A romance novel explains why Trump is destroying the media and a Jewish survival doctrine provides a road map for conservatives who want to win.
These are strange times and I sometimes have a strange brain. That may explain why, in the days since the Alabama election, when I read about Trump’s clashes with the media or see the #NeverTrumpers willing to sacrifice America to their principles, some pretty strange analogies — analogies about romance novels and rabbinical rules — pop into my head. Let me explain:
Writing at the L.A. Times, Matt Welch discusses the fact that conservatives feel strongly that, in the many elections held since (and including) the presidential election 2016, the really big loser has consistently been the American media:
“Roy Moore Proves Media Only Destroys Itself in Elections” ran a headline Monday in The American Spectator. “The late Charles Manson seems to have gotten a more sympathetic press” than Republican Roy Moore, complained former human events editor Allan H. Ryskind in the Washington Times. “The real reason for a situation that allows the Roy Moores and Donald Trumps of the world to rise above mere laughingstock status,” opined former George W. Bush speechwriter Matt Latimer in Politico, “is that the media has totally lost its connection with a large portion of the nation.”
Meanwhile, the media’s been congratulating itself on scoring a victory in Alabama. Welch is intrigued by this disconnect, which he chalks up to insider and outsider criticism:
All political media criticism — whether it was the more left-leaning alternative and New Journalism of the ’60s and ’70s, the right-leaning AM radio revolution of the ’80s and ’90s or the social media cacophony we see today — begins as a necessary and bracing reminder to the big media fish that they, too, swim in water, even if they don’t feel it.
But soon, the outsider critique brushes up against the first iron law of media criticism: Partisan skepticism inevitably drifts toward media illiteracy. What starts out as a tool for more sophisticated news consumption eventually degrades into an excuse for those who choose not to believe inconvenient journalism.
Welch’s report triggered a slightly different train of thought in my brain: Trump is extraordinarily adept at baiting the media into intemperate behavior that shows the media at its worst — even if there’s some underlying virtue underlying the media’s position. And what does this remind me of? A Georgette Heyer novel, of course.
The novel, one of my favorites, is The Nonesuch. The book’s plot is the usual comedy of manners that Heyer handles with a touch as deft as Jane Austen’s, tempered only by a more modern sensibility. Here’s the quick rundown:
Ancilla is an intelligent, accomplished young gentlewoman with a strong sense of self worth and a good sense of humor (making her more empowered than the American women born of the Women’s Liberation Movement). Owing to her family’s impoverishment, instead of becoming a charge on her family, she’s chosen to work as a governess. Ancilla has two charges: her employer’s daughter and her employer’s niece. The niece, Tiffany, is an extremely wealthy, staggeringly beautiful, selfish young woman who is charming when happy and a termagant when crossed. It takes very little to cross Tiffany.
Sir Waldo Hawkridge comes into the town to set up an orphanage, as he is charitably inclined. He’s quite modest, so he keeps secret the reason for his coming. The gentry in the town have no interest, in any event, in exploring his motives for visiting. He is “The Nonesuch,” meaning that, when it comes to looks, wealth, athletic ability, and charm, there is none such as Sir Waldo. The only person unimpressed is Ancilla, who erroneously believes him to be a dissolute gambler, which he is not. The meat of this delightful story involves Sir Waldo’s efforts to woo Ancilla.
One of the engines driving the romance is the fact that Sir Waldo’s cousin Lord Lindethl a sweet-natured young man, has accompanied him. Unfortunately, Lord Lindeth spots Tiffany in a charming moment and falls head over heels in love with her. Both Ancilla and Sir Waldo wish to nip this passion in the bud, because both understand that Tiffany is poison for any man unlucky enough to marry her, notwithstanding her wealth and beauty.
Of course, the easiest way to end the affair is for Tiffany to show her worst side to Lindeth. Ancilla, though, struggles with this notion. On the one hand, she wants to save Lindeth from a terrible fate; on the other hand, Tiffany is in her charge and it goes against the grain for her to encourage bad behavior. Fortunately, Sir Waldo has no such constraints . . . and this is the point at which I finally bring the story back to Donald Trump.
Sir Waldo deliberately baits Tiffany by “sort of” flirting with her, which is very bad behavior coming from an older man of the “ton” (i.e., Britain’s uppermost class). Not only that, he blows hot and cold, alternately plying her with fulsome compliments and dismissing her with subtle, but vicious, put-downs. Tiffany, unaccustomed to being played, cannot control herself. She becomes both vicious and hysterical, even though it should be obvious to her that she is shattering her reputation in the eyes of the young men around her, including Lindeth.
Trump, believe it or not, rude, crude, Trump, is playing the role of handsome, suave, talented Sir Waldo. Those who are not blinded by hate know that Trump, a savvy businessman and reality-TV star, is perfectly capable of controlling himself if he wishes. When it comes to the media, that’s not his wish. [Read more…]