Yesterday, TPM’s Allegra Kirkland published this piece on how numerous tech platforms, social media networks, payment services and others have shut down access to alt-right, Nazi and white supremacist groups. I was also interested to read this piece in the Times about how this mass banning – even if salutary in this instance – points to the massive and arbitrary power of private companies in controlling the venues in which a vast amounts speech occur today.
Let me try to take some stock of President Trump’s speech. There were a lot of random weird asides through the speech, some of which I flagged in real time. One example: In the course of defending himself on Charlottesville he gave a shout-out to CNN Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord who was recently fired for using a Nazi slogan in a Twitter fight. He had kinder and lengthier words for Lord than he did for Heather Heyer. He had kinder words for Kim Jung Un. Everyone said “you won’t bring [quarterly economic growth] up to 1%.” What?
Aside from the rambling weirdness, the big things are these. President Trump spent something like forty-five minutes in a wide-ranging primal scream about Charlottesville, ranting at the press, giving what might generously be called a deeply misleading and dishonest summary of what he actually said. It all amounted to one big attack on the press for supposedly lying about him.
There were some other points that were momentary and perhaps easy to miss but quite important.
10:56 PM: Trump just threatened to shut down the federal government over the border wall.
10:45 PM: Note that so far Trump has name-checked the victimization of Jeff Lord – who was fired for using a Nazi slog – but not Heather Heyer, the woman killed in Charlottesville.
10:40 PM: The media is “trying to take away our history and our heritage.”
10:33 PM: Trump name-checks victimization of Jeffrey Lord who was canned by CNN for using a Nazi slogan.
10:25 PM: Crowd seems to agree: Trump killed it on Charlottesville response.
10:19 PM: Trump seems to again go for the both-sides-ism version of condemning Charlottesville. But in his attack on the media he does name check neo-nazis and white supremacists.
10:19 PM: Notably, Trump looks to civil society to emulate on duty soldiers.
10:11 PM: Fascinating. The guy who runs the “Blacks for Trump” cult site has again managed to position himself right behind Trump.
In the new episode of The Josh Marshall Show (#18) I talk to Professor Stephen Shoemaker about how the source and text critical methods which have been applied to the early histories of Judaism and Christianity for more than a century can shed dramatically new light on the origins of Islam. Specifically we talk about Shoemaker’s book The Death of a Prophet, one of the most fascinating books I’ve read in quite some time.
I want to let you know about a renewed emphasis I want to bring to how TPM covers the news: not a new topic area, but better, more consistent and deeper ways to do what we already do best: dogged coverage of core TPM stories over days, weeks and months.
Let me explain what I mean.
I’ve noted on a number of occasions that the Trump Soho project, a major building project in lower manhattan, was the one where Russian and post-Soviet cash seemed to play the clearest role. That is, that’s the biggest place to look if we’re trying to get to the bottom of the Trump Russia story. Trump business partner Felix Sater was running the Trump Soho project, with heavy involvement by the Trump family. And a key source of the Russia money was an investment fund in Iceland called the “FL Group”, one known to be a repository of choice for cash from Putin-aligned Russian oligarchs. Well, it turns out it wasn’t just Trump Soho. The two other roughly contemporaneous projects, Trump Merrimac in Ft Lauderdale and Trump Tower Pheonix, also got money from FL Group. FL also appears to have loaned money to the man behind Trump Tower Toronto. It seems like Sam Thielmann has the story.
Recent events have led various platforms and services to banish racist, white supremacist, alt-right groups, pushing them to the platform fringes of the web. TPM’s Allegra Kirkland spoke to various alt-right luminaries about the developments. Some interviews went better than others.
Other sites are more focused in their target audience and demographics: TPM reached out to Pax Dickinson, who was fired as chief technology officer at Business Insider for his racist, misogynist views who went on to found Counter.Fund, a fundraising platform “built by and for the wider Alt-Right counter-culture.”
His response: “Fuck you, Talking Points Memo bullshit artist, I wouldn’t talk to you if you paid me.”
Seriously, most went a lot better. Read Allegra’s report here.
A few moments ago I noticed a new PPP poll showing that Mitch McConnell seems to have been damaged significantly in his home state of Kentucky by the effort to repeal Obamacare. The number that caught my eye was that McConnell has an astonishing 74% disapproval rating with just 18% approving of his performance in office. A hypothetical Democrat beats him by 7 percentage points. But that only tells part of the story.
One of the oddities of the last week-plus is that it has created what seems like a crisis for the White House which is new and perhaps a turning point. Yet the most daunting challenge facing the White House – or the two most daunting challenges – aren’t on people’s radar at all. Or, rather they are entirely unconnected to the chain of events stemming from the incidents last weekend in Charlottesville. And the events in Charlottesville have largely pushed them off the front pages.
I got an email about my post on Trump from an old friend Fred Block, a professor of sociology at UC Davis, and the author of pathbreaking books on the relationship between government and the economy. Here is what Fred wrote:
What a week. Who would imagine that Bannon would do the political equivalent of “suicide by cop” by calling Bob Kuttner? But I wanted to respond to your second childhood post about Trump.