Donald Trump and the right-wing presumption of innocence

trump and friends

Right-wing media is universally friendly to Trump, taking his innocence for granted and echoing his conspiracy theories about the investigation into his shady world.

President Donald Trump has escalated his attacks on the special counsel investigating his campaign’s alleged ties to Russian election interference. Last week Trump unleashed a torrent of tweets in an attempt to undermine the investigation’s credibility. Even as a deluge of shady new information about Trump associates pours in daily, from his personal attorney to his own children and son-in-law, conservative talking heads have dug in their heels behind the president more defiantly than ever. Continue reading

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Why Roy Moore is the biggest political story of the moment

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Breitbart executive Steve Bannon, left, shakes the hand of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.

Arguably the most important political story happening right now is the ongoing scandal involving Roy Moore. Once the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Moore was removed for his lawlessness. Despite this, voters in Alabama – following a relentless campaign by the far-right website Breitbart – made Moore the Republican nominee to replace Jeff Sessions in the Senate. Moore’s virulently homophobic, theocratic ideology already made him controversial to his own party, but last week’s allegations that he preyed on teenage girls made Moore look truly vulnerable. Continue reading

What happens when the worst person in America becomes president

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After shoving a diplomat out of the way, President Trump adjusts his jacket and takes center stage.

Donald Trump is not, yet, the worst-ever president. He’s trying to be, but his administration has been too hamstrung by controversy to get much done. Part of this is because, on a personal level, Trump is almost certainly the worst person to occupy the White House. He’s crude, ignorant, abusive, and greedy – just for starters. Whatever he does or doesn’t accomplish in terms of policy, having such a toxic person in the nation’s highest office is already having destructive consequences. Continue reading

How conservatives were able to normalize Trump

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to supporters through a bullhorn during a campaign stop at the Canfield County Fair in Canfield

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to supporters through a bullhorn during a campaign stop at the Canfield County Fair in Canfield, Ohio, U.S., September 5, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar TPX

Even someone who doesn’t follow politics can see in Donald Trump a truly unusual president. Liberals are often astounded that conservatives don’t recognize Trump’s pathological lying and disregard for constitutional democracy as existential threats to civilization. But Republicans’ worldview has been shaped by relentless, far-right, corporate propaganda. In such a paranoid and disturbed bubble, Trump may be a bit unorthodox, but desperate times called him to office.

In many ways, the reality of Trump matches the caricature of President Obama in the conservative imagination. Conservative commentators hardly ever mentioned the former president without first rattling off a list of pejoratives. Consumers of conservative media spent years hearing Obama referred to as an arrogant, ego-driven, race-baiting, divisive, wannabe dictator. When someone like Trump came along who actually was all those things, and openly so, Republicans normalized him with relative ease. Continue reading

Right-wing causes célèbres expose endorsement of extremism

Kim Davis, an unrepentant hypocrite and bigot, was greeted with an adoring crowd and a smile from presidential candidate Mike Huckabee on her release from jail.

Kim Davis, an unrepentant hypocrite and bigot, was greeted with an adoring crowd and a smile from presidential candidate Mike Huckabee on her release from jail.

Every now and then – and especially around election time – someone from the general public becomes a household name thanks to a politically exploitable controversy. Politicians are eager to highlight how their philosophy and policies interact with real people, so they seek these representative examples. But the recent causes célèbres that have been exploited by the right are much worse than your average Joe the Plumber. They are of a distinctly nasty character and help expose conservatives’ mainstreaming of bigotry, lawlessness and violence. Continue reading

National Geographic’s future editorial integrity is in doubt over Murdoch merger

A 100-year-old National Geographic from January 1915.

A 100-year-old National Geographic from January 1915.

Rupert Murdoch, the Australian mogul who owns a vast media empire encompassing, among other important holdings, 21st Century Fox and FOX News, has purchased a 73 percent share of the National Geographic Society’s media assets for $725 million. The society will join with Murdoch in running National Geographic Partners, which will henceforth produce commercial National Geographic media.

Most notably, this includes the society’s revered National Geographic Magazine, published since 1888. And while the society will supposedly continue to play a predominant role in generating the magazine’s content, there is worry that its new, profit-oriented owner will compromise its strong editorial stance, particularly given Murdoch’s denial of man-made climate change. Continue reading

War, from a last resort to the first

Leaders discuss Iran's nuclear future.

Leaders discuss Iran’s nuclear future.

Last week, the United States – along with five other powerful nations – reached an agreement with Iran on its nuclear program. In exchange for the lifting of some sanctions, Iran will diminish its nuclear ambitions and agree to international inspections, marking a mild diplomatic milestone. Naturally, for conservatives, this makes it an apocalyptic disaster. Continue reading

‘American Sniper’ caps the war film’s evolution from satire to grim propaganda

Bradley Cooper as Navy SEAL Chris Kyle in the film "American Sniper."

Bradley Cooper as Navy SEAL Chris Kyle in the film “American Sniper.”

War has been a popular theme for literature, poetry, music, theater and film since the earliest days of the mediums. Over such a long history, it’s been treated just about every way, from levity to grim reverence. Whatever else may be about American Sniper, it definitely falls into the second category. Continue reading

Fear of the NSA is good for the NSA

In terms of policy, the most-remembered legacy of President Obama’s administration will likely be its escalation of the NSA’s warrantless spying on tens of millions of American citizens. It’s a substantial and unprecedented overreach of the corporate-state alliance that’s completely eroded privacy and introduced a whole new level of paranoia to the American consciousness. But maybe that’s the idea – Big Brother wants to scare you. Continue reading