What’s most surprising about the response to Trump’s hot-mic moment is the apparent national consensus that speaking — or even thinking — about sexual assault the way Trump did on this video is neither normal nor amusing.
Consider it justice (of a sort): he who lives by the media dies by the media. I’m talking — as if you had a scintilla of doubt — aboutDonald Trump. If the Washington Post’s release of a video of his lewd conversation with Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush (that family again!) on his way to the set of Days of Our Lives proves to be the beginning of the end for him, there could be no more appropriate way to go. After all, we’re talking about the man whose greatest skill may be sensing the proximity of a camera and attracting it; about the man who, despite his recentdenunciations of the use of unidentified “sources” in reporting his campaign, spent the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s calling reporters as “John Miller” and “John Barron” to offer the latest scoop on oneDonald J. Trump; about the man who launched his political career in part by citing an “extremely credible source” claiming Barack Obama’s birth certificate was a “fraud”; about the man whose boasts of routinely assaulting women were caught on camera.
He was always a media-made man. In return, he’s had an uncanny ability to glue eyeballs — never more so than in this unending Super Bowl of elections that has included a level of public crudeness once unimaginable and now the purest of cash cows. As CBS head Les Moonves put it earlier this year, speaking of The Donald’s performance: “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS… The money’s rolling in and this is fun… Sorry. It’s a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going.” And keep going it has.
So if, in the last week-plus, the media finally said to him, “You’re fired!” and started him on his presidential death spiral, who better? And of course, all the unavoidable questions of our moment follow, ensuring through-the-roof ratings for a few more lucrative weeks until November 8th: How far will he go down? Can he recover? Who will he take with him? And what about the Republican Party?
Until now, it’s been such a close relationship. The Donald has played a significant role in transforming the news into the strange, obsessive, 24/7 creature it is today, and in return the media made him. That it can now unmake him should surprise no one but does highlight the basic asymmetry between them, since he’s incapable of unmaking them. In this context, stop thinking of the mainstream news as “the fourth estate.” It, not the Libertarians or the Green Party, is now the true third party of the present infotainment version of American politics. Get used to it. Les Moonves and his associates aren’t going anywhere. And count on it: election 2020 starts on November 9th. These are, after all, the days of our lives.
Luckily, not everyone has been glued to the screen, eternally watching The Donald. From Black Lives Matter to the climate changemovement, activists have, as TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon points out, never stopped working to make this a better world and, as she indicates, if we can take our eyes off the media spectacle-cum-circus for a few moments, they offer us a kind of hope for our future that shouldn’t be ignored. —Tom
Learning to Claim Our Victories Or Why Fighting for Justice Is Like Surfing
By Rebecca Gordon
In these dismal days of climate change, imperial decline, endless war, and in my city, a hapless football team, I seem to be experiencing a strange and unaccustomed emotion: hope. How can that be? Maybe it’s because, like my poor San Francisco 49ers who have been “rebuilding” for the last two decades, I’m fortunate enough to be able to play the long game.
But what exactly is making me feel hopeful at the moment?
For one thing, we seem to have finally reached Peak Trump, and the reason why is important.
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