Back when only a handful of publishers had the capacity to distribute text across state lines, media seemed more civilized. That was surely an illusion. From the mouthpiece papers of robber barons to the Hearst Empire to the patrician boardrooms of the National Broadcast Corporation, the history of American media is almost certainly a history of corruption and malfeasance. But at least a smaller professional class is easier to corral. Now that we have multiple 24-hour news channels and jerks like myself can broadcast our scribblings across the world by wiggling our fingers, ethics is to media as dentistry is to the Old West. Today is Friday, and our media have fragmented into whatever anyone is willing to say. Won’t you plot the signal against the noise with me?
Last night’s CNN Republican Debate among Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and two extras devolved into a crosstalk act. Rubio went glib and negative to attack Trump, a strategy akin to finding an alligator on the putting green and tackling it into a pond. Senator Cruz continued to speak in that tone of voice a percentage of voters don’t recognize as lying. Their combined light burned pretty dim, although it threw off a pleasing heat. Today is Friday, and unless something exciting happens on Tuesday, Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee for president. Won’t you retreat into pop culture with me?
Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, has confirmed that the wealthy meringue will boycott tomorrow night’s Republican debate in Des Moines. “He’s definitely not participating in the Fox News debate,” Lewandowski told the Washington Post. “His word is his bond.” Trump cited two reasons for his refusal. The first was that he felt he had been treated badly at the first Fox News debate by moderator and intelligent resonating crystal Megyn Kelly. The second was that someone else was making money on the deal. I quote WaPo:
“Why should the networks continue to get rich on the debates?” Trump told reporters at a news conference in Marshalltown. “Why do I have to make Fox rich?”
Just to clarify, debates among presidential candidates are not original reality programming from Fox News. Certain theories of democracy view them as a service to voters. But whoever he thinks his clients are, Trump has pulled Maneuver X.
I tuned into the sixth Republican debate hoping to watch a spider fight a banana slug, and I was not disappointed. But I was also scared. Back in June, when Trump had yet to enter the race and governors dominated our nominating predictions, Jeb! Bush seemed like the saddest thing that could happen to the GOP. Now his warlike nepotism looks quaint. Ben Carson ventured into the realm of speculative fiction last night with his vision of a simultaneous cyberattack and electromagnetic pulse, but Trump and Cruz articulated the real doomsday scenario. Today is Friday, and the Republican nomination has become a contest between a billionaire too dumb to see the truth and a sociopath too smart to speak it. Won’t you choose the lesser evil with me?
The third Republican presidential debate airs tonight at 8pm eastern on CNBC and is titled Your Money, Your Vote, which is coincidentally also the title of this year’s session of the Supreme Court. Except for the absence of Scott Walker, the field looks remarkably similar to what we saw in the second and first debates. CNBC admitted all the candidates polling above 3% nationally, which should give you some sense of the sheer, um, thoroughness of the Republican field. Some of these people are not strictly necessary. But the least necessary of them all, Donald Trump and Ben Carson, are somehow vying for front-runner status nationwide. I don’t know about you, but I expected those bubbles to pop sooner. Which brings us to a question: What could voters learn about those two men tonight that they don’t know already?