Let’s Talk About Dogma & American Journalism

On the “Faitheism Project Podcast” I do with my dear friend Randy Lovejoy — a Presbyterian Pastor — we draw a distinction between spirituality and religion. Everyone — atheist, theist or agnostic — experiences awe as we gaze up at the cosmos. We are all very much connected to this massively huge universe. That relationship between each of us and the universe — that’s our spirituality. Religion attempts to quantify and codify it: “Here’s how it’s done!” If you want to experience the promise the religion swears will be yours, first, you’re going to have to follow the rules. The religion’s rules. Want to be a good Catholic? Do these things we tell you to do — or we’ll adjudge you an apostate and deny you even exist. Dogma quickly overtakes the spirituality it’s supposed to service. The next thing you know, the dogma gets all the attention while the spiritual quest gets nada.

American journalism works the same way.

The Constitution mentions only one occupation that isn’t an employee of the US government: journalism. Journalists were imagined as the final check on power. The Peoples’ backstop. That’s the spiritual mandate journalism in America is supposed to follow. Occasionally, that dedication to the Truth produces transcendence like Woodward and Bernstein’s Watergate coverage or the 1619 Project. But, too often — way too often — American journalism surrenders its integrity in the name of “access”. That only happens during Republican admins by the way. The George W Bush White House got good at limiting access to “journalists” like the New York Times’ Judith Miller. Judith genuinely believed (still does) that she didn’t sell her soul to gain access to Dick Cheney. I’ve seen picture of Judith’s soul — sitting in solitary confinement. She sold it all right. Sold it all the way down the river.

Dogma naturally produces cynicism because it breaks the world down into them v us. Anyone not us — that’s a lot of people — is suspect. American politics are steeped in cynicism but not because “both sides do it”. Both sides are not cynical though Democrats should have been cynical about Republicans eons ago. That’s the Democrats’ recurring problem — like the news media, they keep giving the benefit of the doubt to a group of people not deserving it.

They do that because of the dogma that says “everyone’s opinion carries the same weight” or the one that says “the news media’s job is to remain eternally neutral”. Or the one that says “Republicans are better with money and the nation’s security”. Or “Republicans are the party of personal responsibility” or “The Party of Lincoln” or even just “honest actors”. Our news media has been telling us our story but through dogma’s lens. None of those dogmatic assumptions are even remotely true.

Donald Trump’s rise was entirely dogmatic. But then, everything the Republicans do is dogmatic because their end game demands it. You can’t get to permanent minority rule without rigidly adhering to a plan — and the state of permanent minority rule will be a whole rabbit hole of dogma. It became dogma that Trump’s hold on the GOP has everything to do with Trump’s base. It became dogma that a former Trump hater like Lindsey Graham “changed his mind about Trump more or less ‘just because’.” It became dogma that Trump was crafty — that’s how he avoided going to prison before this. That Trump was the “great businessman” and “negotiator” he said he was. That horse shit flavored dogma got invented by “The Apprentice”.

It became dogma that what Trump and the GOP were doing to America’s democracy was just their “opinion” being manifested as opposed to what it was and is: a criminal act being committed for a political purpose.

It became dogma that every time the Republicans did something for their political reason, the Democrats’ reaction was equally political. When Republicans suppressed Democratic voters, that was just Republicans “being political”. No. That’s them BEHAVING CRIMINALLY — denying other Americans their Constitutional right to vote.

It became dogma that we should stay in Afghanistan forever. That the lives we’d risk by staying there were just “the cost of doing business”. It became dogma that everything bad happening in and to Afghanistan more or less started the instant Joe Biden took the oath of office.

It remains dogma that Republicans are good actors — despite their relentless bad behavior. It remains dogma that “bi-partisanship” is a good thing and should be done at all costs. Just because it’s “bi-partisan”. It’s remains dogma therefore that making deals with the Devil are okie-dokie.

American journalism’s addiction to dogma over truth has brought us to this moment where we’re poised at the edge of a precipice. On one side is the very real promise of E Pluribus Unum — an America that lives up to both its potential and its true exceptionalism. On the other is the white people hell bent on destroying the greatest experiment ever in human self government because no one will vote for the America THEY want: the one back in 1850 where THEY had all the power.

Power creates dogma, too. It’s the hardest dogma to break. Imagine if our news media both understood and relished the job they committed themselves to do — BE the last check on power instead of the ones preaching power’s dogma.

Fact: The Taliban WANTED To Hand Over Bin Laden But We Refused To Let Them

History will not judge America kindly for its folly in Afghanistan. But, unlike right this second, Joe Biden will NOT bear much of the responsibility for what goes down. This terrible ending replete with appalling visuals of people falling from airplanes they clung to was inevitable from the first second we arrived in country as liberators. Right off the bat, that’s nonsense. It forgets one key fact — WHO exactly the Taliban ARE. Unlike American soldiers, Taliban fighters are all AFGHANIS. They’re Pashtuns — one of the tribes that make up the imaginary country we call “Afghanistan”. During the Soviet occupation, we courted the Taliban (they were called the “mujahedeen” then — same band, new name) we supplied them with money and weapons. The problems arose AFTER the Soviets departed — and the various tribes from the various disconnected parts of Afghanistan all fought each other for power. When the Taliban (“students” in Pashto ) took over, according to the BBC, “…most Afghans, weary of the mujahedeen’s excesses and infighting after the Soviets were driven out, generally welcomed the Taliban when they first appeared on the scene. The Pashtuns’ early popularity was largely due to their success in stamping out corruption, curbing lawlessness and making the roads and the areas under their control safe for commerce to flourish.”

But, that security came at a steep price. The Taliban believed in a very austere version of Islam which they enforced with dogmatic brutality that was especially hard on Afghanistan’s women. Their fate as the Taliban retake power in Afghanistan, horrifies us and justifiably so. But, with the house burning down around us, let’s not forget that saving the house was NEVER an option. It’s understandable to wish we had never set a departure date — as if that action was the trigger for the current chaos; if we’d never pulled the trigger, the chaos would never have happened. That is wishful thinking. We had already drawn down — per the plans and terms the Trump administration committed us to — to three thousand troops. The conceit was that the three hundred thousand man Afghani army would stand up as we continued to draw down.

That did not happen and was never going to happen because, frankly, the Afghanis have always known the Taliban would outlast us. Because the Taliban ARE AFGHANIS. They LIVE in the parts of Afghanistan where they’ve holed up. This has been their tribe’s home for hundreds of years if not longer. But, let’s dig into that a little. The Taliban think of Afghanistan as their home. They believe their home — all of it — should follow the same rules they follow.

Afghans, being devout Muslims believe firmly in certain things about one’s guests, how they must be treated when they reside in your home. For one thing, you cannot just betray them. The Taliban were not fans of terrorism. They said so. Repeatedly. They gave bin Laden cover when he first arrived because, like them, he followed a fundamentalist brand of Islam. But, when bin Laden’s actions caused mass death and destruction, the Taliban did not celebrate. They were appalled by what had happened. But, unlike America who felt certain they knew what the story was, the Taliban — to satisfy their own cultural need for fairness — wanted to be shown the same proof America had. George W. Bush refused to show them any proof. He demanded the Taliban turn over bin Laden.

The Taliban were not against doing that. All they wanted was proof — so that they could justify turning over bin Laden. It was a cultural thing that we refused to acknowledge and refused to understand. Our emotions got the better of us. So did our white person arrogance. This is all background. It’s important because it SHOULD BE the context in which we see the current catastrophe. America set this in motion. We absolutely could have secured bin Laden without an ounce of bloodshed. Now, that would have meant the Taliban never lost power in Afghanistan and Afghanistan would have spent the last 20 years under the same harsh sharia law the Taliban are about to reimpose. That’s terrible — no argument. But — understand — this is a glass house for us. We have zero business casting stones at others who treat women like chattel when that is exactly what happens in parts of Utah and Arizona where fundamentalist Mormons are the dominant tribe.

In those parts of America, FLDS Mormons hide out in remote scrub, having multiple wives who they impregnate like they, personally, were nation building. Anyone who thinks those women have any rights is clueless. Think those FLDS women ever have a shot at educations? Freedom of choice? Freedom PERIOD?

Puh-lease! Imagine now if some sympathetic other country chose to take up the plight of these religiously oppressed American women — up to and including invading Utah. Hmmmmm… I wonder how THAT would go down in the heartland… .

We screwed the pooch big time on this. But the pooch didn’t get screwed today. Today was when we first felt the pooch’s screwing — feelings that will endure, absolutely. But this debacle does not have Joe Biden’s name on it. It has George W. Bush’s name on it. And Dick Cheney’s. And the name of every chicken hawk who enabled these greedy scumbags. After all, it was George W. Bush — with Dick Cheney barking in his ear — who turned down the Taliban’s offer of bin Laden in exchange for the proof we had the buttressed our certainty that Osama bin Laden indeed masterminded September 11. Funny thing? We had it. We had plenty of proof.

But that proof would have caused problems with our “allies”, the Royal House of Saud. As the Beeb put it: “It is believed that the predominantly Pashtun movement first appeared in religious seminaries – mostly paid for by money from Saudi Arabia.”

Gosh… how much world wide pain and suffering — how much American pain and suffering — can be laid at the feet of the rulers of Saudi Arabia? Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi could be the whole world’s poster person.

Our actions in the Middle East are always colored by how the House of Saud will react. This needs to stop right here, right now.

True Fact: Life is way more complicated than any headline can contain. History is even more complicated. You can report the present with minimal sense of the history that got us here for only so long. Eventually, people will realize you’re full of shit and talking about a world that, if it ever existed, existed so long ago that it’s utterly irrelevant now. Therefore, what the hell are YOU talking about? Context is everything. I didn’t know until this past weekend that the Taliban weren’t the intransigent protectors of a terrorist that I’d been lead to believe. That information was out there — the articles I’ve sourced in this blog are all mainstream news sources who published this information as it happened.

As much as I’d love to hurl still more invective at our god-awful news media (they deserve it!), I can’t right this second because I find myself suddenly realizing we’ve worn the same shoes.

I always had access to this important information that — once I read it — directly impacted my understanding of Afghanistan. I just didn’t know this piece of information existed. But, once I did…

Our news media always has had access to important information about Donald Trump that, had they known it, probably would have directly impacted their understanding of Trump and what the past five years have really been about. The money behind conservative newspaper The Washington Free Beacon backed Mario Rubio in 2016 which is why they hired Fusion GPS to do oppo research on Marco’s behalf so as to undermine Donald Trump. While, in time, the cost of this ongoing research would be picked up by Democratic voters, when the Republican money was financing it, the research uncovered such a wealth of damning information about Trump (and how he used his bankrupt Atlantic City casinos to launder Russian mob money) that Fusion went and subcontracted the Russian part of the research to the Westerner with better sources inside Russia than maybe anyone: Christopher Steele, former head of MI6’s deeply respected Russia desk. That’s per Fusion co-founder Glenn Simpson’s Congressional testimony on August 22, 2017.

It takes a lot of moving parts to make a tragedy — and every tragedy is entirely personal to everyone it consumes.

Our news media are icing eaters in a world made of cake. They’re easily distracted. What’s worse, all those dreams of Pulitzers and Peabody’s have wrecked their ability to focus. They can only hear their own uninformed, clownish, perspective-free questions. Sadly, most of our news media really do cynically believe that “both sides do it”. That’s their lack of perspective speaking. And their love of access journalism.

I’ll grant the news media this: our times transcend any journalist’s ability to capture it in their reporting. Between rampant corruption, worldwide pandemics, right wing power grabs, American white supremacist terrorism, international organized crime, Donald Trump’s many acts of treason and climate change, there are a multitude of stories to cover, each with their own dots to connect. Ah, but what if some of those dots from those various stories connect? What if — contrary to our news media’s view of events — everything happens for a reason and never “just because”?

Dear News Media: You Cannot Compromise With Evil So PLEASE Stop Asking The Democrats To Do It

America’s news media is what happens when journalism trades in perspective for access. On the one hand,, it’s understandable that a journalist denied access to a news maker will be handicapped. On the other, if gaining access means the journalist will have to compromise their integrity — a la the New York Times’ Judith Miller did to maintain access with George W. Bush and Maggie Haberman did with Donald Trump — the perspective gained from such access is instantly dubious. At least it should be. Alas, our news media is utterly incapable of self-analysis. That’s what happens when healthy skepticism — what should be every reporter’s stock in trade — hardens into flat out cynicism, a core belief that “both sides do it” — that both sides are exactly the same and therefore require no further distinction. They both act exactly alike for the very same reasons.

In other words, from the perspective of American journalism, Republicans gerrymander and suppress Democratic voters for the very same reason Democrats GET gerrymandered and have their votes suppressed. The Republicans — acting out of purely political ambition (to force America into a state of permanent minority rule) — are exactly the same as the Democrats who are, in fact, the victims of a crime. Voter suppression of ANY stripe is an attempt to violate another American’s most essential right — the right to vote. It’s the very worst kind of thievery in a democracy. But, that’s not how American journalism sees it — no matter what they say in their reportage.

It’s not that American journalists don’t see what Republicans are doing — it’s pretty hard to miss. But, “both sides do it” means you never have to aggregate a story’s emerging details into its evolving narrative because narratives never evolve. America’s news media not only knew Trump lied to them every day, they kept track of it! They tabulated his lying to them AND YET, every time Trump said something, their first impulse was to assume it was true BECAUSE THE PRESIDENT SAID IT.

Oy.

Our news media should never have moved on from “Mexicans are rapists”. But they did. Granted, their shock at Trump’s repellant racism turned into their shock at his repellant misogyny when he was caught bragging about “pussy grabbing”. Neither of those two shocks however could stand up to “But, her emails!” That is what happened. That is what our news media did: they gave far, FAR more weight to “But her emails” than they did to “Mexicans are rapists” and “pussy grabbing” put together. Racism, can we agree, is EVIL. Same goes for misogyny and sexual assault and rape and anyone who does them. But, our news media made peace with that evil because a larger evil — “But her emails” threatened.

The Republican Party — our news media tells us every day — are restricting voting rights in every state they can because of The Big Lie. Democrats aren’t doing this, but Republicans are. The whole point of the Big Lie is to deny the majority their will — again — but, this time, with the intention of making minority rule a permanent fixture of American politics. Atop this sits the fact that we KNOW that the people who planned and carried out the insurrection on January 6 acted with the express approval and outright involvement of Republicans in Congress and numerous people on Team Trump — up to and including Donald Trump himself. This isn’t just an inconvenience, it’s a federal crime and it demands prosecution from the top of the treason food chain all the way down to the very bottom.

But, let’s go further. The insurrection wasn’t an isolated incident. Considering everything Russia had invested in Trump, getting him into the White House and keeping him there, it doesn’t pass the smell test that Russia had zero involvement in the insurrection meant to KEEP Trump in the White House, the exact place Russia wants him. The moment we uncover THOSE connections, we’ll have broken through to this story’s “bottmest” line: treason. Donald Trump and the Republican Party have all committed treason — and they know it — which is why they will do literally anything now either to put Trump back into power or undermine the Democrats attempts to reveal the GOP’s treachery to the nation.

The hard core Republicans will not care that their party and its leader are traitors. Let’s stop worrying about them — except for the fact that they’re dangerous. Instead, let’s start prosecuting every single one of these criminals. That is our only choice now just as it’s the Republican Party’s only choice to destroy our democracy: if they don’t, the rule of law will finally come for them. They WILL be prosecuted not just for election fraud and obstruction of justice but for treason itself or for conspiring to commit treason.

Hey, let’s not forget — the Republican hierarchy KNEW a month before they even nominated Trump in 2016 that (as current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy put it to a roomful of GOP leaders), “Putin pays [Rohrbacher and] Trump — swear to God!” Per then Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, the Republicans sided with corruption over patriotism. Did they go to the FBI with this unsettling information? No, they “kept it in the family”. That wasn’t just garden variety corruption they were keeping secret (it wasn’t just Spiro Agnew collecting literal bags of cash in the White House basement), it was a hostile foreign government’s direct OWNERSHIP of an American politician and his political party’s refusal to let America in on the fact that they knew.

How many times must the GOP negotiate with the Democrats in totally bad faith before journalists see a pattern? How many instances of corruption must they see before they accept that the person they’re reporting on IS CORRUPT? How many times will America’s news media allow itself to be lied to without demanding receipts in advance — or at all?

American news media still can’t fathom why the Republican Party can’t quit Trump. Every damned day, they scratch their heads and ask themselves: “why, even though Trump LOST THEM the White House, the House and the Senate, do Republicans like Lindsey Graham insist that, without Trump, they’re nothing? The reason American journalists settle on is “just because”. Republicans back Trump despite everything “just because” — “just because” Trump’s a Republican and the Democrats aren’t… “just because” Republicans always do what they do and Democrats always do what they do. As they contemplate the rage of possible explanations, of course they include “Cos Trump’s innocent but misunderstood”. That’s the one journalists wish were the case because it would be the easiest to report.

It’s not the American electorate clamoring for “bi-partisanship”, it’s the news media — a fact the news media itself reported on repeatedly. American voters — both Democratic and Republican — have expressed approval for most of what Team Biden is doing or proposing. Biden’s overall approval sits at 63% FFS! “Bi-partisanship” in Congress is not the same as bi-partisanship outside of Congress. Don’t forget, the structure of the Senate, like the Electoral College, is meant to over-represent conservative, rural states at the expense of populated, urban states. Why do you suppose there are TWO Dakotas? Because there are too many Dakotans for one Dakota? The only thing standing between Washington,, DC, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and statehood is who lives there (and who doesn’t).

Our news media insisting the Democrats “make a deal” with Republicans is like insisting that James Bond cut a deal with Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Does Bond really think Blofeld will keep to his part of the bargain? The second Blofeld blows up the deal — which he will — Bond will look like a moron. By then, the news media will have moved on; they will miss the point of the story entirely. Instead, they’ll whine some more about how Democrats and Republicans should “find” a way to be bi-partisan because that’s what everyone (meaning they themselves) want.

An example of compromising with evil and what it will get you is the Judenrat. These were councils of Jews — formed by Jews during Nazi occupation of Poland mostly — who chose to work WITH the Nazis. They told themselves and the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto that Jews choosing Jews for transportation to the camps was better than Germans choosing Jews. When you’re being loaded onto a cattle car like you were cattle? That distinction’s probably not gong to satisfy. As for the Jews ON the Judenrat? They all got sent to the camps, too. Sure, making a deal with Nazi Evil bought the guys making the deal a little more time — of living in hell and doing the Devil’s bidding.

Most of our news media still can’t or won’t connect the Donald Trump and Russia dots. Because they won’t do that, they can’t imagine that 1) Trump is a traitor, 2) the GOP has always known about it, and 3) the GOP has worked feverishly to obstruct justice right in the news media’s face. Their inability to see Donald Trump for the criminal he is could yet cost us the republic. Every time they follow him down another rabbit hole, they legitimize bullshit.

Whatever it takes to wean American journalism off the “both sides do it” teat, we gotta do it if only because it might finally pull the blinders from American journalism’s eyes. Both sides don’t “do it” and never, ever have.

One side is behaving like democracy-hating authoritarians and the other side isn’t. To compromise in any way with authoritarians is to give authoritarianism credence — as if it’s point of view and way of doing things deserved our consideration. The only thing that ever happens when you encourage criminals to act like criminals is criminality.

Or modern American Republicanism.

America Definitely Needs A “Day Of Reckoning”; After Yesterday, Our News Media Needs One Even Worse

America’s news media had a really bad day yesterday. That means America had a really bad day. Ironically, that really bad day happened in the midst of a series of much better days as America slowly begins to reacclimate to the idea that our government can actually govern if so inclined. It was the news media that bristled at the lack of formal news conferences — their star turn, in their minds. Though plenty of reporters have heaped plenty of questions on President Biden informally — and gotten good, long answers — apparently none of that counts; the White House Press Corps has its ways and those ways, it tells itself, must be respected. Over a thousand Americans died yesterday from Covid19 yet the White House Press Corps — hungry for a chance to ask the new POTUS the most important questions their readers want and need answered — asked instead about election 2024 and whether or not Biden plans to run. Wow. That wasn’t just a terrible, lame, dumb-assed question, it was a tell. We know — having lived through it — that the overwhelming majority of America’s press absolutely blew the story of their lives because they’ve convinced themselves that “both sides do it”. That lack of perspective continues to haunt their coverage of Donald Trump. Yesterday, that lack of perspective revealed itself again except this time, in a way that even people in the news media finally saw for themselves.

Why has our news media been so incapable of covering Donald Trump? Maybe a better question is “why, if SOME in the news media can see Donald Trump and the GOP for the corrupt, treasonous players they are, can’t ALL in the news media see it?” For instance — how can MSNBC’s excellent Nicolle Wallace, Ali Velshi, Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell or Joy-Ann Reid report the Trump story one way, filled with detail and hard evidence that paints a picture of massive corruption and treason, while, say, Chuck Todd acts like no such detail or hard evidence even exists? He seems to walk around in a news universe where Trump maybe isn’t corrupt or a traitor. Maybe that’s just the Democrats “playing politics”.

The fallacious notion that “Both sides do it” completely fogs the environment. Right off the bat, it jettisons perspective. It gleefully points at all instances of “it” as being equal. It doesn’t see or distinguish proportionality. All thieves are created equal; a woman stealing a loaf of bread so her children can eat is no different to this way of “thinking” than Bernie Madoff stealing billions from billionaires. They’re both thieves of a kind so therefore “both sides do it”.

For four years, the White House Press Corps regularly embarrassed themselves though they still don’t get that that’s what happened. Consumed by the fear of losing access, the press corps allowed themselves to be openly lied to. Yeah, yeah — a few dutifully tried to call out the lies — some even succeeded and they stood apart! — but the overwhelming majority of news people, given the chance to demand Trump tell the truth for once in his life balked at the opportunity and watched silently as the moment passed. No one wanted to be the kid pointing out how incredibly naked the bloated orange emperor was. Now, some of them can’t wait to be the kid asking the most pointed questions.

Democrats rarely play the access game. We simply don’t approach power the same way. We don’t see it as a possession. We see it as something the electorate has granted us the authority to use on their behalf and for their good. Yes, as the reporter added, Trump (Biden’s “predecessor”) registered to run again on the day he was sworn in, but why the hell would any reporter assume that Joe Biden would behave exactly like Donald Trump did? When Trump did it, it was remarkable — for all the wrong reasons. And yet, this reporter assumed that doing something that cynical and power mad was just “how presidents are now” since, to the reporter’s way of thinking, obviously it must be part of Biden’s thinking. Of course it’s not!

Even members of the news media were excoriating the White House Press Corps bad showing yesterday. Has any member of the WH Press corps stepped forward to say “yeah, we really screwed the pooch!” No, they haven’t. Don’t hold your breath either.

That day of reckoning will come regardless.

I’m not sure how exactly our news media came to embrace “both sides do it”. We need to make them rue the day. Journalism is the only non-governmental job mentioned in the Constitution. The Fifth estate is supposed to be our final check on power. But a press obsessed with access won’t be up to the task because they’re always too afraid to offend those in power which, ironically, is what they’re supposed to be doing).

The thing is, it’s not the entire American news media. There ARE some talented, smart, intuitive journalists who’ve managed to aggregate this story all along. I cannot, for the life of me, wrap my head around how MSNBC can have a deeply perceptive Nicolle Wallace on its payroll and, at the same time, a hack like Chuck Todd. Does MSNBC really expect its audience to forget everything it knows because it watched Nicolle’s excellent Deadline White House the second MTP Daily begins and they see Chuck Todd’s facial tics and bad haircut?

Hell, I bet if MSNBC’s & CNN’s lineups consisted of nothing but Nicolle and Nicolle clones, we’d have dealt with Trump and the Republican Party eons ago.

The News Media’s Failure Of Imagination Is Killing Our Democracy

We live in a news world where a big slice of the news audience is better informed about what’s happening than the news people reporting the news. Maybe that’s because, unlike the news media, those of us in the cheap seats — untouched by the whorish need for access — can see all the players for who and what they are rather than what they can do for our careers. You’d think a crisis like this would force every person calling themselves “a journalist” to set aside the old rules of engagement. You’d think a man relentlessly lying to their faces for four plus years would eventually cause some sort of dynamic response. Aside from scratching their heads harder and longer? Most journalists have learned exactly nothing from their experience with Donald Trump.

Eventually, we’ll understand why most of our news media couldn’t aggregate the Donald Trump story which would have had them reporting on Trump as a stone cold criminal even before he was sworn in — just like Fusion GPS sorta kinda did. Fusion, the commercial research/political intelligence firm founded by former Wall Street Journal reporters Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, was hired in 2016 by the publishers of Jeb Bush-backing Washington Free Beacon to do oppo research on Trump. As Glenn Simpson testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on August 27, 2017, before beginning their formal work, Fusion did its due diligence: they got their hands on every piece of publicly available material they could on Donald Trump. They got and read magazine pieces, newspaper articles, they listened to radio interviews, watched TV shows and movie appearances. They spent a fortune on Amazon, visited actual book stores and even went to the public library to find what they needed. What Fusion found there — in publicly available material that ANY reporter could find (had they the motivation) — convinced them so completely that Donald Trump was a money laundering criminal in league with the Russian mob that they went and hired an English company called Orbis because its owner used to work for the British MI6 and had the best contacts bar none inside Russia.

Fusion demonstrated imagination — and did something about it. So did Christ Steele. When HE looked inside Russia to answer Fusion’s questions, he was deeply troubled by the answers coming back. He was even more troubled when the American government failed to heed his red flag warning that Russian intelligence was coming at us, cyber war style and we were doing nothing to stop them.

Because HE had imagination — and could extrapolate not only what Russia was doing but what our non-response to it was doing consequently — Chris Steele did everything in his power to put his work product (raw intelligence!) into the right American hands that could process it correctly and react accordingly and do it now.

Failure of imagination has haunted the American press especially where the threat of right wing terrorism is concerned. How easily do American journalists prick up their ears every time a Republican shouts “socialism” compared to when a Republican behaves like an authoritarian shit? They’ll jump right into a discussion about single payer universal health care with “But, isn’t that socialism?” but never even think to question Republicans and the legality and morality of their actively engaging in voter suppression. That, too, is failure of imagination.

When our news media failed to remind its news audience every day of the 2020 campaign that, for the first time in American history, a president was running for re-election having been IMPEACHED for CHEATING in the very same election in which he was running, that was a failure of imagination. When they relentlessly wondered aloud why Trump so relentless sucked up to Vlad Putin — their inability to answer their own question was a failure of imagination. That the news media even now can say that what Trump is doing is treasonous — and yet still ask aloud “Will he run again in 2024” is proof that they are utterly incapable of imagining a functional and functioning Department of Justice.

You’d think the possibility of making one’s bones on the greatest story anyone will ever get to cover would inspire more journalists to journalistic greatness. But to see oneself winning a Peabody or a Pulitzer takes incredible imagination (if one really has a shot at one).

No wonder achieving that kind of journalistic greatness can only ever be a dream for them — requiring imagination. Some circles are just plain vicious.

We Need Moral Journalism NOW

Journalists are front line storytellers. While a novelist writes at some remove from whatever time they’re writing about — it takes time to think out then write a novel (never mind the time it takes to get it published) — a journalist works in the right-here, right-now. A novelist writing “morally” has time to line up all that morality — to structure their story so that the moral message gets highlighted just the way they want. That’s a luxury most journalists just don’t have.

Therefore if a journalist wants to write morally (we’ll get to why they’d want to bother momentarily), they need to have their moral way of thinking lined up in advance.

Here’s the trick: EVERY journalist should want to write “morally”. Going forward, if we don’t get turned into a Trump-branded authoritarian shithole, writing morally — meaning writing that’s framed from a moral perspective rather than a neutral amoral one — will be an employment prerequisite.

Somewhere, somehow American journalism got it in its head that journalists are obligated to be utterly neutral in their reporting. If by utterly neutral they mean “apolitical” then yes — by all means — American journalists should be “neutral”. But, if by “neutral” they mean “amoral” then absolutely not. “Apolitical” and “amoral” aren’t the same thing. That’s at the heart of American journalism’s confusion.

If a politician charged with upholding the rule of law violates the rule of law, it does not matter what that politician’s party affiliation is. Every other politician is obligated by the rule of law to report the offending pol’s offense. If they don’t, the rule of law starts to break down because we’re not enforcing it evenly or equally. Therefore — when those other politicians go to the media to describe what the criminal politician is doing, they’re NOT ACTING POLITICALLY.

They’re acting patriotically. They’re FOLLOWING THE RULE OF LAW.

Ah, but… how many times do our journalists frame that reaction to actual criminal behavior as merely “political”? How many times do our journalists ASSUME that the motive behind REPORTING A CRIME isn’t to report the crime but to gain political advantage. Right there — the truth gets distorted by the very people responsible for reporting it. They’ve equated reporting a crime to journalists & the proper authorities as a political act — and thus, “both sides do it”.

That’s really more “both sides get accused of it by a stupid news media who don’t ever seem to do their homework”.

Both sides do it journalism has no sense of perspective or proportionality. To them a crime is a crime is a crime. Bernie Madoff — stealing billions from billionaires — is no different from, say Jean Valjean (the hero of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables) whose whole adventure begins when he steals bread to feed the hungry. Yes, both Bernie Madoff and Jean Valjean are thieves. Both were chased down by the Law. Framed that way, “both sides do it’.

But, really?

Storytelling can NEVER be divorced from morality. The whole point of storytelling is cultural self-analysis. Storytellers, as entertaining as they can be, are also part psychoanalyst. The best peer deeply into the cultural psyche and come away with remarkable observations about who we are and why we do what we do. That’s really why we love storytelling. We love seeing ourselves (however abstract) in the world the storyteller weaves. But, what happens when a culture’s storytellers lie to it? What happens when a culture’s storytellers — the fawning German right wing news media that supported Hitler, say — lies to the public about the politician they support? Lies become the truth.

That is, lies get taken for the Truth.

Nothing good can ever come from that dynamic. Lies are lies, Truth is Truth. There is no middle ground.

To report lies as if they were the truth is absolutely immoral. To report lies as if they “could be” the truth tap dances along the precipice. The only way to report lies as if they could be true is by using full transparency. The news audience needs every last bit of real perspective they can get — especially because the likelihood is that the lies aren’t true and never were.

It’s understood: on the one hand, it’s hard to tell your story when none of the interview subjects you need refuse to speak to you. But on the other — the cost of access to those interviews cannot be your soul or integrity. You’re going to need both of those things in order to conduct the interview. New York Times reporter Judith Miller became notorious for selling out her soul to (then) veep Dick Cheney. She lied in print to protect her source Scooter Libby — Cheney’s chief of staff. That kinda sucks as journalism.

It’s damned immoral, too.

I have a funny feeling America is about to enter a Great Moral Reckoning. Once it begins, it will gather momentum — and the momentum will gather momentum as we learn more and more just how corrupt Donald Trump was. The real momentum will gather when We The People realize just how corrupt and treacherous the entire Republican Party has been.

A reporter telling a story about white supremacists should absolutely do everything in their power to reveal the human being beneath their story. But that doesn’t include touting their vile, racist rhetoric as justifiable in some way just because you’re telling the story “neutrally”.

If you’re telling Evil’s story, you need to point out that it’s Evil. Telling a story about how “Evil is misunderstood” isn’t journalism, it’s you, the journalist, being stupid.

Worse — it’s the journalist being amoral which, in this world, is the exact same as being immoral.

There’s no middle ground in a war between Good and Evil. Similarly, there’s no middle ground in a war between Truth and lies. Both Good and Evil, Truth and lies have a “point of view”. They don’t all have “a side”. That is, they’re point of view cannot be justified.

Reporting that point of view as if it “could” be justified — say, by asking “Yeah, but what if fascism has a few merits?” — is giving credence to it. See, it says, fascism could have merits.

I won’t dignify such immorality with a response.