, you need to hit him in the pocketbook, show that his “savings” are actually costs. But even then his acolytes will not care. They tend to vote against their own self-interest. They’re as irrational as their perverted evangelical beliefs. We’re looking at a $1.5 trillion deficit this year alone – and many trillions more in the next few years. But Trump’s voters don’t care. Their heads are in the sand or up their butts or in a bubble. They refuse to live in the real world.

    As I look around and see what’s happening to our nation, its fundamental values, its dearth of effective government and just plain common sense, I’m reminded of the story of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” As played out in Disney’s “Fantasia” Mickey Mouse tries his hand at a bit or sorcery to make magic brooms to help clean the den. But Mickey is ignorant of how sorcery works so everything gets out of hand until the sorcerer himself returns and puts things back in order. I see Trump as Mickey Mouse and, in our case, the sorcerer has to be the voters. We’ll see.

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    • Herb,

      Your excellent comments reminded me of something: you remember when people like Anson and the deplorable Geoff Caldwell used to worry themselves sick about the deficit? Except in those days the deficit was black, in that there was an African-American in charge who inherited a -9% shrinking economy, bleeding 800,000 jobs monthly, and needed to infuse some dollars into the collapsing mess.

      Not to mention all the other things those two used to bitch about when The Scary Negro was in office. Talk about your fundamental values. Remember when Anson and Caldwell thought the country was on the eve of destruction? These days Caldwell, who is a goddamned racist, is a full-on Tr-mper—no surprise, that—and Anson just doesn’t seem to be alarmed about what is happening, both here at home and abroad.

      Wow.

      Duane

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      • To be exactly as fair to robertelee Anson as he deserves, he’d have been just as pants-wetting about the deficit if it had been a white President from “the Democrat Party” who ran it up in the course of paying off the actual deficit actually run up by yet another Republican Party Death Cult president.

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  1. Franklin Graham On North Korea: R.E.S.P.E.C.T. | The Erstwhile Conservative: A Blog of Repentance

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