Psychological Projection, Demonstrated
Right Scoop, a regular booster and friend of Mark Levin, posted the radio host’s plea to Israeli listeners to re-elect Benjamin Netanyahu. Halfway through his slightly meandering but basically reasonable rant — the topic of which, remember, was the virtues of Benjamin Netanyahu and the desirability of his re-election in Israel — Levin suddenly veered off into this:
I feel the same way about President Trump. My admiration for Trump has been growing and growing over time as you know. I am extremely impressed with him. There are people who come on TV and radio who want to play games. They want you to think they are taking sides but not really taking sides. They want you to think they are for Trump but not really for Trump. And then they pass this off as being thoughtful, and objective, consciousness [sic] in terms of their viewpoints. They’re not. They’re positioning themselves. We are in the middle of a political civil war like we’ve never seen in modern times, between capitalism and socialism, between securing a border and having no border, between building up our military and eviscerating our military, between strengthening the rule of law and rejecting the rule of law, embracing the constitution and undermining the constitution. There’s a lot of good versus evil going on right now and a lot of it is in black and white. And I don’t mean race wise, I mean like ink, black and white. As Reagan would say no pastel colors. And to be sitting on the sidelines or playing games in order to promote your careers or promote your ego, “Uh, you know I like him….” No, now is not the time for that.
First of all, notice the standard Trump apologist reasoning: America is in a civil war between Good and Evil, and if you are not a full-throated supporter of Donald Trump, then you are on the side of Evil, because there is no other choice. The clear implication of this argument, if you are not hiding in Trump Fantasy Land, is that the current Washington political establishment exhausts all possible options for the future of America, so you must choose Mitch McConnell’s side of that establishment or be accused of “playing games” while Rome is burning. (Never have so many been made such fools of for the benefit of so few.)
Notice, further, how easy it is to identify a Trump-ophant by this one prominent trait: They cannot speak positively about anyone or anything without somehow turning their praise of that person or thing into hosannas to Trump. Thus, on the eve of an Israeli election, and in the process of defending the Israeli Prime Minister as “the most important leader of the free world” during the Obama administration — thus implying that he is no longer the most important — Levin has to single out Netanyahu’s having “worked very closely with President Trump,” and then, amazingly, summarize his defense of Netanyahu with this: “You have a historic figure serving as your Prime Minister. Just like our President, they’re trying to take him out.” There’s an old Murphy’s Law expression, referring to politicians: “Whatever they’re talking about, they’re talking about money.” Likewise, whatever a Trump-ophant is talking about, he’s talking about Trump.
My main interest in Levin’s collapsing argument here, however, is his criticism of “people who come on TV and radio who want to play games.” He suggests that these people, whom he does not name, are trying to have their cake and eat it too about Trump; that is, claiming to like some policies, but still holding back on full, enthusiastic support for the man or his presidency. This reserved position, in Levin’s view, is absolutely unacceptable and disreputable. Dare I say “despicable”?
Most interestingly, Levin’s specific accusation against such people is that they are withholding their full support “in order to promote [their] careers or to promote [their] ego.”
Now, I’d love to know how that works. During the 2016 primaries, Fox News explicitly sent out the order, direct from the board of directors — from the office of Mitch McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, to be precise — that anyone who criticized Trump on air would stop getting airtime on Fox. After the election, Red State, which had tried to maintain a balance of opinion, summarily fired a slew of writers, every one of them an effective or popular critic of Trump. Glenn Beck was a consistent critic of Trump throughout the primaries, but as his media empire faced serious financial challenges, partly as a result of his lost popularity with mainstream Republican voters who had gone Trump-wild, he meekly bowed down and kissed the ring at last, to save his sinking ship. Search far and wide, throughout the alternative or “conservative” media, and find examples commentators of any kind, let alone TV and radio “personalities,” whose careers have been promoted (i.e., enhanced) by taking an anti-Trump position.
What has happened, on the contrary, is that many people who tried to stand on principle up to the 2016 election realized that their careers (i.e., income and popularity) depended on retaining that large faction of Republican voters who spend hours each day listening to talk radio, watching Fox News, and reading conservative websites, and which faction had, on the whole, become Trump worshippers. Thus, most of these commentators, certainly most of the prominent and established ones, made a financial decision, or rather (to be polite) an editorial decision heavily swayed by vested financial interests. The Fox News people are all on board — including the large number who have graduated from Fox right into the Trump administration. Erick Erickson, an original “NeverTrumper,” has bowed before the prevailing winds at last. The clever boy Ben Shapiro adopted his cynical “Good Trump, Bad Trump” schtick as a means of saving his hide with younger Trump fans, his core audience, without looking like a total sell-out. (“Good Trump, Bad Trump” is, of course, a total sell-out if you truly believe Trump himself is an unworthy representative of constitutional conservatism, as Shapiro once believed, or pretended to believe.)
As for radio, Beck, as noted above, simply gave up and handed his head to the cult on a silver platter. Most of the other prominent hosts, operating on purer monetary calculations, were Trump’s loudest defenders throughout the primaries, knowing that Trump was much more a man of their own spirit than any other candidate, i.e., a cynical salesman whose product was primarily himself, and only secondarily certain political “stances” that he believed would sell at the moment.
Apart from Beck, the only partial exception to this norm in A-list radio-land was Levin, who was largely critical of Trump on constitutionalist grounds during the primaries, but who then made up for lost time (and audience) by leaping onto the bandwagon as if he had been driving it all along, securing himself a TV slot at Fox News in the process, in spite of having slammed the network as “the pom-poms” for years, and derided its overt Trump advocacy during the primaries.
So where is the supposed career-promoting element of being anything less than a Trump pom-pom girl like Limbaugh, Hannity, latter-day Levin, and the rest of the cult spokesmen? The simple answer is that it is nowhere. There is no such thing. Everyone who has shifted on Trump over the past two and a half years has shifted in the cult’s direction, not the other way, and they have obviously benefitted materially from doing so.
You could try to make the case that they shifted because they honestly realized they had been unfair to Trump, or that he had significantly exceeded their expectations. That, to be sure, is what all of the shifters themselves will claim. But to suggest that they have not benefitted, in terms of popularity, media access, and (where applicable) revenue, by repositioning themselves as Trump-friendly, would be almost as ridiculous as claiming that anyone has gained in popularity, access, or income by opposing Trump from any sort of conservative or constitutionalist position.
Who, then, is Levin’s target when he rails against those who are playing games with “pastel colors” in this time of historic political civil war “between strengthening the rule of law and rejecting the rule of law, embracing the constitution and undermining the constitution”?
Who is trying to avoid the black-as-ink principles of the matter, and then to “pass this off as being thoughtful, and objective, [conscientious] in terms of their viewpoints”?
Who is in Levin’s mind when he accuses unnamed “TV and radio” commentators of “positioning themselves” in order to promote their careers and their egos, principles, history, and the Constitution be damned?
My guess: Mark Levin. It’s called psychological projection.