Why America’s News Media Sucks — The “Nicolle Wallace” Exception

By all rights, a left wing loon like me should detest Nicolle Wallace from a thousand miles away. But I adore her. I adore her show, Deadline White House on MSNBC. If you aren’t watching it or listening to it, you’re missing one of the few bright spots in the American News Media firmament — I’m also a Maddow fan, a Lawrence fan, a Joy-Ann Reid fan, an Ali Velshi fan and mostly an Ari Melber fan).

A good news show should be redolent of its host. Bad news shows work the same way of course. Meet The Press Daily is dopey as hell regardless of whether or not Chuck Todd is actually hosting it. I won’t go off on Chuck here — this ain’t about him). Accordingly, Deadline White House seems to flow directly from host Nicolle Wallace’s id.

Before she scored her own show, Nicolle co-hosted a season of ABC talk show The View. Before that she was GWBush’s White House Communications Director then served as a senior advisor for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign — tasked with handling Sarah Palin. She appeared frequently on network and cable news programs as the campaign’s spokesperson and defender. Nicolle has solid Orange County Republican bona fides.

I used to have family down in Orange County. I used to feel — driving down to San Clemente to visit — like we were driving into a strange foreign country with distorted values. That’s how different Republican Orange County felt from Democratic LA. On paper, I should watch Nicolle’s show the way I watch, say Alex Witt or Chuck Todd — with teeth gritted (Alex because she’s so mediocre, Chuck because he’s such a “Both Sides Do It” douche nozzle).

In 2016, Nicolle quit the Republican Party as it went Trumpian. Either the leap spurred something in her or she was always a softer version of an Orange County Republican.

Watching her show these days, if you didn’t know Nicolle’s past — deep in the Republican core — you’d be shocked to learn about it. She sounds so much like… like me. Yes, I’ll own it — I like Nicolle Wallace & her show because I agree with them. But I agree with the politics on a lot of MSNBC’s shows. Strangely, I rarely feel as justified after watching those shows. After watching Deadline White House, I often feel even more justified in my left wing loonie position than when I started.

That’s because Nicolle’s bottom line is receipts. Ya gotta bring receipts. Nicolle’s view of the news and the news landscape is fact-based, not feeling-based. Years of watching her convince me that this matter-of-fact, limited melodrama, relentlessly honest worldview reflects who she is down to her toes. The discussions are almost always smart, informed, savvy, clear-eyed and fearless.

And when it comes to pillorying Donald Trump and every Trumpanista, no one delivers a clean kill the way Nicolle does. She shies away from playing too much Trump on her show. But, when she does and the camera returns to Nicolle’s face — wow.

Sometimes there’s a laugh. It’s so particular, that laugh. It’s the laugh of a woman who knows she’s just had a man bullshit her. It skewers all by itself. But throw in Nicolle’s laser-like eyes — she’s good on camera, too — and you’ve got something that crosses rock solid news analysis with poetry.

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Why Our Main Stream News Media Sucks – “Benefit Of The Doubt” Edition

Dear Stephanie Ruhl (sorry for using you as an example but you’ll thank me in the end):

I write this as a fan — someone who respects your talent and skill as a financial reporter. You know your stuff. But, when you turn from analyzing numbers (and what they could mean) to analyzing humans (and what they could mean), you lose your way. Take the subject of Donald Trump. You report on him every single day.

Every single day, Donald Trump does something that an American president should never do. He says something that a grown up should never say. He commits crimes, violates long-standing norms, openly betrays the country — hell, part of the running joke we’re all in on is the idea that Donald Trump does something bad, wrong or illegal every day. In a courtroom, this would be called “Preponderance Of Evidence”.

Think of it as a connect the dots picture like this one…

The preponderance of the available evidence says “It’s an elephant”. But, as the dots aren’t actually connected — and the elephant completely revealed — I guess one could think the picture could be something else but considering the preponderance of the evidence, you’d have to be a moron to go there. Seriously — a moron. It’s not a picture of anything else and was never going to be a picture of anything else. To ask “But, what if it’s a picture of a whale?” would be stupid. If we were to engage with you and your question, we’d have to point out how all the evidence points to the picture being an elephant.

Wasted time, wasted energy, wasted everything. That’s what happens when you give the benefit of the doubt to things that do not deserve any such benefit. And yet — every day, as you report on Donald Trump — you give him the benefit of the doubt. As if maybe he isn’t a racist… or a misogynist… or a corrupt criminal… or a traitor.

No, no, no, you surely think — “I’m just being objective”. Fair enough. Objectivity is essential to good journalism. Objectivity is perspective. But having perspective means you DON’T have to entertain things that your perspective deems unworthy. And having perspective means you KNOW there are plenty of things unworthy — of your time, your energy, your “but, what if…?” questions.

“But, what if…?” is not journalism. It’s you (or a journalist like you) being foolish and credulous. It’s you trading in your skepticism for a steno pad.

But, what if our country really isn’t facing an existential crisis because the president and his political party sold us out for money, power and permanent minority rule?

Connect the dots, damn it. Even simpler — Connect THE dot…

Why Our News Media Sucks — Steve Kornacki Edition

I consume a lot of news — not so much for the news as because the storyteller in me hates watching the story of all our lifetimes get fumbled so completely by America’s Main Stream News Media. As I’ve blogged here, American journalism is infected with a number of diseases, “Both Sides Do It-ism” being the most pernicious. We live inside a false narrative that Donald Trump is a legitimate POTUS because our MSM keeps that fallacy alive.

Our problem isn’t so much Donald Trump being an asset of Russian intelligence — which he absolutely is; it isn’t a question — our problem is that the whole Republican Party is also a Russian asset — being fully bought & paid for both with cash & secrets kept. And, our other problem — the Fourth Estate, charged with being the final check on power has failed us miserably whether through failure of imagination or utter lack of journalistic talent. Or, the other possibility — they never had an ounce of integrity to begin with.

Look — I’ve made TV shows & feature films. I’ve auditioned and hired hundreds of actors. Whenever I can, I like to read with actors myself (giving them more to work with than our casting directors might do). Reporters are no different from actors. They’re just actors who’ve learned how to share a microphone because how they “act” can impact how an interview turns out or how they report a story. Trust me — they’re actors reading from a script, most of them. Which brings us to Steve Kornacki…

I’m sure Steve’s a lovely guy to work with. He seems upbeat, like he’d be a fun hang. But that ain’t what we’re here to talk about.

Most of the time, Steve works the numbers. His co-workers always seem amazed by the fact that Steve has all these numbers at his fingertips but Steve’s not compiling those numbers, he’s just reporting them — then adding a gloss of “analysis”. Steve’s great at pointing at the numbers. They seem to excite him like nothing else. And he can bore in deep on just about any number in front of him. But for all Steve can tell us about a grain of sand, what is made of, he can’t tell you where that grain of sand is. He has no idea whether it sits on a desert island or in the middle of the Sahara Desert.

Like a lot of numbers guys, Steve has no perspective about the numbers beyond the numbers themselves. That stunning lack of perspective is what makes Steve Kornacki so ordinary. He’s like a lot of modern American journalists.

The problem is this — Why can’t (why won’t) the Steve Kornacki’s report the Trump Russia story faithfully? Why do they insist on normalizing behaviors that should never have been normalized under any circumstances? Our MSM acts like they’ve only just stumbled over Donald Trump’s racism. Um, no, folks — Trump’s been racist since he dropped from Mary Trump’s rancid womb.

What does it take for a person in America’s Main Stream News Media — Steve, for instance — to accept facts as facts? Why would a reporter — Steve, for instance — make statements that reveal either 1) he hasn’t read the full Mueller Report or 2) he read it but was too stupid to understand it and too much of a male to ask questions? I offer this video as proof.

Here, Steve mixes it up with the always excellent Zerlina Maxwell. Steve literally leans in — the nice guy gets offended at being contradicted even though Zerlina brings nothing but receipts. Steve leaps in to inisist that the Mueller Report exonerates Trump of collusion — though (if ya read), that’s not even remotely what it says. Zerlina points out — she’s not voicing an OPINION about Trump’s complicity in stealing an election, she’s talking facts, evidence & a raft of serious-as-a-heart-attack accusations.

What, Steve Kornacki, is so hard about doing your damned job?

Dear America: You Can Have Baby Talk Or You Can Have Truth; You Cannot Have Both

Donald Trump being president (footnote – illegitimate president) has put America’s Main Stream News Media in a pickle. How do you report the Truth when the Truth speaks dirty words?

I could almost get nostalgic for the days when each TV Talking Head had to decide how they were going to handle “pussy-grabbing”. The thought of saying those words — yes, it’s absurd that we’re even having the conversation — it’s uncomfortable because every bit of this is so many light years beyond normal’s zip code. Trump’s presidency has relentlessly assaulted truth, our sensibilities — the language even. Maybe the language especially.

We all know that, backstage, political people talk just like everyone else — except worse. We pretend in public life that they do nothing of the kind. If they did talk dirty backstage and cut secret deals, it’d mean they were all liars. As if we didn’t know already. That’s another environment where we willingly accept the baby talk version vs the adult version. That can’t possibly end well for us.

Confession: I’ve always had a taste for darkness. I love Diane Arbus photos. Weegee. When I was 16, I worked as an orderly during the summer at one of the hospitals where my surgeon father had privileges. My best friend Danny and I (his dad was an orthopedic surgeon and Danny likewise orderlied) liked to play a game. We’d swing by the pathology lab where one of us would open a specimen jar or silver tray filled with diseased organs or other excised body parts — and the other had to guess “What Is It?”

Danny won the whole summer when he opened a large tray filled with… lots of yellow fat, a shrivel of skin to one side and — I gave up, having no idea “what is it”. Danny pointed to something floating in the muck — it was where the nipple had sloughed off from the rest of the breast. So — two 16 year old breast-obsessed boys gaped in awe, disgust and amazement at a female breast seen, kinda, from the inside.

Maybe that cold, hard slap of reality did something to me. What I saw didn’t turn me off, but it definitely informed me. You could call breasts anything you wanted after that — to me, it was the contents of that silver tray — flesh and everything beneath it.

We’re not talking here about excessive use of certain words (because I accept advertising on my pages, I moderate my language here with the understanding that my blog’s title already limits me with some advertisers — irony, she is cruel, no?) We’re talking about something more fundamental: how people react to those words. And why.

If I said “Quick — put the image of a bowel movement into your head”, you would picture a turd. Now, just as quick — what’s that thing called? Regardless of what you call it, the object doesn’t change. It’s still the same image, the same object. If I went on American television, I could — on, say, a news show on CNN or MSNBC — call that object a bowel movement. I could call it a turd or “poop” even. I can use that baby talk word. I could string it together endlessly if I wanted to — “Poop-poop-poop-poop-poop-poop-POOP!” But — up until very recently — if I called it “shit”, I’d be thrown off the air possibly even for good.

Donald Trump has challenged our news media in a million different ways. To our collective detriment, they’ve only just started rising to the challenge. We have a president whose obscenity only begins with the words he uses while conducting the Peoples’ business. It’s absurd to worry if repeating the word “bullshit” will get you suspended, fired or worse while we, as a nation, hold brown-skinned children in concentration camps.

Our problem with “curse words” is a symptom of a tragic disease. We worry about blemishes when there’s rot underneath. Our worrying about the wrong thing — that’s the disease.

It reminds me of one night when I was in high school. Mid-70’s. There were three networks — ABC, CBS & NBC. On CBS, they were running the last night of a blockbuster TV event, the climax of Helter Skelter, the dramatization of the Manson Family murders and prosecution. NBC counter-programed a movie premier (back then, it was “an event” when big feature films premiered on television — which meant premiering on network TV): the movie version of Kurt Vonnegut’s anti-war masterpiece “Slaughterhouse Five”.

Being a kid, the Manson Family story was a dark blur. I didn’t know much about it — so didn’t watch the first two nights. Being a huge Kurt Vonnegut fan, I tuned in to watch “Slaughterhouse Five”. The book’s hero — Billy Pilgrim — is unstuck in time and floats freely between all the moments in his life — from birth to death (he’s murdered). Also included in these life moments — the time Billy spent while a specimen in a human zoo on the planet Tralfamadore. Billy shared an enclosure there with adult film star Montana Wildhack and together they have a baby.

Ya with me still? There are two important moments toward the end of the book. At the story’s climax, the Allies firebomb Dresden, Germany — a beautiful cathedral city with no strategic importance. At the ending, Billy watches a war movie where the firebombing happens in reverse — the fires go out as the bombs retreat back up into the bombers that dropped them.

Then Billy finds himself back on Tralfamadore — where he watches Montana Wildhack breastfeed their baby.

So — on Channel 2 (back then in Baltimore), CBS depicted the climactic scenes of the Manson Family’s evil. Being TV — American TV — in the 70’s, the murder and mayhem were handled tastefully. The point wasn’t titillation, it was truthful storytelling. It was still disturbing.

Meanwhile, on channel 4 (NBC back then in Baltimore), where hope for the future enters the story — the American audience never got to see Montana Wildhack breastfeed a baby because the censors at NBC cut it from the movie. Because breastfeeding a baby is obscene (cos it involves a naked breast).

I was probably 17 at the time but it made a real impression on me. I’m writing about it 40+ years later. NBC baby talked its audience that day.

It’s a very real relief to hear actual journalists use the words Donald Trump uses when they report on Trump. It makes it that much more jarring when a colleague resorts to baby talk instead of treating their audience like adults.

I’d like to make a deal with our Main Stream News Media. You treat us like the adults we are and we’ll treat you like journalists. Deal?

When The Time Comes To Give The American MSM Its Report Card For Reporting On Donald Trump – They’re Going To Fail – MISERABLY

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.

Maya Angelou Had It SOOOOOO Right – When People Tell You Who They Are…

If you want me to be your friend — but, the fact is, you hate Jews on sight — I’m not seeing a future for our relationship regardless of how much you tell me MY being Jewish isn’t an issue for you. That’s not the point, right? You’re an anti-Semite. It’s who you are.

I feel the same way about Religionistas. If you tell me up front (and thanks for being honest) that the whole basis for your belief system — the foundational core of why you do what you do — is based on a fiction (in other words, you’ve bought into the story instead of its point) — then I’m not inclined to take ANYTHING you say seriously. Why would I?

If you honestly believe — and insist on its veracity — that a sky creature had reproductive sexual relations with a female “virgin” who then bore a man-god who, at the last second gets repurposed with dying for all of humanity’s sins (if that wasn’t his purpose from the start then what’s the issue with him dying — since that was his whole mission in the first place?) but rises from the dead to “prove” that by “following him” you, too, can live forever… see where I’m going? That’s a whole lot of preposterous to accept as real.

It’s Magical Thinking. Magical Thinking is great when you’re five and you’re trying to decide what soda to have with your hamburger. It doesn’t work as well when you’re an adult and you’re sending women to prison because you don’t understand even the basics of biology — because you prefer Magical Thinking to science.

When you turn around then and tell us that you don’t believe in climate change — we get the context.

The same applies to Trump supporters. Yeah, yeah — bamboozlement. Lots and lots of bamboozlement — Russian propaganda and Trumpian pomposity — gobbled up and shit back at us by our own News Media. But lots of people got it. Lots of people saw this from the outset for what it was — a treasonous coup d’etat.

Donald Trump has never been shy about telling us who he is. The onus is on us for refusing to listen to him. All those people who thought Trump would “pivot”? Magical Thinking. All those people who still think Trump is a great potus? The very worst kind of Magical Thinking — Authoritarian Magical Thinking.

Anyone still saying they’d vote for Trump? They’re telling us something. Anyone not disgusted to their neutrons & electrons by Trump? They’re telling us something, too.

Let’s do ourselves a kindness — and believe them.

Let’s Prepare For The Disappointment Now: At The End Of The Day, The Press WILL Let Us Down

Now, I don’t mean EVERYONE in the Main Stream Media. But ALMOST everyone. We shouldn’t be here — at the precipice of our Republic going down the toilet because of Republic-ans.

If we don’t pull this back from the brink and an honest history of our times never gets written, the story will never be told of how a foolish notion — that “both sides do it” — was the basis for the complete and utter failure of the American Press to uphold their Constitutionally mandated duty to be the final check on power. We need to know where this ludicrous need for false equivalence comes from. That’s what “both sides do it” is — it’s the Mother Of All False Equivalences.

It’s like saying Bernie Madoff is a thief — he’s a rich guy who stole from other rich guys. Jean Valjean (fictional though he is) stole bread because people were hungry and needed it. Poor guy. See? Both rich guys AND poor guys BOTH “steal”. Both sides do it.

Never mind proportion or perspective. Both sides do it.

This ludicrous idea has sailed past abstraction and now sits like a giant dodo bird atop American journalism — holding it down while death circles overhead like crows in a Boschian hellscape. Sight unseen it gives every piece of information (true or untrue) equal weight. A lie by Donald Trump has equal weight to the truth spoken by someone else. They’re both the same. The primo example of how this works and looks — any time there’s a conversation about climate change — and a denier is given either equal time or an equal screen.

Images have a vocabulary. Video has a vocabulary. Two images presented side-by-side in a 50-50 setting are understood to be absolute equals. It might not be what the broadcaster intends but that’s how our brains perceive it. And the name of the game isn’t what you meant, it’s how you were perceived. That’s why schmucks like Donald Trump can shrug off their horribleness as “just a joke!” Suddenly it’s on us for not getting it. For not perceiving what wasn’t a joke as a joke.

We desperately need our press — all of it, every last bit — to see the picture in front of them for what it is. We need them to stop giving the benefit of the doubt to thieves and criminals who are using that very benefit to undermine the press’s ability to ever report The Truth accurately again. We need the press to unbolt the normalcy bias blinders from its eyes and recognize how much THEY THEMSELVES have normalized both unacceptable and downright criminal behaviors. Because actual crime has been committed in their faces — in front of their cameras even — it can’t be a crime: that seems to be their take. They’re wrong about that. Completely and utterly wrong.

And they can’t see it.

As they say in French: “Voila le probleme!”

That won’t end well — for us or for them. Both sides don’t do it. If they did, they’re not doing it now — and that’s more important than anything. However American News Media acquires perspective, they need to get it Amazon Primed to them right bloody now.

We can’t afford for them to let us down.