‘How much of a troll do you want to be’?

One of the least reported elements of the Reagan presidency was the nexus between rightist macho posturing and homosexuality. Reporting by the late Christopher Hitchens and Thomas Mallon’s 2014 novel Finale are the only places where the circle of Carl “Spitz” Channell, chief fundraiser for Oliver North while he was making flesh his “neat idea” to sell arms to phony Iranian moderates and funneling the profit to the Contras of Nicaragua, has received any attention. The brief flurry inspired by Milo Yiannopoulous last month reminded me that we will always find homosexuals, once marginalized but power-hungry, who for the sake of contrarianism will embrace the grotesque elements of conservatiism, almost as if it were expiation.

In an article about White House press conferences, Adam Marantz of The New Yorker uncovers the sordid Lucas Wintrich, a self-described Twink for Trump hired, to use Donald Segretti’s term, to ratfuck traditional media (he calls it trolling). What a name — he could be a villain or duped her of an Evelyn Waugh novel, while the following exchange between Wintrich and Gateway Pundit editor Jim Hoft could have come from Bret Easton Ellis:

Over dinner at a nearby steakhouse, Hoft and Wintrich brainstormed about what they might ask the next day. “Just make sure it has ‘fake news’ in it, Lucian,” Hoft said, passing him a notepad. “Every question you ask with the words ‘fake news,’ you get a ten-dollar bonus. We’ll add that to your contract.”

Wintrich, sipping a Martini, jotted a few notes. “Sean! Over here, Sean!” he said, pretending to raise his hand. “In the past month alone, there have been at least twenty fake-news stories in the failing New York Times. Does fake news like this get in the way of the President’s ability to proceed on policy?”

Hoft cackled loudly enough to startle a woman at a nearby table. “That’s fucking hilarious,” he said. “Should we do something about ‘S.N.L.,’ maybe?”

“A follow-up, Sean, if I may?” Wintrich said. “Do you think that the failing show ‘Saturday Night Live’ will be cancelled, or can it be made great again?”

“That’s hard-core,” Jeremy Segal, one of the filmmakers, said.

“Genius,” Hoft said. He finished his steak, ordered a slice of banana cream pie, and asked Wintrich whether he wanted another Martini. “Lucian, when we’re out together, I pay for everything. You know that, right?”

“That’s very kind of you,” Wintrich said.

Andrew Marcus, the other filmmaker, said, “The big decision you have to make is how much of a troll you’re willing to be.”

“He’s there to troll,” Hoft said.

For a moment, Wintrich seemed to get cold feet. “Should we have a couple of backup questions that are specifically about policy?” he asked, tentatively.

“Policy schmolicy,” Hoft said.

I can’t imagine Mallon reading these exchanges and restraining himself from burning every copy of Finale. Those whose conservative relatives still post on their walls know Gateway Pundit, a sewage line pumping some of the internet’s worst political clickbait (I actually saw “Breaking: Creepy New Video Released of Joe Biden Groping Little Girls” last December).

Yet when the Trump administration flails ever more noticeably, I don’t see sycophants like Wintrich heading for the hills. Trump needs applause like cats need litter boxes.

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