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

Dear Stephanie Ruhl (sorry for using you as an example but you’ll thank me in the end):

I write this as a fan — someone who respects your talent and skill as a financial reporter. You know your stuff. But, when you turn from analyzing numbers (and what they could mean) to analyzing humans (and what they could mean), you lose your way. Take the subject of Donald Trump. You report on him every single day.

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…

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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.