Deborah was disappointed to learn that the media were turning their turrets on Adolph. Now that their golden boy had left, they seemed to have little interest in ridiculing Benny Pilder; Honest Adolph, previously known only as a ‘fringe maverick,’ was now consistently demonised day in, day out.
The quality of the commentary never seemed to get any better; nor did it seem to deteriorate. For reasons Deborah could never quite discern, Adolph was hated even more than Benny Pilder. Deborah had already begun to entertain the possibility that all this wall-to-wall on message demonisation might actually boost Adolph, because reverse psychology is often a deeply disruptive force in nomination campaigns; not to mention the actual election itself! However, she was still unsure. ‘A nomination is not an election, and an election is not a nomination,’ she muttered to herself; over, and over, and over, and over, again.
One thing that was striking about the media coverage was its radical inconsistency.
On the one hand, Pilder had flippantly referred to Adams as a ‘strong leader in a tight spot.’ The media then mentioned that the debate had happened shortly after Holocaust Memorial Day, and that because Adams did not descend into campus ‘call out’ culture and note the tastelessly demeaning character of the slur, he had acted weakly, and that Adams’ discretion and civility were not really discretion and civility at all, but merely a tacit way of condoning or excusing Pilder’s crass and vulgar comment.
Curiously enough, the media did not idealise Pilder, as they had previously idealised Riddle. Riddle was gone, but there was no viable, pro-establishment candidate to replace him. This being so, directly boosting Pilder would undoubtedly have been bad taste; for no President at all, is undoubtedly a better prospect than a President who refuses to go along with the mediocre establishment consensus in all respects. Even so, they treated Pilder as a rich source of entertainment. Every last tweet, every last tasteless joke, every pathetic comment was mulled over in detail.
Interestingly enough, Pilder was actually an extraordinarily conventional and robotic candidate, whose ideological views were not as different from those of Riddle as he would have had us all believe. Pilder’s shallow economic populism, which was entirely lacking in the gravity and scientific seriousness his nomination rival tried to bring, was enough to make him look entertaining. Just as Marcus Charleston Bubble was given constant air-time, despite his complete lack of wisdom, foresight, intellectual seriousness or philosophical profundity, so also was Pilder wheeled out as an extravagant operatic trope, to counterpose his rival.
The media had absolutely no interest in giving Adams a fair shot at the nomination, Deborah ruefully concluded. She could hardly say she was surprised at this; but every now and then, her tender heart was still shocked, indeed wounded, by the brutal savagery of the corporate media, who consistently twisted and misrepresented everything Adams said, in order to make it look racist, misogynistic, or otherwise unacceptable. Saul had once confided in her that he often felt, by this point, at Adolph could walk the election, as long as he just shut his trap for the next few months, and didn’t say anything at all. Then nobody would be able to twist his words, and make him look bad. Deborah said nothing, because she knew the poor, bitter old man was crying out for someone to help save the country, and somehow find a way to dig them out of this bottomless pit of continual warmongering, mass surveillance, intel subversion and police brutality. She knew she had no words of comfort to offer him.
Things continued to deteriorate. Adams had already remarked more than once that it was a real ‘damned if you, damned if you don’t’ situation. If he kept silent, he was evasive or dishonest. If he spoke, he was a fanatic. If he occasionally got mildly irritated, he was clearly over-sensitive (although other politicians got away with truly belligerent and aggressive behaviour, while every miniscule slip of Adolph’s, without exception, was under the microscope for days or weeks). But if he was constantly civil, he was clearly insincere and sycophantic. Finally: if he criticised the establishment and their false values, he was a dangerous fanatic. But whenever he spoke less critically, he was an overly intellectual and detached egghead, who was pretty much incapable of empathy, and had no idea how tough life was for real Americans, who didn’t share his considerable economic, racial and gender privileges.
The double binds were brutal, but he was determined, nonetheless to see them through.
One particularly sad event was when the shameless media, as well as Benny Pilder, made shallow political capital about a spate of abortion clinic shootings. In the second debate, Adams missed a number of opportunities (some might say open goals) to politicise the shootings; i.e. to throw down the gauntlet to Benny Pilder, by showing that only he, Adolph Adams, was man enough to take on Republican populists like Bubble, who many Democrats blamed personally for creating the kind of environment where such shootings could actually take place.
Cunningly biding his time, the master tactician Benny Pilder saved his bravado and chivalry until near the very end of the debate. Remarking on Adolph’s relatively brief and dispassionate comments on the abortion clinic shootings, Pilder questioned whether someone who could be that calm about abortion clinic shootings was really fit to be the President of the United States of America; particularly when the Republicans were threatening to put the final nail in the coffin of Roe Vs Wade, immediately after the coming election. Even prominent liberal newspapers were in full panic mode over the prospect of a post-abortion USA.
For extra spice, Pilder maliciously misquoted some comments Adams had made in an academic journal several years ago, regarding the importance of dispassionate reason and objectivity in politics. Deliberately distorting what Adams wrote, Pilder snorted: ‘This man wants us all to be ‘dispassionate’ about these shootings. Do you feel dispassionate, ladies and gentlemen?’ The audience erupted in fury. ‘I know I don’t feel remotely dispassionate. I’m mad as hell! And I don’t know how anyone in America, particularly a Democratic nomination candidate, should be sitting there on their ivory tower, right here and now, telling us we just shouldn’t care, we should just ignore it and forget about it… And we should just be dispassionate!’
Saul’s sharp analytical mind, in a misguided attempt to help his friend, had sat up all night listing the fallacies in Pilder’s performance. He had found no fewer than fifteen fallacies and wilful misinterpretations of Adolph’s comments on dispassion. The entire list of deliberate lies ran well into the hundreds. He must have sat up parsing everything word by word, and then rewinding, and parsing again. Adolph’s first thought when he saw the list was that it didn’t matter what he said; it wouldn’t make any difference. There was no way he could possibly spare the time to rake over the lies the establishment had been spreading about his recent comments, recent silences, and earlier deeds and words. There was absolutely no time to waste with this nonsense. Somehow, he just had to press on, and get on with it.
However, seeing the impatient, barely legible scrawls of his dear old friend Saul Friedman (line upon line, page upon page upon page), as well as Saul’s mournful, baggy-eyed sorrow, he simply didn’t have the heart to say so. ‘Why, thank you kindly, sir. This will come in very helpful.’ Adams was not very well versed in the dark arts of little white lies, and he spent the next two or three nights rather ill at ease at having said whatever was expedient, rather than what the strict truth of the matter.
That much, at least, he and his beloved friend, still had in common.