The U.S. is a rotten basketcase of a nation, with an ancient and constantly backfiring Constitution, a severe case of declining empire neurosis, and an executive branch shot through with criminals and scam artists.
The elite press corps of the imperial capital plays an important part in our government's corruption, as was on vivid display once more with the tired charade of the White House Correspondents' Dinner this weekend. Comedian Michelle Wolf did what political comedians are supposed to do — use jokes to cut through the comfortable hypocrisy and expose some unpleasant truths, namely that the Trump administration is full of disgustingly amoral cretins. Much of the assembled crowd of bigshot reporters then played their part, performing scandalized outrage in defense of the corrupt regime.
This same routine has been playing out off and on since 2006, when Stephen Colbert gave the assembled Washington press an even more severe walloping over their complicity with George W. Bush's corruption and warmongering.
I was a bit curious to see if things would change this time, as Trump is not even bothering to hide how he is using the presidency to enrich himself, multiple former administration and campaign officials are under indictment or have pleaded guilty to serious crimes, and Trump himself is constantly whipping up psychotic anti-media hatred. Indeed, during the dinner itself, Trump was lambasting the media at a rally: "Is this better than that phony Washington White House Correspondents' Dinner? Is this more fun?" (The crowd roared.)
But no. When Wolf launched a few mild zingers at Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kellyanne Conway — saying that Sanders' "smoky eye" makeup was made from "burnt facts," speculating about how to get Conway trapped under a tree, and attacking CNN for profiting off the Trump presidency — most of the elite D.C. press leaped to their defense. CNN's Chris Cillizza said Wolf was bullying Sanders. MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski tweeted that Wolf's makeup joke was "deplorable." The New York Times' Maggie Haberman wrote that it was "impressive" that Sanders didn't walk out. "Being mean isn't funny," whined Politico Playbook. "It's mean." Mike Allen, the dean of D.C.'s political journalists and (not coincidentally) an extraordinarily ethically compromised person himself, announced: "Media hands Trump big, embarrassing win."
Margaret Talev, the president of the White House Correspondents Association, capped things off with a statement on Sunday night lamenting that "the entertainer's monologue" wasn't in the spirit of the dinner's supposed "mission."
Let's be frank here: The basic job of Sanders and Conway is to lie and dissemble on behalf of a corrupt president who has taken vicious media-baiting far beyond the Spiro Agnew level. They do it nearly every time they open their mouths. That it is possible to react to these mild insults outside of this overtly and personally threatening context is final confirmation that the above journalists are not capable of perceiving the reality of the American state, much less how they are enabling it. As Alex Pareene once noted, "These people practice a form of corruption in which the corrupt individual literally cannot understand why anyone wouldn't consider him or her a stalwart and productive member of society."
It should come as no surprise that the White House Correspondents Association is itself all but an open fraud. The ostensible purpose of the group, and its annual fancy party, is to fund some journalism scholarships — but it spends less than a quarter of its revenues on that. (The fact that the dinner is making some important people piles of cash is surely the only reason it has not yet been canceled.)
People often say that Washington, D.C., as a whole is an awful, corrupt town, but that's not really true. Much of it is quite pleasant, and most residents are not corrupt political hacks — indeed, even today a plurality of the population is still working- and middle-class black people. Instead, D.C. is home to some self-dealing creeps — the worst, most amoral social-climbing careerists in the country (and many of them actually live in Maryland or Virginia). The wretched correspondents' dinner is only worthwhile as a sort of thermometer into the moral debauchery of that group. The diagnosis is not promising.