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You know who else hides behind a cloud of ink?
It’s weirdly difficult to turn “SCI-TEXT” into numbers when you’re looking at the regular keyboard so I’ll tell you it’s 1-833-724-8398. I can also tell you that “Pygmy squid are the smallest squid at 16mm (under an inch!). They use their ink clouds as hunting blinds. They shoot out a cloud of ink, hide behind it, then lunge through the ink to attack prey!”
You know who else hides behind a cloud of ink? It’s Donald Trump, but the ink is lies, and our big wet boy sprayed his ink all over a friendly stage in New Hampshire last night at the invitation of CNN’s deeply villainous new honcho, Chris Licht. Moderator Kaitlan Collins, who ascended to CNN in 2017 from her previous job writing Syrian Refugee Hot-or-Not takes for Tucker Carlson’s website and is currently being groomed for evening anchor stardom, played her sacrificial patsy role well, appearing to push back against Trump’s miasma of bullshit without ever coming close to penetrating it. According to Brian Stelter, Licht was extremely pleased with how everything went.
And why shouldn’t he be? Chris Licht is many things: an amoral turd, a vacuous hamfaced ghoul with a ratings ticker where his soul should be, a cynical nihilist who steers the ship of his career by the cold north star of self-interest alone. But he’s not stupid and he’s very good at making television. He has correctly identified that Trump will take the Republican nomination in 2024, that Trump has a huge block of devoted cult members and an even bigger block of #resistance-core opponents, all of whom are extremely horny to cheer and/or boo his lies on TV. Licht understands that the golden goose of TV news ratings currently has its cloaca hanging wide open for any network willing to act as frienemy territory for Trump and his deplorables. All CNN has to do is get elbow-deep in that filthy hole and grab the opportunity.
Commentators who care about things like “truth” and “the future of democracy” seem puzzled why Licht would stage an event so shameful and seemingly unnecessary. Philip Bump wrote that “[t]here were a lot of mistakes involved in giving Trump the platform he and his followers enjoyed on Wednesday,” and with all respect for his otherwise good analysis, there were no mistakes made. Parker Molloy observed that “It was a grotesque spectacle, which is exactly what CNN head Chris Licht wanted,” which is correct, but not because Licht was “brought in to… push CNN as far to the right as he can.” He was brought in to get CNN more viewers, so they can sell more ads. Chris Licht doesn’t care about right or left. Chris Licht doesn’t care if his TV network is toxic to democracy. What matters is that we’re all talking about it. The show “made a LOT of news," said Licht, and "that is our job." It is absolutely not, but the statement is clarifyng.
Journalists as a whole found the evening excruciatingly embarrassing. It speaks well of them that they think that matters. Hamilton Nolan wrote this terrific Sorkin-monologue barnburner of a journalismism wank fantasy:
There is only one way to properly interview this guy. It has never been done to the best of my knowledge. It can be, though. He will show up for it, like a moose to a salt lick. Here is how it’s done: A table and two chairs and no audience. Him, his shifty padded ass in the chair, and an interviewer…
I don’t care if you need to spend the entire hour-long interview repeating the same question in a calm, clear, and forceful way. In fact this would be fine. With each passing round of question-and-no-answer, his petulance will increase, as will the evident absurdity of this stupid, cowardly man. Keep asking the question until you get an answer. If you never get a real answer, you will not move on from that question
It’s a fun read! HamNo is a good prose stylist with a vivid imagination, but he did work at Gawker, so he should know this is nonsense. Anyway, his dream interview has absolutely been done: Jake Tapper did it in June, 2016, and we know how that turned out. Trump also walked out of 60 Minutes in a huff in 2020, and Jon Swan made him look like a fool, also in 2020. But here he is again in 2023, with a comfortable lead in the primary polls. You can’t shame the shameless, and truth is no weapon against people who don’t care about truth. Journalism alone doesn’t have the cholesterol to help or hurt Donald Trump this late in the day.
But Chris Licht knows that for a TV network in the business of stirring emotions, there’s plenty of money to be made.
In other political news, the body of Dianne Feinstein was wheeled back into the Senate yesterday, and she looked great. You could barely see the little Muppet sticks attached to her wrists and both sides of her face were present. And George Santos appeared in court to plead not guilty to 13 fraud-related charges, looking extremely snatched according to high-camp courtroom artist Christine Cornell.
Santos is the spiciest Congressperson going right now, and if that isn’t hot enough, Intern Camille has even more spice for you today.
Tritney's TikTok channel is such a Specific Type Of Thing you can only get online. In her “Spice vs. Spice” videos, she stares down the audience and reviews monsterfucker erotica while eating spicy food, to evaluate whether the book or the food is spicier. She crossed mukbang with BookTok, and demonstrated once again that if you make a niche, people will follow.
There’s a simmering debate around spice in BookTok spaces, especially when spice or romance is used as a primary mode of evaluating books. Different readers often have conflicting expectations when going into books. See Ava Reid's response to readers expecting romance instead of dark fantasy, or the bevy of negative reviews for John Darnielle's Devil House on Goodreads from readers who expected horror instead of a literary novel about the emotional toll of true crime writing. And is it even a romance novel at all if it doesn’t have a “Happily Ever After?”
Different books obviously satisfy or frustrate different expectations, based on genre and mode, but the compression of online discussion spaces curtails that flexibility. Goodreads’ design encourages all books to be reviewed the same, and BookTok tends to be treated as a monolith, especially in the media, meaning that tension over conflicting expectations of how to engage with books has become the norm. It’s part of why tritney’s channel fascinates me: she very clearly draws the line for the content she is engaging with, and has a central focus, instead of attempting to fold everything into a very limited brand. It’s very very specific, but also refreshing to see!
The archaic word of the day is nudiustertian: relating to the day before yesterday.
—Intern Camille is rated 🌶️🌶️🌶️🌶️
Heather “Dooce” Armstrong died by suicide on Tuesday. Armstrong’s site dooce.com loomed large in the early blog scene, and for better and worse she pioneered a lot of the common features of today’s influencer economy. Lyz Lenz wrote about her original voice, which inspired Lenz and many others to write what was true, instead of just what was nice. She also pioneered getting fired for posting—in her case posting things like “Reasons The Asian Database Administrator is So Fucking Annoying.” She pioneered monetizing her family life, which everyone reading this probably has an opinion on one way or the other, and everyone certainly did when she did it as well. She pioneered both being besieged by haters, and being sometimes unable to distinguish sincere criticism from her haters’ noise. In a touching but honest memorial, Andy Baio wrote that “[t]he pressures of living online took a toll on her emotional well-being, and she quit writing several times.” In the last years of her life, the early writing voice that Lenz described as “sack-of-meat raw, raunchy and transcendently real” curdled into a rancid transphobic logorrhea. She was clearly suffering. Andy posted her keynote from XOXO 2015, and that’s probably the best way to remember her.
If you or someone you know is thinking about killing yourself, don’t do that. Call 988 or the old complicated number 1-800-273-8255 instead. We need you.
It doesn’t feel right to throw a funny tweet in here so let’s call that a lid on Gentleman’s Friday and hand it off to Music Intern Sam.
Today’s Song: Kwes, Open Up (feat. Sampha & Tirzah)
Intern Sam is live tonight with NO CHILL on KCHUNG Radio at 9p PT / midnight ET (Chinatown stream) kchung.org, don’t miss it. Tomorrow subscribers get an extended Special Report from Senior Correspondent Allegra Rosenberg, so be subscribed and make sure you don’t miss that. Sorry today was such a downer! All part of ~life’s rich tapestry~ I guess.