How to best describe the past seven days? First, there was a royal wedding, but no one even noticed because an overzealous mother turned her son into a meme. Then, folks began to wonder whether Melania Trump understands bullying at all. Also, the United States’ United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley quit, and Florida was hit by a hurricane that’s killed at least 11 people. So, in other words, it’s been another tumultuous week in the ever-accelerating eschaton that is 2018.
But what else is happening, you ask? Do read on.
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The Disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi
What Happened: As the story of a missing journalist appears to turn into the story of a murdered journalist, people start paying attention.
What Really Happened: The Washington Post first noted the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the start of the month, with the paper sharing that he had gone missing after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. It was concerning, but not a story that many people were paying attention to. That changed last weekend when a horrifying new development emerged.
Of course, failure to respond to Khashoggi’s potential assassination would require that the US believe Khashoggi has, indeed, been assassinated by Saudi Arabia. There was one major problem with that, unfortunately: President Trump dragging his feet on actually accepting that idea as anything other than a distant possibility.
And when pressed on the issue, it only got worse.
The notion that the White House was hardly acting on the subject because Trump didn’t want to cut off arms sales to the Saudis didn’t escape everyone’s notice, prompting some late action … that might not have been the best move, as it turned out.
It’s always reassuring when Richard Branson is more willing to do something about the apparent murder of a journalist than the President of the United States, isn’t it? As of this writing, Saudi authorities had pledged to investigate alongside Turkish authorities, while Turkish authorities claim they have audio and video proving he was killed.
The Takeaway: Meanwhile…
Look What You Made Tay Do
What Happened: As if the political landscape in 2018 wasn’t surreal enough already, Taylor Swift broke her silence and endorsed a political candidate last week. Suffice to say, not everyone was happy, because reasons.
What Really Happened: You guys, everyone is talking about politics these days. I mean, everyone, even those who had previously made a point of not talking about the subject before, even though people really wanted to know.
But in the midst of this whole thing, we can all admit that there’s only one person that everyone was waiting on a response from. Mr. President, is Taylor endorsing a Democrat a problem for you, or can you just shake it off?
Let it be noted that this might be the only time that President Trump hasn’t utterly turned on someone endorsing the opposing party. Truly, the power of Swift is mighty.
The Takeaway: Seemingly undeterred by Trump’s comments, Swift used her acceptance speech at the American Music Awards on Tuesday to deliver a special message to her fans: vote.
Feel the Dragon Energy
What Happened: It was the team-up the world was waiting for: Kanye West and President Trump had a sit-down meeting at the White House.
What Really Happened: Look. Haters are gonna [checks notes] hate hate hate hate, but there are other celebrities out there, right? Let’s check in on them.
So, what happened when these two giants of American culture started talking?
While the initial reports were bracingly surreal, let’s look on the bright side: It could have gone so much worse. And, let’s be real, it was probably an educational experience for the president, even if it wasn’t in the way he’d probably expected.
How’d it play out for people watching on television?
OK, besides that.
I said besides that. How did it play out there in the wilds of America?
…OK, sure; that seems fair. How should we sum up what happened? Let’s leave it to the White House press corps.
The Takeaway: Really, in times like these, let’s pay attention to the true heroes. Those who had to really really pay attention to what was being said in the meeting.
The President’s Op-Ed
What Happened: When is an op-ed not an op-ed? When it’s a falsehood-filled piece of divisive campaign rhetoric delivered via a newspaper not known for its partisan bias, apparently.
What Really Happened: When you’re President of the United States, you’re supposed to speak to (and for) the entire country, not just your base. But how are you supposed to do something like that? Well, sometimes, it’s all about getting your message out in the most unexpected of ways. For example, the pages of USA Today.
Yes, Donald J. Trump took to the pages of the newspaper this week to share an op-ed about … well, his fantasies, it seemed.
It’s fair to say that the overtly partisan nature of the piece was, to say the least, somewhat unusual. Not that people on Twitter were saying the least.
So it’s pretty clear that the president was pretty loose with the truth. But how bad could it be, really?
That’s pretty bad. But could it really be that bad? Maybe we need a second opinion.
OK, what about a third opinion? Maybe that could help.
Actually, there’s some discussion about that. Meanwhile, as all of this was unfolding, watching USA Today’s response to the uproar evolve was a fascinating.
That statement was then followed by the site running a fact check which “showed several instances where he misrepresented the facts and made misleading statements about Medicare and health insurance in general,” which was then followed a defensive piece arguing that the original op-ed and subsequent response by everyone “show democracy in action.”
Some wondered what could be next, given what appeared to be the USA Today approach to these things.
The Takeaway: Let’s just appreciate the small mercies. After all, this was only half true, and that counts for something, right?
This Is What a Movie Is
What Happened: Apparently, there are some media outlets that don’t quite understand how other media works. Or maybe they’re just playing dumb for the sake of manufactured outrage.
What Really Happened: Hey, there’s a new Halloween movie out next week! It’s the one that brings Jamie Lee Curtis back! Who couldn’t be excited about that unless they secretly know that Halloween 3 is actually the best in the series and have been waiting all these years for the return of Silver Shamrock? Oh, yes, you at the back with your hand in the air. I believe you have something to add?
Ah, Fox News, where there’s really an attempt to get upset about the fact that Curtis, who believes in sensible gun control, uses guns in movies where she’s pretending to be someone else entirely. This just in, though: Twitter was really not into the concern trolling on show this time around, and was perfectly ready to clown on Fox for it.
Of course, the response turned into a thing by itself, because the internet. To admit that the tweet was dumb would undercut the very reason d’être of Fox News, and we can all be grateful that it didn’t back down. Wait. Is “grateful” the right word?
As it happened, Curtis herself responded to the story, saying that it’s “just silly.”
The Takeaway: You know things are bad when even the dictionary gets in on the dunking.