In battle, blood is weakness. Blood is loss. Blood is a visual symbol that, while one may have fought valiantly, one was also—at least for a moment—bested by another. In battle, the one who bleeds is the Loser (Sad!); the one who does not is the Winner.
Donald Trump, it’s often said, sees the world—and human life in general—as a roiling battlefield, and the people within it, consequently, as a collection of Victors and Vanquished who can be easily sorted as such. So it was both shocking and deeply unsurprising—a situation that is becoming less and less paradoxical as this unorthodox presidency goes on—to read the tweets that President Trump sent out on Thursday morning: about Joe Scarborough, a little, but mostly about his Morning Joe co-host, Mika Brzezinski. They were tweets mocking weakness. They were tweets mocking vanity. They were tweets about blood.
I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came..— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2017
...to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2017
The tweets, on the one hand, were simply another volley in the administration’s ever-ramping battle against the American press—tweets in line with the accusation the deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders made, earlier this week, about the media somehow being, as an institution, “fake news.” They featured typical Trumpian insults that were in line, despite their pettiness, with what increasingly seems to be the grander rhetorical project of this presidency, which is to delegitimize the mediating role of the media, and, consequently, to destabilize the notion of communal truth.
So, fine. Shocking, unsurprising, etc. But then there was the blood thing. The thing that aimed to delegitimize Brzezinski not merely according to her job performance—not even, as is Trump’s wont, according to her appearance—but according to her ability to bleed. To bleed, his implication went, in the name of vanity. Scarborough, here, was merely “Psycho”; Brzezinski, however, was “low I.Q.” [sic] and also “Crazy” and, also, “bleeding”—“badly,” no less—from her “face-lift.”