Texas Outlaw Writers' Newsletter: The Fools of April Enter Holy Week Edition
Did you get punked or pranked on April 1?
The Washington Post published a helpful list of all the pranks that they could find. Most are celebrity silliness, and there were a lot of phony products or services publicized by their brands in an effort for a little viral social media love. (There is no super slide at the Eiffel Tower, the Pittsburgh Steelers didn't sign Calvin Broadus Jr. — uh, you know, Snoop Dogg — to play wide receiver, and Glenlivet is not distilling “the finest boxed whisky to ever grace the shores of whatever land mass you live on.”
April Fools Day bumped right against Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week. On the traditional Christian calendar, Holy week commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem and ends on Easter Sunday, which celebrates Jesus' resurrection from the dead. Other observances during the week include Maundy Thursday (Last Supper that Jesus shares with his disciples, his betrayal by his disciple Judas Iscariot, and his arrest at the Garden of Gethsemane,) Good Friday, (Jesus’ trial before Pontius Pilate, his sentence of death, his torture, and his crucifixion and burial,) and often there is a vigil on Holy Saturday as the true believers keep watch for the risen Christ. And Easter Sunday - equal to if not greater a holiday than Christmas for the faithful - celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
This brings us to... the GOP messiah. (Did you see that coming?) For two solid days, all of cable news, network news ('mainstream media,') and print publications have had their cameras trained on the former president as he has traveled to New York for his arraignment after being indicted by a Manhattan grand jury. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office has been investigating the former president in relation to Trump's alleged role in a hush money payment scheme and cover-up involving porn star Stormy Daniels. These accusations have dogged the president since the 2016 election. There were 34 felony counts related to business fraud in the indictment. He is facing several other criminal investigations: the removal of Top Secret documents from the White House, his alleged role in the attack on the US Capitol on 6 January 2021, and also his efforts to overturn the 2019 election.
It's a lot.
In the past couple of days, wall-to-wall news coverage is reminiscent of the attention paid to a coronation or a state funeral. "Breaking News" and "Special Reports" have droned on for hours as we've seen: Trump Farce One on the tarmac! The meandering motorcade! (Where was the white Bronco driven by AJ Cowlings?) Legal experts! More airplane, just sitting there! The motorcade! Are they ready to take off? "This just in... it looks like they are taxiing on the runway!" There were protesters. There were supporters. The airplane lands! There were signs. "Has he left the car yet? It looks like he's giving a thumbs up!"
And on it went, for hours. Trump will continue to be our national obsession.
(You can find more information about the legal case on any news website. 34 felony counts. Weak case? Strong case? Will this help or hurt him? It's all there. Start with our own James Moore's background on the indictments below.)
And the media swore that they would never cover Trump like this again. After two presidential campaigns where he commanded the mediascape 24/7/365, the media did bit of self-reflection and agreed that they had allowed the candidate Trump to dictate the news cycle. He actually had one of the lower media spending budgets of all the candidates. In March of 2016, the NY Times reported that while he had only spent 10 million on paid advertising (and didn't even have an organized PAC yet,) he already had $2 billion in "earned" (free) media (news time, commentary, talk shows, etc.) No one else came close.
The Washington Post recently ran a piece titled, "If Trump Runs Again, Do Not Cover Him the Same Way: A Journalist’s Manifesto."
As Trump prepares to run again in 2024, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the lessons we’ve learned — and committing to the principle that, when covering politicians who are essentially running against democracy, old-style journalism will no longer suffice... Journalists — specifically those who cover politics — must keep a sharp focus on truth-seeking, not old-style performative neutrality. - Margaret Sullivan, WaPo
Note to Maggie: I don't think anyone's listening. Check your paper's front page and every broadcaster on the air.
In 2016, the press coverage of Trump was overwhelmingly negative. It was also simply overwhelming. (Yes, Clinton's coverage was also mostly negative, but not to the same degree. And Trump was writing the anti-Clinton narrative.) PT Barnum famously said, "There is no such thing as bad publicity" and he went after any and all of it. Barnum would have been proud of how Trump makes himself the center ring of every circus. He defined campaign coverage in his own terms - engaging in trash talk, barking negative (and often untrue) accusations about other candidates, and bragging about his (exaggerated or phony) accomplishments. The press thrives on conflict, crisis, and negativity. All the negativity in the world just fed his massive ego. And his base grew, and grew. He quickly learned to frame any criticism as persecution. As a showman (remember his years playing a billionaire in "The Apprentice,) he knew how to play to a mass audience. Soon he was striking a populist tone. He was a simple man, fighting for the common people against the oppressive government and a lying, fraudulent press. And it was a fight, not a civil debate. A huge sector of the population was looking for a brawler. Years of falling behind economically and culturally had them primed for a pugilist, someone to give the elite lawmakers, journalists, and corporate overlords a beat-down.
When it was clear that he was willing to fight hard on their behalf - no holds barred - they were on board. Their enemies were his enemies... and like them, he informed the crowds that he was a righteous Christian. His fight for them was a righteous one. He was the only one that could save them. From a campaign ad, "Donald Trump will protect you."He is the only one who can."" In a speech to delegates, "I am your voice. I alone can fix it. I will restore law and order." And finally, he declared, "I am the Chosen One."
To paraphrase a common trope, not every Trump supporter is an evangelical, but if you're evangelical, you're almost assuredly a Trump supporter. His base, many of them evangelical Christians, had no problem seeing him as the Second Coming. This is not hyperbole.
Former Texas Governor (and also former US Energy Secretary) Rick Perry was one of many that saw Trump as heavenly appointed:
“God uses imperfect people through history. King David wasn’t perfect. Saul wasn’t perfect. Solomon wasn’t perfect. And I actually gave the president a one-pager on those Old Testament kings about a month ago. And I shared it with him and I said, ‘Mr. President, I know there are people who say that you say you were the chosen one.’ And said, ‘You were.’ I said, ‘If you are a believing Christian, you understand God’s plan for the people who rule and judge over us on this planet in our government.’ ”
And this Holy Week, the Messiah is again on trial. I think I'm clever, but I knew I couldn't be the first to see this narrative unfolding before his cult. A quick Google search showed plenty of writers waving this very palm branch. From the very conservative "American Spectator," in the article "The Passion of the Donald is Upon Us:"
It won’t have escaped Donald Trump’s notice that his arrest has come during Holy Week, when our Lord and Savior was sentenced by a cruel mob and crucified only to rise again... Trump — aka “the Tangerine Jesus” — has long understood the religious power of politics in America. It’s why, recovering from Covid in the run-up to the 2020 election, he described his recovery as “a blessing from God” and behaved a bit like Lazarus brought back from the dead. It’s why he accuses the Democrats of stealing “our sacred elections.” And it’s why Trump and his team are orchestrating his arrest today into a giant media spectacle, milking his legal persecution for all it is worth with a press conference tonight and no doubt endless “Justice” campaign slogans to come.
"Donald’s father Frederick’s middle name was “Christ.” Trump decries fake news and the Lord denounced false prophets. Jesus was betrayed by Judas; Trump was betrayed by his vice president Mike Pence. Jesus was crucified between two criminals. Trump has been prosecuted along with his former advisors Michael Cohen and Roger Stone. Joseph of Arimathea felt compassion for Jesus and had him buried in fine linen; Trump is backed by the “MyPillow” CEO Mike Lindell..."
- Freddy Gray from "The Spectator," sharing some ideas sourced from a book by Helgard Müller, "President Donald J. Trump, The Son of Man — The Christ."
Sure, go ahead and scoff. Laugh it up. You're a part of the crowd that turned on Him. Shouting for his execution.
The faithful await. The stone will roll away, and the beaten and crucified Trump will rise up from the dead...
Even now, the Messiah assures them that he'll go a little Old Testament for them. “I am your retribution” is his campaign pitch in 2024.
Yeah. Have a great Easter everyone.
OK. We get the irony (hypocrisy?) of decrying the saturation coverage of the Trump while here we are, writing about the Trump. <sigh>
One aspect of our fascination continues to be the former president's narcissism. His arrogant self-importance has been destructive not only for the people in his orbit, but for the entire country. Myra Jolivet thinks that extravagant privilege is a toxin.
The porn star that took down a president. They'll be writing some pretty interesting screenplays on this one, no? Outlaw James Moore is pretty confident that Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg has his case buttoned up. There are plenty of critics to be sure, but Moore believes that "Bragg is on neither a fishing expedition nor a witch hunt. The fish has been landed and about to be filleted."
Pass the tartar sauce.
Roger Gray took the high road and avoided the Storm (and her benefactor.) He went all in on the debt ceiling. No wait, don't go! This little game of congressional chicken is a bigger story than the current fixation with "How to Venmo a Porn Star and Not Get Caught."
Roger has found a way to make an end run around Kevin McCarthy. Of course, if GED holders can do it, how hard can it be? But now Congress is juggling our economy like those fire sticks on Ed Sullivan. OK, that is way too old a reference.