“Even using a conservative estimate, it was the single largest day for a demonstration in the US,” Chenoweth, an expert on political protests and civil resistance, told us.
Almost every state in America hosted a Women’s March, as you can see in the map above. The events ranged from tiny gatherings in small town squares to throngs of more than 500,000 people clogging streets in cities like Washington, DC, and Los Angeles. (If you see that crowd attendance information is missing from your city, please contact the researchers here.)
Pressman said he started to track crowd numbers from organizers, local media outlets, and citizens who emailed or tweeted with links and reports early Saturday morning.
Chenoweth offered to help him, after being struck by how many people she saw at the march in her hometown of Denver.
“It was much bigger than I expected, and by the time I got home I was really curious if that was happening nationwide or not,” said Chenoweth.
The researchers say much of their data is still incomplete and will change in the coming days as more estimates become available. Roughly 200 marches held across the US still haven’t released any attendance numbers yet.
But Chenoweth said she was stunned by how many communities across America held sister marches to the main event in Washington, DC. She and Pressman received data from places like Stanley, Idaho (population of 63), where nearly half the town — 30 people — came out to protest, including resident celebrity Carole King.
The turnout at events outside the US was significant, too. Chenoweth and Pressman have recorded over 100 international Women’s Marches with an estimated attendance of more than 260,000.
Chenoweth cautioned me that while 3.7 million Americans protesting on Saturday may be the largest turnout in US history in absolute terms, she wasn’t sure if it was the largest protest proportionally speaking. For instance, she said, it’s possible that protests in cities around the US against the Iraq War in 2003 may have drawn as many people or more relative to the population at that time.
As she and Pressman continue to collect data, she hopes that civic organizers will be more involved with gathering crowd data in real time to help researchers who study social movements.
“For people who organize these kinds of activity, there is something that can be learned in terms of techniques of using [satellite images or aerial photos] to estimate crowd density,” said Chenoweth. “It might be a good time to think about how we democratize that knowledge.”
I think democratizing knowledge is going to be extremely important going forward. In a world with "alternate facts" coming from the government we are going to be unable to function unless we develop some methods of keeping track of reality.
I don't know if it's true that the marches were larger than any in history. But they were big, very big and dispersed all over this country. And what really makes it special wasn't the big crowds in DC, NY, Chicago and LA. It as that people in small towns in red states came out in defiance of their community's majority and made themselves known. That's never easy. It was difficult during the campaign for a lot of reasons. To do that takes guts and the women and their allies who did it this past week-end have my respect.
That's the heart of The Resistance and I was proud to stand with them.
“It isn’t Trump as a character, a human type—the real-estate type, the callow and callous killer capitalist—that outstrips the imagination. It is Trump as President of the United States.
“I was born in 1933, the year that F.D.R. was inaugurated. He was President until I was twelve years old. I’ve been a Roosevelt Democrat ever since. I found much that was alarming about being a citizen during the tenures of Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. But, whatever I may have seen as their limitations of character or intellect, neither was anything like as humanly impoverished as Trump is: ignorant of government, of history, of science, of philosophy, of art, incapable of expressing or recognizing subtlety or nuance, destitute of all decency, and wielding a vocabulary of seventy-seven words that is better called Jerkish than English.”
He makes Nixon look honest and Bush look smart by comparison. And he is mentally ill, I don't think there's any doubt about it.
He came on TV this morning blabbing some nonsense about trade ("we are going to trade but we want everything to be made in the United States... blah, blah, blah") and I exploded at the TV screaming in anger after just two words.
I'm serious. My revulsion is strongly visceral, I can't seem to manage it. I don't think I can take four years of him.
The first 72 hours of Donald Trump’s presidency have been as exciting as we might have anticipated. He got things rolling on Friday with a dark, dystopian inaugural address like nothing we’ve ever seen before. He spoke of “inner-city poverty, crime and drugs and gangs,” and “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation.” He placed the blame for all those ills on the presidential predecessors and political colleagues sitting behind him on the dais. He declared, “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”
That’s actually quite a clever promise. Since the hellscape he describes is a figment of Trump’s imagination, it will be easy enough to say “Abracadabra” and convince his rabid followers that he’s made it all better. The rest of the country and the world, however, will remain chilled to the bone by his distorted vision of reality. The country Trump says he’s leading is a country that doesn’t exist. And he seems not to have any knowledge of or interest in the one that does.
On the night before he was sworn in, Trump lied about the inaugural concert at the Lincoln Memorial — featuring mostly unknown acts — telling the attendees that his team came up with the idea and that if it had been done before, “it was very, very seldom.” Of course that’s not true. Barack Obama had a huge bash there in 2009 featuring Beyoncé, Bruce Springsteen and U2, among others, and it’s where George W. Bush held his inaugural opening ceremony.
The inauguration parade was so poorly organized that some stands were largely empty, even near the White House where the president and family stood to watch. And the swearing-in ceremony and inaugural address did not get anywhere close to huge crowds that came to Obama’s first inauguration. Perhaps Trump’s team couldn’t have done anything about that. But one might have expected that a man who constantly brags about his own talents as much as he does could have pulled off a spectacular event. Like his amateurish convention in Cleveland, it was a dud.
Instead of acting like a leader and moving on to the important job of being president, Trump has obviously spent his time watching TV pundits as usual. He became angry and upset that the news was reporting that his inaugural was sparsely attended, which it was. So on Saturday he went to a scheduled event at the CIA, where he behaved boorishly in front of the Memorial Wall: He talked incessantly about himself, falsely denied that he had ever criticized the agency, falsely inflated the crowd size at his inauguration, excoriating the media and insisted that agency employees can trust him because he’s “like, a smart person.”
Later that day, in one of the weirder moments in presidential history, Trump sent out press secretary Sean Spicer for his first briefing, where he declared with angry gusto: “That was the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period. Both in person and around the globe.” Spicer cited more lies and misrepresentations as “proof.” PolitiFact rated the whole performance “pants on fire.”
A presidential press secretary lying outright to the media about easily disprovable facts is odd, to say the least. It is almost as if he were literally saying, “You can believe me or you can believe your lying eyes.” At this early stage the Trump White House is banking on the the fact that his followers, the only Americans he seems to believe matter, will always choose to believe their leader and his minions over the “dishonest” press.
Presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway appeared on Meet the Press and unleashed a torrent of unresponsive rhetoric when asked by Chuck Todd about Spicer’s performance, angrily complaining that if he continued she was “going to have to rethink our relationship here” and finally stating that Spicer simply provided “alternative facts.” It was an echo of a similar comment made by another Trump mouthpiece, CNN commentator Scottie Nell Hughes, who said on NPR in December that Trump’s absurd insistence he won in a historic landslide was perfectly legitimate because “there’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts.”
The Trump people aren’t trying to hide behind their patented propaganda that the media is “liberal” and therefore politically biased, as Republicans have done for decades. That strategy served the party very well while its minions created an alternative media structure to offer their own ideological and political slant on events. It has been a long time since conservatives trusted anything other than right-wing media to help them understand current events.
This is a different approach, perhaps out of necessity due to Trump’s obvious unfitness for the presidency. In the past, disputes always hinged on the interpretation of facts, not the facts themselves. Trump and his staff are essentially saying anything that reflects negatively on them can be labeled “fake news” and replaced with their own “alternative facts.”
Trump’s unprecedented dishonesty and his refusal to revise his claims when they are widely called out as false … starts to smack of an effort to stamp out the very possibility of shared agreement on the legitimate institutional role of the news media or even on reality itself. It’s easy to imagine that, if and when a news organization uncovers potential conflicts, Trump will simply deny the reality of what’s been uncovered (“fake news”) and begin threatening “consequences” towards that organization.
On the first day of the Trump presidency, the press secretary went before the cameras and angrily derided the press for telling the truth, offering up more lies to “prove” his point. The next day the president’s counselor called those lies “alternative facts” and claimed that she would have to reevaluate the White House relationship to the journalist who asked her about it. Trump himself lied about the CIA’s role in leaking to the press.
It is hard to know whether these people believe their own falsehoods are true, or are cynically trying to manipulate reality to cover up for their ineptitude or worse. As much of a cliché as it might be to say this, it is literally Orwellian. This quote from “1984” was widely shared on social media over the weekend. It comes from a passage when Winston Smith reflects to himself that “the obvious, the silly, and the true had got to be defended”
The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.
The numbers for Saturday's Women's March on Washington and sister marches across the country were stunning. Postmarch, lets's review how we got here. The Los Angeles Times profiled the organizers. Like many, Teresa Shook was stunned by the November 8 presidential election results:
She decided to do something about it.
The next night, with some help from friends online, the retired attorney and grandmother living in Hawaii created a Facebook event page calling for a march on Washington after Trump’s inauguration. Before she went to bed, she had about 40 responses. When she woke up, she had more than 10,000.
New York fashion designer Bob Bland jumped in to coordinate other similar efforts and ...
... recruited three longtime, New York-based activists to be co-chairs of the national march: Tamika Mallory, a gun control advocate; Carmen Perez, head of the Gathering for Justice, a criminal-justice reform group; and Linda Sarsour, who recently led a successful campaign to close New York City public schools on two Muslim holidays.
Like I wrote, "Why doesn't somebody do something?" are five words have gotten me into all kinds of trouble. Shook too. She did something with her idea. The other women had the organizing chops to make it happen. And happen it did, in a big way. The Los Angeles Times caught up with Teresa Shook on Saturday:
Did Shook foresee this all culminating in Saturday's march? "I hoped but no," Shook said. "That night I just did it because it made me feel better in the moment. I hoped that people would get on board."
With a D.C. crowd estimated at 500,000 and more than 600 marches around the country, clearly they did.
Now the trick is to sustain that energy and to keep it focused. Shook had an idea, but it took trained organizers to turn that idea into a worldwide event. That takes commitment and skills in addition to passion. Let's hope we all have a longer attention span than President Trump. Long enough to acquire the skills it will take to overcome the next four years of #alternativefacts .
And now we return you to Trump Propaganda Minister Kellyanne Conway directing the Alternative United States Marine Band.
I guess this should be expected. He said throughout the campaign "to the victor goes the spoils."
He doesn't believe in much, not really. He believes the death penalty is not used enough, that law enforcement have been restrained from using necessary police power and that foreign countries are disrespecting and taking advantage of America both economically and militarily. This is his core philosophy. There's nothing more to it than that.
He is an authoritarian thug and that's ALL he is. He's not a populist --- he just adopted populist themes based on what was in the zeitgeist. He cares nothing about health care, education, free markets, civil rights, civil liberties, freedom of speech and religion or even, frankly, the second amendment although he'll probably keep that one on his agenda as long as it's white men carrying the guns. None of that matters to him. What matters to him is "law and order" and American military and economic supremacy. Those things are not matters on which any other country or the citizens are to have any say.
I wish I understood why people see this as populist and isolationist but it is anything but. "To the victors belong the spoils" is the most imperialistic statement any American president has made in ... well, maybe ever. It's at least right up there with Manifest Destiny. Don't be fooled.
It truly was an unbelievable performance. In fact, I've never seen anything like it.
You have to watch it in full to understand how bizarre and disorienting this was. This is only day three of the Trump Administration. And it is already as outrageously over the top as we ever could have imagined:
Here is just one small piece of the torrent of lies and obfuscation that poured out of her mouth this morning:
CHUCK TODD: ... Let me begin with this question, the presidency is about choices. So I'm curious why President Trump chose yesterday to send out his press secretary to essentially litigate a provable falsehood when it comes to a small and petty thing like inaugural crowd size. I guess my question to you is, why do that?
KELLYANNE CONWAY: Chuck, the president did many things yesterday and the day before that are very meaningful to America. He signed executive orders to stop Obamacare and all of its problems. Many people have lost their-- Millions of people have lost their insurance, their doctors, their plans. So that stops right now.
He's going to replace it with something much more free-market and patient-centric in nature. And on this matter of crowd size, I mean, for me I think the most quantifiable points of interest for Americans should be what just happened a few months ago that brought him here, the 31 of 50 states he won, the 2,600 counties, the 200 counties that went for President Obama that now went to President Trump. And the fact that 29, 30 million women voted for Donald Trump for president. They should be respected. Somebody should cover their voices as well.
I'm about things that are quantifiable and important. I don’t think that-- I don't think ultimately presidents are judged by crowd sizes at their inauguration. I think they're judged by their accomplishments. And we know that President Obama and his accomplishments, that there's a lot of unfinished business there.
And on this matter of crowd size I think it is a symbol for the unfair and incomplete treatment that this president often receives. I'm very heartened to see Nielsen just came out with the ratings, 31 million people watching the inauguration. President Obama had 20.5 million watching his second inauguration four short years ago. So we know people are also watching the inauguration on different screens and in different modes. And that there was, I mean, for me there was a prediction of a downpour of rain. I think that deterred many people from coming. But no question there were hundreds of thousands of people out on the mall and--
CHUCK TODD: All right, Kellyanne, let me stop you here because--
KELLYANNE CONWAY: --you know, many people enthused.
CHUCK TODD: --you make a very reasonable and rational case for why crowd sizes don't matter. Then explain, you did not answer the question, why did the president send out his press secretary, who’s not just the spokesperson for Donald Trump. He could be-- He also serves as the spokesperson for all of America at times. He speaks for all of the country at times. Why put him out there for the very first time in front of that podium to utter a provable falsehood? It's a small thing. But the first time he confronts the public it's a falsehood?
KELLYANNE CONWAY: Chuck, I mean, if we're going to keep referring to our press secretary in those types of terms I think that we're going to have to rethink our relationship here. I want to have a great open relationship with our press. But look what happened the day before talking about falsehoods.
We allowed the press-- the press to come into the Oval Office and witness President Trump signing executive orders. And of course, you know, the Senate had just confirmed General Mattis and General Kelly to their two posts. And we allowed the press in. And what happens almost immediately? A falsehood is told about removing the bust of Martin Luther King Junior from the Oval Office. No, that's just flat out false. And the pool writer--
CHUCK TODD: And it was corrected immediately--
KELLYANNE CONWAY: But why -- Chuck, why was it said?
CHUCK TODD: --but Kellyanne, no, let me--
KELLYANNE CONWAY: Chuck, why was it said in the first place because--
CHUCK TODD: --I don't know.
KELLYANNE CONWAY: --everybody's so presumptively negative--
CHUCK TODD: --climb, climb into the head of that reporter--
KELLYANNE CONWAY: No, that it's okay. No excuse me.
CHUCK TODD: But Miss--
KELLYANNE CONWAY: Oh no, no, no, that reporter was writing to-- on behalf of the press pool. That falsehood--
CHUCK TODD: I understand that--
KELLYANNE CONWAY: --got spread 3,000 times--
CHUCK TODD: But it does not excuse--
KELLYANNE CONWAY: --before it was corrected.
CHUCK TODD: --excuse me. It does not--
KELLYANNE CONWAY: And it's still out there.
CHUCK TODD: --excuse and you did not answer the question.
KELLYANNE CONWAY: I did answer--
CHUCK TODD: No you did not.
KELLYANNE CONWAY: --your question.
CHUCK TODD: You did not--
KELLYANNE CONWAY: Yes I did.
CHUCK TODD: --answer the question of why the president asked the White House press secretary to come out in front of the podium for the first time and utter a falsehood? Why did he do that? It undermines the credibility of the entire White House press office--
KELLYANNE CONWAY: No it doesn't.
CHUCK TODD: --on day one.
KELLYANNE CONWAY: Don't be so overly dramatic about it, Chuck. What-- You're saying it's a falsehood. And they're giving Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that. But the point remains--
CHUCK TODD: Wait a minute-- Alternative facts?
KELLYANNE CONWAY: --that there’s--
CHUCK TODD: Alternative facts? Four of the five facts he uttered, the one thing he got right--
KELLYANNE CONWAY: --hey, Chuck, why-- Hey Chuck--
CHUCK TODD: --was Zeke Miller. Four of the five facts he uttered were just not true. Look, alternative facts are not facts. They're falsehoods.
KELLYANNE CONWAY: Chuck, do you think it's a fact or not that millions of people have lost their plans or health insurance and their doctors under President Obama? Do you think it's a fact that everything we heard from these women yesterday happened on the watch of President Obama? He was president for eight years. Donald Trump's been here for about eight hours.
It was so bad that the Dictionary sub-tweeted her:
This is going to be very tough to combat. Here is the alternate universe his supporters already inhabit:
Ms. Hine interpreted Mr. Trump’s inaugural speech on Friday as a generous, uplifting call to bring people together, contradicting the belief of others that it had painted an overly dark and gloomy picture of the country. “It was about unity,” she said.
I guess we're going to see if the old saying that Reality Bites is still true or if we've finally gone full Orwell.
It's been raining here in LA for days (thank goodness) and it is again right now. But yesterday the skies cleared and it was beautiful and sunny and cool. And they say something like 750,000 people showed up, which I believe. It was massive. And it was beautiful. The streets were filled with out and proud feminists and decent people of all stripes to make a strong but peaceful statement against the odious new leadership in Washington DC.
But it wasn't just in the cities like mine. This thing brought out people all over the world, even in Trump country:
Michelle Barton wishes she could be part of a big women's march on Saturday, but she lives in the tiny town of Longville, Minn.
"I thought OK, I'll just see what happens if I create my own march," she said. "It was kind of a lark."
Barton went to the Women's March website and signed up to host her own. She got out some tagboard and markers.
"My hope was that some people might join me," she said. "I have a very active imagination, so my worst case scenario was people driving by and taking pot shots at me."
Barton and her family moved from Denver to Minnesota in June, after her husband had a series of strokes and had to stop working. The cost of living in Longville is lower.
But the transition to living in a conservative rural town of less than 200 hasn't been easy.
Moving in the middle of a contentious election didn't help. She overheard people in local businesses talking politics. Mostly they supported President Donald Trump, who won Cass County.
Once she saw a guy wearing a T-shirt with an AK-47 on it. "It said, 'Over my dead body,'" she recalled. "That's a little bit of a culture shock for us."
• Related: In rural Minnesota, high hopes for President Trump
Barton retired from the Denver library system and she spends her days caring for her husband. She can't leave him alone long enough to drive to the closest women's marches in Bemidji and Fargo.
In the last six months, she's been trying to understand her new surroundings like any good librarian would, with books.
"Of course I read 'Hillbilly Elegy.'" she said. "That's extremely popular right now, and it's very interesting."
She hopes a march, even a very small one, might open up a conversation about equality.
Until very recently, Barton thought she'd be marching alone. She was fine with that, but a few days ago a total stranger saw her event on Facebook and said she'd stop by with her sister on their way through town.
But on Saturday, 66 people from Longville and nearby towns showed up to walk with Barton.
Lori Burks signed up via the website Friday night, and expected to be one of two marchers. When Burks got there, she said people looked at each other, amazed at the turnout in the area notorious for being quiet in the winter.
The marchers carried signs reading, "Love," and "Bridges, not walls."
Now that is amazing. And it means something. You don't get people off the couch for a protest against the right wing in places like that, or anywhere, for no reason.
People asked me yesterday what I thought it was all about. And in my mind it was a very simple thing. It was the first major action of a spontaneous, peaceful counter-offensive against Donald Trump's white nationalist, authoritarian regime. That this first action of the Resistance was led by women was not surprising because Donald Trump's egregious assaults on basic, human decency comes at the expense of fully half the population, encompassing people of color and racial and ethnic minorities, all of whom were represented.
This march took place on the day after the inauguration because it was a spontaneous reaction to the election of an unfit, unreconstructed misogynist pig, under dubious circumstances, against the first woman nominee for president. It was the slap heard 'round the world. But he is about to slap a whole lot of other people, for other reasons.
It's just the beginning, sadly because Donald Trump is just beginning. The Resistance has officially begun, folks.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer near-shouted at the press room yesterday that the Donald Trump inauguration was "the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period." Contradicting all data, CNN added. Maybe he was referring to the largest crowd to ever protest an inauguration.
Millions of people poured into the streets Saturday for the Women's March on Washington, the day after Trump's swearing-in ceremony. Sister marches across the country and across the planet drew another quarter million, including 30 in Antarctica.
The online headline for Trump's new hometown newspaper this morning says "more than one million" protested worldwide. True, but understated. An unscientific tally by University of Connecticut professor Jeremy Pressman and Erica Chenoweth of the University of Denver estimates between 3.7 and 4.5 million turned out in the United States alone. If so, far more people protested Trump Saturday than the 2.9 million vote margin by which he lost the popular vote. One Twitter user observed, "It took years for the opposition to Johnson and Nixon to reach this intensity. Trump is feeling it on his first full day in office."
In Washington, 500,000. In New York, 400,000. In Chicago, 250,000. In Los Angeles, 500,000. "Welcome to your first day, we will never go away," some protesters chanted in the streets of Washington, D.C. late into the afternoon.
Organisers of the Women’s March on Washington had hoped that up to 200,000 people would come. In the end, officials estimated that 500,000 or more showed up – far larger than the crowds who attended Donald Trump’s inauguration the day before, and so big that officials were obliged to change the route and rule out a march towards the White House.
“We march today for the moral core of this nation, against which our new president is waging a war,” said actress America Ferrera.
“Our dignity, our character, our rights have all been under attack, and a platform of hate and division assumed power yesterday. But the president is not America. We are America, and we are here to stay.”
One would think the narcissist-in-chief would be pleased to get that much attention focused on him. Instead, in a visit to CIA headquarters Trump launched into an attack on the press coverage of his inauguration speech:
During his remarks on Saturday, Trump took the opportunity to blast the media for their coverage of the inauguration, accusing news networks of lying about the size of the crowd that attended the event.
"Honestly it looked like a million and half people, whatever it was it was. But it went all the way back to the Washington Monument ... and by mistake I get this network and it showed an empty field, and it said we drew 250,000 people. Now that's not bad, but its a lie," Trump said.
"Former CIA Director Brennan is deeply saddened and angered at Donald Trump's despicable display of self-aggrandizement in front of CIA's Memorial Wall of Agency heroes," Nick Shapiro, a former aide to John Brennan at CIA, told NBC News' Andrea Mitchell.
Besides his other comments about size, Trump spokesman Sean Spicer lashed out at the press claiming press agencies had "intentionally framed" photos to misinform the public about the size of Trump's audience. You don't have to be unhinged to join the Trump administration, but it helps:
He also expressed objections to specific Twitter posts from journalists. And he said, "we're going to hold the press accountable," partly by reaching the public through social networking sites.
His statement included several specific misstatements of fact in addition to the overarching one.
"This is the first time in our nation's history that floor coverings have been used to protect the grass on the Mall," Spicer said, claiming that this "had the effect of highlighting areas people were not standing whereas in years past the grass eliminated this visual."
In fact, coverings were used for Obama's second inauguration in 2013.
One would think a crew with so much practice at lying would be better at it. And speaking of overarching matters, if the Trump administration will lie this angrily about crowd size, what won't it lie about?
Michael Cohen ("American Maelstrom") observes, "The most direct political impact of today's march is that it'll make it that much harder for Democrats to cooperate with Trump." That is, if the party's elite are not just as tone deaf as Trump. It will take persistence and constant pressure on electeds to punch through the culture of Washington business-as-usual. One day of marching is not change, but can set the stage for it. It was inspirational enough.
Now comes the hard part for the resistance: keeping it going.
Saturday Night at the Movies
Let’s party like it’s 1929: Top 10 Great Depression Films
By Dennis Hartley
Yesterday, after putting my head down on the desk for a spell (which I haven’t done since kindergarten), in order to process the inaugural address, I felt compelled to do a Google search using the key words “Fascism” and “ideal conditions” – and I found this:
Fascism begins by promising to make the country strong again, to restore pride. It wants to help, it wants to build a better country, it wants to improve your life. It wants to challenge a corrupt establishment and change a broken system. It wants to get people working again and get tough on crime. It doesn’t present an image of violent thugs to you, instead it shows the face of ordinary respectable people, people just like you, who have had enough. […]
So it starts with things a lot of people find attractive: national pride, restoration of glory, fighting the establishment. Then it pushes this further and further to the extreme. The nationalism become more extreme. Not only are we the best people, but all others are inferior. They only appear better because they cheat, they lie, they steal. The establishment is corrupt, the system is rigged, it is undeserving of support, it is illegitimate. The opponents are crooks, they should be put in jail. The media is suppressing the facts, censoring the truth, spreading lies, their dishonest must be silenced. Democracy only leads to indecisive and ineffective politicians, it only elects liars too corrupt to serve the people. If only we had a strong and decisive ruler, then we could solve the country’s problems. Drastic problems require drastic solutions. -from a post by Robert Nielsen (Whistling in the Wind blog)
The author is explaining how Fascism was able to flourish in Europe between the wars, but there are obvious parallels with the current political climate (in Europe and the U.S.).
So, with that cheery thought in mind, and in the interest of applying what I call cinematic aversion therapy, here’s my Top 10 Great Depression Movies. Study them well, because you know what “they” say: Those who do not understand history are doomed to repeat it.
Berlin Alexanderplatz- When you think of the Depression in terms of film and literature, it tends to vibe America-centric. In reality, the economic downturn between wars was a global phenomenon; things were literally “tough all over”. You could say Germany had a jumpstart (economically speaking, everything below the waist was kaput by the mid 1920s). In October of 1929 (interesting historical timing), Alfred Doblin’s epic novel Berlin Alexanderplatz was published, then adapted into a film in 1931 directed by Phil Jutzi. It wasn’t until nearly 50 years later that the ultimate film version emerged as Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 15 hour opus (made for German TV but also distributed as a feature film). It’s nearly impossible to encapsulate this emotionally draining epic in a few lines; it is by turns one of the most shocking, transcendent, maddening and soul-scorching films you’ll ever see. If that time investment is too daunting, you can always opt for Cabaret!
Bonnie and Clyde- The gangster movie meets the art house in this 1967 offering from director Arthur Penn. There is much more to this influential masterpiece than the oft-referenced operatic crescendo of violent death in the closing frames; particularly of note was the ingenious way its attractive antiheroes were posited to appeal to the counterculture zeitgeist of the 1960s, even though the film was ostensibly a period piece. The real Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were nowhere near as charismatic as Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty...but we don’t care, do we? The outstanding cast includes Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons, Michael J. Pollard, and Gene Wilder in his movie debut.
Bound for Glory- “This machine kills Fascists”. There’s only one man to whom Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen must kowtow-and that’s Woody Guthrie. You can almost taste the dust in director Hal Ashby’s leisurely, episodic 1976 biopic about the life of America’s premier protest songwriter/social activist. David Carradine gives one of his finest performances, and does a very credible job with his own singing and playing. Haskell Wexler’s outstanding cinematography earned him a well-deserved Oscar. The film may feel a bit overlong and slow in spots if you aren’t particularly fascinated by Guthrie’s story; but I think it is just as much about the Depression itself, and perhaps more than any other film on this list, it succeeds as a “total immersion” back to that era.
The Grapes of Wrath- I’m stymied for any hitherto unspoken superlatives to ladle onto John Ford’s masterful film or John Steinbeck’s classic source novel, so I won’t pretend to have any. Suffice it to say, this probably comes closest to nabbing the title as the quintessential film about the heartbreak and struggle of America’s “salt of the earth” during the Great Depression. Perhaps we can take (real or imagined) comfort in the possibility that no matter how bad things get over the next few months (years?), Henry Fonda’s unforgettable embodiment of Tom Joad will “be there…all around, in the dark.”
Inserts- This 1976 sleeper from director John Byrum has been dismissed as pretentious dreck by some; it remains a cult item for others. If I told you that Richard Dreyfuss, Veronica Cartwright, the late great Bob Hoskins and Jessica Harper once co-starred in an "X" rated film, would you believe me? Dreyfuss plays a has-been Hollywood directing prodigy known as "Wonder Boy", whose career has peaked early; he now lives in his bathrobe, drinking heavily and casting junkies and wannabe-starlets in pornos that he shoots in his crumbling mansion. Hoskins is memorable as the sleazy "producer", who is also looking for investors for his scheme-an idea to open a chain of hamburger joints (his nickname is "Big Mac"). The story is set in 1930s Hollywood, and as a period wallow in the more squalid side of show biz, it’s the perfect double bill with The Day of the Locust.
King of the Hill- Steven Soderbergh’s exquisitely photographed film (somewhat reminiscent of Bogdanovich’s Paper Moon) is a bittersweet rendering of A.E. Hotchner’s Depression-era tale about young Aaron (Jesse Bradford) who lives with his parents and kid brother in a decrepit hotel. After his sickly mother (Lisa Eichhorn) is sent away for convalescence, his kid brother is packed off to stay with relatives, and his father (Jeroen Krabbe) hits the road as a travelling salesman, leaving Aaron to fend for himself. The Grand Hotel-style network narrative provides a microcosm of those who live through such times. The film is full of wonderful moments of insight into the human condition. The cast includes Karen Allen, Adrian Brody, Elizabeth McGovern and Spaulding Gray.
Pennies From Heaven (Original BBC version)-I’ve always preferred the original 1978 British television production of this to the Americanized theatrical version released several years afterwards. Written by Dennis Potter (The Singing Detective), it is rife with the usual Potter obsessions: sexual frustration, marital infidelity, religious guilt, shattered dreams and quiet desperation…broken up by the occasional, incongruous song and dance number. Bob Hoskins is outstanding as a married traveling sheet music salesman in Depression-era England whose life takes interesting Potter-esque turns once he becomes smitten by a young rural schoolteacher (Cheryl Campbell) who lives with her widowed father and two extremely creepy brothers. Probably best described as a film noir musical.
Sullivan’s Travels-A unique and amazingly deft mash-up of romantic screwball comedy, Hollywood satire, road movie and hard-hitting social drama that probably would not have worked so beautifully had not the great Preston Sturges been at the helm. Joel McCrea is pitch-perfect as a director of goofy populist comedies who yearns to make a “meaningful” film. Racked with guilt about the comfortable bubble that his Hollywood success has afforded him and determined to learn firsthand how the other half lives, he decides to hit the road with no money in his pocket and “embed” himself as a railroad tramp (much to the chagrin of his handlers). He is joined along the way by an aspiring actress (Veronica Lake, in one of her best comic performances). His voluntary crash-course in “social realism” turns into more than he had bargained for. Lake and McCrea have wonderful chemistry. The Coen Brothers borrowed the title of the fictional film within the film for their own unique take on the Depression, O Brother, Where Art Thou?
They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? - “Yowsa, yowsa, yowsa!” This richly decadent allegory about the human condition (adapted from Horace McCoy’s novel) is one of the grimmest and most cynical films ever made. Director Sydney Pollack assembled a crack ensemble for this depiction of a Depression-era dance marathon from Hell: Jane Fonda, Gig Young (who snagged a Best Supporting Actor Oscar), Susannah York, Bruce Dern and Red Buttons are all outstanding; Pollack even coaxes the wooden Michael Sarrazin into his finest performance. The powerful ending is devastating and difficult to shake off.
Thieves Like Us-This loose remake of Nicholas Ray’s 1949 film noir classic They Live by Night is the late Robert Altman’s most underrated film, IMHO. It is often compared to Bonnie and Clyde, but stylistically speaking, the two films could not be farther apart. Altman’s tale of bank-robbing lovers on the lam (Keith Carradine and Shelley Duvall) is far less flashy and stylized, but ultimately more affecting thanks to a consistently naturalistic, elegiac tone throughout. Carradine and Duvall really breathe life into their doomed couple; every moment of intimacy between them (not just sexual) feels warm, touching, and genuine-which gives the film some real heart. Altman adapted the screenplay (with co-writers Joan Tewkesbury and Calder Willingham) from the same source novel (by Edward Anderson) that inspired Ray’s earlier film. Ripe for rediscovery.
LATE fall was a frantic period for New York Times reporters covering the country’s secretive national security apparatus. Working sources at the F.B.I., the C.I.A., Capitol Hill and various intelligence agencies, the team chased several bizarre but provocative leads that, if true, could upend the presidential race. The most serious question raised by the material was this: Did a covert connection exist between Donald Trump and Russian officials trying to influence an American election?
One vein of reporting centered on a possible channel of communication between a Trump organization computer server and a Russian bank with ties to Vladimir Putin. Another source was offering The Times salacious material describing an odd cross-continental dance between Trump and Moscow. The most damning claim was that Trump was aware of Russia’s efforts to hack Democratic computers, an allegation with implications of treason. Reporters Eric Lichtblau and Steven Lee Myers led the effort, aided by others.
Conversations over what to publish were prolonged and lively, involving Washington and New York, and often including the executive editor, Dean Baquet. If the allegations were true, it was a huge story. If false, they could damage The Times’s reputation. With doubts about the material and with the F.B.I. discouraging publication, editors decided to hold their fire.
But was that the right decision? Was there a way to write about some of these allegations using sound journalistic principles but still surfacing the investigation and important leads? Eventually, The Times did just that, but only after other news outlets had gone first.
I have spoken privately with several journalists involved in the reporting last fall, and I believe a strong case can be made that The Times was too timid in its decisions not to publish the material it had.
I appreciate the majority view that there wasn’t enough proof of a link between Trump and the Kremlin to write a hard-hitting story. But The Times knew several critical facts: the F.B.I. had a sophisticated investigation underway on Trump’s organization, possibly including FISA warrants. (Some news outlets now report that the F.B.I. did indeed have such warrants, an indication of probable cause.) Investigators had identified a mysterious communication channel, partly through a lead from anti-Trump operatives
At one point, the F.B.I. was so serious about its investigation into the server that it asked The Times to delay publication. Meanwhile, reporters had met with a former British intelligence officer who was building the dossier. While his findings were difficult to confirm, Times reporting bore out that he was respected in his craft. And of his material that was checkable, no significant red flags emerged. What’s more, said one journalist frustrated with the process, a covert link seemed like a plausible explanation for the strange bromance between Trump and Putin.
There were disagreements about whether to hold back. There was even an actual draft of a story. But it never saw daylight. The deciding vote was Baquet’s, who was adamant, then and now, that they made the right call.
“We heard about the back-channel communications between the Russians and Trump,” he said. “We reported it, and found no evidence that it was true. We wrote everything we knew — and we wrote a lot. Anybody that thinks we sat on stuff is outrageous. It’s just false.”
I don’t believe anyone suppressed information for ignoble reasons, and indeed The Times produced strong work on former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. But the idea that you only publish once every piece of information is in and fully vetted is a false construct.
If you know the F.B.I. is investigating, say, a presidential candidate, using significant resources and with explosive consequences, that should be enough to write. Not a “gotcha” story that asserts unsubstantiated facts. But a piece that describes the nature of the investigations, the unexplained but damning leads, with emphasis on what is known and what isn’t.
Running every detail of the dossier, as BuzzFeed did, would have been irresponsible. Writing about a significant investigation would not. Weeks after The Times had the goods, Franklin Foer of Slate and David Corn of Mother Jones each took a turn at such pre-election articles. Their stories may not have been precisely what The Times would have done, but they offered a model.
If The Times didn’t write about ongoing investigations, it wouldn’t have produced the excellent scoop on Trump associates and Russia that broke Thursday night. Nor would it have so relentlessly documented the F.B.I.’s pursuit of Hillary Clinton’s emails until all facts were resolved. That investigation was fair game, and so was Trump’s.
A wave of readers over the past week have challenged The Times’s decision to sit on its reporting about the dossier. Among them was Michael Russo of Brooklyn, who had this to say:
I can appreciate that journalistic diligence requires your paper to describe these memos as “unsubstantiated.” But the “unsubstantiated” allegations described in this article have been circulating for months. While your editors made a value judgment about the veracity of these claims, American intelligence agencies apparently took the memos seriously enough to open their own investigations. How is this not newsworthy in its own right?
There is an unsettling theme that runs through The Times’s publishing decisions. In each instance, it was the actions of government officials that triggered newsroom decisions — not additional reporting or insight that journalists gained. On the server, once the F.B.I. signaled it had grown wary of its importance — without giving conclusive evidence as to why — the paper backed off. Weeks later, the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid, publicly admonished the F.B.I. for being secretive about its probe of Trump. That gave The Times cover to write what it knew about the bureau’s investigation into the bank server.
It was the same pattern on the dossier. Only after learning from CNN that Trump and President Obama had been briefed on the document did The Times publish what it had known for months. Its confidence in the material had not changed, nor did its editors know whether the top level briefing meant the government believed the information was true. But the briefing became justifiable cause to publish.
In this cat-and-mouse atmosphere between a manipulative government and a reluctant press, the government won.
After-action insights are easier than in-the-moment decisions. Back then, the media still thought Trump was a weak challenger to Clinton, a mind-set that might have made taking the risk of publishing explosive allegations all the more fraught.
But it’s hard not to wonder what impact such information might have had on voters still evaluating the candidates, an issue I chided The Times for not pursuing enough in an earlier column. Would more sources have come forward? Would we already know the essential facts?
If the new president was in fact colluding with a foreign adversary, journalists and investigators should feel enormous pressure to conclusively establish that fact. If it is not true, both Trump and the country deserve to have this issue put to rest.
That is by the ombudsman Liz Spayd and it's the best one she's done so far. But it doesn't address why they went so hard on the Comey bombshell and that's a big part of this. It's as impossible to believe that he NY Times didn't know what they were doing as it is to believe Comey didn't.
The bottom line is this: both the FBI and the New York Times knew that there were multiple serious criminal investigations into Donald Trump's Russian connections before the election. And yet they decided that the only investigation they could discuss and report on was Hillary Clinton's server and boring hacked campaign emails neither of which added up to anything but gave the impression of illegal and unethical behavior.
These were devastating decisions. This column is a step in the right direction but there is still no real reckoning. But the worm is turning.
In the last two months I’ve gotten hundreds of emails from Trump supporters that consist of little more than, “You lost, so why don’t you just shut up?” Now that Donald Trump is officially our 45th president, I have a response, a message from at least this liberal to my conservative friends.
At times like this it’s common to speak of shared purpose and national unity. If that’s what you’re looking for, there are plenty of other voices you can listen to.
It would be wonderful if national unity were possible, but it isn’t. Perhaps Donald Trump will surprise us all and turn out to be a temperate, careful, and wise president. If that should happen, I’ll join with conservatives to give him the praise he deserves. But he hasn’t earned it yet, not by a mile.
Please, don’t tell us liberals that when we criticize Trump we’re doing terrible damage to the convivial spirit that would otherwise prevail were we not so rude. We’ve heard that baloney before, and it’s pretty rich coming from people who spent the last eight years saying that Barack Obama was a foreign socialist tyrant carrying out a secret plan to destroy America.
So spare us your hypocritical talk of unity, because your champion sure doesn’t believe it. We’ve seen it clearly since the election: once he goes off his teleprompter, we get not even the pretense of unity from Donald Trump. Quite the contrary; he communicates again and again that he has nothing but contempt for those who don’t pay him proper tribute. After a campaign that was built on hatred and resentment from its very first moment, he couldn’t bring himself to reach out to the majority of Americans who didn’t vote for him, mounting a “thank you tour” only of states he won (think what you would have said if Hillary Clinton had been the victor and done that) and lashing out on Twitter like a cranky toddler at anyone who criticized him.
Being elected to the presidency wasn’t enough to grant him an iota of generosity or magnanimity. He may be the most powerful person on earth, but he’s still a tiny, petty, insecure, vengeful man whose only measure of any human being’s worth is whether they’ve praised him recently.
It will be a long time before the contrast in the character of these two presidents ceases to bring us pain. We won’t forget how Trump treated Barack Obama, a man who despite every rancid personal attack you threw at him conducted himself in office with an uncommon level of grace and class. And now he has handed the keys to the White House to a man who launched his political career with a despicable campaign to question to question Obama’s birthplace, and who in every way is his opposite: impulsive where Obama is thoughtful, ignorant where Obama is informed, disrespectful where Obama is polite, vindictive where Obama is generous, a walking collection of character flaws where Obama is a role model.
Do you look at Trump and say to your kids, “That’s who you should emulate”? Do you tell them to be so so insecure and narcissistic? Do you tell them to lie dozens of times every day the way he does? Because I and millions of others can and do tell our children to be like our outgoing president. Barack Obama made mistakes and fell short, as every president does. But never for a moment did I feel ashamed to have voted for him. Did you ever feel ashamed to be a Trump supporter? When you watched him say that an American judge couldn’t treat him fairly because “He’s a Mexican,” when you watched him attack a Gold Star family, when you read the details of how he conned people out of their life savings with Trump University, when you listened to him brag about how he could sexually assault women with impunity because he’s famous — what did you feel? if none of those made you even a little bit ashamed that he was your candidate, then there’s something hollow where your soul should be.
Yes, that’s all in the past now and the campaign is over. But no, we’re not just going to “move on” and forget about the fact that a hostile foreign power may have actively aided this president’s election. We want a full investigation so we can understand what happened and why — and whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. And we aren’t going to forget that FBI director Jim Comey, knowing that there was an intensive investigation underway into Russian efforts on Trump’s behalf, chose to publicly announce, 11 days before the election, that Hillary Clinton’s emails were being investigated, most likely throwing the election to Trump. We can’t change that now, but we aren’t going to forget it, and no one else should either.
You want to call us sore losers? Fine. But has there ever been a sore winner like Donald Trump? He can’t even tolerate being made fun of by Saturday Night Live.
You don’t like it when we get angry? Deal with it. We’re angry now, and we’ll stay angry. We’ll be angry when this president and this Congress try to take health coverage from tens of millions and health security from hundreds of millions. We’ll be angry when they try to cut off women’s access to health care, and cut taxes for the wealthy, and slash the safety net. We’ll be angry when they gut environmental regulations, and promote discrimination, and attack voting rights, and remove restraints on Wall Street misbehavior.
I know many liberals who believe this is the end of America as we know it, that Trump is such an authoritarian and so imbalanced that the damage he will inflict on our nation and our world will be impossible to undo. People speak of an unprecedented era of corruption, of a withering attack on all the institutions of democracy, even of a nuclear war brought on by Trump’s unique combination of ignorance and impulsiveness.
I try not to be quite so pessimistic, to keep my fear in check. But only time will tell. And if these next years turn out the way we fear, understand this: We will never allow you to forget what you have countenanced and joined with. The stain of 2016 and everything that is about to follow is on you. You fell behind this man and assented to everything he is. Your hands will never be clean.
And we will fight. We may not win most of the time — with control of the White House and Congress, there is a great deal Republicans will be able to do no matter how much the Democrats or the public object. But we will fight, precisely because we love our country and care about its future. We liberals know well that you like to think that you alone are the “real” Americans and you alone have the country’s true interests at heart. But we stopped submitting to that calumny some time ago.
So I say to my conservative friends: You want liberals to pipe down and get behind our new president? Too damn bad.
I wish all those looney left wingers like George Will would just face up to the fact that they have lost:
Twenty minutes into his presidency, Donald Trump, who is always claiming to have made, or to be about to make, astonishing history, had done so. Living down to expectations, he had delivered the most dreadful inaugural address in history.
Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s White House counselor, had promised that the speech would be “elegant.” This is not the adjective that came to mind as he described “American carnage.” That was a phrase the likes of which has never hitherto been spoken at an inauguration.
Oblivious to the moment and the setting, the always remarkable Trump proved that something dystopian can be strangely exhilarating: In what should have been a civic liturgy serving national unity and confidence, he vindicated his severest critics by serving up reheated campaign rhetoric about “rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape” and an education system producing students “deprived of all knowledge.” Yes, all.
But cheer up, because the carnage will vanish if we “follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American.” “Simple” is the right word.
Because in 1981 the inauguration ceremony for a cheerful man from the American West was moved from the Capitol’s East Portico to its West Front, Trump stood facing west, down the Mall with its stately monuments celebrating some of those who made America great — Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln. Looking out toward where the fields of the republic roll on, Trump, a Gatsby-for-our-time, said: “What truly matters is not which party controls our government but whether our government is controlled by the people.” Well.
“A dependence on the people,” James Madison wrote, “is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.” He meant the checks and balances of our constitutional architecture. They are necessary because, as Madison anticipated and as the nation was reminded on Friday, “Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm.”
There are supposed to be other enlightened statesmen in charge of the other branches.
Those of you in the Eastern Time Zone not already at the Women's March on Washington are probably already heading to your local sister marches. Those further west still have a bit more time to make your local events.
For those of us on the front lines in North Carolina, another important event is just over the time horizon. Three weeks from today on Saturday February 11, the Forward Together Movement gathers in Raleigh, NC at 8:30 a.m. for the 11th annual HKonJ rally (Historic Thousands on Jones Street) led by the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II.
The last time I attended HKonJ in 2014, the rally was tens of thousands and, save for The Nation's Ari Berman, received little national press. Gov. Pat McCrory's legislature had passed the most restrictive new voting law in the country the summer before. Since then, McCrory got turned out of office in a Republican sweep year, largely because of the persistent Moral Monday protests led by Barber and the NC NAACP. In the Trump era, this year's rally should be even larger. And after the international spectacle now former governor McCrory and the Republican-dominated legislature staged in December, the national press has its eyes on North Carolina. Barring a tasty, 3 a.m. tweet by Trump I the night before, there will be press.
Part of what makes Moral Mondays successful is that it is a nonpartisan, "fusion politics" movement, a populist coalition in which a host of issues move "Forward Together," as the movement's name suggests, and no one's pet issue takes precedence. Don't expect Moral Mondays to go away because Pat McCrory did. Newer and bluer oranger Meanies have been sighted in the vicinity of the nation's capitol. Barber's is a successful template for taking them on.
Barber has succeeded in something at which many in the progressive movement regularly fail: getting progressive issue advocacy groups to work collaboratively rather than competitively. For Forward Together, an attack on one coalition member is an attack on all, and all respond. Sort of a nonviolent NATO. Ordinarily, advocacy groups worry about defending their turf and their donors. In campaign work, organizers worry about having another campaign "poach" their volunteers. The donor/volunteer pie is fixed in size, supposedly, and Group A worries that gains by Group B will come at A's expense. It's been a zero-sum world. Except it's not. And it needn't be. Not now. People (mostly women) are still leaving telephone messages, almost desperate to do something/anything to push back against the Orange Meanie. They'll be out in force this morning. Donald Trump just "made the pie higher," to borrow from Bush II, but in a different sense. The volunteer pie is growing, not fixed.
A few days ago, I wrote about Trump's threat to evict the press from the White House and how that might actually lead to better reporting. But the competitive nature of news gathering works against that in the same way that competing rather than cooperating for scarce resources weakens issue advocacy groups. The Competitive Enterprise Institute may believe competition "answereth all things," as prosperity gospel con men say about money, but not here. Not now. Ahead of press conferences (assuming Trump has any more), reporters ought to meet to assemble a list of key questions the public wants answered, and when Trump blows off one reporter or evades answering, the next reporter called should ask the same question and so forth until he answers. Only then would they move on to the next question. But that would take, you know, cooperation.