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Will the Press Turn its Head to the Cold Light of Day?

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On Sunday, Shakezula wrote about the gunman who showed up at Comet Pizza to ‘investigate’ its possible involvement “in a child trafficking ring run by Clinton.” Well, something interesting happened on the Twitters yesterday.

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s son sparred with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Twitter over the “pizzagate” conspiracy that led an armed man into a Washington, DC, pizza shop Sunday.

Flynn’s son, Michael Flynn Jr., vehemently defended the story, which baselessly alleged that a pedophilia ring involving high-level Democratic Party officials — including Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta — is operating out of a Washington pizzeria called Comet Ping Pong.

The summary:

… Tapper apparently began to direct message Flynn Jr. on the app, asking for one piece of evidence proving that the pizza shop was “the site of a satanic pedophilia cult.” Those direct messages were posted by another user.

“Michael — the police called pizza gate a fictitious conspiracy theory tonight,” Tapper wrote. “Does someone have to die before you take this s— seriously. Spreading this nonsense is dangerous.”

“I want it to be false,” Flynn Jr. responded.

“It is not the site of a satanic pedophilia cult,” Tapper shot back. “It is a f—— pizzeria. Show me what you’re talking about that proves a satanic pedophilia cult. Your tweet is wildly irresponsible. Listen to me. You are going to get someone killed. Maybe an innocent child. For what??????”

Flynn Jr. later posted another screenshot of a DM thread with Tapper with the caption, “Want evidence??? I must’ve really hit a nerve.”

Tapper’s mistake? He thought that the son of the incoming National Security Advisor—and the holder of a Presidential transition email—couldn’t possibly be merely an unhinged purveyor of ethnonationalist conspiracy theories. Flynn must simply be feeding red meat to the base. All Tapper needed to do was reason with him. Perhaps Tapper wagered, if he appealed to the reasonable person lurking behind the Twitter persona, Flynn would do the right thing?

But Flynn either really is unhinged or just doesn’t care. And this should have been abundantly clear in the first place. In fact, Flynn the elder is a big fan of some of the same ethnonationalist conspiracy theorists as his son:

And what of Pence’s claim that Flynn the younger has no role in the transition?

This is where things get very ever more serious.

For years, much of the American media has operated under the assumption that GOP national elites are, at heart, reasonable people—ones who don’t really believe the wackier ideas circulating in the Republican base. Even if members of the establishment media understood otherwise, it wasn’t reflected in their reporting. Indeed, the assumption isn’t entirely wrong, as evidenced by the number of GOP elites and center-right conservatives now grappling—to their horror—with Trumpism.

However, the increasing transformation of the GOP was still pretty obvious. The waves of GOP congressional candidates elected in 2010 and 2014 included significant numbers of recruits from the radicalized base. John Boehner certainly knew what was going on. We even saw the effects of this transformation on those venerable Republican figures who started consuming only right-wing news.

The lunatics, as the saying goes, now run the asylum. No one, let alone the press, can assume that cooler heads operate the levers of government. Indeed, the assumption is particularly dangerous in the age of Trump. Evan McMullen points out, correctly, the whole autocratic game works by leaving us hanging on the dispositions of the person in power. It’s not that far a leap from, on the one hand, Tapper’s naïve appeal to the younger Flynn to ‘do the right thing’ to, on the other hand, holding out hope that Trump will intercede on behalf of the good and the victimized. But, as Brad DeLong used to remind us during the Bush Administration: the Cossacks work for the Czar.

Everyone—from the center-right and true conservatives to liberals and the left—needs to put away any illusions about the nature of the Trump Administration. But the establishment media, in particular, needs to fully adjust to the abnormality of the new normal.

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