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Is Our Media Learning?



WASHINGTON — President Trump used his first full day in office on Saturday to unleash a remarkably bitter attack on the news media, falsely accusing journalists of both inventing a rift between him and intelligence agencies and deliberately understating the size of his inauguration crowd.

In a visit to the Central Intelligence Agency designed to showcase his support for the intelligence community, Mr. Trump ignored his own repeated public statements criticizing the intelligence community, a group he compared to Nazis just over a week ago.

He also called journalists “among the most dishonest human beings on earth,” and he said that up to 1.5 million people had attended his inauguration, a claim that photographs disproved.


“This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period,” Spicer said, contradicting all available data.

Aerial photos have indicated that former president Barack Obama’s first inauguration attracted a much larger crowd. Nielsen ratings show that Obama also had a bigger television audience.

It would have been nice if they had laid off the “Shape of the Earth, views differ” before the election, but…

I’m more convinced than ever that the widespread assumption that Clinton would win and Trump didn’t need to be taken seriously was a huge factor in this election. (Cf. also, of course, the scale of today’s protests.)

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  • Karen24

    For the first time in ages I feel hopeful. The protests were gigantic, but more importantly, widespread. There were a couple hundred people in Abilene, TX, the county in the state with the highest percentage of Trump votes. In all the big cities the turnout was twice what was expected. There were protests in every state capital. In hotbeds of radicalism like Fairbanks Alaska. That’s what made this a big deal. More than half a million people in DC is okay, but DC has protests constantly. Thousands of people protested in red state capitals. THAT is historic.

    • efgoldman

      Thousands of people protested in red state capitals.

      And not just the capitols. I read multiples of 10k in Lubbock and San Antonio. Haven’t seen any numbers from DFW or Houston yet.

    • Captain Oblivious

      20,000 (police est) in St Pete, FL. The organizers were expecting “hundreds” based on advanced registrations, and had obtained only sidewalk permits. The cops wound up closing off streets.

      • MAJeff

        The organizers were expecting “hundreds” based on advanced registrations

        Similar in PGH. Expected about 4k, got about 25K.

    • All over Alaska. Not in the link, but someone on the telly said over 1,000 turned out in Palmer, AK, which has a population of about 6,000.

      Course all those rugged individualists up there are dependent on Federal largesse.

    • In Fairbanks where it was like -22 out. Respect.

      • Karen24

        Fairbanks was my favorite!

  • efgoldman

    I’m more convinced than ever that the widespread assumption that Clinton would win and Trump didn’t need to be taken seriously was a huge factor

    Yup. Complacency is not a Good Thing.

    “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period,” Spicer said, contradicting all available data.

    I happened to walk into the kitchen shortly after Spicer’s petty bullshit. mrs efg had CNN on – it was a large panel, most of whom I didn’t recognize.
    They were (properly) beating up on Spicer and his boss pretty good. The word “lie” in various forms was freely used.
    When you’ve lost CNN!!
    Of course, where this was for the past 18-20 months is an asshole of a different odor.

    • MDrew

      Isn’t the fist item just plainly the case at this point?

    • I don’t know that the problem was complacency among the voters–the problem was complacency and resentment among the pundits and the press. They covered Clinton as viciously as they wanted while expecting her to win and come in and handle all the governing shit like a gentlewoman and a pro. Just like they attacked Obama viciously all eight years and relied on him to just keep his head down and do the job.

      • rewenzo

        I think there was definitely complacency from voters:

        1) People who would vote for Clinton, but didn’t make voting a high priority that day because she was going to win anyway. I think with Obama in 2008, there was a sense among his supporters in the back of our minds, that a black man could not win and so everyone made sure to vote – call it the reverse Bradley effect.

        2) People who would normally vote Democratic, would prefer Clinton to Trump, but felt they didn’t have to actually make that call because Clinton was going to win anyway. Either they stayed home or they voted for a different party.

        3) People who would normally vote Republican, would either prefer Clinton to Trump or were unsure which they preferred, but could not bring themselves to actually vote for Clinton, and luckily they didn’t have to, because Hillary would win anyway.

        TL:DR – “Clinton has it in the bag” freed up a lot of people (categories 2 and 3) to not take the election seriously because if there was no doubt to the outcome, why not use your vote to express your displeasure with democracy’s paltry offerings? All of a sudden everyone pretended they lived in New York and California.

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          I have a friend who voted for Gary Johnson “in protest” because he thought there was no way Trump could win. He said he and his wife spun through the tv channels in complete disbelief election night

          I could have strangled him when he told me a week or so later

      • catclub

        relied on him to just keep his head down and do the job

        The thing I take from Obama was that he never whined, because it makes you look small, no matter how justified.

        And this is how the Trump team is starting out. Whining about mistreatment by the press.

        • TopsyJane

          Obama didn’t whine about the press as ostentatiously as Trump, but he has done his share. His Administration is of course notorious for its secretiveness and for coming down hard on leakers. (Chelsea Manning may owe her freedom to a belated effort by Obama to polish his legacy in this regard.) He’s a fine man and was a president of exceptional quality but let’s not get carried away.

          • That’s not whining.

          • kvs

            His approach to talking out of school, separate from his punishment of whistleblowers, can be seen as a direct response to media coverage of the Clintons and especially the leaks from her campaign in ’07 and ’08.

            I can’t decide whether that makes it tragically ironic or tragically poetic that Comey’s actions were so influential.

        • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

          It’s pouting, and he does it UNCEASINGLY. A 74-yo man with the most powerful job on Earth…and 90+% of his communication is just pouting.

          • LosGatosCA

            Temper tantrums at any age are an embarrassment

    • wengler

      The Trump White House is Nixon Final Days a little over 24 hours in. That’s actually kind of impressive.

      • wjts

        Next week: the bunker scene from Downfall.

        • LosGatosCA

          In Germany no doubt they are already dubbing Trump’s inaugural for parodies.

  • jamesjhare

    They’re still giving them too much respect. “X said many false things” is not the same as “X is a shameless liar who continues to tell lies after we have pointed those lies out.”

    Until the media starts calling the president a liar they’re not doing anything worthy of praise.

    • Davis X. Machina

      At this point, everyone knows he’s a liar. (For some large value of ‘everyone’.)

      Some people will consider that a virtue.
      But people are also now pointing and laughing. Millions of them.

      Welcome to the Jack “A man in my position can’t afford to be made to look ridiculous” Woltz administration.

      • Chetsky

        At this point, everyone knows he’s a liar.

        Welcome to the Jack “A man in my position can’t afford to be made to look ridiculous” Woltz administration.

        I’m reminded of what someone once wrote about the Velvet Revolution. That everybody knew the govt was illegitimate. But everyone was afraid that they were alone in this, or only knew a few others. It was when, suddenly, people started disobeying publicly and lived, that everyone realized that everyone else, even the secret police, knew the govt was illegitimate.

        I’m not saying this well. But it seems really important that every day, there are people hammering on Cheeto Bandito’s illegitimacy, his incompetence, his basic wrongness. And it’s important that the media do the same, so it’s important to figure out how to get CNN (and others) to start using the word “lie”.

        The more people who do this publicly, and really in-his-face, the higher the probability that soon it’ll all fall apart and he’ll slouch back to his penthouse.

  • MDrew

    This is the straight dictator shit they’re trying right here. Baghdad Bob, whatnot. We’ll see if they stick wth it, and if they do, whether it can possibly finally discredit them, or whether it has the kind of effect on the concept of public truth that it has in failed-state dictatorships.

    • The best way to combat it is exactly what has happened today.

      • MDrew

        I’m not inclined to disagree, though I’m not 100% sure that’s right. It was a great thing regardless, even if the most important response to this specific element of fascism – the claim to own the only true and official Truth which utterly contradicts the plain events of the world available for anyone wth eyes to see – is something else (and I’m not saying it is). But today is not going to happen again tomorrow, certainly not every day again until next Sunday and beyond… But these lies will.

        But still, this was good.

        • Davis X. Machina

          A man once pantsed, stays pantsed.

          • West of the Cascades

            Particularly when, like Spicer, he pantsed himself.

            • MDrew

              To be clear, I believe by “what happened today,” Erik was referring to the marches, not a self-contained reversal in which the spectacle of the degree of Spicer’s self-pantsing defused the danger of the fascistic false-reality construction that will continue to flow from this administration for the remainder of the presidency.

              • MAJeff

                I’d say the marches were part of the pantsing. Trump is humiliated because there were more nasty women protesting him than there were fuckwitted marks at his inauguration.

          • MDrew

            In the minds of those who believe he was pantsed. What you need (I think, though it may be more involved than this) is to get to a threshold proportion of the population that sees it that way, and keep it there. Did today get that done? Maybe… I’m not sure though.

            Beware bubbles. I’m not saying we’re not there, but I don’t think we know yet.

            • howard

              the only quasi-comparable we have is that nixon won 60% of the vote in november, 1972 and had high teens – low 20s approval when he resigned in august, 1974.

              p.s. added in on reflection: i suppose we could say that lbj had 60% of the vote in november, 1964 and roughly 40% support when he said he wouldn’t run again in spring, 1968.

              • efgoldman

                had high teens – low 20s approval when he resigned in august, 1974.

                And Gallup said at the time, he thought ~25% was as low as any president could go.
                We’ll see if old George was right.

                • wengler

                  27 percent floor. Trump is close to that already. But lying polls, etc.

            • jim, some guy in iowa

              yeah. could be a ways to go yet. Was talking with a Trump voter yesterday though, and I had the sense there was a lot of wishful thinking going on and his support for Trump is a lot more fragile than he’ll admit. Thing is, anything that leads to President Pence is I suspect an empty victory

              • howard

                this is an extremely tough call: president trump degrades everything but is likely to spend a fair maount of time engaged in fights with the gop congress.

                pence is simply a standard right wing tool and will work actively with the ryan wing in the house to bring the most extreme package forward.

                the existential risk is, of course, much higher with trump but i’m not sure the day-to-day risk isn’t at least as bad if not worse in certain ways with pence.

                so what i actually hope is that a weakened trump stays in office, firing off potshots at the gop congress, the resultant trainwreck mitigating the worst of what they could otherwise do.

                • JMP

                  Trump is also a total idiot who thinks he’s a genius, and the one big hope I have for the next four years is that his own incompetence may prevent his evil from doing too much harm to the country.

                • Trump is way behind the clock on nominating the second-tier officials he absolutely needs to do things as complicated as ACA replacement on a crony- capitalist infrastructure programme.

              • Ahenobarbus

                Not a completely empty victory. There would be difference between a directly elected Pence and one who takes over only due to the humiliating impeachment or his predecessor.

                • David Allan Poe

                  This is a good point, actually. Would a Pence who took office in the midst of some disgraceful impeachment be supported by his party, or would every other Republican with any presidential ambition immediately start sharpening their knives?

                • Chetsky

                  Uh …. he’d be better? B/c as Norquist put it, all the Rs want, is somebody to sign the damn bills, right? Pence would be better for them.

                  That said, there’s a decent chance he’d turn out the alt-righties, thereby lowering the risk of destroying our entire system of government.

                  But for PoC and other oppressed folk, not sure it’d be that different in the short run.

              • Cheerfull

                I think a significant difference is that Pence would be less interested in wrecking NATO and sucking up to the Russians. That seems to be a personal and peculiar concern of our current president.

              • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

                And should Pence cease to be President, we might get Granny Starver. It’s assholes all the way down.

                • Kathleen

                  The GOPee does have a deep bench filled with s**t stains.

            • West of the Cascades

              Agree about bubbles, but the fact that CNN forgawdssake was calling it out makes me feel like, if this happened on Day One, maybe it will seep out into the country’s consciousness. CNN and other mainstream media are entertainment outlets now … and when it’s so much harder to play Both Sides Do It any more since only one side has all the levers of power, the next amusement for the masses could be Look At The Monkeys Aren’t They Ridiculous Let’s Throw Shit Back At Them

        • wengler

          Question: How many Presidents have had millions of people marching against them the day after they are sworn in?

          Answer: Zero. Those crowds were tiny, so tiny. Not YUUUGE like Trump’s inauguration. In fact most of those so-called protesters were just Trump fans coming today because they work for a living unlike Obama supporters. It was so nice to see so many people in other places celebrating the new President in a bigly way.

  • (((max)))

    “O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
    What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
    Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
    O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
    And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
    Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
    O say does that STARS-spangled banner yet wave
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

    OK, I feel better. Just like being at home.

    [‘FYI: At home games the crowd yells ‘STARS’ at the appropriate points in the anthem.’]

    • West of the Cascades

      When you’ve lost Dallas …

      • Captain Oblivious

        The Stars are owned by a Canadian (Tom Gagliardi) and, if they’re a typical NHL team, most of their FO, possibly including whoever came up with this, is Canadian.

        But it’s still funny.

      • MAJeff

        The Stars in Dallas is why I stopped watching the NHL. Hockey in Texas but not Minnesota? Fuck that shit.

        (Yes, I know, the Wild came in some time later…but I never came back.)

    • Thlayli

      New York Red Bulls fans do that on the word “RED”.

      • MAJeff

        In North Dakota, they do it for “Braves.” You know, “Fighting Sioux” war cries and the rest of the anti-Native American bigotry North Dakotans try to pretend is “respect.”

  • jim, some guy in iowa

    check out the Toronto Star front page in Scott L’s twitter feed. fierce

  • Chetsky

    I’ll just leave this here. h/t Shaun Appleby @booman’s place.

    Spicer went too far, eh?

  • anonymous

    The problem is that the Repugs have successfully painted the media as having a left-wing bias. So to combat this, they try to balance this with false equivalence, both-sides narratives.

    Here is a perfect analogy:

    You have two NBA teams, one thuggish and dirty and one that, while not perfectly clean, isn’t. As fouls and expulsions are called against the Thugs and their rabid fans, they complain about bias and so to ensure balance the refs call ticky tack fouls against the other team to “balance” the calls.

    This isn’t actually easy to combat. The MSM wants to look as “balanced and non-partisan” as possible so they are always going to try to balance the calls. This is because they can’t afford to alienate the Rethug rabid fans.

    • sigaba

      We should neither wait for the press to adjudicate this dispute nor look for their sanction, just do what you think is right and let them figure out what to write.

      People keep expecting Walter Cronkite to go on the air and end the Vietnam War for them. That’s not how it works and that’s not even what happened in real life.

    • Dr. Acula

      As a replacement I would suggest the Oakland Las Vegas wherever Raiders and any other team in the NFL.

      • LosGatosCA

        You missed Los Angeles.

        The Oakland Los Angeles Oakland Las Vegas Treasury Raiders

    • Shalimar

      Republicans have had a very effective long-term strategy of demonizing the media as liars to their base. Incidents like today, where the parties doing the demonizing (Trump and Spicer) were clearly, obviously, delusionally, laughably lying do not help with that long-term strategy.

  • Jean-Michel

    It’s Day 2 and Trump is already preparing to throw Spicer under the bus:

    Mr. Spicer picked up the theme later in the day in the White House briefing room. But his appearance, according to the people familiar with Mr. Trump’s thinking, went too far, in the president’s opinion.

    There is of course no lie that can go “too far” for Donald Trump, but he’s perfectly capable of recognizing inept lying by others, even as his pathological lack of self-awareness keeps him from recognizing it when he does it himself. The problem that all of Trump’s propaganda flacks are going to run into during his term is that their boss is indefensible except by lying, and those lies must be so egregious that there’s simply no way to pull them off with any degree of finesse.

    • ColBatGuano

      He’s going to whittle down the flunkies to the truly dedicated believers in a very short time. And they will be very hard to take seriously.

      • Thlayli

        Or people whose only principle is “did the check clear?”


      • wjts

        Es bleiben im Raum: Keitel, Jodl, Ivanka, und Barron.

    • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

      How does anyone serve as spokesperson for a man who will say the first random thing that comes into his mind, and then contradict himself? How would you know what to say or do?

      • LosGatosCA

        Ari Fleischer did it pretty well as Cheney/Bush lied.

        He had the perfect monotone & deflecting manner. Never answered any question of substance beyond the daily itinerary for Bush.

        Perhaps Trump has already realized that the people around him can’t be like him, they.need to complementary. Trump makes the news, his spokespeople need to be the tranquilizer to convince the press to not do their jobs. Bad cop/good cop.

        Constant attacks just force the press to do something about it. And everyone knows that lazy people get very annoyed when they have to work.

  • Captain Oblivious

    I think this is the real key in the CNN article:

    The CNN television network made a choice not to broadcast the Spicer statement live. Instead, the statement was monitored and then reported on after the fact.

  • Brett

    What I loved about that Spicer “press conference” was that you just know that it took every ounce of restraint in Trump’s body to not show up personally at the press conference so he could rant some more about inauguration audience size. He barely even tweeted about it (meaning that Ivanka probably took his phone away for the day).

  • MacK

    Remember the “lock her up chant.”

    Keep it. As the ethical failings start to appear in the Trump admistration, people need to be ready to chant “lock him/them up”. It would drive Trump nuts to be targeted with the same chant…..

  • MacK

    I am outside the US this week, and this morning I will get them put on the radio, and the BBC, RTÉ and France Inter were reporting the press conference with incredulity and amusement. Mr Spicer, how does it feel to have made a global laughing stock of yourself at your very first press conference as White House Press Secretary?

    • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

      I saw a bad photoshop of Spicer’s head on Baghdad Bob, which is just about right.

  • charluckles


    Here’s a wonderful NYT (Garbage!). The only people celebrating Trumps win are thuggish autocrats and the inheritors of Nazism and we still get an article implying a balance of responses around the world.

    If we can’t figure out a way to address this inherent need to find balance in an unbalanced world we are doomed.

    • CrunchyFrog

      The only people celebrating Trumps win are thuggish autocrats and the inheritors of Nazism

      … and the Russians. Throughout the Russian media they are openly bragging that Russia owns the President. Openly.

  • CrunchyFrog

    I’m more convinced than ever that the widespread assumption that Clinton would win and Trump didn’t need to be taken seriously was a huge factor in this election.

    The same thought occurred to me yesterday. After the 3rd debate Clinton so appeared to have the election in the bag that Washington political media felt free to get an early start on Clinton Media Rules Part II. In addition, though, I know quite a few people who either voted 3rd party/didn’t vote or voted Trump (I do live in Wingnutistan) because they didn’t really get their heads around just how bad a Trump presidency would be because they thought it would never happen, and now that it is happening they are horrified.

    Hanging at my sports club (I think there is one other non-wingnut in my group of about 20 guys, but we never express our political opinions so I’m not sure, but his wife posts anti-Trump stuff on Facebook and he drives a Prius in our area of monster pickups) the days before election it was clear that everyone of the local Trump fans had already accepted his loss. And yet: THEY ALL STILL VOTED. This is probably one of the key psychological differences between left and right. Their authoritarian follower tendencies – or whatever – make them much more reliable voters even in causes they believe to be lost, while on the left if the result is considered known in advance a higher percentage of voters will either not show or do the trendy protest vote thingy.

    • LosGatosCA

      You are ABSOLUTELY CORRECT on the difference between Republicans and Democrats. I have been emphasizing this fact for my entire life, Republicans are committed. Supporting lost causes is a badge of honor for them. Goldwater wasn’t crushed, he paved the way for Reagan. Bush/Cheney didn’t destroy the world and the economy, Obama was born in a Kenya.

      They are always keeping their head in their sick, fucked up, twisted game even when they expect to lose.

      Steal an election? Should we act moderately to govern for all the people? Are you fucking kidding me? We’re about to see the second popular vote losing Republican president govern like the fascist dictators they long to be.

      Democrats don’t even show up in non-presidential years.

      But hey those protest marches feel great.

      Oh, and I’m looking forward to the key appointments in the next Democratic administration to continue the Greenspan/Bernanke/Cohen/Gates/Hagel/ Comey tradition.

  • Karen24

    About that Jumbotron thing: when the audience at a professional sports game in DALLAS laughs at you, you’re toast. Think about the market for professional sports and then think about what those people laugh at. Then think of this.

    Also, the most successful coach in Texas is the guy with the San Antonio Spurs, and he’s openly contemptuous of Trump. This is good.

    • Captain Oblivious

      Pop for President.

  • Amadan

    About the numbers attending the Inaugurination: isn’t it a bit unfair to count all those seats and spaces as vacant?

    After all, this was a Republic event and corporations are people too, my friend. Who are we to say that there weren’t thousands of legal contrivances cheering on The One Stooges?

    • muddy

      This explains all the white areas. It was stacks of paperwork.

      • Bitter Scribe

        Is that like binders full of women?

        • muddy

          No, they came the next day. For some reason a lot of the binders had pink clips on top.

  • Solar System Wolf

    Still, I saw an article on CNN yesterday that said something like, “Sure looks like maybe fewer people came to the inauguration than the protests, but we’ll never know the truth because no one knows how to estimate these things, so whaddaya gonna do?”

  • Bitter Scribe

    I think I just became a Stars fan.

    (J/K, it’s Blackhawks all the way with me. But that was pretty fucking funny.)

  • West of the Cascades

    Headline on NYT just now: “With False Claims, Trump Attacks Media on Turnout and Intelligence Rift.”

    I think I need a cigarette – “false” as the lead? Actual commission of journalism instead of stenography??

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