The NYT Gives A Masterclass In Concern Trolling


Those of us who have studied the public media or public discourse of any other era in history besides the current one will no doubt have noticed the eerie lack of dissent in today’s mass media. With the exception of Fox and the Breitbart-style sites, there’s rarely any variation at all in the opinions presented to the public.

I’m not big on conspiracy theories; I’d suggest that reason there’s no diversity of opinion out there is because the vast majority of media employees are trained and educated in identical fashion from the moment they enter high school. By the time they’re working for the Times or HuffPo or Gawker or CNN they’ve been indoctrinated in doubleplusgoodthink for so long that it just comes naturally. Why would you disagree on a political issue when you’ve all been taught exactly the same set of opinions?

Yesterday’s piece in the NYT, titled Friends of Joe Biden Worry a Run for President Could Bruise His Legacy seems like a shocking departure from standard Times practice. Not to worry; it’s not the media that’s gone off the reservation, but rather Smokin’ Joe himself.

“Concern trolling” is the practice of pretending to be worried about someone so you can criticize them without being labeled as that most nonsensical of Millennial epithets, a “hater”. Here’s a “concern troll” I just made up:

Listen, I love the work of Lindy West, and I love what she’s doing for plus-sized women. I just worry that her heart will give out from that beautiful fatness of hers before she can completely defeat the patriarchy with her brilliant writings and gender-fluid insights.

Concern trolling isn’t a new phenomenon — it’s as old as a fellow who once said,

I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him

but it’s become almost overwhelming in online discussions nowadays due to people’s sensitivity to “haters” and open criticism. The innovation of this century, surely, is the mental gymnastics that allow people to ignore criticism because it’s critical. Can you imagine if Nixon had been able to do that? He could have faced the television camera, secure behind his desk, and told the country, “Well, of course the Democrats are going to criticize the break-in! They’re haters! That’s what the fuck haters do!” And just like that, there’s no Gerald Ford administration.

Concern trolling is not limited to left-leaning people and organizations, but it’s more prevalent there, the same way appeals to patriotism are not exclusive to the Right. Most of the time, just like anything else you see online nowadays, it’s done in a completely half-assed fashion. So kick back and let the Times show you how it’s really done:

Those supporters, in the White House and the Senate, and within the political circles he has moved in for decades, fear that the legacy Mr. Biden has built as an effective partner who took on tough jobs for President Obama, not to mention the deep reservoir of public good will and sympathy he has amassed in his poignant handling of personal tragedies, could be sacrificed in the pursuit of an unsuccessful challenge to Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

They fret that Mr. Biden, as well known for his undisciplined, sometimes self-immolating comments as he is for his charm on the trail, could endanger Mr. Obama’s own legacy by injuring Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy and causing his party to lose control of the White House.

While the concern about Mr. Biden appears widespread among his political allies, few seem eager to tell him out of fear of hurting his feelings and seeming to be presumptuous about a decision that is all too personal.

“People deeply care about him and admire him,” said one person who is personally close to Mr. Biden and has worked closely with him, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to jeopardize his relationship with the vice president. “But you obviously have to worry about the feasibility and ultimate impact of a run.”

Oh, that’s the dank weed right there. Let’s remove the passive voice from all these assertions and let them stand naked:

* If Biden challenges Hillary, his “tragedies” will be used against him personally.
* If Biden challenges Hillary, he will be hurting Mr. Obama’s legacy.
* If Biden challenges Hillary, his feelings will be hurt.
* If Biden challenges Hillary, he will CAUSE HIS PARTY TO LOSE CONTROL OF THE WHITE HOUSE.
* If Biden challenges Hillary, there will be an ULTIMATE IMPACT, like a giant asteroid striking the Earth.

Furthermore, none of this matters anyway, because he cannot win. Hillary has been preordained to win the nomination. You can read the whole article to read the rest of the passive-aggressive threats — including a flat-out note that Mr. Biden is 72 years old and therefore too old for the job — but the meat of it’s in those four paragraphs. Biden must stand down for the good of the party because…

…even the slightest challenge to Hillary could damage her.

In other words, everybody knows that Hillary’s laundry list of crimes and felonies is so long that merely to have a Democrat allude to them is potentially enough to cause her to lose the election. In particular, there is no way Biden can run against Hillary without resurrecting Mrs. Clinton’s decision to put her email on a server that probably allowed classified information to escape her control. And that’s far from the only skeleton Mrs. Clinton has in her closet. One wonders if Vince Foster’s odd suicide note,

I made mistakes from ignorance, inexperience and overwork

I did not knowingly violate any law or standard of conduct

No one in The White House, to my knowledge, violated any law or standard of conduct, including any action in the travel office. There was no intent to benefit any individual or specific group

The FBI lied in their report to the AG

The press is covering up the illegal benefits they received from the travel staff

The GOP has lied and misrepresented its knowledge and role and covered up a prior investigation

The Ushers Office plotted to have excessive costs incurred, taking advantage of Kaki and HRC

The public will never believe the innocence of the Clintons and their loyal staff

The WSJ editors lie without consequence

I was not meant for the job or the spotlight of public life in Washington. Here ruining people is considered sport.

which seems written for the sole purpose of exonerating Mrs. Clinton and which was considered by three separate handwriting experts to be a forgery, will reappear in the public discourse.

It’s dangerous to Mrs. Clinton to put even the possibility of risk to her campaign on the front page of the NYT, so why did the Times have this written, and by two authors no less? The two-author move is a classic strategy to emphasize that this is ex cathedra from the Times. Why is “The Gray Lady” pulling up her skirts here?

Well, as previously discussed, the American media speaks with a single voice, so the fact that this article is prominently displayed by the Times means that it reflects the general opinion of the Establishment. Joe must not run. If he does, he will be punished. His legacy will be deliberately tarnished. Instead of going into history as a lovable Ted-Kennedy-esque mountebank and trusty lapdog of Mr. Obama, he will banished from polite Washington society and written into the record as a failure. For a man who is conscious of the historical perspective, as Mr. Biden certainly is, that is a nontrivial threat.

So why make it in public?

There is no way in hell that this article is simply the work of two dudes sitting around and talking to Biden’s anonymous friends. It’s meant to tell Joe Biden what to do. Is it seriously the case that nobody has privately made this pitch to Biden until now? That none of his wealthy, influential friends have sat him down? That nobody’s made a call, sent a letter, left a horse’s head in his bedroom?

The clue is in the lede:

Later this month, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. will escape for a family retreat to mourn his late son, Beau, but also to mull, as his dying son urged him to do, a campaign for president.

In other words, the man lost his son and he’s not inclined to listen to whispers any more. He’s entered that unique don’t-give-a-fuck stage of his life. He can do whatever he wants. What are you going to do, kill his son? He’s lost two children. It just might get into his head to become the President. Yes, he’s been whispered to — and he’s told the whisperers to go to hell.

So now they’re talking to him the only way they can: on the front page of the Times. It’s as open a threat as the Mafia gangster who worries that “something might happen to this store.” But it’s the last trick left in the bag for Mrs. Clinton’s masters and lackeys. They don’t want him opening his big mouth in public. But he’s already the Vice President. He’s not likely to, ahem, commit suicide or die in a private plane or anything like that. You can’t touch him, not unless you can get Congressman Brody in a bunker with the guy. (Sorry, that’s a “Homeland” joke.)

I cannot say I’d welcome a Joe Biden presidency. I’ve never thought much of him and I doubt he’d do anything good for this country. But for the sake of his self-respect, his son’s wishes, and the idea of a United States where we conduct our political business in public instead of a back room somewhere, I hope he runs.

20 Replies to “The NYT Gives A Masterclass In Concern Trolling”

  1. AvatarJosh H.

    I hope he runs too. More choices is good for everyone. Eventually, it’ll be down to 2 choices. Sure, you can vote 3rd party but the meat and potatoes is right there in box A or B. I’m interested to see how this shakes down. If someone needs a push and I think they’re right… I won’t be voting box C as originally planned.

  2. AvatarHank Chinaski

    “He’s entered that unique don’t-give-a-fuck stage of his life.” The most important stage of any man’s life.

    I hope he runs. Having Bush v. Clinton anointed by self and oligarchy is bad for the country.
    I think the Dems underestimate the GOP turnout that would be generated by sheer hatred for Hilary. Joe would improve their chances at keeping the White House IMO.

  3. AvatarE. Bryant

    It would appear that the Dem bench has little or no depth, thus the party’s fear of doing damage to Hillary in a primary battle. My guess is that Biden and her know enough about each other to really make a mess.

    As one who is deeply opposed to the present two-party arrangement, my hope is to see a proper shitshow in both primaries.

  4. Avatarjz78817


    I’m at the point where I don’t even want to bother voting anymore. just the prospect of having to choose between “Bush Administration III” and “Clinton Administration III” (because let’s face it, despite all of the “hope and change” blather, we’re in “Clinton Administration II” right now) makes me want to just… I don’t know.

  5. AvatarDeadWeight

    I’m neither a Democrat nor a Republican, and don’t deem a single candidate running for POTUS in 2016 as worthy of the office (I also detest Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush), but I fear that Jack has waded far too deep and swallowed far too much Fox News kool-aid.

      • AvatarDeadWeight

        We don’t actually have much access to objective journalism in the U.S.

        6 corporations, from Comcast & Viacom, to Newscorp (Murdoch) and Time-Warner – and some others – own every single TV Network, Cable Channel, Newspaper, Radio Station, Magazine, etc.

        Fox News & the likes of The Washington Post are mouthpieces for the Koch Brothers, while NBC (and all affiliates) and the likes of the NYT are proxy outlets for the Limousine Liberal Brigade (Gates, Clintons, Gore et al.).

        We don’t receive objective news in the U.S., but saturated editorializing 24/7, driven by interest groups owning the outlet that the editorial is spewed from, who have vested financial interests in the matters discussed.

        Even sources such as “Public Radio” have been compromised nearly completely by “foundations,” corporations & such.

      • Avatardal20402

        You are getting a lot of tinfoil-hat ideas from somewhere, although I have a feeling it’s on the web rather than the teevee.

        Hillary Clinton is no saint, but you’re painting her as Hitler. Reality isn’t nearly as interesting as the picture you’ve put together, using quite a few conspiracy-theory sources and tidbits.

        • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

          The only thing I’ve said that wanders into conspiracy theory is the Vince Foster bit, and frankly even if he *did* kill himself he was subject to some strange and unusual pressures there. I have no idea who killed him; I wasn’t there. But it’s my opinion that when your suicide note specifically exonerates someone, that someone should be considered involved in the situation.

          The rest of it — the media fawning, the pre-ordination of Hillary, the unusual expedient of using America’s newspaper of record to threaten an old man — is right out there in black and white.

          • Avatardal20402

            “the unusual expedient of using America’s newspaper of record to threaten an old man”

            For the record, Hillary is super-pissed at the New York Times at the moment because they reported incorrectly and without checking that the Justice Department had received a criminal referral over her production of emails. They were also the outlet that started the Biden boomlet in the first place. It’s pretty implausible that the NYT is acting at Hillary’s or her campaign’s bidding. The idea that they are is pretty conspiracy-ish, or alternately uninformed far-right “THE LEFT IS ALL ONE BIG CABAL” thinking.

          • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

            To be fair, we are discussing the woman who coined the phrase “vast right-wing conspiracy.”

  6. AvatarMopar4wd

    Kind of agree with dead weight here this is a bit far fetched, not to say the writers of the article weren’t influenced by the democratic party they probably were but it’s more an unspoken party line then a conspiracy (psst were all voting for Hillary in 16 pass it on). I think the bigger issue is Bernie Sanders, he is pushing up on 50% in NH and 30% in Iowa polls. This is putting pressure on Hillary There are a lot of moderate Democrats who don’t like this and are starting to whisper to Joe to run if Hillary slides to far to out flank Bernie.

    On Warren it would appear a deal was made to have her run in 2020 if Hillary loses in 16 or 2024 if she wins.

  7. AvatarVolandoBajo

    As one who spent more than a couple of years on the inside the Beltway circuit, and as one who has seen the devious machinations that have been brought to bear in other inside-the-Beltway arenas, not only is this not far-fetched…it appears to be a quite accurate decoding of this particular Times ‘Rosetta Stone’.

    But it is not so much that Joe Biden can damage Hillary, as that he can put the spotlight on how damaged Hillary already is, a fact that the Clinton enterprise is hoping can be played off as “haters hating”, thus hopefully dodging true accusations that would shine the spotlight on her true nature and her true deeds.

    And Jack’s willingness to deconstruct the alleged Vince Foster suicide note is a service to all who are trying to enjoy a cool glass of Clinton Koolaid…this is a woman who will stop at nothing to avoid personal damage, and when and if she gets an opportunity to make the entire country her fall guy, we will see a political hosing that will make prior shady Washington political behavior look like a Sunday school class by comparison.

    You cannot do damage to an already severely damaged person or candidacy…and Hillary has already done the damage, and her best and only hope is to push all criticism into the hater/crackpot/rightwinger envelope, seal it, and bury it beside the road to the White House.

    I just hope that in today’s social media world, that there will be a chance for enough backlash to this cynical candidacy to be heard, and to be effective.

    If nothing else, ask yourself who she will be beholden to, given the vast amount of “public speaking fees” bestowed upon her and her husband by foreign sources whom we seldom get to even hear about, much less discover whose interests they are fronting for.

    When I was inside the Beltway, a couple of people who were in a far better position to know first hand than I was, told me that at that time, the common belief was that the two dimmest bulbs in DC were Smoking Joe and Arlen Specter. But at least the man has some integrity. Whether or not it is tempered with something else, I cannot tell. But at least he might be the only source acceptable to the electoate who might tell it like it is with respect to the former First Lady.

    And I believe that he is politically savvy enough to see this not so veiled threat to his reputation, and I believe he is likely to go ahead and push the DILLIGAF button, and press on towards the White House. And if he does, we can probably thank his recently deceased son for planting the idea there.

    If nothing else, he will bring a touch of honesty to an otherwise magnificently choreographed presidential run launched by Hillary. And I PRAY that he does run.

    • AvatarPaul Alexander

      I would love to hear your Beltway stories Mr. Bajo. I’ve followed the DC scene from afar, but I’ve heard the same thing in regards to the Clintons from people of every political persuasion. Everyone knows that they’re the epitome of DC corruption (and Arkansas), which is also why everyone is so scared of them. I love this line, I could totally see her doing something like selling off all the national parks to the Chinese and transferring the Naval petroleum reserves to a Dubai-Saudi consortium for pennies on the dollar under the guise of some ‘environmental’ policy while getting cover from the Sierra Club (all of the environmental groups are run by sycophantic losers who bow down to the Democratic Party no matter if they proposed to put nuclear waste in baby diapers):
      ‘…this is a woman who will stop at nothing to avoid personal damage, and when and if she gets an opportunity to make the entire country her fall guy, we will see a political hosing that will make prior shady Washington political behavior look like a Sunday school class by comparison.’

  8. AvatarVolandoBajo

    There was other oddness to Vince Foster’s death as well. The powder burns were on his left hand, IIRC, and he was right-handed. Experts on suicide say that it is almost unheard of for a suicide victim not to use their dominant hand.

    And there was an individual who was in the Federal park where his body was found who said that some of his observations contradicted some of the reported “facts”, yet he was never called by the grand jury, in spite of the fact that they were aware that he was in the park at the time the alleged suicide allegedly took place there.

    I think that it is far from tinhat stuff to want to know who the Clintons are beholden to, to the tune that I heard that they have had to pay hundreds of millions in tax on the income they are earning, only from her Secretary of State income and their combined speaking fees. I doubt that they are getting paid that kind of money solely because they are spell-binding motivational speakers in the Tony Robbins vein.


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