Why has our news media failed us at this, the most pivotal of moments in our and its history? Consider the string of events, all incredibly impactful by themselves: Vladimir Putin’s willful decision to wage cyber war on America’s 2016 election, the Brexit vote (and Russia’s direct influence upon it), Donald Trump’s entire presidency (and it’s opening all doors wide to Russian espionage), Donald Trump’s ongoing attempt to overthrow 2020’s election results, Trump and the entire GOP’s ongoing attempts to limit who can vote and whose votes will be counted, a worldwide pandemic, a worldwide pandemic made worse in America by deliberate disinformation (a ton of it originating in Russia) and Russia invading Ukraine. Now string all of those terrible events together – because they DO string together. Even if one just wanted to aggregate these events purely for record-keeping’s sake, one couldn’t deny the clear and undeniable picture that emerges as more and more dots connect. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is directly connected to Donald Trump’s having been POTUS because but for Russia, Trump would NEVER have been POTUS. And Trump’s having been POTUS was all part of Putin’s larger war on America and NATO and the West.
Perspective. It’s like a magic spell or a super power to most of our news media. And yet, even with imbued with it, our news media rarely uses it. If the press merely aggregated the story they were telling, they’d realize they already know way more than they think. That’s what’s so unfathomable about our news media’s failure to accurately report the biggest story they’ll ever get to report. They’ve already reported it! They either don’t believe their own reporting, or they think it’s all blather – instantly forgettable upon reporting – and they’ve completely forgotten it.
Example: on May 17, 2017 the Washington Post’s Adam Entous reported on a recorded conversation he’d just heard. The conversation in question had taken place the previous June – on June 25, 2016 – as the Republican Party’s leadership met in Washington, DC. With the meeting already in progress, current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy entered – interrupting the meeting with “There’s two people I think Putin pays – Rohrbacher and Trump!”
No one reacted in horror or shock – as they should have. Everyone knew California Congressman Dana Rohrbacher was in Russia’s pocket. It wasn’t a secret. But Trump? Trump’s name caused a ripple of nervous laughter which caused McCarthy to double down with “Swear to God!” In other words, when McCarthy’s insistence that Russia had compromised the man they were about to nominate to be President of the United States was met with resistance, did McCarthy back down or say he was joking? No, he swore to God. He wanted them all to believe he was serious and genuine.
The topic so disturbed then Speaker of the House Paul Ryan that he firmly inserted himself and told the room that the topic was no longer under discussion. Not because Ryan was making an executive decision to do what was right for the country and his party, but because Ryan was doing the exact opposite. Ryan was taking the subject of their presidential nominee’s being a grave national security threat off the table permanently. This secret of theirs needed to stay their secret. “No leaks. . . . This is how we know we’re a real family here” is how he put it. A real organized crime family is what he meant…
In the immediate aftermath of this incredibly embarrassing reveal, did our news media smell chum in the water and chow down? Of course not! A few journalists cornered Kevin McCarthy and asked him about it. “I was joking,” said Kevin. “Of course you were,” agreed the press.
Our press, alas, assumed/assumes that everyone has a sense of humor. That simply isn’t the case. Take Donald Trump. Trump has zero sense of humor. That doesn’t mean he can’t tell a joke (if badly). It means he can’t laugh at himself – only ever at others. Having a “sense of humor” as we all understand it demands first and foremost that one can laugh at one’s own follies and foibles – even if only in front of a bathroom mirror. Donald Trump notoriously can’t bear being laughed at by anyone especially himself. That’s the tell that someone has no sense of humor.
Another tell: people with no sense of humor can’t see irony. They’re literally “color blind” to it. They find no joy in laughter – only cruelty. It’s what makes laughter appealing to them. Like the rest of the pasty, white men around him – bullies all – Kevin doesn’t “do” irony because he doesn’t get it. He never jokes about things except as part of a group bullying effort.
McCarthy’s real time response simply isn’t satisfying. It’s a dodge and a crap one. Even if he WAS joking, his glibness demands a follow up! FFS, didn’t the reporter know (what everyone else knew at least) that Rohrbacher was in Putin’s pocket? The reporter could easily have Googled Rohrbacher and learned that, indeed, Putin had a fully paid acolyte in Republican Congressman Dana Rohrbacher. Even a mediocre journalist could have banged together a question like “You weren’t joking about Rohrbacher though, were you? Everyone knew he was taking Russian money. Why did you compare Trump to that guy?”
These aren’t deep questions, they’re thread pullers. Not only can’t you take the responses at face value (because of all the lying), you have to give a moment for all the perspective to reveal itself as you ponder the scene. Why did the Washington Post – who first reported this story – give up on it so easily? Why did/do they allow a moment of full on TREASON to go unexplored – especially in light of everything that’s happened since then?
We can absolutely point to June 25, 2016 as the day when the Republican Party’s leadership officially became traitors. They KNEW Trump posed a grave national security threat. They CHOSE to say nothing. In fact, they covered up all attempts to get at the truth behind the event. WHY?
Then, with this knowledge of the fact that their presidential nominee was OWNED by a hostile foreign head of state, the GOP stood by and said NOTHING as their party officially nominated Trump to be their standard bearer. They said nothing again a week later when their presidential nominee bleated on July 27, 2016 (nearly a month later) “Hey, Russia, if you’re listening…!” knowing that YES, RUSSIA WAS LIKELY LISTENING – to the person the Republican Party knew Russia OWNED – Donald J. Trump. WHY?
Hey, I’m not genius. Rocket science befuddles me. All I can do is read and remember what I’ve read – and what I’ve read – those are all data points. When I see a set of data points and those points – when connected – present an image? I want to know more. Donald Trump is nothing BUT a giant cesspit of data points all of them vile, rotten and corrupt. If only our news media felt the same way…
All problem solving demands imagination. Zero imagination equals zero capacity for problem solving. Trump has consistently posed a very visible problem to America, its sovereign integrity, its systems of governance. None of that is hyperbole and hasn’t been since the moment Trump officially stepped onto the public stage as a presidential candidate and announced that “Mexicans are rapists”.
That should have been the end of the Trump Experiment right then and there. Under all other circumstances, it would have been the chum in the water that set off our news media on a shark-like “gotcha!” feeding frenzy. Instead, our news media normalized “Mexicans are rapists” into something Trump – an “unusual presidential candidate” said. Shortly thereafter, our news media would normalize “pussy grabbing” because sexual assault was less concerning to our news media than the possibility that Hillary Clinton had used the wrong email server.
Failure of imagination or lack of it? That is the “to be or not to be” question. Is our news media guilty of failure to use their imagination or are they guilty of having none to begin with?