Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Trump’s Torture Policy Is Already Operating In Washington

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

President Trump feels waterboarding works.

If you knew what he knew, wouldn’t you? He heard Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham say torture works with his own ears. He said it on Twitter, which means it must be true. Defense Secretary James Mattis said he’d do better with a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers, but, hey, if the president feels something, it can’t be wrong. “I happen to feel,” Trump said yet again last week, “that it does work.”

The problem with torture is that people will say anything to make it stop. If you’re afraid you’re going to die, you don’t care what’s true, you just care about surviving. There is abundant evidence of this behavior in Washington, where the fear of political death also makes people say anything.

Consider Team Trump. Only electoral torture — the threat of losing power — can account for the readiness of the White House and the Republican Congress to say anything, to act as though the infotainment freak show posing as our government were perfectly normal, and to pretend that having a megalomaniac in charge of our nuclear arsenal isn’t the kind of emergency the 25th Amendment anticipates.

At one end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Mike Pence, Kellyanne Conway, and Sean Spicer give no hint onstage of what they know full well backstage, that the man they serve is a total disaster no longer waiting to happen. A million phantom inaugural attendees; 3 million imaginary illegal voters; the theft of health insurance from more than 20 million people; an animus toward Mexico that will steal billions from working Americans; a Muslim ban that reads right off ISIS’ script — what fresh hell will their boss serve up for them to defend next? A de facto abortion ban? Looser libel laws to make the media, as Steve Bannon barked, “keep its mouth shut”? A sweetheart deal with Putin on sanctions?

At the other end of the avenue, the game faces that Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan wear hide their daily humiliation of humoring a tempestuous toddler; conceal their fear that their party is one golden shower away from disgrace and oblivion; and mask their terror that their country is one dirty bomb away from martial law. The last best hope of the Republican leadership is an impeachment they couldn’t be blamed for invoking, and a Pence presidency that would do the Tea Party proud.

Trump’s behavior checks all the symptoms on the malignant narcissism tick list: sadism, aggressiveness, paranoia, hypomania, grandiosity, lack of impulse control, lack of empathy, you name it. His disorder is hiding in plain sight. Here’s an excerpt from his interview last week with ABC’s David Muir:

“That [CIA] speech was a home run. … I got a standing ovation. In fact, they said it was the biggest standing ovation since Peyton Manning had won the Super Bowl and they said it was equal. I got a standing ovation. It lasted for a long period of time. … That speech was a total home run. They loved it. … People loved it. They loved it. They gave me a standing ovation for a long period of time. They never even sat down, most of them, during the speech. There was love in the room. You and other networks covered it very inaccurately. … [T]urn on Fox and see how it was covered. And see how people respond to that speech. That speech was a good speech. And you and a couple of other networks tried to downplay that speech. And it was very, very unfortunate that you did. The people of the CIA loved the speech.”

It goes on.

This is scary. This is not how a president talks. It’s not even how a normal person talks. But it explains how Trump’s courtiers talk. Like the denizens of Wonderland, they fear the Red Queen, who “had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small. ‘Off with his head!’ ” The Red Queen, Trump’s doppelganger, is the mother of all narcissists, the waterboarder in chief. So, to save themselves from political execution, Trump’s enablers, like the playing cards who paint the white roses red, confect “alternative facts.” Like Humpty Dumpty, who makes words mean what he chooses, Bannon calls a free press that speaks truth to power “the opposition party.” It’s not. That’s their job.

In his first news conference as president, Trump said that even though waterboarding “does work,” he’ll defer to his defense secretary’s opposition. “He will override. I’m giving him that power.” Here’s some wishful thinking: If Mattis can get Trump to observe the Geneva Convention on torture, maybe he can get him to observe the Paris Agreement on climate change, too.

Or even — I can dream, can’t I? — to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear professor of entertainment, media and society at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Reach him at martyk@jewishjournal.com.

IMAGE: U.S. President-elect Donald Trump gives a thumbs up to the media as he arrives at a costume party at the home of hedge fund billionaire and campaign donor Robert Mercer in Head of the Harbor, New York, U.S., December 3, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich

Yes, The Media Spent The Election Teaching Americans How To Love A Dictator

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

For a majority of Americans, feeling traumatized and terrified are reasonable responses to the words “President-elect Donald Trump.” But even if his inauguration marks the demise of the star-spangled mythos we grew up on, being catatonic is no way to spend the next four years, especially if we’re lucky enough to survive, oh, a nuclear war. But acceptance of Trump—acceptance is the last of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages of dealing with death—is hardly chicken soup for our souls. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, Trump: That can’t be the best we can do.

Why not love? Those thousands at Trump’s rallies, those millions who voted for him: Many of them do seem to love him. Well, maybe the rest of us can, too!

Impossible? Recall what the Queen of Hearts told Alice when she said it was impossible to believe that the queen was 101 years old: Believing impossible things takes practice. “When I was your age,” the queen said, “I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Try it. (1) Trump won an electoral college landslide. (2) Trump won the popular vote. (3) Goldman Sachs and Exxon Mobil are the best friends of forgotten Americans. (4) No one has more respect for women than Donald Trump. (5) Mexico will pay for the wall. (6) Up is down, black is white and day is night.

Facts getting in the way of that? That’s why post-truthers have more fun. But put in half-an-hour a day, and by Inauguration Day you’ll be believing every word that comes out of Kellyanne Conway’s mouth.

No? So what’s your real problem with Trump? The gilt? Get over it.

From Beverly Hills to Short Hills, there are taste tribes for whom there’s no such thing as too much gold leaf, gold paint or bling. As a 12-year-old, I was fully complicit in my mother’s choice of a “conversation piece” for the gold-carpeted living room of our new suburban split level, a tower of three “antiqued” gold cherubs with a jeweled lampshade sprouting from the forehead of the chubby child on top. If gilt like that was regal enough for Kaplans, surely it’s fitting for our 21st-century roi soleil, so please park the snark when the new White House decorator goes a little Versailles on us.

Or is the problem the guilt? You can get over that, too.

You watch “Say Yes to the Dress,” don’t you? “Real Housewives of Atlanta”? You keep up with the Kardashians? Like those nominally unscripted soaps, the Trump Show is a guilty pleasure, too digital junk food, political empty calories, the “reality” formerly known as reality. Trump’s hat may say “Make America Great Again,” but his meta-hat says, Let me entertain you. The twitter taunts, the billionaire boys club, the mayhem at rallies, the humiliated rivals, the insulted, dishonest media: As Russell Crowe asks in “Gladiator,” “Are you not entertained?”

Look at the promotional campaign MSNBC is running for its anchors. The print ad features a tight close-up of Trump’s face. The text reads, “What will he do?” Beneath that, “What won’t he do?” And beneath that, an indictment not of him, but of us: “This is why you watch.” At the bottom, flanked by photos of its anchors, are the MSNBC logo and a tag line: “This is who we are.” New York magazine writer Joe Hagan tweeted about it, “This ad nails everything that is wrong with the media. Fascism as ratings spectacle.” If you grieve over the audience’s addiction to disaster porn, if you mourn the news-as-entertainment business model that fostered it, then you’re bound to feel guilty about watching, and you’ve got a rough ride ahead. But if, instead, you treat boredom like a fate worse than tyranny, if you medicate civic ADHD with always-breaking BREAKING NEWS, if you mistake engagement with social media for actual citizen participation, you’re gonna rock these next four years.

Trump voters love the rupture with the American political narrative that he ran on. But if the popular vote is any guide to the country’s mood, I suspect that fear of the future is now more widespread than exhilaration that anything can happen. The truth is that no one has a clue what’s next. That’s not fun; it’s frightening.

The next commander-in-chief is an impulsive, deceitful, corrupt, intellectually lazy megalomaniac. That’s a delicious character disorder for the villain of a comic book, and it’s ideally suited to a news industry whose audience is addicted to melodrama and whose narrative technique maximizes suspense, surprise and dread. Though horror is a thrilling genre, and real-time tension is irresistible to our animal appetites, there’s no guarantee that the scary story we’re living through will have a happy ending.

“This is why you watch.” Really? To torture ourselves wondering how bad things can get? To have a front row seat for the last days of American democracy?

There’s an awesome opportunity that responsible journalism can rise to right now. The repeal of Obamacare begs to be framed not as a retributive power struggle between political parties, but as a moral struggle for a diverse people to define a good society. Climate change cries out to be covered not as a farce about ignorance, but as an epic about the survival of our species. Explaining economic policy requires risky honesty from the media about inequality, and a fearless, patient commitment to educating its audiences. That’s not the same as keeping the country watching by keeping it on the edge of a nervous breakdown.

An avalanche of coverage of the first 100 days of Trump is imminent. How will the media do? We know how brilliantly they did covering the primaries and the general. They made a lot of dough doing it. It’s wishful thinking, I know, but imagine if there were a different yardstick for how well they tell the next part of the story. That would really be something to love.

Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear professor of entertainment, media and society at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Reach him at martyk@jewishjournal.com.

IMAGE: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Fort Myers, Florida, U.S. September 19, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Trump’s Pick For Legal Advisor Shows He’s Dead Set On Nuking Democracy

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet. 

When Hillary Clinton lost the Electoral College, most post-mortems faulted Democrats for failing to empathize with the anger and abandonment non-coastal Americans are feeling. But last week, when Donald Trump sucked up to the (previously dishonest, subsequently gem-like) New York Timesflip-flopping six times in an hour-long interview, I wondered whether his backtracking might be causing some of his supporters to feel abandoned. If they are, I empathize with their incipient buyer’s remorse. I imagine they must feel a bit like Bernie Madoff’s investors did, after realizing they’d been conned.

During the campaign, Trump said that he alone understood the plight of the everyday people hurting in this economy. But he didn’t pretend to be one of them. He didn’t hide the fact that he’s a billionaire living in a Manhattan tower and a Palm Beach palace in gold-leaf-and-marble opulence suitable for a shah. Instead, he depicted his wealth as an asset: Only a royal could bring down the monarchy. He offered his gilded grandeur as proof that his attack on the corrupt political system sprang directly from inside knowledge. Only a recovering, self-funded plutocrat who had once greased the palms of pols could drive the whores from the temple of democracy.

Campaign finance reform was the one place Trump connected with me. It was the same spot Bernie Sanders connected with me, though Sanders lacked a sinner’s conversion story. Getting big money out of politics is a prerequisite for fixing almost everything else in our dysfunctional system. That’s my song, and in the primaries, Trump and Sanders sang it loudest.

I wonder how many Trump voters who were attracted by his drain-the-swamp rhetoric noticed his pick last week for White House counsel. Trump could not have announced a more in-your-face betrayal of his promise to clean up Washington than his selection of Donald McGahn. McGahn is anti-matter to Sanders’ matter. He’s like kryptonite to campaign finance reform. He’ll be the chief ethics lawyer charged with telling Trump when there’s a conflict of interest, or the appearance of one, between carrying out his oath of office and jacking up his family’s wealth. When might that be? Don’t hold your breath.

McGahn’s background includes serving as counsel and ethics advisor to former Rep. Tom Delay, who was indicted for conspiring to launder corporate cash into campaign contributions for Delay’s PAC. In 2008, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, a veteran denigrator of campaign finance reform, urged George W. Bush to appoint McGahn as chair of the Federal Election Commission. With the possible exception of the Supreme Court, no public body has been more responsible for keeping our campaign finance system a cesspool than the FEC under McGahn’s leadership.

McGahn’s FEC ensured that the Court’s rulings for Citizens United and against the McCain-Feingold reforms would gut the regulation of money in politics, paving the way for super PACs and bogus “social welfare” nonprofits like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS. When a Washington lawyer called McGahn “one of the most consequential commissioners the FEC’s ever had,” Democratic FEC commissioner Ellen Weintraub commented, “He was consequential like a sledgehammer was consequential. He did his best to undermine the law.” Since his tenure at the FEC, according to Forbes, McGahn worked for the Koch brothers’ Freedom Partners Chambers of Commerce, which “has given grants worth a total of $236 million to right-wing political groups like the Tea Party.” Excellent training for joining the Trump campaign.

A deeper denizen of the Beltway is hard to imagine. Yet this is the Solomon whose portfolio includes telling Trump when he and his family blur the line between the financial interest of the Trump Organization and the national interest of the United States. If you read the jaw-dropping 7,000-word lead story in Sunday’s New York Times, “World of Potential Conflict for a Developer President: Many Trump Partners Have Ties to Foreign Governments as Work Spans the Globe,” you know how thick Trump’s business ties are to the governments of the Philippines, Brazil, India, Turkey, Ireland and Scotland, to name a few. If a U.S. foreign policy decision appears to favor a Trump commercial project, it’s McGahn’s job to blow the whistle on the president. And if you think that’s going to happen, I’ve got a golf course with a nice view of a wind farm that I’d like to sell you.

Eight out of 10 Americans say, “the influence of money in politics is worse than at any other point in their lifetime, and 70 percent believe our democracy is at risk if we do not take immediate steps to fix the problem.”

Donald Trump tells us he’ll fix that problem. He also tells us he only hires the best people. Donald McGahn is the best person he could find to keep the money in politics that puts our democracy at risk.

IMAGE: Donald McGahn, lawyer and Trump advisor, exits following a meeting of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s national finance team at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City, U.S., June 9, 2016.  REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Trump Wins? In First Debate, We Need Corporate Media To Play Hardball

Apparently pretty much everyone I know is a bed-wetter.

The term gained currency in politics in January 2010 when Obama’s 2008 campaign manager, David Plouffe, in a Washington Post opinion piece [3] titled “November doesn’t need to be a nightmare for Democrats,” gave this advice to his party: “No bed-wetting.” “Instead of fearing what may happen,” he wrote, “let’s fight like hell.”

He could have gone with the blander, “No hand-wringing,” which wouldn’t have risked offending enuresis sufferers. But “bed-wetting” got traction in the American political lexicon – even though, as it turned out, Republicans picked up 63 seats in the House that November and recaptured the majority, a nightmare that retroactively warranted plenty of dread about nocturnal incontinence.

Plouffe was back at it during this summer’s Democratic Convention. “No bed-wetting,” he tweeted. “Clinton will enter August with strong electoral college advantage.” But that lead has since been blown, and now my in-box is positively leaking anxiety.

Tell me Trump won’t win, my friends are emailing. It’s a slow-motion train wreck, they’re saying, and I feel helpless to stop it. Why is the media letting Trump get away with it? I wouldn’t be so nervous if it weren’t for Gary Johnson; if it weren’t for millennial apathy, for alt-right propaganda, for Paul Ryan’s cowardice; if it weren’t for sexism, racism, infotainment, Idiocracy, plutocracy, Citizens United, voter suppression…. Help!

Now comes the first debate, adding fresh impetus to stock up on mattress pads. Yet no matter what Clinton does, the Trump-wins-first-debate narrative has already been written:

– Trump and Clinton will share the same stage. He is not a normal candidate, or even a normal person. She is. No matter what happens during the debate, it is declared afterward that the one-on-one matchup has “normalized” Trump. So Trump wins.

– Because the bar for a successful Trump performance has been set so low, when Trump fails to threaten to punch Clinton, it is acclaimed as evidence of his presidential temperament and general election pivot.  Trump wins.

– Trump will attack Clinton. Clinton will defend herself. The verdict: Trump was strong; Clinton was on the defensive. But people want strength. Trump wins.

– The moderator, NBC’s Lester Holt, will call Trump on a lie. Trump will heap scorn on Holt, NBC, MSNBC, the Commission on Presidential Debates and the corrupt, dishonest media. Gallup says public trust in the media is now at an all-time low. People will love Trump’s attack on Holt. Trump wins.

– Clinton will nail Trump for lying. He’ll lie so much, she won’t be able to keep up with him. Fact-checkers will say, after the fact, that his pants were on fire, but it won’t matter. The debate will be scored for entertainment value, not truth-value. Clinton’s zingers will be called scripted. Trump’s taunts will be so uncivil, so beyond the political pale, so viciously funny, he will be crowned the change candidate in a change election year. Trump wins.

– Trump and Clinton will go after each other so relentlessly that the debate will be called a draw. But the Beltway consensus is that Clinton needs to win; Trump just needs to tie. So a tie is a win. Trump wins.

Even if Clinton wipes the floor with Trump, the media’s inherent bias is for suspense. The media business model requires capturing and keeping the audience’s attention, so corporations can sell our eyeballs to advertisers. It doesn’t matter how the debates go, or what the polls say; the press will portray the final stretch of this horserace as neck and neck, a photo finish, you won’t want to miss this, stay tuned.

Four years ago, I predicted that Romney would win the first debate. For this clairvoyance, a colleague dubbed me “a Jewish prophet.” I wish I could take credit for knowing that Obama would grudgingly phone in his performance, but all I did was deduce what good storytelling required the first debate and its aftermath to be: a rout, followed by a comeback. Trump’s campaign has signaled that he’s doing minimal prep for the debate. Maybe this is garden-variety expectation lowering, but even if he bombs, no media narrative will cover the last six weeks of the campaign as anything but a nail-biter.

If worrying that Trump can win this election makes me a bed-wetter, too, I cop to it. What could turn the race around? It’d help if the press didn’t make the same mistake over and over. Last Friday, when Trump conned the networks into turning what was billed as a press conference about Obama’s birthplace into a half-hour live broadcast of veterans’ testimonials for Trump and an infomercial for his new hotel, CNN’s John King admitted on air, “We got played again by the Trump campaign, which is what they do.” No doubt Trump’s base loved that humiliation. But will the press ever learn? By the time the media figures out that its addiction to BREAKING NEWS is a standing invitation to be punked, the guy who’s gaming them may be sitting in the Oval Office.

I do see signs that Trump’s press bullying is losing octane. The Los Angeles Times’ lead story out of that birther event was headlined, “Trump trades one falsehood for two more,” and the New York Times led with “Trump Gives Up a Lie But Refuses to Repent.” If cable news covers the debates that unflinchingly, maybe Bed Bath & Beyond can let its inventory of waterproof bedding dwindle.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet. Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear professor of entertainment, media and society at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Reach him at martyk@jewishjournal.com.

IMAGE: Republican U.S. presidential candidate Trump shows off the size of his hands as Fox News Channel moderators Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly look on at the U.S. Republican presidential candidates debate in Detroit on March 3, 2016.

Have You Ever Seen A More Cynical Political Pivot Than Donald Trump Trying To Avoid Electoral Disaster?

Published with permission from AlterNet.

If, like me, you think that a President Trump would be (not to coin a phrase) a total disaster, Hillary Clinton’s widening lead in the polls gave you about five minutes to breathe easier, until Trump replaced his campaign chairman with honchos blunt enough to admit that his ugliness was killing him with undecided voters, and pushy enough to make him pretend to almost apologize for it.

Was last week a true turning point for Trump? Did it signal a transformation from the man-baby who won the Republican primaries to someone with the temperament to be president? In the word of the moment, is this the “pivot” that Clinton’s supporters have most feared?

There are more strata of cynicism in the idea of a pivot than layers of pastry in a mille-feuille.

Start with the presumption of two kinds of Americans. Some of them – political insiders, media junkies, savvy citizens – know the score. They’re hard-boiled enough to get that candidates can sometimes lie with impunity; that everything can come down to image and optics; that in an era of post-truth politics, narratives can matter more than facts.

The other Americans are the useful idiots whose gullibility is what pollsters measure. When a candidate pivots from one message in the primaries (e.g., Blacks are scary), to a contradictory message in the general (Blacks are suffering), or when a nominee torques from bullying (smearing a Gold Star mother, say) to sensitivity (I regret causing personal pain), his or her campaign calculates that the base and the undecideds will just roll with it. They’ll bend themselves into pretzels, believe the character swings, dissolve the flip-flops in the solvent of amnesia.

So when insiders speculate whether the Trump pivot has at long last arrived, what they’re really asking is whether Trump has the discipline to maintain the masquerade that he’s changed. If he doesn’t consistently act as though he can get his id under control, too many voters may conclude that the pathological liar and narcissist they saw in the primaries – whom the elite knows is the real Trump – is in fact the real Trump.

The cynicism of the pivot ploy came into sharp focus when Trump, under the tutelage of his new chieftains — Stephen Bannon and Kellyanne Conway —declared in Charlotte, N.C., “Sometimes, in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don’t choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that.”

If you saw him say that, you couldn’t mistake the meaning of the smirk on his face: “This is an act, people. I’m bluffing.” No wonder the crowd laughed at the preposterousness of it. “And believe it or not,” he continued, “I regret it.” Trump’s signature catchphrase is “believe me,” so when he says “believe it or not,” it’s a tell, a hostage video. “Or not” is the equivalent of blinking “I’m lying” in Morse code. The only disclaimer missing was putting air quotes around “regret.” No wonder his mea quasi culpa was met with even more laughter, and a Trump-Trump-Trump chant from the crowd; it was their way of saying they knew he was faking it.

Last Friday’s Morning Joe on MSNBC epitomized the media response to the Trump shakeup. The question on the table wasn’t whether Trump had truly changed; no one on the panel thought his pivot meant anything truthful about his temperament. Instead, it was all about performance, stagecraft, illusion – whether Trump’s new minders can make him stick to the new script, whether they can market it with a straight face, whether the audience will buy it. Joe Scarborough called Conway’s TV debut as campaign manager “the best pundit performance of the year.” “It was quite a performance,” agreed Andrea Mitchell, because “it didn’t have performance written all about it – it was natural.” Eugene Robinson thought Trump’s attempting a pivot would “if not gladden the hearts of worried Republicans, at least calm their night sweats.” Chris Cillizza wondered if Trump, a billionaire who managed to depict himself as a populist in the primaries, had already “damaged himself so badly, image-wise, that a change like this is not able to be sold to a skeptical electorate.” Brand maven Donnie Deutsch said no, it wouldn’t work, because “people are not stupid.” The press needs to stop setting the bar so low, “to stop giving him presidential points because he can read off a teleprompter and he’s not insulting anybody.”

Within hours of his Charlotte speech, a Clinton ad collected video of Trump being asked if he regretted taking shots at the Khans (“I don’t regret anything”); if he regretted denying that John McCain was a war hero (“I like not to regret anything”); if he regretted calling Mexicans rapists (“No, not at all); if he wanted to apologize for anything (“No, I don’t apologize”). Will it work? Trump’s tears may be crocodile contrition, but fact checking, even via video, sometimes can’t keep a good charlatan down.

Nor, maybe, will Trump’s message discipline stick any longer than after other reboots. Yesterday Conway tweeted that Trump “doesn’t hurl personal insults.” But during today’s Morning Joe, Trump took to Twitter to call Scarborough and co-host Mika Brzezinski “two clowns,” adding that she’s “a neurotic and not very bright mess.” So much for temperament transplants.

A political pivot is a con that wins wolf whistles from people who think they’re too smart to fall for it.  I wonder what it would take to motivate some connoisseurs of that fakery to volunteer a little time on the vice squad cleaning things up.

Photo: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during a Hispanic Small Business Leaders round table meeting at the Trump Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., August 26, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Will Enough Voters Realize They’ve Been Conned By Trump Before The Election In November?

Published with permission from Alternet

If I see what a sociopath he is, surely enough other Americans see it to fire him in November.

Donald Trump needs help with anger management. So do I.

At a Saturday rally in a hot New Hampshire gym, Trump called Hillary Clinton “unstable,” “unbalanced” and “totally unhinged.”  “She is,” he said, “a horrible, horrible human being.”

That made me want to do to Trump what he wanted to do when “a very little guy” – bigger billionaire Mike Bloomberg – questioned his sanity: “I was going to hit this guy so hard his head would spin, he wouldn’t know what the hell happened.”

Of course that’s what Trump wants me to do: Descend to his level.

In theory, I know how to manage that. Take deep breaths.  Remind myself it’s Trump who’s unhinged. A marker of his disorder is projective identification – splitting off his own derangement and attributing it to other people. The “horrible, horrible human being” is the Donald nailing the Donald.

Sometimes this works. My fury subsides, along with my fear he’ll be elected. If I see what a sociopath he is, surely enough other Americans see it to fire him in November.

No wonder Trump is pre-emptively depicting himself not as a loser, but as the victim of a rigged election. You know he won’t go away quietly. Nor will his base, whose fire he has recklessly stoked. I can’t believe he’d give a gracious concession speech, a call to come together and support the one president our nation has. He’s more likely to summon a retributive movement – a fifth column of Trumpistas.

This is the obligatory moment for me to say something empathic about his supporters. Their anger, as even Clinton has said, is understandable. They’ve been left behind by an economy that hasn’t worked for them; they don’t recognize the America they once knew; they’re fearful of what the future holds for their families.

Those are legitimate fears, and their anger at how Washington has stiffed them, like the anger of Bernie Sanders’ supporters at the corrupt campaign finance system, is warranted.  What’s not warranted is the scapegoating, racism, misogyny, xenophobia and violence that Trump ignites in them. What’s indefensible is the permission that the nicest, least rabid of Trump’s rally-goers give to the rabble whose rage Trump has uncorked.

Until last week, when the New York Times ran an uncensored video compilation of Trump supporters at his rallies, I didn’t understand how horrifying his crowds are. That’s because the Times, like almost all TV news, bleeps profanity and hate speech; because the Trump campaign traps cameras and correspondents in a press pen, preventing them from covering the crowd; and because, until three Times reporters – Erica Berenstein, Nick Corasaniti and Ashley Parker – pointed it out, I didn’t realize what enablers the courteous people at his rallies turn out to be.

The Times’ brand is civil discourse. The box at the top of its front page says, “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” It’s why the paper’s nickname is “the Gray Lady”: the Times won’t run content that’s not safe for work or for grandma. But now, in a good way, the Gray Lady is a tramp. To give us a true feel for Trump’s rallies, the paper has lifted its ban on obscenity to report content that’s not safe for America.

Those three reporters managed to escape the press pen and shoot on cellphones. The three-minute compilation is full of f-bombs – I counted 10, not including T-shirts. You can imagine their targets:  F Muslims. F Islam. F [n-word]. F “those dirty beaners.” F political correctness. F Hillary Clinton (and “hang her” and “kill her”).

There’s also a “Seig Heil.”

You may think you already know how crude Trump’s rallies are, but actually hearing that language in a news story is a thunderclap. The video will depress and frighten you, but you have to watch it.

Critics say the reporters edited unrepresentative footage into a hit job. The reporters dispute that; they’ve seen this behavior at Trump rallies throughout the campaign and around the country. Critics say this happens at Democratic rallies, too, but that’s false; it’s not an everyone-does-it thing. Vicious catcalling from the crowd, the reporters note, is “inextricably bound up with the Trump show itself.”

Also unique to the Trump show is the complicity of the “polite, well mannered” people in the crowd, who “seldom express disapproval” of the ugly. At the video’s end Trump says, “This is a movement like people have never seen before.” But the safe space he’s made for haters and their fellow travellers reminded many online commenters of another movement, born in Berlin in the 1930s, and of the Good Germans who failed to fight it.

Anger can be righteous, not sick. On Sunday, CNN media reporter Brian Stelter ended his show with an essay about Trump’s dangerous, baseless claim that the election will be rigged. Stelter is a steady, unflappable pro, but as the essay went on, as he called out conservative figures like Sean Hannity for not challenging Trump, you could see him simmering. He closed, sharply, with this: “Right now it is the Republican candidate for president who is trying to delegitimize our democratic process without proof. It is unpatriotic for any interviewer, for any journalist, to help him.”

Wow: unpatriotic. Angry, and apt.

Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear professor of entertainment, media and society at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Reach him at martyk@jewishjournal.com.

Photo: Julian Raven, a supporter of Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump, holds his artwork at the Public Square in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., July 17, 2016.  REUTERS/Jim Urquhart