Deaths that won’t be widely mourned.
It is deeply satisfying to see the New York Times headline: “The Last Days of Time Inc.” One dying mainstream media organ writing the obituary of another. What could be better? It illustrates two truisms that sometimes get lost in the shuffle: things change, and the dying eventually die. For those of us who want things to change—not incrementally, bit by bit, but radically—and see sundry people, practices, and institutions depart this vale of tears sooner rather than later, the headline is pure hope.
Only 29 years ago Time Inc. was on top of the journalistic pile, flush enough to pay Warner Communications $14.9 billion for 51 percent of the company. The thing that changed was the internet, which skewered Time the New York Times, and countless other businesses, media and non-media alike.
If you’re of the same ideological persuasion as the mainstream media, you ascribe the internet’s ascendancy to its technological superiority and hastily move on. By this reckoning, old-line newspapers and magazines got caught in the same crosshairs as bookstores, record companies, and department stores. What’s ignored is the voice the internet gave to those not of the same ideological persuasion.
Since World War II, the media has crawled into bed with the government; they warm each other on chilly nights. Mainstream debate has devolved into how many government-approved angels can dance on the head of a government-approved pin. Will the deficit be $800 or $900 billion this year? For regime change, which works better, sponsoring internal insurrection, bombing campaigns, or both? Will Social Security go broke in 2034 or 2035?
There has always been news that wasn’t news because it wasn’t true. That’s an acceptable downside of a free press. You can’t give control of what gets published to the government and its minions to “protect” people from lies. It would take perhaps fifteen minutes for government-approved truth to become government-approved spin, propaganda, and lies. The truth’s only chance is press freedom, aggressive journalism (now found almost exclusively on the internet), and letting people sort things out on their own.
Substantial segments of the media now regard truth as a threat and want the government to suppress it. Substantial segments of the government would happily do so. Their increasingly hysterical reaction to the internet is a spike on the EKG just before the patient expires. The demise of the government’s public relations branch is the death of a vital organ that presages the death of the entire organism.
For the government, we even have a date when its condition became irretrievably terminal: July 6, 2016. On that date the US Treasury’s 10-year note yield hit its low, 1.34 percent, and has been trending irregularly higher ever since. Historically, debt has been the life support for regimes in extremis. No regime has ever been more in debt than the US government. Its annual deficit and debt service expense are growing, old-age pension and medical programs face a demographic crunch, and now interest rates are rising. One way or the other, the government walking away from some or all of its promises is as set in stone as anything in this life can be
As far as spending money the government doesn’t have, the new boss has been the same as the old boss, denial being the first stage of the terminal process. Notwithstanding his free-spending, Washington-pleasing ways, Trump infuriates elements of the ruling class, which has taken refuge in fantasy and criminality in an attempt to depose him. Anger is the second stage.
The Russiagate fantasy is a comatose, incontinent patient who shouldn’t be prevented from drowning in his own drool. As a kid, did you ever tell a string of lies, each increasingly outrageous lie designed to rescue the previous ones? Such has been the case with Russiagate, which started with an allegation of Russian hacking of Democratic National Committee computers. That the Democrats wouldn’t allow the FBI to examine those computers, instead relying on an outfit, CrowdStrike, of its own choosing, shouted: Whoppers to come!
And come they did, almost too numerous to count. The highlights have been the Trump dossier from Fusion One, secretly funded by the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign; the intelligence assessment based on that dossier; the cover story that a meeting between a drunk Trump campaign aide and an Australian diplomat instigated the Russiagate investigation; the Department of Justice and FBI’s stonewalling of congressional appearance requests and subpoenas; James Comey’s, John Brennan’s, and James Clapper’s leaks to the press and lies to congressional committees, and The New York Times recent CYA attempt to soft-pedal both the FBI’s insertion of at least one spy into the Trump campaign and its own tendentious reporting ahead of the Justice Department Inspector General’s report. To believe any or all of this is like accepting little Jimmy’s explanation that Martians messed up his room and took all the cookies.
The real story isn’t Russia. Do you mount a “soft coup” over policy differences when, after all the Washington give and take, those policies will, at worst, marginally affect your influence, power, and payola? Doubtful. (Keep in mind Trump wants to increase military budgets.) If, on the other hand, you’re facing complete disgrace and ruin, including a long stretch in a penal institution, there’s nothing you won’t do to save yourself.
It’s not what politicians and bureaucrats do sub rosa that poses the biggest danger to the country and the world, but what they do in broad daylight. However, there’s no denying that Washington is the world capital of sub rosa—the unethical, immoral, and illegal. To use a favorite Trump adjective, it’s a crooked place. Trump knows or suspects where some of the bodies are buried, and the powers that be fear he’ll go after them for everything from garden-variety graft, bribery, theft, and influence peddling to crimes as sordid as child molestation and murder.
“Plot Holes,” SLL, 2/25/17
Trump could unplug Russiagate from life support at any time, but if he keeps it alive he can do in the Deep State. Since “Desperation” and “Plot Holes,” SLL has argued that Russiagate signals Deep State weakness and desperation, and that Trump was underestimated and would gain the upper hand. He has done so and can continue to use the scandal as his foil against the Deep State. Notwithstanding the ministrations of its captive press, it’s now obvious that the leadership of the intelligence agencies, colluding with the Obama administration and the Clinton campaign, launched an effort to prevent Trump’s election, and failing that, to overturn the election result.
There was never going to be dramatic round-ups and military tribunals for the miscreants, outcomes the more fervid quarters of the internet kept insisting were just around the corner. However, the slow grind of the legal system will be more satisfying in the same way that Chinese water torture is more satisfying than a quick execution, at least for the torturer.
Comey, Brennan, Clapper, Lynch, Clinton, lower ranking officials in the intelligence agencies and Department of Justice, and maybe even Obama will spend years worrying about subpoenas, depositions, indictments, legal bills, turning state’s evidence, plea bargains, and jail time as the screws are ever so slowly turned. Running the gauntlet that is the American criminal justice system may be the closest thing to hell on earth. Forgive the rest of us for our schadenfreude.
You Should Be Laughing At Them!