The News Media’s Failure Of Imagination Is Killing Our Democracy

We live in a news world where a big slice of the news audience is better informed about what’s happening than the news people reporting the news. Maybe that’s because, unlike the news media, those of us in the cheap seats — untouched by the whorish need for access — can see all the players for who and what they are rather than what they can do for our careers. You’d think a crisis like this would force every person calling themselves “a journalist” to set aside the old rules of engagement. You’d think a man relentlessly lying to their faces for four plus years would eventually cause some sort of dynamic response. Aside from scratching their heads harder and longer? Most journalists have learned exactly nothing from their experience with Donald Trump.

Eventually, we’ll understand why most of our news media couldn’t aggregate the Donald Trump story which would have had them reporting on Trump as a stone cold criminal even before he was sworn in — just like Fusion GPS sorta kinda did. Fusion, the commercial research/political intelligence firm founded by former Wall Street Journal reporters Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, was hired in 2016 by the publishers of Jeb Bush-backing Washington Free Beacon to do oppo research on Trump. As Glenn Simpson testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on August 27, 2017, before beginning their formal work, Fusion did its due diligence: they got their hands on every piece of publicly available material they could on Donald Trump. They got and read magazine pieces, newspaper articles, they listened to radio interviews, watched TV shows and movie appearances. They spent a fortune on Amazon, visited actual book stores and even went to the public library to find what they needed. What Fusion found there — in publicly available material that ANY reporter could find (had they the motivation) — convinced them so completely that Donald Trump was a money laundering criminal in league with the Russian mob that they went and hired an English company called Orbis because its owner used to work for the British MI6 and had the best contacts bar none inside Russia.

Fusion demonstrated imagination — and did something about it. So did Christ Steele. When HE looked inside Russia to answer Fusion’s questions, he was deeply troubled by the answers coming back. He was even more troubled when the American government failed to heed his red flag warning that Russian intelligence was coming at us, cyber war style and we were doing nothing to stop them.

Because HE had imagination — and could extrapolate not only what Russia was doing but what our non-response to it was doing consequently — Chris Steele did everything in his power to put his work product (raw intelligence!) into the right American hands that could process it correctly and react accordingly and do it now.

Failure of imagination has haunted the American press especially where the threat of right wing terrorism is concerned. How easily do American journalists prick up their ears every time a Republican shouts “socialism” compared to when a Republican behaves like an authoritarian shit? They’ll jump right into a discussion about single payer universal health care with “But, isn’t that socialism?” but never even think to question Republicans and the legality and morality of their actively engaging in voter suppression. That, too, is failure of imagination.

When our news media failed to remind its news audience every day of the 2020 campaign that, for the first time in American history, a president was running for re-election having been IMPEACHED for CHEATING in the very same election in which he was running, that was a failure of imagination. When they relentlessly wondered aloud why Trump so relentless sucked up to Vlad Putin — their inability to answer their own question was a failure of imagination. That the news media even now can say that what Trump is doing is treasonous — and yet still ask aloud “Will he run again in 2024” is proof that they are utterly incapable of imagining a functional and functioning Department of Justice.

You’d think the possibility of making one’s bones on the greatest story anyone will ever get to cover would inspire more journalists to journalistic greatness. But to see oneself winning a Peabody or a Pulitzer takes incredible imagination (if one really has a shot at one).

No wonder achieving that kind of journalistic greatness can only ever be a dream for them — requiring imagination. Some circles are just plain vicious.

Of Bond Villains And Presidents

Some of us used to joke how much Donald Trump was like having a Bond Villain as president. Been a while since that was funny. That’s the problem with irony: it can cut like a knife. One of the reasons our news media cannot wrap its head around Trump — to this very day — is because they lack the imagination to “see” Trump. Because they’ve convinced themselves that “both sides do it”, they’ve already got it in their heads that if Trump hadn’t done it first, some Democrat would have done it anyway. So, whatever Trump is doing — it’s not “corrupt”, it’s not a “crime”, it’s not even “treason”. It’s “the new new normal” because this (apparently) is what “both sides do”.

No, it is not.

Ronald Reagan was the first “movie star president”, but he wasn’t the first POTUS to use “movie star thinking” to win a presidency. Jacqueline Kennedy may have associated JFK’s 1,000 days as POTUS with “Camelot” after he was assassinated, but the idea stuck: a story about our present fit snugly with a story about a mythological past that never was. The Kennedy White House had all the same sparkle as Hollywood. Why, Hollywood stars like Marilyn Monroe even famously sang “Happy Birthday” to him. Americans like that. A lot. We especially like it when you do things positive with that star power. Or convince us that you are even if you’re not.

Back to Reagan. He understood the seductive qualities of smoke plus mirror. Stories can be as real as reality if you want them to be. Style over substance is not a new idea. Trickle down economics, coming from Reagan, was like the last little bit of a movie star’s gold-plated essence seeping into ordinary Americans’ grey, humdrum lives. It doesn’t seem like Reagan was anywhere near as cynical as the rest of his party. He may really have seen America as some “shining city on a hill”. Problem was (and remains) — the shining city in Reagan’s mind was all painted on a backdrop.

Ronald Reagan wasn’t the first person to get confused by Hollywood into thinking his version of America was “America”. In the terrific “An Empire Of Their Own: How The Jews Invented Hollywood”, Neal Gabler theorizes that our whole notion of “America” is, in large part, a fiction invented by Jewish movie studio owners (with plenty of Jewish writers and directors, actors and other technicians assisting) to, in essence, give them something into which to synthesize. Having spent almost two thousand years as “outsiders”, Jews suddenly had a chance, Gabler thinks (and, personally, I like his thinking), to invent a world that might more willingly accept them.

Having spent a career in the “making shit up” business, I’m keenly aware of the media’s power to invent not just worlds that don’t exist but ideas that, without the smoke and mirrors, couldn’t hold water. Time travel, for instance. A lot of “why” people think it’s possible is because stories have said it is. Those stories weren’t based on any sort of physics. They were based on “hey, wouldn’t it be cool if…!”.

Trump is even more of an invention than Reagan was. Trump’s dad — Fred — knew his son was a “lox” as a negotiator. And anyway, making deals you never intend to honor is not actually “negotiating”. If Mark Burnett never imagined “The Apprentice” then none of Vladimir Putin’s investment in Trump would ever have paid off. But, Putin understands how propaganda works. He knows how to use it: destroy our common idea of “reality” then use the ensuing chaos to invent a “new reality”. Like, say, one where Donald Trump isn’t corrupt or a traitor.

Bond villains aren’t supposed to make you think. Even if they have some theoretically correct point of view — humans need to be stopped from destroying the planet — Bond Villains always go about it too heavy-handedly. I always wonder as I watch Bond movies, who’s cash flowing this guy? Who’s paying for the high tech set up and the gadgets and the rocketry and the people! Think of the payroll a guy like Blofeld has to maintain. Some of those people are super qualified, too. They don’t come cheaply. And is there any sort of profit-sharing involved? What kind of benefits does a Blofeld offer people he hopes will willing break the law with and for him? How do people who work for Blofeld report their income?

I know — it’s stupid to worry about things like this — he’s just a Bond Villain FFS! But then, I’m a John Le Carre fan, not an Ian Fleming fan. Oh, sure — in my youth, Bond was great fun (but then, Sean Connery was the Bond of my youth and movies like “From Russia With Love” remain the canon’s gold standard because they keep Bond’s world more real than surreal. I wonder if “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” suffered from an emotional Bond at the ending (he openly cries when his lover is shot dead — by Blofeld) or a more or less lackluster Bond (George Lazenby) trying to fill in for the recently departed-from-the-franchise Connery.

Le Carre (one of 2020’s cruel losses) based his Circus on the very real British spy agency he worked for. His spies weren’t about adventure or busting super villains, they were about betrayal — personal and tribal. The (usually) unspoken mantra underlying most of Le Carre’s work: “Love is the thing you can still betray”.

Though personally incapable of love, Donald Trump is much more a Le Carre villain than a Bond Villain. Trump’s villainy is pure betrayal. Not of love, but of everything else — everything everyone else loves. We know who his backers are. Even his political party knows who Trump’s backers are — the backers who aren’t them, I mean. The backer who holds them all in their thrall. The backer who’s been running this show since Trump was declared the “winner” in 2016: Russia.

No writer sitting down to write this, what we’ve been living, as a Bond movie could get away with it. It’s relentlessly over the top for starters. Who the hell acts like this — outside of a Bond movie — and not one of the good ones? Turns out, Donald Trump does. His whole party does.

In the Bond movies, the villain either dies spectacularly or gets away to fight another day. Soon enough, another cash flowed Super Villain will step up to fill the vacuum (having apparently fooled his investors into believing he could do what all the other supervillains couldn’t — deliver a return on their investment). We never get to see actual justice delivered — the kind that would flow from We The People. Bond movies don’t seem to exist inside the same democracy we do. Or did…

That’s what’s on our plate: how do we deal with the Bond Villain in front of us? He may not be a very good Bond Villain, but he’s ours. In fact, Trump’s such a crap Bond Villain that he doesn’t even qualify. He’s more a small screen TV villain punching above his weight — getting away with it — but only until now.

Come January 20, 2021, we will begin to write Trump the ending he deserves. We will challenge every single pardon he’s issued because we must. Trump’s whole presidency is based on treason — take Putin out of the 2016 equation and Trump never gets through the primaries. Just like traitors can’t legally become president, whatever they do WHILE president — that also doesn’t count as “legal”. How could it?

By obstructing justice, Trump and the GOP have tried to keep the rest of America from learning what the REAL story of the last four plus years has been. That obstruction is about to hit a wall. A rejuvenated Department of Justice dedicated to Justice (rather than to being a mob boss president’s consigliere), asking hard questions under oath — restarting every investigation Bill Barr or Rod Rosenstein stopped (especially the counter-intelligence investigations into Trump’s relationships with Russia) — will change the landscape significantly — just by asking hard questions under oath.

Anyway — Trump was never the real Bond Villain at the heart of this story that Mitch McConnell. Mitch after all is the link to the answer to my questions — who pays for these Bond Villains and all their toys? Turns out? Our villains are so bad — and so real? They put Bond villains to shame.

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.

Failure Of Imagination Is A Very Real Thing; We Should Know — It’s KILLING Us

Some of us saw Donald Trump coming. Some of us didn’t. Those who did see it didn’t perform magic. We used our imaginations. We asked ourselves “Hey, what if Donald Trump actually became president — what (do I imagine) would actually happen?”

What we imagined was massive corruption — the merging of Trump’s business with our politics — with our government. That is exactly what happened. We imagined (because we were already mindful of Trump’s bizarre relationship with Russia) Trump betraying us more and more as Vladimir Putin gained more and more access to our Holiest of Holies — our secrets. We didn’t realize that a few other countries (Saudi Arabia especially) also had their hooks in Donald.

We imagined Trump’s corruption destroying the Republican Party — literally driving it into extinction. What happened is far worse. Turned out the GOP was already deeply corrupted by Russia who’d been gaming them for eons through lap dogs like Dana Rohrbacher.

Our news media have been particularly lacking in imagination. They can’t seem to get their Normalcy Bias Blinders off. Though “Mexicans are rapists” should have been the end of Trump’s campaign, our news media let it pass. “Pussy grabbing” had reared its head. Our news media let that pass too. There were “her emails” to worry about.

When those of us on the loony left first shouted “Russia!”, we were told how crazy we were. How “conspiracy theory” we were being regardless of our receipts. That’s the most frustrating thing. The Loony Left brings receipts. We don’t, as a rule, talk out our asses. We let facts, data, reality do the talking instead.

Remember back — before the Democrats re-took the House — when the Republicans ran everything and they were determined to undermine the integrity of the Steele Dossier at all costs? The Senate Judiciary Committee called Glenn Simpson before them in August 2017. Simpson, a former (respected) Wall Street Journal reporter co-founded a company called Fusion GPS. They did research on people. Oppo research. In 2016 Fusion got hired by the pro-Jeb Bush Washington Free Beacon to do oppo research on Donald J Trump.

Simpson testified that before they began their work, they did their “due diligence” — they got their hands on every single thing they could that had in any way been written about, said about or reported about concerning Donald Trump. They listened to Howard Stern episodes. They went to used book stores. They searched Amazon. They even went to the library. In short, they got their hands on just about everything that had ever been written, said or even thought about regarding Donald John Trump.

What Fusion found — in publicly available material (that is, material every last one of us can get access to and read if we’d only just put ourselves out a little) convinced them that Donald Trump had used his failed Atlantic City casinos to launder Russian Mob Money. That’s why Fusion sought out and then hired Christopher Steele. The former MI6 intelligence officer had run MI6’s Russia desk. It was understood that Steele’s contacts inside Russia were unmatched.

Want to know anything about Russia? Ask Chris Steele to run it down. That’s what Fusion and Glenn Simpson did. To not see Chris Steele in that simple context is to fail in imagination. To see him as nefarious in any way is to fail in imagination. Rather, it’s to have all the wrong kinds of imagination.

Problem solving demands imagination. It will take a staggering amount of imagination to get us out of what the coronavirus has done.

Ironically, it wasn’t “failure of imagination” on Donald Trump’s part that got us into this hyper-mess. It was greed. And treason. And culpability. Trump can’t ever stop being president. The moment he does — and he knows this — he stops being a potus protected from prosecution by the bizarre interpretation of a bizarre DoJ rule originally aimed at stopping Spiro Agnew from pardoning Richard Nixon and becomes “Joe Indictable Citizen”.

Hell — according to the SDNY, Trump’s already “Unindicted Individual #1”. He stops being POTUS? He’s now INDICTED individual #1.

I’m old enough to remember when using the word “treason” in any way to describe Trump or anyone in his White House was like calling them Nazis. Remember when THAT was poo-poo’d? Now we simply ASSUME that they’re all Nazis.

You can’t solve a problem without first admitting you have a problem. It takes no imagination to say “I’m not an alcoholic!” and lots to say “You know, if I think about it, I might have a problem.” It doesn’t mean you have a problem — but until you’re willing to entertain the idea, you can’t do anything about it.

Getting to the other side of the coronavirus will demand a shitload of imagination. Same thing — whole mountain ranges of outside-the-box-thinking will be vital to “fixing” what Donald Trump & his Republican co-conspirators have done to our democratic systems. When people violate the Rule Of Law to win an election, it means — according to the Rule Of Law — they didn’t win. Nothing they took as the “spoils” of victory was actually theirs — including money, legislation & especially judges.

You cannot legitimately nominate judges (to the SCOTUS say) if you do not have the authority to do so. You may think you have the authority. You may pretend you have it. But that authority is vested in We The People. We “give” that authority just like we give the authority to spend our tax dollars. Just as we “giveth”, we can “taketh”.

It was a failure of imagination that kept slavery alive in our Constitution. It’s been an on-going failure of imagination that has kept Donald Trump in power.

Donald Trump’s failure of imagination (he has none of course) to see what a pandemic could do to his political fortunes is now killing thousands of Americans every day.

That’s not hyperbole.

America’s News Media Failed America The Same Way Their Imaginations Failed Them

Failure of imagination is a very real thing.  We’re living in its shadow so it must be real.

Remember the fable about the ant and the grasshopper?  The Grasshopper’s happy because there’s food aplenty right now so why not hang out?  Why work like the Ant is — gathering food for the winter?  The Grasshopper’s problem isn’t laziness.  When he needs to eat, he’ll go eat.

His problem is he can’t imagine that there’ll be a tomorrow — and tomorrow, he might NOT have all the food he has now.  The Ant almost can’t deal with what “is” he’s so obsessed with what might be or could be his future.

When the talking heads on pretty much any American cable news show start yammering away at each other — wondering why, say, Donald Trump has such a beta dog relationship with Vlad Putin — they’ll entertain the possibility that they don’t know why it is.  They’ll also entertain the possibility that it’s completely innocent — so they’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

But there’s a third very distinct possibility in the mix that keeps getting short shrift or NO shrift:  Trump kowtows relentlessly to Vladimir Putin because Putin owns him outright.  Though Lawrence O’Donnell was forced to retract his single-sourced story last night that Trump hides his tax returns to hide the fact that Russian oligarchs co-signed his Deutsche Bank loans — it was too soon to report it (that’s what we’ll have to live with until it’s fully proven) — no one is saying or thinking “Gosh, I wonder if that means the whole story is screwed up!” 

When Fusion GPS’s Glenn Simpson testified before Congress (remember when the GOP was trying to undermine every bit of the Steele Dossier’s integrity?), he described how Fusion, upon being hired to do the oppo research on Donald Trump (hired, remember by the conservative Washington Free Beacon, Jeb Bush supporters), they first did their due diligence.  They got ahold of everything they could that even just mentioned Donald Trump in passing.  They got & read every magazine article, newspaper article, saw or listened to every radio and TV interview.  To find that material, Fusion did what any ONE of us could do all by ourselves — they bought, rented, borrowed from the library.

What Fusion found, doing its due diligence, convinced them that Trump had been mixed up with Russian mobsters for years.  And, being good journalists by training, Fusion grokked that if Trump was messing with Russian mobsters, he was likely dirty as hell.

So, Glenn Simpson testified, they hired Chris Steele to do the deep dive because no one had the Russian bona fides that Chris Steele had — he was the Russia desk at MI6.  Steele’s integrity as an investigator was well known to American investigators including the FBI.  The FBI had hired Steele when they after FIFA’s Sepp Blatter for corruption.  They knew Steele was a pro. Everyone did.

That America’s news media still can’t handle the Steele Dossier — most don’t get how different the intelligence world is from the “real” world.  The idea of “raw intel” freaks them out because it’s so grey and their world is so black and white.  Intelligence analysis requires Big Picture thinking.  You have to see what’s there knowing a whole lot of the picture is missing.  You’ll never “see it” but you’ll need to know what it probably is; you’ll have to IMAGINE IT.

That’s the leap most American journalists can’t seem to make.  Maybe their Normalcy Bias Blinders are bolted on too tightly. 

More likely they simply lack the imagination to think of it — until it’s already happened or happening.  Then, what a coincidence, it’s the most natural thing in the world to them.

Our news media’s lack of imagination (best expressed by the question “What do YOU make of this?”) has metastasized into an outright cancer.  The preponderance of the evidence says Trump’s a liar — our news media still faithfully report every word he says without prefacing it with “This is probably a lie but the POTUS said it so we’re telling YOU what he said”.  The preponderance of the evidence says Trump’s a racist — yet our News Media still asks if Trump is a racist; they’ll even report him insisting he’s the least racist human on the planet with a straight face. 

The preponderance of the evidence says Trump’s a rapist and a thief and a fraud.  The preponderance of the evidence says Trump owes Vlad Putin big.  The preponderance of the evidence says Trump and his whole corrupt family are traitors.

We will get there — to the Big Reveals.  One way or another, we’ll get there.  And each time, huge swaths of our News Media will be shocked to their socks by the revelations.  They shouldn’t be shocked.

They wouldn’t be.

If they had any imagination.

Dear American News Media: It’s Gut Check Time… Are You Up To It?

I’ll admit it straight up.  I’m a “news addict”.  I keep my office TV tuned to the news (mainly MSNBC) most of my waking hours.  In between I’m tuned in to the same place via satellite radio and my phone.  I dare not look away.

I don’t watch for the news — except for the “breaking news” when it first breaks (and not for the subsequent five hours of its “breaking”).  I watch because I’m a concerned citizen deeply concerned that the Fourth Estate is not living up to its Constitutionally mandated responsibility.  I watch like a canary in a coal mine — squawking its head off because the environment is deeply, deeply toxic and will kill us for sure if we don’t stop.

Yesterday — with the drop of the redacted Mueller Report — the American News Media were handed a kind of Magna Carta.  It’s an imperfect foundational document that must be the basis for how America begins to handle the cancer gnawing at our vital systemic organs.  Our News Media will not see it that way.  They’re not deep enough.  They’re not insightful enough.  Their idea of analysis can’t possibly plumb those depths because it can’t take in the required perspective.

If not for  journalists and citizen journalists (Seth Abramson should be nominated for sainthood; so should Sarah Kendzior & Jennifer Cohn and a host of other relentless pursuers of the truth), the US might have already slid past our Democratic Event Horizon — the point beyond which our Democracy could not be pulled back from the black hole of Republican Corruption.  If not for David Corn’s advocacy of the Steele Dossier, while it might have still made its way through legal channels, it would have done so with a hell of a lot more pressure caused by the very criminals it was identifying.

There ARE journalists & writers & thinkers who’ve understood this story — its nature and its core truths — from the get-go.  They’re a small club.

It’s a core truth: take any profession you like — the overwhelming majority of people working in it will be proficient.  Good but not great.  Let’s call them what they are:  “Mediocre”.  Like any other group, the journalism profession is filled with mediocrity.  Unfortunately, these here times need something better.  Voila la probleme!

I’m a storyteller by profession.  My IMDb profile reflects a fraction of my professional storytelling life.  The point of my mentioning it: I’m not some piker. I’m not just another guy out on the internets shouting ignorant Jeremiads into the wind.  I’ve actually made a buck or two doing this thing.  In a world where anyone with a blog can be an “expert”, I may not be “an expert” (let’s call that subjective), but I can sure point to a few examples to suggest I “might” know what I’m talking about.

When it comes to storytelling, I know my shit. Trust me on this.

With that in mind — I’m offering these suggestions to our chums in the Main Stream News Media.  I’ve worked under journalistic restrictions.  I’ve had to back up my shit.  This is about storytelling — with purpose.

Here are your problems in a nutshell:

  1. FAILURE OF IMAGINATION
  2. An addiction to “BOTH SIDES DO IT” thinking
  3. Normalcy Bias

The first is the killer — and FAILURE OF IMAGINATION is the flaw that leads to the other two problems.  I’m not sure it IS solvable.  Maybe it’s just the case that you’re born with imagination or you’re not.  Mediocrity turns most journalists into the proverbial blind person feeling up an elephant for the first time and trying to make sense of it.  It’s outside their range.  Then, in the midst of their confusion, they start to analyze — using not solid data but their own fuzzy perceptions.  Gosh, what could possibly go wrong?

Frequently, watching them, I perceive a veal thrashing against the confines of its box.

An example from the recent past — in order to explain Donald Trump’s “inexplicable” behavior, whole round tables of journalists and journalistic fellow travelers would often “put themselves in his shoes” in order to explain his behavior.  Problem invariably was — each well-meaning but clueless nitwit tried to explain Trump’s narcissistic, sociopathic actions through the lens of their own behaviors. They were explaining Trump as if he was them.

Result — “analysis” that was miles away from the truth — even further away from being of value.  How like bullshit!  It’s all first rate — and so much of it!

To analyze Trump you have to get inside HIS head.  To do that, you have to use your imagination.  BUT — the way journalists are supposed to do it — they use their imaginations based on deep, background knowledge of their subject.  They can point to multiple instances of past behavior to justify projecting similar behaviors forward in a different (more recent) context.  It’s exactly what they’re doing now — projecting future behaviors based on past — except based on the right character (Trump) not the wrong one (them).

I withdraw my “must be born with it”.  I just demonstrated — American News Media CAN use their imagination.  They just have to WANT TO…

I don’t think I’m alone in pointing to “BOTH SIDES DO IT” thinking (“thinking” should be in quotation marks too) as part of American journalism’s core problem.  I would love to know where it came from — where it started.  Was this disease born in some American journalism school and then spread outward like typhus or dysentery?

Guys like Chuck Todd are the deans of “Both Sides Do It” journalism (“journalism” should be in quotation marks too).  “Both Sides Do It” — by its nature — fosters the creation of False Equivalences.  Inequal things get equalized.  Bernie Madoff, we all agree, is a thief.  By the same token — thievery being thievery — so is the character Jean Valjean from Les Miserables (or, for you “kids”, Les Mis).  Madoff stole BILLIONS. Valjean stole bread.

In Chuck Todd’s world, “both sides did it” — both sides STOLE.  Proportion plays no part. All facts have the same feather weight.

It ain’t so.  And every “journalist” who thinks this way is betraying their Constitutionally mandated duty.

NORMALCY BIAS infects us all.  No one is immune.  That’s why you have to be hyper-vigilant about it.  Something in us aches for “normalcy”.  Normalcy equals safety, security.  We hate being on edge 24/7.  It’s wearing us out.  We want normal back.

Wishing won’t make it happen though.  When things aren’t normal, we need to point them out — and if they’re harmful to us (like, say, CORRUPTION is), we need to REFUSE to EVER allow them to be normalized.  Yet here we are.  Normalization is a process.  We didn’t just drop here, magically transported.  We walked here.

If not for normalcy bias, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign would have ended the day it began.  It would have died stepping out of its trench — going down in a hale of “Mexicans are rapists” bullets.  But Trump’s campaign didn’t end that day.  It continued — because the press covering the story let it continue.  Rather than put their collective foot down and DEMAND what the hell he meant — not being satisfied till he admitted the clear, obvious truth: he meant HE’S A RACIST and A BIGOT — the American press accepted Trump’s behavior as “different”.  This was just “how Trump was”.

Just like that, racism and bigotry had been normalized.

Now, granted, “pussy-grabbing” got short-circuited by Wikileaks dumping Hillary Clinton’s emails, but even the emails (in point of fact) were a Republican-backed crime that the American News Media couldn’t wait to normalize and use to their own advantage.  Let’s be quite clear — the principle vector for transmitting stolen Democratic emails & internal data was the American News Media.  They were literally working at Russia’s behest each and every time.  You don’t have to be witting to be a useful idiot.

Russia used our news media’s Normalcy Bias to get them to carry Russia’s message-water.

That has to stop.

What has this done to us?  How has American News Media’s failure hurt us?

Well, for starters — as I just said — it’s undermined our concept of “Truth”.  We’ve put its definition up for grabs like a jump ball.  But the Truth isn’t subjective.

There is Core Truth.  We need our news media to focus its limited skillsets on getting to it. My simple (if not very humble) suggestion is this:  “Keep asking WHY?”  Do not accept any “WHY?” that doesn’t get to the very, VERY bottom.  It means more “WHY’S?” need asking.  No one — NO ONE — ever does things for “no reason”.  A person doing terrible things may not be able to adequately articulate what’s driving them — but “something” is driving them other than “that’s just how they are”.

In the case of Donald Trump, American News Media, it means he doesn’t do what he’s doing because “he’s different”.

You saying “he’s different” means “you suck at your job”.  That’s a problem for us.  For two plus years, you have failed for all the reasons above to TELL the most important story you will ever get to cover and any of us will ever have to live through.  While “crazies” on the left gnashed their teeth about Russia, the American News Media turned up its nose.  Even as they described treasonous-sounding behavior (Trump meeting with Putin sans a single other American), they assumed it must be “normal” somehow because the President of the United States was doing it — and so therefore it must be “normal”.

As recently as last week, actual “journalists” were questioning if the Mueller Report would contain anything of value.  Actual “journalists” were ignoring how AG Bill Barr had used grammar and a damned footnote to bamboozle them into proclaiming right along with Trump that there was “no collusion”.  Apparently the meaning of quotes that start with a [bracketed] first letter didn’t get taught where American journalists went to school…

Barr Summary w highlights

Apparently they never learned how to read footnotes either…

Our News Media were handed a kind of gift yesterday.  They were given insight into massive corruption.  They were given actual perspective.

That is their gut check: Will all those mediocrities gumming up the American News Media be able to use perspective.  Hell, will they even recognize what it is?

I worry for us.

 

How Failure Of Imagination Kills…

When the forensics get done on our Time — and the Big Question gets asked — “How in the world did Americans let such an obvious criminal & traitor 1) get elected & 2) remain in power so long?

The answer will complicated with lots of moving parts (requiring actual calculus to figure out). One of the biggest moving parts will be the Republican Party itself and the monstrosity of its actions here. But the fact that they were complicit — in ways that even predated Trump’s takeover of their party (think Mitch McConnell & his refusal to even talk to Merrick Garland) goes right back to the heart of my premise. We “didn’t see it”.

In real time, Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans did something no other Senate had ever done before — held a President’s SCOTUS pick hostage. Mitch’s excuse was so phony it should have physically hurt every ear that heard it. It was Bullshit On Steroids: “The American People should get to decide who the next SCOTUS judge is”. The American People in that equation are the ones who VOTED FOR BARACK OBAMA and made him POTUS — the guy charged with doing that very thing.

Yet here we are. No Merrick Garland. Neil Gorsuch instead. Funny how the rules work when you make em up as you go along — AND GET AWAY WITH IT.

With all this press going at this story like sperms going at an egg — you’d think someone would have gotten through already and “fertilized” that egg. And yet — with a mountain RANGE of evidence staring them in the face, the Press seems blind to it. It’s there — they kinda know it is — and yet they can’t bring themselves to go and report it. It’s like they just can’t “trust” themselves and what they’re thinking. What they “know”.

This is how “FAILURE OF IMAGINATION” works. Under normal circumstances where everything’s normal — failing to think with imagination won’t hurt you (not much anyway). You can always muddle along in your mediocrity enjoying the status quo until you don’t.

But this here ain’t “normal”. Not even remotely. Gawd, I hope that’s not a revelation. Laws weren’t written to deal with our particular situation. This wasn’t “imagined” by the Constitution’s framers — a flat out treasonous POTUS and the flat out treasonous political party supporting him (the framers didn’t even want political parties; they happened because we’re human and tribal by nature). See how our problem is “outside the box”?

The solution to our problem will have to come from “outside the box” too. Part of our problem is — the criminals are using our rules to undermine them — as part of the whole Cyber War they’ve been waging against us as we sleep. We’re miles behind — in large part because we’ve been so damned slow to SEE what was happening.

Not slow to SEE, so much, really, as GRASP. We saw all this happening — but failed to grasp what it meant — and how it was playing out in all its terrible detail RIGHT IN FRONT OF US. That, too, is failure of imagination.

FAILURE OF IMAGINATION is how McConnell got away with circumventing the will of the American People to deliberately remake the judiciary as conservative when the people CLEARLY want it progressive?

HOW has Donald Trump gotten away with HIS shit for as long as he has? How did we ever let him get past “Mexicans are rapists” or “Pussy Grabbing” or every stinking lie he’s told from the moment he became OUR EMPLOYEE? How have we not been able to stop this — or even report this accurately?

I’ll let you fill in the blank — with an “Amen!” chaser.

But it isn’t just OUR failure of imagination — as citizens. We rely on our Press (as per the First Amendment) to be the final check on power. To do that they need to IMAGINE the worst — because you can’t report all the possible reasons things happen if you don’t include that. For one, you’re not being accurate.

But — strangely — watch enough news, and of all the possible answers to The Biggest Question Facing Us — Why Does Donald Trump Act Like Vladimir Putin Owns Him? The American Press STILL refuses to answer the question: “BECAUSE VLADIMIR PUTIN OWNS HIM”.

It seems bizarre that one can’t “imagine” the thing that’s not just “staring you in the face” but stabbing you there, too.

When Imagination Fails – WE Fail

How does one explain the consistent inability of American News Media (and news media from all over the world) to grasp and report the Trump-Russia Story?

Even now when the average panel starts to pick apart what Donald & Vlad are doing together, the Media STILL want to pretend that everything happening is absolutely normal – that it’s NORMAL for an American President to meet with the leader of a country that has always been hostile to us WITHOUT any note-takers tasked with memorializing AN HISTORIC MEETING…

It’s not normal.  It’s not the actions of ‘an unusual president’ who ‘plays by his own rules’.

People determined to believe something – REGARDLESS of its actual veracity – are going to believe no matter what.  They’re not interested in Reality or The Truth – they’ve got Magic in Mind.  It’s so much easier to just ‘give in’ and ‘accept’.

But that’s not the MSM’s job — not in America, it isn’t.  The Fourth Estate is Constitutionally obligated to stand as the ultimate CHECK on Executive Power.  To check Executive Power, you have to be nimble — quick to react to shifting circumstances — especially when that Executive Power is so CLEARLY being abused.

The problem is however that most of the MSM cannot SEE that Executive Power is being ABUSED because they ENABLED that abuse.  They gave it their tacit approval.  They accepted it as ‘just how things are and how they should remain’.  And now that Donald Trump is using his Executive Power (stolen to begin with) to try and finish the job he started (on Vladimir Putin’s behalf): the destruction of America’s Democratic Culture — and our relationship with our similarly Democratic European Allies.

It isn’t ‘blindness’ behind their inability to ‘see’ — it’s the inability to imagine that it’s possible in the first place.

When your average Talking Head Panel sits in on your average News Show — and they pose the question to themselves:  “What is Donald Trump actually up to here?” — the knee jerk inclination is to shrug it off with an empty-headed ‘He just does things differently, I guess…”.

‘Different’?  Um, no actually — TREASONOUS.

The one possible answer to their question – DONALD TRUMP IS AN ASSET OF RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE – has been for years – and is actively WORKING AGAINST THE INTERESTS OF HIS OWN COUNTRY – never makes it to the table for collective analysis.  Why is that exactly?

That’s a ‘trick question’, you understand.  The answer is FAILURE OF IMAGINATION.

And we can all see what THAT has brought us to…