It’s Time To Play “BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT”

The “Benefit Of The Doubt” Theme Song

Hi there, ladies ‘n germs — I’m your host Chuck Todd (excuse me while I roll my eyes thoughtfully as if I was physically capable of having thoughts) —

— And welcome to another installment of “Benefit Of The Doubt — the game show where we give the benefit of the doubt to folks who we probably shouldn’t ought to give it to. But, hey — that’s what I think journalism is cos otherwise, I’d have to do research and prep for interviews! Did I say “Welcome to Benefit Of The Doubt yet? I can’t remember — I get so easily distracted.

Tonight’s panel are, first, my co-worker over at NBC News, Chris Matthews —

Chris — say something to the folks!

CHRIS: I miss Bobby Kennedy.

[While Chuck rolls his eyes thoughtfully] CHUCK: Do you think… What I mean is… What if… Is it possible that Sirhan Sirhan was aiming at someone else that night in the Ambassador Hotel kitchen?

CHRIS: No. Sirhan was Palestinian. He said he hated Bobby’s position regarding Israel. It wasn’t really a question of— Now, wait a minute, Chuck — were you playing the game without saying?

CHUCK: Guilty! I bet if I hadn’t spent the whole time rolling my eyes thoughtfully, you’d have never caught me.

CHRIS: It’s true… Umm… could ya stop now, Chuck — it’s starting to weird me out.

CHUCK: I’ll try, but — now I’m just trying to see if my bangs are straight… I wish they hadn’t left those pruning shears on my makeup table… Our other panelist tonight is CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

WOLF: Hi, everyone. I just want everyone to know that the look on my face isn’t because I’m thinking about anything, I’m doing math — I’m figuring out how long much longer I can hold onto the fart now in the chamber. Not much longer to judge from my expression, right?

CHUCK: Thanks for the heads up, Wolf. I’ll just move my chair way over here. [As Chuck moves his chair] Our first guest tonight is Climate Change.

[Polite applause as Climate Change enters and takes the seat next to Chuck’s.]

CHUCK: Welcome, Climate Change! You’re really in demand right now. I feel like we were lucky to get you as a guest.

CLIMATE CHANGE: Well, I am trying to get around — what with the book coming out and–

CHUCK: What– wait– what? You have a book coming out? Why didn’t anyone tell me?

CLIMATE CHANGE: Probably cos you can’t read.

[Chuck flashes angrily] CHUCK: What? I can read just fine. Don’t blame me cos I bore easily. Wait — are my bangs straight?

CHRIS: Please, Chuck, I’m begging ya — stop rolling your eyes! In two seconds I’m going to start hurling last year’s St. Patrick’s Day’s corned beef and cabbage. And that disagreed with me then.

WOLF: I bet the gas was intense.

CHRIS: You know it was.

CHUCK: So, Climate Change — We know… what I mean is…

CHRIS: Chuck — stop rolling your eyes–

CHUCK: I’m trying, Chris, I swear it but it’s gone a little autonomic on me. I’m not that in control of it–

CHRIS: Well, I’m not that in control of what I’m about to puke up either.

WOLF: Please stop saying “puke”, it gives me gas.

[Meanwhile, Chuck has continued rolling his eyes]. CHUCK: Are my bangs…? Is it… Would you say…What if the climate deniers are on to something?

[Everyone stops to stare at Chuck]. CHUCK: What?

WOLF: Are you saying climate change isn’t real?

And… SCENE!

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Our Problem Is We Are Living Inside A Bonkers Theater Of The Absurd Play — And Don’t Know It

Rene Magritte’s Ceci N’est Pas Une Pipe poses the perfect “is it?/isn’t it? existential question (true fact — its actual name is The Treachery Of Images). What really is — or, more to the point, is anything really “is”? Is anything real?

For those of us (me, for instance) who love wrestling with esoteric brain puzzles, this is a top of the line WWF cage match.

On the one hand — the viewer has to disagree — “What’re ya talking about? Of course it’s a pipe!” But, as Magritte himself pointed out when his piece first started making viewers crazy, “The famous pipe. How people reproached me for it! And yet, could you stuff my pipe? No, it’s just a representation, is it not? So if I had written on my picture ‘This is a pipe’, I’d have been lying!”

What really is vs what actually isn’t. Can we believe anything anymore?

For the non-theater majors, Theater Of The Absurd was a literary genre that emerged from World War II like existentialism’s louder, loonier twin sister. Like existentialism, Theater Of The Absurd saw human beings as pointless. After all, didn’t most of humanity just fight a world-wide duel nearly to the death?

For comparison’s sake, a very similar reaction occurred after World War I. The Dadaist movement rejected everything about capitalism and its “values”. Art itself had no value to the Dadaists — even as they created it. A famous, wonderful example is Marcel Duchamp’s series of “readymades” including this shovel. The shovel, Ducamp claimed, was already art. All the artist had to do was sign his name on it.

Dadaists got what existentialists & Theater Of The Absurdists later got — our faith in humans being logical, rational and just is based entirely on bullshit. We’re all bonkers and need to face that fact. Theater Of The Absurd put words in the mouth of our insanity.

The most famous — most performed — example of Theater Of The Absurd is Samuel Becket’s Waiting For Godot.

Spoiler Alert — Godot never shows. That’s the point — lots of waiting, lots of speculating, lots of hoping, lots of random cruelty — and all for nought. Who knows if Godot even exists?

For pure existential crunchy goodness though, the quintessential Theater Of The Absurd play is Eugene Ionesco’s La Cantatrice Chauve (The Bald Soprano) — which has played continually at the Theatre De La Huchette in Paris since 1957. Nothing in the play means anything. A husband tries to remember where he’s met his wife before — perhaps in the bed they’ve shared every night for years? All information is meaningless. All communication futile. “Experience teaches us that when one hears the doorbell ring it is because there is never anyone there.”

And what’s the point of fighting it? “Who has any interest in prolonging this confusion? I don’t know. Let’s not try to know. Let’s leave things as they are.”

A more recent version comes from Alex Cox’s exquisitely nihilistic movie Repo Man: “The more you drive, the less intelligent you are.”

Does that not feel like us — in the here & now? Does it not feel like we’ve come all this way only to discover we never left home. Well, some of us never left home. Some of us still live in our parents’ basement — if mentally.

Watch any hour of CNN or MSNBC and I DARE you not to feel like you’re Waiting For Godot — justice in our case. I DARE you not to feel like the dialogue spewing from any talking head discussion has all the weight of a mal-formed soap bubble. The one thing you can probably count on, when the bubble bursts, the soap will get in your eye.

Living Inside A False Narrative Is Stupid… So Why Do We Persist In Doing It?

A woman who doesn’t know the man she loves is cheating on her lives inside a false narrative — that her relationship is on solid ground.

A man unaware that a terminal tumor is metastasizing inside of him is living a false narrative that he’s healthy and not doomed.

As they slept in their beds at 6:45, the morning of December 7, 1941, the citizens of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii were living inside a false narrative that our country was at peace with Japan and that war couldn’t possibly impact their lives.

Christianity tries to sell a false narrative that the man who first uttered “Do Unto Others” lived a miraculous life — having a deity for a father and a virgin for a mother. Anyone who believes this actually happened and lives their life as if it did — they’re living inside a false narrative.

We live inside the false narrative that Donald Trump “won” his election back in 2016 (even though he’s projected his own illegitimacy from the get-go because the secret that Russia won the election for him was too hard for him to keep).

We know for a fact that election 2016 wasn’t normal. We knew the night of the election — as reliably blue states began going inexplicably to Trump — that this election smelled. It wasn’t just losing that stunk. It was losing to such an obvious cheat.

Nothing we’ve learned since the election has disproven that conjecture. Take Russia out of the equation and Donald Trump doesn’t come close. And Russia dominated every bit of that equation. Russia received proprietary voter data from Paul Manafort; they weaponized it, turning it back on us as individualized Facebook ads that landed in the targeted voter’s Facebook feed. If these ads caused ONE voter to stay home — that’s one too many in my opinion. We know for a fact it was more than one.

Those voters were given a false narrative — about Hillary Clinton or the Democrats. It worked. Hillary won by more than 3 million popular votes — a victory by any real standard — the Electoral College being a throwback to slavery that, by design, overvalues rural voters while radically undervaluing urban voters. But we keep telling herself “she lost”. It’s insane to equate gaming the Electoral College with giving American voters what they voted for. The majority of us (not even including suppressed votes) voted for the exact opposite of what Donald Trump and the republican party have done.

But then, that was the point. Maintaining the false narrative that Trump won — that’s also the point. As is maintaining the false narrative the Mueller Report in any way exonerated him from either conspiracy with the Russians or egregious attempts to not only obstruct justice but circumvent it too.

Every time a journalist ascribes Trump’s victory in 2016 to anything other than Russia– they’re pitching a false narrative.

They’re pitching bullshit.

Integrity’s An All Or Nothing Proposition – You Either Have It Or You Don’t

In the movie Princess Bride, Wallace Sean’s Vizzini, confounded by their inability to outrun Cary Elwes’ Westley, repeats the word “inconceivable” with increasing consternation until, at one point, Mandy Patinkin’s Inago Montoya responds famously —

We have the exact same problem with the whole concept of INTEGRITY — never mind the word. A Democratic system of government relies on the integrity of its voting process. We think our voting system has “integrity”. That’s bullshit. There are several terrific citizen-journalist-investigators who’ve done deep, deep dives into the fact that our voting systems have pretty damned close to ZERO integrity (Jennifer Cohen and Mike Farb have been especially intrepid and indefatigable in their pursuit of the truth).

Our inability to see this core problem — this complete lack of integrity in a system — shouts volumes about our inability to see a lack of integrity in other humans. Isn’t that the way con men work, after all? The first thing they sell you isn’t a product, it’s bullshit — that they have integrity and you, dear rube, can absolutely trust them.

Donald Trump is a fabulist who has never understood that such a thing as “Truth” even exists. To a sociopath like Trump, the truth is whatever he thinks it is in that moment — whatever he says “the truth” is. Its connection to reality is irrelevant. Anyone who stands beside Donald Trump — knowing (and how can you not) that he lies as easily as he breathes — not only accepts Donald Trump’s lack of integrity, but demonstrates that they, too, have none. How can you stand with a liar and still have integrity?

It’s impossible. You just can’t.

When America stops standing by its word — when we pinball around erratically with no moral compass — we demonstrate that we AS A COUNTRY no longer have integrity (with the caveat being that our integrity has been under assault — if not completely DOA — forever and ever). Should we be surprised when Iran prepares for war against a schizophrenic foe whose word means nothing? Should we be shocked when every country with an agenda understands that with enough money, you can get the American government to do your bidding — even if it runs counter to America’s best interests?

Our news media doesn’t grasp how THEIR integrity lies in tatters. They don’t grasp that the moment they shrugged off “Mexicans are rapists” and then (as if that wasn’t enough FFS!) “pussy-grabbing” — they busted a cap in their own integrity as the final check on power. Even as every norm of behavior, decency, logic and longstanding tradition sloughed off around them, CNN, MSNBC, The WaPo, the NYTimes — pretty much our entire MSM — continued to turn a blind eye in the name of access. If they dared confront a blatant liar with his lies, they worried, he might not talk to them. Correction: he might not lie to them.

We’re living in an age where Joseph Goebbels’ famous “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth” has, ironically, become a kind of truth. It’s how things “are” now.

Can we even spell “integrity” anymore?

Donald J Trump Is EXACTLY What We Mean By “The Banality Of Evil”

It ain’t a question: Donald Trump is absolutely 100% evil, evil, EVIL.

I know — that’s no one’s idea of “The Face Of Evil”. This picture of Trump probably gets there —

And while what Trump is doing theoretically rises to the level of Uber Villain, Donald Trump himself… how to put this… he simply isn’t good enough. He’s too flat-out incompetent to even be a sub-par Bond Villain. He can’t run an organization bigger than his own Mom N Pop Money Laundering Shoppe.

There are evil people on the planet. Vladimir Putin is one of them. Bashir al Assad is another. Kim Jong-Un. Donald Trump however is a pretender to True Evil. Even amongst the truly evil, Trump’s just a piker.

The truth is even Hitler had to overcome his own core mediocrity to become “HITLER”. Wasn’t much of a soldier, not much of a painter. Pretty carried away with himself as a writer and without all those brown-shirted thugs standing behind him, Hitler doesn’t rise to power. Hitler came from a place of pure banality to become one of the most evil people in the history of people.

Donald Trump has a lot of the same qualities — except he’s less of a writer. A lot less. He’s never written a word in his life.

Can Twitter Be Fixed? Or Has “The Fix” Always Been In At Twitter?

When I turned on my computer this morning, I learned that I am now banned from Twitter for a week. The offending tweet (I sooooo wish I had taken a few more moments before responding and screen captured it) was mild to put it bluntly. I said I wished that Donald Trump – with his shitty eating habits – would hurry up and do the patriotic thing: have a “cardiac infarction”. That was it: You eat so badly, have a heart attack already.

Banned for a week. For that.

If you tweet with any regularity, you know — that doesn’t make it as mild. A violation of Twitter’s rules? THAT tweet?

Something is rotten in the State of Twitter. There always has been. So why not quit the platform?

Twitter — among social media — is unique. That uniqueness has made it ubiquitous as both a news source and a brand-building platform. In design, Twitter is very much like a giant public square (I’m not the first person to compare it to one). Each member of the community enters, in essence, with a soap box under their arm. We can go stand and listen to others up on their soap boxes (shouting out compliments or catcalls, depending) or put our own soap box down on he ground, step onto it and orate to your heart’s content (or until some RW troll goes after you and gets you banished for a week).

FB (which everyone should run from, their hair on fire because of Zuckerberg’s total lack of transparency, his lying about abusing our privacy & data and the fact that FB accepted a shitload of Russian money back in the day) makes it hard to build a following (since everyone has to be friends first) whereas, on Twitter, if you can tweet well and find a little traction, it’s possible to build a following (if slowly but surely). But, like FB, Twitter is easily manipulated by bullshit and false information. In an age where even simple, basic Truth has to be triangulated before you can trust it, the only way to possibly know the truth is via triangulation. Source, check & double check.

Too many people don’t. Or don’t want to.

That Donald Trump still tweets is a profound problem. Yeah, I know – he’s the president of the United States. It still doesn’t give him the right or reason to so completely misinform, disinform and otherwise crap all over the Truth. Especially when Twitter is THE place — across most cultures on the planet — where news goes to break. One may roll out a project or product on FB but one uses Twitter to tell the world about it.

This was hardly the first time I’ve been banned on Twitter. My original Twitter account was over 10,000 followers when it got suspended for good. Twitter accused several tweets telling certain republicans that they should die in prison of violating its rules. I’m totally biased but I think that was bullshit. I said – literally – I hope the criminal justice system prosecutes you & punishes you with a life sentence. That was it.

I appealed as far as I could but that came to nothing — as arguing with a computer always will — because that’s really what happened to me. The bot that reported me had sent a dozen supporting tweets as proof of how evil I was. Several had the words “die in prison” connected in the tweet. Others had those 3 words spread out across the tweet — not having been used in conjunction with each other. But there the three words were – in the same tweet. And, for that, I had to be punished.

How did Twitter get so powerful in our lives that the thought of a week without being able to tweet from my primary account looms as a setback. I can’t brand as aggressively as I have been the past few weeks. I can’t be an active part of a community of smart people that I’ve come to treasure like dear, old friends. I can listen to the news — and to people (I can message them directly if that function isn’t blocked). But I can’t interact (except via DM) in any way, shape or form.

Maybe our real problem is that Twitter has become a necessary evil.