Entry from January 9, 2020

We already know from Dean Baquet’s "Town Hall" meeting of the New York Times staff last summer who has the final say on what headlines the paper publishes — and it’s not Dean Baquet, though he is nominally the editor. So there should be no surprise that this morning’s headline to a story about President Trump’s claim of victory over the Iranians yesterday should read: "Trump Backs Away From Further Military Conflict With Iran." The revolutionary guards of the Times newsroom have obviously not been asleep on guard duty if they’ve found a way to turn a battle won into an inglorious retreat. Just to make sure we get the point, however, they’ve also given us an "Analysis" piece headed: "Trump’s Iran Strategy: A Cease-Fire Wrapped in a Strategic Muddle." Translation: he may have got lucky this time, but it was still an egregious blunder — just like all the others.

The Washington Post was slightly less grudging with its news headline: "United States and Iran back away from imminent conflict as Trump says he is ready for peace ‘with all who seek it’" — which seems to suggest that, as both sides could be said to have retreated after Mr Trump failed to kill any more Iranian generals in response to the ineffectual rocket attack on US bases, it was at best a Pyrrhic victory: But the Post could not resist an analytical qualification of its own: "Trump seeks to celebrate a victory, even in the wake of a foreign attack." Who, the authors (Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker) seem to be asking, has ever heard of claiming victory after a failed "foreign" (i.e. not "enemy") attack?

For more than three years now, the media have had only one story about President Trump, aptly summed up as "orange-man-bad." These stories, and every other story of domestic or foreign policy and events involving him or his administration, end up as nothing more than a display of journalistic ingenuity in making everything conform, no matter how improbably, to the orange-man-bad template. What new enormity are we meant to be outraged about this morning? What kind of obsessive do you have to be to live your life like that? Lots of people do, apparently, but I wonder if the even more lots of people who don’t might be feeling, when they come to pull the lever in the next presidential election, rather as they do when they see a crazy person shouting imprecations against an unseen enemy in the street? They might just decide that the fanatical Trump-haters are best avoided for another four years.


Department of anecdotal evidence. The Democrats’ reliance on Hispanic immigrants to bolster their progressive cause in that election may not be quite so well-founded as they suppose. Yesterday in one of the more salubrious neighborhoods of the town where I live I observed an old beat up car, pretty obviously driven by a live-out domestic worker of some kind, with the following bumper stickers prominently displayed: (1) "El infierno es Real. Escapa de el"; (2) "JesuCristo Volvera"; and, the real capper, (3) a prominently displayed Israeli flag.


They’re already calling it "Megxit." The decision by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, better known as Harry ‘n’ Meghan to "step back" from royal duties to live a private — or semi-private — life in Canada and/or the U.S. has been a great gift to the English-speaking world’s media and a further indication, if any such indication were needed, that Medialand is where we all live now, whether we like it or not. The old conundrum was: if a tree falls in the forest when nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound? The new one is: if something doesn’t happen in the media, does it really happen? Thus Harry and Meghan might have gone on with their lives exactly as they now propose to do without announcing anything about it to the media and no one would have thought anything about it.

Did this idea occur to them? Probably not. Knowing as they must do that they are so far the creation of the media, so far as the world is concerned, they would have seen no alternative to announcing the fact as the latest episode in the Harry’n’Meghan subplot — to which the media have now affixed their own clever nickname to relate it to the ongoing drama of Britain’s still-dubious relationship to the EU — of the media’s royal narrative. But such knowledge must also have been the reason they felt they had to unplug their lives from the media’s klieg lights in the first place. They just didn’t know any other way to do it than to step onto the public stage for what will no doubt be the first in a series of absolutely final performances. The poor saps didn’t have the wit to see that they were only digging a little deeper into the hole in which, by the media’s decree, they are doomed to live their lives.

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