Dear American News Media – Stop Acting Like The Dance Band On The Titanic

The Dance Band on the Titanic went down with the ship. America, like the Titanic, is sinking. The difference is we don’t have to. Our ship of state can still be saved.

America’s news media can’t be blamed for Donald Trump. Fred and Mary Trump deserve that credit (oh, that we could go back in time and tie Mary’s tubes while also delivering a good, swift kick to Fred’s family jewels). But Donald Trump’s resiliency — the fact that he’s still POTUS and not a federal prisoner — THAT falls almost entirely on the news media and their remarkable inability to convey the story in front of them. The story they themselves have reported.

As we stand here today, Donald Trump is the first person EVER to run for re-election as POTUS having been IMPEACHED — for cheating in the very election he’s running in.

That’s not a small thing. It’s a huge, HUGE thing. And yet, our news media never reminds its news audience that THAT is the context in which Donald Trump is running for re-election. He does it — overtly cheating — having already been impeached for cheating!

But, not just cheating — committing TREASON while cheating.

The news media — what else can we conclude? — has accepted and normalized not only cheating but treason. It’s now just another facet of “Trump’s a different kind of potus” — that toxic confection the news media keeps feeding itself to explain away Trump’s lawlessness. No, he’s not “different”, he’s a criminal. He’s always been a criminal — and it’s always been there for all to see because the news media itself reported on it!

Among the stories our news media can’t seem to 1) get straight or 2) comprehend is Christopher Steele and the dossier of raw intelligence he put together and then desperately tried to get into the right hands. As an example of what I’m talking about — if (as our news media does) you simply assume that Chris Steele’s dossier dropped from the sky by magic — it’s easy to dismiss. It could just as easily be the work product of a crank.

Except it’s not. If we trace the story back to how we GOT TO the Chris Steele part of the story, we suddenly discover not only that there IS a story but there’s a story that the news media has already reported on — and seemingly forgotten. As the 2016 Republican primaries got under way, every Republican who wasn’t Donald Trump hated and feared Donald Trump. That included Republicans who supported Jeb Bush’s campaign.

Among them was The Washington Free Beacon (financed by hedge fund magnate Paul Singer). They funded oppo research into multiple Republican candidates but their research on Trump proved the most compelling. The Beacon hired the firm Fusion GPS — a commercial research and strategic intelligence firm founded by two former Wall Street Journal reporters. One of them, Glenn Simpson, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on August 22, 2017. The committee — under Republican control, don’t forget — was attempting to undermine the Steele Dossier’s integrity by undermining the integrity of those who hired Steele.

Why was Chris Steele hired in the first place, the Committee wanted to know — assuming, I guess, that they could imply something nefarious where nothing nefarious existed? Simpson explained how, after Fusion was hired, they did their due diligence. They got their hands on every piece of PUBLICLY AVAILABLE material on Trump that they could — newspaper articles, magazine pieces, radio interviews, TV shows — everywhere Trump’s name appeared or was spoken. They went to Amazon and actual book stores. They combed the internet. They even went to the public library.

What Fusion found — in publicly available material that anyone (including the press) could just as easily have found — convinced them that Donald Trump was likely a criminal who laundered Russian mob money through his (now bankrupt) Atlantic City Casinos. They saw other possible connections between Donald Trump and Russia, too. They were so concerned, in fact, that they sub-contracted the research out to the Westerner with, perhaps, the connections inside Russia — former head of MI6’s Russia Desk Chris Steele.

Did you follow that, American News Media? Publicly available material suggesting Trump’s likely criminality is what motivated the Steele hire. That means anyone — any journalist — could have, at any time, have done what Fusion did: the due diligence.

By the time Fusion got to Chris Steele, the Free Beacon had stopped funding the work; Trump had become the presumptive nominee. Steele’s work was paid for by Marc Elias, the lawyer for the D.N.C. and Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign. That doesn’t in any way disqualify it. Steele — with his excellent connections inside Russia — had no idea who was underwriting his work product.

Ah, but Trump says… The Republicans say. It’s like reporting what the iceberg says. “Go ahead — hit me! I promise nothing bad will happen to ya…”.

The Titanic’s dance band was great at dying nobly. For the purposes of argument though, what if Sam, the band’s talented sax player, possessed knowledge that could have saved the ship? What if Sam — in a previous life — had worked in a shipyard, building ships and new of a way that might stem the flow of water into the six forward watertight compartments that the iceberg exposed. What if another of the band — Val, the Violinist — recognized that if he could get the passengers to rush to the back of the ship, it would aid Sam’s plan and, perhaps, save them all? And what if all the others in the band immediately pitched in to do whatever they could to help.

Our news media has knowledge that could save our ship of state from sinking. They know the iceberg we’ve hit — they’ve reported on it. They also know how the ship works. How its engines work. While, like with the Titanic, time is short, our news media can still stem the flow of water into our tanks. Or, in this case, the flow of bullshit, propaganda and disinformation.

For starters, the news media needs to stop running around the deck like Chicken Little. They need to see themselves as PASSENGERS on this vessel with a rooting interest in not sinking. They need to stop seeing this story from the iceberg’s point of view — or the ocean’s. They need to see it entirely from the passengers’ point of view — because that’s who’s going to suffer the consequences.

Donald Trump & the Republican Party are our democracy’s iceberg. In collusion with their Russian friend, they intend to sink us and raise a Jolly Roger over the remains. That isn’t crazed left wing lunacy. It’s all been reported by our press. You’d think our press wouldn’t be so reluctant to read their own stuff.

The journalism professor turned journalist Seth Abramson hasn’t done any original reporting. Rather, he’s aggregated all the reporting that’s been done — all in one place: his three Collusion books. The portrait Abramson’s work portrays is beyond devastating. Like Fusion GPS mining what every other journalist could mine, Abramson demonstrates how journalism is supposed to work. We already know an awful lot about how exactly Donald Trump became POTUS. We know how corrupt Trump is and how vulnerable to blackmail because of it. Our news media reported it.

Our news media can still save the day. All they have to do is adhere to a few basic principles while seeing themselves as citizen journalists instead of corporate journalists. They might as well since anyone who doesn’t go full corporate, access journalist if Trump “wins” (cheats to win actually — which is not the same thing as actually “winning”) is going to end up in a gulag. Here are a few actions they need to take —

  • Stop Normalizing Everything Trump Does. Mexicans still aren’t rapists (despite the news media’s apparently accepting it) and pussy-grabbing is absolutely not acceptable, no matter how rich you are.
  • Access Journalism is stone cold bullshit. Stop running for the next Judith A Miller ‘It’s All About Access” Award.
  • Listen to Maya Angelou’s wise words: when someone (like Donald Trump) tells you (repeatedly and ad nauseum) who they are? BELIEVE THEM!
  • Whatever you have to do to get it, GET SOME PERSPECTIVE!
  • Words matter. A lie is a lie. Call it what it is, not some euphemism. And trust that your audience is at least as adult as you are. Swear words aren’t nearly as offensive as corruption.
  • Both sides don’t do it. That’s you generalizing — and badly. John Q. Citizen under-reporting his taxes is not the same as Bernie Madoff though both are committing fraud. Proportion and scale matter. So does motive.
  • No one does anything “just because”.
  • When you repeat bullshit without saying it’s bullshit, you validate the bullshit. Once bullshit has credence, it doesn’t give it back.
  • Learn to aggregate. Storytelling builds one scene atop another, each scene (ideally) adding information to the information added in the previous scene. It’s monstrously stupid — and bad storytelling — to keep returning to square one, as if you don’t know the very things you’d already reported on.
  • Recognize your Constitutional obligation. Look, you chose journalism. You choose to pursue it, regardless of the myriad challenges and difficulties. Journalism is the one non-governmental job mentioned in the Constitution — as the final check on governmental power. Tasks don’t get more sacred than that. Take yours seriously FFS!

C’mon News Media — career-minded as you are, you still have souls (religious or otherwise). Most of you got into journalism because you wanted to change things. You wanted to tell truths that stopped villains, rewarded heroes and made the world a better place because of it.

Great! Live that ethos, News Media! Report it. Our ship’s going down with all hands on deck otherwise.

Mind you — we’ll be on deck listening to YOU play us out. Glug, glug, glug…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.