“Deep State” Rules on Beneath CNN Mock Shock at NapoleDon BonaTrump

Photo by Jake Cvnningham | CC BY 2.0

It was entertaining to watch the talking heads of CNN act surprised at the Madness of King Donald regarding North Korea and Charlottesville last week.

All Quite Predictable

What was surprising about Donald Trump’s unhinged threats of “fire and fury” and “an event the likes of which nobody’s ever seen” on the Korean peninsula, tinged by the racist assurance (to U.S. Senator Lyndsey Graham) that the victims of any thermonuclear conflagration would be “over there” – in Asia and “not here”?

Trump established himself long ago as one of the last people on Earth anyone would want to have his fingers near the atomic trigger.

Candidate Trump asked why the U.S. couldn’t just use its nuclear weapons.  He called for the nuclear arming of Saudi Arabia.  He made juvenile racist fun of Asians in front of a hot mic.

What was surprising about Trump’s dog-whistling defense of white nationalist arch-racists and their atrocious behavior in defense of Confederate Slave Power war memorials? As a real estate developer, Trump was heard saying that he didn’t want Black people handling his money (he preferred Jews in that role, he said) and was sued repeatedly for racist housing discrimination.

The son of a racist arrested at a Ku Klux Klan rally, Trump entered the 2016 presidential sweepstakes advancing the absurd and richly racist “blood and soil”-white-nationalist charge that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. Candidate Trump also:

+ Refused to disavow the support he received from the former Ku Klux Klan (KKK) Grand Wizard David Duke and otherwise failed to properly distance himself from the KKK.

+ Offered to pay the legal bills of a white man who viciously sucker-punched a black protester at a Trump rally.

+ Responded to the racial turbulence sparked by yet more and repeated video-captured police killings of Black Americans by calling for the “restor[ation of] law and order” to “control our cities” and for a “national stop and frisk law”—that is, for a declaration of national racist martial law.

+ Continued his noxious backing for the malicious racist railroading of the “Central Park Five”—five young black men who were wrongfully convicted (with Trump leading the charge) of raping a white woman in New York City in 1989. (The subsequently exonerated five spent years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit).

+ Gave a commanding position in his campaign to the recently departed Steve Bannon, the director of Breitbart, an openly white-nationalist, paranoid-style and alt-right (proto-fascistic) website.

+ Charged without evidence and in so many words that people of color would commit massive voter fraud in the 2016 president election.

As president, Herr Donald appointed one of the nation’s leading elected white racists (the ridiculous Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions) as Attorney General (of all things) and appointed the unelected white racists Bannon, Steve Miller, and Sebastian Gorka as top political advisors. President Trump has exhibited a practically psychotic obsession with dismissing and destroying anything and everything remotely positive that might be associated with the nation’s first Black president.  He has repeated the preposterous, racially loaded voter fraud charge, ridiculously claiming that would have won the 2016 popular vote but for nonwhite voter fraud.  (The charge turns history on its head, Orwell-style: Trump owned his victory in key battle ground states to the legal and illegal suppression of non-white votes).

President Trump has given the white-nationalist movement good reason to think that they have their first real champion in the White House.  He isn’t merely “reluctant to alienate [white] backlash voters, who are among his most loyal supporters” (E.J. Dionne).  He is himself a backlashing white nationalist, albeit an atypically super-wealthy one.

Expecting heartfelt moral leadership on racial justice (or anything else) from Donald Trump is like expecting an otter to write a respectable doctoral thesis on particles physics.  It’s like expecting me to replace Steph Curry as the point guard of the Golden State Warriors.

Trump as Zucker and CNN’s Frankenstein

Why does CNN feign shock and surprise at the predictable, not-normal right-wing craziness of the orange-tinted beast in the White House? Maybe it’s because CNN, CNN President Jeff Zucker, and the rest of the corporate war and entertainment media complex did so much to create the Insane Clown Trump Presidency in the first place.

Along with the rest of its dominant media brethren, CNN gave ridiculously outsized free media to the faux-populist Donald’s every outrageous statement, facial expression, gesture and tweet during the primary race last year. It did this while badly underplaying Bernie Sanders’ actually populist candidacy, which would have defeated Trump in the general election if  the Democratic Party hadn’t collaborated with the Clinton machine and the corporate media (CNN included) to rig the game against the neo-New Deal Senator from Vermont. Trump is CNN et al.’s Frankenstein.

And no top media manager did more to hatch the Trumpenstein than current CNN President Jeff “Back to Russia” Zucker. As Adam Johnson noted on AlterNet six weeks ago:

“It’s no secret that Trump received outsized media coverage early on in the 2016 race, nabbing in 2015 alone nearly $2 billion in free media—much of it from Zucker’s CNN—on his way to securing the Republican nomination. While much of this coverage was negative in tone, there really is no negative coverage. As long as Trump’s name remained in the headlines, that’s all that mattered….CNN rushed to cover, for months, each and every one of Trump’s manufactured controversies, to the tune of record-smashing ratings. CNN even hired Trump aide Corey Lewandowski while he was not only still under contractual agreement not to say anything bad about Trump, but was still collecting checks from the campaign.”

“Aside from raking in record profits riding the Trump spectacle as president of CNN, Zucker’s role in the rise of Trump is far more direct. Before taking over CNN in 2012, while serving as head of NBC Entertainment in 2004, Zucker hired Trump to be the face of the reality show ‘The Apprentice.’ The show not only boosted the Trump brand, it almost certainly saved Trump from the brink of financial and marketing extinction….As Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan noted in her must-read summation of Zucker’s role in the rise of Trump, Zucker didn’t just help Trump to the White House; he’s probably singlehandedly the person most responsible for doing so.”

“Looking for someone specific to hold responsible for the improbable rise of Donald Trump? Although there are many options, you could do worse than to take a hard look at Jeff Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide….It was Zucker, after all, who as the new head of NBC Entertainment gave Trump his start in reality TV with ‘The Apprentice’ and then milked the real estate developer’s uncanny knack for success for all it was worth in ratings and profits.”

“Zucker did so knowing full well Trump’s well-documented record of racism and sexism. Zucker hired Trump long after he stirred up racist sentiment in New York by calling for the Central Park Five to be executed in a 1989 full-page ad (they were later found innocent of all charges). Zucker let Trump stay on as host of ‘The Apprentice’ long after he repeatedly trafficked in the race-baiting of Obama birtherism; long after he bashed ‘illegal aliens’ on Fox News; long after he smeared women with sexist insults for decades; and long after he accused the first African-American president of cheating his way into an Ivy League college….Zucker knew he had a racist, sexist demagogue on his hands for years but did nothing; indeed, he actively participated in the horror show, because he was making himself and his corporate buddies millions.”

Zucker’s network has been trying to clean up his/its mess and cover his/its ass ever since Trump rocked the world by securing the Republican nomination.

The “Deep State” Lives On

Speaking of Trump, he is better understood not in terms of fascism (for which he lacks the ideological discipline and movement background) but rather as a wannabe Bonapartist.  Golden Don (not be confused with Golden Dawn) thinks he’s NapoleDon BonaTrump – a charismatic if small-fingered national leader who stands above class, party, and ideology while staying magically connected to “the people” and the grand national military. Loaded with the rhetoric of national unity above and beyond social and partisan division, his scripted, nationally televised war speech before dutifully assembled U.S. troops and military commanders last night (I am writing on the morning of Tuesday, August 22nd) was part of his Bonapartist project.  It was meant to elevate him beyond “homeland” fractures and to establish his “commander-in-chief” branding – his national military bona fides.

Trump’s highly qualified (walked-back) denunciation of the Klan and neo-Nazis and the subsequent removal of Steve Bannon two weeks sooner than previously scheduled (thanks to Charlottesville and a strange Bannon interview with the liberal journalist Bob Kuttner) are meant to reassure his more moderate backers, his top economic advisers (including above all Gary Cohn, from Goldman Sachs), and the “elite” parasitic and neoliberal financial and corporate class (Goldman, Citigroup et al.) that he is not really a fascist (he isn’t) and that he is not really captive to the forces of “populist” economic nationalism (he isn’t).

Behind the scenes and the surface spectacle of Trump’s Bonapartist reindeer games, the nation’s unelected and interrelated dictatorships of money and empire rule on. Bannon had to go, it must be emphasized, not so much because of his racism and his bigotry but because of his anti-globalist nationalism and isolationism, which does not fit the ruling class economic and global-imperial Council on Foreign Relations (the “deep state,” if you like) agenda. His exit is nothing like the great popular triumph many liberal and progressives seem to imagine it to be – with CNN and MSNBC egging them on.   As the left political scientist Gary Olson brilliantly reflected on social media last Saturday:

“My take on Steve Bannon’s firing is at odds with the celebratory tone I detect in some FB posts, especially those claiming it’s a ‘victory for decent people.’ It was nothing of the sort and he was not banished for any of the reasons we’re hearing about in all the major media outlets. What we just witnessed was the Deep State’s (DS) re-consolidation of power. In the 2016 election the DS — the unelected real power in our country — favored the eminently reliable servant of Wall Street and proven warmonger Hillary Clinton. They could have lived with Jed Bush but HRC was a known quantity. After spectacularly underestimating Trump’s appeal to voters, the DS has been about the business of methodically forcing out all those aligned with Steve Bannon’s world view and replacing them with Goldman, Sachs and military types. Having neutered Trump, it may unnecessary to force him out as well although that remains to be seen. It will depend on doing a calculus of domestic reactions…It was [Bannon’s] anti-globalist, nationalist and even isolationist positions that guaranteed his fate. Among other things, Bannon strongly resisted Gen.McMasters’ plea for another 50,000 U.S. troops for Afghanistan, military intervention in Venezuela and threatening an attack on North Korea. An especially grievous sin was opposing a new and highly profitable Cold War with Russia. On trade, he argued that Wall Street exerted far too much influence to the detriment of the United States. For example, he favored a trade war with China, something that’s anathema to U.S. corporations dependent on low wage, nonunionized Chinese labor and their investments there. When news of Bannon’s departure appeared on screens at the New York Stock Exchange ‘wild cheering’ broke out.”

What to Expect in Phoenix

But since the reassignment of Bannon back to Breitbart look looks like a victory for “the left,” NapoleDon BonaTrump can be expected to tilt right and white nationalist in his campaign- style presidential rally in Phoenix tonight. With many liberals and progressives and the supposedly liberal and “left” media (including all those Marxists at CNN) cheering Bannon’s departure, the Clockwork Orangutan will tilt cultural right.  He’ll seek to shore up his not-so “working class” white-nationalist-red-meat-Red-State base in Arizona.

Look for him to double down on his defense of Confederate statues. Trump could well announce his long-promised pardon of his good friend the racist-nativist-fascist-police-statist-blood-and-soil Birther freak and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, recently convicted for defying a federal court order to stop detaining suspected undocumented immigrants. At the same time, he’ll get in some shots at state’s two Republican U.S. Senators, Jeff Flake (author of a book that accuses the “populist” Trump of being an un-American authoritarian and racist) and John McCain (who cast a deciding vote against the latest vicious effort to repeal of Obamacare).  This will be meant to demonstrate his Dear Leader power above and beyond party.

Meanwhile, as street battles rage outside the Phoenix Convention Center, and El Donito plays his ultra-farcical neo- Napoleonist game inside, the U.S capitalist and imperialist ruling class tragically rules on. It sits crassly fat and happy atop a world in which just eight men now own as much wealth as the bottom half of humanity and where the genuine specter of capitalogenic environmental catastrophe looms ever larger.

This essay was written seven hours before Trump’s Phoenix rally.  Help Paul Street keep writing here.

Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).