5 of the Worst Things We Know Were Emphatically Confirmed Again This Week
Time somehow seems both longer and shorter these days. The news cycle whizzes by, with multiple stories breaking at previously unheard-of hours, making it feel like we’re in some warp-speed crisis machine with the TRUMP logo emblazoned along its side. This produces the opposite effect as well, causing what happened just days ago to feel like months past, the wearing effect of having an open Pandora’s box calling the shots from the White House.
This week was in the same mold we’ve come to expect since November 8. But while there was a constant deluge of news, much of it just proved things we already know. And, unfortunately, none of them are good.
Here are 5 horrible things we already knew, that were confirmed this week.
1. Trump is a moron—and everyone, including his staffers, knows it.
There may be no more perfect living embodiment of the Dunning-Krueger effect than Donald Trump, the man who openly expressed surprise upon learning health care is complex, North Korea-China relations are “not so easy,” the GOP is known as the Party of Lincoln, and being president of the empire he is currently running into the ground is hard. This fact has apparently not been lost on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. According to a report released by NBC News Wednesday, Tillerson nearly quit his post over the summer, and openly referred to Trump as a “moron” following a Pentagon meeting back in July. (A contributing reporter on the piece has since clarified that Tillerson actually called Trump a “f**king moron," just FYI.) The network also reported that this wasn’t news to Trump, who already knew that “Tillerson had referred to him as a ‘moron,’” but upon learning the remark had gone public, perhaps assumed the rest of us hadn’t already noticed and might be tainted by the assessment.
In a limp attempt at damage control, Tillerson called a press conference during which he unconvincingly referred to Trump as “smart,” but refused to deny having called him a moron. The latest scuttlebutt is that Trump is considering replacing Tillerson with CIA director Mike Pompeo. That would bring the number of firings and defections from this White House, which Trump once stated is “running like a fine-tuned machine,” to 15. Business Insider charts all the "casualties," below.
2. Breitbart is a white supremacist organization.
During an interview this summer, Breitbart attack dog Milo Yiannopoulos said he’s “never met” a racist before, implying that the very idea is some mass delusion suffered by people of color and pushed by the media. Yiannopoulos—and who cares if he’s “trolling,” the outcome is the same—himself is one of the most visible and effective agents of the racist alt-right and its flagship publication, and statements like these are meant to deflect from that fact.
But a fantastic investigative report from Buzzfeed News journalist Joseph Bernstein, using a trove of leaked emails, methodically lays out the ties that bind Yiannopoulos, Breitbart, Breitbart head and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, and a who’s who of racists, white nationalists and neo-Nazis. Armed with Bannon’s dickish guidance on how to wage “#war for the West,” Yiannopoulos sought input on articles from well-known racists and anti-Semites including Andrew Auernheimer, the system administrator for neo-Nazi site the Daily Stormer, who urged his followers to attend the funeral of Charlottesville victim Heather Heyer; Curtis Yarvin, who thinks we can overcome the annoying issue of having so many brown people by installing a white guy (probably any white guy) as king; and Devin Saucier, a self-identified white nationalist whom Yiannopoulos once referred to as his “best friend.”
Yiannopoulos was also aided by members of the so-called “liberal media,” among them Mitchell Sunderland of Broadly, Vice’s vertical for women. The whole enterprise is funded by the Mercers, the multibillionaires who back a slew of right-wing projects and helped to install a certain "moron" (to quote a White House staffer) as president.
If you haven’t read the Buzzfeed piece, set aside some time for it. In the meantime, here’s Yiannopoulos singing "America the Beautiful" for a roomful of his sieg heiling pals, including Richard Spencer. Yiannopoulos says he didn't notice because of his "severe myopia." I also have "severe myopia"— my glasses in third grade were basically Coke bottles—but they never made me confuse literal neo-Nazis sieg heiling with my astigmatism.
3. News coverage of mass shooters is racist.
Here is the headline the Washington Post gave an article about the shooter in the most recent mass killing, which left 58 dead and more than 400 people injured:
The article went on to describe the killer's life as “quiet,” noting that he “often visited Las Vegas to gamble and take in concerts,” was a “licensed pilot who owned two planes,” possessed a “hunting license from Alaska” and had “nothing in his past that would suggest violence.”
That’s a lovely, intimate portrait that, right out of the gate, gives the benefit of the doubt to the perpetrator of the worst mass shooting thus far in modern American history. In his "past,” the piece suggests, he seemed like a pretty good dude, in case this whole mass murder thing gives you the wrong idea about him.
Numerous outlets treated Paddock as a “lone wolf,” and not a symptom of the numerous pathologies that plague white American communities—a diagnosis reserved for Muslim and black criminals. A headline from TMZ declared the killer didn’t “fit [the] mass shooter profile,” a weirdly circuitous way of saying he was white. Aside from the racist undertones, that statement is just straight-up wrong. The killer fits the profile of most mass shooters, who are white men. Perhaps white American culture is to blame.
This is pretty standard stuff where the media’s handling of white criminals is concerned. Dylann Roof was called “quiet and soft-spoken,” Adam Lanza was a mentally ill “loner.” Compare that to black victims such as Mike Brown, whom the New York Times called “no angel," or the crying teen girl pinned by a white cop whom Megyn Kelly sneered was “no saint.”
4. Rape culture is real, and entire industries are complicit.
On Thursday, the New York Times published a lengthy investigative piece chronicling years—or rather, decades—of sexual harassment by Hollywood film titan Harvey Weinstein. The story, which detailed Weinstein’s preferred predatory methods (he asked female employees and aspiring actresses to watch him shower and other sexual favors), noted that Weinstein had settled at least eight cases out of court. But while the report was considered a bombshell, it was actually just a public document of what was an open secret going back to the 1990s.
“Women have been talking about Harvey amongst ourselves for a long time,” Ashley Judd, who was one of Weinstein’s targets, told the Times, “and it’s simply beyond time to have the conversation publicly.”
The details and names change, but we’ve heard this story before. Powerful men including Roger Ailes, Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly, Donald Trump and countless others whose names don’t make it into the paper use their wealth and position against women who are often too afraid, and lacking in resources, to fight back. Rumors swirl, and it becomes common knowledge that certain men are sexual abusers, and no one says anything. These men operate with impunity and often, continued career accolades.
It’s bigger than just that, though. Journalists lament the loss of the “once-promising” future of a campus rapist, who happens to swim fast (and also happens to be wealthy and white). A judge lets a rapist off because his 14-year-old victim wasn't a virgin, thus rendering her “not the victim she claimed to be.”
Studies find 80 percent of victims of sexual assault don’t report. This is why.
5. Donald Trump is a racist international embarrassment who is inept at leading in times of both crisis and stability.
For days, as Puerto Rican communities dealt with the aftermath of the worst hurricane to hit the island in 80 years, Trump tweeted barbs at NFL players. When he finally turned his attention to the disaster, it was mostly to send a barrage of insults to San Juan mayor Carmen YulÃn Cruz, who was doing all the leading in the administration’s stead. Then he publicly complained about the task at hand, citing the “big water... ocean water” that surrounds the island, as if boats and planes are still waiting to be invented. Amidst all this ineptitude, he complained about relief effort costs and the island’s Wall Street debts, told survivors of the storm they should be happy their death toll wasn’t higher, and forced Puerto Rican officials to laud him on camera.
The spectacle was everything this presidency has been from day one: messy, absurd, and just one more tire on the fire.