Why Our Main Stream News Media Sucks — “It’s The Framing, Stupid” Edition

It physically hurts watching most of our Main Stream News Media grapple with Donald Trump. He’s so much a creature of their making — his entertainer’s DNA is the same as theirs — that they fail to see their own fatal flaws in him.

It’s days/weeks/months/a presidency like this that make me think about Paddy Chayefsky’s brilliant screenplay Network.

If you haven’t seen it, see it! When you remember that Chayefsky wrote it eons before Fox News flared to life in Roger Ailes’ fetid mind (the feature came out in 1976) — a propaganda tool designed from the ground up to stop a Richard Nixon type president from ever getting caught again (that’s right — Roger Ailes believed that had Fox News been around during Nixon’s time, Nixon would never have had to quit) — Network becomes even more visionary.

Chayefsky anticipated the marriage of news and entertainment — and the birth of their Frankenstein Monster-like love child — a wildly out of control noise machine that gleefully blurs the lines between fact and fiction, reality and bullshit, ordered moral rectitude and total Machiavellian chaos. In one extra-brilliant scene, Ned Beatty — playing the Chairman Of The Board — explains “the rules” to renegade anchor man Howard Beale (Oscar winner Peter Finch). This is a wonderful example of “FRAMING”…””

…And YOU, Mr. Beale, have disturbed the Fundamental Forces Of NATURE!”

9A5% of our Main Stream News Media cannot “frame” a story to save their lives. To save OUR lives either. We need to remember — so does our Main Stream News Media — that journalists are storyteller first and foremost. News is just the story of what’s happening now and why. Journalists must follow the same rules fictional storytellers play by — if they’re going to be any good at storytelling.

All storytelling begins with framing. It’s storytelling’s “In the beginning…”. Do we frame Hitler (in a story about him) as a good guy or a bad guy? The overwhelming majority of us would probably frame Hitler as the villain regardless of the piece. But a few — white nationalists for instance — would probably frame Hitler as a hero. Framing equals point of view. Whose point of view does a story represent.

If you go and frame a story from Hitler’s point of view — or, say, Donald Trump’s — then things like Jew hatred to the point of causing a Holocaust or caging Latino babies at our southern border — then outright evil doesn’t seem so… “evil”. Evil gets normalized. Not all at once — but enough so that the next evil act plays to a collective psyche that accepts a certain amount of evil as “just how things are”. No, they’re NOT how things are.

Framing begins with what you know and what you can legitimately believe based on the preponderance of evidence. Donald Trump is a liar. Donald Trump is a money launderer. Donald Trump is a fraud. Donald Trump is a bully. Donald Trump is a racist. Donald Trump is a rapist. Donald Trump is a traitor. One could legitimately frame any story about Donald Trump from any one of these points of view — and successfully tell a NEWS story.

One could NOT (for comparison’s sake) frame a story from the point of view that Donald Trump is an honest actor who believes every word he reads off a teleprompter. That story would be demonstrably false even as you told it. And yet — our Main Stream News Media persists in framing the Donald Trump story from that very perspective: that Donald Trump is a normal person and a normal president. Sorry — I got that slightly wrong: they frame Trump as a “different kind of potus” who “expresses himself directly”.

Allow me to translate from the bullshit — “Trump’s a chaos agent and we have no idea how to report on him”. There’s no such thing as “different”. A journalist reporting that a politician is “different” because he ignores all rules and norms is a lazy journalist. “Why” are they different? “What do you mean exactly by ‘different’?” To call Donald Trump “different” is to frame Trump from the point of view of bullshit. It helps no one — except Donald Trump.

And that — right there — is the problem. When you frame a story from the point of view of, say, a villain — you see the world through the villain’s eyes. You empathize with the villain and see their goals as our goals. You normalize evil and make it not only respectable but desirable.

The Poster Girl for this rancid brand of un-journalism is NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell.

Kelly O’Donnell – A nice person (I bet) with zero perspective (I’m positive).

I’m sure Kelly’s a lovely person. I’m sure she’s a wonderful friend — she seems very empathetic. But she lacks critical faculties. She’s no more discerning of the Truth than an open microphone. Kelly happily reports everything Trump says from her White House beat as if Donald Trump was a tower of integrity whose every word was his bond.

FFS, Kelly — when we look back at this period a few years from now (provided we’re not all living in a gulag or a mass grave), we’ll look squarely at the Fourth Estate and their many profound failings. Journalists are the only job mentioned specifically in the Constitution. They are obligated to be our final check on power.

But a check that frames stories from the point of view of the things it’s supposed to be checking cannot check shit. It surrenders the necessary perspective the moment it starts reporting. Any story about Trump that doesn’t immediately frame Trump as a liar is a lie itself — how can it not be? It’s telling the liar’s lie for him. carrying his lying water wherever he wants it carried.

This isn’t hard to fix. Gaining perspective is as easy as stepping back from a story and allowing yourself to see all the great details you’ve uncovered in the largest possible context — so that you can see, evaluate and appreciate how your small cogs work as part of the larger wheel. I think of NBC’s number cruncher Steve Kornacki.

I’m sure Steve’s a lovely person, fun to lunch with. And he’s bright, too. I’ll give him that. But bright without perspective is less bright than it could be. Than it SHOULD BE. Steve Kornacki can tell you everything you want to know about a grain of sand — so long as we’re only talking about that one grain. Does that grain of sand live on the beach at Malibu or smack in the center of the Sahara Desert? Steve can’t tell you that.

He can only frame the grain of sand’s story from the grain of sand’s point of view. That is only part of its story unfortunately.

We need our news media to report the WHOLE Trump story every time out of the gate. We need them to see Donald Trump the way Fusion GPS saw Trump. Fusion, you’ll recall, was the research entity hired by the Washington Free Beacon then (through intermediaries) the Hillary Clinton campaign to learn all the could about Trump — through legitimate means. Fusion (as principle Glenn Simpson testified to Congress), upon being hired, started the job by doing its due diligence. They got ahold of every bit of publicly available material concerning Trump. Books, magazines, video, radio, internet. They bought from Amazon, browsed book stores & magazine racks and even went to the public library. What they found in publicly available material so convinced them that Trump had used his Atlantic City casinos to launder Russian Mob money that they hired former MI6 Russia desk guru Christopher Steele. Steele had the best sources inside Russia.

Fusion, in its report to its clients, framed Trump from the widest possible perspective. That perspective saw Trump as a criminal.

There is nothing whatsoever — still, to this very day — stopping America’s Main Stream News Media from doing the exact same due diligence.

It’s a little late now, of course. CNN & MSNBC (and all the rest) could easily have done this back when Trump was insisting that Mexicans are rapists. Perhaps if our Main Stream News Media HAD done that, there wouldn’t be a pile of dead Mexican bodies right now in El Paso.

When our MSM mis-frames stories, it isn’t just bad storytelling, it’s toxic to our Democracy.

The Same Racism Used To Justify White Supremacist Violence Was Used To Make Cannabis Illegal

Durban Poison. Not merely a good sativa, a great one…

I’ve searched Google & Wikipedia. I’ve searched the whole internet (every single tube of it). I even cracked an actual book. There’s no evidence anywhere that racism ever did anything good for anyone. Yet here we are, hostages of America’s racist soul.

I’ll warn ya right now — there’s a whole shitload of irony coming. Because of course.

Patrick Crusius, the El Paso shooter, published a manifesto an hour before heading out the door, armed to the teeth, his intent — hunt other humans and kill them because they’re different. His manifesto made his feelings about brown people and immigrants crystal clear. 21-year-old Mr. Crusius was angry enough to drive hours across the state of Texas to specifically shoot people coming from Mexico. Or, as Mr. Crusius would probably call them “Mexicans”.

I don’t know if Mr. Crusius smokes cannabis. I know lots & lots & LOTS of his white supremacist pals love the stuff. Why shouldn’t they? Cannabis is a great product (for adults for whom its appropriate and who are savvy about their dosing). But the fact that it IS a legal product now in places like California is in spite of the fact that it was “illegalized” back in the day specifically because of racism like Mr. Cruisius’.

In “Blunt Truths” — the series I wrote for Weedmaps News — I deep dive into the overt racism behind every bit of marijuana prohibition. At no point did anyone legislating marijuana ever ask “But, is it bad for people?” It was never about what marijuana did to anyone, it was always about WHO was smoking it. When Harry Anslinger became America’s first Commissioner of the nascent Federal Bureau of Narcotics, he didn’t give a shit about cannabis. He said so.

White people knew little about cannabis. It wasn’t part of their culture as it was part of Mexico’s culture. Not a big part, of course — but a part. Unlike alcohol, marijuana didn’t make anyone angry or violent. It just made them feel better and happier at the end of a day’s work. Or whenever they cared to use it. The Mexican Revolution (1910) created a wave of frightened Mexicans heading north. Marijuana traveled with them. Because it was unfamiliar, it caught the attention of the already nervous white people.

Marihuana caught a ride east and landed in New Orleans where jazz was being born. The musicians doing the birthing (guys like Louis Armstrong, King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton) didn’t like to drink because alcohol dulled their senses and their creativity. Morphine was even worse. Marihuana however made them feel good without dulling them. Quite the contrary — reefer opened their minds. Suddenly they could hear tones and shadings and nuances they didn’t hear without the dope. They could create on marijuana. They could perform on it. They could live their lives on it.

New Orleans habitually expunged the black musicians from the city. When the city closed famed Storyville in 1918, all those talented players headed north, up the Mississippi. That same migration happened again in the late 1920’s. Those pot-smoking jazz musicians landed in Memphis, Nashville, Chicago. Each place they landed, marijuana culture started. And — here’s where it gets problematic for white people — WHITE PEOPLE started smoking it. That’s the reason behind cannabis prohibition not only in America but all around the world — for real: Cannabis was made illegal because white people started smoking it.

Harry Anslinger was a staggering racist but (the problem) a masterful bureaucrat. He overcame a veritable shitload of truth, reality and law to finally have his way and make marijuana illegal. Once he made it illegal here, he used his bureaucratic expertise to make cannabis illegal all over the world. To help accomplish that end, Anslinger invented every last bit of the marijuana mythology that still haunts us today.

Anslinger invented “reefer madness”. When, in the 1950’s his racist dog whistle stopped working as well in Congress (Anslinger had to fight a constant war for dollars to fund his agency), Anslinger invented “The Gateway Theory” to connect marijuana usage to hard drug usage. No legitimate data exists connecting those two things — emphasis on the word “legitimate”. None. Zilch.

Still, Richard Nixon used that lie to justify the (bullshit) War On Drugs. Just so we’re clear — the War On Drugs (John Haldeman even admitted this in an interview ffs!) was understood by those waging it to be a war on black people, brown people and liberal people.

Just like the raging racists who preceded them, no one ever asked “But, isn;t it actually kind of good for people?”

Racists like Mr. Crusius, Santino Legran (Gilroy Garlic Festival) & William Bowers (Tree Of Life Synagogue, Pittsburgh) or bigots like Omar Mateen (the Orlando gay nightclub shooter) despise all foreign cultures (especially if black or brown people practice them). Yet — given time, these same racists will ADAPT and come to love the very cultural object they once used as the focus of their ignorance and racism.

I celebrate anyone who enjoys and revels in the many pleasures and benefits of cannabis. Ummmm — hold on there, white supremacists. I’m celebrating your cannabis celebration with an asterisk: you’re a damned hypocrite.

What this illustrates is the sheer bullshittiness of racism. Those of us hip to the amazing advantages of multi-cultralism and diversity know — things not native to white Christian culture (jazz, food with flavor, cannabis) — will eventually burrow their way in (if not to the racists then to every last bit of the culture around them). But then there’s cannabis.

Even a racist can’t not love it. I warned you there’d be irony.

The Gun Lobby Is Holding The Second Amendment Hostage

How big a pile of bodies does there need to be? I always wonder when another of these terrible tragedies — and we just had two (count em – TWO!) mass shootings within 12 hours (El Paso and Dayton, OH with 29 people dead so far) — how would one of the people resisting gun control react if one or more of THEIR loved ones ended up on the growing mountain of gunshot victim bodies?

Would they still hold firm to their “belief” that the “Founding Fathers” wanted this — in fact, they enshrined their desire for mass murder in America in the Second Amendment? Would they kiss their child, wife, husband, relative, friend for the last time with a sighed, “Oh well — at least we still have our gun rights”? I bet a lot of them would. The money means much more to them than human flesh including their own.

Of all the amendments to the Constitution, the Second’s the only one where we argue (and I’ll get argued with for sure) about how certain words meant different things back then. That argument goes “Back then, ‘well-regulated’ meant ‘in good working order’ so the amendment means everyone should have all the guns they want and they should all be in good working order.” Oh, okay.

Funny thing though, the words “well regulated militia” also meant back then what they mean TODAY. The second amendment frames guns from the point of view of “A well regulated militia” — “being necessary to the security of a free State…”. Words two & three are not talking about the “arms” mentioned later, they’re talking about the “militia” right next to them.

A “militia” is “a military force that is raised from the civil population to supplement a regular army in an emergency” or “a military force that engages in rebel or terrorist activities in opposition to a regular army” or “all able-bodied civilians eligible by law for military service”.

So — if we strip all the bullshit away from the linguistic gymnastics, we get a very simple concept. An ORGANIZED assemblage of able-bodied citizens — who will be obligated to FOLLOW REGULATIONS — and if they’re WELL-REGULATED, that sounds like there are LOTS of REGULATIONS — as to WHO will actually get to KEEP and BEAR those the militia’s arms.

Oh — that’s another thing the 2nd Amendment clearly says. Members of the militia (the Amendment doesn’t say who gets to be in the militia and HOW the militia deals with its membership; it leaves that to the militia, I guess) get to “keep” and “bear” the “arms”. It does not use the word “OWN” — a word that was just as available as “keep” and “bear”. “Keep” is different from “own”. I can “keep” a car, for instance, that I do not own. I can’t keep it forever, of course. But, under agreed-upon circumstances (I pay my lease every month), I can “keep” the car.

Same goes for “bear”. One does not have to “own” a gun to “bear” it.

The Second Amendment does not say anyone gets to “OWN” a gun. It just doesn’t.

Now a terrible truth. No one’s taking back all the guns in this country. It just isn’t going to happen. But we do need to revisit how it is that we were lead down a path toward such deadly bullshit. Hey — if the state militia in, say, Texas, says “Every psychopath who wants a gun can keep and bear one here in Texas” then so be it.

But, if the militia in, say, California says — “You can have a legitimate hunting rifle and a handgun even — but both must be registered with the state and you must be insured for liability in order to keep and bear that gun. You must pass a written test and a shooting test to keep and bear that particular weapon. You must demonstrate some sort of “gun responsibility” by “safing” that weapon in your house (the caveat being that there IS no such thing as “gun responsibility”). And crimes committed with guns must be punished with a little extra juice because the perp violated a particular trust that we placed in them.

It is absurd that 99% of Americans must walk around knowing that at any moment at any place another American — whose decided he hates everyone not like him — can go HUNTING for them. That is what happened yesterday. It’s what happened at Las Vegas and Pittsburgh and San Bernardino and Parkland and Sandy Hook and Columbine. It is what happens EVERY DAY in America. Ask any woman who’s been terrorized by a gun-toting abusive husband/boyfriend.

Throw in a little white supremacy and we’re talking a veritable smorgasbord of gun violence. Every day.

And it all starts — started — with the language being hijacked. The Constitution’s Framers weren’t perfect. They kept slavery around after all — and we’re still dealing with that fact. The Framers weren’t always precise. But they did build an amendment process into the system they were inventing. They understood that the document itself would need revisions and therefore a little reinvention. When they revised the document to address weaponry — they wrote what they wrote.

And they did not write what they did not write. Let’s start this conversation on a level playing field — where we all agree what the amendment actually says. By “we”, I mean people who can read (without imagining words and definitions for them). Let’s start by having the correct argument and not an utterly bullshit one meant to distract.