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This has had two results. First, it has facilitated the rise of all manner of right-wing news sources — not just Fox News but Breitbart, Newsmax, Dick, Michael and a host of others, plus of course a whole gallery of right-wing radio commentators (“shock jocks”). This enables conservative Republicans to live within their own separate right-wing media universe, another powerful encouragement to polarisation. Second, this universe generates a violent antipathy against its opponents, and the mainline media in turn is gunning for Trump in a way it has for no other president since Nixon.

In many countries war talk of this kind would be the prelude to an actual crackdown on the media. And there seems little doubt that the Trump administration would like to punish the critical media in any way it can. White House chief strategist Steve Bannon told the Conservative Political Action Committe (CPAC) that “It’s going to get worse [for President Trump] as he continues to press his agenda.” Inveighing against liberals and the media, Bannon warned, “As things get better, they’re going to fight. If you think they’re going to give the country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken.” This is dangerous talk: Trump loyalists are being steeled for nothing less than a fight to “get their country back” — at the same time that many Democrats are talking of “resistance”.

A key moment seems to have been the blog post by Dick Morris (a former top Bill Clinton aide and now a major Trump supporter) on March 2 where he argued that the media and the Democrats were aiming at “a coup d’etat” against Trump. This, he suggested, would proceed via leaks from intelligence and other sources inculpating first General Flynn, then Attorney-General Jeff Sessions and then others, with the aim of setting up a special prosecutor to inquire not only into contacts with the Russians but into anything else required in order to drive Trump from office. Morris, in his widely-read blog, specifically suggested that wiretaps and other surveillance would be used to this end.

The right-wing media feeds off itself all the time, so any wild rumour is quickly circulated and soon quoted as fact — “because I saw it on the net/Fox/Breitbart”.  Morris’s “coup d’etat” talk was soon recycled (by Steve Bannon, notably) into talk of a “deep state” and Obama administration holdovers who were actively intriguing against Trump. This in turn rapidly led to suggestions that Obama himself was organising a campaign to destabilise and destroy the Trump administration. No evidence was provided and Obama was actually holidaying thousands of miles away. But by now such rumours had a life of their own and quickly metastasised into the suggestion (initially by a right-wing radio host, Mark Levin) that Trump had been bugged by the CIA or FBI. Although Levin was just speculating aloud — he had no evidence — this was immediately picked up by other right-wing news sources, and in no time Trump himself was parroting the story. Despite the flat denials of the intelligence community, Trump, with hideous unwisdom, asked for a Congressional inquiry into the story.

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Mark Falcoff
June 5th, 2017
7:06 PM
Mr. Johnson is not quite right about those "black" congressional districts in the South. No doubt Republicans have benefited from their existence, but they were created under orders from the courts to provide what was considered more adequate representation for black communities in the US Congress. Since in most Southern states blacks are in a distinct minority (the only exception being Mississippi, and formerly Louisiana before the hurricane/flood) under normal circumstances they would remain a minority in any congressional district where the lines were drawn by natural geography. (This would surely be the case, for example, if we went over to the list system in use in Germany and many other countries.) By the way, I wonder if Mr. Johnson has spent much time in the American South. As a Yankee born and bred, I can assure him that relations in many places there between the races are more fluid and cordial than in the cities of the North. My experience in the US Army also taught me that Southern blacks and whites have much the same sense of humor. This doesn't of course resolve all the outstanding issues of inequality and lack of opportunity (but also for many poor white Southerners, which is why I met so many of them in the military) but needs to be taken into account before positing such dramatic scenarios as he has.

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