Anger Pays

In case you have been concerned about the demise of big budget journalism, you might be able to cross that problem off your list.

The Washington Post just sent two expensive reporters — David Maraniss and Robert Samuels – on a five-week tour of the United States. If my impression of the on-the-road activities of reporters is accurate, many cocktails found their way on to memorable expense reports.

The five weeks of reportage resulted in a four part 20,000-word series entitled “Looking for America.” (The Old Man and The Sea was 27,000 words.) Each part had its own brow-furrowing title: The Great Unsettling; Longing for Something Lost; Awaiting a Political Awakening; and A Nation Divided.

Yes ladies and gentlemen, the Washington Post spent a ton of dough sending two reporters away from Washington to find out about anger, especially anger about politics.

Here is how they began.

“So much anger out there in America.

Anger at Wall Street. Anger at Muslims. Anger at trade deals. Anger at Washington. Anger at police shootings of young black men. Anger at President Obama. Anger at Republican obstructionists. Anger about political correctness. Anger about the role of big money in campaigns. Anger about the poisoned water of Flint, Mich. Anger about deportations. Anger about undocumented immigrants. Anger about a career that didn’t go as expected. Anger about a lost way of life. Mob anger at groups of protesters in their midst. Specific anger and undefined anger and even anger about anger.”

If journalism is in such dire financial straits, why not give the lads a pair of Metro cards and send them up to Capitol Hill, or over to the White House, or the length of K Street, where political anger is mass produced?

Should evidence of the success of this mass production be needed, try a short sidebar on some words recently added to the Oxford English Dictionary. Apparently the old standby from which these were derived no longer does the job.

Anger is rising for several reasons, both good and less so. (The reasons are good or less so, not the anger itself.)

Some people are angry because they have a right to be. I am not writing about them today.

More are angry because they have been told to be. I am writing about the people telling them.

If I am in politics, I can tell you that you are getting screwed.

If I can convince you of your victimhood, I can get you to “stand with” me.

If I can convince you to “stand with” me, I can promise to “fight for” you.

And if I can get you to believe that I will “fight for” you, I can get you to send me a check.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the point.

Mass-producing anger is for fund raising.

Now imagine that you are a campaign strategist, a pollster, a speechwriter or any of the other on-hangers who gets a paycheck for promoting a candidate.

Would you prefer a big paycheck or a little paycheck? Probably no need for wink-wink hand size comparisons here, everyone wants his paycheck to be “Yuge.”

Yuge paycheck? More fund raising.

More fund raising? More anger.

Not rocket surgery.

Might there be a problem with this plan?

Well, not for the people who get a candidate elected. They don’t have to govern. Governing is somebody else’s job. Let his mother worry.

According to Ron Faucheux, “Attacks are no longer meant to just take votes from the opposition; they’re increasingly aimed at destroying their legitimacy and credibility. Worst for the country, they’re also meant to impair their ability to govern should they win.”

I suppose, if you write 20,000 words about anger, it is best to end on a high note. Maraniss and Samuels did so.

“He has created a real divide in this country,” Troy said. “He is always calling out the rich so the poor people can get mad and vote for other people. The whole model is to divide and conquer us so he can get his way.”

But “all the nastiness and name-calling on the telly from Mr. Trump” — that was beyond him. And so was the notion that America was not great. “This is still basically the land of opportunity, is it not? If you work at it, you can still get on with it, can you not? It is a beautiful country. If I had it to do over again, and I were a young lad, this is where I would want to live.”

Okay, maybe a few people get it but, if Maraniss and Samuels had been given Metro cards and asked to write about where the anger came from, they might not have been so upbeat.

As long as anger pays, you can depend on there being more of it. It’s a good business.

 

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Haven Pell

At the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” Without hesitation, Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

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12 comments

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  • The button that gets me angry is the condition of the budget. Our rate in increase of national debt is unsustainable. No one argues over that. No one wants to deal with the problem directly, because it will make many mad, those receiving free stuff and those paying for it.

    Count on President Obama to do everything he can to prevent any indictment on Hillary. An email even went out to all State Department employees over Hillary Clinton’s name saying State Department’s security policies regarding emails would be strictly enforced. Apparently she did not think those rules applied to her.

    President Obama owes Hillary the favor of preventing her from being indicted during an election year in return for her lying about Benghazi just weeks before his own election. He will rationalize it that it all is for the good of the Democratic party, and that with Democrats elected the country is better served. More transparency in government?

    That dishonesty by President Obama and Hillary Clinton should make all of us mad.

    • Stan, I wish no one argued over the increase in the national debt. Paul Krugman does and he derisively dismisses any competing view in the NYT.

      Which words are more demeaning to the idea of electing a president: “big hands” or indictment? Hmmm… not so easily answered.

  • Accusing someone of lying, specifically Hillary does not make it true. Get real. Why not just say you don’t like someone instead of fabricating ways to tear them down . Now some, aka Trump, give you ammo right up front, to give clear reason to dislike them. I’ve been all over this country this year. I don’t see that much suffering. The roads are filled with trucks, there is wealth everywhere. What is considered affordable housing resembled my childhood neighborhood . Starbucks are full. The only guys doing yard work or staffing restaurants are from the other side of Trumps beautiful wall. I couldn’t agree more with Pell: anger created by the guys promising to save you. But the real suckers are the Americans who buy into it

    • I am thinking about the Winklevoss twins (Wt’s) and Zuckerberg (Z) hanging out in a dorm room about 15 years ago. Now add some fictional poli sci nerd (PSN).

      Wt’s — we need an easier way to get laid

      Z — yeah that Facebook they publish every year is a book and you have to turn the pages

      PSN — No, what we need is a way to assemble all the stupidest voters in America so they can be bamboozled all in one place.

  • Being a devout Epicurian I will be looking to hire recently reborn mercenary barbarians to defend me against the Sarasen invasion. All to be found hovering around CONSTITUTION Avenue.
    Something like that at work here?

  • OK. I don’t like Hillary or Donald. I’m glad Donald’s poll numbers are finally going down (I won’t get into the reasons because there are several) and I will read up on Paul Krugman. Always like to hear both sides of an argument.

    Fear is probably just as motivating as anger. Which is why politicians tell us what will happen if the other guy (or woman) is elected. Also greed, which is why promising more to groups individually is very effective. Stockbrokers have known this for a long time.

    All votes count the same. I’ve always said that if a politician gets 3 votes for what he (or she) says and loses mine, he (or she) is doing the right thing. All that seems to matter in politics is winning.

    So we get voters from all aspects of society and we get what who we get. It’s kind of a crap shoot. We really do not know what they will do until they are in office. Past history in government is a good indicator, and Trump has none. Certainly running the US government, where compromise is king, is different than running a business.

    However our election process does seem to bring about change. Mainly when some of us get tired of one party and try the other.

    Looks like I got someone mad!!

  • I’m reading Krugman and he has some good points. His comments about free trade are good. He’s for it. Also, of course, he thinks there should be a bigger safety net for the disadvantaged laborers in the US whose wages are held down by global competition. He also thinks the rich and upper middle class should be taxed more to slow growing income inequality gap. I agree with him on the taxes. I just think the social programs could be run more efficiently by more control at the local level instead of federally. Wouldn’t it be great if public schools actually competed for students with their programs and for teachers with salary and bonuses.

  • I agree with preferring jobs over handouts. I wonder how much of a difference it would make to the voting public if we actually had to pay for those handouts through current taxes instead of adding the bill to our national debt, which we pass on to our kids and grandkids. As it is, these benefits don’t seem to cost anything. Might be some backlash when people see how much it adds to their tax bill. We would still give out the handouts, but we would be more selective and demand something back in return from the recipients. Too bad it is not that way now, in my opinion. However raising taxes, or even proposing it, is the kiss of death in an election. Bernie is getting away with promising more free benefits because he wants to tax the millionaires and billionaires to pay for it without cutting benefits for the middle class. Sounds great. The question, as with all the candidates’ proposals, is it realistic. I believe we need to find ways to create jobs that are not tied to more funding of old programs that don’t work.