From Eric Alterman, The American Prospect <[email protected]>
Subject Altercation: Before ‘Fixing’ Election Results, There Was ‘Fixing’ Census Results
Date January 21, 2022 1:24 PM
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A Newsletter With An Eye On Political Media from The American Prospect
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Before 'Fixing' Election Results, There Was 'Fixing' Census

But only now is a fuller picture emerging

That Donald Trump sat atop a criminal organization

before becoming president was always obvious to anyone who cared to
look. This fact was not missed by the people he appointed to top jobs in
his administration who took Trump's contempt for law, decency, and
accountability as a license to behave similarly. The Trump
administration, like the Trump Organization, was a fish that rotted from
the head down.

Take, for instance, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. We now learn, rather
late to do anything about it, of "'unprecedented' meddling by the
Trump administration in the 2020 census" as its members sought "to
manipulate the count

for Republican political gain." This was par for the course and easily
predictable from the earliest moments of the Trump presidency. In Lying
in State: Why Presidents Lie-and Why Trump Is Worse
I noted just some of the Trump Cabinet members who submitted false
filings for their confirmation hearings. Among them: "Secretary of
Commerce Wilbur Ross also lied to Congress, promising to divest from
almost all his holdings as a condition of taking his job. He held onto
his interest in myriad companies, including one co-owned by the Chinese
government, and another closely tied to members of Vladimir Putin's
inner circle. In an extremely unusual move, the Office of Government
Ethics refused to certify Ross's financial disclosure because, the
office said, it could not be trusted."

Tom Edsall
the Brookings political scientist Thomas Mann
, explaining, "Trump
has transformed the Republican Party so that membership now precludes
having 'a moral sense: honesty, empathy, respect for one's
colleagues, wisdom, institutional loyalty, a willingness to put country
ahead of party on existential matters, an openness to changing
conditions.'" Alas, given the lack of outrage that Trump and the
Republicans' march to fascism has inspired, one can easily say that
that same lack of outrage characterizes a significant percentage of
journalists as well.

For a fine, big-picture look at the failures of the mainstream media to
hold our political system remotely accountable, here

is (for me, a self-interested) but thoughtful and thorough analysis of
what has and continues to go wrong.

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Washington Post pundits have done a good job recently of prodding the
mainstream media to stop treating "both sides" as somehow equivalent
and wake up to the danger the contemporary Republican Party poses to the
future of American democracy. Here, for instance are Margaret Sullivan
Perry Bacon
Dana Milbank
Jennifer Rubin
Greg Sargent
and Paul Waldman
But, yo, Posties, your newspaper has a big problem and, sad to say,
it's coming from inside the house!

In this Post profile of Fox host Greg Gutfeld
for instance, we learn that: "He considers himself the scamp in a
still buttoned-up bastion of scolding conservatism-the disruptive
court jester, the fool" of America's "dominant news network's
success," as well as "a scorching critic of America's racial
reckoning." Gutfeld's "fidgety, high-energy combination of comic
jabs, spliced with just enough analysis to be taken seriously by the
faithful, makes him a uniquely potent foe for the left," especially as
he "spins out each weeknight like a whirligig of agreement and
affirmation." Gutfeld says he has "'a lot more in common with
liberals in terms of creativity, music and all that stuff'" and is
"a punk-rock and metal fan who was delighted that he got splashed with
blood not long ago at a performance by the heavy-metal monster band

This is all obvious nonsense
of course-an attempt by the Post to suck up to the Murdoch/Trump
universe by ignoring the obvious truths about a Fox host and his
network, which is trying to undermine our democracy even as it helps to
kill untold numbers of people with its lies about the coronavirus. In
these matters and other such lies, Gutfeld is all in

Relatedly, Eric Boehlert asks a good, albeit ultimately unanswerable,
question: "How many people has Murdoch killed during the pandemic?
" A good
follow-up might ask how it is that we continue to treat both Murdoch and
his minions as part of the "news" media. Fox is not a "news
network." News networks do not behave like this

In this Axios article about conservative cancel culture entitled "Book
Bans Are Back in Style
the author writes, "Some progressive activists have sought to pull
literary staples from school syllabi under the argument that in
today's context they perpetuate racist or sexist constructs." Yet no
such examples are provided and no links, either. Literally every example
is an example of right-wing censorship. The subhed above the part of the
article that deals with alleged left-wing book banning is "Between the
Lines." A more honest one would have been "Made-Up Accusation for
the Purpose of Mindless Bothsidesism."

This Times movie review

begins, "Jean-Louis (Lafitte) is on a mission to find the source of
his existence-or 'the origin of the world,' to borrow from the
film's French title, 'L'Origine du Monde,' an explicit reference
to the painting by the 19th-century artist Gustave Courbet

of the, uh, female anatomy." But the Times link takes you to an
article in The Guardian, which gives you the painting's fascinating
backstory, not the painting itself. We have no such fears here at
Altercation. Here
the painting, which hangs at the Musée d'Orsay. And here
is a link
to a biography of Courbet written by the late feminist art historian
Linda Nochlin, my mom's cousin.

[link removed] Odds
and Ends: Continuing Themes Edition

I strongly recommend the beautiful, recently published novel Cloud
Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr, and you probably don't need to hear this
from me, but also the just-finished HBO series Station Eleven. There's
a great deal to be said about both, but what I want to point out is that
the plots of both turn on the intense influence on individuals of a
single book passed from reader to reader over the centuries. It's a
lovely idea, and I suppose it's been true in the past. Both works take
place in an imagined future, and given the diminished role that books
play in our culture today compared to when, say, I decided to start
writing them 33 years and 12 Alterman books ago, a profoundly moving

Continuing with my theme of continuations unbounded by time, here is
some advice: If you want to get a humor piece published in The New
Yorker, I suggest you try deploying the language of
Hammett/Chandler-style detective fiction where it's otherwise unlikely
to be found:

* This worked for S.J. Perelman in 1944 with "Farewell, My Lovely

* It worked again for Woody Allen for "The Whore of Mensa
" in

* And it worked yet again for Garrison Keillor in 1979 with "Jack
Schmidt, Arts Administrator

* And one more time for Simon Rich in "The Big Nap
in 2021.

A warning: If you are lucky enough to do this sufficiently well to
impress David Remnick, prepare to be to be edited thusly

Again, relatedly, I am really enjoying Ed Sorel's handsomely produced
memoir, Profusely Illustrated
Here is Ed drawing "When Raymond Chandler Went to Work for Billy

[link removed] I
interviewed Joan Didion before a live audience back in 2001. It was a
nightmare. Every answer she gave me was barely a sentence long. I ran
out of questions after like ten minutes, and struggled to get through
the rest of the hour. Terry Gross is apparently a lot better at this
interview game than I have ever been or will be, because this recently
rebroadcast set of interviews
with Didion, especially
the second one, are among the most extraordinary discussions I've ever

I was (deservedly) mean about Mel Brooks's recent memoir, but if you
want to remember one of many reasons why Mel mattered in the first
place, here

are some deleted scenes from a work of genius, Young Frankenstein,
followed by a decent documentary on same.

Here is a full set of a
1987 Dylan/Dead show that only recently showed up on the interwebs. (And
in the "really odd" department, here

is the concert rider for a 1976 Jerry Garcia Band show.)

Also, if you've never heard it, Joe Strummer and Johnny Cash singing
Bob Marley's "Redemption Song

And if you need a pick-me-up after all that, here
's the wonderful David
Johansen Group with their Animals medley: "We Gotta Get Out of This
Place/Don't Bring Me Down/It's My Life."

Also breaking, must credit, etc.: Jazz Fest is on
! (We hope ...)

Finally, may the memory of Israel "Sy" Dresner, the "world's
most arrested rabbi ,"
be a blessing to all who knew him and an inspiration to the rest of us.

See you next week.


Become A Member of The American Prospect Today!

Eric Alterman is a CUNY Distinguished Professor of English at Brooklyn
College, an award-winning journalist, and the author of 11 books, most
recently Lying in State: Why Presidents Lie-and Why Trump Is Worse
(Basic, 2020). Previously, he wrote The Nation's "Liberal Media"
column for 25 years. Follow him on Twitter @eric_alterman

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