Tuesday Reads: Toni Morrison, Trump’s Gaslighting, and Other News

Gustav Klimt, Tree of Life

Good Morning!!

The news just broke that Toni Morrison has died. I’m sorry to say that I haven’t read her work; maybe now would be a good time to start. The Washington Post: Toni Morrison, Nobel laureate who transfigured American literature, dies at 88.

Toni Morrison, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist who conjured a black girl longing for blue eyes, a slave mother who kills her child to save her from bondage, and other indelible characters who helped transfigure a literary canon long closed to African Americans, died Aug. 5 at a hospital in the Bronx. She was 88….

Ms. Morrison spent an impoverished childhood in Ohio steel country, began writing during what she described as stolen time as a single mother, and became the first black woman to receive the Nobel Prize in literature. Critically acclaimed and widely loved, she received recognitions as diverse as the Pulitzer Prize and the selection of her novels — four of them — for the book club led by talk-show host Oprah Winfrey.

Ms. Morrison placed African Americans, particularly women, at the heart of her writing at a time when they were largely relegated to the margins both in literature and in life. With language celebrated for its lyricism, she was credited with conveying as powerfully, or more than perhaps any novelist before her, the nature of black life in America, from slavery to the inequality that went on more than a century after it ended.

Morrison begins the essay, published in 2015 in the 150th anniversary edition of The Nation, by recalling her despairing thoughts after George W. Bush was reelected in 2004. Was she foreshadowing our future under Trump?

Dictators and tyrants routinely begin their reigns and sustain their power with the deliberate and calculated destruction of art: the censorship and book-burning of unpoliced prose, the harassment and detention of painters, journalists, poets, playwrights, novelists, essayists. This is the first step of a despot whose instinctive acts of malevolence are not simply mindless or evil; they are also perceptive. Such despots know very well that their strategy of repression will allow the real tools of oppressive power to flourish. Their plan is simple:

1. Select a useful enemy—an “Other”—to convert rage into conflict, even war.

2. Limit or erase the imagination that art provides, as well as the critical thinking of scholars and journalists.

3. Distract with toys, dreams of loot, and themes of superior religion or defiant national pride that enshrine past hurts and humiliations.

Harmonia Rosales, the Birth of Eve

The Nation could never have existed or flourished in 1940s Spain, or 2014 Syria, or apartheid South Africa, or 1930s Germany. And the reason is clear. It was born in the United States in 1865, the year of Lincoln’s assassination, when political division was stark and lethal—during, as my friend said, times of dread. But no prince or king or dictator could interfere successfully or forever in a country that seriously prized freedom of the press. This is not to say there weren’t elements that tried censure, but they could not, over the long haul, win.

In these demoralizing days and nights in Trump world, we need artists and journalists so much more than in Bush’s awful presidency.

We are still feeling the aftershocks of the latest mass shootings in California, Texas, and Ohio. Yesterday Trump was forced to read someone else’s words from a teleprompter; it didn’t take long for him to go back to tweeting his resentments. We all knew he was gaslighting us. Nothing he could ever say or do will erase the damage he has done with the ugly racism, xenophobia, and hatred he has spewed since he announced his campaign for president in 2015. He words and deeds have enabled white supremacists and encouraged them to act out violently.

Politico: Trump attacks Obama for statement on shootings.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday attacked former President Barack Obama over the latter’s statement on the weekend’s mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, tweeting edited quotes from Fox News hosts to make his point and again claiming he is “the least racist person” in the world.

“From the Dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz to the Revolution – The Revolutionaries.” 1957-65, Diego Rivera

“‘Did George Bush ever condemn President Obama after Sandy Hook. President Obama had 32 mass shootings during his reign. Not many people said Obama is out of Control,’” Trump wrote online. “’Mass shootings were happening before the President even thought about running for Pres.’ @kilmeade @foxandfriends”

Trump’s message was a distillation of a sentiment “Fox & Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade expressed on air shortly after 6 a.m. Tuesday morning. The president followed up that tweet with another post paraphrasing a comment from Kilmeade’s morning show colleague, Ainsley Earhardt.

“‘It’s political season and the election is around the corner. They want to continue to push that racist narrative.’ @ainsleyearhardt @foxandfriends,” Trump continued. “And I am the least racist person. Black, Hispanic and Asian Unemployment is the lowest (BEST) in the history of the United States!”

Obama on Monday afternoon lamented the violence that transpired Saturday morning in El Paso, Texas, and early Sunday morning in Dayton, Ohio, which left at least 31 people dead and injured dozens more.

In his statement, Obama called on Americans to “soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments.” The former president did not mention Trump, or any other politician, by name.

Obama simply did what Trump could not and would not do: act like a president.

Gizmodo: Trump Boosts Fired Google Engineer Who Proposed Richard Spencer Fundraiser, Suggested Skinheads Rebrand.

On Monday morning, President Donald Trump finally took the time to issue a (hollow and thoroughly unconvincing) denunciation of white supremacy in the wake of mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas over the weekend that collectively resulted in at least 31 deaths and scores of injuries—in the latter case involving a gunman whose manifesto clearly reflected Trump’s racist immigration rhetoric and reportedly targeted Hispanics.

Tree of Hope Remain Strong, Frida Kahlo

Of course, it never takes long for him to return to his usual bullshit. So it’s the opposite of surprising that by Monday evening, Trump was posting clips from a Fox News interview with a former Google engineer who claimed the company discriminated against him for his conservative political views. In reality, said employee had reportedly urged other Googlers to contribute to a “bounty” to find an individual who punched white supremacist Richard Spencer, as well as suggested that the Golden State Skinheads (GSS) rebrand so as to provide better “branding” for the “American nationalist Right.”

In the clip from Lou Dobbs Tonight posted to the president’s feed at 9:33 p.m. ET, former Google engineer Kevin Cernekee parroted debunked claims that the company’s executives “want to use all the power and all the resources that they have to control the flow of information to the public and make sure that Trump loses in 2020.” This dovetails nicely with Trump’s grudge against Google, which along with all of the president’s other perceived political enemies, he has targeted with baseless smears and doctored videos asserting a devious conspiracy against him.

While many news outlets were reporting on the stunning hypocrisy of Trump’s speech on the mass shootings, The New York Times chose to take Trump’s words at face value with a headline that was quickly attacked on Twitter.

The Washington Post: ‘The headline was bad’: New York Times amends front page on Trump’s response to mass shootings after backlash.

The New York Times weathered intense backlash Monday night for its front-page headline about President Trump’s response to the pair of mass shootings that read: “TRUMP URGES UNITY VS. RACISM.”

A preview of Tuesday’s front page shared to social media sparked instant criticism from members of the public, journalists and politicians, including several 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, many of whom took issue with how the publication framed Trump’s comments on the weekend attacks in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, that left at least 31 people dead and dozens injured. In the aftermath of the tragedies, major media outlets have faced scrutiny from all sides over how they confront Trump and his often inflammatory rhetoric.

About an hour after the headline went viral, the Times announced it had amended its wording.

“The headline was bad and has been changed for the second edition,” a spokesperson for the Times told The Washington Post in an email.

Later editions of the print paper feature the words, “ASSAILING HATE BUT NOT GUNS.” Subheads above the two stories about Trump’s speech were also changed.

It’s the new “but her emails.” It’s time for executive editor Dean Baquet to resign.

The Washington Post story was more in line with reality: Teleprompter Trump meets Twitter Trump as the president responds to mass slayings.

Teleprompter Trump repudiated Twitter Trump in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House on Monday.

Speaking in the wake of two mass shootings in less than 24 hours that left at least 31 dead over the weekend, President Trump spoke of “the inherent worth and dignity of every human life” and the scourge of “destructive partisanship.”

Venceremos (We Will Win), Rina Lazo, 1954

“In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy,” the president said, reading from a script that scrolled on a teleprompter in front of him. He added, “Now is the time to set destructive partisanship aside — so destructive — and find the courage to answer hatred with unity, devotion and love.”

That unifying message stood in stark contrast tomore than 2½ years of name-calling, demonizing minorities and inflaming racial animus, much of it carried out on Twitter. Just two hours before his White House speech, Trump tweeted an attack on the “Fake News” media for contributing to a culture of “anger and rage.” And in another set of tweets, the president suggested pairing “strong background checks” with “desperately needed immigration reform” — then dropped the matter entirely during his speech.

Such is the picture of a divisive leader trying to act as a healer, particularly in the aftermath of Saturday’s anti-immigrant attack in El Paso, where officials are still investigating but believe the alleged gunman posted a manifesto that echoed Trump’s harsh rhetoric on immigrants, including describing his attack as “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.” Trump, in tweets and in rallies, has repeatedly decried the “invasion” of undocumented immigrants across the nation’s southern border.

More stories to check out:

Max Fisher at The New York Times: White Terrorism Shows ‘Stunning’ Parallels to Islamic State’s Rise.

Ali Soufan at The New York Times: I Spent 25 Years Fighting Jihadis. White Supremacists Aren’t So Different.

The Daily Beast: DHS Official: Trump Can’t Admit ‘This Is Terrorism.’

Los Angeles Times: Foreign countries are warning their citizens about U.S. travel after mass shootings.

Los Angeles Times: Trump officials have redirected resources from countering far-right, racism-fueled domestic terrorism.

USA Today: Hypocritical talk, worse action: Trump dismantled tools to fight white supremacist terrorism.

The Dallas News: Donald Trump, who’s going to El Paso this week, owes city more than $500K for his February rally.

The Texas Tribune: A racist manifesto and a shooter terrorize Hispanics in El Paso and beyond.

The Texas Tribune: Running while brown: How Julián Castro is navigating white presidential politics.

The Washington Post: Ex-girlfriend says Dayton shooter heard voices, talked about ‘dark, evil things.


Monday Reads: Gas Lit Nation

 Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

Do you remember the good old’ days of last year when the likes of White House Mommy advanced the concept of ‘alternative facts’ and Sean Spicer announced “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration period!” ?

Well, Gas Lighting never goes out of style in Drumpflandia.  Rudy Giuliani has picked up where not even the Huckabeast dares go.  And of course the Alt Facts Team at Faux News explored each conspiracy is with zest this morning with him.  The bigger zesty bang came later on CNN.  This is just psychologically exhausting.  When will it end?

Zesty Rudy!  Atta Boy!

Gas light, Paris

It’s really hard to explain exactly how much Rudy just told us collusion doesn’t matter, isn’t a crime or whatever because you know, D’oh Hair Furor can’t even use a computer let alone hack one.  This is pretty fresh off the keyboard of Aaron Blake of WAPO.

President Trump’s defense in the Russia investigation has been a study in goal-post moving — constantly watering down previous denials and raising the standard for what would constitute actual wrongdoing.

But rarely has it been so concentrated in one morning.

Trump’s lawyer/spokesman Rudolph W. Giuliani appeared on Fox News’s and CNN’s morning shows on Monday to downplay the idea that colluding with the Russians would have even been illegal and to argue against strawmen.

The most notable portion of the interviews was when Giuliani rekindled the idea that collusion isn’t even a crime. Trump’s defenders have occasionally noted that the word doesn’t appear in the criminal code — which is a misnomer — but Giuliani took it a step further: He basically suggested Trump would have had to pay for Russia to interfere on his behalf.

“I don’t even know if that’s a crime — colluding with Russians,” Giuliani said on CNN. “Hacking is the crime. The president didn’t hack. He didn’t pay for the hacking.”

Oskar Rabin (b. 1928) ;”Gaslight”;oil on canvas
46 x 55 cm.;Painted in 1982

So let’s just look at this for what it is.

Rudy Giuliani made two TV appearances this morning, one on Fox and one on CNN. Both are pretty convoluted and a bit hard to follow. So they’ve led to various interpretations. But there’s what I believe is one pretty big admission that is at least very new to me and I think a pretty big problem for Trump and Giuliani.

As I’ve mentioned a few times before, one of the oddities of Giuliani’s rolling defense of Trump in response to Cohen’s accusations is this: Giuliani says that the meeting where Trump allegedly learned about the Russia meeting never happened and he (Giuliani) has talked to the participants and they agree it never happened and Trump didn’t attend the meeting or know about the Russian offer. Now, there’s sort of a problem here. Cohen never said just what meeting he was referring to. And how can you be a witness to a meeting that never happened about what was said in that meeting?

This makes no sense. But from the start, I’ve had the sense that Giuliani does know specifically what Cohen is talking about but is denying the specifics.

Now let’s get to what Giuliani said this morning. In a back and forth with CNN’s Alisyn Carmerota, he appears to say that two days before the meeting with the Russian lawyer there was a planning meeting to prepare for that meeting. This prep meeting would have been on June 7th, 2016. Giuliani says that meeting included Don Jr., Jared Kushner, Manafort, Rick Gates and others.

Now, I’ve had some off the grid moments in the last ten days. But I don’t think I’d ever heard of this planning meeting. If nothing else, it suggests that the Trump team took the planned encounter with the Russian government emissary much more seriously than they’ve suggested to date. And then there’s Rick Gates, Manafort’s deputy. As we know, Gates is now a cooperating witness. Big problem for the Trump Team, if he was at such a planning meeting.

Giuliani’s key aim throughout is to insist that Trump was not in that meeting. He seems to allow that Cohen was in the meeting, just that Cohen’s lying about Trump’s presence. But that point (Cohen’s presence) is less clear to me. Again, watch the video.

Gas lighting at Lincoln’s Inn

I’m getting tired of the obvious gaslighting and I’m not alone. Betsy Kaplan explores this for WNPR.  Listen to the interview with Stephanie Sarkis whose book on gaslighting is due for release in October.

… it’s hard for people to cast informed ballots if President Trump is overtly and boldly lying without fear of repercussion. Some say he’s trying to gaslight us into believing the reality he wants more than the one that exists.

We saw it this weekend when  New York Times Publisher A.G. Sulzberger felt the need to correct the record after President Trump tweeted an inaccurate version of what was said in their off-the-record meeting.

Last week, President Trump asked people at a rally in Kansas City, MO to “…stick with us. Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news.” He went on to say “what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

An Op Ed at Teen Vogue explains the technique of gaslighting and argues that we should care about what’s happening to us.  Here’s the term applied by Lauren Duca on what we’re being told on the Seperation of Familes policy.

Gaslighting is a tactic of psychological abuse in which the victim is made to doubt their own sanity, only here the abuser is the White House, and the victim is the American people. The Trump administration is sending up so many conflicting versions of reality that they make us doubt what is and is not real. The past week alone has provided one of the most gruesome examples of this, as it seeks to confuse and distract us from the plight of about 2,300 immigrant children separated from their families with no plan for being reunited. Those children are being held in detention centers, or flown across the country, with no guarantee that they will ever see their parents again. On Thursday, Trump signed an executive order which he claimed would end family separation; it does so only in name. The so-called “zero-tolerance” policy will still be enforced, but now the Trump administration plans to hold families in detention centers together and indefinitely. They have made no statement on efforts for reuniting the families who have already been torn apart — but it doesn’t look like it will be happening anytime soon.

 

Gas lighting in the historical center of Wrocław, Poland is manually turned off and on daily.

Tina Nguyen at Vanity Fare argues that Trump is gaslighting his staff on Russia.

This sort of opacity toward the press isn’t unusual for the Trump administration, nor is the internal, in-the-dark scramble exactly a novelty—Trump caught his entire communications staff off guard in March, when he almost unilaterally agreed to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. The more worrisome possibility is that the president, who has consistently and deliberately lied to the American public regarding Russia, is beginning to employ the same tactics with his own staff. A New York Timesreport published Wednesday reveals the extent of Trump’s obfuscation; per the Times, two weeks before his inauguration, Trump was presented with overwhelming evidence by former C.I.A. director John Brennan, former director of national intelligence James Clapper, and former F.B.I. director James Comey, among others, that Russia had meddled in the presidential election, and that Putin himself had very likely ordered the attack. This evidence reportedly included texts, e-mails, and intel from a source close to Putin, as well as the contents of the controversial Steele dossier. According to those present for the briefing, Trump seemed “grudgingly convinced” of its veracity.

Of course, even if Trump was convinced, he’s shown no sign of it. Moreover, he’s repeatedly trashed the very people who briefed him that day, firing Comey months later, and criticizing Clapper and Brennan. He kept up the tirade as recently as Wednesday night, telling CBS’s Jeff Glor, “Certainly I can’t have any confidence in the past . . . I have no confidence in a guy like Brennan. I think he’s a total lowlife. I have no confidence in Clapper. You know, Clapper wrote me a beautiful letter when I first went to office, and it was really nice. And then, all of a sudden, he’s gone haywire because they got to him and they probably got him to say things that maybe he doesn’t even mean.” He continued, “But no, I certainly don’t have confidence in past people. You look at what’s happened. Take a look at all of the shenanigans that have gone on. Very hard to have confidence in that group.”

Trump also told Glor that in his meeting with Putin, he was “very strong on the fact that we can’t have meddling . . . I let him know we can’t have this, we’re not going to have it, and that’s the way it’s going to be.” Whether or not—and to what extent—he was telling the truth, of course, is impossible to divine.

Now, we’re getting it on the economy. “Team Trump touts GDP growth with gaslighting and brazen lies.”  This is from Think Progress’ Aaron Rupar.

President Trump on Friday morning held a press event that amounted to a victory lap for the Gross Domestic Product growing by 4.1 percent in the second quarter of this year.

Trump gave himself all the credit for economic growth, while discrediting the record of his predecessor, Barack Obama.

“We have accomplished an economic turnaround of historic proportions,” Trump said. “Once again we are the economic envy of the entire world.”

Trump went on to tout jobs numbers in particular.

We have added 3.7 million new jobs since the election,” Trump said. “A number that is unthinkable if you go back to the campaign. Nobody would have said it. Nobody would have even in an optimistic way projected it.”

Trump was fibbing. Though he claimed to have “added 3.7 million new jobs since the election,” 3.2 millions jobs have been created since his inauguration.
And it is simply not the case that Trump’s jobs record would have been “unthinkable” during the campaign. In fact, Obama’s jobs record during the final 17 months of his administration — a period of time encompassing Trump’s campaign — outperformed Trump’s during his first 17 months.

While Trump attempted to gaslight people, his eldest son touted the GDP number with a brazen lie.

“Incredible numbers,” Donald Trump Jr. tweeted. “I remember when ‘the experts’ laughed about breaking 3%. Just because Obama never broke 2% doesn’t mean that someone with great policies can’t. Let’s keep this going.”

Baltimore first U.S. street gas light

What exactly does it mean when an entire Administration provides “alternative facts” and bobs and weaves to keep up with a continual series of lies and exaggerations?

Now for another random event which happened yesterday. The White House has said that it will no longer provide information about when the president holds conversations with foreign leaders, as it has always done hitherto.

The accounts of the chats may have been anodyne and terse, but they were a useful tool to keep track of foreign policy priorities. And it was always useful to compare and contrast what, say, the Kremlin would have to say about the conversation compared to the White House. Now we will no longer be able to do that.

And so to the final thing. Donald Trump was speaking at a rally in Kansas City. And he came out with a memorable phrase that sounded as though it had been lifted straight from George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984. He said: “Just remember, what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening.”

Or it is. There is just a concerted – and sometimes it would seem – systematic effort to make you think otherwise.

Forget alternative facts. This is rewriting history.

Maybe Stephen Colbert says it best.

“I’m so happy to be with you, you not crazy people,” Stephen Colbert said in his Late Show monologue Tuesday night. “Because you’ve got to remember that you’re not crazy, no matter what Donald Trump says.”

After playing the clip of Trump’s remark, the host feigned relief. “Oh good,” he said. “I was worried, because what I’m seeing and reading is that the president is a racist, horny old burger-goblin who literally steals children from poor people.”

“Oh, I’m being told he’s lying,” Colbert added, “which makes sense, because that’s another one of the things I’m seeing and reading.”

“Every day, just like that, Donald Trump gets a little more brazen,” the host continued, pointing to the announcement that the president wants to revoke the security clearances of several former Obama administration intelligence officials who have criticized him.

“Now, I don’t know if we’ve arrived at dictatorship,” Colbert said. “But we’ve definitely made it to dick.”

Meanwhile, I’m exhausted from all of this.  It’s tiring to be continually told stuff that you know is not true and then watch the media go over it and over it.  I need a Drumpfcation.  I’m not sure if that means he goes some where and there’s a press black out for a week or so or I stay home and watch 1984 over and over and over …

I’m sure it’s not going to get any better when we start getting stuff coming out of the Manafort Trial. Buckle up Sky Dancers!  It’s going to be a bumpy ride!  Oops!  Wrong movie reference! Or is it?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?