Living inside a slow motion train wreck is wearing us out. We can see the catastrophe we’re heading toward. We can see what’s driving us there. But we can’t seem to find where the brakes are — or how to put our foot on them. A big part of what makes the experience so agonizing is the empty-headed way most of the news media has reported and continues to report this story.
Granted — we’ve never had a president before whose election would never have happened if not for the direct actions of a hostile foreign power — our main nemesis no less. Granted, we’ve never had a political party seemingly without any sort of moral compass whatsoever — whose sole mission is to get and hold power forever regardless of the fact that they are a shrinking minority. Granted we’ve never lived through a cyber war before.
The fact that none of those things have happened before should inform how we see, think of and report TrumpWorld. One way — the way our news media did it — is to shrug it all off with “he’s a different kind of potus”. He “speaks his mind directly”. He “goes with his gut”. That is all bullshit. There’s no such thing as “just different”. There’s a reason under-girding “different”: Donald Trump (like the rest of his family) is a CRIMINAL.
At this late date, that shouldn’t be a question. The only reason it is — our news media sucks. Back during the 2016 campaign, conservative web site The Washington Free Beacon hired Fusion GPS to do oppo research on Donald Trump. Fusion was co-founded in 2011 by Glenn R. Simpson, a former investigative reporter and journalist for Roll Call and The Wall Street Journal; Peter Fritsch, former Wall Street Journal senior editor; and former Wall Street Journal journalist Thomas Catan. Meaning — Fusion had rock solid investigative bona fides. They weren’t pikers — and they weren’t raving leftists either.
On November 14, 2017, Glenn Simpson testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Republicans — in total control of Congress at the time, remember — were trying to undermine the integrity of The Steele Dossier. They wanted to show that Fusion was biased; after the Washington Free Beacon stopped paying for Fusion’s research (March 2016), the law firm Perkins Coie, on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, retained Fusion to continue digging into Trump. But Simpson’s story didn’t go along with the GOP’s bogus narrative.
Simpson testified that the first thing Fusion did was its due diligence: they got their hands on every bit of publicly available material on Donald Trump.
They got ahold of every book, magazine or newspaper article, every radio or TV interview. They went to public libraries, scoured book stores and the internet. They looked at everything they could — and what they saw clearly in that publicly available material convinced them that there was enough evidence of Trumpian criminality (money laundering especially via his failed casinos) that it warranted hiring Christopher Steele to do further research.
Chris Steele’s bona fides were equally rock solid. He ran MI6’s Russia desk because he had rock solid contacts in Russia. No one in this part of the equation was doing anything nefarious. They were concerned professionals who’d stumbled upon some terrible truths — and wanted to know HOW true they were.
Fusion GPS and Chris Steele would both get A’s if we were grading them. Well-deserved A’s.
Everything I just wrote is true. It all exists in the public record. I’m just a guy tapping away on his keyboard. The American news media is supposed to be in the business of doing this as part of its standard operating procedure. Doing research should be as automatic as breathing to a journalist. That’s research on both the micro and macro levels. As much as journalists need to get all the deep-down details they can, they need to contextualize those details.
It’s all very good to know everything about one grain of sand. That knowledge becomes almost useless however if you’ve no idea on what beach — in what country, on what continent — that grain of sand sits. Our news media suffers from that exact lack of perspective. They love to bore in on the poll numbers (as useless as they are this far out) and the horse race even as the race track burns down around them.
The main culprit — no revelation of course — “both sides do it” journalism. When every opinion has to be met with its diametric opposite (regardless of its actual validity), bullshit gets a place on the talking heads panel. Perfect example — climate change. When the MSM puts a climate scientist next to a climate denier on its air — in a 50-50 shot, they are making the false (visual) statement that these two positions are total equals. It doesn’t matter how much bullshit the climate denier spews, it will play as legitimate — because that’s how the visual language works.
When two unequal points of view get reported as equal, a false narrative begins — and begins by completely mis-framing our political debate on the subject. No wonder nothing gets solved. We’re always focused on problems that don’t actually exist.
Instead of informing its audience, our news media continues to obscure the truth. They seem incapable of adding information as they get it — then using that new information to expand our knowledge base — which they should use to continue building the story. But our MSM never adds information to the knowledge base. They keep ignoring what they know in favor of what they knew. They keep going back, in essence, to Square One.
Lack of perspective is one thing — willfulness to avoid having perspective is malpractice. How do you explain a Kelly O’Donnell? NBC’s White House reporter, Kelly’s not an amateur. She’s been working a long time as a journalist. And yet… Watch any of her stand-up — any — and Kelly will demonstrate a shocking lack of perspective. She reports what Donald Trump says as if you could take every word to the bank.
We know that’s not true. But there’s Kelly — steno pooling whatever Trump said as if it formed the basis for how we should think of the world — never mind that it was framed by a liar, a thief, a traitor.
Kelly’s not alone. That’s the massive problem. There are isolated journalists doing yeoman’s work everyday to try and enlighten their own fellow journalists as well as the larger audience. It’s physically painful to watch a Chris Matthews talk over David Corn because Chris can’t see the bigger, darker picture David is talking about. Chris still thinks — all evidence to the contrary — that Trump has a strategy — that he’s every bit the master of industry Mark Burnett says he is.
It physically hurts, I tell ya.
What won’t hurt is giving the MSM the grades it deserves. We’ll accept that the “good ones” will have been filtered out. Joy Reid gets a good grade. Rachel Maddow does and Lawrence O’Donnell. Ari Melber flirts with good grades but he has a bad habit of asking “benefit of the doubt” questions that flirt with absurdity. That only ever gives bullshit credence — it’s a bad habit, Ari. Trust me on this.
The valedictorian of the class — A+ all the way — is Nicolle Wallace. Her show Deadline White House is consistently smart, biting, deeply skeptical and funny. The big irony — Nicolle was a lifelong Republican until the Trump Age. Her fidelity to Truth in the Trump Age gives me hope. It pains me however when Nicolle hands MSNBC’s air over to Chuck Todd.
Then I’m reminded — the whole rest of the class gets an “F”. A giant “F” — for failure… and feckless… and futile… and flawed… and “for what?”
If you want to be journalists, BE JOURNALISTS. If you just like being on television — go away. Let me revise that: Take your “F” and go away.