November 28, 2016

Anti-normalization Tips: Headlines are Here for Your Protection (or, nothing is true, everything is permitted)



THIS. IS. NOT. NORMAL. There is not a single normal word in this headline.

As you may have heard, President-elect Donald Trump took to Twitter this weekend, to advance the claim that, “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions who voted illegally.”

So, yeah. Lot to unpack here.

We could, for example, unpack the glaring lack of any basis or evidence for this claim, or the manifest unsteadiness of a person so incessantly undermining the institutions that empower him. Or even that 290-232 is decisive, but hardly a landslide. Or just the fact that the accusation itself is frankly depraved, spewed out from a pit of swirling factlessness so deep that the imagination fails to ponder it. We might also unpack questions about the intended audience for this claim, the post-reality constituency being primed here.

When it came to our designated Civil Unpactorate—that is, the news media—we got a mixture of results. The Boston Globe led with “Trump claims he won popular vote, alleges illegal voting.” The New York Times took us for slightly less of a psychedelic joyride with their headline: “Trump Claims, With No Evidence, That ‘Millions of People’ Voted Illegally.” The LA Times, so far as I can tell, were the ones speaking most unambiguously to the adults in the room: “Trump falsely claims that millions voted illegally, costing him the popular vote.”

For those outlets who couldn’t quite bring themselves to take a side on the question of Trump’s truthiness I have great sympathy. It is a dark time for journalists. Even we who read the American news media with a healthy dusting of incredulity can take little solace in seeing the Associated Press lowered to publishing sentences like this one: “Trump and his lieutenants assailed an effort—now joined by Clinton—to recount votes in up to three battleground states, calling the push fraudulent, the work of ‘crybabies’ and, in Trump’s estimation, ‘sad.’” No, something tells me this was a hard sentence to have to write.

As a public service, I would like to here offer some prospective headlines, for papers that prefer not to rush to judgment on the Trump administration. They cover likely future events in Mr. Trump’s America. By preparing them in advance, I hope to lighten the burden of maintaining a certain level of decorum.

“Trump Thanks America for Appointing him President; Notes He Did Not Seek Office, But Was Honored to Receive It”

“Trump Founds Trump Party, Says He Was Never a Republican, Also Notes Republican Party Does Not Exist”

“Trump to Obama: You Are a Mere Reality TV Star, in Truth I Have Always Been President”

“Trump Issues Ukas, Enters Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as Lead Singer of Whitesnake”

“Trump says Faceless Military Commission on Patriotism is America’s Last Chance for Freedom, Demands Apology from Kindergarten Teachers”

“Trump to Senate: Every One of You is a Ghost, Already Dead a Thousand Years”

“Trump Issues Trumpal Bull, Receives Emmy for Creating the Iconic Television Comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm, Renames All Televisions ‘Trumplevisions’”

“Trump Officially Denies Existence of Middle East (‘It’s Imaginary Trump’s problem now!’)”

“Trump Demands Apology From Every Restaurant Called ‘Original Ray’s’”

“Trump Declares: All Homes to be Enhanced with Shock-Capable Surveillo-Bots, Which is Great”

“Trump Deploys Commission on the Arts to Destroy All Prints of Original Star Wars Trilogy, Decrees Episodes 1-3 Have Always Been True Basis of Franchise, Also Issues Executive Directive Specifying That You Personally Had No Childhood”

“Trump Describes Elizabeth Warren as ‘Literally the Murderer of Julius Caesar’”

“Trump Announces Neither Pants Nor Lunch Has Ever Existed, Demands Apology from Staff of VH1 Circa 1993”

“Trump to Country: These Have Been the Best Three Months of Your Life, And I Am Not Being Impeached And You Are Sorry to See Me Go But At Least Mike Pence Knows What He’s Doing”



Ian Dreiblatt is the former Director of Digital Media at Melville House.