If Stupid jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?
That’s what my mom used to ask us kids when we were contemplating doing something dumb.
If your idiot friend jumped off a bridge, does that mean you have to as well?
You should be smarter than that.
I’ve been traveling over the last few weeks and haven’t had time to do much writing. My inbox is full to bursting and I’m working my way through it slowly. A lot of folks wrote to ask what I thought of the president’s speech outlining policy changes to NSA’s domestic data collection programs. As many long time readers know, I used to work inside the NSA firewall, and in fact I do have an opinion or two on the subject. There will be an essay soon, after I see how a couple of things shake out. In the meantime, the second most common topic clogging my inbox like so many undigested jelly donuts in Rush Limbaugh’s large intestine is, of course, the Chris Christie scandal.
I wasn’t going to write about this, because honestly? A politician possibly abused his office? No kidding? Wow, that’s never happened before. And then when it came to light he fired a bunch of staffers and denied that he knew anything about it in the first place? Really, that’s what you’ve got?
It’s been done, Man, it’s so been done.
And the news media seems to have it covered from all directions.
Frankly, If you don’t, at the very least, have a dead hooker in the dumpster behind the Governor’s Mansion with Christie’s teeth marks on her (or better yet his) ass, you know, I’m going to have a hard time working up any actual interest.
And so, I wasn’t going to say anything.
But, hell, you just can’t get away from Chris Christie’s stupid bridge scandal.
And that’s what bugs me.
Let me explain.
Dubbed “Bridgegate” by the liberal press in a staggering bit of literary originality, and “Bridgeghazi” by the obsessive compulsives of Fox News (where all bridges lead inevitably to Libya), apparently certain of Christie’s staffers not satisfied with an overwhelming landslide victory, decided to punish the lone mayor who failed to publicly cheer the governor’s reelection. In retaliation against the liberals of Fort Lee, Christie’s office shut down a couple of lanes on the world’s busiest bridge causing massive traffic jams during the first week of school.
Now, there’s no need to insert “alleged” in front of the asshattery here. It happened, that’s absolutely not in dispute. And there’s no question that it happened at the behest of the governor’s office either. And there’s no doubt whatsoever that this was a malicious and deliberate abuse of power directed against the governor’s political enemies, even Christie admits that and says that as the guy in charge he “takes responsibility for it” (responsibility in the generic comes with the job sense, not the personal one). And yes, if you squint your eyes, this has the faint whiff of Jersey mafia boss written all over it. What? Fort Lee didn’t cheer loud enough for the Governor’s reelection? Time for a little encouragement. Mr. Mayor, meet my “associates,” Rocko and Bruiser…
That said, Folks, in case you haven’t been paying attention, it’s New Jersey.
It’s New Jersey and it’s Chris Christie. How the hell did you think he got the job in the first place?
And, seriously, using the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for political ends? Not exactly a new thing, that. It’s practically as big a cliché as tacking “gate” on the end of everything that even vaguely looks like a political scandal.
Hell, the mayor of Fort Lee is lucky he didn’t end up encased in cement under a Hoboken Public Works project paid for with Hurricane Sandy relief funds. It’s Jersey. The question isn’t what happened, the only question at this point is whether Christie was running the show personally or did he just have Rocko and Bruiser quote take care of it unquote.
In other words is he smooth enough to arrange for plausible deniability or is he a greasy crook who stepped on his own dick?
After all, this guy wants to be president. Republicans should probably figure out in advance whether they’re getting a Reagan … or a Nixon.
So, yeah, it was a petty vindictive childish thing to do, absolutely. An abuse of power no doubt. But in the grand scheme of things? It just politics as usual.
A traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge? Just how egregious is that really? When isn’t there a traffic jam on the GWB? When isn’t there gridlock in New York? When isn’t the Jersey Turnpike under construction? I’ve driven through this area I don’t know how many times, and it’s always a ride through giant festering donkey balls. Always. Sure it was a shitty thing, and it’s even been alleged that a few deaths occurred as a result, but I mean come on, this isn’t even remotely the worst thing we’ve caught a politician doing lately. It’s moderately scandalous and, sure, Christie ought to be held to account by the New Jersey voters who elected him, but on a national scale? On the scale of Watergate? Oh, please, there wasn’t even an illicit wiretap or a dead hooker involved – let alone actual bodies being actually entombed in actual concrete. Hell, there aren’t even any (alleged) pictures of Christie’s rampant junk floating around Twitter (and if I’m wrong about this and you come across such, just feel free to keep it to yourself, OK?).
As scandals go, this one is pretty run of the mill.
A politician using his office for political ends and to punish his enemies? Yow, I’m shocked, shocked I tell you … or maybe I’ve just spent too much time in Washington.
Now absolutely there should be an investigation and, if indicated, criminal charges against those responsible, including Christie himself – if there’s evidence to support an indictment, which so far there isn’t. But, again, that’s something for New Jersey and New York to deal with and if this was any other governor, this whole thing would have been a minor one-day headline under the front page fold (What? Rod Blagojevich? Okay, you got me there. But, seriously, that guy was really, really asking for it).
Let’s at least be honest and admit what this is actually about.
This isn’t about a traffic jam, or if somebody actually died or not, or even how Hurricane Sandy funds were distributed, or whether Christie is a bully (he is, try to keep up).
This is about 2016.
Just like Benghazi.
Folks, I just spent the better part of two weeks trapped in front of Fox News.
I started counting.
On average, out of one hundred individual news clips, forty-seven were specifically about Obamacare.
Twenty-one were about Benghazi.
(And, just because I know you’ll ask, there was one Fox News Chris Christie Bridge story during the period where I was recording statistics. Fair and balanced, Folks, fair and balanced)
As an experiment, I had two tally sheets running on my tablet, one for each subject, Obamacare and Benghazi. Including the commercials, Fox News didn’t go more than seven minutes without a reference to Obamacare, seven minutes, and no more than ten without playing a Benghazi clip. The screen was continuously filled with jiggling cleavage and red tinged monomaniacal hysteria shouting Obamacare! Benghazi! over and over. Obamacare! Obamacare! Benghazi! Obamacare! Obamacare! Obamacare! Bleat! Bleat! Obamacare! Ook! Ook! Benghazi! Alert! Alert! Alert! Scandal! Scandal! Sandal! With the basic idea being that even if there’s no actual scandal, you can make one if you just keep beating the drum hard enough and long enough – the manufactured hoopla around Benghazi is a perfect example of this type of manipulation. And you don’t have to go very far, or listen to too many conservatives, to see how well this kind of perception manipulation works on even relatively aware and intelligent folks.
Joseph Goebbels had nothing on Roger Ailes.
And the best part? It’s self-reinforcing. When shown irrefutable proof that they are being actively manipulated, people get angry – not angry at being manipulated, but mad and offended that it was pointed out. People are deeply outraged at the mere thought that they’ve been duped and so perversely rather than change their position or admit they’ve been had, they instead typically deny that any such manipulation has taken place – and in reaction their artificially implanted beliefs become even more entrenched (incidentally, this particular human trait is one of the primary reasons why con men and cult leaders are able to ply their trade so successfully, often coming back to the same victims over and over).
It’s propaganda, what the military calls psychological warfare, a form of population manipulation in the purest sense.
Trust me on this, I used to do this for a living and I was one of the military’s foremost experts on it. I know it when I see it. The so-called IRS scandal is a perfectly executed textbook example of this form of manipulation.
And it’s no secret. Despite Dan Rather’s recent public half-assed no-but-not-really denial to the contrary, Fox News cheerfully admits that’s exactly what they’re up to. Ailes and Rupert Murdock took a page right out of the defunct TVN’s information warfare playbook – which is not at all surprising given that Ailes helped to write it. And I’m not the only one who’s made that connection (and really, if you get a moment, follow that link and listen to the interview, it’s worth your time). In America, this kind of thing may be unethical as all hell (as if ethics had anything to do with either politics or the press, but I digress), but it’s not even vaguely illegal.
There’s nothing particularly new about this, media organizations have been actively attempting to manipulate the public since long before William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer helped goad America into the Spanish American War. Fox News under the command of Roger Ailes has simply refined it to the level of military science.
Fox News and the Right have spent the last year hammering at Benghazi, not because they give a good Goddamn about the death of a liberal Ambassador and the personal friend of a president who they abjectly despise, but at first because they wanted to prevent Barack Obama’s reelection and lately because they fear, absolutely utterly fear, Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Just as the left fears Chris Christie.
Now, personally, I think calling any election this far out is a sucker’s bet, but it’s our national pastime and Clinton and Christie are the two most popular potential contenders for 2016 at this point. They are both the only two potential candidates who, at the moment, actually seem to have a real shot at winning the general election. Both are enormously popular. Both are charismatic in their own personal ways. Both have the ability to appeal to both their own bases and to independent moderates. Both are experienced savvy politicians who know how to work the crowd instead of routinely putting their own feet into their own mouths all the way to the hip.
Needless to say, both scare the ever living shit out of the opposition.
And so, naturally, both sides are doing their level best to wage preemptive warfare just as far in advance of the actual battle as possible – because that’s how we Americans do democracy.
Now, just so I’m clear – because I can hear the howling already – let’s make no false equivalency here. With cynical malice aforethought, Roger Ailes and Fox News are engaged in an active, practiced, and well planned campaign of information warfare. The liberal slanted media, on the other hand, is a disorganized herd of cats engaged in a “so’s your mother!” style of debate. Conservatives have always been better at war than liberals, and it shows.
And don’t get me wrong here, I’m no particular fan of Chris Christie (or Hillary Clinton for that matter). And I’m certainly not trying to either dismiss the issue or make excuses for it, people in New Jersey and New York who were affected by this asshattery have every right to demand an accounting and they should. But, what I’m saying here is the same exact thing I’ve said to the Obama haters over and over, if you’re going to hate the man, at least hate him for who he actually is instead of some nonsense manufactured in the bowels of the media machine. At least hate him for what he actually did, instead of just because he’s Chris Christie. One of the most disturbing things I hear in conversation with liberals over this affair are those who mock the man for his weight. If you smugly point out the bigotry and personal attacks on President Obama due to his race, but can’t discuss Chris Christie without prefacing your comment with “that fat tub of lard,” you probably ought to go take a long look in the mirror. Ditto if you hate the fact that conservatives continue to insist on Obama’s complicity in the IRS “scandal” despite numerous investigation results to the contrary, but are ready to convict Christie just because you don’t like his politics.
Again, don’t get me wrong here, there’s certainly a scandal – again even Christie openly admits that – and there has most certainly been an abuse of power.
But time and the law will tell if it’s actually Bridgegate or just Bridgeghazi.
It’s bad enough that the cynical malignant ideologues behind Fox News are actively working to divide the country and drive us to civil war in all but actual practice. There’s no need for the rest of the press, and the nation, to follow suit.
As mom said, the fact that your idiot friend jumped off a bridge is no reason for you to jump too.