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.

If You Want To Know What Donald Trump Will Do Next, You Have To Think Like A Criminal

Here’s a basic storytelling rule of thumb: good people behave like good people and criminals behave like criminals. That’s how storytellers signal to their audience that the story they’re telling takes place in a world we all recognize. Now — if it’s a good story, the good people may turn out to be criminals and one or two of the criminals may turn out to be good people. But, we’ll see all that in the context of the story. Actions and thoughts will tell us who the real good people and criminals are just before the final fade out. Regardless of who turns out to be what, when the full picture is revealed, good people will have behaved like good people and criminals will have behaved like criminals.

Donald Trump is a criminal. Being a rich, white guy, we shrugged off Trump’s pre-POTUS criminality in real time, letting him repeatedly piss all over us. When the Washington Free Beacon hired Fusion GPS to do oppo research on Trump back in the early days of the 2016 campaign, Fusion started its work by first getting its hands on every piece of publicly available material about Trump. Books, magazine and newspaper pieces, TV and radio appearances — everything. Their due diligence — the work they did BEFORE actually starting the work — convinced them (Glenn Simpson, Fusion’s co-founder testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on August 22, 2017) that Trump had strong ties to Russian gangsters and likely laundered their money through his bankrupt Atlantic City casinos.

That’s why Fusion hired Christopher Steele (and his company Orbis). Steele had excellent contacts and sources inside Russia, having run MI6’s Russia desk.

To see Donald Trump as just a “different kind of POTUS” (as many in our news media still do), is to see Al Capone as just “a different kind of businessman” or Pol Pot as “just a different kind of politician”. Yeah, okay — you could say that and you’d be right, but… it’s kinda beside the point. But, if you don’t see Trump as a criminal — either because you truly don’t see him that way or because you refuse to — then you are reporting on a Donald Trump who doesn’t actually exist except maybe inside your head.

Example — NBC News’ Kelly O’Donnell. She seems like a very nice person. That very nice person should find another line of work. She’s not particularly good at journalism — all her awards be damned. Kelly is a lipstick-wearing steno pad. She thinks “journalism” is repeating back the words people speak to her. But Kelly doesn’t leave it at that — just repeating, say, what Donald Trump says. No, Kelly goes the extra mile. She “characterizes” Trump’s bullshit — she “puts it into his voice” — speaks what she insists is Trump’s thinking behind it all.

Oh, FFS! Kelly’s a nice person — we all agree. Donald Trump isn’t. He’s a rapist and a racist and a bigot and a serial adulterer and an abusive parent and a criminal and a traitor (that’s just for starters). His thought process doesn’t work the same way Kelly’s does. He doesn’t justify himself to himself the way Kelly justifies herself to herself. So, when Kelly applies how SHE thinks to how Trump thinks — it’s completely wrong. The person she’s describing — Trump on the outside, Kelly O’Donnell on the inside — DOES NOT EXIST except in Kelly’s soft, mushy mind.

Kelly’s not the only offender here. It’s the rare working journalist who’ll put themselves inside Trump’s head. “We can’t know what he’s thinking,” they insist — as if Trump’s own words, whole PATTERNS of thinking and the assurances of those who know him weren’t enough to convince THEM. FFS — in a civil trial, all one needs is 51% certainty to win and what is the news media if not a court of PUBLIC opinion?

In most talking head panels, they’ll allow for 90% of the spectrum of possible explanations for Trump’s behavior. He’s completely innocent is at one far end. But, look to the other far end — it’s not there: that’s the missing 10% (generously assuming that total innocence and total guilt are equally likely when only total guilt actually is). Think about that — these conversations between serious people will allow that Trump could be completely innocent but completely guilty? No way! If you can’t allow for the possibility that Trump is 100% a criminal — and does what he does BECAUSE he’s 100% a criminal — then when you put yourself inside his head and (try to) stare out into the world through Trump’s red-rimmed eyes, you’re mis-reporting it. Hell, you’re not seeing it, period.

Want to know why Trump will do anything and everything to stay POTUS for the rest of his life? HE’S A CRIMINAL! He’s been protected all this time by that ludicrous DoJ RULE (it’s not a LAW) — put in place to hinder Nixon and Agnew! Without it, Trump would have been indicted eons ago. Team Mueller would NOT have felt constrained; they held back accusing Trump because that same rule prevented Trump from, in essence, defending himself. A technicality has kept the most corrupt president in the country’s history in power.

If you think of Trump that way — desperate to avoid testifying under oath because you will perjure yourself because you ARE a stone cold criminal and a traitor — then his behavior isn’t mystifying at all. The dots all connect and the picture you get is complete and logical. But, as we know — it ain’t just Trump.

Our news media scratches its head even harder when it tries to make sense of Republicans. “Why, oh why do Republicans go along with this madness?” our press asks itself. They all must be terrified of Trump. Terrified of his voters. Yes and yes. But it’s bigger than that. Prison is the bigger motivator — fear of going to prison and dying in prison. The split second Trump has a legal nightmare, so will virtually every single Republican — because that’s how conspiracy works. See something, SAY something. See something, say NOTHING? An actual journalist should ask “WHY?” Why say nothing? Who are you protecting?

The Republicans knew even before the 2016 convention that Trump was dirty. But then, they were already dirty, too. That’s why then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan admonished the meeting of muckety mucks to stay silent on the matter of “Putin paying Rohrbacher and Trump” by “keeping it in the family”. Sounds like a mafia family, no?

It’s the storyteller’s job to keep the heroes and the villains straight inside their head. To do that though, you have to have a deeper grasp of who they really are. You have to look past the icing and dig into the cake beneath. Imagine you’ve just taken a mouthful of rotten cake — made even more horrible because the icing was so pretty. No projectile vomiting allowed! Now — describe the taste in your mouth.

I bet the only thing you say about the icing is how deceiving it was. Now, please — go on! Tell us how terrible that cake tasted and still tastes. Tell us how you might never get its essence out of your mouth or senses even. Finally — how do you feel about the baker? Put yourself inside HIS mind as he concocts the flavor he intends to fool you into tasting.

I always wonder this about Kelly O’Donnell. If Trump (because he’s Trump) said “I know for a fact that Kelly O’Donnell eats children!”, would Kelly faithfully report it even though she’s pretty certain that she doesn’t eat children and never has? Or would Kelly — as she always does — repeat the words simply because Trump said it?

I betcha Kelly would (finally) draw a line. I bet that she’d (finally) step outside of her ivory tower of “both sides do it”. She certainly wouldn’t put herself inside Trump’s thought process so as to personalize WHY he thinks Kelly does this terrible thing because, she’d know, every thought she’s attributing to Trump is utter bullshit.

Isn’t perspective funny, that way?

The More Perspective We Gain On “The Trump Era”, The Worse It’s Going To Look For Republicans

We don’t have anything like a “complete picture” of the Trump Administration’s raging incompetence in their handling of the coronavirus pandemic, yet we already know — with that limited perspective — that their incompetence isn’t just “raging”, it’s outright CRIMINAL. Imagine how much worse it will look when we DO know all the nuts and bolts details. Those details will tie THIS treachery into the LARGER Trumpian treachery — Russia. Perspective’s funny that way. It’s like seeing part of a mosaic and thinking that’s the picture. But, then, we pull the camera back — because there’s almost always more room for perspective — and we realize how much more complex and interconnected the world is once we see how vast and complex a world it is.

A huge heaping of the blame for our collective lack of perspective sits heavily on our News Media’s lap. Their stone cold refusal to AGGREGATE the story of Donald Trump cannot go unaddressed! We just had an election where — for the first time ever in our history — a sitting POTUS was running for re-election having been impeached! And the thing he was impeached for? CHEATING in the very election he was now running in! And the cheating — that was via a foreign government’s intervention in our election — a variation on the exact same “cheating strategy” (one of them) he used in the 2016 election! You would think that would get a mention in the run up to that election. You’d think a NEWS MEDIA would want to bathe in it. They’d want to ask that candidate about it repeatedly — and the squirrelier that candidate got on the subject, the more they’d want to ask. Especially if that candidate was the sitting president!

Let’s remind ourselves what “perspective” can do. Back in the early, early days — early in the 2016 campaign, long before Trump became the GOP nominee, all the other candidates were drawing a bead on Trump. Republican mega-donor, hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer — the money behind the conservative Washington Free Beacon — supported Marco Rubio’s candidacy. The Free Beacon hired research firm Fusion GPS to do oppo on Trump. As Fusion GPS’s co-founder, former Wall Street Journal reporter Glenn Simpson testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on August 22, 2017, the first thing Fusion GPS did upon getting hired was their “due diligence”.

They got ahold of every piece of PUBLICLY AVAILABLE material they could possibly find on Donald J. Trump: books, magazine articles, newspaper stories, radio interviews, TV show appearances — literally everything they could in order to create a picture for themselves — in order to create the perspective with which to start the investigation: what do we already KNOW about Donald Trump?

Turned out? What we KNEW — it was all there in PUBLICLY AVAILABLE material — should have set the alarm bells ringing. The former journalists at Fusion GPS saw so much likely EVIDENCE of outright criminal behavior — Trump using his bankrupt Atlantic City casinos to launder Russian mob money — that Fusion hired former MI6 Russia desk legend Christopher Steele (and his company Orbis), to do the “research” inside Russia since, it was agreed, Steele had the best contacts inside Russia bar none.

When Fusion went “fishing” in Russia for dirt on Trump? They knew exactly where to drop their lines. And damn if there wasn’t a whole SCHOOL of treason swimming around. The reason Chris Steele worked so hard to put his dossier of RAW INTELLIGENCE under the right noses was because those noses needed the perspective that raw intel would provide. Was everything in the dossier guaranteed verifiable? Of course not — IT’S RAW INTELLIGENCE. You have to understand what it is and how you need to look at it. There are few smoking guns in this world but plenty of smoke. You have to look for where the smoke is thickest — and make educated guesses from there.

The news media glommed onto the most sensational of the stories in Steele’s work product — the Moscow hotel room and the hookers peeing on each other while Trump watched (maybe or maybe not screaming about Trump and his race). The news media — having zero perspective — assumed that if that one story wasn’t spot on, one hundred percent correctomundo, then every last bit of Steele’s RAW INTELLIGENCE could be discounted. Oy!

Now, the people most intent on undermining the dossier’s authenticity (after Trump) have been almost the entire Republican Party. That, after all, was the whole point of dragging Glenn Simpson before the Senate Judiciary Committee (controlled then as now by Republicans hell bent on interfering with any oversight) — not to get at how true the dossier was or wasn’t but to completely undermine every last vestige of any reliability. People obstructing justice aren’t doing it “just because”. They’re doing it because what the rest of us call “justice” scares the snot out of them.

To this day — more than a MONTH after Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the 2020 Presidential Election, almost every Congressional Republican (minus 27!) STILL refuses to acknowledge that fact. The news media gazes at that fact, utterly baffled by it. They scratch their heads so hard, as they contemplate it, that they’ve begun to carve divots into their skulls. “Why do the Republicans continue to go along with Trump?” “Don’t they realize what they’re doing to their own legacies?”

If the news media had aggregated this story — adding to it every day, adding to WHAT WE KNOW and then building upon that knowledge base to MOVE THE STORY FORWARD — Donald Trump would not have survived the primaries. His whole candidacy would have gone up in “Mexicans are rapists” flames. That’s because the Trump heading down the gold escalator would NOT have been seen as the “successful businessman” and “master negotiator” that Mark Burnett INVENTED for “The Apprentice”, he would have been seen as the racist, bankrupt FAILURE he was. If the news media had done the same due diligence Fusion GPS had done, they’d have thrown “and likely criminal” into the mix too.

The instant Team Biden takes over at the Department of Justice, our whole perspective on the Trump years will begin to change appreciably. For starters, the DoJ will be re-dedicated to serving Justice and not as a corrupt president’s consigliere. It won’t be a question of should we or should we not prosecute Trump and the entire Republican Party for their transgressions. The SECOND Trump stops being POTUS, he WILL be indicted. He’s already BEEN indicted — but, because he’s been the sitting president, that indictment has gone un-delivered. It WILL get delivered now. And then the litigation-prosecution-punishment merry-go-round will begin. It might never stop.

Donald Trump will not go down alone. He won’t. He won’t keep his mouth shut. He won’t keep his secrets or anyone else’s because those are all worth something to him now. And, don’t forget, he’s not a “master negotiator”, he’s a horrible one. He’s all tells. And Republicans have known at least since before the convention that Trump (and other Republicans) were dirty, dirty, DIRTY when it came to Russia. As current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy put it in 2016, just before the convention, as he entered a meeting of the GOP leadership: “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump”.

The correct response to such a statement should have been “Whaaaaaat? Kevin, why do you say that? Why do you even THINK that, dude?” Even if the connections Kevin made were tenuous, that they could have been possible should have guided their actions — that is, if Kevin or then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan or any of the other GOP leaders present had had an ounce of integrity. They didn’t, of course.

The Republican Party has known all along the Trump was dirty. They’ve known all along that THEY are dirty. Why, it’s even been REPORTED IN THE NEWSPAPERS. All one has to do — to benefit from that fact — is READ.

Remember the Mueller Report? Same damned thing. The Report itself says one thing but Bill Barr — and then every single Republican — said it said something else entirely. How does one gain perspective in such a situation? YOU READ THE REPORT! And, if you’re even a semi-literate journalist, you get: inside this NARROW SLICE of the Trump-Russia story, it was hard to say with certainty whether or not Donald Trump and his presidential campaign were guilty of crimes (connected to Wikileaks and how information flowed from and to it) — though there’s significant evidence suggesting it — because of all the OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE in our way. THAT is what the Report’s conclusions actually say.

It’s what Robert Mueller himself TESTIFIED to when he answered Congress’s questions July 24, 2019.

Imagine, if you will, where we’d be if the news media had simply added those two pieces of information to the knowledge base they reported from: 1) the Republicans knew Trump had a criminal relationship with Russia and 2) they consistently denied that fact and were actively covering it up. That’s with the Perspective Meter turned down super low so it only catches the most OBVIOUS takeaways.

Our news media — its head stuck deeply up its own “Both Sides Do It” ass — STILL thinks Donald Trump might could go on to “build a media empire” or “run again in 2024” as if we were going to simply deny that anything even remotely CRIMINAL or TREASONOUS happened — as if we were all just going to stand here denying the truth. Even if criminal charges only ever got leveled because we need to prosecute Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic response (and all his friends who got rich off it), it will touch EVERY SINGLE MEMBER of the Trump family. They’ve all profited!

It’s strange — having perspective — when you compare notes with someone who doesn’t. Talk about not reading from the same hymnal. You ain’t even in the same house of worship. But then, that someone experiences a revelation or a catharsis. They open their damned eyes. And they put down the nonsense and read from the real “Good Book” — reality.

Here’s the reality: if we don’t hold Donald Trump, the GOP as an institution and every single Republican responsible for attempting a literal coup d’etat, we will get to experience “Slavery, The Sequel” — a terrible, immoral misjudgment that can never and will never sit right. Perversely, our current crisis is very much a product of not outlawing slavery at the outset. Institutionalized racism (“All men are created equal” did not mean “all men” — or even “all people”) was America’s original sin. It haunts us to this day.

The Republican Party is trying to perpetuate that racism via permanent minority rule. Why else would you BEG state legislators in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Michigan to overlook the popular vote in their states to IMPOSE Donald Trump upon them? Ignore the voters because they voted AGAINST racism — that’s what they’re selling.

The news media though continues to scratch its head, unsure still if what they’re seeing IS indeed racism. There’s an old joke we used to tell on the schoolyard. Kid sees a pile of what could be poop on the street. He picks it up. Sniffs. Smells like poop. Has a lick. Uh huh — tastes like poop, too. He puts it back down on the street and continues on: “Sure glad I didn’t step in it!”

Hey, News Media: you’ve already stepped in it. Pick up some perspective. You won’t make the same mistake again.

Dear News Media: If You See Trump As A Normal POTUS, He Makes No Sense; If You See Him As A CRIMINAL — Voila! He Makes PERFECT Sense

To this day, our news media — supposedly our MOST informed people — cannot fathom Donald Trump. They still wonder what his “strategy” is, what master plan he’s following, being after all a master negotiator. Why does he only ever appeal to his base, they wonder. Why does he kowtow to Vladimir Putin? Why does he lie so relentlessly? Why won’t he concede? I agree — if viewed through a normal lens (as if Trump was a normal person)? It’s baffling. But, pull another lens out of the kit — the “Trump’s A Criminal” lens — and attach it to the camera. Now what do you see? Suddenly, Donald J, Trump makes complete and total sense, doesn’t he?

Trump kowtows to Putin because Putin owns him. When we have a rejuvenated Department of Justice, expect the counter-intelligence investigations that Rod Rosenstein killed to finally take flight. The reveals will be damning for everyone with an “R” next to their names. The power grab we’re experiencing isn’t a new idea or impulse for the Republicans. It’s their ultimate wet dream though. And, right now, they’re pulling their plonkers so hard their plonkers might come off (just not in the way they want em to).

The constant flow of reveals has gone all in one direction, revealing more details of just how corrupt Trump is. Just how shameless and soulless and fatuous he is, too. Figuring out a guy as blatantly corrupt as Trump is should not be this challenging to America’s news media. Hell, Fusion GPS were so blown away by Trump’s blatant money laundering via his bankrupted Atlantic City casinos that they hired Chris Steele (former head of the MI6’s vaunted Russia Desk) to investigate just how big a criminal Trump was.

If the news media were capable of aggregating all the details they themselves have reported about Trump, they’d be reporting on a criminal finally run to ground — not by law enforcement but by We The People. Alas, instead, to this day the majority of the news media reports on Trump as if he were as innocent of corruption and treason as you or me.

How one frames a story IS the story. If you tell the story of Al Capone as hagiography, he’ll appear as a saint. If you tell the story of Jean Valjean as just a guy who stole bread? You kinda miss his story. If you didn’t see that Donald Trump entered office a criminal, a cheat and a traitor, then whoever you were reporting on, it wasn’t Donald Trump.

If you tell the story of Trump running for re-election without mentioning each and every time that he was the FIRST person EVER to run for re-election having been IMPEACHED for cheating in that very election? You’re not telling the whole story and you’re certainly not reporting Donald Trump accurately.

If you never asked what THIS picture was about — you’ve never reported Donald Trump accurately.

If you see Trump as a traitor, by the way, he makes even MORE sense…

Our News Media Should Begin Every News Broadcast With A “Previously On” Segment So Even THEY Know The Story AS IT IS Already

What is it about returning to “Square One” every day that America’s news media finds so alluring? It’s as if, in their heads, even after the Red Wedding, they all keep waiting for Eddard Stark to reappear in the story. If our news media had been doing its job correctly, our starting point every day — in the Donald Trump Presidency story — wouldn’t be “a different kind of POTUS running a different kind of presidential campaign”. It’d be about a stone cold TRAITOR, surrounded by co-conspirators, stumbling through their coup d’etat’s death throes. That IS the story that we’re starting with TODAY, Election Day 2020.

The genius of a “previously on” segment in a story is that, with a few quick reminders — visual and auditory — most of what’s gone on BEFORE this episode started gets re-established in the audience’s mind: here’s what you need to know NOW if the next part of the story’s going to make any sense to you. Of course, “previously on” assumes the audience is up to date enough with where the story is that these quick reminders will set up the next part of the story. That assumes, of course, that the storyteller is up to date. Our problem, here in America — our storytellers don’t seem to know much about the very story they’re reporting on!

I watch a lot of news. I don’t watch so much “for” the news (that’s what Twitter’s for — even the news networks keep their fingers on that pulse), I watch (through metaphorical fingers) for how the news networks report the news. I’m a storyteller by trade and nature. So are journalists — they’re real-time storytellers. Regardless of whether you tell stories in real time or with a little hindsight, the rules of storytelling are the same. If you want to do it correctly, every scene needs to add new information to what we knew in the previous scene. Even if it’s to subtly shade a story nuance, a scene must add something or it doesn’t belong. It’s telling the audience something it already knows.

Why, we have to ask, is the storyteller doing that? For the benefit of the story? No. For the benefit of the audience? No. They’re doing it for their own benefit — because they need to keep reminding themselves what the story is. And, if you’re telling a story this important to the Commonweal and the greater good? You had better deliver your A-game. Alas, that is not happening with most of our news media.

That’s the frustration a lot of us have felt all along as we watch this story unfold — and as we watch the news media struggle to tell the story. Their audience is often miles ahead of them. Now, to be fair, a news audience doesn’t have to maintain the journalistic standards journalists must to maintain their integrity. Me? I can spew anything I like, supported or unsupported. I’m just a guy with an (informed) opinion.

But, that informed opinion is informed mostly by the news media’s reporting. I’ve been aggregating the story all along in my head. You know — “keeping track of it”. Following the characters as we learn more about them — seeing how both they evolve and our understanding of them evolves. Kinda like how Fusion GPS started with one view of Donald Trump — before they began the oppo research the conservative, Jeb-Bush-backing Washington Free Beacon hired them to do in the leadup to election 2016 — then switched to another view of Trump after their due diligence turned up surprising information about him. As Glenn Simpson, Fusion’s co-founder, explained in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in August 2017, Fusion’s due diligence amounted to getting their hands on every piece of publicly available Trump-related material they could from newspapers, magazines, the radio, TV or anywhere.

The reason Fusion contacted Christopher Steele — to help answer some of the questions their due diligence had raised — was because Steele had the best contacts inside Russia of pretty much anyone outside Russia. Fusion was adding information to the story and using it to constantly update their idea of Trump, who he is and what he’s really up to.

On the other side of that equation is our news media who, to this day, continue to scratch their heads, mystified by Trump and his “different kind of POTUS” behavior.

You know what the news media should have been reporting every day? That Donald Trump is the FIRST PRESIDENT EVER to run for re-election HAVING BEEN IMPEACHED — for CHEATING in the very election he’s now running in. And everyone with a double digit IQ agrees that the Republican-led Senate failed to live up to their oaths of office by not even having a real hearing to address the charges.

Think of everything we KNOW about Trump. Think of the cruelty. Of the sexual predation and rape. Think of the cheating on his wives. Think of the racist business practices. Think of the consistently suspicious behaviors — now outed as outright crimes. Think of all the Constitutional violations that, for some reason, we’ve decided to ignore. Think of all the dubious if not downright treasonous relationships Trump has with authoritarian rulers and thugs. Think of what Trump (and Jared Kushner) pal Mohamed bed Salmon did to Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Think of this photo (with Trump’s literal “face of treason”) —

Real journalists like Seth Abramson & Sarah Kendzior, working outside institutional journalism, have produced work — using the news media’s own product — to aggregate the story of a criminal coup d’etat by Donald Trump and the Republicans. This is not some imagined fiction. There are receipts FFS. Mountains of them. Hell, we watched treason happen — live and on TV. We’re still watching it today as Donald Trump takes a sledgehammer to what remains of our electoral process, all at the service of Vladimir Putin.

Except this time, just enough of the press is woke — and plenty of the electorate — to move first and protect ourselves. You see, we’ve been aggregating the Trump story. We’ve seen him lie 30,000 plus times and now assume he always lies; it’s incumbent on Trump to PROVE he’s NOT lying. Imagine if the press did that!

Imagine if, during even one news conference, one member of the press — in response to Trump spewing lies at them — had said “I’m sorry, sir, but you’ll need to back that statement up or it’s bullshit”. You don’t ask a liar to explain their lie, you TELL the liar their lie is a LIE. You do NOT give the lie credence.

See the difference? Even if you think the lie’s a lie (inside your head), you’ve asked the question in a way that gives the liar latitude. “Explain” assumes there’s something TO explain. Beginning with “that is a LIE” instead, puts the lie front and center as the status quo. The lie is the one thing we know for a fact. The liar is completely on the defensive and the one arrow in their quiver has no point.

There’s one basic rule of thumb when chasing rabbits. Do NOT follow them down their rabbit holes. Wait for them to re-emerge THEN whack-a-mole them.

As we begin Election Day 2020, the “previously on” segment should have made voting — for those NOT in the Trump Forever 30% — a no-brainer. After all, why would any self-interested person vote for someone as selfish as Trump whose interests begin and end with himself? They wouldn’t.

That’s the story.

Dear American News Media: America Needs YOU To Do Better

The last four years turned me from a news consumer into a news junkie. I bet I’m not alone. In fact, I know I’m not. But, let’s be clear: the fix I’m after isn’t “news”, it’s Truth. They aren’t necessarily the same thing. That, right there, is our problem. It’s why I watch the news so obsessively now — not because I need them updating me but because I feel compelled to point out every time they confound “spouting information” with telling truth. In the age of Trump, every piece of information spewing from people notorious for lying should be seen as suspect first and true only after rigorous examination.

And, by the way? Both sides don’t “do it”.

First problem? The apparent inability to AGGREGATE information the way storytellers are supposed to. Information from one scene gets added to what we know — and that information directs us toward more questions which, in turn, produce more information that adds to what we know. Except that process has broken down with our news media.

The moment Donald Trump insisted that “Mexicans are rapists”, the correct response from our news media shouldn’t have been “Oh, well — we guess he’s just a different kind of presidential candidate”, it should have been “Donald Trump is a bigot and a racist”. Everything they reported after that fact would have built upward from our FIRM KNOWLEDGE (based on Trump’s own words!) that Donald Trump is a racist.

Every story about Trump thereafter should have included the background that everything Trump said or says is in the context of “he’s a racist”. But, because we allow racists to decide whether or not they’re racist, Trump got to claim HE was the “least racist person in the whole world”. Oy.

See how we let a racist determine the context — to the detriment of the story and our ability to understand it? Imagine, if you will, how different a place we’d be in today if we WEREN’T still debating (if the news media wasn’t still debating) whether or not racist Donald Trump is a racist or not.

If you can’t aggregate simple, evidence-based information into a narrative, journalism (storytelling in general) baffles you. Find another line of work.

Once the news media started down the “He’s just a different kind of POTUS” path, they were lost. “He’s a different kind of…” is what a journalist says to affirm that they’ve normalized what should never be normalized.

They did the same thing with pussy-grabbing, preferring to chase “But, her emails” instead. Keep in mind the perspective: pussy-grabbing plus 20+ accusations of rape, sexual assault and indecent behavior. It’s what real storytellers call CONTEXT.

Quick reminder — when Fusion GPS’s Glenn Simpson testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on August 22, 2017 (the Republican-led committee was desperate to undermine the Steele Dossier’s integrity), he described Fusion’s process after they’d been hired by the conservative-run Washington Free Beacon to do oppo research on Trump. The very first thing Fusion did, Simpson testified, was their due diligence. They got their hands on every piece of publicly available information about or by Donald Trump — newspaper stories, magazine articles, Howard Stern appearances, TV interviews. They visited Amazon and used book stores. They even went to the public library looking for publicly available material.

What Fusion found — in publicly available material — convinced them that Trump had been involved with criminal behavior for years and that he’d likely laundered Russian mob money through his (now bankrupt) Atlantic City casinos. In other words, Fusion found enough evidence of criminal conduct that they felt compelled to do MORE research. By then, Jeb Bush (the Free Beacon’s choice) had dropped out and Democrats backing Hillary Clinton were paying Fusion’s fees. The whole reason Fusion sub-contracted the Russian part of the oppo research out to Christopher Steele is because he’d run MI6’s Moscow desk and had top tier contacts inside Russia.

Until Fusion hired Steele, they were doing something every news organization could have done on their own, by themselves: due diligence. Like Fusion, THEY could have gotten THEIR hands on every piece of publicly available material on Trump. Like Fusion, THEY could have met the minimal obligation before beginning their formal work of reporting on Donald Trump.

Except they didn’t.

Steele’s work product is raw intel — and needs to be understood that way. That’s just context. Take away the context and Steele’s product becomes “unverified” meaning “probably untrue”. But, raw intel is all about context. There’s rarely a smoking gun but there can be the preponderance of the evidence. Plenty of smoke flows from that.

Lacking context and convinced that “both sides do it”, our news media has spun a relentless false narrative flowing from the mis-reporting that “Trump won in 2016”. We will arrive at this conclusion: take away intense voter suppression in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin (the product of Paul Manafort handing Oleg Deripaska proprietary polling data from those three states plus Minnesota) and the Comey Letter 10 days before the 2016 election and Trump’s not close enough for the machine flipping operation.

Remember — Trump won by a combined 77,000 votes across those three states in order to secure the Electoral College votes. If Trump committed treason to win those three states (and win the election) then he did not “win”. Cheating to win can NEVER equal winning. Committing treason to win — that should go double. We KNOW for a fact that any voting machine that connects IN ANY WAY to the internet is hackable. We KNOW these systems have been hacked and are still being hacked. The reason vote-by-mail horrifies Trump and the Republicans in this election is because their whole cheating op is based on using disinformation to foster low turnout by disenchanted voters. Then, with the race inside the polled margin of error, the hacking op can flip or add just enough votes for the result to look dicey but within the margin of error and therefore “possible”.

Also remember — Trump asked repeatedly — OUT LOUD — for Russia to help him. Also remember — Trump was impeached for doing the exact same thing with the Ukraine except in THIS election. You know, the one he’s currently running in?

That fact alone seems not to have been aggregated: Donald Trump is the first (and only) president to EVER run for re-election having been IMPEACHED for cheating in the very election he’s running in. You’d think that fact alone would keep the news media actively engaged. You’d think an impeached president running for office — while STILL cheating — would be grist for plenty of great, Pulitzer-worthy reportage.

And yet…

None of us wants the news media to fail. On the contrary, we NEED the news media to succeed. That’s why it breaks our hearts when most of them continue to trip over themselves daily. It’s not just personal failure they’re courting as they try to disentangle themselves from themselves, it’s our collective failure they’re flirting with. Their inability to see the larger story is going to kill us.

The first trick with helping an alcoholic or a drug addict is getting them to SEE their own weakness. There’s nothing wrong with having weaknesses. It comes with being human. But we don’t have to be prisoners of our weakness. We CAN overcome them with a little, um, due diligence. The news media needs to acknowledge that it HAS a problem: a lack of perspective born of a failure of imagination.

Our news media still can’t “imagine” the enormity of Trump’s crime. Therefore they under-report and normalize what they see. A talking head round table might examine all the possible explanations for Trump’s behavior. They’ll ALWAYS include the possibility that there’s some innocent explanation (he’s just a “different” kind of POTUS). They’ll NEVER include the opposite possibility — that Trump is guilty of criminal behavior; he’s a “different” kind of POTUS all right, just not in a good way.

These are all fixable. But, like a good 12-step program, freedom from addiction starts with acknowledging that one HAS an addiction.

One last suggestion to help our news media (especially televised news media) be all they can be. Forget about primping before you go on air. Spend more time prepping instead. Got that? “Prepping Instead Of Primping”.

What’s your size, American News Media? I’ll put it on a t-shirt for you…

Perspective For Dummies (News Media Edition)

Imagine living inside a bubble and thinking that was all there was — while everything else there was existed outside your damned bubble. Most of America’s news media continue to stumble and bumble their inept way through the greatest news story most of them still don’t see. Apparently Donald Trump’s criminal behavior is too, too out in the open for them. His treason is too plainly stated — as treason — for them to accept. His corruption is too de rigeur and anyway, “both sides do it”.

That’s the nature of the bubble, you see. Both sides do it. Right there, by starting from that assumption, every acolyte of both sides do it journalism begins their reporting from a false narrative that originates entirely from inside their bubble. When a Republican actively suppresses Democratic voters — and, for the record, the reverse NEVER HAPPENS — they’re acting politically. They’re preventing Democratic voters from voting because they fear the political outcome. See? Pure politics.

But, when the suppressed voter raises their hand to complain that their right to vote has been suppressed? They are NOT acting politically, THEY are reporting a crime: their rights as a citizen are being violated.

Our news media however, sees BOTH as “political”. Right off the bat, all perspective is skewed which means there is no perspective.

Gaining and maintaining perspective is hard. For starters, you have to understand people. You have to appreciate what makes them tick — and that something does make them tick; no one ever does anything for no reason or “just because”. They may not be able to articulate what motivates them — even if it’s boredom — but something is motivating them to act. That core why explains them and if you haven’t got to the core why, you haven’t explained them.

If you haven’t even bothered to mine that core “why”, you have no perspective whatsoever and never were going to have any. Why are you in journalism?

Assuming you have a functional, working knowledge of human psycho-pathology, you have to dig deeply — ignoring all evasions, dodges and “hummina-hummina-please-don’t-ask-me-that’s”. You have to begin constructing the context in which every human lives — so you can appreciate that their perspective is not your perspective. For instance — a Donald Trump does not think the way, say, a Kelly O’Donnell thinks. When NBC News’ well meaning but truly awful O’Donnell characterizes Trump’s actions, she sees them the way SHE would see them not the way Trump clearly sees them. She doesn’t ask why Trump seems to behave in a criminal manner, she assumes that since SHE wouldn’t do things for criminal reasons, neither would Trump — so, therefore, whatever he did has a perfectly valid reason — she just doesn’t know what it is.

That, right there, is how abnormal behavior gets normalized. It’s how perspective gets sacrificed live on TV. Rather than seeing all the dots, Kelly O limits the dots she can see. Only normal dots can penetrate her bubble — and that’s how she reports Trump: as if he was “normal”.

The other thing our news media seems incapable of doing is aggregating the Donald Trump story. I know. It’s really complicated. There are a kajillion moving parts — and they can be very hard to keep track of. Welcome to Perspective.

You have to not only be aware of as much of the story as possible, you have to REMEMBER it. Maybe if you wrote it down…

That’s the most frustrating part of watching our news media fumble this story. All they had to do was keep track of their own reporting. It’s like how all those journalists still — to this day — say the Mueller Report cleared Donald Trump. Well, it does, maybe IF YOU DON’T READ IT. But, turns out? If you crack a copy? IT SAYS THE OPPOSITE.

We now know that Team Mueller was working under tight constraints impressed upon them by the duplicitous, treasonous Rod Rosenstein. Even so, the Mueller Report describes significant criminal behavior — and, it says, it would have described more had the criminals not been working so hard to OBSTRUCT JUSTICE.

Here’s the bottom line: not a single American journalist should have a doubt that Donald Trump likely walked in the door to American politics a criminal. Not a hyperbolic criminal, A CRIMINAL. Back before the 2018 election, when the Republicans still owned everything (including the House of Representatives) — and the investigations into Trump had only just become public knowledge — Republicans wanted to quash the Steele Dossier or paint it more dubiously. On August 22, 2017, the Senate Judiciary Committee grilled Glenn Simpson whose research company — Fusion GPS — had been hired to do oppo research on Trump and who’d subcontracted part of that work out to Christopher Steele.

Now — for perspective’s sake — remember: Simpson is a former Wall Street Journal reporter. Initially, Fusion was hired by the conservative Washington Free Beacon to do oppo research on Trump. They backed Jeb Bush and wanted all the dirt they could find on Trump. Simpson testified that, being good journalists, a big part of what they considered their due diligence was to get their hands on every single piece of publicly available material on Trump FIRST. What could ANYBODY know about Donald Trump if they just “asked“?

As Simpson testified, Fusion combed bricks-n-mortar book stores and searched Amazon. They sought out every magazine article they could find. They listened to audio tapes, watched hours of video. Without actually investigating (yet), Simpson testified, Fusion GPS stumbled upon ample (publicly available) evidence that Trump had, at the very least, laundered considerable sums of money through his Atlantic City casinos; their bankruptcies were not a bug of Trump’s ownership, the bankruptcies were the point — the better to launder gobs of Russian mob money. To get at the details, in June 2016, Fusion reached out to Orbis Business Intelligence, a London-based private intel firm run by Christopher Steele (who ran the Russia desk at MI6 headquarters in London between 2006 and 2009).

By April 2016, the Washington Free Beacon had stepped back — Jeb Bush was out of the race — and an attorney for Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the DNC separately hired Fusion to investigate Trump in April 2016.

The overwhelming majority of Steele’s work product (raw intel which requires a whole lot of perspective all by itself to appreciate properly) has proven true. It’s not hard to do that leg work either — to read what Steele wrote and then to find reporting that supports it. It’s called journalism. It works the other way too — if one wanted to disprove the report, one could read it then find evidence to support that conclusion.

But, if you assume that everyone’s always guilty of the worst possible behavior, you’ll cut the corner — because why bother looking up what you already “know”? You’ll reach your conclusion because, really, it’s where you started. The problem is: your conclusion is bullshit.

Bullshit and perspective cannot co-exist. In fact, perspective is bullshit’s kryptonite. The moment anyone — especially the news media — begins consuming bullshit (especially its own “both sides do it” brand of bullshit) all perspective vanishes. It’s like you suddenly live in a bubble. The only dots you can connect are the ones immediately in front of you while all the others? You can’t even see them.

On the bright side? Christmas is coming! Books are always great gifts. If you know a journalist — consider gifting them with a copy. Even if you just watch a journalist who needs perspective, consider sending a copy as a loyal fan. They might turn up their noses — at first.

But if they’re courageous enough to start reading?

They’ll thank you when they accept their Pulitzer.

Dear American News Media – Stop Acting Like The Dance Band On The Titanic

The Dance Band on the Titanic went down with the ship. America, like the Titanic, is sinking. The difference is we don’t have to. Our ship of state can still be saved.

America’s news media can’t be blamed for Donald Trump. Fred and Mary Trump deserve that credit (oh, that we could go back in time and tie Mary’s tubes while also delivering a good, swift kick to Fred’s family jewels). But Donald Trump’s resiliency — the fact that he’s still POTUS and not a federal prisoner — THAT falls almost entirely on the news media and their remarkable inability to convey the story in front of them. The story they themselves have reported.

As we stand here today, Donald Trump is the first person EVER to run for re-election as POTUS having been IMPEACHED — for cheating in the very election he’s running in.

That’s not a small thing. It’s a huge, HUGE thing. And yet, our news media never reminds its news audience that THAT is the context in which Donald Trump is running for re-election. He does it — overtly cheating — having already been impeached for cheating!

But, not just cheating — committing TREASON while cheating.

The news media — what else can we conclude? — has accepted and normalized not only cheating but treason. It’s now just another facet of “Trump’s a different kind of potus” — that toxic confection the news media keeps feeding itself to explain away Trump’s lawlessness. No, he’s not “different”, he’s a criminal. He’s always been a criminal — and it’s always been there for all to see because the news media itself reported on it!

Among the stories our news media can’t seem to 1) get straight or 2) comprehend is Christopher Steele and the dossier of raw intelligence he put together and then desperately tried to get into the right hands. As an example of what I’m talking about — if (as our news media does) you simply assume that Chris Steele’s dossier dropped from the sky by magic — it’s easy to dismiss. It could just as easily be the work product of a crank.

Except it’s not. If we trace the story back to how we GOT TO the Chris Steele part of the story, we suddenly discover not only that there IS a story but there’s a story that the news media has already reported on — and seemingly forgotten. As the 2016 Republican primaries got under way, every Republican who wasn’t Donald Trump hated and feared Donald Trump. That included Republicans who supported Jeb Bush’s campaign.

Among them was The Washington Free Beacon (financed by hedge fund magnate Paul Singer). They funded oppo research into multiple Republican candidates but their research on Trump proved the most compelling. The Beacon hired the firm Fusion GPS — a commercial research and strategic intelligence firm founded by two former Wall Street Journal reporters. One of them, Glenn Simpson, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on August 22, 2017. The committee — under Republican control, don’t forget — was attempting to undermine the Steele Dossier’s integrity by undermining the integrity of those who hired Steele.

Why was Chris Steele hired in the first place, the Committee wanted to know — assuming, I guess, that they could imply something nefarious where nothing nefarious existed? Simpson explained how, after Fusion was hired, they did their due diligence. They got their hands on every piece of PUBLICLY AVAILABLE material on Trump that they could — newspaper articles, magazine pieces, radio interviews, TV shows — everywhere Trump’s name appeared or was spoken. They went to Amazon and actual book stores. They combed the internet. They even went to the public library.

What Fusion found — in publicly available material that anyone (including the press) could just as easily have found — convinced them that Donald Trump was likely a criminal who laundered Russian mob money through his (now bankrupt) Atlantic City Casinos. They saw other possible connections between Donald Trump and Russia, too. They were so concerned, in fact, that they sub-contracted the research out to the Westerner with, perhaps, the connections inside Russia — former head of MI6’s Russia Desk Chris Steele.

Did you follow that, American News Media? Publicly available material suggesting Trump’s likely criminality is what motivated the Steele hire. That means anyone — any journalist — could have, at any time, have done what Fusion did: the due diligence.

By the time Fusion got to Chris Steele, the Free Beacon had stopped funding the work; Trump had become the presumptive nominee. Steele’s work was paid for by Marc Elias, the lawyer for the D.N.C. and Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign. That doesn’t in any way disqualify it. Steele — with his excellent connections inside Russia — had no idea who was underwriting his work product.

Ah, but Trump says… The Republicans say. It’s like reporting what the iceberg says. “Go ahead — hit me! I promise nothing bad will happen to ya…”.

The Titanic’s dance band was great at dying nobly. For the purposes of argument though, what if Sam, the band’s talented sax player, possessed knowledge that could have saved the ship? What if Sam — in a previous life — had worked in a shipyard, building ships and new of a way that might stem the flow of water into the six forward watertight compartments that the iceberg exposed. What if another of the band — Val, the Violinist — recognized that if he could get the passengers to rush to the back of the ship, it would aid Sam’s plan and, perhaps, save them all? And what if all the others in the band immediately pitched in to do whatever they could to help.

Our news media has knowledge that could save our ship of state from sinking. They know the iceberg we’ve hit — they’ve reported on it. They also know how the ship works. How its engines work. While, like with the Titanic, time is short, our news media can still stem the flow of water into our tanks. Or, in this case, the flow of bullshit, propaganda and disinformation.

For starters, the news media needs to stop running around the deck like Chicken Little. They need to see themselves as PASSENGERS on this vessel with a rooting interest in not sinking. They need to stop seeing this story from the iceberg’s point of view — or the ocean’s. They need to see it entirely from the passengers’ point of view — because that’s who’s going to suffer the consequences.

Donald Trump & the Republican Party are our democracy’s iceberg. In collusion with their Russian friend, they intend to sink us and raise a Jolly Roger over the remains. That isn’t crazed left wing lunacy. It’s all been reported by our press. You’d think our press wouldn’t be so reluctant to read their own stuff.

The journalism professor turned journalist Seth Abramson hasn’t done any original reporting. Rather, he’s aggregated all the reporting that’s been done — all in one place: his three Collusion books. The portrait Abramson’s work portrays is beyond devastating. Like Fusion GPS mining what every other journalist could mine, Abramson demonstrates how journalism is supposed to work. We already know an awful lot about how exactly Donald Trump became POTUS. We know how corrupt Trump is and how vulnerable to blackmail because of it. Our news media reported it.

Our news media can still save the day. All they have to do is adhere to a few basic principles while seeing themselves as citizen journalists instead of corporate journalists. They might as well since anyone who doesn’t go full corporate, access journalist if Trump “wins” (cheats to win actually — which is not the same thing as actually “winning”) is going to end up in a gulag. Here are a few actions they need to take —

  • Stop Normalizing Everything Trump Does. Mexicans still aren’t rapists (despite the news media’s apparently accepting it) and pussy-grabbing is absolutely not acceptable, no matter how rich you are.
  • Access Journalism is stone cold bullshit. Stop running for the next Judith A Miller ‘It’s All About Access” Award.
  • Listen to Maya Angelou’s wise words: when someone (like Donald Trump) tells you (repeatedly and ad nauseum) who they are? BELIEVE THEM!
  • Whatever you have to do to get it, GET SOME PERSPECTIVE!
  • Words matter. A lie is a lie. Call it what it is, not some euphemism. And trust that your audience is at least as adult as you are. Swear words aren’t nearly as offensive as corruption.
  • Both sides don’t do it. That’s you generalizing — and badly. John Q. Citizen under-reporting his taxes is not the same as Bernie Madoff though both are committing fraud. Proportion and scale matter. So does motive.
  • No one does anything “just because”.
  • When you repeat bullshit without saying it’s bullshit, you validate the bullshit. Once bullshit has credence, it doesn’t give it back.
  • Learn to aggregate. Storytelling builds one scene atop another, each scene (ideally) adding information to the information added in the previous scene. It’s monstrously stupid — and bad storytelling — to keep returning to square one, as if you don’t know the very things you’d already reported on.
  • Recognize your Constitutional obligation. Look, you chose journalism. You choose to pursue it, regardless of the myriad challenges and difficulties. Journalism is the one non-governmental job mentioned in the Constitution — as the final check on governmental power. Tasks don’t get more sacred than that. Take yours seriously FFS!

C’mon News Media — career-minded as you are, you still have souls (religious or otherwise). Most of you got into journalism because you wanted to change things. You wanted to tell truths that stopped villains, rewarded heroes and made the world a better place because of it.

Great! Live that ethos, News Media! Report it. Our ship’s going down with all hands on deck otherwise.

Mind you — we’ll be on deck listening to YOU play us out. Glug, glug, glug…

A Call For Moral Journalism

It is immoral to equate Truth with bullshit. Yet that is what the bulk of our news media does every day. They equate the stone cold facts of what Donald Trump has done and is doing to our democracy with the utter bullshit of his denials.

This morning, Trump’s White House is trying to contain a PR disaster. The Atlantic reported that multiple sources say Trump has called our military “losers” whose willingness to put their lives on the line to defend the country he finds unfathomable. The reporting is solid, multi-sourced.

These are facts therefore.

But, on MSNBC, their White House stenographer, Kelly O’Donnell reported that Trump vigorously denied saying any such thing.

What are we, the news audience, to make of this? On the one hand — solid reporting of a newsworthy transgression by a president dedicated to committing transgressions. That’s also a president newsworthy because he lies about literally everything. On the other hand? Kelly O’Donnell insisting that Trump says it isn’t so. Zero context from Kelly about, you know, all the other stuff the rest of us know already.

Kelly O’Donnell wants us to accept what she’s telling us as truth — or a possible truth — that Donald Trump never said what all those witnesses said he said. In the face of the Truth, Kelly O’ wants us to believe that bullshit could still be true.

NBC News’ White House Reporter Kelly O’Donnell. A nice enough person no doubt, but an immoral journalist.

That is immoral. And that is the problem with far too much American journalism.

When we finally begin to put what’s left of America back together again, we need to launch an investigation into who or what started “both sides do it” journalism.

Trump couldn’t have done what he did to the country without the full-on complicity of nearly the entire Republican Party. And the GOP couldn’t have done what it did — allow Trump to take America to the brink of catastrophe — without the news media cutting them all the slack they needed to drive us here.

It’s understood that covering Trump is unlike covering anyone else. He’s deeply sociopathic, a narcissist’s narcissist, incapable of any sort of self analysis. He’s utterly shameless. And willfully cruel — even to his own family. He says anything that comes to his mind, no matter how outrageous and untrue. But then, none of that is a secret.

The press has reported it since he slithered down that golden escalator into the lobby of Trump Tower and insisted that “Mexicans are rapists”.

That, of course, is not true. Virtually nothing Trump says about himself is true — except perhaps that he has a thing for young girls. And his own daughter.

Trump wasn’t “kidding” when he said that, by the way. Trump can’t kid. He can’t joke about things because he has no sense of humor. When Trump does “make jokes”, he’s not actually “making jokes” — he’s bullying. The tell whether you have a sense of humor or not is “can you laugh at yourself?” If the answer is no — as it absolutely is with Trump — you have no sense of humor.

It is a false narrative to ever say Trump is joking therefore. But then, Trump is a collection of false narratives and, for some reason, our news media prefers false narratives to real, verifiable ones.

“Donald Trump, Successful Businessman” is verifiably untrue. Yet our news media chose to accept that false narrative without checking it out. Checking it out would have meant acting like a news organization and doing some scut work. Kind of like how Fusion GPS did after the republican-owned, Jeb Bush supporting Washington Free Beacon hired them to do oppo research on Donald Trump. Fusion was co-founded by two former Wall Street Journal reporters.

When he was hauled before the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee on August 22, 2017 — by Republicans desperate to undermine the integrity of the Steele Dossier — Fusion co-founder Glenn Simpson testified that the first thing Fusion did upon being hired was their due diligence. They got their hands on every piece of publicly available material about Donald Trump. They haunted Amazon and physical book stores. They got ahold of magazine stories, videos, audio recordings. Everything Trump said in a public environment, everything anyone wrote about him.

What Fusion saw, Simpson testified, convinced them that Trump had, at the very least, used his (now bankrupt) Atlantic City casinos to launder Russian mob money. To violate the law.

Worst of all — Fusion saw that Trump was deeply compromised in ways that made him vulnerable to Russia. No one with half a brain thinks Russia wants anything good for us. Matter of fact, we already know that Putin has drawn up plans for cyber war against us. Gosh, if all the journalists working the Trump beat had been aggregating everything they know (from their own reporting) about Trump, he’d already by in federal prison.

We know Trump violates the rule of law and the Constitution because we’re watching him do it — in real time! It’s not as if finding Trump’s criminality requires much heavy lifting. FFS, just quote the guy and you’ve got him nailed. When journalists go deep into Trump, they always come up with treasure. The deeper they go, the more valuable the treasure. And yet, they demur… It boggles the mind.

It makes one wonder — why do they refuse to tell Trump’s story? Is it fear of losing access? Trump needs the press way more than the press needs Trump. He knows he can’t rely exclusively on Fox to spread his toxic messaging. That means the press doesn’t have to let Trump frame his story his way. THEY should never have let him do it to begin with. But, going forward, the news media could absolutely frame Trump correctly — based solely on the collective reporting of the American news media.

It’s baffling why a guy like Seth Abramson doesn’t get more news media attention. He’s the ultimate aggregator of the story the news media itself is trying to tell. If only they’d look at the perspective they themselves have created about Trump. Our starting point, every day wouldn’t be “Trump, the normal POTUS, running a normal re-election campaign”, it’d be “Trump, the corrupt, soulless, criminal, impeached president who committed treason to steal his first term in office and now wants to keep committing treason in order to remain in power forever because the moment he stops being POTUS, he’ll be indicted and sued out the wazoo”. That should be where all reporting about Trump BEGINS.

So — how does our news media heal itself?

First, it must open its eyes and truly look at itself. Regardless of whether “both sides do it” infected them in journalism school or later via contact with infected journalists, all journalists need to disavow “both sides do it”. They need to atone for equating skepticism — that thing all journalists are supposed to have in their tool kit — with cynicism. Cynicism assumes that everyone’s a rat bastard who deserves what they get.

That’s bullshit. Not everyone is motivated by self-interest. To brush everyone that way is despicable. Worse, it’s immoral.

Worst of all? It ain’t journalism — not the way journalism needs to be practiced going forward. From here on out, American journalism needs to stop equating political neutrality with neutrality. No one can remain neutral in the face of evil — even at its most banal. If, say, a reporter knows someone is doing something terrible in real time, they are obligated to stop it from happening if they at all possibly can.

Not as a journalist, AS A HUMAN BEING.

Journalists need to remember who and what they are first — before they take on the mantle of “reporter”. They’re humans living amongst other humans in (we hope) a civil society. They need to follow those rules first.

They’re also Americans — whose interests, while diverse, also hew to a particular set of rules. Citizenship doesn’t just come with benefits — voting, an American passport (for what that’s worth these days) — also it comes with responsibilities. Voting. But also an obligation to stand up for the rule of law. It can’t stand up for itself, you see.

We The People need to be the rule of law’s guardian. We need to defend it because that’s what our whole system of government is based on: a mutual understanding of the rules that keep us from killing each other. Journalists aren’t just another segment of We The People — which they are part of — they’re also charged with being the last check on power. That’s what it says in the Constitution; journalists are the only actual “job” enumerated in the Constitution. Journalists have a double obligation. But then, they chose journalism as much as it probably chose them.

Because we failed to prosecute or enforce the rule of law equally, the rule of law seems to have broken down. It hasn’t. We’re the thing that’s broken down. The moment we go back to enforcing the rule of law (this time properly)? It will begin to work for us. So long as we don’t extend any special treatment to anyone, just by enforcing the rule of law again, we’ll feel our sails begin to fill with forward momentum toward justice. If we can get there, not only will we fulfill our mutual obligation to give every single one of us the same chance to achieve our maximum potential, we’ll have helped America achieve the potential it aspired to back at its founding — minus all that white, Christian, European male Chauvinism that hogged all that potential for itself.

A Great Moral Reckoning is coming to America. It sure would be nice to see our news media actually riding that wave — atop its crest even. The way they’re going right now, they’ll be watching it from the shore.

Dear American News Media — You All Report That Trump’s So Desperate To Win He’ll Destroy The Post Office; PLEASE ASK WHY!

This is not a “why did the chicken cross the road?” question. Donald Trump doesn’t want to win this election just “to get to the other side”. It’s pretty much universal now that Trump is cheating to win right before our eyes. That is, “cheating to win again.”

That’s how it’s put by the “news” media. He’s cheating to win again. That suggests he cheated to win at least once before — and considering as the only other election Donald Trump ran in was 2016, that says that our news media acknowledges now that if not for cheating, Trump would not be president today.

Think about that — and think about how we’re “thinking about it”.

In theory, cheating to win is a literal impossibility. You might “win” by cheating but, if we’re playing by the rules, by cheating, you disqualified yourself from winning. The rule of law is quite clear on this point. One cannot win by cheating. In fact, if one cheats to win, one opens oneself up to all sorts of legal exposure. I know we may not be enforcing the rule of law as I write this, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still completely in effect. It absolutely is — and we will return to living under it except this time (we hope) correctly.

But, I digress. Even Trump will say out loud that destroying the post office is to prevent Americans from voting. If Americans vote the way they’re going to, it’s not a question of if Trump loses, it’s a question by how much he’ll get blown out by. That’s Trump and every single Republican running on the ticket with him. Trump already has a whole wing to himself in the Museum Of Historical Miscalculations. Going after the post office — even as an act of desperation — is idiotic. He’s a Dumbass Don Quixote tilting not at a windmill but a T Rex which promptly eats him like a cocktail olive.Republic

Even some of the rubes Trump tricked into voting against their own best interests last time have suddenly turned. They get it: if their prescription opioids get delayed coming through the mail, they’re screwed. Ditto any sort of check they rely on in lieu of electronic payment. You can shoot yourself in the foot only so many times before it’s completely useless to you.

It’s conceivable now — unless Trump stops bullshitting the nation about vote-by-mail’s reliability and allows the USPS to do its job the best way it knows how — most of the stage AG’s will go after DeJoy, Trump’s Postmaster General flunky for deliberately screwing up mail delivery in their states. Voting for Trump now equals “Killing the Post Office”. As political marketing goes, that flat out sucks. Good luck selling it.

Of course, the point isn’t to “sell” anything. It’s to stop just enough Americans from either voting or having their votes count so that voting machines in certain states important to the Electoral College can be electronically flipped. Any machine that in any way connects to the internet is vulnerable. But then, isn’t that the point? If you really wanted a totally safe, secure election to take place — without having technology just for the sake of having it (especially when it’s the thing that makes voting vulnerable) — you’d accept hand-marked paper ballots and that would be the end of it.

Republicans are cynics. Their actions say it. I cannot think of a single Republican — Mitt Romney included — who isn’t walking around with knowledge in their heads that make them complicit in a grand conspiracy to rob the American people of their electoral choice. Everyone with an “R” next to their name believes deep down that the end justifies the means. The end that every Republican has in mind is permanent minority rule.

To get to that end, the Republicans made the worst Devil’s bargain ever: they hitched their wagon to Donald Trump despite knowing he was corrupt — and despite knowing that he was literally OWNED by Russia. Republican leadership knew it going into their 2016 convention. Current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy famously announced to a meeting of the Republican leadership that “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump”. The GOP leadership didn’t run to the FBI, fearful about the implications for their presidential nominee. No, they agreed to go along with then Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s demand that they “keep the conversation private, saying: ‘No leaks. . . . This is how we know we’re a real family here’.”

So — Republicans have always known that Trump’s relationship with Russia was “problematic” from a legal point of view. They must have understood it that way because they knew to keep it secret. When Barack Obama wanted to alert We The People about Russia’s active determination to make Trump POTUS, Mitch McConnell threatened to accuse Obama of politicizing the intelligence. Moscow Mitch knew for a fact that that wasn’t at all what Obama was doing.

For some reason, our news media can’t aggregate a story. They can’t add information so that they’re understanding of Trump — and how to report him — evolves. That’s terrible storytelling. It’s not journalism. Even a quick perusal of the Mueller Report (versus taking Bill Barr’s word about it) — with an understanding that it doesn’t represent the entirety of the Trump-Russia story but merely a thin tranche of it — says Donald Trump cheated to win in 2016 and committed treason while doing it.

For some reason, our news media can’t aggregate the guy who was impeached in the House for trying to cheat in the coming election with the guy who’s trying to destroy the Post Office in order to cheat in the coming election. Even just those two things aggregated gives us a person, shall we say, unusually motivated to want to win an election. But, WHY?

Yeah, sure, everyone likes to win. Shitheads like Donald Trump are especially dedicated to winning at all costs because they’re man-babies whose frail emotional architecture can’t stand up to losing. But, that doesn’t explain them breaking the law to win. Well, it doesn’t explain Trump breaking the law so flagrantly, so willfully, so desperately.

At every character’s core is “why”. Why they do what they do. Why they get up in the morning and will themselves to get through the day. Even if they can’t articulate the why, there is one. No one does things “for no reason” except in the minds of bad storytellers and way too many American journalists.

Trump doesn’t do immoral, corrupt, racist, misogynistic, ignorant things because “he’s a different kind of POTUS”. He’s does them because he IS all those things. Especially corrupt.

When Fusion GPS was hired by the Washington Free Beacon in 2016 to do oppo research on Donald Trump, the first thing they did (according to co-founder Glenn Simpson in his Congressional testimony) was their due diligence. They sought out every bit of publicly available information on Donald J. Trump. They got ahold of newspapers, magazines, radio broadcasts, TV shows — anything and everything. They went to book stores, Amazon, even the public library.

Simpson testified that what they found there — in publicly available material — convinced them that Trump might have used his bankrupted Atlantic City casinos to launder Russian mob money — a fact which Vladimir Putin knew and exploited. That’s why they subcontracted that part of the research to Christopher Steele’s Orbis. Steele, former head of MI6’s Russia desk, had the best contacts inside Russia bar none.

The reason Trump needs America to believe the investigation into him isn’t even remotely a hoax is because he’s so incredibly guilty in so many ways. The only thing shielding Trump from indictment and prosecution right now is a silly DoJ rule (not a law) that says sitting presidents can’t be indicted.

That rule is Trump’s Hail Mary. The longer he can keep it in the air? The longer he’s not a federal prisoner for the rest of his life. His best bet? Never stop being POTUS. Ever.

That’s the “why”, you see, at the center of Donald Trump’s core.

He won’t tell you that, of course — he probably can’t articulate it. But then, Donald Trump can’t articulate anything directly. He’s an ignorant boob operating far, far above his competency. He’s making it up as he goes along and he has zero imagination.

But then, that shouldn’t be hard to discern. The evidence has come at us in a relentless stream of reporting. So has the evidence that Trump is a traitor.

If only there was someone out there to report it…