One of the thematic lessons, to be derived from study of Hitler’s Nazis and their all too easy and rapid overcoming of the impediments to autocratic rule normally posed by civic institutions and independent social organizations, was the role played by pre-existing public distrust and contempt towards those entities. In view of a similar present and persisting repugnance in the U.S. for its islands of tyrannical resistance, including its news media, the peril of demagogues and warlords can be sighted on the horizon. One would think that a modicum of prudence might, at least, infect the veteran sages within those social/civic entities. But alas, wisdom has likewise “caught the last train for the coast.”
One of the devices, deployed by Satan in the Temptation of Christ, was to cite scriptural text while omitting key phrases which substantively alter the meaning of that text (Matthew 4:5–6). It seems that our modern Wormwoods understand the lesson, although less subtle practitioners.
James Fellows, veteran national correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, excerpted a speech from Trump’s recent Miami political rally (September 16, 2016), and thereafter suggested that the presidential candidate hinted at “bodily harm against his opponent.”
I think that her bodyguards should drop all weapons,” Mr. Trump said at a rally in Miami. “I think they should disarm. Immediately. What do you think. Yes? Take their guns away. She doesn’t want guns. Take them. Let’s see what happens to her. Take their guns away, O.K. It will be very dangerous.
The cadence of that quote suggests that it was originally part of a larger argument. And lo and behold, such intuitions are well founded as these “incriminating” sentiments were preceded by . . .
You know she’s very much against the Second Amendment. She wants to destroy your Second Amendment. Guns, guns, guns, right. I think that what we should do is she goes around with armed bodyguards like you have never seen before.
. . . highlighting the hypocrisy of such a political stance; or alternatively, another example whereby Hillary Clinton considers herself above the rules that she would exact upon others.
Such rhetoric by Trump is hardly new. In a tweet earlier this year, Trump wailed, “Hillary said that guns don’t keep you safe. If she really believes that she should demand that her heavily armed bodyguards quickly disarm!” The integrated compactness of that tweet might make selective parsing a harder enterprise for our modern day Wormwoods.
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What makes this particular dabble in sophistic deceit by the veteran journalist such a lark is the irony of The Atlantic concurrently publishng “Why Do Americans Distrust the Media?”; or in the piece “Why Americans Hate the Media,” written by this same James Fallows in his prime. But one hardly need thrash the sociological bushes to uncover the reasons. The answer lies spread-eagled like a cheap tart on the pages of the same website; loss of intellectual integrity.
The “members of the punditocracy” are perplexed by the inability for Trump’s lies, blatant in their obviousness and childish in their silliness, to sink his candidacy. Certainly, an outside observer, with little skin in the partisan games, might cite the lack of evenhandedness in this regard by the media; neglecting, dismissing, and excusing the lies of Trump’s opponent, which are more serious in nature in that they have directly involved the public interest. But a simpler answer lies in the conundrum of veteran practitioners of the arts of partisan spin, lies, and sophistic deceit, calling another out for mendacity. The Fifth Estate has so debased their currency of influence that they can no longer credibly act as checks against the ambitions of potential demagogues and warlords.