It’s been a bad few days, a shocking few days, a disorienting few days.
First, late last week, the story broke that Bill Barr had launched a criminal investigation into the 2016 FBI probe of Russian attacks on the election. In doing so, the Justice Department became an authoritarian enforcement arm for the White House. The clear purpose of this criminal inquiry is to harass and punish people in the FBI and the intelligence communities who dared to investigate a transnational criminal who was running for, and then became president, Donald Trump.
But, no sooner had the story broken than the corporate news normalizers (Chuck Rosenberg, et. al.) hit the air waves to tell us that this wasn’t what it was – the use of the Justice Department to prosecute Trump’s enemies.
“It’s only a diversion from the impeachment inquiry,” we were told. “Barr’s co-conspirator John Durham is a man of integrity, an adult in the room. He would never be involved with anything improper.” “The investigation is going nowhere.” “They haven’t even said what crime they were investigating.” “Let’s wait and see what they come up with.”
There’s a fundamental kind of disorientation you experience when what is right in front of your eyes is denied by others looking at the same thing. I am used to it from the corporate media, but the past few days have just been crazy-making.
Sunday morning, I turned on the television and before I had a chance to take the first sip of coffee, I was confronted with Donald Trump’s ugly face staring out of the television screen, making some sort of announcement. I felt like the deer in the headlights. My partner and I sat propped up in bed, speechless, and listening first to a dead-toned reading of a prepared statement about Bathdadi’s death and then to a totally unhinged Trump wet dream about the actual killing.
When Trump talks about violence he does so with relish. He draws out the phrases and words almost as if he were tasting them on his tongue. Sunday, he was visibly savoring the details of Baghdadi’s death. He was enjoying the video of the man’s humiliation, his crying, his whimpering, his terror.
I have listened to Trump enough to know when he’s pulling shit out of his ass. I knew even then he was making this up. What we were listening to was a violent wet dream inside the diseased head of a man who controls the nuclear codes. I felt nauseous.
Donald Trump’s brain is filled with sick-making fantasies. Some of these fantasies are of the terrorizing, humiliation and utter destruction – in slow motion and in technicolor – of his enemies. What we were listening to Sunday morning was what he would like to do to anyone who opposes him. What we were listening to was what he would do to anyone who opposes him if he thought he could get away with it. What we were listening to was what he will do to anyone who opposes him if we don’t stop him.
By the time Trump finished and I got to the study to turn on the computer, the corporate media was doing its job.
I sat and stared with disbelief into the face of a young woman reporter who had listened to the same public statement I had. “Trump” she said “is a vivid storyteller.” He has an “unconventional style.”
What the corporate media then did throughout the day was transform an obscene display of crassness, mental illness and sadism into a question of style. Donald Trump is not a vivid storyteller. Donald Trump is not unconventional. Donald Trump is a madman.
I tried to spend most of the day dealing with cats, Naan, and working on a seminar about the 1960 film, Elmer Gantry.
Monday morning, I hadn’t even turned on the television when my Twitter feed went wild. Reaching over to get the Mini, I read a stream of comments that made me groan out loud.
The two worst people in the entire world (Joe Scarborough and the dreadful Mika) were evidently on air lecturing the rest of us and calling us “unAmerican” for booing Donald Trump and chanting “lock him up” at a ball game. These two narcissistic, self-promoting, vacuous and disgusting examples of what this society has become had the audacity to scold and shame American citizens for exercising their First Amendment rights.
These two people helped get Trump elected by giving him millions in free air time. Trump himself referred to them as his “supporters.” They got his permission before they asked him difficult questions in an interview, and they were partying at Mar-a-Lago after the election. They saw themselves in the White House. Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski turned on Trump only after he threatened to (and eventually did) out their adulterous affair.
Morning Joe is usually good fodder and provides such delicious examples of wretched corporate media coverage (not to mention obsequious butt kissing from the panel), but I couldn’t even turn on the television. I knew I would throw something and I enjoy that television.
By mid-morning my Twitter feed was telling me that the most hypocritical, sanctimonious and compromised of all Democrats, Chris Coons, had joined the Joe and Mika team admonishing Americans for spontaneous political expression. Coons, while presenting himself as being “bi-partisan” and oh such a good guy, helped arrange a sham “investigation” of Bret Kavnaugh that helped him get to the Supreme Court.
The one true point of all this is that the Club of Elites (including the corporate media and the political establishment) wants to handle the Trump fiasco itself. They do not want the American people empowered. They do not want legitimate outrage, protests, boos, chants, action. They are terrified that people in this country might realize they have the power to throw the bastards out whenever they choose to. They are terrified that people might realize that they have the power to provide themselves with adequate health care, good public schools, living wages and jobs, a fair criminal justice system. They have the power to demand that the white collar, corporate and political criminals be put under the goddamn jail for their blatant thievery and gutting of the American economy.
The sheer fact of the matter is that the Joe Scarboroughs, Mika Brzezinski’s, the Chris Coons, the Nancy Pelosis, the Ellens, the Danny Deutschs of the world have more in common with each other than they do with us.
They want Trump out because he’s upsetting the game, but they want to handle it themselves. That way, the polite in-house corruption, cheating, self-dealing and graft can continue.
The corporate media is not even remotely on our side. They will debate minutiae, trivialize political division, suppress radical expression, flood the air waves with normalizers. They will never, unless they are forced to by the American people, admit that what we are experiencing is a disaster, a terrifying crisis, the transformation of a once proud democratic country into an authoritarian state. For as long as they can get away with it, they will tell us to “move along.” “Don’t freak out.” Go enjoy yourselves, look the other way.
We must not let them get away with it.
Yesterday, I spent hours reading about William Barr launching a criminal investigation into the origins of the Russia probe. What struck me most forcefully was the repeated dismissal of the action by various corporate media commentators.
There is a squad of normalizers out there in the corporate news world, working overtime to convince us that we are not seeing what is right before our eyes, an authoritarian take-over of the state.
The attitude was, “Oh well, this is just a distraction.” “Don’t worry, there’s nothing there.” “They don’t even know what they’re investigating.” “The prosecutor (Durham from Connecticut) is a fine man.” “Who could imagine that such a fine man would be participating in anything nefarious.”
The Attorney General of the United States has launched a criminal investigation into the Justice Department’s own Russia investigation. The effect of this investigation will be to harass, to target, and to punish members of the intelligence community and the FBI who dared, dared to follow up credible leads that the Trump Campaign was consorting with Russians in order to steal an election.
As David Lohfman, head of the counterintelligence section at Justice at the time stated Thursday night on Rachael Maddow, “We would have been derelict” had an investigation not been initiated.
But the Attorney General is now using a criminal investigation to punish and silence anyone who participated in this lawful investigation. And, the normalizers tell us that there’s nothing to see here.
They are tying themselves in knots trying to dismiss what has happened. It reminds me of a Time Magazine cover during Watergate where all the principles were surrounded by audio tape, desperately pointing at each other.
The normalizers shout that what Barr is doing is merely a “distraction.”
But it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference if it is. It doesn’t make any difference at all why Barr is pursuing this investigation. Once the Justice Department becomes an enforcement tool of the White House you have authoritarianism.
The corporate media refuses, refuses to state what is obvious to anyone who has eyes and ears. Instead, they work overtime to bring on the appeasers to tell us that what we are seeing are “stunts” “empty gestures,” nothing to worry about.
I read a tweet from somebody yesterday wondering if the corporate media would have normalized the rise of Mussolini. I think most definitely so.
I had barely stumbled into my study this morning and turned on the computer before I was confronted with Greg Sargent in the Washington Post making his contribution to the to the normalizing.
Under the headline “Explosive William Barr news points to Trump’s weakness and panic.” (WP 10/25/19), Sargent beings his article with the sentence: “Don’t freak out.” What? We’re not supposed to “freak out” over explosive news?
Sargent proceeds to call Barr’s investigation “deeply worrying” a standard utterance widely used yesterday along with “concerning.” (Concern used to be a noun.)
Then Sargent tells his readers that even though “when we’re talking about Barr, the most nefarious designs imaginable must be treated as a serious possibility,” it’s possible “POSSIBLE” that Barr’s actions are NOT SERIOUS. Well, hell, it’s POSSIBLE that my head is going to fly off into the goddamn air and become a spotted calf, but I’m not going to waste time talking about it, especially not in the goddamn Washington Post.
Sargent, evidently realizing the utter imbecility of his case, drags in the help of the New York Times, saying that the Times comments that Barr’s actions may “raise alarms” that Trump “is using the Justice Department to go after his perceived enemies.” May?
Both corporate news outlets refrain from saying what is obvious, that Trump and Barr ARE using the Justice Department go to after enemies. No, The Washington Post and the New York Times must phrase it differently. According to them, Barr’s actions MAY “raise alarms” that this is happening. They don’t say this IS happening, or that we SHOULD BE alarmed, what they say (in all the courage of their convictions) is that these things might be happening, and might raise the alarms of a certain unidentified group of people that it might be happening.
Sargent goes on to state that it is “at least possible” that Barr turning the Justice Department into an enforcement branch to silence Trump’s detractors isn’t “quite as serious as it seems.” I suppose in some goddamn fictional world, that it’s possible that it’s not as serious as it seems, but I don’t know where that is. In the world I inhabit, it is serious, goddamn serious. It is using the investigative branch of the government in a blatant action to silence the President’s enemies.
Sargant says it’s POSSIBLE that it’s not as serious as it seems because the investigation might just be an attempt to calm the president.
Following this logic, it’s O.K. if the Justice Department is pursuing bogus criminal investigations if it’s just to calm the president. WHAT MAKES THAT O.K.? IN WHAT WORLD IS THAT ALRIGHT?
Sargent sees it as reassuring that neither the Times nor the Post are “clear what potential crime Durham and Barr are investigating.” No, that’s not reassuring. That makes it even more terrifying. The very fact that Barr managed to initiate a criminal investigation based on NOTHING, should be terrifying, not reassuring.
Sargent drags the Cato Institute in and uses them to say that the criminal matter “could be something relatively less serious” say a leak from the Russia probe. Again, this is supposed to make us feel better? The Justice Department intends to drag government officials who were doing their jobs through years of investigation and possible prosecution, but if it’s for something relatively minor, we’re supposed to feel better?
Sargent then adopts the Barbara McQuade idiotic statement of the day from yesterday, that this is merely a diversion from the impeachment probe. Whether or not it is a diversion from the impeachment probe it is a criminal prosecution trumped up for no reason, to uncover no known crime which will chill investigations in the future.
Again, this is said as if since the criminal investigation is a diversion, we should all relax and move on. I just don’t understand that.
After repeating McQuade’s ludicrous utterance, Sargent then manages to try to tie himself up in knots by stating: “I’m not saying Barr’s machinations aren’t deeply dangerous. They absolutely are.”
Then why has he has just spent an entire article telling us why they AREN’T deeply dangerous?
“Given Barr’s apparent willingness to place law enforcement at Trump’s political disposal, it’s very possible Barr’s designs are maximally nefarious. But one can also imagine the criminal probe is of some intermediate matter.”
What “intermediate matter?” What difference does that make?
The very fact that Barr has managed to open this criminal investigation is the point. What he intends to do, what crime he is targeting (if any), whether the investigation will “go anywhere” is not the goddamn point.
Barr’s Justice Department tried to keep Trump’s Ukraine plot buried by advising against the transmission of the whistleblower complaint about it to Congress, and by successfully declining to investigate the referral within the Justice Department. He has now successfully launched a criminal investigation targeting Trump’s foes. This is serious. Any attempt to portray it as otherwise is deeply subversive, that includes opinion pieces from the Washington Post.
I’m beginning to believe that the corporate media is more dangerous than Trump and to borrow a phrase from ancient Rome about Crassus, William Barr is the most dangerous bull in the heard.
- The Bill Barr’s DOJ has initiated a criminal investigation into its own Russia investigation, clearly sending a message that there is reason to believe crimes were committed when the original investigation of the Russia connection was started.
- This is exactly what Trump promised Hillary Clinton he would do, i.e., start criminal investigation and prosecution of his political enemies.
- But, the usual corporate news media “our institutions will hold” chorus shrugs it off.
- Barbara McCabe said it’s a “distraction” from the impeachment inquiry, a stunt.
- Several commentators (including Sean Patrick Maloney, D-NY) dismissed the inquiry in interviews by saying who cares, there’s nothing to find. Chuck Rosenberg, interviewed on Rachael Maddow, said: “I have a feeling that this is going nowhere.”
- In taking this position, these pundits ignore (n tot for the first time) the clear fact that this is a serious step towards authoritarianism.
- The chorus of “our institutions will save us” commentators, including chief normalizer Chuck Rosenberg, are praising John Durham, Barr’s co-conspirator who is traveling the world trying not to “find evidence” as corporate media pundits describe it, but to find people who will manufacture evidence to fit their investigation.
- In an interview Thursday night on Rachael Maddow, Rosenberg said of Durham: “I know, I like, and I admire John Durham. I trust him.”
- You will remember that Rosenberg (whose podcast MSNBC advertises) also said that William Barr was an institutionalist, implying that Barr would never allow partisan politics to enter the hallowed halls of the Justice Department.
- He was outrageously wrong then and he is wrong now.
- Rosenberg pointed out that perhaps there were “discordant” notes sounded by the initiation of a criminal investigation. Dear, dear, discordant notes.
- Rosenberg continued that if we want John Durham to “get to the bottom of this” we should welcome a grand jury. So, according to the “institutionalist chorus” we should just shrug our shoulders and wait and see. Just like they advised us to do with Barr.
- “John,” Rosenberg stressed to reassure, “needs some factual basis in order to open a grand jury.” When Maddow pointed out that Bill Barr was the official deciding what “factual basis” met the threshold, Rosenberg had no answer. But, his faith in the integrity of the Justice Department was still there.
- Mine is not.
- In a ridiculously contradictory set of statements, Rosenberg pointed out that he worried about the “chilling effect” that the initiation of such an investigation would have. But, Durham, he said, was “a credible prosecutor.”
- Interestingly, Rosenberg noted that Durham “has been asked to do things like this before and…has closed…investigations after several years without bringing charges.”
- That makes Durham the perfect stooge to investigate, feed into the Republican narrative that it was the Trump Campaign that was wronged in the 2016 election, and then after two years of harassment, quietly drop the investigation.
- Later in Thursday night’s Rachael Maddow show, David Lohfman, former head of the counterintelligence section inside the Justice Department said, “I have high regard for John Durham.” He is “a distinguished prosecutor.” “It’s hard for me to imagine that John Durham would associate himself with the frivolous initiation of a criminal investigation.”
- But, then a few seconds later, Lohfman noted that the people in the Justice department would have been “derelict if we had not pursued that line of investigation.” They would have been derelict not to pursue it, therefore there was no question in his mind that the investigation was appropriate. But, the “distinguished prosecutor” is perfectly reasonable to lend his credibility to the initiation of an investigation that clearly targets those who started the initial investigation. There are no people of courage any more.
- Lohfman ended the interview by saying: “I have every confidence that John Durham will withstand any pressures that may buffet him to go down a road that he thinks is not supported by the facts and law.” But, he has just done that by joining this new criminal investigation.
- If the investigation is unwarranted, and also will contribute to chilling future investigations, why didn’t Durham if he is such a hero, refuse to take part in it.
- The job of a prosecutor is not to expend taxpayer money and harass people pursuing frivolous investigations when s/he thinks there’s nothing there. That is an abuse of office.
- But none of the “our institutions will save us” chorus will say that. No, they just assure us that Bill Barr or Durham are great people of integrity.
- Let’s not take too seriously the initiation of a criminal investigation into Donald Trump’s political opponents. The institutions will save us.
- I agree with people who have argued that Bill Barr is the most dangerous bull in the heard. He must be impeached, now.