Good day Austin:
My daughter took the photo above of, well let’s call him Trump Dogg, at Saturday’s 26th Annual Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade in New York City.
On Saturday evening, I went to a screening at the LBJ Library of LBJ – a new movie directed by Rob Reiner and starring Woody Harrelson in the title role – that will be released late this year or sometime next year.
I will write more about it in a future First Reading, but for now, here are a poignant few moments Harrelson shared with Luci Baines Johnson.
I didn’t write a First Reading last week.
Because I was listening to Alex Jones, which, properly done, is an all-consuming experience.
Here is the story I wrote about how he’s the voice in Donald Trump’s head.
He is also madly entertaining.
I know that may be an outrageous thing to say for those who find Jones deeply objectionable.
It begins as follows:
What do you get when you combine an atomized, alienated public that possesses a deep and justifiable mistrust in institutions with a floundering press-political-entertainment complex that’s desperate to hold our nanoscopic attention spans? You get a nation of half-assed shamuses who’ve traded genuine political argument for paranoid fantasies about alien masterminds, lizard overlords, and government airplanes dispersing mind-control mist over population centers, not to mention presidential candidates who think and talk just like conspiracy theorists.
It goes on from there. Read it.
But the quote I want to call to your attention is this line, about Trump and Jones:
The two men share a common gift. They are both virtuoso entertainers, grandiose and tireless. Those who dismiss Jones without having taken in his act often fail to recognize this. Without watching Jones perform, it may be hard to understand how this impassioned showman gained a bigger audience than the predictably one-note Breitbart or the dweeby, sanctimonious MSNBC.
I defy you to find anyone who has written about Jones who has spent any considerable time watching and listening to him, who isn’t awed by his theatrical gifts. Against all reason, he can have you, wherever you’re coming from, at some point in the endless rant that is his life, rooting for him.
For example, say you’re a self-respecting Austin Democrat. You find Jones deeply offensive and you think you are too good for Jones, that there is nothing the least bit amusing about him.
Fine. think that.
But do me the favor of taking this little test.
Watch this clip of Jones accosting Karl Rove at the airport in Dallas on the way to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July. All you really need to watch is the first seconds, but it gets good again about five minutes in.
If you are a Texas Democrat and you watch this without so much as a laugh or at least a suppressed smirk, you are a very good person. You are going to heaven. A very sullen blue heaven.
There is a lot of Sacha Baron Cohen in Alex Jones.
In fact, watching Jones these last few weeks, I am persuaded there is an epic, operatic American biopic in Alex Jones. Far better than Trump Dogg: The Movie, the Alex Jones Story could capture where we find ourselves as a nation right about now.
It is a great pity that James Gandolfini is not still alive to inhabit the role of Alex Jones the way he inhabited the role of another idiosyncratic American anti-hero, Tony Soprano.
Here is Tony warning his captains about the need to be better earners.
Here is Alex Jones, with the precise same Tony Soprano menace, warning Donald Trump, before the second debate, that he “must attack or drop out.”
Like Tony Soprano, Alex Jones runs he gamut of emotions.
Here is Tony tearing up at a therapy session.
Here is Jones, wiping away tears defending himself from charges that the global conspiracy theory that Trump has, it seems, adopted from Jones whole, is anti-Semitic.
Here, noting that both his grandfathers nearly lost their lives in World War II, Jones launches with :
I almost don’t exist because of World War II and the Nazis,” Jones said. “I didn’t mean to be like this when I shot this report, but I’m sick of a bunch of scum at Media Matters and “Mother Jones” and the rest of them saying I’m some kind of Nazi. I’m gonna sue you. I made the decision. After the election, I’m gonna sue you. I’m done with you people. You’re a bunch of trash. If anybody’s Nazi, it’s you.
And lands with :
I don’t care what color Jimi Hendrix was, he was a great artist, amazing musician. Same thing, Bob Dylan. He’s a great poet. I actually like his voice. I’m a big Bob Dylan fan. I grew up listening to him, listen to him every day.
The point of all this is I have been preoccupied with Jones, and while I was preoccupied with Jones, there was a third and final presidential debate, Trump was declared the loser and, it seems, the race is over.
Apparently, the price Trump must pay for saying that the election is rigged and, I’ll keep you in suspense, OK? about whether to accept the outcome, is that, for all practical purpose, the election is now an afterthought. The only question is the magnitude of Trump’s humiliation.
This left me in a very cross mood.
Because the campaign apparently ended while I was distracted. What am I supposed to do the next couple of weeks?
Already we are reading stories that would more appropriately appear a week or two weeks after the election.
But I suspect I am also experiencing the letdown that any political reporter is going to feel if, indeed, this is the end of Trump.
Because, for all that Trump has said about how the mainstream media has rigged the game against him, the plain fact is that no group of people has more to lose from Trump’s demise than the mainstream media.
From a New York Times Op-Ed on Election Day 2014, by Jason Weeden, a lawyer and psychology researcher, and Robert Kurzban, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, are the authors of “The Hidden Agenda of the Political Mind: How Self-Interest Shapes Our Opinions and Why We Won’t Admit It.”
As America completes another costly, polarized and exhausting election cycle, it’s commonplace to characterize our society as being divided into warring tribes of liberals and conservatives. But this view oversimplifies the causes of our political differences.
Most people aren’t ideologically pure, and most don’t derive their opinions from abstract ideologies and principles. People are more strongly influenced by the effects of policies on themselves, their families and their wider social networks. Their views, in short, are often based on self-interest.
This point may seem obvious, but it is overlooked by many political scientists who focus on other explanations: parents and peers, schools and universities, political parties and leaders, and that abstract and nebulous catchall, “values.” But the most straightforward explanation, demographics, is also the most persuasive.
Consider the evidence: Unemployed people are more than twice as likely as people working full time to want unemployment benefits increased. African-Americans are by far the most likely proponents of affirmative action and government help for African-Americans. Rich white men are especially likely to oppose income redistribution. Of course, there are many exceptions, from African-American conservatives like Herman Cain and Ben Carson to redistribution-loving tycoons like Warren E. Buffett and Bill Gates. But they are not typical.
The self-interest of the media – most especially the mainstream media – could not be more clear.
I mean seriously.
Every political reporter should conduct a thought experiment.
Imagine your heart-rate if Trump wins. Imagine the sheer exhilaration you will feel on Wednesday, Nov. 9, if the story unfolding before your eyes is of a Donald Trump presidency.
Think of all those hits.
Think of all those headlines.
I mean, what is the Daily News thinking?
And, if Hillary Clinton wins? Well that story peaks the day she’s elected.
Seriously. Alex Jones will do just fine with Hillary Clinton as president. He’ll thrive.
But the mainstream media?
It’s not like Hillary Clinton likes or trusts the press any more than Trump. She is just more circumspect in how she expresses herself.
(For Texas reporters, of course, self-interest is a little more complicated. Texas going blue would be almost as good a story as the country going red. The ideal outcome would be for Clinton to carry Texas on her way to losing nationally, but that’s obviously too much to ask.)
I don’t think even partisan Democrats realize the box they’ve gotten themselves in.
Sure, there will be great elation at electing Clinton and vanquishing Trump.
But, on the way to that victory, they have become cheerleaders for the status quo.
How dare anyone challenges America’s greatness.
How dare they say American politics is rigged.
Elaborating on this theme, there was a brilliant edition of Black Jeopardy on SNL with Tom Hanks as an endearing Trump supporter, a white contestant named Doug.
From Daniel Barna at Complex.com:
There may not be as big a difference between Trump supporters and the black community after all. That was the clever premise behind Saturday Night Live‘s “Black Jeopardy” sketch, which saw last night’s host Tom Hanks don a red “Make America Great Again” cap as Doug, a pretty docile Trumpeteer who gives all other Trumpeteers a good name.
Leslie Jones and Sasheer Zamata also showed up to answer questions from categories like “Big Girls,” “They Out Here Saying,” and “You Better.” But the sketch’s best moments were between Hanks’ Doug, and Keenan Thompson’s host, Darnell Hayes, who at first was skeptical of having a right wing white dude on the show, but later warmed to him after discovering that they might have more in common than he originally thought.
One thing they definitely saw eye to eye on was voter fraud. When Doug answered the clue “They out here saying that every vote counts,” with “What is: Come on, they already decided who wins even before it happens,” Thompson’s Hayes shot back with: “The Illuminati figured that out months ago. That’s another one for Doug.” Hey, maybe this country isn’t as far gone as we thought.
Meanwhile, Woody Harrelson has identified as an anarchist and, like Alex Jones, a 9-11 Truther, so I mentioned to him that I had just written about how Jones was influencing Trump in the presidential campaign.
“How do you mean?” he asked.
“Really?” said Harrelson. “I can’t see their philosophies being too aligned.”