Much has already been said about the surreal moment on January 25 when, in a dramatic lapse of composure, CNN “news” anchor and sad clown Don Lemon broke character and doubled over in laughter during a segment in which former Republican campaign strategist Rick Wilson and network contributor Wajahat Ali ridiculed “boomer rubes” and their resentment of elites.
A day later, Lemon was no longer laughing as the short clip had gone viral for all the wrong reasons.
In his absurd apology, he attempted to deflect the rage of respondents by claiming that he does not belittle people and that he hadn’t even heard Wilson’s comment, because he had been laughing at a joke that preceded it. This moment in time is the perfect metaphor for the self-destructive delusion of careerist journalism today. Instead of exposing the news, it is all about preserving status while neglecting the job of informing the audience.
Different aspects of the clip highlight the decaying and declining nature of modern media and politics like a prism shining different coloured rays of arrogance and corruption on an otherwise opaque wall. Let’s hope that someday, after CNN either has been reformed and instituted some standards or else gone out of business, that segment will be studied in marketing and communications classes as an example of how not to behave toward the people supposedly receiving the content.
The Rabble, Gammon, and Deplorables
It’s not as if this was the first time in recent memory that a primly dressed smirking societal better had poured contempt on the common man with an ill-advised insult. Everyone remembers the 2016 leaked video when Hillary Clinton declared before a room full of donors that half of Trump supporters were irredeemable and belonged in a “basket of deplorables.”
This remark is considered to have been one of the turning points when Clinton began to lose steam and show her detachment from the average voter. Unlike her husband Bill, who was able to market himself as the folksy down-to-earth sax-playing rural American governor, Hillary seemed incapable of connecting with anyone outside her corporate-style Prada Politburo stacked with smarmy consultants like John Podesta and Neera Tanden.
Rather than learn from Hillary’s mistakes her confederates in the U.S. media and in governments around the world lashed out at the public. In France, the yellow vests movement was portrayed as a group of vulgar rioters and Al Jazeera complained that they were dominated by white racists. French President Emmanuel Macron even called them “thugs,” claiming that they are not to be confused with “concerned citizens.”
Sometimes journalists give voice to what they think are rhetorical questions about politicians they hate or their supporters, but inadvertently answer them. In 2018, The Guardian asked/explained “how a homophobic, misogynist, racist ‘thing’ could be Brazil’s next president” in anticipation of the election of Jair Bolsonaro. The author, Brazilian journalist Eliane Brum, apparently thought that meaningful acts of opposition to Bolsonaro worth reporting about included a Facebook group called “Women United Against Bolsonaro” and a woman-centered campaign called #EleNão (#NotHim). By the end of that month, Bolsonaro had won in a landslide ending 16 years of left-wing rule.
Another visceral insult, this time in the UK, was “racist gammon” as leftist weakling Owen Jones and others called older right-wing Britons. Gammon is a red-hued pork hind leg cut and is a reference to the flushed complexion of an angry grey-haired white person. The media totally embraced this insult, with Esquire mocking warnings that such language would alienate voters from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn while also embracing the idea that such language was entirely appropriate and accurate.
On December 6, less than a week before the UK general election, a key Labour supporter and union activist got into hot water for laughing at how a tweet about a rival candidate had “upset the local Gammon.” Then when polling day arrived the butcher’s blade came down—but it landed on them instead of the “gammon.” Labour suffered its worst defeat since 1935, and the insult was not forgotten in the postmortems.
In a satirical article in The Spectator, “Jarvis Dupont” gave this tongue-in-cheek advice: “When it comes to getting Trump out of the White House, what you need to do, is exactly the same thing you did the first-time round: call Trump supporters as many names you can think of.” Wilson’s “rube” epithet was a gift to the Trump campaign that had been regifted from Britain and that they had received as a hand-me-down from us. The cycle continues.
If it sounds like leftists don’t believe that the unwashed masses have the same voting rights as them, or that they don’t want them to, consider the fact that the Los Angeles Times just published an opinion claiming “#IowaCaucusSoWhite”.
The Uniparty Consultant Class
Apparently, this lesson is also still lost on CNN, despite it being obvious now for several years that the American public writ large distrusts elites. This was what Wilson was scoffing about and what triggered the laughter from Lemon and Ali. It is difficult to believe that he thinks that by insulting the average Trump voter as a rube he is getting through to anyone not already in full agreement with him, but it is possible that he is that deluded.
Of course, other explanations could include that he does not care anymore about convincing anyone or his resentment against Trump and his supporters is so strong that it overrides his better judgment (such as it is). At this point, Wilson represents the bitter-enders of the NeverTrump movement, one composed of the consultant class of failed professional hacks loyal to mediocre officeholders or loser wannabe officeholders willing to pay them for their terrible advice.
In the world of political media, even career failures can get a seat at the table, so long as their losses are spectacular enough. Wilson may style himself a “Republican political strategist,” but his list of clients includes a red-state challenger (Saxby Chambliss) for whom he admitted to creating an ad that misleadingly attacked his opponent Senator Max Cleland (D-Ga.) for endangering national security. Wilson’s earliest client was Florida’s Senator Connie Mack III, an establishment GOP stand-in.
But on the national level, Wilson has never succeeded. His résumé includes stints with the Rudy Giuliani 2008 presidential campaign and a pro-Marco Rubio Super PAC in 2016. In 2017, Wilson was reportedly on the payroll of half-a-dozen Super PACs. These failures put him roughly in the same category as fellow perpetual losers like Donna Brazile, Steve Schmidt, Bob Beckel, and Symone Sanders.
Wilson’s designation at CNN as a “Republican strategist” is deceiving. He is a Republican only in the sense that he has worked with people who have called themselves Republicans. The objective of political strategists, after all, is not successfully to campaign for policy initiatives but to get their clients elected. Obama’s top campaign consultant David Axelrod, for example, emphasized themes and personal storytelling over policy and beliefs.
As conservative speaker and author Steve Turley says, in many ways NeverTrumpers like Wilson “have more in common with Nancy Pelosi than they do with Donald Trump.”
After twice-failed presidential hopeful Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) voted to remove Trump from office during his impeachment trial, Wilson called the resulting backlash against Romney a symptom of Republicans’ “souls trying to reenter their bodies.” This sort of peevishness has been typical of the NeverTrump wing.
Imagine portraying a transient like Romney—who governed Massachusetts as a Keynesian liberal with his Obamacare precursor, led vulture investment firm Bain Capital as their CEO, ran for president staunchly defending pharmaceutical companies while protesting that they are being portrayed as “the bad guys,” and finally settling for an unlosable post as the senator for Utah—as some paragon of virtue.
The Petty Pity Party
Lemon’s explanation for the clip was yet another in a series of increasingly common reactions to criticism from the failing media empire for which he works: No, I wasn’t acting unprofessional, and how dare you think that I was making fun of people. It’s not in my character, and shame on you for thinking so. This is the reaction of a person who has never been in a position where he’s accountable for anything.
Such was the reaction of Joe Biden, who flipped out at Savannah Guthrie asking whether his son Hunter should not have accepted a position with Burisma Holdings. He angrily asserted that “no one” had even implied that it was a scheme to ensure access to him.
And of course, there is the feigned appeal to faith: Donna Brazile batted away a question about feeding a debate question to Hillary Clinton’s team behind the scenes by saying “as a Christian woman, I understand persecution.” Nancy Pelosi objected to claims that she hates Donald Trump by saying that as a Catholic she resents the use of the word hate. There was the comical invocation of Jewish identity by Alexander Vindman during his testimony about President Trump’s call with the president of Ukraine that had nothing to do with religion or ethnic heritage. Romney justified his vote to convict by invoking his Mormon faith, but does the president’s guilt rest only on faith since Romney didn’t receive the witnesses that he thought were needed to prove the case?
Public officials and the consultant class feeds on their largess cannot reserve the right to call upon their religious identity only as a shield to deflect criticism of their questionable judgment calls while attacking those of the public.
With so much shameless arrogance rolled up into one clip, is it any wonder that the Republican National Committee has picked it up and used it as an ad? It is as if half of America is being shown a recording of a group of high school classmates talking smack about them in the locker room. Does anyone expect that American voters will make nice with these people after this?