Category Archives: Esquire

The Government Says the People Don’t Need Soap


Once upon a time, there was a British woman named Emily Hobhouse. Born in Cornwall, she was a young woman on fire with the reformist spirit of the late 19th Century….


When the Second Boer War erupted in 1899, Hobhouse got involved in relief organizations in England. The war was placed in the hands of Herbert, Earl Kitchener, one of the worst of the British Empire’s whack-the-bloody-colonials species of general. To bring the South African guerrillas to heel, Kitchener burned people off their farms. He sent the men off elsewhere in Africa. He confined the women and the children to camps to live in tents. And, yes, because this was the British Empire, there were separate camps for the white South Africans and for black South Africans. By the time Kitchener and the British were done, almost 30,000 detainees had died in the camps from starvation and disease.

When awful reports started filtering back about the horrible conditions in the camps that were set up to confine South African women and children, Emily Hobhouse decided to go there and see for herself. She left England in 1900 for Cape Colony. Things were worse than she’d ever imagined. She wrote lengthy reports back to England, informing the government and the English people about the horrors being done in their names. Emily Hobhouse wrote very, very well.

It presses hardest on the children. They droop in the terrible heat, and with the insufficient unsuitable food; whatever you do, whatever the authorities do, and they are, I believe, doing their best with very limited means, it is all only a miserable patch on a great ill. Thousands, physically unfit, are placed in conditions of life which they have not strength to endure. In front of them is blank ruin… If only the English people would try to exercise a little imagination—picture the whole miserable scene. Entire villages rooted up and dumped in a strange, bare place.

The women are wonderful. They cry very little and never complain. The very magnitude of their sufferings, their indignities, loss and anxiety seems to lift them beyond tears… only when it cuts afresh at them through their children do their feelings flash out.

Some people in town still assert that the Camp is a haven of bliss. I was at the camp to-day, and just in one little corner this is the sort of thing I found—The nurse, underfed and overworked, just sinking on to her bed, hardly able to hold herself up, after coping with some thirty typhoid and other patients, with only the untrained help of two Boer girls–cooking as well as nursing to do herself.


The British-built concentration camp at Bloemfontein was among the worst atrocities of the Second Boer War.

Next tent, a six months’ baby gasping its life out is on mother’s knee. Two or three others drooping sick in that tent. Next, a girl of twenty-one lay dying on a stretcher. The father, a big, gentle Boer kneeling beside her; while, next tent, his wife was watching a child of six, also dying, and one of about five drooping. Already this couple had lost three children in the hospital and so would not let these go, though I begged hard to take them out of the hot tent. I can’t describe what it is to see these children lying about in a state of collapse. It’s just exactly like faded flowers thrown away. And one has to stand and look on at such misery, and be able to do almost nothing. It was a splendid child and it dwindled to skin and bone … The baby had got so weak it was past recovery. We tried what we could but today it died. It was only 3 months but such a sweet little thing… It was still alive this morning; when I called in the afternoon they beckoned me in to see the tiny thing laid out, with a white flower in its wee hand.

Then, she went to another camp, this one at Bloemfontein, and it was a deeper, darker circle of hell. Hobhouse was struck hard not merely by the death and disease, but also by the absence of simple things. Things like, say, soap. She wrote:

The great lack has been soap. Neither in this camp, nor in Norval’s Pont, has any been supplied, and those without money have been unable to wash clothes or person properly. Men don’t think of these things unless it is suggested to them ; they simply say, “How dirty these people are! ”  I bought some soap in the town, and sent it in for immediate needs.

Upon her return to England, Emily Hobhouse found herself both celebrated and reviled. Worse, she found herself the subject of serious official harassment. When she tried to return to South Africa, she was seized on the dock and shipped immediately back to England, where she was interrogated on charges that she had been “trafficking with the enemy.” (As it happens, as author David Pryce-Jones notes, Hobhouse’s detention occurred on the day after another famous humanitarian, Sir Roger Casement, had been sentenced to death for his involvement in the Easter Rising in Ireland.)

At the same time, as some letters that came to light in 2001 revealed, the British authorities spent countless hours trying to explain away these atrocities with what we would today call “spin.”

For example, Lord Milner, who had been sent to South Africa to sort out the immediate aftermath of the war, wrote home of the camps:

It is impossible not to see that, however blameless we may be in the matter, we shall not be able to make anybody think so, and I cannot avoid an uncomfortable feeling that there must be some way to make the thing a little less awfully bad if one could only think of it.

Emily Hobhouse died in 1926 and, shortly before her death, she wrote about her experiences in a memoir, one passage of which contained a phrase that her work had embedded in common usage.

My work in the concentration camps in South Africa made almost all my people look down upon me with scorn and derision. The press abused me, branded me a rebel, a liar, an enemy of my people, called me hysterical and even worse. One or two newspapers, for example the Manchester Guardian, tried to defend me, but it was an unequal struggle with the result that the mass of the people was brought under an impression about me that was entirely false. I was ostracized. When my name was mentioned, people turned their backs on me. This has now continued for many years and I had to forfeit many a friend of my youth.

As for Lord Kitchener, he consistently referred to Emily Hobhouse as “that bloody woman.”

This past week, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez kicked off a furor by using the phrase, “concentration camps” to describe what is happening to the detained migrants at the southern border of the United States. Almost immediately, AOC was accused not only of exaggerating the conditions in the detention centers, but also of cheapening the horrors of the Holocaust—which is sui generis among war crimes only because it adapted Lord Kitchener’s methods to use for modern, mechanized, industrial mass murder. By any reasonable definition, especially including Emily Hobhouse’s, what the present administration* is running on the borders are concentration camps.

Remember that episode in Bloemfontein in which Hobhouse deplored the lack of soap for the inmates at the concentration camp there? This week, an administration* lawyer went into court and argued that the detainee children are not entitled to toothbrushes and soap.

Remember how Hobhouse said that life in the camps “presses hardupon the children”? This week, lawyers went into a detention center in El Paso and, according to the AP, this is what the lawyers found.

Data obtained by The Associated Press showed that on Wednesday there were three infants in the station, all with their teen mothers, along with a 1-year-old, two 2-year-olds and a 3-year-old. There are dozens more under 12. Fifteen have the flu, and 10 more are quarantined. Three girls told attorneys they were trying to take care of the 2-year-old boy, who had wet his pants and no diaper and was wearing a mucus-smeared shirt when the legal team encountered him.

A Border Patrol agent came in our room with a 2-year-old boy and asked us, ‘Who wants to take care of this little boy?’ Another girl said she would take care of him, but she lost interest after a few hours and so I started taking care of him yesterday,” one of the girls said in an interview with attorneys. Law professor Warren Binford, who is helping interview the children, said she couldn’t learn anything about the toddler, not even where he’s from or who his family is. He is not speaking.


The conditions at the Border Patrol facility at Paso del Norte have reached a dangerous new low.

The women and children at the border

Binford described that during interviews with children in a conference room at the facility, “little kids are so tired they have been falling asleep on chairs and at the conference table.” She said an 8-year-old taking care of a very small 4-year-old with matted hair couldn’t convince the little one to take a shower. “In my 22 years of doing visits with children in detention I have never heard of this level of inhumanity,” said Holly Cooper, who co-directs University of California, Davis’ Immigration Law Clinic and represents detained youth.

And people, important people, people with the power actually to do something about this stench in the nostrils of the world, spent the week quibbling over whether calling these hellholes “concentration camps” was proper rhetorical etiquette. One of those people was the inexcusable Congresswoman Liz Cheney, whose father, of course, made the United States a country that tortured by calling waterboarding an “enhanced interrogation technique.” There’s a special revolving spit in hell for people who poison the language with that kind of euphemism.

“I’m the one who put the families and children back together.”

In 1901, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was working as a physician in South Africa during the war, and who was loudly in support of what Kitchener was doing, smuggled a photo out of the Bloemfontein camp of an emaciated girl named Lizzie Van Zyl, who died of typhoid fever shortly thereafter. Doyle and his contact in Parliament, Joseph Chamberlain, used to photo to accuse the Van Zyls of neglecting their daughter, claiming that photo had been taken when Lizzie and her mother had arrived at the camp. However, Doyle and Chamberlain had not reckoned with Emily Hobhouse, who had met Lizzie in the camp and knew that the reason Lizzie had been starved was that her father was fighting as a guerrilla in the hills, and that Lizzie and her mother had been declared “undesirables,” which meant that they were given the smallest food rations in the camp. Cruelty is always the point.

The U.S. has lost track of over 1,400 immigrant children

Mitch and Mike

These two”men,” Mitch McConnell the Senate majority capo and Mike Pence the Vice President, are terrorizing me.

While our democracy is in crisis, its very survival being threatened by our president, while we wonder if the Constitution, the rule of law, the separation of powers will survive Trump’s actions, these two, Mitch and Mike, are either in hiding, not willing to get involved (Mitch), or mouthing off (Mike) against LGBTQ people, same sex marriages, abortion and religious freedom as in the Hobby Lobby decision of the Supreme Court ruling that corporations with religious owners cannot be required to pay for insurance coverage of contraception. Religious freedom meaning for Mitch and Mike  not the freedom to worship but the freedom to exclude those holding different beliefs from “us,” that meaning as a rule white American supremacists, as in the president’s Muslim ban, and in the President’s ruling sending, yes, some 5000 U.S. army troops to stop the invasion of asylum seeking women and children on our southern border.

Whatever they are, Mitch and Mike,  these two are most definitely not prisoners of ‘traditional masculinity,’ that which the  new American Psychological Association guidelines describe as “a model of manhood marked by emotional stoicism, homophobia, not showing vulnerability, self-reliance and competitiveness.”

I take the above paragraph from:

Ross Douthat, In search of non-toxic Manhood in the NYTimes of 1/19/19

This forgetting of human experience, this perpetual present-tenseness, pervades the latest flashpoint in the culture war over the sexes — the new guidelines for treating male pathology from the American Psychological Association.
The trouble with men, the guidelines argue, is that they’re violent and reckless, far more likely than women to end up in prison or dead before their time. But the deeper problem is they’re prisoners of “traditional masculinity,” which the guidelines describe as a model of manhood marked by “emotional stoicism, homophobia, not showing vulnerability, self-reliance and competitiveness.” This tough-guy ideal encourages “aggression and violence as a means to resolve interpersonal conflict,” and tempts men toward rape, drug abuse and suicide.

What’s next? No one seems to know. And everyone is worried that these two and others like them are shaping the direction of the country.

Here below I’ve posted opinion pieces of Charles PIerce (Esquire Magazine) and Gail Collins (NYTimes) on the terrorists Mitch and Mike.

Charles Pierce on Mitch

There Is No More Loathsome Creature Walking Our Political Landscape Than Mitch McConnell

Yes, that includes the jumped-up real-estate crook in the White House.

As its first act in the new Congress, the equally new Democratic majority passed something called House Resolution 1. It was a massive anti-corruption measure aimed at restoring the credibility of American elections and safeguarding the franchises for those whose right to vote had been assaulted by 30 years of conservative mischief, both in Washington and in the states. It advocated a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United. It proposed making federal Election Day a federal holiday, and it forbade both partisan gerrymandering and voter purges. It also mandated that the president and vice president reveal the previous ten years of tax returns. (Can’t imagine what gave them that idea.) All in all, it was a clear declaration of support for the right of all eligible citizens to vote, and for their votes to have meaning.

On the op-ed page of the Washington PostJesus, Hiatt, (an editor at the Washington Post) Really?—Mitch McConnell called it “a power grab.”

It would also empower that newly partisan FEC to track and catalogue more of what you say. It would broaden the type of speech the commission can define as “campaign-related” and thus regulate. Many more Americans would have to notify the feds when spending even small amounts of money on speech or else be penalized. That partisan FEC would also get wide latitude to determine when a nonprofit’s speech has crossed that fuzzy “campaign-related” line and then forcibly publicize the group’s private supporters.
Apparently the Democrats define “democracy” as giving Washington a clearer view of whom to intimidate and leaving citizens more vulnerable to public harassment over private views. Under this bill, you’d keep your right to free association as long as your private associations were broadcast to everyone. You’d keep your right to speak freely so long as you notified a distant bureaucracy likely run by the same people you criticized. The bill goes so far as to suggest that the Constitution needs an amendment to override First Amendment protections.

That’s bad enough, but here comes the line that, if the WaPo opinion editors had any guts, they would have either cut from the piece, or killed it entirely.

I’m as firm a supporter as anyone of vigorous debate and a vibrant political discourse — but I don’t think Americans see an urgent need for their tax dollars to be used to bankroll robocalls and attack ads, including for candidates they dislike.

Jesus, Hiatt. (Hiatt a Wash Post editor) Seriously? Let’s ask Elizabeth Warren how firm McConnell’s support for vigorous debate is. Hell, let’s ask Merrick Garland how much he enjoyed Mitch McConnell’s vibrant political discourse.

In Closed Meeting On CIA’s Assessment Of Killing Of Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi CIA Director Gina Haspel Briefs Senators.

There simply is no more loathsome creature walking the political landscape than the Majority Leader of the United States Senate. You have to go back to McCarthy or McCarran to find a Senate leader who did so much damage to democratic norms and principles than this yokel from Kentucky. Trump is bad enough, but he’s just a jumped-up real-estate crook who’s in over his head.

McConnell is a career politician who knows full well what he’s doing to democratic government and is doing it anyway because it gives him power, and it gives the rest of us a wingnut federal judiciary for the next 30 years. There is nothing that this president* can do that threatens McConnell’s power as much as it threatens the survival of the republic, and that’s where we are.

McConnell declared himself in opposition to Barack Obama right from the first day in office. There’s even video. Most noxiously, in reference to our present moment, when Obama came to him and asked him to present a united front against the Russian ratfcking that was enabling El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago, McConnell turned him down flat. Moreover, he told Obama that, if Obama went public, McConnell would use it as a political hammer on Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Obama should have done it anyway, god knows.) McConnell issued a watery denial of these charges, but there’s no good goddamn reason to believe him.

He doesn’t have the essential patriotism god gave a snail. He pledges allegiance to his donors, and they get what they want. He’s selling out his country, and he’s doing it in real-time and out in the open. This is worse than McCarthy or McCarran ever were. Mitch McConnell is the the thief of the nation’s soul.

Charles Pierce is currently the lead political blogger for Esquire, a position he has held since September 2011.[8] He also wrote for ESPN’s Grantland.[9][10] He has also written for The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe Sunday magazine, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Sports Illustrated, The National Sports Daily, GQ, and the e-zine Slate as well as the Media Matters blog Altercation, hosted by historian/pundit Eric Alterman.

Gail Collins on Mike

Impeachment isn’t necessarily the door to a happy ending.

Wow, so much Trump impeachment talk. People, how would you. feel about a President Mike Pence?
Never thought much about Mike, did you? But if Trump gets tossed out of office, he’s next in line. We’d have a chief executive who reportedly calls his wife “Mother.” Who has a rule that he won’t drink in a room where there’s mixed company unless his wife is present, or eat a meal alone with any woman he’s not married to.

The least alarming interpretation of the vice president’s rules of sexual separation is that this guy is such a wild man, he can’t control himself unless there’s somebody else there to guard a female in his near proximity.

O.K., no.

Then we’ll have to presume that Pence is living in a world of the old order, when women weren’t seen as normal employees, employers and colleagues, but as a different species entirely, defined by their gender, deserving of special treatment and special discrimination.

On a practical basis, if he became president, would that mean no private lunch with Nancy Pelosi unless Chuck Schumer came, too? If Theresa May wanted to sit down with him and confer about Brexit, would he be able to offer her a snack?

Wow, this is not beginning well.

The big Pence news this week was that Mother — er, Karen Pence — has taken a job teaching at a school that bans gay students and requires employees to declare that God does not believe in same-sex marriage.

It was a reminder that Pence spent most of his political career running against gay rights. It’s part of a larger opposition to all sex outside of traditional wedlock. In Indiana, Pence tried to drive Planned Parenthood clinics out of business. In one county, that left no free services providing testing for H.I.V. and it helped trigger an epidemic.

But hey, the Second Couple feel strongly about this, as a matter of faith. I’m sure they share their convictions with all their colleagues, neighbors and their good friend the thrice-married president. Maybe, while they’re sharing, Donald entertains them with stories about how he used to encourage New York City tabloids to run headlines about his adulterous relationships, and his fantastic ability to grab women by their private parts.

Just saying.

Religion aside, Pence is a pretty run-of-the-mill conservative Republican. He’s a great pal of the Koch brothers. He’s not any more likely than his current boss to want to do anything about climate change. When he was governor, his sympathy for immigrants was demonstrated by an attempt to prevent Syrian refugee families from settling in Indiana.

On the plus side, the Pences have a snake, a dog, a cat and a rabbit. As president, Mike would presumably put an end to the pet-free White House.

He’s been vice president for two years, and contrary to general impressions, his duties have not been limited to following the president around and bobbing his head. Although he does have a tendency to hyperventilate when his boss’s name comes up. You will remember that cabinet meeting at the end of 2017, when he gave a speech praising Trump that included 14 swoony plaudits, or in-cabinet-meeting-pence-praises-trump-once-every-12-seconds-for-3-minutes-straight as Aaron Blake of The Washington Post calculated — one every 12.5 seconds. They ranged from “You’ve restored American credibility on the world stage” to “I’m deeply humbled, as your vice president, to be able to be here.”

Among Pence’s major achievements as veep was flying back to Indianapolis at taxpayer expense so he could go to an N.F.L. game and walk out when some players took a knee during the national anthem.

Also, organizing a Bible study group for cabinet officials led by a pastor who has described Catholicism as a “false” religion and who believes it’s a sin for women with children to work outside the home.

So what do you think? If Trump gets impeached, would we be in worse shape than ever? Some people think the succession would be fine. Like, um, Ann Coulter. (“If we’re not getting a wall, I’d prefer President Pence.”)

If you did an in-depth scientific study of all the American dinner-table arguments in favor of impeachment, I’ll bet when Pence’s name came up, two-thirds would include the words “Well, at least he wouldn’t bomb anybody.”

Good point! Still, we’ve had Donald Trump in charge for a while now and he hasn’t actually been all that bellicose. In fact, he seems to be wandering in the other direction, pulling troops out of Syria and bragging, albeit somewhat irrationally, that he’s ended the nuclear threat from North Korea.

Meanwhile, this week Pence announced to the world that “the caliphate has crumbled and ISIS has been defeated.” We are used to that sort of loopy bragging in this administration. However, it seemed super peculiar coming only an hour after the world learned that U.S. service members had been killed in an ISIS attack in Syria.

So impeachment isn’t necessarily the door to a happy ending. But it would at least mean taking a stand against the idea that a president can obstruct justice and just keep sitting in the White House. And if Pence takes over, maybe nothing much would happen. Remember, this is a guy who spent 12 years in Congress without passing a single piece of legislation.

Gail Collins is an Op-Ed columnist, a former member of the editorial board and was the first woman to serve as Times editorial page editor, from 2001 to 2007.

Jack Holmes on Tonight’s Trumpian Propaganda Circus

The Media Is Dangerously Unequipped to Deal with Tonight’s Trumpian Propaganda Circus

The president’s speech on the border “crisis” and The Wall will likely be completely detached from reality. We’re not up to the challenge of covering it live.


Around 1823, according to legend, a boy named William Webb Ellis was playing soccer at the Rugby School in Warwickshire, England, when he decided to just pick up the ball and run with it. Sure, this violated the one most essential rule of soccer—don’t use your hands—but it was way easier, and must have granted him an immediate advantage over his opponents. After all, they were stuck using their feet. That is, until rugby became an entirely new game in itself, one with new rules and a whole new level of hard-nosed brutality.

The myth came to mind Monday after I read a tweet from Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler, who has followed pretty much every word that Donald Trump, American president, has produced over the last two years. He wondered the following about Trump’s upcoming speech about the supposed “crisis” on the southern border.

This is quite simply amazing. Having dutifully fact-checked thousands upon thousands of Donald Trump’s public statements as president of this country—and found more than 7,600 were false, including 15 per day in 2018—Kessler still believes the president is concerned with whether something he says is or isn’t true. This is Charlie Brown with the football—or like chasing William Webb Ellis around the field, whistling and shouting, “Handball!”

Donald Trump is not playing soccer. He probably never has. The president does not believe in the concept of truth—the idea that there are things we can empirically learn about the world through observation and the scientific method, and that these facts come together to form a framework known as objective reality. For Trump, the truth is whatever you can get enough people to believe. What he wants people to believe is whatever is most useful to him right now. When called on this, he fights back hard—never producing evidence—or abandons the claim and pretends it never happened. Never does he admit there is a reality we all inhabit whose contours he can’t mold to his personal benefit.

On The Apprentice, he would occasionally fire the week’s best-performing contestant because he didn’t much know what was going on and didn’t care. The show’s producers would then have to reverse-engineer reality to accommodate this new conclusion. The same happens each day in the White House, as aides scramble to explain some evidence-free nonsense he’s tweeted—a conclusion in search of jerry-rigged justification. For his whole life in privately held business, Trump was above accountability because his minions would simply make his visions real—until, of course, the business went bankrupt. There were no voters or shareholders to answer to. And even in those lowest moments, he would always personally skate by, inventing new worlds for himself to escape into.

Many in The Mainstream Media think of themselves as referees of The Discourse. They throw on the zebra stripes each morning and call fair and foul. They are neutral, disinterested, scrupulously unbiased. This is, in itself, a bit tenuous. It would seem to fly in the face of the fact that media people are human beings who often know the most about current events. The idea they do not have opinions, or that those opinions do not at least subliminally impact their decisions—what issues or public figures to cover, how to frame that coverage, which voices they allow to weigh in—requires more evidence than is often supplied.

The problem now is not so much that candidates are getting boxed out, but that the media is running around the field whistling at people who are not playing their game. Most big-time journalists are used to being able to classify some things as false—and some things as radical or unrealistic—and pulling their subjects back to the game we all agreed to play. Trump and his allies simply do not believe the rules apply to them. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Sunday that many of the 4,000 terrorist suspectsa loose term in the first place—captured trying to enter the United States illegally were found at the southern border. According to Customs and Border Protection, the number is 6.

These people are not interested in what is happening in the world, only what they can get away with saying to benefit themselves politically. All politicians lie, but this is an administration—and a supportive right-wing media ecosystem—entirely untethered from reality. Far too many in the media establishment seem to think they are dealing with a very rude president and his roguish staff—not a man with nakedly authoritarian tendencies who has no regard for the norms and rules of democracy, including the idea we should base our debates and our decisions on facts about the world. They are trying to perform the role of Neutral Arbiter, a tough one in the best of times, and getting run over by a ball-carrier playing a whole new game. Which brings us to the upcoming festivities of this Tuesday night.

President Trump announced via tweet Monday that he would deliver an Oval Office address tonight concerning the “crisis” at our southern border, and the need to Build The Wall. This event is based on an entire architecture of false premises. First and foremost, illegal border crossings are down significantly in recent years. In 2000, 1.6 million people were apprehended trying to cross. In 2001, 1.3 million were. In 2017, 310,000 were. In 2018, it was up slightly to 400,000.

The steep decline is mostly due to the recession, which contracted the economy and job opportunities up here. In 2017, Trump’s immigration crackdown may have discouraged some people. But moreover, the net flow into the U.S. is around zero, or even negative. The “caravans” of relatively small numbers of people from Central America are primarily made up of people seeking an asylum hearing—as is their right under international law—on the basis they are fleeing violence and persecution. In another time, we might call them refugees.

migrant-1546964401A Honduran child and her mother, fleeing poverty and violence in their home country, waits along the border bridge after being denied entry from Mexico into the U.S. on June 25, 2018 in Brownsville, Texas.

Then there is Trump’s solution. The Wall will not stop the significant share of undocumented immigrants who arrive at airports and overstay their visas. Planes go over The Wall. No one serious believes it will stop the flow of drugs. It will be a legal and logistical nightmare to build, requiring the government to seize private land—and reservation land from Native Americans—and disrupt local ecosystems and wildlife habitats.

It will be extremely expensive (even the $5.7 billion Trump would get in his dreams is not nearly enough to finish it) and, again, not particularly effective—except as a monument to White America’s resentment of the changing world outside.

The actual crisis of the moment is the government shutdown, which Trump single-handedly caused and for which he once readily accepted the blame in a televised meeting with Democratic leaders. Trump was ready to sign a funding bill Congress had settled on to keep government open that did not have Wall funding, but then he got chewed out by Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter and the rest of the right-wing punditocracy. It was, after all, his campaign promise, an idea he likely got from talk radio anyway—another conclusion in search of evidence. Who cares if he has to subvert democracy in order to live up to a promise for once?

Because there is nothing worse for Donald Trump than people saying bad things about Donald Trump on the teevee, he went nuclear and refused to sign any bill that didn’t have funding for The Wall—an initiative that has been rejected by the majority of the American public. If you don’t believe the polls, look at the 2018 midterms, in which Trump went full propaganda about The Caravan and the border and The Wall and got absolutely trounced. This is not Washington Swamp-Dwellers subverting the will of the people. He has no mandate to build this thing.

Now, Trump has floated declaring a state of emergency, an action that grants the executive vast powers which he and his lackeys believe include seizing taxpayer money that has not been appropriated by Congress to build a wall. This appears nakedly unconstitutional, and would almost certainly face a court challenge.

But more to the point, declaring a state of emergency to respond to an entirely fabricated crisis is dangerously authoritarian behavior. Vice President Mike Pence and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen went to Congress yesterday evening to get Republicans there on board with this treacherous scam. My colleague, Charles P. Pierce, suggested yesterday it might be time to “start fireproofing the Reichstag.” More recently, one thinks of the questions swirling around a failed “coup” against Turkey’s authoritarian President Erdogan, after which he consolidated his power further. Chaos is a ladder, and all that—especially when you create it yourself.

So the current crisis is completely manufactured and potentially dangerous to the republic. But just as when Trump deployed active-duty military on U.S. soil to combat a nonexistent “invasion” at the southern border in the closing stretch of the 2018 midterms, the American establishment media is basically going along with this as normal. No one often mentions that the crisis is not real. Afraid of being accused of bias by the right-wing, which will always accuse them of bias, many of our Neutral Referees are covering the process questions in all this. Will Congressional Republicans go along? (Yes.) We’re all getting dragged around again, just like with The Caravan and The Emails and The Ebola Panic.

But worst of all, all the major networks have announced they will carry this obvious propaganda live in primetime, ensuring the firehose of bullshit sprays as many Americans as possible.

“Hopefully surrounded by fact-checking,” Brian Stelter says. He works for CNN, which was among the first to announce it will carry the speech—and will, almost certainly, host Rick Santorum before and after on its patented Debate Panels. They will likely not, as journalist Soledad O’Brien predicted on Twitter, feature many immigration experts or Hispanic commentators. But they will feature people like Santorum, whom CNN pays to defend the president no matter what he says. Will the networks fact-check the president in real-time, on-screen, during the speech? If not, he’s got a free bullhorn to blast out his racist propaganda. Stelter added later that the big networks will broadcast the Democratic response, but based on the State of the Union every year, how many people are going to watch the response—presumably delivered from a diner in Pennsylvania, or whatever?

It’s here where we might add that President Barack Obama sought to give a live, primetime speech on immigration in 2014—and the networks passed on the basis it would be too partisan. Surely, Trump’s won’t be partisan at all.

All this is eerily reminiscent of the Year of Our Lord 2016, of course. Before that election cycle, MSNBC was in fairly severe financial straits, and the future for CNN wasn’t particularly bright. The advertising model supporting digital and print media was beginning to crumble. And there, out of nothing, came a carnival barker, a true showman, who guaranteed the clicks and the eyeballs. All three cable networks would show an empty podium for long periods before a Trump rally, convening panels to discuss what crap he would soon spew, while other presidential candidates were actually on-stage elsewhere giving speeches.

Someday, assuming we get that far, all we media people will have to grapple with our role in promoting this vicious buffoon to the grandest stage because it generated cash in the short term. For what it’s worth, network executives are not doing any such reflection yet:

Everyone knows he’s going to lie constantly for the duration of the speech. Everyone knows they are spreading dangerous propaganda. And everyone knows it will get eyeballs. It’s great TV—just like the Dean Scream. So it goes ahead, with the phony excuse that Trump will criticize the networks as biased if they don’t. At this point, if you don’t understand that Trump and the right-wing will never stop criticizing mainstream outlets as insufficiently right-wing, you really need to get a grip. The attacks are not good-faith critiques of network programming. They are a constant, relentless attempt to drag the dialogue farther rightward.

And that brings us back to The Rules of the Game. Whatever game the fact-checkers and the network executives are playing, Trump and his allies ain’t playing it. The president is exploiting the corporate profit motive to glorious effect, knowing full well no TV producer worth his salt—or, more importantly, whose job security depends on ratings—will turn down a chance to air this nonsense extravaganza. They’ll go wall-to-wall, with a pregame panel and a postgame panel and analysis and commentary and questions like, How Will Democrats Respond? Does Nancy Pelosi Have to Come to the Table? Meanwhile, the fact that this entire thing is built on a foundation of complete and utter bullshit will rarely go mentioned.

It’s a new game now. You can pick up the ball! What, isn’t that handball? Let’s just run with it.