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Señor Trumpanzee-- Losing Control Of The Narrative... Womp, Womp

Señor Trumpanzee isn't exactly being subtle in his campaign to gin up fear and loathing towards immigrants, even more so than normally. It looks like this is going to be a major campaign theme for the GOP this year-- more so than their failed tax scam. He feels it won him the White House-- maybe more so than Putin's exertions on his behalf-- and he seems to feel more racism and xenophobia is just what Republican congressional candidates need for the midterms. According to Susan Glasser's post for the New Yorker, "Trump has remained determined to talk about immigration, even when others in his party have resisted. Indeed, Republican leaders on Capitol Hill were furious with Trump as the immigration controversy spiraled out of control this week-- a time they had planned to spend celebrating the G.O.P. tax cut, along with the general strength of the economy, which they hope to make the centerpiece of their fall campaign... On Monday, as the political pressure on Trump was escalating, I met with Kristen Soltis Anderson, a Republican pollster who has advised G.O.P. leaders about this fall’s elections at a couple of recent retreats. Trump, she told me, had a 'freakishly stable' approval rating; in such a polarized moment, people know where they stand on the President. She said that, unlike in previous midterm elections in which the incumbent President’s party has done poorly, voter enthusiasm for Trump has remained strong among Republican voters, even as a blue wave of Trump-hating Democrats has been building. Said Anderson: 'The question is, if the blue wave is coming, have Republicans built a large enough wall to stop it?'"

On the far right, there's plenty of excitement about locking up brown children, who Trump and his most ardent backers equate with MS-13. This morning, Adam Raymond reported for New York Magazine that Fox and Friends were quick to back up Trump's assertion that these children in prisons are The Other. "Brian Kilmeade," he wrote, "came to the defense of President Trump on Friday for his policy of forced family separation at the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Trump ended the policy with an executive order Wednesday, but the horror for many separated families is not going to end soon. In his comments, Kilmeade defended Trump’s 'zero tolerance' immigration policy as a way to send a message to would-be migrants in other countries. As for the separation of families, which could do real and lasting damage to many parents and children, Kilmeade brushed it off because the children aren’t Americans. 'Like it or not, these aren’t our kids,' Kilmeade said... Trump has taken to talking about immigrants like they’re vermin." That was Hitler brainwashed Germans before he started exterminating Jews.

But Hitler Trump has, according to Vanity Fair's Peter Hamby lost control of the narrative. Trumpanzee has "rarely," he wrote, "been on his heels as he has over the past week. Even during the hottest-burning controversies and scandals of his administration, Trump is usually the stick-and-move president: provoke, evade, pivot to the next thing. The media has a hard time keeping up, and congressional Democrats are too busy holding limp-dick press conferences like it’s still 2006. They’re about as effective as those digital finger-waggers who tweet 'Sir!' at the president every time he burps."

But the wrenching story of migrant children being separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border has unfolded differently. Trump has been forced to play defense. It’s not just because the policy is cruel, inhumane, and an ugly stain on our country’s moral integrity. It is all of those things. But Trump has done plenty of ugly things. What’s different this time, and the handful of times Trump has found himself losing, is that there are pictures.

Think of the handful of moments when Trump has been subjected to a sustained drubbing that’s lasted more than just a day or two: the Access Hollywood tape. Sean Spicer’s lie about the size of the inauguration crowd. The massive airport protests around the travel ban. Trump’s “very fine people” comment about neo-Nazi marchers in Charlottesville. The Rob Porter domestic-abuse allegations fiasco. (Porter has denied the allegations.) And now the gross panorama of migrant children being separated from their desperate parents. All of these stories were accompanied by images-- pictures or video-- that either tilted public opinion against the president or blatantly contradicted the dubious claims of Trump and his allies.

As CNN’s Jake Tapper tweeted on Wednesday, “It’s not an accident that the US government is making it so difficult for journalists, lawmakers, lawyers and others to bring you images and firsthand accounts from these separated parents and children. They are hiding the truth from you because they fear your reaction.”

The power of images is a simple concept, hardly new in politics... The media gatekeepers-- television news networks, print newspapers, radio-- used to determine how images reached the public. Thanks to Internet-connected smartphone cameras, images today are created and distributed by everyone. In the past, the written and spoken word, whether delivered by a newspaperman or a politician, had a kind of power that not longer exists. Even during Vietnam, as the culture wars were tearing us apart, there was some measure of public agreement on the credibility of news organizations and consensus around facts and the terms of debate.

Today, it’s exceedingly difficult to compete with Trump at the rhetorical level. This is in part because Trump has no shame, while most people do. But it’s also because Trump has so bent, damaged, and disfigured language to a point that we no longer have a shared vocabulary, especially in a world of open platforms and algorithm-fueled polarization. It’s easy for Trump to belittle the press and its reporting as “FAKE NEWS” because the press can’t usually provide contrary evidence other than “sources say.” But hard, concrete, visual evidence-- the pictures we see from the border—seems to be the most effective antidote to Trump and his ability to dominate our mindshare. As the migrant story took hold across every channel and platform, visual media came to feel like a cure, however temporary, for our political schizophrenia.

“Trump lives constantly in search of a positive feedback loop from cable news,” Republican strategist Kevin Madden told me. “When the optics of a news event or controversy turn on him, it causes him to freeze, uncharacteristically. When the images are out of his control or can’t be washed through the news cycle as easily as other controversies, they tend to endure and cause more of a problem.”

The usual Trump outrage cycles are fueled by policy decisions, the Russia investigation, or anonymously sourced stories about some White House drama. These stories are almost always conceptual rather than visual. They unfold in a certain noisy and unfulfilling way-- cable panels, Twitter fights, reporters jousting with Sarah Huckabee Sanders in the briefing room-- that makes them easy to tune out. It cannot be stressed enough: the vast majority of Americans do not watch cable news, do not have Twitter, and could not pick Ronna McDaniel (née Romney) out of a lineup. The controversies that usually consume Washington-- and the cable-viewer in chief-- are usually of little concern to the rest of the country.

But when media organizations deliver on their original value proposition-- showing the public something compelling and important-- Trump has a harder time creating his own reality. News today works best when it visualizes the stakes and victims and consequences of policy decisions, rather than just talking or writing about them. People don’t trust reporters. They do trust pictures.

The border story blew up in the last week, but it had been percolating in the print press for more than a month without much national attention. Molly Hennessy-Fiske of the Los Angeles Times, long on the border beat, filed a haunting dispatch from a McAllen, Texas, courtroom on May 18, describing tearful immigrant parents who had been separated from their children. But the story wasn’t roiling the national conversation, and it certainly wasn’t on television. That changed when cameras arrived and pictures emerged, much like the Rob Porter scandal grew once images came to light of his battered ex-wife.

Television journalists like MSNBC’s Jacob Soboroff, CBS’s Gayle King, and CNN’s Nick Valencia showed viewers the detention centers, the cages, the tents, the obstinate officials who came off as cold-blooded and tone-deaf. Still photographers, often unsung these days, also led the charge. John Moore of Getty Images, who has covered immigration for a decade, captured the iconic image of a sobbing two-year-old Honduran girl alongside her mother while she was being searched in the Rio Grande Valley. Then there was the ProPublica audio clip that became a video, repeated over and over on television and social media, allowing us to hear the wails of detained, sobbing children.

All of these images and news packages flooded social media, snowballing into a giant content mill of awfulness. It was enough to drown out Trump’s side of the argument and make him feel smaller than usual, a rare thing indeed. “Trump views his ‘success’ as being what makes good TV, as with the North Korea summit. To become himself a media object, or best, to make media become him,” said the social-media theorist Nathan Jurgenson, one of my colleagues at Snapchat. “Given the centrality of media in all this, it makes sense that the things that rile him up the most are media objects, too. Ones that seemingly depict another narrative.”

Trump’s team, ever astute, contributed to the cause, optimizing their callousness for social media. Corey Lewandowski had his “womp womp” moment when responding to news of a disabled child being separated from her mother. Melania Trump smartly wore her “I Really Don’t Care, Do U?” jacket for the television cameras. And when Trump signed his executive order halting the family separations on Wednesday, the White House sycophants who had previously claimed the policy was out of his hands were now all memorialized on tape as liars forevermore.

Pictures... and audio. Here's Ted Lieu (D-CA) on the floor of the House with the inept Trump enabler Karen Handel R-GA):

Source: 
Down With Tyranny

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