American Television News Sucks In Large Part Because They Don’t Understand How Their Own Medium Works

To listen to Donald Trump speak, you’d think he had no idea how to speak English. Whatever lie he’s trying to convey can’t survive the whirling word salad of death spewing from his bloated orange pie hole. He’s a liar who can’t get that the rest of us won’t buy into his lies because he tells them so badly. America’s news media has a similar problem but with the visual language. Just as words befuddle Donald Trump so badly that they’ve limited his vocabulary, the visual medium befuddles American news producers so badly that they, too speak with a limited vocabulary. Trump’s inability to communicate reveals every single flaw in his character. That’s a good thing. The visual media’s inability to use their medium correctly undermines their ability to convey the truth — the very thing they’re supposedly in the business of conveying.

That’s a really, really bad thing.

Last night — the woman seated behind Trump — the one circled — repeatedly nodded and gave Trump’s ludicrous answers an enthusiastic thumbs up. The town hall concept NBC News insisted, would surround Trump with “uncommitted voters” whose questions he’d answer. Except Mayra Joli, the woman, was NOT an uncommitted voter. In fact, she’s an immigration attorney and pro-Trump activist. I’d love to know how SHE got THAT seat.

I didn’t watch NBC’s town hall live by the way. On principle. I switched between watching Joe Biden behave like an adult and the LA Dodgers behave like a minor league team facing major league pitching. Despite taking heavy fire for a very, VERY poor decision, NBC News and its apologists insist that they performed a public service.

I suppose if you focus entirely on Trump and his inability to communicate, you might think NBC News is right. But then, we knew this going in — that Trump isn’t a great communicator just like he isn’t a great businessman. You have to swallow a whole lot of bullshit before you can think Trump is either of those things. But then, that’s been the story the last four plus years — the news media’s stunning inability to see Donald Trump for who and what he is — despite all the evidence of it.

On television, the visual matters. The contemporary audience is incredibly sophisticated in its understanding of and ability to use the visual language. Anyone and everyone can be a filmmaker these days. Close ups and tight shots create a feeling of intimacy. Wide shots create a feeling of space. And 50-50 shots — where two people are presented in the frame with the exact same amount of screen space — suggest a discussion of two equal points.

It doesn’t matter if one person is arguing that the world is round while the other insists it’s flat or that climate change is absolutely real while the other insists it’s not or that the “science still isn’t complete”.

While our ears are hearing a nonsensical argument, our eyes are seeing something else entirely — a more equal argument between two equally valid points. They must be of equal value because that’s how they’re being presented onscreen — 50-50. That’s how our brains read it. That creates a conflict in our heads because we’re being fed two conflicting pieces of information. Bullshit is being given the same visual weight as the Truth — and we know intrinsically that that cannot be.

In a way, our news media is like a well meaning nitwit who uses high-falutin’ words that they really don’t understand. While they wrestle with the language, their audience grows increasingly frustrated with them and stops believing them. That’s already Donald Trump’s operating principle — make the news media unbelievable. The news media really doesn’t need to help him accomplish it.  

At the bottom of it all sits “both sides do it” journalism and its cynical, perspective-free assertion that everyone’s the same.

No, we’re not. Too bad our news media can’t see it.

Of Rabbit Holes And Rubbish

American news media (with its failed imagination and maniacal insistence that “both sides do it”) continues to play the part of Donald Trump’s BFF and his co-dependent bitch — even as he abuses the hell out of them. Again. When he says jump — they’re already doubling the height so they can impress him. When he barks at them to “roll over” — they’re already halfway through their roll.

Look, we all get how challenging it is to try and pin down a man with the moral consistency of warm jello. He filibusters every conversation. But, here’s where the collective group needs to put its collective head together and approach every news conference not as competitors but as American citizens charged with being the final check on governmental power.

They need to put aside the ludicrous notion that journalism can’t take sides. Political sides, no — they shouldn’t take them. But, if they’d stop drinking the “everyone’s acting politically” kool-aid, they might grasp that when Republicans suppress Democratic voters, the Republicans ARE acting politically while the suppressed Democratic voter is NOT. They’re just standing up for their rights — because a criminal act has deprived them of said rights. Both sides absolutely do not suppress the other sides voters. Only one side does that. For a reason.

Each time Donald Trump throws a blatant lie down on the table, our news media feels compelled to pick it up, smell it, taste it, listen to it — as if it “could” be true and therefore deserves their scrutiny. Instead of denying Trumpian bullshit the air it craves, our news media asks “But, what if bullshit ‘could be’ true?” Problem is, bullshit is never true. That’s why it’s bullshit.

The moment you give credence to bullshit, you make reporting the truth harder. Because bullshit “might could” be true.

Donald Trump doesn’t have a “strategy” (that’s another example of America’s news media giving Trump credence he does not deserve). He fully expects to bully his way through again. He expects all the corrupt markers he’s laid down to stand up for him. His whole approach to the SCOTUS (slightly different from Mitch’s) is to stay out of jail. Mitch’s approach centers on satisfying his RW Money overlords (the Koch organization, the Mercers). They need to put any possibility of a “socialized” America as far out of reach as possible (if they can’t destroy it outright).

Prior to the GOP’s power grab, a more socialized America was less a certainty than now. The words “socialist” and “socialism” don’t have nearly the traction that “authoritarian” and “fascist” do. The fact is, most Americans want socialist policies if you ask them about specifics. They want health CARE for themselves and their families. They want to know their children are covered. They want their children to stop entering the work force already overwhelmed by debt. They want the pandemic dealt with correctly instead of politically. They want institutional racism to stop. They want UBI to help them through troubled economic times. They want Russia out of our electoral system. They want corruption to stop. They want America to act responsibly and like a leader on climate change.

The irony is, the GOP’s soft coup d’etat power grab will get them the exact opposite of what they want. They will have exponentially sped up the process of America “socializing” via their blatant corruption. I’m not sure America will become a socialized wonderland filled with golden opportunity for all, but socialized medicine, a free (high quality) college education or technical training for all Americans and a woman’s permanent right to choose will all become realities far sooner than they might have — all thanks to the most sanctimonious and hypocritical bunch of pirates ever to stalk the planet: the Republican party.

This morning, Team Biden demonstrated the perfect way to deal with Trumpian rabbit holes. When Jake Tapper asked Joe Biden’s Wife Jill about Biden’s tendency to commit vocal gaffs, Jill Biden shut down the question: in the age of Trump — where his gaffes get virtually zero scrutiny from that same press — she refused to “go there”. Why would the press be worried about Joe Biden making vocal gaffes when the guy he’ll be debating regularly says things that would any other POTUS sacked on the spot.

What did Jill Biden say that so quickly shut down all this intense politicking? She said “NO”. No, I’m not going to answer if I think bullshit “could be” true because bullshit is never true. There’s no “But, what if…?”

If Trump has a “strategy”, it’s to get silly journalists to chase him down as many rabbit holes as possible on the way to creating as much chaos as possible. But the bulk of that chaos is nothing more than Trumpian voices deliberately creating chaos. If the news media stopped repeating that chaos — the whole point of bullshit is to get someone to spread it — then the chaos would remain isolated in the minds of Trumpanistas — where it already resides, having always resided there.

Who cares about them — we certainly shouldn’t. And, sorry Bob Woodward, we need to stop chasing them to see why they, racist-as-racist-can-be, are so angry. Eff em — and their anger. Their anger is just another rabbit hole — except this one’s festooned with swastikas.