Our news media tirelessly report every vile utterance that tumbles from Donald Trump’s bloated orange lie hole. On the bright side, at least a few of them have begun to find the courage to stand up to Trump — to refuse to accept his bullshit — refusing to accept the lies. But, unfortunately, most of the press still fears losing access and so refuse to do anything that might anger Trump or his snowflake staff.
When they cut back to the “studio” (whatever & wherever that is these days), the host plus talking heads will ask why Trump behaves this way. They’ll ask why most Republicans continue to follow Trump blindly. They’ll wonder how anyone could run on the things Trump and the Republicans are doing. Some journalists will scratch their heads so hard, they’ll create permanent divots in their scalps.
They’ll all ask “why” as if it was a mystery deeper than the Mona Lisa’s smile.
But, problem is, they’re not actually asking “why”. They’re using the word as a kind of shrug. What they’re really saying is “I guess they ‘do it’ just because they do”.
How “it is what it is” of them. Except, no. No one does anything “just because”. People doing bizarre things might not be able to articulate why they’re doing it but something inside them is causing them to do it. There’s a motive. It may not be satisfying to outsiders or even logical. But there’s a motive.
Donald Trump lies because he’s a sociopath. He behaves like a spoiled child because that’s what he is (ask his niece Mary Trump; better yet, read her very good book). He kowtows to Vladimir Putin because he’s beholden to him — because Putin knows things about Trump that are absolutely, positively criminal. But then, so do we. We’re staring at them all.
Why does Donald Trump do what he does? Basically, because he’s a criminal. There’s a whole mountain range of evidence. Shame the news media refuse to either look at it or, having looked at it, refuse to accept what that evidence is telling them.
Maybe the better question is why does our news media suck at its job?
Too much of the American news media still has it in their heads that “both sides do it”. Whatever rotten things Republicans do, plenty of reporters, before they get to the rotten things, will remind their audience that it’s not just Republicans who do this rotten thing, “both sides do it”. Got proof?
Do both sides work tirelessly to suppress the other sides voters? No, actually, only one side does that.
Did both sides visit Russia on July 4, 2018 as 8 Republicans did, inexplicably spending America’s Independence Day not with their families but with Russians — for no apparent reason that no one’s ever explained?
Do both sides put children in cages?
Do both sides stand with racists and bigots and misogynists?
Do both sides politicize the wearing of masks?
Do both sides stand by Donald Trump regardless of the clear and evident danger he presents?
Do both sides openly ignore the rule of law & the Constitution? Do both sides happily pour our tax dollars into the pockets of their rich friends while regular Americans spend hours in line at food banks?
Take the current fracas over unemployment benefits to all the Americans who’ve been crushed economically by the pandemic and by our government’s thieving, contradictory, inept & flat out corrupt response to it. Democrats want to maintain the $600/week most Americans receiving that money are now relying on to pay their bills. Republicans wanted to knock it down to $200/week.
Trump, in his executive “whatever’s” signed last night at his golf club in Bedminster, NJ to a room of cheering, maskless golf buddies (well, maskless before the press complained), wanted to give everyone $400. Looks like a compromise, right?
It’s not. A person who needs $600 to pay their bills needs $600. Every bill not paid remains unpaid — and the pressure to pay it mounts.
The Republicans scream that paying people more in unemployment than their unemployment pays disincentivizes them to go back to work. That’s the slave master screaming about his slaves not wanting to be slaves. The fact that $600 means so much to so many people isn’t about people being lazy, it’s about people being horribly underpaid. What Republicans are really afraid of — and they should be — is the lab experiment America is now conducting about economics and reality.
Americans are getting a first hand look at how Universal Basic Income (UBI) works. Unlike a bank, when sustenance income lands in the pockets of a regular person, they spend it. They buy groceries or pay their electric bill. They pay for their kids’ braces or ballet classes. They pay to fix the car or repair the leaking roof. The thing regular people don’t do with UBI? They don’t bank it like banks do.
They don’t hoard it. They use the money and that, in turn, cash flows the economy from the bottom up. Because other regular people are getting paid — their jobs are supported by all that UBI — they pay their taxes and use their money to pay other people for goods and services. UBI is dynamic. UBI — paid at the federal level because only the federal government can do this — is how America will finally get the coronavirus pandemic under control. We need to incentivize people to stay home without fearing they’ll end up homeless.
In a non-pandemic environment, UBI allows people to wait for employment that suits them, suits their skill sets, suits their needs. It makes for happier people, more productive people. Wealthier people. Everywhere they’ve experimented with UBI or systems like it, it has succeeded.
Why would one oppose such a thing? Usually, it’s greed. Greed plus ignorance — especially after one gets to eyewitness all UBI’s obvious benefits. As we now know — also from experience — greed + ignorance = evil. Greed + ignorance also equals authoritarianism. That means authoritarianism = evil. No one with half a brain disputes that the Republican Party has gone full authoritarian.
So — when the yakking heads at CNN & MSNBC get Democrats on their air to interview them about things like the economic support packages the Democrats are pushing vs the packages the Republicans are pushing, those “journalists” go right to the politics of it. They “both sides do it” an argument about regular Americans putting food on their tables. They equate Democrats wanting to maintain the $600/week Americans need with the $200/week the Republicans wanted in the deal as if these were two sides to two legitimate arguments.
Except they’re not. The $600 is a legitimate attempt to deal with real people having real problems.
The $200 (and even the $400) aren’t trying to address anything. They’re just numbers being thrown down on the table as part of a negotiation — AWAY FROM what struggling Americans need and toward what would cause them greater hardship. Never mind the fact that the money in question? IT BELONGS TO THOSE AMERICANS. It does not belong to the politicians trying to withhold it.
What kind of compromise do these reporters have in mind? If THEY needed that money to pay THEIR families, would they feel so “you should compromise because compromise is good”? Would they be cool with looking their children in the eyes to explain that they’re going hungry tonight because “both sides do it”? Would THEY be down with compromising — especially when they know they’re not compromising with a legitimate argument but with a specious, corrupt, cynical attempt to stiff them?
Of course they wouldn’t.
So, why do they think We The People should compromise with evil?
Once we scrub our body politic clean of Republicans and Republicanism, we’ll need to turn our focus on the news media. They have failed us spectacularly. Worse, most of them still don’t see it or acknowledge it. They’re like addicts who still refuse to acknowledge their addiction.
No worries. We’ll throw an intervention.
When they try to make us compromise? We’ll say no.
Some false narratives are okay — Santa Claus, for instance.
In point of fact, no jolly, old white man lives at the North Pole where he “employs” (can we please see a labor contract?) elves who make toys for every child on earth — to be delivered over roughly a 12 – 24 hour period via a low tech sleigh pulled by dubious-tech flying reindeer.
It’s a false narrative to tell kids that a human such as Santa exists therefore they better behave themselves. Every time we tell a kid this tripe, we’re telling them we want an untruth to be the basis for their behavior. It won’t be the last time we pepper spray people with untruth and insist they believe it.
Most kids figure it out eventually. There’s no Santa Claus. Yeah, yeah — “culture” and “harmless” and “tradition” but a lie is a lie is a lie. We are still justifying a lie when we could just as easily have told them the truth.
Santa is a false narrative. So is “Donald Trump is a legitimate president therefore we should treat him as such”.
Donald Trump has never been legitimate. He’s been telling us that from the get-go. It might behoove us to listen to him. But, Donald Trump pushing a false narrative — his legitimacy — is one thing. The news media doing it — that’s a whole other thing entirely. That, probably, continues to be the biggest impediment to America solving its problems quickly (or at least more quickly): in the face of mounting evidence — that they themselves were reporting — the news media continues to report on Trump as if he was “normal” — as if his absurd, abnormal-to-its-core presidency was “normal”.
The evidence that our press lives inside a false narrative shows itself every time a reporter wonders aloud if Trump has finally “pivoted” or “changed tone” when all he did actually was read off a teleprompter or NOT act like an ape for two seconds. He didn’t call Mexicans rapists again or tell us how easy it is to score with chicks when you’re famous. Our press lives inside a false narrative that racists & rapists suddenly reform — as if they experienced a religious conversion.
Our press apparently believes in religious conversions. You know, cos “magic!”
I’d love to know who first belched out “both sides do it” and then made that pervasive idiocy the curriculum across America’s J schools. It’s lazy — intellectually, morally, reportorially. It starts by removing itself from the moral equation. “We’re not there to judge”, this brand of journalism tells itself. “We’re just there to report ‘the facts’ as we see them.” But, if you don’t judge facts — that is, if you give all information equal weight — true or untrue — then the the first thing that dies is perspective.
Everything’s a flat, treeless plain. No hills. No valleys.
When a terrible journalist like NBC News’ Kelly O’Donnell repeats back the vile, lying puke that Trump or his press office spews — as if it “could” be true (and therefore they’re obligated to report it) — they’re giving it credence. It could be true. No, it can’t. And no amount of “coulding” will change that. Kelly O’Donnell reports virtually context free. I’m sure she’s a lovely person — warm and amiable (it’s how I perceive her anyway) — but an open mic & a camera on sticks could do what she’s doing and for a lot less money.
Bad journalists like Kelly foster the notion that Donald Trump’s presidency falls within the “perfectly normal” range. As Kelly is a trusted, professional storyteller (that’s what journalists are), the public then takes Kelly’s presentation as valid. Trump’s utter bullshit — delivered to Kelly with the utmost cynicism — has now been fed to the American news watching public as if it was “good for them”.
Kelly made bullshit wholesome.
It starts there. Then grows. No — it metastasizes because that’s what this is — a cancer. False narratives are a cancer of the consciousness. They get us believing things that are verifiably untrue (like “the coronavirus will just disappear!” — which will ultimately kill us just like a cancer.
Donald Trump turned his whole coronavirus response into a false narrative — into a whole string of them actually. The virus will disappear. It only kills old people. Masks make me look weak. He turned Black Lives Matter into a false narrative that this is about civil unrest. He turned his entire presidency into a false narrative that he isn’t owned outright by Russia. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to connect those dots.
You can’t ease yourself off of false narratives. You have to go cold turkey. Otherwise the false narrative will lure you back — using some false narrative.
We’re going to have to come to terms with the fact that Donald Trump’s entire presidency has been a giant false narrative. The rule of law has never stopped functioning; we simply stopped enforcing it. But, when we do go back to enforcing it, we’ll be obligated to deal with this patch right here — when we stopped enforcing it.
The rule of law is very clear: if you cheat to become the president, then you are not (and never have been) president. One plus one can never equal three. If Trump’s very legitimacy is a false narrative then everything inside the false narrative is — say it with me — “FALSE!” An illegitimate president never had the legitimate authority to anything presidential — especially nominate judges (with lifetime appointments). When you consider that getting to appoint those judges (despite Trump’s known illegitimacy) was the point of the exercise — none of this comports with the rule of law. The false narrative would be that it has something to do with Justice. It does not.
A lot of us felt the false narrative kick in the night Trump “won” the 2016 election. We were incredulous, terrified, gob-smacked. But we were also reacting in real time — and with incredible accuracy — to something very real: a strong sense that the man who’d just become president did not win.
We were right. That’s the narrative we should be starting from — that our news media should be starting from.
Donald Trump’s legitimacy is the biggest false narrative going.
“Both Sides Do It” journalism (an oxymoron really) wants to insist that truth & lies have the same weight; it’s not for them to tell their readers which to believe — lies or truth.
That’s not journalism, it’s malpractice justifying its intellectual laziness and lack of moral conviction.
A thief and his victim both have “points of view” on their interaction. But — if the thief gets caught and both thief & victim tell their stories, the thief lying about how he ended up with his victim’s possessions should not get the same respect as the victim’s version — especially if the thief’s lies are apparent. The thief stole for whatever his reasons were — greed probably. There aren’t many Jean Valjean’s stealing bread out there because of hunger.
Yes, yes — we can’t rush to judgment. We need to know the whole story first. But when we say “the whole story”, we don’t mean every last detail.
There may be two points of view in everything Donald Trump says — his and everyone else’s — but there aren’t two “sides”. Having a “side” assumes you have a legitimate argument and having a legitimate argument assumes you’re sincere. Texas Lt Governor Dan Patrick, for instance, is not sincere and does not have a legitimate argument when he says wearing face masks during a pandemic that is eating through his state is unnecessary because the virus isn’t really a problem. People eschewing science and insisting herd immunity will eventually, some day shut down the coronavirus aren’t even espousing a legitimate, fact-based point of view. It doesn’t represent a “side” in any argument.
The man who molested me twice when I was fourteen had a point of view. What he wanted to do to me as I walked in the door wan’t his “side” of our relationship. It was a crime he intended to commit upon me.
Our press — in reporting this story — would drop into its “Well, we have to hear both sides first” stance. Fair enough. But then, look at who you’re talking to — a middle aged man and a 14 year old boy. The only defense the man has is “the boy is lying”.
One side aches to tell the truth. The other aches to cover it up. Two points of view.
Let’s start with basic math. We can all agree that one plus one equals two, right? We can all agree that the moon revolves around the earth and the earth revolves around the sun. Keep in mind — we can’t actually “see” the moon revolve around the earth — or the earth revolve around the sun. We have to extrapolate these things based on the available evidence.
We’re connecting dots in order to “see” the bigger picture and draw reasonable conclusions. We’re using a bunch of smaller facts to understand a larger fact.
Donald Trump is a criminal. Funny thing? We don’t have to connect any dots to see it. He happily commits plenty of his crimes in plain view. Hell, reliable, informed people keep telling us that Trump’s a criminal — likely a traitor, too. Plenty of dots that a scientist would connect.
Yet, our journalists do not.
In storytelling, if you’re doing it right, each scene adds new information to what the audience knows. Scenes don’t have to add a ton of info to justify being in a story, but they have to at least add a nuance or shading to a character or how the story might break. The point is, the scene that follows? It can’t go back to the story as it was BEFORE the previous scene. The audience knows too much now.
When fictional storytellers do that — keep going back to story points the audience already knows? They lose their audience. Why, unless it’s Harold Pinter’s “Betrayal” which deliberately and brilliantly tells its story backwards, would a storyteller do that? Most wouldn’t. It’s horrible storytelling.
So why do our journalists — storytellers albeit of true stories — do it?
Our accumulated picture of Donald Trump — from “Mexicans are rapists” & “pussy-grabbing” all the way through to Trump’s continuing embrace of Confederate flags tells one completely consistent story. Even outside of his presidency, Trump is a study in multi-generational racism. Fred Trump, don’t forget, was a card-carrying member of the KKK. Father and son were nailed for refusing to rent to black people. Everyone with ears on the set of “The Apprentice” has a story of “Donald Trump: Big League Racist”.
If we were telling any other story, the audience would understand (because the storytellers made it explicit) that the subject — in addition to all his other hard, fast biographical data — IS A RACIST. Each story would begin along the lines of “Oh, and here’s what that racist Donald Trump just said on the subject of race…”.
The news audience would begin their understanding of the story from a “Oh, what did the racist-in-chief say now about race?” platform.
Instead, our news media begins their reporting every day as if Trump was a “normal” POTUS saying normal POTUS things. Except he’s saying abnormal things for a POTUS to say so therefore THAT must be the “new normal”. Um, no. There is no “new normal”. That’s the press normalizing what should never be normalized. It’s the storyteller doggedly dragging the story backward, while it kicks and screams all the way.
We’ve seen and heard (the press has reported) ample evidence that Trump is a security risk. That he says things to the Russians in particular that — let’s not tiptoe — are flat out treasonous. Oh, sorry — there I go again, connecting the dots sitting there that clearly connect. Instead, our news media continues to report Trump as a man with an “odd fixation” with Russia or a “different kind of relationship” with Putin.
A scientist looking at the evidence would probably say “Ya know, though a jury’s never said it — they’ve never been asked — the evidence all says clearly, without viable contradiction, that Donald Trump is a rapist/racist/traitor.
In a civil trial, the obligation is 51% — the preponderance of the evidence. I once sat on a jury that decided an ageism case. We had to decide if the preponderance of the evidence said LA’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority fired an older employee because he was older. There was no direct evidence — someone saying “Let’s fire the old guy cos he’s old”. We had to deduct it to reach our verdict. Anyone, we felt, would have reached the same conclusion looking at the same evidence.
A journalist, for instance. Nothing we saw at trial was unavailable to the press pre-trial (it wasn’t that big a case; what I mean is — had the victim gone to the media first, they would have had access to most of the same information). The preponderance of the evidence spoke loudly.
“Both Sides Do It” journalism has put the ludicrous notion in our news media’s head that it must be strictly neutral. Yes, one must report the news from as even-handed a point of view as one can — even-handed in that it represents the facts up to that moment. It’s no good being “even-handed” based on old information. If we’re reporting on a child molester, it would be malpractice to ignore that fact to report on what a fabulous Halloween display he put on.
Both Side Do It journalism ignores facts in favor of the cynical insistence that everyone behaves with the same motives. Nothing could be further from the truth.
If we were all the same, we’d all be Republicans or Democrats. There’s not much common ground between real conservatives and real progressives. They don’t “do” things the same because they don’t think the same. Socialists who believe in the greater good and that the group’s freedoms always supersede the individual’s do not act the same way as “rugged individual” conservatives who think “you’re not the boss of me” is what freedom’s all about.
And they don’t do things for the same reason.
But, every time an American journalist asks “Are they just being political?” they’re ignoring facts. Odds are the question’s NOT being asked about Mitch McConnell blocking every bit of legislation cos he’s the Grim Reaper but it IS being asked about every Democrat calling him out for it.
The most galling problem with “Both Sides Do It” brand journalism is that it takes itself out of the “weighing things” business. Like whether something is “true” or not.
“Both Sides Do It” insists it’s entirely “just-the-facts-ma’am” neutral. That sounds ideal, doesn’t it? No editorializing, just straight reporting. Too bad it’s living a lie — and patting itself on the back for living it.
To just report “the facts” without editorializing is to pretend there’s a difference between “the facts” and the truths those facts are telling. If it’s a fact that someone is a card-carrying Nazi, their words and deeds are the words and deeds of a fascist. To be “neutral” toward fascism is to shake hands with something worse than a devil. One is obligated to editorialize. Just how it is.
The idea of a moral vacuum is horse shit. Context is everything. No one gets a free pass.
If the law of the land suddenly became (as it once did in Germany) “Jews are no longer citizens cos Jewish”, the neutral approach begins its reporting from “This is now the Law Of The Land”. It doesn’t concern itself with how we got here — or whether it’s fair. It regards Jews protesting their situation as troublemakers who don’t like the law and who therefore deserve whatever harsh treatment they get.
This is exactly how African Americans have been forced to live since White People began importing them by force to America in order to steal their labor. A southern slave owner could point to his slaves and say “Those humans are my lawful possessions”. There were plenty of journalists who hid behind slavery’s legality instead of refusing to give in to its inherent immorality — and call it out along with anyone who supported it. Could one really tolerate journalism today that was neutral toward slavery or such overt anti-Semitism?
“Both Sides Do It” brand journalism was guilty of both prolonging the debate in this country over climate change and allowing it to exist in the first place. Because it insists that both sides of a debate have equal merit (and therefore equal weight), it both undervalues the truth (and peoples’ ability to see it as the truth) and over-values bullshit (by giving it credence and gravity it does not deserve). This is exacerbated by the visual news media’s lack of understanding of how their own medium even works.
Before science denial lost all credibility (and thus became unsafe to book on news panels), it would sit — on-set — in a 50-50 shot with a climate scientist who came to the discussion armed to the teeth with data. But, all that data became irrelevant when the “NEWS SHOW” sat climate scientist and climate denier in a shot that said “both sides are equal — you, the viewer, decide who’s more truthful”.
Regardless of what linguistic language any human speaks, we all speak the same visual language. Cinema has a language both subtle and direct that it uses to communicate a story, its details and every last detail of every character in it. If you compare early screen acting to modern screen acting, you can see how screen language progressed. Back in the day, everyone still thought of cinema as a filmed stage play. All they saw was the recording device and the raw recording medium.
But the people making early film began to understand how dynamic the moving image was compared to still images — also very powerful. Just not as dynamic. As directors moved the camera in (forgetting about the proscenium arch), actors began to realize they no longer needed to shout to be heard in the very back row (this being long before actors even thought of wearing microphone hooked to speaker systems). A close up meant intimacy. It meant acting more intimately.
Since DW Griffith began inventing the language of cinema (which became the language of video), the audience has become savvy. Smartphones made anyone and everyone a filmmaker on the fly. A lot of us, frankly, enjoy speaking the language of film as much as we enjoy watching it. But — here’s the trick — the same things that make the language of cinema so powerful when we use it ourselves also make it powerful when used against us.
It’s bad enough when bad actors like Russia deliberately use the visual language to hurt us and our democracy. It’s worse when supposedly good actors — our news media — keep making the same inadvertent mistakes with visual language that hurt us just as much.
There may be two “sides” to every story — why one person did what they did versus why the other person did what they did — but the two sides don’t necessarily have equal weight or validity. I think of the man who sexually assaulted me twice when I was 14.
YD didn’t assault me because he had nothing else to do. He assaulted me because he wanted to — and because that perverse, secret, big-dog-forcing-it-on-littler-dog dynamic was what had happened to him when he was a kid. Yes, there was a story. It explained YD. It did not forgive him however.
The fact that YD had something to forgive — that makes our stories unequal. In a straight he-said, she-said world, this would be a 50-50: me vs YD.
As the lights come up, a member of MSNBC’s audience sits down to watch some news. Almost immediately, the audience member is incensed. And… fade in —
MSNBC: Donald Trump said ‘this’ today.
Audience: But ‘this’ is a lie and you know it is. Nicolle Wallace spent a whole half hour reporting on it extensively.
MSNBC: But, what if what Trump said is true?
Audience: How can it be true? Rachel Maddow presented hard evidence on your air that it can’t possibly be true. Doesn’t anyone at your news network ever watch Rachel?
MSNBC: Republicans are treating the coronavirus pandemic politically – but so are Democrats!
Audience: What are you talking about? Democrats aren’t withholding aid from blue states because the governors refuse to lick Trump’s nutsack. Democrats aren’t refusing to stay at home, socially distance or even wear masks.
MSNBC: Both sides do it.
Audience: Do WHAT? Consort with hostile foreign powers to win elections? Do both sides do that? Do both sides actively work to suppress the other sides voters? Do both sides gerrymander states so perversely (in Wisconsin, for instance), that though Democrats won 53 percent of the vote, they got only 36 percent of the seats?
MSNBC: You’re just being political!
Audience: No, no, I’m not. I’m simply reporting facts – like you’re supposed to do! When Republicans violate the Constitution or the Rule Of Law, they’re doing it for political reasons, right?
MSNBC: Ummmmmm… yeah…
Audience: But, when Democrats respond to what Republicans are doing, that’s them reacting to violations of law – they’re pointing out a fact: Republicans are actively violating the law. They should do that regardless of political party. You understand, right – when Democrats do that—
MSNBC: They’re playing politics.
Audience: But- didn’t we just- does anyone at your network ever watch Rachel Maddow or Nicolle Wallace. Ali Velshi even – he’s good! And Lawrence! Chris Hayes used to be good – but he sucked down the Tara Reade koolaid like a champ. And don’t get us started on Chuck Todd!
MSNBC: Chuck is a respected—
Audience: Oh shut up. Every time Chuck opens MTP, Tim Russert begins spinning so fast in his grave that if they hooked him to the power grid, he could supply a small city with electricity.
MSNBC: It’s not up to us to voice our opinions. We just report facts.
Audience: Do you report all the facts?
MSNBC: All of them? Well– we try–
Audience: Does, say, Kris Jenner report everything learned during Joy Reid’s show? We’ve heard interviews Kris has done — immediately following Joy’s show — where Kris acts as if everything learned during Joy’s show never existed. That’s a neat trick. Wouldn’t it make more sense if the network kept track of the story it’s telling — and the characters — and how they evolve every day — and, you know, the way stories are supposed to work — the storyteller keeps updating the story with new information. That way, all your lesser on-air talent could benefit from (and tell the same story as) your topline talent. Imagine that — consistency!
MSNBC: If you hate us so much, go watch CNN.
Audience: We do when necessary. They’re no better. But we hold out hope for you. We see great hires like Nicolle and Joy and Rachel and Lawrence and we get hopeful. You have it in you to deliver great TV journalism. You do it almost every day already — we just want you to do it more. Look — why give credence to people whose announced intent is to dismantle everything? Who call YOU “fake news”? Are you “fake news”?
MSNBC: No – of course not—
Audience: Are you the “enemy of the people”?
MSNBC: Actually, we are “the people”. That’s all we are – people trying to do our jobs and get the truth out. But it’s hard because—
Audience: We know. We get it. Never mind the coronavirus pandemic – the Trump-Russia story is massively huge and virtually impossible for anyone to fully grasp because there are so many moving parts. It takes a team to connect all the dots. But, it’s incumbent on you to do the connecting.
MSNBC: We’re trying—
Audience: Try harder. Better yet – sit down and watch Nicolle Wallace. Watch Rachel Maddow. Watch Ali Velshi. If they can do it, so can everyone else on your air.
MSNBC: Hmmmmmm, ya suppose?
Audience: Well, not everyone, of course—
MSNBC: Chuck’s a non-starter—
Audience: Careful – did you not realize your mic was still on?
At the core of every story is its “WHY?” Why did this thing happen? The story itself may be a detailed recounting of all the “WHAT?” that happened, but without the “WHY?” the “WHAT?” and the “WHO?” and the “HOW?” lacks context. Nobody does anything for no reason or “just because”.
Donald Trump, for instance, doesn’t do things differently (despite what our news media thinks) “because he’s different”. He’s not “different”, he’s corrupt. Extremely corrupt. THAT’S what’s different about Donald Trump — that he’s so staggeringly corrupt. THAT’S the appropriate framing for any story about him. If you don’t start any story about Trump from a square one that includes all that core fact? You’re telling a story about some other Donald Trump.
We still have to ask “WHY?” Why is Donald Trump so corrupt? Why does Trump kowtow to Vladimir Putin? It’s not because he values “closer ties with Russia”. Even if it were true, we still have to ask WHY he wants those closer ties. “Just because I do” is not an answer.
Alas, it is to our news media.
There are great journalists doing great work out there. But their great work is undone daily by the laziness and lack of perspective of “Both Sides Do It” acolytes. These clueless toads with their simple-minded false narratives resist the basic storytelling concept of adding information. If we know more about Trump today than we did yesterday, our storytelling or reporting about Trump today should reflect what we know TODAY, not what we knew yesterday. That’s insane!
But that is literally what the bulk of our news media does. They keep returning to a kind of “Square One” where Trump is just “different” as he ramps up a presidential campaign filled with outrageous, demonstrable lies & open solicitations of assistance from any and all hostile foreign governments.
The press should be digging in their heels. They should be shouting back “Wait, whaaaat?” every time Trump spews lies at them. Kinda like this —
As CBS News WH correspondant Weijia Jiang did the other day — with her colleague CNN’s Kaitlin Collins backing her up, refusing to ask her question until Trump had answered Jiiang’s question first — “no” is the only appropriate response. When two journalists actually stood up to Trump’s bullshit & bullying? He ran. Literally turned tail and ran away.
It’s a simple fact: American journalism has, by and large, failed America. The press is the only job mentioned in the constitution. It’s obligated there to be the final check on power. Too bad they abdicated that responsibility eons ago.
I’d love to know at which J-School this virus first started. “Both sides do it” is the basis for every false equivalence that brought us to this catastrophe. It replaces healthy skepticism with outright cynicism — a very conservative thing to do. The only outcome is a bad outcome (it says) — so assume the worst of everyone regardless of the truth.
“Both sides do it” says that Bernie Madoff is a thief. And, so is Jean Valjean (the hero in Les Miserables). Madoff stole billions because he’s greedy. Valjean stole bread to feed the hungry. But — under “Both Sides Do It”, both men are thieves. So — both sides do it. The difference in scale and context means nothing. All information has equal weight — regardless of whether it’s true or false.
That’s the framing our press insists on. Fortunately, they’ve stopped giving air time to climate deniers (though they put Trump on their air, so I take that back). But, when they put climate deniers on their air regularly, they always sat the denier next to a climate scientist in a 50-50 shot. In the visual language, that means those two points of view are equal.
It’s true. We interpret visual images in very distinct ways. If you present two points of view in a way that says they’re equal regardless of whether they are or not, your framing has already undermined the truth.
Same token — if you present anything Donald Trump says without the context that he’s probably lying, then YOU are lying to your audience. You’re implying via your silence on the matter that, of course, he’s telling the truth. When he says things that (you know) are outright lies and you DON’T correct them immediately? They BECOME the truth. How can they not? No one contradicted their UNtruthfulness.
Each time a “Both Sides Do It” journalist gives the benefit of the doubt to someone or something undeserving (MSNBC’s Stephanie Rhule is especially guilty of this), they give credence to something that had none. “Yeah, but what if total bullshit were true…?” is not “journalism”. It’s indulging liars, fabulists and frauds.
“Both Sides Do It” journalists get suckered by job titles. It’s as if the moment Trump became POTUS, he became “infallible” to some of the press. NBC’s awful Kelly O’Donnell comes to mind. She’ll quote anything Trump says without an ounce of context. The president said it, Kelly insists. She’s just there to report what he says.
I’m curious… if Trump (for shits n giggles one day) said “And I know for a fact that Kelly O’Donnell kills puppies and eats them for breakfast every day”, would Kelly O repeat those words without comment — words that SHE KNOWS are not true? Would she suddenly decide then to be a little less “neutral”?
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what Kelly O would do. She’s that terrible at being a journalist (hell, an open mic on a stand could do what she does).
When Mitch McConnell refused to give Merrick Garland so much as a hearing — THAT was a political act. Any Democrat reacting to Mitch’s abuse of his power is NOT acting politically. They’re pointing to an inappropriate political act.
Similarly — when Donald Trump violates the Constitution (say, by openly violating its emoluments clause every single day), it’s not a political act to point out that fact. It’s somewhere between law enforcement and patriotism. Similarly — when the Democrats called out the Republicans for working with the Russians to steal election 2016, that was not a political response.
It was a CRIME VICTIM trying to report that a CRIME had been committed — against them, against the American People, against democracy itself. FFS — it’s like a robbery victim calling the police — only to have them come and arrest HIM for being the crime’s victim.
That’s the most frustrating part of “Both Sides Do It” journalism. It constantly mischaracterizes what Democrats do, say and think.
Trust me, American Journalism, while my opposition to Donald Trump has a massive political element to it, another big element is purely patriotic. Both sides do not conspire with hostile foreign governments to undermine the integrity of an American election.
Both sides do not then cover up every aspect of that conspiracy in every way they can — out in the open even.
Both sides do not aspire to permanent minority rule.
Both sides do not — like the Kochs — intend to use their money to direct American politics how THEY want it to go.
Both sides do not think there are more important things (the economy) than living.
Both sides do not aspire to open up America’s economy — however many deaths it causes — because they need to win an election.
When this is all done and dusted — and we’ve buried the Republican Party alongside the Whigs — we must then turn our attention to the press.
We need to bury “Both Sides Do It” in the same cemetery.
Every TV show now begins with two words: “Previously On”.
On the one hand, it’s a nod to any newbies who might be watching. These are the basic story threads you need to know about. But, on the other hand, the “Previously On” part of a show is where the storytellers get to remind the whole audience about certain important, key details from the story’s past that are about to become very important to the story’s future.
The point is, “Previously On” begins with a very clear concept: THIS IS WHAT WE KNOW.
This is what the story — and its characters — have revealed and revealed about themselves so far. This is our accumulated, aggregated knowledge. This is our STARTING POINT going forward.
Why, I’d like to know, can’t journalists — well, our most of our video journalists for sure — do this simple, storytelling thing? Why can’t they aggregate a story before reporting on it? Why can’t they start from what we know so far instead of what we knew back then (whenever “then” was)?
It’s like watching a TV show where the audience is always miles ahead of the storytellers because the audience has been keeping track of the story while the tellers keep going back to “fade in”.
If America’s journalists had been keeping track of Donald Trump — adding to what we know about him and then basing all new reporting off of that — Donald Trump would never have been president in the first place. That is, he would never have gotten close enough for his pal Vladimir to vote suppress & cheat “wins” out of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan in 2016. That’s because even before Trump ran, we knew — meaning the information was available in the public domain if only one went looking for it (journalistically) — that Donald Trump was a criminal.
What motivated Fusion to sub-contract out to Christopher Steele, was the question. Steele had been The Guy running the MI6’s Russia Desk. He had the best sources inside Russia of anyone outside Russia. Steele’s rep was solid top to bottom. When the FBI went after FIFA’s Sep Blatter for corruption, they hired Chris Steele to do a lot of heavy lifting for them. He’s good.
But, WHY did Fusion feel the need to sub-contract anything out to Chris Steele? Simpson testified that, upon the hire, Fusion did what they always did — what any reputable research company would do: their due diligence. In Fusion’s case, it got its hands on every PUBLICLY AVAILABLE newspaper article, magazine piece, radio interview, TV appearance — anything and everything about Donald Trump. They researched online. They bought things from Amazon. They listened to Howard Stern. They went to old book stores and combed the shelves. They even went to the public library.
Simpson testified that what Fusion found there — in publicly available material — convinced them that Donald Trump was very possibly a criminal. A shitload of evidence pointed to Trump laundering Russian mob money through the buying and selling of condos in Trump properties and (especially) through his (now bankrupt) Atlantic City casinos. Regardless of whether Trump humiliated himself sexually with Russian hookers on video or humiliated himself by being overtly racist (on video) while Russian hookers pissed all over the bed in Moscow where the Obamas slept, Trump laundered Russian mob money. As much as Trump and those around him insist that “Trump’s a germaphone! He would never consort with hookers!” no one has yet asserted “And he would never launder money for Russian mobsters”.
Strange that, don’tcha think?
You’d think, in the story we’re all bingeing on because it’s our lives, that THAT kind of detail — that no one denies Trump’s a money launderer for the Russian mob — would make it onto the “Previously On” somewhere somehow. And yet, between CNN & MSNBC, no one seems to grasp how stories and storytelling works. They certainly don’t grasp that, in a sense, ALL stories begin with a collective sense of “Previously On”.
If our MSM had “Previously On-ed” this story from the beginning, here’s (a little of) what that “Previously On” would contain…
Mitch McConnell refused to let We The People in on the secret that Russia was actively trying to make Donald Trump POTUS. At the September “Gang Of 8 Meeting” in the White House, McConnell told Obama that if he made that fact public, McConnell would accuse Obama of politicizing the intelligence. In point of fact, Obama was trying to tell America the truth.
His political party openly broke every established norm that allowed for bi-partisan governance. Mitch McConnell denying Merrick Garland a hearing was a Constitutional crisis all by itself because one branch of govt was denying another its Constitutionally mandated role. We The People voted for Barack Obama. THAT was his authority to nominate judges.