I take in a lot of Cable News. As in, I have it on in the background — either on the TV in my office or via my satellite radio (on my phone – and right into my ears). I don’t do all that watching and listening cause I’m desperate for information — I am; I am a News Junkie and I don’t give a fuck who knows it. But I watch much more as a critic of their reporting and — more specifically — their STORYTELLING.
Reporters and journalists are, like me, storytellers by trade except they (theoretically) hew much closer to reality in their storytelling. To which I say — kinda yes and kinda no.
Yeah, I make a lot of the actual story up — but most of what I’m making up comes from reality (‘What if THIS real alternative happened instead of what DID happen?’) And then I extrapolate that version of events out to their ‘logical conclusion’. But in order for me to ‘sell’ that to a reader or an audience, my version of reality needs to be as convincingly real and believable as actual reality. If my reality doesn’t satisfy or (worse) has logic problems, I will lose my readers and audience almost immediately.
We’ve all been there — the book or movie or play or story that was going along just fine until one of the characters did something that just didn’t fly. Either it didn’t feel real in terms of general human behavior or it had its a character do something that the storytelling simply didn’t didn’t justify or set up properly. Result? The audience turns away from the storyteller in disgust. And rightfully so.
The storyteller has colored too far outside the lines of what we all KNOW or RECOGNIZE as ‘human behavior’. Stories, of course, are about people doing EXTRAORDINARY things — in essence coloring outside the lines — doing things they wouldn’t normally or doing things normally but with unexpected consequences. The point of telling the story is to describe WHY this happened or how it impacted the characters and their future — to show a character arc of some kind.
What keeps most storytellers ‘honest’ is the fact that our audience will be the final arbiter of whether or not we accurately described human behavior. Our mission then is to get human behavior right. And that takes a lot of work – a lot of watching and listening and observing. The key to understanding human behavior is this: What they say is important; what they DON’T say — but transmit nonetheless — is almost MORE important — because it’s so honest and unguarded.
Another way you get a fix on who & what a character is is to research them, their world, their values. You do your ‘due diligence’. When Fusion GPS began their opposition research work on Donald Trump, the first thing they did was get ahold of EVERY LAST BIT of publicly available material on Donald J Trump — books, magazine articles, court case documents, TV shows — and they read it and watched every last bit of it. What they saw there — IN PUBLICLY AVAILABLE INFO — convinced them that there was a problem and they set out to investigate (subsequently hiring former MI^ Russia desk hand Christopher Steele.
At no time (as far as I know) did any (okay – most) of our MSM every do anything similar. In other words — rather than begin THEIR STORYTELLING as a storyteller should — with maximum awareness of the world being storytold, the MSM began and continue to begin their storytelling with a minimum of background knowledge of either the world or the characters in it. It makes it really hard to tell a story with so many details off limits.
But tell it, the MSM did — regardless of how disconnected their version of events was from actual events…
Real human beings do not do things for no reason. They don’t just think things or show up places or even get up in the morning with no purpose; well-designed villains aren’t villainous for the sake of being villainous. And Donald Trump has never done ANYTHING just because he felt like it.
Donald Trump’s behavior is not ‘normal’ behavior. His actions are not ‘different’, they’re aberrant — not the same thing. His abuse of our norms isn’t him being his own kind of politician, it’s him being a criminal and an authoritarian. Those are the behaviors. It is incumbent on the Storyteller to be the Truth-teller about human foibles and weaknesses, not a stenographer.
Telling Donald Trump’s story has NEVER required any special talents or insight. It has only ever required an ability to see, hear and describe the Truth about one of the most dastardly men in the history of humankind — and the political party that enabled, empowered and conspired with him…