When Is A Fact Not A Fact?

Let’s start with basic math. We can all agree that one plus one equals two, right? We can all agree that the moon revolves around the earth and the earth revolves around the sun. Keep in mind — we can’t actually “see” the moon revolve around the earth — or the earth revolve around the sun. We have to extrapolate these things based on the available evidence.

We’re connecting dots in order to “see” the bigger picture and draw reasonable conclusions. We’re using a bunch of smaller facts to understand a larger fact.

Donald Trump is a criminal. Funny thing? We don’t have to connect any dots to see it. He happily commits plenty of his crimes in plain view. Hell, reliable, informed people keep telling us that Trump’s a criminal — likely a traitor, too. Plenty of dots that a scientist would connect.

Yet, our journalists do not.

In storytelling, if you’re doing it right, each scene adds new information to what the audience knows. Scenes don’t have to add a ton of info to justify being in a story, but they have to at least add a nuance or shading to a character or how the story might break. The point is, the scene that follows? It can’t go back to the story as it was BEFORE the previous scene. The audience knows too much now.

When fictional storytellers do that — keep going back to story points the audience already knows? They lose their audience. Why, unless it’s Harold Pinter’s “Betrayal” which deliberately and brilliantly tells its story backwards, would a storyteller do that? Most wouldn’t. It’s horrible storytelling.

So why do our journalists — storytellers albeit of true stories — do it?

Our accumulated picture of Donald Trump — from “Mexicans are rapists” & “pussy-grabbing” all the way through to Trump’s continuing embrace of Confederate flags tells one completely consistent story. Even outside of his presidency, Trump is a study in multi-generational racism. Fred Trump, don’t forget, was a card-carrying member of the KKK. Father and son were nailed for refusing to rent to black people. Everyone with ears on the set of “The Apprentice” has a story of “Donald Trump: Big League Racist”.

If we were telling any other story, the audience would understand (because the storytellers made it explicit) that the subject — in addition to all his other hard, fast biographical data — IS A RACIST. Each story would begin along the lines of “Oh, and here’s what that racist Donald Trump just said on the subject of race…”.

The news audience would begin their understanding of the story from a “Oh, what did the racist-in-chief say now about race?” platform.

Instead, our news media begins their reporting every day as if Trump was a “normal” POTUS saying normal POTUS things. Except he’s saying abnormal things for a POTUS to say so therefore THAT must be the “new normal”. Um, no. There is no “new normal”. That’s the press normalizing what should never be normalized. It’s the storyteller doggedly dragging the story backward, while it kicks and screams all the way.

We’ve seen and heard (the press has reported) ample evidence that Trump is a security risk. That he says things to the Russians in particular that — let’s not tiptoe — are flat out treasonous. Oh, sorry — there I go again, connecting the dots sitting there that clearly connect. Instead, our news media continues to report Trump as a man with an “odd fixation” with Russia or a “different kind of relationship” with Putin.

Oy.

When is a rapist not a rapist?

When is a racist not a racist?

When is a traitor not a traitor?

Apparently when our news media “reports” it.

A scientist looking at the evidence would probably say “Ya know, though a jury’s never said it — they’ve never been asked — the evidence all says clearly, without viable contradiction, that Donald Trump is a rapist/racist/traitor.

In a civil trial, the obligation is 51% — the preponderance of the evidence. I once sat on a jury that decided an ageism case. We had to decide if the preponderance of the evidence said LA’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority fired an older employee because he was older. There was no direct evidence — someone saying “Let’s fire the old guy cos he’s old”. We had to deduct it to reach our verdict. Anyone, we felt, would have reached the same conclusion looking at the same evidence.

A journalist, for instance. Nothing we saw at trial was unavailable to the press pre-trial (it wasn’t that big a case; what I mean is — had the victim gone to the media first, they would have had access to most of the same information). The preponderance of the evidence spoke loudly.

“Both Sides Do It” journalism has put the ludicrous notion in our news media’s head that it must be strictly neutral. Yes, one must report the news from as even-handed a point of view as one can — even-handed in that it represents the facts up to that moment. It’s no good being “even-handed” based on old information. If we’re reporting on a child molester, it would be malpractice to ignore that fact to report on what a fabulous Halloween display he put on.

Both Side Do It journalism ignores facts in favor of the cynical insistence that everyone behaves with the same motives. Nothing could be further from the truth.

If we were all the same, we’d all be Republicans or Democrats. There’s not much common ground between real conservatives and real progressives. They don’t “do” things the same because they don’t think the same. Socialists who believe in the greater good and that the group’s freedoms always supersede the individual’s do not act the same way as “rugged individual” conservatives who think “you’re not the boss of me” is what freedom’s all about.

And they don’t do things for the same reason.

But, every time an American journalist asks “Are they just being political?” they’re ignoring facts. Odds are the question’s NOT being asked about Mitch McConnell blocking every bit of legislation cos he’s the Grim Reaper but it IS being asked about every Democrat calling him out for it.

Indeed — when are facts not facts? I repeat — OY!

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 Our Main Stream News Media Sucks – “Benefit Of The Doubt” Edition

The most frustrating words to tumble from any reporter’s mouth is “Yeah, but what if…?” because what always follows is that reporter giving someone or something the benefit of the doubt it almost assuredly doesn’t deserve.

MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhl is a talented financial reporter. But her great still set constantly gets compromised by an incessant compulsion to ask “But,, what if…?” questions — the kind that ask “But, what if Hitler had liked Jews instead of hating them?” Great abstract question. Who gives a shit – it’s never going to happen! Ever. To even think of it would be a profound waste of time.

Every single day, Donald Trump does something that an American president should never do. He says something that a grown up should never say. He commits crimes, violates long-standing norms, openly betrays the country — hell, part of the running joke we’re all in on is the idea that Donald Trump does something bad, wrong or illegal every day. In a courtroom, this would be called “Preponderance Of Evidence”.

Think of it as a connect the dots picture like this one…

The preponderance of the available evidence says “It’s an elephant”. But, as the dots aren’t actually connected — and the elephant completely revealed — I guess one could think the picture could be something else but considering the preponderance of the evidence, you’d have to be a moron to go there. Seriously — a moron. It’s not a picture of anything else and was never going to be a picture of anything else. To ask “But, what if it’s a picture of a whale?” would be stupid. If we were to engage with you and your question, we’d have to point out how all the evidence points to the picture being an elephant.

Wasted time, wasted energy, wasted everything. That’s what happens when you give the benefit of the doubt to things that do not deserve any such benefit. And yet — every day, as you report on Donald Trump — you give him the benefit of the doubt. As if maybe he isn’t a racist… or a misogynist… or a corrupt criminal… or a traitor.

No, no, no, you surely think — “I’m just being objective”. Fair enough. Objectivity is essential to good journalism. Objectivity is perspective. But having perspective means you DON’T have to entertain things that your perspective deems unworthy. And having perspective means you KNOW there are plenty of things unworthy — of your time, your energy, your “but, what if…?” questions.

“But, what if…?” is not journalism. It’s you (or a journalist like you) being foolish and credulous. It’s you trading in your skepticism for a steno pad.

But, what if our country really isn’t facing an existential crisis because the president and his political party sold us out for money, power and permanent minority rule?

Connect the dots, damn it. Even simpler — Connect THE dot…

Connect-The-Dots For Dummies

I should be sympathetic to our over-burdened Mainstream News Media. How do you cover a story that’s always in Breaking News mode? Maybe part of the reason the story’s always IN Breaking News mode is because the American News Media lack the perspective to see the picture their dots are connecting until the very last dot gets joined in. “Oh, hey, look — It’s an elephant!

If CNN or MSNBC (broadcast news media show significantly less perspective than their print journalism) had been able to connect the dots about Donald Trump sooner, the Republic might have been spared this extended moment of Imminent Demise. We literally teeter on the precipice because our News Media 1) accepted and normalized Donald Trump’s racism, sexism and bigotry, 2) refused until it was undeniable that Donald Trump had an unsavory relationship with Russia, 3) remain blind to the possibility that the GOP’s loyalty to Trump has less to do with party & more to do with all the Russian money they’ve taken in (plus the likelihood that there’s blackmail aplenty keeping them in line), and 4) suffer from an extreme case of normalcy bias that blinds the MSM to how much THEY themselves have normalized what should never have been normalized.

It’s not that all the pieces haven’t been there. Fusion GPS was the business intelligence firm (run by former Wall Street Journal writers) that got hired (initially by the conservative Washington Free Beacon) to do opposition research on Donald Trump (the Free Beacon’s owner was a Jeb Bush supporter), the first thing they did, according to Fusion founder Glenn Simpson in his Congressional testimony was their due diligence. They got ahold of every piece of publicly available material on Trump. They went to libraries. Spent money on Amazon. They watched video and listened to radio appearances. What Fusion found — in publicly available material — convinced them that Donald Trump was a criminal who’d laundered Russian mob money for years. So, Simpson testified, he contacted Chris Steele — the former head of MI6’s Russia desk.

Any of the rest of the American press could have done similar due diligence. Having that info at their fingertips would surely have informed their reporting. Donald Trump was never a “different” president (a ludicrous assertion to begin with; no one – NO ONE – does things because they’re “different”), he was and is a criminal. Criminality and the desire not to get caught were and remain his motivations.

Seen from thirty thousand feet (a favorite media expression), the picture the dots form (should) become apparent. Yet the overwhelming majority of American journalists still seem incapable of imagining such a view. In part, I suspect, it’s because they get so focused in on the story they were covering; that’s a very good thing.

But then they forget that their story isn’t THE story, it’s part of a much larger story — with connections to lots of other stories. Maybe a better analogy would be a mosaic. Journalists like MSNBC’s Ken Dilanian bore in so deeply into their PIECE of the mosaic that they can no longer see that it’s just a piece of a larger picture — and that the unknowns inside his story can be understood IF seen in the context of the larger picture.

The Ken Dilanian’s of the journalistic world won’t commit to anything unless the gun is smoking still. On the one hand, it’s a solid journalistic practice. Ah, but — Ken won’t draw any conclusions until all the dots are connected, i’s dotted, t’s crossed and every last doubt put to bed. What if he’s wrong?

It’s true — sometimes you can never see the actual proof that a thing is — seeing the thing itself. Sometimes you have to discern the truth from the indications being given off by everything around it. Take our first-ever “snapshot” of a black hole…

It’s a remarkable accomplishment — this image. But the thing about it is, we STILL can’t “see” the black hole itself. We can’t because light can’t escape the black hole. All we can see are the particles approaching the black hole’s event horizon. As the particles speed up, they heat up. We’re seeing the light those particles emitted as they flowed to their own destruction 85 million years ago. We’re seeing the black hole’s event horizon — and NOT the black hole itself.

The black hole’s presence has to be inferred from the data surrounding it.

To leap back to earth — Donald Trump’s treason can be inferred from all the data surrounding IT. Or, as I like to think of it —


Our News Media’s Big Problem – They Don’t Know How To Connect Dots

I have two kids.  When they were little, they both delighted in connect-the-dots books.  They thrilled to the concept that — as they drew (their pencil being guided by the numbers) — a picture would emerge.  And all THEY had to do: connect the dots.

Cute_Elephant_connect_dots

That same concept works in and for storytelling.  Half the fun of listening to a story is anticipating where we think it’s going to go.  Based on the dots already connected for us (by the storyteller), we can anticipate how the dots ahead of us might connect.  We’re also hoping for a plot twist that will completely screw with what we anticipated.  Then the dots will connect a different way.

But — the point is — they’ll still connect.

If the dots don’t connect — there’s no story.  So — in stories, as in life, the dots must (and do) connect.  Just like in the connect-the-dot books.

What can possibly explain our Main Stream Media’s inability to do that simple, basic thing?

We sit in the middle of the biggest connect-the-dots puzzle ever imagined.  It’s massive, stretching in all sorts of directions.  It’s a picture — we can see it already (those of us who can imagine a picture from more than a few hundred feet up) of Massive Corruption — here, in the United States, in Europe, in the Middle east and in Asia.  Even Australia’s contributed — contributing a racist murderer to New Zealand.  Only Antarctica seems free of political corruption; maybe the scientists who’ve worked there know differently.

What we’ve already eyewitnessed ourselves is staggering in its audacity and criminality. Those of us who see crime for what it is, have always seen crime.  Those who easily normalize crime (“He’s a different kind of president”) see normalcy.  The only reason they see normalcy is because they cannot connect dots.

There is nothing normal about these here times. Anyone who accepts this as normal has either surrendered (and needs to stop or just get the hell out of everyone else’s way) or is part of the criminal class — and they need to cut it the hell out — and get the hell out of everyone else’s way.  There has been a steady stream of clear-cut EVIDENCE that Donald Trump has an “unnatural” relationship with not only Vladimir Putin but a whole host of authoritarian monsters.

There are no coincidences — those are dots connecting.

Of course, it’s hard to see the picture the dots are forming when you obsess on the relationship between two dots.  Problem is — while THOSE TWO dots may not connect directly, they’re still part of the same picture.  If you don’t see THAT fact — you’re going to miss what the picture looks like.  Hell, you’ll probably think they’re TWO DIFFERENT PICTURES. And that, of course, is completely wrong.

Welcome to America’s Main Stream News Media.

Back when Fusion GPS first got hired by the REPUBLICAN Washington Free Beacon (Jeb Bush supporters) to compile oppo research on Donald Trump, they started by doing their “due diligence”.  When he testified before Congress on August 22, 2017, Fusion’s founding partner Glenn Simpson (formerly of the Wall Street Journal — not exactly a liberal rag) explained Fusion’s process.  They got ahold of every piece of PUBLICLY AVAILABLE material they could on Donald J Trump.

They got books.  They got magazine articles.  They listened to Trump on radio shows and watched him on TV shows. They bought stuff from Amazon and borrowed it from the public library.  Simpson testified that Fusion got its hands on every existing bit of info (available to anyone) that even hinted at Trump.  And what they found there, said Simpson, convinced them that Donald Trump had a long, clear criminal history — and that history had a long, clear relationship with Russian mobsters.

Simpson and Fusion GPS knew — Russian mobsters equals the Russian government.  You don’t get to be a Russian oligarch (a mobster) without having one particular friend in Moscow: Vlad Putin.  Putin’s a spy by nature and training.  He thinks like a spy and acts like one. He’s always looking for an in — a way to control you and make you his.  If Donald Trump had secrets about Russian mobsters for whom he’d been laundering money — he had secrets about himself and Vladimir Putin.

Understand — the Donald dot does not connect directly to the Vladimir Putin dot. But they do most definitely connect.

They are very definitely part of the same picture.

Oh — before I forget — IF anyone in the Main Stream Media happens to read this — that picture at the top of the post?

It’s an elephant.