There’s A Huge Difference Between Skepticism & Cynicism; Here’s Why That Matters

At the same moment a skeptic and a cynic cock their eyebrows in doubt, two very different things happen inside their heads.

The skeptic wants more evidence before passing judgment. The cynic has already made up his mind. In fact, his mind was made up at the start — and he already assumed the very worst. That means all the evidence that the skeptic finds important is meaningless to the cynic.

A skeptical voter wants to hear from both candidates. For them, the devil’s in the details — and so’s their vote. A cynical voter hasn’t read anything more than the headlines. Both sides do it so voting just contributes to the bad behavior. Cynical voters either don’t vote or vote against things, never “for”. It’s not like they have some vision they believe in. They’re empty and nihilistic. They couldn’t care less if the whole structure blew apart. It’s all the same to them.

In their defense, cynics aren’t necessarily responsible for their own cynicism. Plenty of cynical people became that way, acquiring their cynicism like a virus they picked up by going maskless at a Trump campaign rally. Their cynicism bled through their TV screens. A few may have picked it up through the newsprint they were reading. “Both sides do it” is as cynical as bullshit gets. It paints a picture with a brush so broad all one can see is the damned brush.

During Trump’s impeachment and Senate trial (hey, remember that — that Donald Trump was impeached and is the first POTUS ever to run for re-election AFTER BEING IMPEACHED?), our news media leaned heavily on comparisons between what was happening to Trump with what happened to Bill Clinton when he was impeached — for lying about a blow job. See the problem? Yeah, yeah, yeah — impeachment. Both stories have that in common.

But a blow job and acts that scream “TREASON” aren’t quite the same thing. That IS what Trump was impeached over — election fraud in league with a hostile foreign enemy. No blow job in the history of blow jobs could ever equal election fraud never mind treason. Yet, there was our news media essentially saying out loud that one impeachment was exactly equal to the other. They must be equal because “both sides do it”.

Excuse me for being skeptical.

When Republicans work to suppress Democratic voters (they never work to suppress their own of course — and Democrats NEVER work to suppress Republican voters because both sides don’t do that), they’re doing it for an entirely political reason: to get or hold onto power. There’s no policy basis for it. There’s no appealing to those voters as potential Republican voters. There’s the conclusion that those voters will vote against them and therefore they should not be allowed to vote. And if they DO vote, that vote should not be counted. When Democrats, by contrast, react to their votes and voters being suppressed, that is NOT them reacting politically. They’re reacting to their RIGHTS being violated — in other words, A CRIME.

But then our news media equates the vote suppressors (acting politically) with the vote “suppressees” (acting as the victims of a crime). It’s exactly like equating the victim of a mugging with the mugging. If you were there while the mugging was going on, it must be because you were “part of it”. “Both sides do it” understands — correctly — that both sides have a point of view. It misunderstands that a point of view isn’t necessarily legitimate. The bully and the bully’s victim have distinctly different points of view on their interaction. The bully cannot justify his — unless we see bullying and being its victim as equally justified and justifiable.

Remember back when America (and virtually nowhere else) debated the validity of climate science? America’s television news media would put a climate scientist (with facts and data at their fingertips) up against a climate denier (with nothing but their paid-for-by-polluters opinion). This, already, is not an equal fight. We’re pitting facts and reality up against bullshit.

These two people would share a screen split 50-50. In video vocabulary, a 50-50 screen says “these two points of view have equal value”. They could both be true — it’s up to the viewer to make up their mind. But that’s a false premise — because it’s not challenging the non-facts one side presents as legitimate argument. When the cameras roll, the climate scientist will have to spend valuable time trying to convince the TV audience that the bullshit they’re being forced to argue against is bullshit. Then, when the climate denier does the same thing — arguing that the facts are bullshit — the 50-50 of it all comes home to roost. A news show has given credence to nonsense.

A more accurate way to visually present the truth here would be to have the climate scientist filling 99% of the screen (relative to the value of the facts they brought to the studio) while the climate denier fills a few pixels up in the corner of the frame. The audio track would reflect the same balance. Result? We wouldn’t hear the climate denier’s voice — which is as it should be because they are lying and this is how we should think about the acceptable ratio of truth to lying in our discourse.

Cynicism is running rampant in America because, in large part, our news media is so cynical.

That doesn’t reflect reality and it doesn’t reflect who we really are as a nation. Not the majority of us. To be cynical is to think “Yeah, Mexicans ARE rapists”, women should be grabbed by their pussies, it’s okay if we canoodle with Putin and every other despot on earth, hundreds of thousands of Americans dead from the coronavirus is just “how it is”.

No, it isn’t.

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

Our news media insists (all evidence to the contrary) that the only difference between a Republican and a Democrat is the letter next to their name.

No, they’re not the same. Of course they’re not. Republicans, being conservatives, want to CONSERVE. Being as you can’t conserve the future, conservatives want to conserve the present but more exactly conservatives want to “conserve” the past. Just like their name says.

Progressives on the other hand want to (as THEIR name suggests) PROGRESS. Being as you can’t “progress” into the past — and you really can’t “progress into the present”, Progressives put their energies into getting as many people as possible to progress into the future — where we all belong.

So — both sides want diametrically different things. Whatever both sides might be doing, IT’S NOT THE SAME THING.

Come election time (if they could only put cheating aside), conservatives want to restrict voting as much as possible. The demographics are completely against them; the more that vote, the worse conservative chances are. That’s because the “glorious past” that conservatives dream of returning to is the 1850’s where everyone knew their place — men, women, white people and especially black people.

Democrats and Progressives, by contrast, want to bring as many Americans into the voting process as the possibly can. Why wouldn’t they? Democracy works best when it reflects as many voices as possible. Ever notice how Republican voter suppression efforts are never aimed at Republican voters? That’s not a coincidence.

By the same token, if the brown-skinned people fleeing Central American drug violence (that’s mostly our fault) were reliable Republican voters? They’d be limo’d across the border, handed a passport and be dropped off at the first employment office they came to. Complete with a credit card.

Both sides don’t lock children up in cages — and then justify it. Both sides don’t betray allies as easily as they breathe. Both sides don’t take money from the poor and middle class to give to the rich. Both sides aren’t actively trying to destroy our environment out of pure stupid greed. Both sides don’t seek to dismantle the whole federal government. Both sides don’t conspire with hostile foreign powers to circumvent the will of the American People.

Both sides do not commit treason to maintain political power.

Only ONE side does that — Republicans. It’s just how they’re wired.

Dear American Press: Please Get This – Truth Will Always Outweigh Bullshit

It seems so damned elemental it shouldn’t need explaining: Truth and lies are entirely different things. Being made of reality and real stuff, the Truth always has heft. The Truth can be unbearably heavy at times.

Bullshit on the other hand — while it looks like it weighs a ton — weighs nothing. That’s what it’s made of: nothing or one of nothing’s derivatives.

It’s galling as hell to watch supposedly informed members of the news media (MSNBC’s Chris Matthews is on my TV screen as I tap this out) give bullshit weight it doesn’t deserve. Chris Matthews — having just listened to five minutes of solid truthful reporting — instantly presented the (easily) anticipated Trumpian defense: bullshit.

But, Chris reported the bullshit as if it “could” have weight. What if? He false equivalenced five minutes of actual reporting with fifteen seconds of nonsense. Ummmmm, clean up on aisles three through infinity!

What makes it worse is, if you took Chris off set and shot the shit with him, he’d be the first to tell you (I sure hope) what a guilty traitor Trump is! Backstage, when no one’s worried about pissing off the Boss, you know a lot more nitty makes it into the gritty. On air, you have to double and triple source everything to pass muster. Off air — you heard what you heard.

Trust me — everyone’s “smarter” backstage. They know everyone else’s “play”. They know everyone else has a play.

But, on his air, Chris consistently (as he did today) presented Truth and outright bullshit as having equal weight. Truth could be true but, hey — so could the bullshit. That must be why MSNBC is putting it on its air — because it’s true, right?

It IS that simple. Media works that quickly, that efficiently, that effectively. I’m grateful most media has stopped presenting climate scientists & climate deniers in a 50-50 shot as if both sides of THAT conversation weighed the same. Keep in mind — in the visual language, a screen divided exactly in half has two sides of equal value. That’s how visual vocabulary works.

When that happens, the news media creates a “trompe l’oeil” — a visual trick — that makes empty, valueless bullshit look like it’s a dead ringer for stone cold Truth. A more truthful visual representation of a climate scientist debating a climate science denier would be the scientist taking 99% of the TV screen (maybe even 100%) and the denier getting the rest. Their mic volume would reflect the same proportions.

In other words, we would never see or hear from climate deniers because their bullshit had been properly “weighted”.

Truth’s problem is it isn’t sexy. It just is. Usually, the only reason anyone ever talks about “The Truth” is because someone else is questioning it — or denying it.

Dear CNN & MSNBC: Your Problem Is Simple — You Suck At FRAMING

How you tell a story is almost as important as the story itself.

The moment you fade in on your narrative, you frame it. You establish a point of view — even if its strict neutrality. And strict neutrality is rarely as neutral as it thinks it is. That, too, is a framing problem.

If you report a lie — without framing it as a lie — it’s perceived as the truth. When you sit a climate scientist next to a climate denier on a set and shoot them 50-50, you’re framing their conversation as a 50-50 — literally. The visual language says these two points of view are being represented on the screen in their proportional likelihood of truthfulness. At 50-50 — to judge by the framing — either could be right.

Quick side note, CNN & MSNBC — A more truthful, accurate screen representation would have the climate scientist occupying 99% of the screen and the denier getting roughly 1% — not because what he’s saying is 1% valid but for shits n giggles. I want to experience a climate denier shouting (at 1% of the audio mix too) into the wind as the wind devours them. See? I just framed a cruel streak in myself. I like to mock stupid people. And I think people who frame things badly are stupid.

Every time the Main Stream Media tell a story that’s framed incorrectly, they lead us further astray — and further down the authoritarian rabbit hole. The whole point of making the Truth hard to know starts with FRAMING IT THAT WAY. By “framing” the Truth as “hard to know”, those unwilling to question that assertion will now accept as truth that the Truth is beyond them. And all it took to get there was dishonest framing.

If you frame abortion as “baby-killing”, you’re framing it dishonestly. If you frame hunting as “sport”, you’re framing it dishonestly (you’re murdering animals for fun — admit it — the animal would tell you that’s what’s happening). If you frame

The fact that Donald Trump became president and is still president is a failure of framing. The CORRECT framing of Donald Trump was obvious the moment he rode down that escalator in that whorehouse of a building of his and announced that Mexicans are rapists. Trump framed himself as a racist. A few days later we heard him frame himself as a rapist, too, whose wealth apparently gave him permission to sexually assault women at will. Donald Trump framed himself as a criminal every time he bankrupted a casino. Everyone with a brain knew he’d been laundering money for the Russian mob. The proper frame for Donald Trump has always been a “thing”.

And yet… Our news media framed Trump differently. They stuck racism and bigotry and rapey behavior IN the frame (in a corner) but they didn’t use them to FRAME the way THEY were “telling” Donald Trump. In spite of the honest way Trump himself was framing himself, the media insisted on framing Trump as the imaginary character that had been created for him by Mark Burnett so as to make “The Apprentice” make sense.

As we now know, The Art Of The Deal wasn’t just utter bullshit, it was the utterest bullshit. While Trump was putting his name on Tony Schwartz’s writing, he was on his way to losing 1.7 billion dollars. A more honest framing of the book would have been The Art Of Near Total Failure.

I just wrote the last installment of a series called Blunt Truths for Weedmaps news — about the true story of cannabis prohibition. Yes — it was racism start to finish. But the way Harry Anslinger — America’s first Commissioner of Narcotics used racism to frame cannabis was a stroke of dark public relations genius that’s still haunting us. Even as cannabis is legalized, it’s still drenched in the bullshit mythology Anslinger created for it. We still frame cannabis from the point of view of a racist lie.

Every time a Hallie Jackson or an Alex Witt or a Chris Matthews goes to commercial with a tease that asks “Was the FBI SPYING on the Trump Campaign?” they’re literally FRAMING the story from THE CRIMINAL’S POINT OF VIEW. Think about it. The FBI wasn’t spying, they were carrying out a legitimate counter-intelligence investigation because good, solid evidence fairly shouted that Trump was owned by the Russians — but MSNBC is still FRAMING the story as SPYING because that’s what the subject of the investigation — the guy owned by the Russians — calls it.

It’s ludicrous. It happens every damned day.

Terrible framing is why so many of us remain in a constant stage of agita. We expect the Fourth Estate — as part of its Constitutionally mandated responsibility — to be the final check on power. To do that, they need to acknowledge that indeed that IS their responsibility.

I bet if they framed it that way to themselves, they’d get better at their jobs immediately.

Dear CNN & MSNBC: Your Problem Is Simple — You Suck At FRAMING

How you tell a story is almost as important as the story itself.

The moment you fade in on your narrative, you frame it. You establish a point of view — even if its strict neutrality. And strict neutrality is rarely as neutral as it thinks it is. That, too, is a framing problem.

If you report a lie — without framing it as a lie — it’s perceived as the truth. When you sit a climate scientist next to a climate denier on a set and shoot them 50-50, you’re framing their conversation as a 50-50 — literally. The visual language says these two points of view are being represented on the screen in their proportional likelihood of truthfulness. At 50-50 — to judge by the framing — either could be right.

Quick side note, CNN & MSNBC — A more truthful, accurate screen representation would have the climate scientist occupying 99% of the screen and the denier getting roughly 1% — not because what he’s saying is 1% valid but for shits n giggles. I want to experience a climate denier shouting (at 1% of the audio mix too) into the wind as the wind devours them. See? I just framed a cruel streak in myself. I like to mock stupid people. And I think people who frame things badly are stupid.

Every time the Main Stream Media tell a story that’s framed incorrectly, they lead us further astray — and further down the authoritarian rabbit hole. The whole point of making the Truth hard to know starts with FRAMING IT THAT WAY. By “framing” the Truth as “hard to know”, those unwilling to question that assertion will now accept as truth that the Truth is beyond them. And all it took to get there was dishonest framing.

If you frame abortion as “baby-killing”, you’re framing it dishonestly. If you frame hunting as “sport”, you’re framing it dishonestly (you’re murdering animals for fun — admit it — the animal would tell you that’s what’s happening). If you frame

The fact that Donald Trump became president and is still president is a failure of framing. The CORRECT framing of Donald Trump was obvious the moment he rode down that escalator in that whorehouse of a building of his and announced that Mexicans are rapists. Trump framed himself as a racist. A few days later we heard him frame himself as a rapist, too, whose wealth apparently gave him permission to sexually assault women at will. Donald Trump framed himself as a criminal every time he bankrupted a casino. Everyone with a brain knew he’d been laundering money for the Russian mob. The proper frame for Donald Trump has always been a “thing”.

And yet… Our news media framed Trump differently. They stuck racism and bigotry and rapey behavior IN the frame (in a corner) but they didn’t use them to FRAME the way THEY were “telling” Donald Trump. In spite of the honest way Trump himself was framing himself, the media insisted on framing Trump as the imaginary character that had been created for him by Mark Burnett so as to make “The Apprentice” make sense.

As we now know, The Art Of The Deal wasn’t just utter bullshit, it was the utterest bullshit. While Trump was putting his name on Tony Schwartz’s writing, he was on his way to losing 1.7 billion dollars. A more honest framing of the book would have been The Art Of Near Total Failure.

I just wrote the last installment of a series called Blunt Truths for Weedmaps news — about the true story of cannabis prohibition. Yes — it was racism start to finish. But the way Harry Anslinger — America’s first Commissioner of Narcotics used racism to frame cannabis was a stroke of dark public relations genius that’s still haunting us. Even as cannabis is legalized, it’s still drenched in the bullshit mythology Anslinger created for it. We still frame cannabis from the point of view of a racist lie.

Every time a Hallie Jackson or an Alex Witt or a Chris Matthews goes to commercial with a tease that asks “Was the FBI SPYING on the Trump Campaign?” they’re literally FRAMING the story from THE CRIMINAL’S POINT OF VIEW. Think about it. The FBI wasn’t spying, they were carrying out a legitimate counter-intelligence investigation because good, solid evidence fairly shouted that Trump was owned by the Russians — but MSNBC is still FRAMING the story as SPYING because that’s what the subject of the investigation — the guy owned by the Russians — calls it.

It’s ludicrous. It happens every damned day.

Terrible framing is why so many of us remain in a constant stage of agita. We expect the Fourth Estate — as part of its Constitutionally mandated responsibility — to be the final check on power. To do that, they need to acknowledge that indeed that IS their responsibility.

I bet if they framed it that way to themselves, they’d get better at their jobs immediately.

Let’s Prepare For The Disappointment Now: At The End Of The Day, The Press WILL Let Us Down

Now, I don’t mean EVERYONE in the Main Stream Media. But ALMOST everyone. We shouldn’t be here — at the precipice of our Republic going down the toilet because of Republic-ans.

If we don’t pull this back from the brink and an honest history of our times never gets written, the story will never be told of how a foolish notion — that “both sides do it” — was the basis for the complete and utter failure of the American Press to uphold their Constitutionally mandated duty to be the final check on power. We need to know where this ludicrous need for false equivalence comes from. That’s what “both sides do it” is — it’s the Mother Of All False Equivalences.

It’s like saying Bernie Madoff is a thief — he’s a rich guy who stole from other rich guys. Jean Valjean (fictional though he is) stole bread because people were hungry and needed it. Poor guy. See? Both rich guys AND poor guys BOTH “steal”. Both sides do it.

Never mind proportion or perspective. Both sides do it.

This ludicrous idea has sailed past abstraction and now sits like a giant dodo bird atop American journalism — holding it down while death circles overhead like crows in a Boschian hellscape. Sight unseen it gives every piece of information (true or untrue) equal weight. A lie by Donald Trump has equal weight to the truth spoken by someone else. They’re both the same. The primo example of how this works and looks — any time there’s a conversation about climate change — and a denier is given either equal time or an equal screen.

Images have a vocabulary. Video has a vocabulary. Two images presented side-by-side in a 50-50 setting are understood to be absolute equals. It might not be what the broadcaster intends but that’s how our brains perceive it. And the name of the game isn’t what you meant, it’s how you were perceived. That’s why schmucks like Donald Trump can shrug off their horribleness as “just a joke!” Suddenly it’s on us for not getting it. For not perceiving what wasn’t a joke as a joke.

We desperately need our press — all of it, every last bit — to see the picture in front of them for what it is. We need them to stop giving the benefit of the doubt to thieves and criminals who are using that very benefit to undermine the press’s ability to ever report The Truth accurately again. We need the press to unbolt the normalcy bias blinders from its eyes and recognize how much THEY THEMSELVES have normalized both unacceptable and downright criminal behaviors. Because actual crime has been committed in their faces — in front of their cameras even — it can’t be a crime: that seems to be their take. They’re wrong about that. Completely and utterly wrong.

And they can’t see it.

As they say in French: “Voila le probleme!”

That won’t end well — for us or for them. Both sides don’t do it. If they did, they’re not doing it now — and that’s more important than anything. However American News Media acquires perspective, they need to get it Amazon Primed to them right bloody now.

We can’t afford for them to let us down.

Dear Main Stream Media – No, Both Sides DON’T Do It

I’m dying to know.  Which class is it in America’s Journalism Schools that’s confusing everyone?  Which class is instructing American Journalists that if you can’t write anything else, fall back on ‘Well, both sides do it…!’?

Whichever class it is, it’s screwing up American Journalism to the point where American Journalism is HELPING undermine the Republic.  ‘Both sides do it’ is literally blinding them to the larger — and far, FAR more  important — story.

‘Both Sides Do It’ Journalism accepts that a man stealing a loaf of bread because he’s hungry is the same as an industrialist stealing billions from the commonweal.  Yes — both men are thieves.  BOTH SIDES DO IT.

But there’s a difference of scale between them, yeah?  Stealing a loaf of bread and stealing billions are both thievery but aside from that abstract fact, there’s not an iota of similarity.  And while you could say ‘BOTH SIDES DO IT’ — it doesn’t exactly capture ‘The Truth’.  In fact, it perverts the Truth.

That’s what ‘Both Sides Do It’ instantly eschews: Scale… Proportion… Context.  It’s a headline that doesn’t actually match the story.

As we head toward an election that will absolutely decide this country’s fate, the American News Media is taking ‘Both Sides Do It’ Journalism to bold new heights.

Today’s ‘It’ — Enthusiasm.  Both sides have enthusiasm.  Yes, they do.  But the ‘nature’ of that enthusiasm — that’s actually the story.  People who want to restrict rights have one sort of ‘enthusiasm’ and people whose rights are about to be restricted — they experience a whole ‘other’ kind of ‘enthusiasm’.  Theirs is existential.  The other is merely cruel and mired in fear of the ‘other’.  It’s Lizard Brain thinking (as it were).

When you report them as being the same — it distorts everything about the story.  It screws with the Truth.  It’s not far enough away to be dismissed out of hand, but it’s close enough to blur reality in peoples’ minds.  Damage done.

When you approach every story already fixated on the false narrative that whatever crime one side does, the other is matching it step for step.  The most painful example remains every time a ‘serious’ news media outlet hosts a panel discussion about Climate Change and they invite a Climate Change Denier to sit in on the panel.

Television — this is not a revelation — is a mostly visual medium.  How you see things is key to how you perceive them.  When a news outlet splits a screen 50-50, the inherent message is “These Two Sides Are Equal” (by the same token if they squeezed those screens to represent reality — perhaps that would be a genius way to faithfully represent how arguments compare).  When a Climate Scientist shares a 50-50 screen with a Denier — the two are given equal weight, as are their arguments.  Science gets diminished while bullshit gains credibility.  That can’t possibly end well.

But that, too, is part of ‘Both Sides Do It’.  It slides easily into false narratives because it starts from such a distorted place.  Once False Narratives get launched, they take on a life of their own.  The Truth gets harder to discern from all the bullshit surrounding it.

After a while — as we have now — American Journalists start out from a ‘Both Sides Do It’ perspective.  They fail to see any sort of proportionality.  A candidate who equivocates about a senate vote becomes the same as a candidate who lies about raping someone. They both failed to tell the Truth.  BOTH SIDES DO IT.

No, American News Media — Both Sides DO NOT DO IT.

Both sides DO NOT regularly cheat to win elections.

Both sides DO NOT do not disenfranchise and suppress voters.

Both sides DO NOT ‘knowingly’ accept money from FOREIGN DONORS!

Both sides DO NOT lie with such shocking impunity.

Both sides DO NOT so clearly serve the needs of their White, Wealthy, Christian, Male donors at the expense of every other American.

Both sides DO NOT declare Culture War on other Americans.

Both sides DO NOT commit TREASON to hold onto power.

Both sides do not do it.  Period.