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.

The Reason So Many American Journalists Suck At Journalism Is Cos They Suck At STORYTELLING

Ever hear someone massacre a joke? They trip all over the set-up and blow the punch line then wonder why no one’s laughing. That’s America’s news media — except it’s not a joke they massacred, it’s the truth.

While everyone has a story, not every can tell a story — or tell their story. What most of America’s journalists don’t seem to get (it’s not evident in their reporting) is that Trump-Russia IS their story. They’re not just neutral observers in this dumpster fire, they’re both witnesses and active participants. Their very neutrality, in fact, has been turned against America.

Russia is attacking us as we speak. We are living through World War Three — a Cyber War, an Information War, an Intelligence War — no less threatening to our security and future as a bombs n bullets war. Instead of ammo, the Russians fire lies, propaganda & misinformation at us — and they use our own news media to do it. And our news media — unaware to see that THEY are indeed PART of the story — continue to go along with it. They continue to repeat Russia’s misinformation & disinformation.

Lies mingle with Truth to create a new-fangled concoction of half-truths — like a poisonous slurry that’s about to swamp us all.

Good storytelling demands that the storyteller have PERSPECTIVE. To gain perspective, you have to continually add to your story’s foundation. As you learn new info, you make it part of the story. When you learn that Trump lies more than he tells the truth, you make “Trump’s a liar” part of the story. You don’t start every day’s reporting by assuming he’s telling the Truth. That would take the story backwards.

By the same token — when you report breathlessly about all the ways Trump is betraying the country and then turn to the subject of election 2020? Trump doesn’t suddenly STOP being that traitor. He’s the TRAITOR who’s “running for office” again — by using Russia to guarantee his win — just as he did in 2016. Our MSM keeps saying “Russia meddled in 2016” as if “meddled” is some vague abstraction with results no one could possibly identify.

That’s our MSM normalizing what should never be normalized.

When Fusion GPS first got hired by the Washington Free Beacon to do oppo research on Trump, they did their “due diligence”. They got ahold of every bit of publicly available material on Trump: video, newspaper stories, magazine articles, radio interviews — everything. What they found there — in publicly available material — so concerned them about Trump’s obvious criminality (at the very least he laundered Russian mob money through his Atlantic City casinos) that they contracted with former MI6 intel pro Chris Steele whose contacts inside Russia were unequaled.

Fusion saw the story — and incorporated it into their narrative.

Our MSM, on the other hand, keeps (even now when so much of Steele’s raw intel has been proven correct) referring to Steele’s output as “unverified”. That might have been so two years ago. It’s not true today. To say it is to distort the story significantly.

The whole basis for storytelling is “add information”. Learn something new about the story? You add it to the story — and make it part of the storyTELLING.

And yet — on MSNBC & CNN, we still get reporters who refuse to add information to the story — or do so grudgingly then wonder why everyone else always scoops them.

Maybe our reporter class should go back to basics. Learn how to tell a joke. Get good at it THEN return to reporting. Otherwise they’ll continue turning our Democracy into a joke — and ain’t no one gonna laugh at that.

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.

Dear Stephanie Ruhl: FFS, Hon – Stop Giving Our Lying Scumbag POTUS The Benefit Of The Doubt!

Hey, Steph – sorry to call you out like this but today you said & something so egregious that it demanded comment.  Frankly, this applies to lots of your fellow journalists; they need to listen up, too.

You’re a talented financial journalist, Stephanie.  Your bona fides there are top notch.  But when you wade into politics, you lose your way.

You say things that betray a troubling lack of perspective.  You seem to believe that in politics “both sides do it”.  Oy.

In a discussion this morning on your air with Rick Stengel re the implications of Trump’s extortionate actions toward the Ukraine, you stopped Rick mid-sentence to ask: “But, wasn’t Trump elected to let Trump be Trump?”  Oy again.  Do you not see the inherent problems in that question – hell, do you not see the inherent problems in that way of THINKING?

First of all – it dives right into the false narrative that Trump is the legitimate president who was legitimately voted into office in a free and fair election completely untouched by Russian influences (or the influence of other countries like Saudi Arabia and Israel).  It ignores the whole context in which election 2016 took place – a context we now know was steeped in Russian money and propaganda all designed to make Donald Trump president despite what the American People wanted.

The Mueller Report was NOT the uber-document on Trumpian corruption and treason.  It’s scope was limited from the get-go – except for the counter-intelligence part of the investigation (which started the whole thing).  Even so, the Mueller Report doesn’t say there “was no proof” that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia regarding Wikileaks, it said there was insufficient proof to convict (a different benchmark entirely) but that the investigators could not complete their investigation because of all the Obstruction Of Justice.

The Report suggested that the Congress remove Trump from office via impeachment so that he could be prosecuted for all the crimes he’d clearly committed.  Remember all those other criminal matters that got spun off?  Some of them are still percolating – the ones, that is, that Bill Barr didn’t squash.

Bill Barr is another apparent blind spot for you, Steph’.  You report on activities that CLEARLY indicate profound corruption in every which way.  You even speak that word yourself.  And yet – each time Barr or anyone else in the Trump White House pushes further into uncharted corrupt waters, your first impulse – even as you point to its outrageousness – is to accept it as the new normal.

Why do you persist in doing that?  Oh, right… because both sides do it.

No, love, they don’t. 

You pointed out a few minutes later to Rick Stengle that most Americans don’t know everything Rick Stengle knows.  You allowed that when Trumps base (with whom you are obsessed) hear Trump get up at the United Nations and lie about how America is burdened by having to pay for the bulk of defending the Ukraine from Russia – they’re gonna think, “Yeah – I agree!”

And then you said this:  “How are they supposed to know the truth?”

FFS, Steph – that’s where YOU come in, don’t you get it?  That’s where YOU – as the Fourth Estate, charged in the Constitution with being the final check on power – are supposed to step forward SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER]

You however insist on giving Power the Benefit Of The Doubt instead.  And therein lies your problem and consequently OUR problem.

Why would you give a liar the benefit of the doubt that he might not be lying this time?  Wouldn’t a more skeptical “journalistic” approach be to assume he might be lying – and demand he back up everything he says until he becomes trustworthy?

Would you, Stephanie, a talented financial journalist give the benefit of the doubt to a financial criminal who you see right through?  Would it not offend you – knowing the absolute truths you know – to give such a fraud “the benefit of the doubt” you KNOW he does not deserve?

Wouldn’t your time on air be better spent reporting on the evidentiary case against him?  What good can come of air time spent framing the story from a lying, corrupt point of view – as if it was valid?  That’s what giving the benefit of the doubt does – it validates because it asks “Okay, but what if this utter bullshit were true?”

It’s not true.  It was never true and never will be true.  It’s like taking flat earthers seriously.  But worse.

It is absurd that even as Donald Trump tries to commit the same crime in 2019 and 2020 that he committed in 2015 and 2016, the bulk of our press still doesn’t get it.  They see the far flung pieces of Trumpian corruption but refuse to connect the dots.

Please try to grasp this concept, Stephanie (it could, some day, make you as good a political reporter as you are a financial reporter): a crime committed right in your face is still a crime.

Stop giving it the benefit of the doubt. Please?

Thanks,

Signed: A Wanna-Be-Loyal Audience Member 

We Live In A “Golden Age Of Bullshit” – And Its Patron Saint — Donald Trump — Is Killing Us

If ever one word captured the age we live in — it’s “bullshit”. And could a man embody & epitomize bullshit any better than Donald Trump?

Shameless plug first — I just finished (and I’m agent-shopping) a book: How To Live Bullshit Free (And Other Showbiz Tales). It’s a painfully funny, brutally honest, name-dropping Hollywood memoir. I’ve had an unusual career (you can IMDb me here) that’s given me the chance to work with some of the most talented people in The Business. It’s also a “why you shouldn’t kill yourself” book (I came within inches of committing suicide three days before Christmas 2016 — or, as I like to think of it, I came within literal inches of bullshitting myself to death.

As I began to healthy in the aftermath (thanks to a great therapist, a mood stabilizer to cage the depression — it all flowed from a sexual assault at 14 I had buried — and loads of THC to mitigate my hypomania), I saw the myriad ways bullshit was still kicking my ass on a daily basis.

The first thing you have to do — to get bullshit out of your life — is to acknowledge all your own bullshit first (you have to deal with yours before you can even think of dealing with anyone else’s). And the first thing you’ll find, when you begin to deal with your bullshit, is how completely bullshit has destroyed your perspective. Bullshit, like depression, reduces your view of the world to an extreme telephoto lens — dialed in on one thing (how much you hate yourself, say) to the exclusion of everything else. Both destroy perspective until all you can see is your bullshit — and your bullshit is lying to you.

So — what can one do to become the alpha dog in one’s relationship with one’s ownb bullshit? Understand — calling out the bullshit in your life is not a one-n-done project.  Bullshit is like herpes.  It never really goes away.  You manage it at best.  But you have to manage it.  Every day – or it’ll metastasize from herpes into something a hell of a lot worse. 

HOW TO LIVE BULLSHIT FREE: THE DAILY 7 STEP ‘TO DO’ LIST

1 Get Perspective

2 Be Clear on What Is and What Isn’t

3 Keep Perspective

4 Refuse to Engage With Bullshit (It’s Pointless)

5 Own Your Own Bullshit First (Own It All Every Day)

6 Maintain Perspective

7 Wake Up Tomorrow and Repeat

If you look at how the list is structured, one thing kind of leads to another.  Nothing on it is intrinsically difficult – unless you try it in isolation.  The daily hunting and pecking at bullshit is a grind.  You see a lot of familiar faces: your bad habits for instance – they’re bullshit.  Bad habits you know you can break (and should) are bullshit on steroids.  Those are the ones that trip easily into Red Flag Warning territory.  There’s a reason they’re habits despite the fact that they’re bad. 

The getting, keeping and maintaining of perspective are all a matter of pulling ‘the camera’ back as far as you possibly can.  Are you seeing the biggest picture?  Sure you can’t pull it back just a little bit more?  Remember – bullshit eats perspective. 

If you can master that – seeing your circumstances in their fullest context – it may not make you happier, but you’ll know exactly what stands between you and happiness.  You will always know where the bullshit is in your life – and which bullshit you can live with and which you can’t.

Some Perspective On Perspective

As much as I might want to see the world through another person’s eyes, it’s a physical impossibility. The best I can ever really hope for is to imagine what the world literally looks like as they see it. It’s a fact — we all experience “experience” differently.

Imagine a cube sitting alone on a vast, featureless plain. From the cube’s point of view, all one can see — turning 360 degrees — is plain. From the plain’s perspective however, there’s endless plain — and a cube. Differing perspectives see differing things. But one of the two perspectives saw everything (or more of everything) while the other failed to see a key detail.

As a Nation, we stand at a moment of existential crisis because we have lost perspective — and our perspective was dubious to begin with.

How is it that a criminal and traitor occupies the White House and we are seemingly powerless to remove him from office? How is that all this information about Donald Trump’s criminality — including 488 pages of Mueller Report — and we STILL can’t even officially accuse the man of what he’s demonstrably done?

It’s like the Truth is that cube sitting in the middle of vast, featureless plain — and we, living inside the Truth, can’t see it because we’re so “close to it”. If we could just get some perspective, we’d get it. Our news media has a related problem. They want to get at the truth — but don’t seem to realize that the deep dives they take — while detailed — aren’t adding significantly to our overall knowledge because they’re too focused on detail. Or on the wrong details…

A story (like Trump’s with Russia, for instance) is a mosaic. Each tile is significant. The problem is, our Main Stream News Media — while awfully good at boring into any particular tile — have a tendency (while boring in on the particular tile that’s drawn their interest) to forget all the other tiles in the mosaic.

Some of them even forget that the thing they’re looking at is part of a mosaic. They convince themselves that the piece they’re looking at IS the whole picture while the Whole Picture actually looks a lot like this

On a related note — and a similar metaphor — there are the numbers crunchers like NBC’s Steve Kornacki. Kornacki can tell you a lot of fascinating detail about the numbers themselves — how a district voted historically, how a particular candidate has fared with a particular group of voters. But Kornacki’s assumption that the past is prologue doesn’t apply to now. We’ve never had an actual traitor as POTUS — and we’ve never had one of our two political parties committed to keeping that traitor in power.

The details on the ground matter more than the fact that there’s “ground”. Put another way, Number crunchers like Steve Kornacki can wax rhapsodic about a grain of sand (how small it is — or big compared to other grains of sand, what kind of rock it came from, how old it is, what its future probably is) …

Yeah — Kornacki can show you the beauty in a grain of sand. But beyond that things get sketchy…

Almost as important as knowing about the grain of sand is knowing where the grain of sand lives. And that’s something Kornacki can only guess at — because he’s lost perspective (and maybe never had it to begin with). For all Kornacki knows, the grain of sand he’s fixated on comes from here…

But, for all Steve knows, it could just as easily come from the surface of Mars…

It’s lack of perspective that first fed the ludicrous idea that “both sides do it”. “Both sides do it” always functions without any sense of scale — or perspective. To the “both sides do it” crowd, Bernie Madoff and Jean Valjean (from Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables) are both thieves — never mind that one ripped off people to the tune of billions while the other stole bread to feed the hungry. The respective-less Both Sides Do It club says thievery is thievery is thievery (if poor people or people of color do it).

Storytellers need to be able to pull the camera back as far as it will go — and then further still. A storyteller with no perspective is a person to whom that story is being told.

They’re like a cube sitting on a wide open, featureless plain…