How Criminals (And Republicans) Think

Inside every criminal’s head is a scale upon which they balance their criminal behavior’s risks versus that behavior’s rewards. If the risk of stealing a six pack of beer is a decade plus in prison — and the risk of getting caught is high, it’s probably not worth it. But, if the risk of stealing a whole country is that two thirds of the people will despise you while cowering in your presence? No big deal. That’s the calculus that criminals and Republicans make as they contemplate the actions that make them criminals and Republicans. The only thing that will stop a career criminal from continuing in his career is law enforcement stopping him. That’s why one of the first things career criminals do is compromise law enforcement in any way they can. Mafia dons buy cops. Dark Money buys politicians. The point of the exercise is corruption. Corruption itself becomes a kind of currency that criminals either pass around like dividends to their pals or wield like a cudgel to keep the less “dedicated” to crime in line.

Because our news media still insists — despite the mountain ranges of information stacked in front of them — that “both sides do it”, they see Republicans as honest actors. This misrepresents them horribly. Even worse, by giving all information equal weight and validity (since it’s not up to the journalist to judge anything), in their reporting, these journalists knowingly equate bullshit and truth while refusing to qualify which is which. Back before the news media was shamed into refusing climate deniers any more air time, they regularly gave climate deniers all the air time they wanted! This happened regularly on NEWS channels and shows: News show host would set up a debate between a climate scientist or believer in climate science like Bill Nye and a climate science denier like David LeGates or Marc Morano (formerly Rush Limbaugh’s “Man in Washington”).

Notice how a NEWS channel set up its shot here? It’s a “50-50” image. In other words, both people — both arguments — get 50% of the screen. In visual language (which most of us understand quite implicitly), CNN is saying: “these two arguments have equal validity to them”. That’s not even remotely true but the visual image tells us it is. The same applies to when any news panel includes at least one person there specifically to lie. If the show presenting the news panel doesn’t make that fact explicit then that fact doesn’t exist for the news audience. And the truth-speaking panelists will find their truths being compared equally to the liars lies.

It gets worse! The “both sides do it” spewing news media — having equated truth and bullshit — set themselves to the task of “analyzing” what’s happening. With their skewed view of the universe and all the people in it, they attempt to characterize the players so as to explain them. But the lens these “journalists” use is their own experience, their own way of thinking. Problem is THEY’RE NOT CRIMINALS and don’t think like criminals. They end up normalizing criminal behavior by recasting it as political.

Or — as so many American journalists insist on doing — they put themselves inside Donald Trump’s mind and assume Trump acts like they act and thinks like they think. That’s how we ended up with a White House Press Corps that regularly gawped at Trump as he openly lied to them. They ascribed political motives to criminal behavior — then reported the whole thing through the non-criminal prism inside their own heads. Trump’s hold over the GOP became entirely political: it’s all about Trump’s ravenous base. Yes, that’s true — to a degree. But it’s not the real leverage Trump’s held the whole time.

Crime is. Criminals understand that the more people they compromise (including law enforcement), the harder it will be for anyone to stop them. Another tactic criminals use is normalization. If everybody’s doing what they’re doing, can it really be a crime? And (as with Trump), if you do your “criming” out in the open where everyone (the press included) cans see it, can that really be a crime? The answer to both questions is hell yes. Crime never stops being crime (the statute of limitations be damned!)

If I attempt to deny another American their right to vote — in any way — I am violating their rights and committing a crime. If I do it because I’m racist, that’s a whole other level of crime. And it is a crime to be actively racist in an E Pluribus Unum country.

White America wants the rest of America to overlook two hundred-forty years of consistently terrible behavior toward non-white Americans (or non-whites who, for whatever reason, came to live and “work” in America). They want every other American to forget about slavery or every deal our government made and then broke with a Native American tribe. They want the rest of us to deny the long term impacts of white racism on its victims (including the very real, generational impacts on its victims’ wealth). And then our news media gets all warm and cuddly with these racists by refusing to call out their racism. They go and ask the racists “Hey — you’re not a racist, are you?” And then they shrug inconclusively when the racist — news cameras in their face — insists “Me? No! I’m not a racist!”

Trust me, CNN, MSNBC, the rest of the news media — when Donald Trump says “I’m the least racist person in the world”, that’s bullshit. The last person you should ever ask “are you racist” is a racist since they have the least perspective on the subject. Same goes for the racist’s racist buddies. They can’t tell you if their friend’s a racist because THEY’RE so damned racist. The ONLY people who can honestly and accurately tell you if anyone is racist is that racist’s victim. They KNOW when someone’s being racist toward them. They’ve had a lifetime of experience with it, don’t forget. Their racism “spidey senses” are always cranked up to eleven.

Ah, but “both sides do it” says that a racist remark and the racist victim’s response are equally valid.

Racists are racist in everything they do. Literally. Same goes for rapists, by the way. When your view of the world allows you the freedom to infringe on other peoples’ personal space at will and without consequence — as a matter of personal power — you will act that way toward others until someone with more power rises up to stop you. Republicans? Exactly the same.

Donald Trump has been a criminal his entire life. Just because he’s never been prosecuted — that’s a technicality, really. That’s us failing to do right by ourselves and remind criminals their crimes are unacceptable to the rest of us and will be treated accordingly. The rule of law’s a wonderful thing but it can’t enforce itself. That’s our obligation. And it’s not hyperbole to say that Donald Trump is a criminal and that plenty of people have always known or suspected this to be true.

Case in point — as I’ve repeated in this space often — June 25, 2017, current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy walks into a GOP leadership meeting to talk about their soon-to-be presidential nominee. He says — out loud (it was recorded and the recording played later for Washington Post reporter Adam Entous) “There are two people I think Putin pays, Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!” Even in the context of the time — without four years of treasonous behavior toward Vladimir Putin — this is treasonous! One of the head muckety-mucks of the Republican Party is telling other muckety-mucks that their candidate to be POTUS is compromised by a hostile foreign government — AND THEY KNOW IT! And they — per then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan — are going to keep this criminal secret a secret because “that’s how we know we’re a family”.

The instant you become a co-conspirator to commit treason — as everyone in that room did — you become a criminal! At the very least, you should become someone our news media (who reported the crime) suspects could be a criminal. But not just a “criminal”, a traitor. To report such a person as if there was no possibility they were a criminal or a traitor misreports them entirely and can’t possibly hope to report them accurately since it’s already detached their true motives from the story. Suddenly, treasonous behavior becomes something less — far less. It stops being a crime, for one thing.

And just like that, treason becomes normalized. Criminal behavior becomes political behavior. Crime becomes acceptable to the people who are supposed to be our last backstop against the abuse of political power. Nothing good can come of that — as our current situation proves.

Lessons In How Media Works — FOR THE MEDIA

I sure hope someone at CNN or MSNBC reads this. I know I can help them. I’ve got real world bona fides in my pocket, too. Having run TV shows, written and produced feature films, written scripts for computer games, advertising, blah-blah-blah-blah-blah, I know a thing or two about VISUAL storytelling. I know how the medium works.

That doesn’t mean you have to listen to me, CNN & MSNBC, it just means you wouldn’t be stupid to at least hear me out.

The “Biggie” — the mistake you make repeatedly as if you were absolute amateurs — understanding how FRAMING works. You don’t. That applies equally to visuals & storytelling. Framing eludes you.

Let’s start with visuals. A TV screen is like a canvas filled with information and visual vocabulary. Take THIS screen for instance…

This was Bill Nye debating climate science denier Marc Morano. I’m sure you know who Bill Nye is. Morano (to quote Wikipedia) is “a former Republican political aid who founded and runs the website ClimateDepot is a project of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow  (CFACT), a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C. that denies the scientific consensus on climate change. Morano’s in the “deny all the science” business, got it?

When CNN puts these two people on-screen together, they present them in a simple 50-50. Each man gets half the frame. Now, here’s the part where you need to pay CAREFUL ATTENTION, CNN & MSNBC — in the visual vocabulary, a 50-50 frame says that both arguments have equal weight. One is as true or likely as the other. All of Bill Nye’s science has the exact same weight — in terms of its rightness or wrongness — as Marc Morano’s science-less, data-less, fact-less, EVERYTHING-LESS bullshit. It doesn’t matter what Morano says, in fact. The more ludicrous his pronouncements the better, in fact, from HIS corrupt point of view because the point of the exercise isn’t to “INFORM” anyone, it’s to dis-inform EVERYONE!

Get it? The more nonsense Morano spews, the more he diminishes all the facts on the other side of that 50-50 screen. The shot itself diminishes the value of the Truth within it? How’s that for twisted?

While that particularly framing happens less frequently now — because climate denial gets less air time — when it does get air time? It still gets to claim equal validity. Of course, CNN & MSNBC could “frame” climate denial first before putting it on their air — that, too, is a possibility. They could point out that one of the two arguments being presented is real while the other is complete horse shit — let the buyer beware! — but they won’t. The other way they could frame the discussion correctly would be to re-imagine the screen presentation of the two sides relative to their truthfullness.

Instead of a 50-50, the screen would be 99.9% Bill Nye and <1% Mark Morano. Like this —

See how that would more accurately represent — in visual language — the relative weight of each person’s argument? See how it feels like a giant talking to an ant? Or an adult speaking to a stupid child?

Let’s move on to my other “framing” bugaboo (I know those CNN & MSNBC eyeballs have a low tolerance for boredom and sitting still. How else do you let “Mexicans are rapists” and “pussy grabbing” stand?) This one begins with that unfortunate disease spreading like an STD through America’s Journalism Schools: “Both Sides Do It” and its brother-disease “False Equivalence Reporting”. The symptom is a reporter repeatedly giving the benefit of the doubt to someone who absolutely doesn’t deserve any such benefit (example — Trump. Why would any reporter give anything that spews from Donald Trump’s anus-shaped mouth a shot at being true when every bit of data says even “hello” & “good-bye” coming from Trump are most likely lies)?

So — if we accept the premise that Donald Trump is a liar — then any time you (CNN or MSNBC) begin your reporting with something Trump says — but without telling your audience Trump is a known liar who’s probably lying right now — your context-free steno-pooling of Trump’s lies have just given those lies the look, feel & legitimacy of Truth. But, it’s not.

When CNN & MSNBC report — as they did today — that Trump gave a good, solid D-Day Memorial speech, they make it sound like Donald Trump is a normal president. But that’s NOT the correct context, is it? In fact, Donald Trump’s presidency has been anything but normal — and, in fact — everything in Trump’s pretty speech (written FOR him by other people) is contradicted by virtually everything Trump’s ever done as president or said over the course of his entire life. Throw in the fact that he’s a goddamned TRAITOR and it gets truly absurd.

Sorry, CNN & MSNBC, but pretty words spoken by a TRAITOR are still just pretty words. SPOKEN BY A TRAITOR. See how that’s actually the headline?

One last criticism while/if I have CNN/MSNBC eyeballs: storytelling works by adding information and then using that new information as the BASIS for ongoing storytelling. Think of it as moving a football down the field toward a touchdown. Adding information to a story is like running a play. All added yardage moves us closer to our goal.

And yet… the stunning majority of on-air “talent” at CNN & MSNBC are utterly incapable of performing this simple party trick. They keep returning to a kind of mental “Square One” where they’ve never learned ANYTHING beyond the information they started with: Donald Trump is “president” which means everything is normal.

Too bad that was never the case. Never mind… those same merchants of mediocrity then take that flawed starting point and — here’s the nutty part — continue to deny knowing anything beyond it regardless of all the actual information raining down on them. They ask questions steeped in ignorance (the worst — tossing out the info as if it required a Rosetta Stone to decipher to their talking head group with a generic “What do YOU make of it?” as if the mere thought of thinking about it themselves was horrifying).

You are allowed, CNN & MSNBC, to use information as you receive it. Refusal to accept and contextualize new information is not the same thing as “being fair as a journalist”. It’s sticking your fool head in the sand.

Quit flattering yourselves.

Now you know what Lesson Two will be all about…