Monday, December 19, 2022

WSJ Uber Hack Barton Swaim Indulges In A Farrago Of Fascist Gaslighting - But No One Should Be Misled

                                         "Now those are guys I can get behind!"

 The delirious WSJ hack and Uber troll Barton Swaim outdid himself in gaslighting terms in his recent WSJ op-ed (Why the ‘Smart’ Party Never Learns, Dec. 10-11, p. A13). "Gaslighting" as we know, implies using inverted narratives, false citations or plain B.S. to create doubt in an audience concerning its own facts, intelligence or perceptions.  In this era of fake news and trolling, it now means a deliberate, conspiratorial effort to mislead.  Which fits Barton Swaim to a tee. He babbles, for example:

"The Democrats are increasingly the party of educated urban elites; the GOP belongs to the white working class.....That one party is the educated party—that its members see themselves, in some respects accurately, as more cultured and informed than their opponents—has generated an intellectual pathology that is obvious to everyone but themselves. Adherents of the smart-people party have lost the capacity for self-criticism. Which on its face makes sense. If your views are by definition intelligent, those of your critics must be dumb. Who needs self-reflection?"

But note how Swaim takes a fact everyone knows to be valid - Democrats have the largest proportion of college-educated voters -  and twists it into a liability.  I.e. that the "smart party" is also a "wiseass" snark party because it happens to attract the most educated people. Then going from there to conclude that "it needs no self reflection".  But in fact it is the party (GOP) featuring the fewest college-educated voters that is the one with the least self-reflection.  

Peggy Noonan's recent  WSJ column (12/17) shows it better than any material even that the Trumpist-hated NY Times can produce. As she notes:

"Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene recently spoke of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol: “I want to tell you something, if Steven Bannon and I had organized that, we would have won. Not to mention we would’ve been armed.”

She charged, “You can pick up a butt plug or a dildo at Target nowadays.” I’ve never noticed that at Target. I guess it depends on what you’re looking for.

My point isn’t that she’s an idiot, though that appears to be true—she once called Hitler’s secret police “the gazpacho”—or that the audience, which laughed and applauded, were idiots."

Yeppers, Peggy actually wrote this on page A15 of that edition. Her point wasn't necessarily that Taylor-Greene (who received the 'Richard M. Nixon' award) was an idiot, but that she totally lacked any degree of self-awareness. Else, she'd not have blabbered about dildos, butt plugs and being "armed" for an insurrection in front of an august GOP crowd whose laughter also indicated abysmal lack of self-reflection.  

But Swaim's brain swoon doesn't stop with this initial 'smart party' trope, oh no. He doubles down on it later, scribbling:   

"Surely, it is the educated voter who bears a special responsobility to consider contrary views to his own. It's the smart person, not the stupid or ignorant one, who holds the gravest obligation to respect views others than his own."

Really?  Seriously? So I have the 'gravest obligation' to respect the views of Marjorie Taylor -Greene regarding "dildos and butt plugs" as well as being armed for an insurrection?  If you believe that you're an even bigger troll and moron than I imagined.   And then there's this related twaddle:

"If a Republican official somewhere expresses a view falling outside the liberal conventional wisdom, that official can expect opposition from every segment of educated elite society—Hollywood actors, Fortune 500 boardrooms, university-based experts and so on. Blowback from so many sources isn’t easy to take, and in that case the Republican official will often, perhaps usually, back down."

Again, consider Marjorie Taylor-Green's expressed views (for her Nixon award speech) which definitely fall outside the "liberal conventional wisdom" and I'd warrant any sane conventional wisdom.  After all, Peggy Noonan - a Reagan conservative - takes strong exception to her views, and she is a fellow op-ed columnist of Swaim's. Is Swaim going to argue that Noonan is really an "elitist", i.e. one of "educated elite society" who has no interest in the working class he so avidly extols?  Hardly!  Ms. Noonan is simply a temperate conservative essayist who appreciates decorum and adheres to norms, laws and respectable public behavior -  which too many Trumpists (like Swaim) do not.   

Perhaps the most peculiar statement of Swaim, and which actually leads me to question his own self-awareness and powers of self -reflection,  is when he writes:

"Something about Mr. Trump gave Democrats and liberal journalists all the emotional license they needed to discount, once and for all, any possibility that a Republican might have a point. No party that could nominate Mr. Trump deserved further thought; the GOP had, in their eyes, defenestrated what was left of its legitimacy."

Something about Mr. Trump?  Something?  Hmmm....what on earth could that 'something' be?  How about when he referred to "very fine people" engaged in the 'Unite the Right' march in Charlottesville back in August, 2017, marching with their Tiki torches and Nazi, white supremacist regalia e.g.

How about when he incited the insurrection on January 6th, calling on his minions to march to the Capitol? And those deranged imps dutifully followed his call to arms, breaking into the Capitol, beating D.C. cops heads in, and leaving feces all over Statuary Hall.  E.g.   

And Swaim is too daft and brain -addled that he can't see that any party that embraces this orange cockroach has indeed "defenestrated its legitimacy".  Or to use Peggy Noonan's words from her WSJ op-ed:

"Trump has looked bad since his weak and formless presidential announcement last month—dining with anti-Semites and white supremacists, meeting with Q supporters, calling for the Constitution to be waived to return him to office."

he writes this as if it's a serious take, as opposed to a tongue in cheek spurious offshoot of his febrile brain. I warrant if what Peggy cited gave her emotional license to discount Trump and the Trump "wing" of the GOP, it certainly gives liberals and Dems such license as well. Indeed, not just emotional license but moral-ethical license to reject at root a vile criminal as well as a cult which has elevated him to a tin god.  As Noonan wrote in her op-ed:

"Trump had no interest in unifying, never saw its purpose—never won a landslide or attracted broad public support. He broke the party with an adolescent glee. See what I destroyed."

This is the take of a Reagan conservative, not even a liberal. Can Swaim accept it? Doubtful because he's clearly all in as a pro-Trump propagandist and provocateur.  But he saves his most crazed gaslighting effort for near last writing:   

"For a decade or more, we’ve been told that left and right live in “silos” or “ bubbles” or “echo chambers” or “information cocoons.” The left watch MSNBC and read the New York Times, and the right watch Fox News and listen to talk radio. Exacerbating this state of affairs, we’re told, are social-media platforms whose algorithms give politically attuned users only content they’re likely to agree with. Facile claims to the contrary, Face-book, Twitter and similar platforms don’t have this effect."

Which forces one to ask: 'What planet is he living on?'  Facile claims to the contrary?  Frances Haugen - who worked at Facebook and accessed its algorithmic files - showed indeed how toxic it is at destroying individuals (especially teens) as well as the social fabric, e.g.

Facebook Whistleblower Reveals Facebook To Be Toxic Social Media Cauldron In Senate Hearing 

As she noted in her Senate testimony:

"Facebook knows that content that elicits an extreme reaction from you is more likely to get a click, a comment or reshare. They prioritize content in your feed, so you will give little hits of dopamine to your friends, and they will create more content."

Swaim is equally clueless regarding the existence of the Right wing
"echo chamber".  
In their field experiment on the nature of media echo chambers, UC Berkeley's David Broockman and Yale University's Joshua Kalla decided to test the degree to which FOX viewers are locked into their niches. 

They paid a randomized group to watch CNN for a month (Sept. 2020) and surveyed both the designated group and control group weekly on what they were watching. Interestingly, most participants stopped watching CNN and returned to FOX one the payments stopped.  What does this show?  Well, that those FOX viewers really are cerebrally locked into their parallel reality silos. At least when it comes to TV viewing. Why?  Microsoft Research's David Rothschild wanted to find out the difference between partisan 'echo chambers' vis a vis TV news diets and online new consumption. He found the former was vastly more partisan and consistent over time. How so? Well, because with television the viewer just sets the channel and leaves it, there is no "surfing".  In his own words:    

“That default is extremely powerful,” 

Why the potent difference, which Swain seems unable to process, or refuses to?  Well because, in Rothschild's words:   

“On television, debate is limited and legitimacy is lacking. Also, people persist month after monthOnline, even where these echo chambers exist, people are just cycling in and out.”

Hence, contrary to Swaim's gaslighting effort, the echo chambers are real and their pull is addictive for the FOX -Trumpite axis.  Indeed, they model their reality completely on what the FOX talking heads tell them - whether it's Tucker Carlson about the vaccines and Covid, or about Viktor Orban, i.e.    

"Can we agree Viktor Orban is the most effective world leader?"

Or Sean Hannity about how "liberals want to take away your guns"  merely because we support an assault weapons ban.  So, we've already dispatched the first part of Swaim's malarkey, e.g.

"and the right watch Fox News and listen to talk radio."

What about the last, listen to talk radio? Well, I can cite my late brother Mike, who was glued to Rush Limbaugh's radio show for years and even emulated his visage - cigar included- for his website, e.g.  

And I am 100 percent convinced Mike was not an isolated case in terms of his devotion to his right wing radio hero, or that there aren't millions more slavishly following the current talking heads.  

But let's finish off with this "BSL-4' toxicity level (for mind virus gaslighting)  blurtation out of Swaim's essay: 

 "Their (Democratic) cultural dominance discourages them from changing course, which is why they can be counted on to invent exogenous reasons for electoral defeats: an allegedly racist TV ad in 1988."

 That referenced the infamous 'Willie Horton' ad from George Bush Sr's 1988 campaign and used to attack Dem candidate Michael Dukakis. Even its creator, Lee Atwater (on his cancer deathbed), apologized for it and admitted it was the most despicable form of racialized campaigning. Indeed, The Baltimore Sun, in a Nov. 10, 2008 article, referred to it thusly:

"If you know about the infamous and racist Willie Horton ad used in the 1988 campaign to destroy Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis, then you've seen the handiwork of the late Mr. Atwater."

 Indeed, today it is invoked as a comparison historical marker, as when Minnesota AG Keith Ellison in October referred to then running GOP ads attacking Dems (in the 'soft on crime' frame) as "out Willie Hortoning the Willie Horton ads."  So again, we behold a total lack of self-reference in Swaim in failing to admit the exogenous nature of the GOP's  strategy, but which shouldn't mystify any reasonably educated person, not even necessarily with a college degree.  

 To that point, whether the GOP cult (in its current Trumpist incarnation as such), is described as authoritarian, neofascist or fascist,  its trajectory is clear: the undermining of the American experiment as a Democratic constitutional Republic which I noted Swaim has already come out against in prior essays, op-eds, e.g.   

So there should be little doubt where this overpaid WSJ troll and propagandist is coming from. In fact, he fails to see or admit what even the warning sounded by former Illinois GOP Rep Joe Walsh (who once screamed 'You lie!' at Obama during a State of Union address), asserts, i.e.  "The country needs to understand that my former political party is fully anti-democracy. It's a fascist political party.

 Hyperbolic? No, only to densans and maybe the least educated Trumpites. As Sarah Churchill, one of the great scholars of American fascism has noted (Nation, 'How The GOP Gave Up On Democracy', Dec. 12/19, p. 28):

 "Trump has done everything he can to seize the laurel crown and declare himself an American Caesar.  He hasn't given up yet and what is more, neither have most of his supporters."  

And that would surely include Barton Swaim.   Who will see the January 6th Committee today (in its final meeting) issue criminal referrals for the orange maggot Trump. And those will be based on exogenous events, including:  conspiracy, defrauding the U.S. government, obstructing an official proceeding and inciting an insurrection.

See Also:


by Henry Giroux | December 19, 2022 - 7:19am | permalink

— from Salon

Hard truths are often hidden in grim realities. Time and again, far-reaching events appear in societies suggesting a profound political and moral reordering of the social fabric. Yet while these events are often warning signs — flashes of impending danger — they are largely ignored by political and financial elites as well as by the corporate media, all of whom have an inclination to isolate such events and deal with them unconnected from each other. Treated in isolation, they are quickly devoured and disappear into a neoliberal-driven image society dominated by a culture of short attention spans. 


House Jan. 6 panel to vote on referring Trump for criminal charges

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