Paranoia Porn

Approximate Reading Time: 4 minutes

Detail from Hieronymus Bosch, “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” at the Museo del Prado

The germ of this thought comes from listening to an interview on Fresh Air yesterday, Thursday, November 12, recorded the day before, which would have been Wednesday, a week and a day since the still officially unresolved election, and at least two news cycles previous. I point it out using this commonplace gauge of cultural progress because it is also still current (or why would Terry risk the embarrassment of being out of touch?). To wit, I notice in both the New York Times and the Washington Post that President Trump – his aides are alleged to say – has no plan; he is merely getting himself however he can from news cycle to news cycle.


White house memo

Trump Floats Improbable Survival Scenarios as He Ponders His Future

There is no grand strategy. President Trump is simply trying to survive from one news cycle to the next.


The thought flits through my head that, maybe, he has at long last legitimately found his own bit of revelation and, as an endgame, turned to religion and a faith in miracles.

But nah. I can’t help but grab the seat of my pants and what’s left to palpate of my shrinking gluteal mass, and deduce from the condition of my hind parts that it’s the same old shit, just a different day. But it’s the implications of the ghoulish contemplations and deliberations on the possible, the probable, the unthinkable, and the preposterous that nag at me. It’s like a constant frigid flow of air from the left, a polar express of glacial horror originating from somewhere “between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge.” Yet it keeps nagging at me that I should just give in, and allow the temperature in my core to keep dropping, to the zone of absolutely no hope. It’s tempting, but I resist.

On Fresh Air, Terry’s guest was a dude touting some what is now considered durable, if not estimable, cred. His name is Garrett Graff, and he is the very model of the cyber-age journalist: former editor of Politico, a contributor to Wired, and the author of at least three books, one on Robert Mueller’s tenure as head of the FBI, a history of the bunkers built in secret to protect government leaders in case of nuclear attack, and an oral history of September 11 (which I am only guessing does not include President Trump’s notorious lies about witnessing people, which he averred were Muslims, dancing on rooftops and cheering from across the Hudson straits from Hoboken as the twin towers burned and finally tumbled).

The topic of their conversation is entitled, on the Fresh Air home page, as “Journalist Details ‘Potential Mischief’ of Trump’s Remaining Weeks in Office.” It consisted, in my hearing of it, of admittedly only speculative outcomes of the potentialities of the various “moves” and actions taken by the president in the past few days, and weeks, and, even going back months – with the unstated implication that every measure, every step, every vindictive or mean-spirited or sheer lunatic act was performed aforethought, and, conceivably… not saying it’s so, but this is how autocrats, authoritarians, totalitarians, dictators do things, have done things…

And I realized, not a new thought for me, but a refreshed set of impressions, that this is how a certain quarter among the news media has been reporting and commentating on the Trump presidency all along. To me, it constitutes a really unsettling superset of the stuff of dread-scrolling. For now I call it Paranoia Porn.

It amounts to imagining the worst outcomes of a regime that resists owning the qualities ascribed to it, beyond the malevolence and hatefulness embedded in the spirit of its worst aimless deconstruction of certain entities and systems necessary to the conduct of governance in the United States. These stories and conversations, these interviews and analyses, the stuff of a whole industry of media content engineering and manufacturing that has kept it going, and not just going but thriving – with the major companies, like The Times, reporting record levels of revenue and profits – in my view are the final throes of examining minutely what Trump has been doing, and then fantasized about by the far left media in the way of speculative horror scenarios based on incredibly complex conspiracies involving setting up a shadow government in the hollowed out shell of the existing legitimate infrastructure which has been performing the business of government for the entire history of the republic.

In fact, as far as I can tell, and anyone – from the lowliest whistle-blower to Carl Bernstein, from Mattis to Bolton, from Comey to Scaramucci – but anyone has been willing to make public, frankly and truthfully (by their own recognizance) has reported on every conceivable twist and turn, every u-turn and wrong turn, every impulse and miscue, there is only evidence of one large truth. Trump has proven repeatedly and consistently the incompetence and shallowness and shortsighted nature of nearly every one of his more far reaching initiatives and in four years, and continuing into this period of interregnum, when his aides tell the media that he has no endgame intended as a culmination of his current chaotically disruptive machinations, he has never betrayed the possession of anything resembling a strategy or plan.

Of course, as I like to say, I could be wrong, and I hope I’m not. But if I am, I am, and you are, no worse off than the doomsayers are perpetually hinting we may find ourselves to be. In which case, we will indeed be beyond help. But I am not sure I will regret (nor would I find solace in doing so) thinking this is all, as I say, a morbidly prurient fascination with yet a new form of pornography. It scares me to think of paranoia as a desirable state in which to seek ecstasy.

Digiprove sealCopyright  © 2020 Howard Dinin

FacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailFacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather
rssrssby feather
Share

3 thoughts on “
Paranoia Porn

  1. Well…I think it has to do with the unimaginable ability of T to exceed his own worst actions, day after day, every day. The late night comedians are at a loss to exaggerate in the name of satire, and have ceased being funny…
    So “dread scrolling”, which I have only ever heard as “doom scrolling” reigns supreme…

    • Well, I actually can imagine him doing just about anything, most probably out of no other motive beyond acting on impulse out of whatever matrix of psychological disorders he suffers. I can imagine him setting off a chain of events, unintentionally, save for the first act that he assumes to be insignificant, and incinerating the planet.

      But I was writing about the media attributing the capability, which he has never evinced one iota of evidence exists, of plotting an overthrow of the government and replacing it with his own apparatus, according to a plan or strategy, an order of battle and a well-considered, tested program of integrative interlocking tactics and operations.

      I think it has to do with the media having excess brain capacity, especially compared to him, a morbid need to report on catastrophe or the anticipation of it occurring, and knowing far more than is safe, for them or for us, about what kind of evil lurks in the hearts of men, and what kind of genius has been deployed in moments in history to bring about the outcomes about which they speculate so earnestly. Most historical overthrows that have occurred as the result of assassination were elsewhere in other times. As a nation, we have endured numerous assassinations of the head of state, and lesser figures, and we have persevered. We’ve withstood plots within the government, the impact of which was always contained by the unimaginable (especially to the perpetrators) intricacy, complexity, and sheer size of the entire federal infrastructure, almost all of which would have had to be accounted for in the plotting of overthrow or usurpation of control.

      Trump is a singular problem and doubtless unique. But he is not the problem I am talking about, and the problems ascribed to the actions of this fictive version of him defined by the media are – what I am saying – non-existent, because practically and realistically impossible given the raw material.

      I was talking about the perverse, and possibly pathological, need, fed by these media types to imagine the worst.

    • Some further thoughts, because this has nagged at me, and that is, I don’t doubt that the phenomenon in question is generally referred to as “doom scrolling”… far more in keeping with the morbid disposition unique to the American sensibility, and probably for some time now. We tend to think increasingly, especially since the early 50s when we learned (well some of us did, for one thing we had the advantage of being alive at the time, and still having our wits about us now) that our mortal enemies, the Soviets, were testing atom bombs. We love to imagine total annihilation (tell me there isn’t a video or computer game called that… I won’t look it up and it’s not something I’d know). I also, of course, have my own idiosyncratic way of dealing with what the hoi polloi has done to shape the vernacular – I tend to redact, retract, and otherwise, if necessary, re-render what I consider particularly infelicitous terminology that gets invented and then almost immediately baked into the current lingo by people not entirely sensitive to the nuances of the zeitgeist.

      It may very well be that most people who obsessively scroll through the feed on their favorite social media, trying to stay abreast of everyone they’re following on Twitter, especially, but Facebook, of course, and sites of even more redolent provenance for the festering rot that passes for the latest bonkers provender – every comment an effort at outdoing the one just micro-seconds previous at engendering gut-wrenching fear.

      My own experience, derived entirely from what had been a digital lifetime’s habit of regularly checking news sources – and a small select list at that – back in the days when the standard for repugnant professional political personalities was Jeb Bush, and someone like Ted Cruz was a self-caricature of himself as the devil – and my personal affliction of lifelong, easily triggered, anxiety produced as the result of such a habit, no worse a result than a sense of dread, not specific to an actual immediate transient threat; this is existential angst of a particular kind, the kind that gave its name to the Age of Anxiety, in which I came of age, so it figures. Hence, I am disposed to call, and I will aver again and still more accurately, at least as it pertains to my neurotic habit, which I now (and for months have done) struggle to manage, by the simple expedient of not visiting those otherwise, and as they should be and were in palmier days, innocuous news sites as often. Nowhere near.

      But what this has done is it has made me over the foregone eight months of the light burden for us introverts of sheltering in place that much more sensitive to the precise nature of the complicity of the media in propagating and nurturing the general air of perpetual foreboding – I’ll call it “dread” thank you, you are, of course, free along with everyone else to call it whatever you like.

      This isn’t doom. This is worse, because we’re allowed to cling to the sense that indeed, however bad it gets, and it does get amazingly worse, even by some barely measurable increment each day, in the hateful time honored philosophical truism, this too shall pass. And, awful as it is, it will, and this condition is called dread. The perpetual anticipation. It can’t get any worse… Can it get any worse?… It just got a tiny bit worse, didn’t it, just now?…

      Doom is when you look up, away from the screen, up into the totally featureless and innocuous sky above, surrounding you, and you see, tiny at first, and getting bigger as an object of massive size accelerating at the rate determined by the gravitational constant heads pretty much directly at where you are located, looking, transfixed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.