If There Was An Olympics For Mediocrity, America’s News Media Would Always Win Gold

If the four years of Donald Trump’s presidency proved anything (beyond the GOP’s jaw dropping criminality), it’s our news media’s inability to tell the most remarkable story any of them will ever get to report. To this day, they themselves remain in Trump’s thrall — and they remain oblivious of the fact. Even as the evidence of Trump’s criminality overflows the news environment like the warming oceans overtaking low-lying land, our news media keeps seeing Trump’s actions — and the GOP’s — in entirely political terms as if their manic compulsion to end America’s democracy was just their “opinion”, their “politics” — and not the intended end product of an overtly criminal enterprise. To this day — despite the consistency of their own reporting that shouts “Republicans are all lying, corrupt, treasonous scumbags!”, our news media insists that every one of those lying, corrupt, treasonous scumbags is an honest actor spewing a genuinely held political point of view based entirely on sound, logical, moral reasoning. Oh, FFS… . To be fair, if you take any profession, any endeavor that human beings pursue, while a small percentage of people will be truly exceptional at it, the overwhelming majority of people doing anything are going to be average at best — or, more accurately, mediocre at it.

That’s not a knock. It’s just a fact. And those people who ARE good at whatever they put their energies and skills toward are truly grateful that most everyone else isn’t as good. It makes being better than most people a hell of a lot easier. Even really talented people need to coast here and there.

There have always been journalists who stood head and shoulders above their colleagues. The reason Edward R. Murrow got to be Edward R. Murrow is because most of the other journalists working then simply weren’t as good as Edward R. Murrow. Great journalists — like great storytellers (since that’s what they are — storytellers relating the story of real events in real time) — need to have deep insight into how human beings work. That is so much harder than it sounds. For starters, you have to see every person in their own personal context against the larger Big Picture context in which that person lives. You cannot tell the story of a Donald Trump supporter without talking about their whiteness because their whiteness is deeply connected to what they’re doing as an individual and as a member of a larger group. The fact that “journalists” continue to ask racists if they’re racist betrays just how ignorant journalists are about racism itself. Like beauty, it’s in the eye of the beholder.

When (if) we ever get to the end of this war for America’s soul, we owe it to ourselves to figure out where the hell “both sides do it” came from. The “both sides do it” brand of journalism confused skepticism (what every journalist should have in their arsenal) with cynicism. Skepticism is vital to a free press. It’s the press demanding that a subject of their focus back up their words with evidence. Yeah, yeah — we know you have feelings — but what are the stone cold facts that justify those feelings? It’s true that both sides have feelings — intense feelings. But, both sides don’t rely entirely on their feelings. One side consistently backs up their feelings with facts (real ones). That’s because the two sides in this conversation are not the same and do not think the same way.

Let’s set “pre-history” aside for a moment. Let’s forget that the GOP is “the party of Lincoln”. As historian Heather Cox Richardson’s excellent “To Make Men Free: A History Of The Republican Party” points out, the Democratic and Republican parties are not at all what they were when Lincoln was POTUS. Over time, the two parties have exchanged philosophical outlooks and even constituencies. Nixon’s “southern strategy” simply recognized that the Southern Democrats (the Dixiecrats) were still very much the opposition party to Lincoln. Hell, the Dixiecrats would be an opposition party to the contemporary Democratic Party. That’s because they started and remained a party dedicated to racism and white hegemony. Nixon simply incorporated them into the Republican Party. In a way, everyone suddenly got honest.

But, our news media only read each others’ books. Their idea of “history” begins with them and their times. Some are even worse. They’re like those giant goldfish that supposedly have no memory beyond right here and right now (that, apparently is a myth — those fish do have memories — but the idea’s still good). Some are even worse than that! Take NBC News’ Kelly O’Donnell.

Now, I’m absolutely certain that Kelly — out of her makeup, her hair let-down — is a lovely person, kind, genuine, open-hearted. But, when she picks up a microphone, she becomes a kind of zombie. Like many of her peers, she kicks into a “I’m a journalist and I don’t take sides” mantra. This is where “both sides do it” immediately goes off the rails. Kelly assumes that when she quotes Donald Trump, that Donald Trump is speaking truthfully. When Trump was POTUS, Kelly never qualified until AFTER the quote (if she did at all) that Trump might not be entirely trustworthy. Kelly didn’t want to judge him. That would be okay, perhaps, the very first time Trump said something then was caught lying. Kelly giving a president of the United States the benefit of the doubt would make sense. But, not after the third time or the fourth or the fifth or the five thousandth. Then Kelly wasn’t quoting a POTUS for her audience’s benefit, she was quoting a liar — but refusing to identify the lie as a lie. Or, when she did she softened the blow — using kinder, gentler, more understanding words to describe outright lies.

Sorry, Kelly, but that is you taking sides. With bullshit and against the Truth.

The moment a reporter like Kelly gives credibility to bullshit, bullshit becomes a player. Now, in order to report the story, we have to repeat the bullshit — and allow (because a president or someone on his team said it) that it “could” be true. Well, fact is bullshit is never true. Because it’s bullshit.

Another thing reporters like Kelly do — after they’ve quoted the bullshit — is to analyze the bullshit. It doesn’t get bullshittier than a mediocrity like Kelly applying how SHE sees the world to Donald Trump’s behavior. A pathological liar like Trump does not see the world or act in any way like Kelly O’Donnell. His reasons are not Kelly’s. So, when Kelly applies HER reasoning to what Trump or his allies do, she’s completely off base. She’s framing it all wrong.

If Kelly were the only reporter screwing this pooch, we’d be okay. But, alas, Kelly’s not alone. She’s got a ton of company — most of her fellow journalists. As an MSNBC regular, most of my ire is focused on their talent roster. Among the most mediocre — Hallie Jackson, Alex Witt, Andrea Mitchell, Craig Melvin and Garrett Haake. Hallie is a little girl struggling to do a grown woman’s job. Alex walks onto the set completely unprepared; no one asks less informed questions than she does. Except Craig Melvin and Andrea Mitchell. Andrea’s so deeply embedded inside the DC bubble, she can’t see reality anymore from her house. Her personal relationships with so many of the players blind her to what those players are doing and why. Garrett Haake isn’t an untalented journalist, he’s just incapable of connecting dots beyond his immediate environment. And even then, his lack of perspective prevents him from connecting some of the most essential dots. Don’t dare suggest Garrett has this problem: also like most of his fellow journalists, Garrett has zero capacity for self-analysis.

Especially awful: Chuck Todd. Chuck is the Clown Prince of Both Sides Do It. He’s neither a good journalist nor a good TV performer (seriously — watch Chuck — he’s got more tics than a Tourette’s ward). That Chuck is NBC News’ “political director” should be a constant source of embarrassment to them.

As we stand here today, the majority of America’s journalists see Joe Biden’s Afghanistan pull out as a travesty. Is it hard to watch? Yeah. Is it hard to stomach? Damn right. But if you watch it without the context of twenty years, of the trillions spent, of the lives lost, of the corruption that flowed like water, of the fact that the Taliban are NOT interlopers (like us), they’re Pashtun — an Afghani tribe (48% of Afghanis at that) — you’re going to report the story entirely from your heart and not from your head. If you either don’t know or don’t understand that the Taliban (the word means “student” in Pashto) do not naturally back terrorists, that they really did want to turn Osama bin Laden over to us — but not without proof (because to turn him over otherwise would betray their Islamic culture — then you do not know who the Taliban really is and why they do what they do. The Taliban are indeed brutal and Medieval in their outlook — but you cannot defeat a nemesis you don’t understand.

Witness the fall of Afghanistan. What the Taliban understood but our news media still doesn’t is that after we defeated the Taliban twenty years ago, they didn’t go away, THEY WENT HOME. To their part of Afghanistan. If you don’t understand that we’ve interceded in a civil war — with religious overtones — you’re reporting some other story taking place in some other country. It’s exactly like Kelly O’Donnell reporting on Donald Trump like he was some “other” president — a “normal” one other than the corrupt, racist, misogynistic, bigoted traitor he was.

One of mediocrity’s hallmarks is its capacity to normalize things that should NEVER be normalized. But that is exactly what our news media did at the very start of Trump’s candidacy. Yes, they were outraged by “Mexicans are rapists” same as everyone not a Trumpanista. But then they allowed Trump to move on. Yes, it was to a fresh outrage — “pussy-grabbing” — but because they stopped questioning Trump about “Mexicans are rapists”, Trump was allowed to think “Mexicans are rapists” was okay. Okay enough NOT to end his presidential bid. The same went for pussy-grabbing because, to our news media, “But her emails!” played bigger.

For that high jump alone — “But her emails” — our news media should win perpetual gold. Well, what they deserve is to have the shame hung around their necks forever.

They were 100% wrong about it. Like they are right now about Afghanistan. Our mediocre news media want Joe Biden to “admit he was wrong!” That’s in the context of twenty years of being in country with twenty years of waste, corruption and bullshit that the news media itself has reported. The one real gain America’s presence bestowed upon Afghanistan was equal treatment for Afghani women. Also, we engaged thousands of Afghanis to help us in our “mission”. After we took over the country, chased bin Laden and then killed him, our mission — the one we had in our heads when we invaded (throwing an Afghani tribe out of power) — ended. But, we stayed. And invented a new mission for ourselves — turning Afghanistan into America.

This was always folly. Arrogant folly. Cruel folly.

We set Afghanistan, its women and everyone who helped us up for failure. We did. It’s a fact. The notion that we could have stayed on forever — with a contingent of 2500 or so soldiers — denies the reality of the “country” we’re talking about, the Taliban’s motivation and the fact that the Taliban are Afghanis. They would win in the end regardless because they have time on their side. The Afghanis understood this; that’s why they all pre-negotiated their surrenders. The Taliban ARE Afghanis. Their culture is a more cruel version of the general culture they live in.

For comparison’s sake, let’s suppose some other country — its heart in the right place — took up the cause of all fundamentalist LDS women (even the Church of Latter Day Saints — the Mormons’ — have issues with their fundamentalist co-religionists). There are about 10,000 FDLS members spread across remote parts of Utah, Colorado and Arizona. What if that “do-gooder” country went at us relentlessly for not protecting those women and girls. What if they got so incensed that they sent in a team to snatch them all (knowing they’re not going to invade us). There’s nothing far-fetched here. Countries have actually done things like this — here in America. Ever hear of the Russian mafia?

We’d lose our minds, of course. People don’t impose their cultures on us, we impose ours on them.

Make no mistake: what the Taliban wants to do again to Afghanistan’s women is horrible in the extreme. I could call it unacceptable but, as we stand here today, there is nothing I (or anyone) can do to stop it. Unless we want to invade Afghanistan all over again. If America had chosen to keep 2500 boots on the ground in Afghanistan to protect its women, not only would this war have continued, it would soon have escalated. Whenever the Taliban finally decided they’d had enough, they would have escalated their violence. Under current circumstances, the Taliban have good friends in Russia.

And we cannot remove Trump from the equation because he buried himself in it. We will yet learn (take it to the bank) that what is happening now in Afghanistan was set in motion while Trump’s fat ass still stank up the Oval.

Ah, but to see all that, you’d have to have perspective. You’d have to acknowledge that both sides don’t do the same things — and what they do do? They do for entirely different reasons. You’d have to see people for who they are versus who you’ve projected them to be. You’d have to expunge “both sides do it” from your brain.

You’d have to aspire to rise above your own mediocrity.

In “Both Sides Do It” World, A Politician, A Criminal And A Public Servant Are All The Same Thing

American journalism has a lot to answer for. Given multiple opportunities to be the new Woodward-Bernstein, most American journalists chose to be Judith Miller instead. Judith Miller was the vaunted New York Times Reporter with the remarkable inside access to the George W. Bush White House and to the office of Vice President Dick Cheney in particular. The cost of that access was any pretense that Judith Miller would tell the truth about Dick Cheney and the mountain range of corrupt behaviors Cheney and his office perpetrated in order to put and keep America at war with Iraq. Cheney’s chief of staff Scooter Libby was convicted of leaking the identity of covert intelligence officer Valerie Plame. To Judith Miller, getting and maintaining access to a source (even if it compromised her capacity to tell the truth) was more important than telling the truth. Judith liked the power access gave her. And, frankly, the naked cynicism fit better than the skepticism she’d never quite mastered.

Skepticism v cynicism. That, in a nutshell, is where American journalism went wrong. Skepticism is harder by a long shot. It requires perspective. “Is that really so?” and “Why IS that exactly” should be the guiding principles. The journalist has to appreciate at all times that the story she’s focusing on is a tile in a much larger mosaic. How does that tile fit into the larger picture? That’s a skeptic’s question because it assumes a complex world. Cynics, on the other hand, assume only simplicity. Every story can be boiled down to one opinion versus another. He said, she said. But, if you walk in the door assuming everyone’s an honest actor — or that everyone’s a dishonest actor — you’re going to mis-frame your reporting because neither assumption is true.

A skeptical journalist – bringing perspective to the table – looks and listens for subtle clues that what they’re seeing and hearing has the ring of truth. When they see and hear those signs, the story takes a step forward because their skepticism has established to their satisfaction that their reporting can now add information upon which it can build. Adding information is how good, skeptical journalists build and tell a story. But a cynical journalist can’t do that because they can never establish to their satisfaction that anyone’s telling the truth. Or that anyone’s lying. If journalists won’t be the bulwark for what is versus what isn’t then their subjects will get to do it. That’s how Donald Trump managed to stand in front of the White House Press Corps for four years and spew pure, unadulterated bullshit with only the occasional whimper of complaint.

Counting Trump’s lies was great sport. It didn’t stop him from lying. Perhaps if the White House Press Corps had — just once — walked out en masse (and on camera) in order to make the point: STOP LYING TO US! But, of course, doing that would have risked access to an historically hypersensitive POTUS. Yes, on the one hand, if you’re not there to ask a question, you can’t ask a question. But, then, OTOH? Are you really asking any kind of meaningful questions? It’s all access for the sake of having access. That is pure cynicism.

Let’s compare public servant Adam Schiff to public servant Matt Gaetz.

While in high school, Schiff was both class valedictorian and the student voted by his classmates “most likely to succeed”. He got a BA from Stanford in poli sci and his JD from Harvard Law School. Those are nice names to have on your resume. They don’t automatically convey anything however. Donald Trump has Wharton and the University of Pennsylvania on his CV. Without daddy’s money, Trump wouldn’t have been allowed in the dorms at either institution never mind the classrooms. After law school, Schiff clerked for a judge in California then became an assistant district attorney. He first ran for office in 1994 (but lost), trying again (and succeeding) in 1996. Since then, Adam Schiff has epitomized the very notion of what a “public servant” should be.

Schiff’s closing remarks delivered during Trump’s first impeachment pretty much sum up his public servant bona fides…

Matt Gaetz is one hundred percent the Goofus to Schiff’s Gallant.

In Gaetz’s defense, there’s nothing wrong with being mediocre. Gaetz was an unremarkable high school student, an unremarkable undergrad at Florida State University and an unremarkable graduate of the William & Mary Law School (the country’s oldest, by the way). In 2008, Matt had a run-in with the law after cops pulled him over and booked him for a DUI. Strangely, though Matt SHOULD have lost his license, he didn’t. Pays to have connections apparently.

After a year of “private practice”, Gaetz did what his father and grandfather had done — he ran for office (as a Florida state rep). Having more money than any other candidate in the Republican primary got him through a crowded field. Having waaaaaay more money on hand than his Democratic opponent made a huge difference in the general election which Gaetz won handily. Having a little political power in his hands brought Matt Gaetz’s base awfulness to the surface.

A taste: Gaetz proposed legislation that would hasten the execution of many inmates on Florida’s death row, he joined State Senator Greg Evers in proposing legislation to eliminate the federal ethanol content mandate that 10 percent of gasoline sold in Florida contain ethanol and he was one of two members of the Florida House to vote against a Florida bill against revenge porn in 2015, after having successfully blocked the bill previously.

In 2016, Gaetz took his act national to the US House of Representatives. As we’re about to learn from the flipped testimony of Gaetz’s buddy former Florida Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, the answer to question “Are you a pedophile?” is “yes”.

And lest we forget — Matt said this:

In theory, both Adam Schiff and Matt Gaetz are “public servants”. From the news media’s point of view — that’s certainly true. But beyond the label, the two have zero in common.

But, from a cynical news media’s point of view, that fact’s irrelevant. They’re both “politicians”, too. If Matt Gaetz is also a criminal? Then what’s to say Adam Schiff isn’t one too?

Or, conversely — if Adam Schiff is a paragon of political virtue and public service then so is Matt Gaetz. From the news media’s point of view, who are they to say otherwise? Well, actually, according to the Constitution, they are the ones we most NEED to say otherwise — to employ their most skeptical instincts as the final check on raw political power.

When this assault on our democracy is finally laid to rest — as it will be — after we’ve finished investigating and prosecuting every last perpetrator (to leave an unprosecuted would invite them to try again), we need to turn our focus on the news media. We need to force some very real, very hard self analysis upon them. We need to rub their noses in “both sides do it”. It’s the only way to make them feel the disgust the rest of us feel about it.

We’ll know we’re finally making headway when wastes of carbon like Chuck Todd finally get kicked to the curb.

America’s founders didn’t intend to create a binary political environment but their refusal to outlaw slavery at the outset pretty much guaranteed that America would always be binary — pro-slavery v anti-slavery. Take this to the bank: pretty much every white supremacist would vote to bring back slavery if they could figure out a way to get it onto a ballot somewhere. That’s why their “public servants” — like Matt Gaetz feel less like servants and more like co-conspirators to commit a crime. That’s what they’re doing — committing crimes. But, in order to see that happening, you must have perspective.

A news media that really and truly believes that all politicians and public servants are criminals because some are isn’t doing the democracy they’re serving any favors.

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 Reason “Both Sides Do It” Is Bad Journalism

In the “Pantheon Of Wrongheaded Common Wisdom”, “Both Sides Do It” is king, queen and the rest of the demented Spanish Aristocracy. It takes a nubbin of “maybe” and makes it incontrovertible fact. Bad behavior does not belong to any political party. Yes, both sides are physically capable of doing things they shouldn’t and then lying about them to keep from being revealed. Historically, both sides have “done those things”. But (and here’s where “both sides do it” hits a wall and loses), if we put it all on a scale and measured the two piles of awfulness against each other? As with right here, right now, Republican-brand awfulness is exponentially worse for America than Democratic-brand awfulness in large part BECAUSE THERE’S SO MUCH MORE OF IT!

Proportion and perspective are two things “Both Sides Do It” journalism jettisons from the get-go. It says a thief is a thief is a thief — regardless of whether it’s Bernie Madoff stealing billions because he’s a greedy pig or Jean Valjean stealing bread to feed hungry people. “Both sides ‘do it’.” See what I mean? Though theoretically correct, it is absolutely wrong in its framing because it equates two things that shouldn’t be equated.

I’ve worked as a journalist. I’ve been held to journalistic standards. In the absence of hard evidence, one must be skeptical. That’s SKEPTICAL as opposed to CYNICAL. There is a difference.

If your starting point for every story is “both sides do it”, you’re not being skeptical about human beings, you’re being cynical; you’re assuming the very worst for no reason other than you’re assuming it. Authoritarians want the population they control to be deeply cynical — making authoritarianism the only means to control all that irredeemable, inevitable bad behavior. When the press equates an act of extreme corruption with Joe Citizen claiming a few deductions he’s not entitled to — that puts a smile on a cynic’s face.

“See?” he’ll say, smiling, “Both sides do it!”

Take this to the bank, American news media: both sides DON’T do it and never have. You need to expunge “Both Sides Do It” from your way of thinking — from your brains entirely. That’s not a helpful suggestion, that’s a demand. Going forward, America needs “moral journalism”. I don’t mean phony “moralistic” journalism puked out by phony journalists who place themselves above the fray (though both sides “do it”, they apparently don’t), I mean journalists who bring perspective to work every day.

This is not an impossibility. MSNBC has multiple journalists hosting multiple shows that DON’T “Both Sides Do It” — Ali Velshi (an awesome journalist), Nicolle Wallace (fearless as hell!), Rachel Maddow (relentless and so articulate), Joy-Ann Reid (equally relentless). So, it IS possible for news networks to hire and keep journalists on their roster who DO bring perspective to work with them every day. But they also have Chuck Todd — the King of “Both Sides Do It”. They have other reporters like Stephanie Ruhl (who, though excellent when reporting on the financial world, gets lost in “Both Sides Do It” the instant she turns to reporting politics) — let’s call them “Both Sides Adjacent”. And they have Kelly O’Donnell — the QUEEN of “Both Sides Do It”.

“Both Sides Do It” refuses to take sides — even when there are no sides to take other than “pro-democracy” and “pro-athoritarianism” and the pro-authoritarian side accuses the news media of being fake. To accept that statement because you dare not get involved is to validate bullshit — even if that’s not the intent. THAT’S the biggest, baddest ripple effect rolling off of “Both Sides Do It’s” cynicism — the validation of bullshit.

Want to know why America felt so ripped apart at the end of the Trump years? Because we were facing the terrible consequences every day of being told the lie — that both sides would take us to this same, awful place.

Want to know why this morning feels so wonderful — on top of the change in leadership coming less than two weeks from now? Because we now look forward to breathing air that doesn’t stink of bullshit. That doesn’t stink of “both sides doing it”.

America’s News Media Has Confused Being “Skeptical” (What They Should Be) With Being “Cynical” (What They Are)

Skepticism and cynicism are not the same thing. Don’t believe me — look em up. If I was being skeptical, I’d want to see proof of something before going along with it. If I was being cynical though? I wouldn’t care about any proof because I’ve already assumed the worst. A pox on everybody’s house — “both sides do it”. If I was cynical, I wouldn’t need proof that “both sides do it”. And if there was any sort of “proof”, it wouldn’t need to be equally distributed; most on one side and a little on the other is the same as fifty-fifty; it’s still a matter of “both sides do it”!

“Back that up or it’s bullshit!” would be a perfectly legitimate response to a politician saying something for which he has zero receipts. It’s appropriately skeptical. Are you telling the truth? Okay — prove it. By contrast, asking someone a “But, what if bullshit is true?” type questions — that’s not being skeptical at all. “What if bullshit were true?” is the quintessential cynical question.

The only place where bullshit can be true is in a completely cynical world. It can be true, it can be untrue, it doesn’t matter. The ending has already been decided. Everything sucks and there’ll be no changing it; we might as well all fold up our tents and go home. Seeing the world cynically means seeing the very worst in people no matter what. Even if they prove their worth, the cynical have an explanation ready to go. They’re not what they seem. Nothing is so don’t trust it. Assume the worst and you’ll never be disappointed.

You might not be disappointed, but you’ll never be happy either. And you’ll never see the truth or be able to discern it. There’s really no advantage to becoming cynical — unless you want to end your days living in a police state where survival is what matters. Cynicism assumes that the bad guy will get away with it in the end — that, on some level, everyone’s a bad guy, so what difference does it make who wins? Everyone’s motives are suspect. Everyone has a political agenda — even if they don’t think so.

That’s rubbish. It’s stupid too. And offensive.

When a Republican suppresses a Democratic voter, the Republican is doing it for an entirely political reason: to win an election so as to put the power of government into his hands and not the Democrat’s hands. When the voter whose vote is being suppressed raises their hand to complain about what the Republican is doing to them? They’re NOT being political. They’re the victim of a crime. One of their rights has been taken from them and that needs to be addressed. Not for political reasons but for reasons of justice and free and fair elections.

If the news media had taken a more skeptical approach to Donald Trump than the cynical approach they took, things might have turned out better for them. They would have demanded to know WHY Trump thought “Mexicans are rapists” before moving on to “pussy-grabbing”. And a skeptical press would never have been content to let that slide. A skeptical (rather than a cynical) press would have handled “But her emails” a lot better. Rather than cynically assuming the worst about Hillary Clinton, the press would have taken a more moderated, evidence-based approach. They would have concluded – as they did – that there was no “there” there.

If you want to see rock solid journalistic skepticism hard at work, watch Nicolle Wallace’s Deadline Whitehouse on MSNBC. Watch Rachel Maddow and JoyAnn Reid. Watch Ali Velshi and Chris Matthews. Watch Lawrence O’Donnell.

If you want to see empty-headed cynicism, watch Chuck Todd. Chuck is the “dean” of “both sides do it” journalism. He has zero intellectual curiosity. Zero perspective. Zero critical thinking skill.

We’ve survived Trumpism. A rejuvenated Department of Justice is going to make the next few years a rolling smorgasboord of corruption prosecution. There’ll always be a dozen or so pots on the boil with a few more waiting in the wings. From the second he stops being POTUS, Trump will have legal problems that no amount of bullshit pardons can assuage. He’s not running in 2024. The only running Trump will do between now and then is, maybe, a run for the border. I suggest slashing the tires on the Trump jet to prevent that from happening.

The Reason “Both Sides Don’t Do It” Is Because Both Sides Are NOT The Same

The core conceit at play when a “journalist” like Chuck Todd (which means we’re using the term “journalist” as loosely as we can) insists that “both sides do it” is that both sides do what they do for entirely political reasons. That is empirically untrue.

To act politically is to attempt change. If you are acting politically, you are trying to change the current situation. You’re trying to motivate people to alter what’s happening now — how they’re doing what they’re doing — so that they’ll do what you want them to do in the way you want. You want them to vote against all forms of gun control, for instance. Because you’re desperately afraid that gun control nuts will literally take your weapons away, you resort to all sorts of “persuasion” to stop that from happening. All those acts of persuasion — that’s you being political.

By contrast, when parents mourn their dead children — shot to death in their school — they’re NOT acting politically. When they turn to their political leaders and say “This must stop” — that also is NOT a political act. To see their desires realized out in reality, that WILL demand political action (they’ll have to affect change. But the thing they want to see happen — their children returning from school at the end of the day, not bullet-riddled — that’s NOT political.

It takes politics to negotiate the varying and conflicting needs of different people. But, the common good — the goal everyone’s after — that’s NOT political. It has to be reached via political means. And that, right there, is the source of the confusion.

The dimwits like Chuck Todd see people reacting to politics impacting their lives and call those reactions political.

The Republicans have gerrymandered everywhere they could (as Democrats have also done) for entirely political reasons. When Democratic voters get deliberately under-served as a result, their anger at what’s been done to them isn’t a political reaction, it’s a reaction to dishonesty, corruption and possibly even a crime being perpetrated on them. An African American voter being denied their right to vote is being denied for a political reason — but their anger, resentment and insistence that justice be served — that’s NOT political.

What the Republican Party & Donald Trump are doing to America — dragging it backward in time to the 1850’s — is entirely political. It’s a power grab.

That’s the thing our Main Stream News Media cannot get through its thick head. The reason someone becomes a Democrat is very different from the reason someone becomes a Republican. The reason one goes to a Trump rally is very different from the reason one watches bits and pieces of it on TV instead — with bile and disgust rising in one’s throat. The bile isn’t political. Neither is the disgust.

The Democrats reacting to stolen elections (via voter suppression and Russian involvement) aren’t being “political”, they’re being CRIME VICTIMS. The Rule Of Law could feel equally aggrieved. Ditto the Constitution. They’re both crime victims — and any Democrat rushing to their aid -isn’t doing it for political reasons.

They’re doing it because they’re patriots.

What Both Sides Actually DO Do…

When all this is done & dusted, I want us to promise ourselves that we’re going to enshrine in law the illegality of “Both Sides Do It” journalism.

The Chuck Todd-ification of American journalism has not worked out well for us because (Duh!) it’s based on bullshit — and the nincompoop notion that everyone and everything is political. It’s not. If a Republican mugs me, my issue is with him mugging me, not his political affiliation.

Similarly — when a Republican violates the Constitution or commits treason, my objection is entirely to the fact that he’s committing a crime. The fact that the crime is being committed against me — a law abiding registered Democrat who demands that the Constitution be upheld — STILL isn’t political.

Ironically, the Republican has behaved politically at every step along the way.

When a reporter like Chuck Todd gets his hands on a story though — if the Democrat is objecting to the Republican (even the Republican was literally murdering him), Chuck would insist that the Democrat is objecting solely because the guy trying to kill him had a different political affiliation.

I’m watching live right now as Katy Tur debates the idea that we’ve come to see actual RIGHT & WRONG in political terms. That’s insane. The fact that Republicans refuse to even read transcripts — that the press knows (having read them) are filled with actual EVIDENCE OF CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR) should tip them off to that fact. This isn’t about politics.

Both sides do not commit treason as a means to hold onto power.

But one side clearly does. One side continues to defend a president whose ties to Russia are flat out treasonous. I’m old enough to remember when that word could NEVER be uttered on a cable news set without creating a firestorm of controversy.

Now? Who DOESN’T speak the word “treason”?

That’s no because the word suddenly got popular, it’s because treason is actually afoot.

I sure do wish CNN & MSNBC would get this through their thick skulls — only one side commits treason to hold onto power.

Only one side stands between traitors and the end of our Republic.

Dear MSM — No, It ISN’T About POLITICS

This picture is not political. It depicts a crime happening en flagrante. A CRIME against the Constitution & We The People.

The most insidious form of “Both Sides Do It” journalism is its insistence that, no matter what, it’s always about politics.

Democrats objecting to Republicans suppressing Democratic votes (they never do seem to suppress votes evenly between Republican voters and Democratic voters) is — in this view — political rather than legal. Those stolen votes are… what? Collateral damage? When a Democratic voter loses their right to vote — because a Republican TOOK it from them — the only politics being played are by the REPUBLICAN. The Democrat here is the VICTIM OF A CRIME.

That little analogy goes Big Time with Donald Trump. It’s the exact same deal. Trumpified.

What most Democrats objected to as Trump plowed his way through the Republican field back in 2016 was his racism, his misogyny, his corruption. We objected to hearing a presidential candidate say that “Mexicans are rapists”. Our objection, MSM, wasn’t POLITICAL, it was MORAL.

The fact that we were Democrats (while most Republicans stayed silent or quickly bought in) was relevant. Not because of our political affiliation but because of our morality. As usual, the MSM ate the icing and forgot that a cake even existed.

Even today, a cable news show could play thirty seconds of Trump talking about anything. The talking heads would get their shot — and the Democratic Congressperson on the panel will state the obvious: Trump lied, lied, LIED.

The news panel’s host will (with one or two exceptions) flip it to whatever Republican Talking Head is there — “Is that true? Did the president lie?”

The rest of the conversation is irrelevant. The Talking Head Host just assumed (on the audience’s behalf?) that the Democrat’s take wasn’t motivated by the truth, it was motivated by politics. To get to the truth? We need to hear the other side, too.

Both sides DO NOT DO THIS. Both sides do not commit treason to win elections. They don’t.

Both sides do not suppress the other side’s votes to win elections. They don’t.

Both sides do not wage political campaigns based on fear and outright hatred of the other to compel their voters. They don’t.

Both sides do not obstruct justice as easily as they breathe. They don’t.

Both sides do not put forward ludicrous explanations that couldn’t pass smell test in a shit factory. They don’t.

Both sides do not make excuses for a president who consistently behaves in ways that would get any other citizen arrested. They don’t.

Both sides do not have a relationship with Vladimir Putin that is so flagrantly, obviously, how-in-our-faces-does-it-have-to-be TREASONOUS that it boggles the mind we don’t call it TREASONOUS yet. Both sides absolutely, positively do not.

What the MSM cannot get through its titanium skull is that one can object to Donald Trump, to Republicans and their outright corruption, as a concerned citizen first and a Democrat second. It’s possible to think country over party. Why, we should be demanding, does our Main Stream News Media think every single American thinks like a goddamned Republican?

Both sides do not do it. Both sides do not always — ALWAYS — play politics.

And, while we’re at it – Chuck Todd is an idiot.

Dear MSM – Connecting Dots Isn’t Rocket Science – Except Apparently To YOU…

“Gosh. I wonder what it could be,” said the American Journalist…

Storytelling, at its core is simple dot-connecting. We start at the beginning and connect the dots all the way to the end – with lots of zigging and zagging in between.  The image that all those connected dots ultimately form – that’s our story. 

As the dots connect, they form the larger context for each of the dots.  They aren’t just dots floating in space.  They’re part of a much larger picture.  Dot Number 2 and Dot Number 50 are related if distantly.  They’re both part of the same context.

Journalists are storytellers first and foremost.  The difference (in theory) between them and regular joe’s who write blogs is “rigor”.  Journalists need to back up their stories with multiple sources.  Or one really, really good one.  The point of all that rigor is to make sure the dots connect correctly.

But too many American journalists bore so deeply into the one point they focused on that they forget that a larger context even exists.  Or they started connecting dots already infected by “Both Sides Do It”.  When that happens, perspective is impossible.  Then you get mavens of journalistic malpractice like NBC’s Chuck Todd.  Chuck is good at connecting dots.  Problem is, he connects dots that shouldn’t be connected because, though they’ll make a picture, it’s not a real picture. 

For example – Bernie Madoff is a thief.  He stole billions (from rich people).  Jean Valjean, the hero of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables is also a thief.  He steals bread to feed people who are hungry.  In Chuck Todd’s world, that means “both sides do it” because Bernie Madoff and Jean Valjean are both thieves.  Scale (perspective) never enters into it.  Chuck Todd regularly compares things of wildly different scale and insists they’re the exact same thing.

So – putting the Chuck Todd’s of the journalistic world aside, the rest of American Journalism needs to remind itself that a picture made up of connected dots remains a picture regardless of whether you stop looking at it.  When you turn from one part of the larger story to another – those dots don’t suddenly disconnect.  They STAY connected.  The story THEY tell remains valid and true.

Just because you go from a story about Donald Trump and his curious relationship with Vladimir Putin (and Putin’s “possible” impact on election 2016) to a story about Donald Trump trying to extort the Ukraine as part of his 2020 campaign strategy doesn’t mean the “Putin Cheats For 2016 Donald” dots aren’t related to the “Extort The Ukraine As Part Of The 2020” dots.  You have to bring all the connected dots with you from story to story – especially because you want to see if the dots from one story connect to any others.

The answer here is – YES!  All dots connect.  And all dots lead to Donald Trump being a Russian intelligence asset working against America’s interests and for his own interests and Russia’s. 

Today, the three Republicans trying to primary Trump all accused Trump of committing Treason.  They see clearly now how the dots all connect.

Why America’s News Media Sucks — The “Nicolle Wallace” Exception

By all rights, a left wing loon like me should detest Nicolle Wallace from a thousand miles away. But I adore her. I adore her show, Deadline White House on MSNBC. If you aren’t watching it or listening to it, you’re missing one of the few bright spots in the American News Media firmament — I’m also a Maddow fan, a Lawrence fan, a Joy-Ann Reid fan, an Ali Velshi fan and mostly an Ari Melber fan).

A good news show should be redolent of its host. Bad news shows work the same way of course. Meet The Press Daily is dopey as hell regardless of whether or not Chuck Todd is actually hosting it. I won’t go off on Chuck here — this ain’t about him). Accordingly, Deadline White House seems to flow directly from host Nicolle Wallace’s id.

Before she scored her own show, Nicolle co-hosted a season of ABC talk show The View. Before that she was GWBush’s White House Communications Director then served as a senior advisor for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign — tasked with handling Sarah Palin. She appeared frequently on network and cable news programs as the campaign’s spokesperson and defender. Nicolle has solid Orange County Republican bona fides.

I used to have family down in Orange County. I used to feel — driving down to San Clemente to visit — like we were driving into a strange foreign country with distorted values. That’s how different Republican Orange County felt from Democratic LA. On paper, I should watch Nicolle’s show the way I watch, say Alex Witt or Chuck Todd — with teeth gritted (Alex because she’s so mediocre, Chuck because he’s such a “Both Sides Do It” douche nozzle).

In 2016, Nicolle quit the Republican Party as it went Trumpian. Either the leap spurred something in her or she was always a softer version of an Orange County Republican.

Watching her show these days, if you didn’t know Nicolle’s past — deep in the Republican core — you’d be shocked to learn about it. She sounds so much like… like me. Yes, I’ll own it — I like Nicolle Wallace & her show because I agree with them. But I agree with the politics on a lot of MSNBC’s shows. Strangely, I rarely feel as justified after watching those shows. After watching Deadline White House, I often feel even more justified in my left wing loonie position than when I started.

That’s because Nicolle’s bottom line is receipts. Ya gotta bring receipts. Nicolle’s view of the news and the news landscape is fact-based, not feeling-based. Years of watching her convince me that this matter-of-fact, limited melodrama, relentlessly honest worldview reflects who she is down to her toes. The discussions are almost always smart, informed, savvy, clear-eyed and fearless.

And when it comes to pillorying Donald Trump and every Trumpanista, no one delivers a clean kill the way Nicolle does. She shies away from playing too much Trump on her show. But, when she does and the camera returns to Nicolle’s face — wow.

Sometimes there’s a laugh. It’s so particular, that laugh. It’s the laugh of a woman who knows she’s just had a man bullshit her. It skewers all by itself. But throw in Nicolle’s laser-like eyes — she’s good on camera, too — and you’ve got something that crosses rock solid news analysis with poetry.