Republicans play to win. Democrats play to play. That’s always been the key difference between us. One side cares only about the results while the other thinks the process is equally important. Consequently, while Democrats insist on playing by the rules (even if it puts the rules in harm’s way) Republicans are the ones actively putting the rules in harm’s way. It’s one of the more painful ironies about our news media that even as they wonder why Democrats never act like Republicans, at the very same time, they insist that “both sides do it” – that there’s zero difference between how either side in the political equation acts.
FFS, people, make up your damned minds!
Our problem starts with a corporate news media that simply isn’t up to the task at hand. Money infects everything – American journalism included. At some point post-Watergate, America’s news media traded in their skepticism for cynicism. That’s unfortunate because cynicism is bullshit. It’s the outright assumption – receipts be damned – that feelings supersede facts. I “feel like” everyone’s dishonest which means they are. I “feel like” everyone’s being political – regardless of whether they are or not.
“Both sides do it” rests upon the flawed foundation that all journalism must be stone cold neutral about literally everything. The journalist isn’t there to voice their opinion, they’re there to record events without judging them. Fair enough. But unrealistic. And, frankly, kinda dangerous.
Quick example: Journalist A reports solid evidence that Politician B has received money from Foreign Dictator C. Foreign Dictator C, Journalist A has previously reported, would do pretty much anything to destroy American democracy – including compromise someone like Politician B. With solid, journalistically strong bona fides in her pocket, does Journalist A now report on Politician B as if they’re compromised by Foreign Dictator C? Or do they report on Politician B as if they didn’t know anything about their criminally provable evidence – and treat Politician B like a normal politician doing normal politician things?
If Journalist A does that, is Journalist A reporting the truth or some “other” reality that isn’t the truth? Does Politician B suddenly stop being a criminal – and possibly a traitor at that – just because Journalist A changes subjects and starts talking about the upcoming election instead? Does Politician B stop being a criminal (though Journalist A has reported the evidence!) just because the story subject changes away from something where Politician A has behaved criminally to something where they haven’t (or haven’t yet behaved criminally or their criminal behavior hasn’t yet been revealed)?
If this shoe were on the other foot – if (improbably) Joe Biden decided to behave exactly as Donald Trump would – rules be damned since that’s how Trump rolls (and gets away with it!) – Merrick Garland would never have gotten the gig at DoJ. Sally Yates might be there instead – or any of Trump’s victims who have the CV to run Justice. Whatever their feelings about payback, they would be strongly encouraged to go for it. Show Trump and his co-conspirators no mercy.
Biden would be on TV every day reminding America that the Republican Party is now “The Treason Party”. It wouldn’t matter that no federal, state or local court had adjudged them so. The court of public opinion would be the only one that really mattered and that’s the one Biden and the Democrats would ride relentlessly and shamelessly. If Republicans honestly believed Democrats were behaving treasonously, Republicans wouldn’t be satisfied until Democratic blood literally ran in the streets.
Republicans would put “Democrats R Traitors” on every imaginable piece of merchandise. They’d make it the only thing they ever talked about. They’d make the word “Democrat” mean the exact same thing as “traitor”.
Alas, Democrats don’t do that. They never even think of it except in passing – as something Republicans would have done already.
Ah, hell – the real problem here is that our press has decided that every argument must be viewed exclusively through a political lens. When a Republican gerrymanders, it’s political. When a Democrat complains because that gerrymandering is devaluing the impact of their vote? The press assesses that they’re also being “political”. The press should see them as crime victims because that’s what they are! But, because the press sees everything as a “political argument,” it shrugs them off because everybody has them” and, as it’s not for the journalist to judge the actual validity of anyone’s argument”, bullshit and Truth can be compared against each other as a fifty-fifty proposition.
Remember how our news media used to handle the “climate debate”? As if there was one? Remember how CNN & MSNBC especially – in their need to appear “fair” – would make sure to balance a “climate scientist” with someone there to present the alternative viewpoint – in other words someone entirely full of shit? Right off the bat – because they refuse to judge anything – our NEWS MEDIA is assigning things they know are true and things they know are not true equal weight in the argument.
Then, to set that terrible hook even more deeply, they presented the argument visually as a split screen with one argument on one side and the other argument on the other side. A fifty-fifty screen says “these two arguments are equally valid” (even if, in fact, they’re not equal at all).
How we frame a story can very easily become the story. At the very least how we frame a story shouts volumes about how we feel about it.
Until our news media begins framing Trump and every single Republican (or Democrat) who enabled Trump through a lens informed by their own reporting – “There’s two people I think Putin pays – Rohrbacher and Trump – swear to God!” – they’ll be reporting some other story than the one we’re all living through.