Almost half of Republicans polled say courts should shut down “biased” news

Alex Jones fans promote his “CNN is ISIS” meme.

If one phrase captures the willful irresponsibility of the alt-right, it’s “CNN is ISIS.” Back in June, Alex Jones and his Infowars show offered $1,000 to anyone who could get that slogan onto TV, either by holding up a sign or wearing it on a shirt. It’s a nonsense statement. No one actually thinks CNN is connected to the Islamic State, or that they are even comparably bad, but saying you think so expresses an attitude. That attitude is “I’m willing to say whatever, especially if it drives libs crazy.” “CNN is ISIS” is the gleeful refrain of a lifestyle that has freed itself from truth.

As stupid as it is, though, it also captures an animosity toward the press that is real among supporters of Donald Trump. The president himself has called the media an enemy of the American people and now refers to any bad press—including leaks—as “fake news.” He encouraged crowds at his rallies to boo reporters during the campaign, and he continues to do so at various public events. But all this mindless hatred wouldn’t affect the public’s support for a free and independent press, would it? That’s just too deeply ingrained in the American system.

Enter The Economist, who found in a joint poll with YouGov that 45% of respondents who identified as Republicans approved of “permitting the courts to shut down news media outlets for publishing or broadcasting stories that are biased or inaccurate.” Seriously, look at this:

In the same poll, 71% of Republicans said they trusted Donald Trump more than the New York Times. That’s astonishing. Even if you think the Times is biased, the number of inaccuracies it prints in a year does not approach the number of falsehoods President Trump uttered in his first week. Even his supporters admonish us to take Trump seriously but not literally, which is a polite way of saying he does not speak with any regard for the truth. Calling this man more trustworthy than America’s paper of record is like saying your dog is smarter than the faculty of Yale.

Now is a good time to remember that polls don’t necessarily tell us what people think so much as what they want to think—the idea of themselves they take on, suddenly, when a pollster asks them to express their beliefs. Probably, 71% of Republicans don’t reach for the newspaper and then decide they’ll get a more reliable report from President Trump. When you ask them to choose between the two, though, they want to convey their support for him by saying Trump is better.

This phenomenon probably also accounts for the terrifying plurality of Republicans who said courts should restrict the free press. The overwhelming favorite among the general pool of respondents to that question is “haven’t heard enough to say.” It’s good they haven’t heard enough, since no one is really talking about it. I wouldn’t need much background on that one to feel confidently against it, but it’s not as though the 28% who said they favored the idea are out there trying to make it happen. It’s more likely they heard a pollster ask about it and said okay, whatever. But Christ merciful and lambent, that’s a scary question.

Friday links! Dream of history edition

Ronald Reagan gets the last word at the brokered GOP convention of 1976.

Ronald Reagan gets the last word at the brokered GOP convention of 1976.

Remember adolescence, when you read 1984, studied the Great Depression and rise of Hitler, and lamented, in your childish way, that history basically stopped after your parents were adolescents? Remember wishing history would happen right now? Here you go, asshole. The middle class is evacuating, an ineffective political class serves the rich at the expense of its own popularity, and a charismatic maniac is rising to power on a platform of militant ethnic nationalism. Today is Friday, and events are starting to eerily resemble those dark days before the Republican National Convention of 1976. Won’t you thank goodness there’s no other parallel with me?

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Friday links! Ascending order of weirdness edition

Google image search: "weird sausage." Nice to see Marilyn Manson is almost done with his studio art MFA.

American culture is such a particolored cavalcade of weird shit right now that it’s sometimes hard to believe in the standards of realism. Consider, for a moment, that the most vibrant movement currently afoot in our national politics believes that the first black president is a second Hitler, and that Hitler himself was a socialist. Or ponder the knowledge that, having failed to block health care reform with misinformation and threats of filibuster, Republican congressmen have begun to attack financial reform with misinformation and threats of filibuster. It’s as if a promising but unpracticed undergraduate creative writing student were currently writing the narrative of American politics, with all the characters acting too closely to type and an increasing number of surreal flourishes to distract us as the plot fails to cohere. In other words, it all seems kind of made up. In preparation for a weekend that will doubtless conform to natural realism more faithfully than we’d like, this Friday’s link roundup is devoted to stories that our too good to be true, arranged in order of decreasing plausibility. That their truth seems to diminish in as their goodness mounts is surely commentary on something, but it’s probably better if we don’t think about what. Let’s just sit back and enjoy the descent into an entirely fictionalized culture, built for our amusement with the lineaments of the real.

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