Author Archives: Todd Gitlin

George Orwell on Sean Spicer

A note on the uses of stupefaction.

The Trumps’ nine-day journey outside the United States was “incredible, historic . . . because it truly was an extraordinary week.” It was “unprecedented.” “We’ve never seen before at this point in a presidency such sweeping reassurance of American interest,” said press secretary Sean Spicer. Continue reading

Frightbart

The view from Steve Bannon’s propaganda site will scare the bejeezus out of you, which is its point.

The home page of Breitbart.com, the quasi-official voice of Steve Bannon’s White House, is a virtual stew of menace, a pit of monsters, an unending onslaught of apocalyptic horsemen rearing up at full gallop, coming straight at you, drawing closer. . . . But what the Breitbart reader is not being warned against is poisoned water, eviction, a melting glacier, a rising sea, a pauper’s grave, a burning cross, a bank swindle or a loss of medical care. Those are the kind of fears that afflict liberal wimps brainwashed by “the enemy of the people.” Continue reading

A moment of truth for journalists

Are you the people’s tribunes or are you props decorating the scene for a horrendous monologue?

It came to this, on Day 1 of the New Order: Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, summoned reporters to a scolding more officially known as a “briefing,” in the course of which Spicer (1) lied to them repeatedly, (2) scolded them for lying, and (3) refused to permit questions. Andy Borowitz summarizes the scene nicely, in The New Yorker: “DISTURBED MAN GETS PAST WHITE HOUSE SECURITY, GIVES PRESS CONFERENCE.” Continue reading

Deficit hysteria invades the presidential campaign

The smog of decades-old fiscal wars crept into the final debate—and the folks who want to cut Social Security managed to sneak in.

Whether you think Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton prevailed in last week’s debate—Clinton by sounding like an adult, Trump by clenching his jaw to keep from foaming at the mouth—one undisputed winner was an entity called the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. That awkward mouthful adorns a letterhead think tank that moderator Chris Wallace cited twice as an authority on the purportedly world-shattering dangers of government overspending. Continue reading

Donald Trump and the uses of insinuation

A note on gobbledygook

The big story as I write is what Donald Trump said at a rally Aug. 9 in Wilmington, North Carolina: “Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment. By the way, and if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know. But I’ll tell you what, that will be a horrible day.” Continue reading

Who says The New York Times is biased?

Public editor Liz Spayd's inaugural column misses the mark by not explaining how the media really works—and offers little proof that the paper's critics can support their perceptions with evidence.

Liz Spayd’s launch column as The New York Times’ newest public editor is depressingly muddled. Her going-in premise is that the Times is alienating conservative “and even many moderate” readers, and her second is that this alienation is bad news for the Times as a business. Continue reading

Justice Ginsburg’s gaffe—she spoke the truth

Her comments may have been ‘inappropriate,’ but they weren't wrong, and her views highlight the fallacy of a judiciary free of political judgment.

What a week for the separation of powers! Not since December 2000, when a five-member majority of the Rehnquist Supreme Court stopped the Florida vote recount and placed George W. Bush in the White House—on the ground (as stated by the late Justice Scalia) that otherwise, Bush would suffer “irreparable harm”—has it been so crystal-clear that the Supreme Court is a body of men and women, not laws. These men and women durably hold views that go beyond—way beyond—legal citations. Continue reading

Missing the biggest story about Trump’s Twitter images

It's no accident that Trump's social media feeds keep using neo-Nazi imagery; he's actively courting hate.

Over the holiday weekend, major media rightly piled on about Donald Trump’s recent recycling of neo-Nazi imagery—in particular his Hillary-hating blast featuring a six-point star affixed onto a heap of $100 bills. As both The New York Times and The Washington Post prominently reported, Trump cut and pasted neo-Nazi images from the Internet when he unleashed the latest round of his Twitter barrage at Hillary Clinton as “most corrupt candidate ever.” Continue reading

Trump’s fired campaign manager gets job as CNN pundit. Say what?

The cable net's ludicrous decision gives satire a run for its money.

Suppose you turned to The Onion, America’s most pungent guide to the nation’s most gripping farce/reality-show hybrid, aka the political process, and saw this headline: “CNN Rewards Trump’s Ex-Campaign Manager for Lying to, Bullying Reporters by Hiring Him.” You’d think: Oh, what a crazy imagination satirists need nowadays just to keep up! To think that Corey Lewandowski, joined at the hip for 18 months to the most mendacious political candidate in memory, deserves a place on a news network! Continue reading