Readers who haven't recently ventured into the fever swamp known as the Los Angeles Times may have a hard time fathoming how utterly obsessed what used to the be the West Coast's paper of record has become with the threat to civilization known as Donald Trump. Once one understands how bad things have gotten, it will be easy to believe that one of its columnists, a Pulitzer Prize winner, actually tweeted the following early Tuesday: "Just wondering: did Trump ask United CEO Oscar Munoz to distract the world from the White House follies today?"
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It would be tempting to give tweeter Michael Hiltzik the benefit of the doubt for botched humor if it weren't for his background combined with the series of screeds the Times recently presented on its editorial pages.
Looking first at the paper's behavior, on April 2, the Times published the first of what ended up being a six-part series of editorials expressing almost every form of outrage imaginable at the Trump administration's performance — after just over 70 days in office. Initially, the paper had planned a total of four daily editorials, but the unhinged, obsessively outraged anti-Trumpsters there had so much venom to release that they had to expand it to six.
Here are the titles of each editorial (bolds are mine throughout this post). I'll limit pull quotes and a brief comparison to what the Editorial Board was perfectly willing to let slide during the Obama administration to Part I.
Part I: Our Dishonest President
... (Trump) is a man so unpredictable, so reckless, so petulant, so full of blind self-regard, so untethered to reality that it is impossible to know where his presidency will lead or how much damage he will do to our nation.
... Whether it is the easily disprovable boasts about the size of his inauguration crowd or his unsubstantiated assertion that Barack Obama bugged Trump Tower, the new president regularly muddies the waters of fact and fiction. It’s difficult to know whether he actually can’t distinguish the real from the unreal — or whether he intentionally conflates the two to befuddle voters, deflect criticism and undermine the very idea of objective truth.
Obama's lies were legion, from "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan," to "There's not a smidgen of corruption" at the IRS, to the calculated and now-exposed campaign of deception to convince America that Syria handed over or destroyed its chemical weapons. The tragic real-world consequences of those three lies alone far outweigh the impact of the alleged falsehoods the Times describes, neither of which has been proven false. A properly timed, venue-filling inauguration crowd photo can be found here, and liberal law professor Jonathan Turley has written that "Trump was right after all about the Obama administration wiretaps."
Part II: Why Trump Lies
Part III: Trump’s Authoritarian Vision
Part IV: Trump’s War on Journalism
Part V: Conspiracy Theorist in Chief
Part VI: California Takes On Trump
Many thousands of words later, apparently belatedly aware that such an obviously over-the-top series would lead any reasonable reader to believe that the paper has made itself functionally incapable of fairly covering the Trump presidency, the Times felt the need to explain itself, in the process unleashing a new round of howlers:
Why we took a stand on Trump
Even though we’re only 11 weeks into the Trump presidency, there is good reason to believe that rather than grow into the job, he’ll remain the man he was on the campaign trail — impulsive, untruthful, narcissistic, ignorant of the limits on presidential power and woefully unprepared to wield it. Rather than wait until the public grew inured to the lies, the undermining of democratic institutions, the demagoguery and bluster, we decided to lay out our concerns at length and in detail.
The Times editorial board is a group of nine men and women that functions like an independent newsroom within the newspaper, metaphorically walled off from the news reporters. Unlike those reporters, whose job is to write objectively and dispassionately about the news, our job is to write opinion.
... We decided to move ahead because the future of the nation is at stake. These editorials set a baseline to help measure the president’s performance over the rest of his term, especially how truthful he is, his relationship with the media and how well he curbs his recklessness and impulsiveness.
We hope that we’ve prompted you to think more deeply about President Trump. ...
Despite their "walled off" contention, the unprecedented series of editorials just published virtually guarantees that any beat reporter at the paper who has even the slightest intention of giving Trump the benefit of the doubt in any matter large or small will be treated as if he or she is jeopardizing "the future of the nation," helping the public become "inured to the lies," and essentially betraying the resistance.
Those readers who believe that this assessment is overwrought need to be reminded that for several years the Times has not allowed any reader comments questioning the supposedly unimpeachable validity of human-caused global warming to survive moderator review — even though the current warming hiatus of roughly 20 years "hasn't gone away." This obviously makes the chances that any reporter will have ever have the nerve to challenge the conventional unwisdom virtually zero. That intimidating mindset has now officially been extended to all matters relating to Donald Trump.
So what the editorials really should "prompt" in any reasonable person is a conclusion that the Times is an utterly lost cause for the foreseeable future, and completely unreliable as a source of objective, fair and balanced news.
Thus, the default position here is that the following tweet from 1999 Pulitzer Prize-winning Michael Hiltzik is the product of the atmosphere of paranoia which preoccupies everyone associated with covering and commenting on the news:
Responders at Twitter are virtually unanimous in interpreting Hiltzik's horrid tweet as seriously intended. Here are just a few of them (some punctuation, capitalization, and wording cleaned up):
"These are the people who call Trump supporters conspiracy theorists. They gave this bubblehead a Pulitzer, liberal media is a joke."
"It should hurt to be this stupid."
"Might want to give that Pulitzer back. ... Then again it probably means as much as Obama's Nobel Prize...."
"Wow, even my 6 year-old grandson couldn't make bullsh*t like that up! Seriously? Pulitzer must like fake news!"
The Pulitzer-winning Hiltzik is now a columnist at the Times, commenting primarily on matters relating to business and politics. In 2006, the Times suspended him for "posting comments under various pseudonyms defending both himself and the newspaper."
Here's one measure of Hiltzik's lack of basic expertise: In 2012, he nonsensically claimed that "Social Security ... in fact contributes not a dime to the federal deficit." He was wrong about 2011, then the most recent reported year, and he has been wrong for at least the past five years, including 2015, when benefits paid out exceeded payroll taxes and federal income taxes of benefits (known as the Social Security earnings penalty) by $60 billion.
Clearly, both Hiltzik and his paper are in way over their Trump-obsessed heads.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.