The Rule Of Law Matters — Unless You're A Republican – Or In The Main Stream Media

Not A Revelation — The story we’re all living through (the extended Republican-Russian coup d’etat dressed up as a bad reality series) is light years beyond what our befuddled Main Stream News Media can handle. “Both Sides Do It” journalism has so distorted their perspective that they don’t see the threat to their own existence staring them in the face. In theory, members of the press have a Constitutional mandate to be the final check on power in our system of government.

In practice, the American press are too obsessed with getting access to be a check on anything. The ghost of Judith Miller (the New York Times reporter who carried water for Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby back when Libby was put on trial for outing CIA officers) still haunts American journalism. Miller sacrificed her journalistic integrity in order to secure access within the Bush-Cheney White House. She lost all perspective and became Dick Cheney’s mouthpiece/apologist instead of a professional reporter, sacrificing the story itself in the process.

Judith Miller insisted that it wasn’t her job to judge the illegal behavior her access gave her access to. She worried that reporting it too quickly (or reporting it at all) would compromise her access to Dick Cheney. So, she compromised her integrity instead. She chose not to report that Cheney had outed Valerie Plame as a CIA agent (compromising every agent she was handling) to pay her husband (Ambassador Joe Wilson) back for contradicting BushCo’s bullshit claims that Saddam Hussein was arming himself with nuclear weapons.

Republicans have no use for the Rule Of Law — because they’re criminals and the Rule Of Law cramps their style. It’s not like they’re subtle about their disdain.

It’s the American News Media’s disdain for the Rule Of Law that confounds. What did the Rule Of Law ever do to journalists to warrant it? As citizens — better informed than most — you’d think journalists would be leading the charge against Trumpian assaults on the Rule Of Law — and journalism. But American journalists are either deeply cynical or emotionally inert.

They’re among Trump’s most consistently enabling enablers. When Trump says things that clearly violate the Rule Of Law, people to whom following it is important run instantly to its defense. “Hey,” they might say in protest, “What you’re doing is violating/looks like it’s violating The Rule Of Law!” Instead, most journalist seem befuddled — as if it’s possible the Republicans could be violating the Rule Of Law — and if they are, what of it?

The Constitution obligates journalists to DO something when power over-reaches. Rolling over isn’t one of them. Neither is shrugging it off.

No one makes anyone BE a journalist. You’d think a dedication to the truth would be every journalist’s calling. And while most journalists can certainly pay lip service to “just wanting the facts”, they need to DO SOMETHING with those facts other than “report them”. If the facts say (if they even suggest) that someone has violated the public trust — never mind the law — that alone should set off every journalist’s alarm bells.

The Rule of Law is an artificial construct. We made it up. It only works though when we follow it. The rules of journalism — we made those up too. They’re flexible — so long as the truth is being served. Journalists play at neutrality but no one is truly neutral. That’s not a flaw. It’s a fact of life — one that journalists should acknowledge rather than deny.

When journalists (like NBC’s White House reporter Kelly O’Donnell) insist on giving every info-bite they report equal weight — regardless of whether it’s true or bullshit — they destroy the audience’s ability to discern the truth — because Kelly O can’t seem to tell herself what’s true and what’s bullshit. To her, if words tumble from Trump’s bloated orange lie-hole, they must be true because the president said them.

The fact that the words Kelly repeats aren’t true — that doesn’t matter to Kelly O. In that instance, clearly, the truth is secondary to Kelly O. She refuses to get involved with what is or what isn’t true. The president said it — that’s all that matters to Kelly O.

And if the president violates the Rule Of Law — well, that’s not Kelly O’s problem either. What’s The Rule of Law to Kelly O but an abstraction she wants no part of anyway? Every time Trump violates the Rule Of Law — or the Constitution — or even common decency — it’s no different than if he had done something normal to Kelly O. Or every reporter like her.

The greatest damage Trump has inflicted on us is the demonstration of how fragile our Democracy really is. Even worse, our ability to agree upon a mutual truth has probably been destroyed forever. The way back — if we can get back — will be through The Rule Of Law. Following it. Respecting it. Nurturing it.

Giving a shit when it gets violated.

And, if you’re a journalist — reporting on it.

Here’s What Happens When We “Pull Back The Lens” — And We NEED To Pull It Back NOW…

Lack of perspective kills.  A swimmer who sees only the immediate water around them – lovely and turquoise – but not the school of hungry sharks circling that lovely bit of turquoise?  That swimmer is chum. 

Religionistas will insist that their deity wants them to live according to the rules set down by ignorant (by our standards) iron age desert dwellers because everything anyone needed to know was “known” and set down in the texts those iron age desert dwellers produced.  But, what if those iron age desert dwellers, before they sat down to write, had had access to all the information we take for granted today? 

What if those scribes had known that microbes and pathogens cause most human diseases?  What if they knew what RNA and DNA are? What if they had a Hubble Space Telescope and every bit of its remarkable data flow to chew on?  Would they have written texts that killed people with magical plagues or put the earth at the center of everything?

If the men who wrote the OT had read Darwin or Stephen Hawking, if they had taken in a geology text book or a scientific paper on genetics, if they had ever gotten a chance to use the internet – would they have sat down and written the texts they wrote the exact same way?

Doubtful.

The people who wrote, edited and put together the canonical New Testament used significant portions of the old texts as the basis for their new texts.  The mythology Paul created leaned heavily on the Pentateuch.  The whole basis for original sin is Eve and the Garden of Eden.  If the men who wrote the originals never wrote those originals – because they were better informed about how the world really worked – the course of human history would have been radically different.

We may not have been any less self-destructive (homo sapiens are still homo sapiens) but at least we would have been denied that particular flavor of bullshit to use as an excuse. 

So – if the people who wrote the religious texts so many Americans say they rely on as the basis for their lives had been just a teensy bit more educated via access to modern technologies – had they been able to “pull the lens back” even a little — human history would have been spared the chaotic, illogical darkness that certain religions have repeatedly inflicted upon humanity.

By the same token — if our Main Stream News Media were able to find the widest possible lens they can find, they might finally be able to tell the story we’re all living through.  Nearly three years in to this nonsense, there are STILL reporters (like NBC News’ well-meaning but hopelessly feckless Kelly O’Donnell) who repeat back Donald Trump’s words as if he spoke gospel truth.  It never occurs to them to contextualize Trump by saying – before repeating his words – that nothing he says is reliable. 

They don’t.  They position their reporting lens inside Trump’s bubble – where bullshit is true just because Trump says so.  They report from inside the lie with the lie as their only apparent frame of reference.  Either they genuinely believe the lie is true or they lack the perspective to see and report the relationship between lie and truth.  Either way, they render themselves useless to We The People just when we need them most.

At the end of the day, when the smoke can finally clear and we see this story with whatever perspective we can before our generation literally dies off (and real perspective finally has a chance to flower), I bet we’ll post mortem the press this way: they failed on two major counts.  First – Lack Of Perspective. Too often, our press has turned a laser focus on a piece of the larger story.  While their focus was admirable, the fact that they lost perspective while focusing in so intently was not.  For all the detail a guy like NBC’s Steve Kornacki can tell you about how voters vote, he never places them in the context of their times.

We have never lived through what we’re living through now.  We have never had elections stolen by foreign countries before (at least not that we’re aware of).  We have never experienced one party tossing out the Rule Of Law in a desperate grab for permanent minority rule.  When these things happen, it kinda changes things.  It’s like someone shitting in the pool.  Is swimming in it – with turds bobbing around – the same experience?

No, Steve Kornacki, it is not.  Steve epitomizes this sort of “intense focus” journalism.  He can tell you everything you want to know about a particular grain of sand.  Ask him where the grain of sand IS – on a beach?  In the middle of the Sahara?  In some kid’s sand box in a suburb somewhere?

Steve has no idea.  That’s a problem where storytelling is concerned.

Second – Failure Of Imagination.  It’s directly related to the first problem – lack of perspective.  It’s kinda the “ouch” to lack of perspective’s “pinch”.  If you can’t really see what the problem (or the story) is, you can’t possibly solve it (or report it accurately). 

What happens when we pull back the lens on most of our Main Stream News Media is we see that they’re failing us – failing their Constitutionally mandated role as final check on power.  I suggest we keep the lens back here.  Their close up is really, really ugly.