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…

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Dear CNN & MSNBC: Your Problem Is Simple — You Suck At FRAMING

How you tell a story is almost as important as the story itself.

The moment you fade in on your narrative, you frame it. You establish a point of view — even if its strict neutrality. And strict neutrality is rarely as neutral as it thinks it is. That, too, is a framing problem.

If you report a lie — without framing it as a lie — it’s perceived as the truth. When you sit a climate scientist next to a climate denier on a set and shoot them 50-50, you’re framing their conversation as a 50-50 — literally. The visual language says these two points of view are being represented on the screen in their proportional likelihood of truthfulness. At 50-50 — to judge by the framing — either could be right.

Quick side note, CNN & MSNBC — A more truthful, accurate screen representation would have the climate scientist occupying 99% of the screen and the denier getting roughly 1% — not because what he’s saying is 1% valid but for shits n giggles. I want to experience a climate denier shouting (at 1% of the audio mix too) into the wind as the wind devours them. See? I just framed a cruel streak in myself. I like to mock stupid people. And I think people who frame things badly are stupid.

Every time the Main Stream Media tell a story that’s framed incorrectly, they lead us further astray — and further down the authoritarian rabbit hole. The whole point of making the Truth hard to know starts with FRAMING IT THAT WAY. By “framing” the Truth as “hard to know”, those unwilling to question that assertion will now accept as truth that the Truth is beyond them. And all it took to get there was dishonest framing.

If you frame abortion as “baby-killing”, you’re framing it dishonestly. If you frame hunting as “sport”, you’re framing it dishonestly (you’re murdering animals for fun — admit it — the animal would tell you that’s what’s happening). If you frame

The fact that Donald Trump became president and is still president is a failure of framing. The CORRECT framing of Donald Trump was obvious the moment he rode down that escalator in that whorehouse of a building of his and announced that Mexicans are rapists. Trump framed himself as a racist. A few days later we heard him frame himself as a rapist, too, whose wealth apparently gave him permission to sexually assault women at will. Donald Trump framed himself as a criminal every time he bankrupted a casino. Everyone with a brain knew he’d been laundering money for the Russian mob. The proper frame for Donald Trump has always been a “thing”.

And yet… Our news media framed Trump differently. They stuck racism and bigotry and rapey behavior IN the frame (in a corner) but they didn’t use them to FRAME the way THEY were “telling” Donald Trump. In spite of the honest way Trump himself was framing himself, the media insisted on framing Trump as the imaginary character that had been created for him by Mark Burnett so as to make “The Apprentice” make sense.

As we now know, The Art Of The Deal wasn’t just utter bullshit, it was the utterest bullshit. While Trump was putting his name on Tony Schwartz’s writing, he was on his way to losing 1.7 billion dollars. A more honest framing of the book would have been The Art Of Near Total Failure.

I just wrote the last installment of a series called Blunt Truths for Weedmaps news — about the true story of cannabis prohibition. Yes — it was racism start to finish. But the way Harry Anslinger — America’s first Commissioner of Narcotics used racism to frame cannabis was a stroke of dark public relations genius that’s still haunting us. Even as cannabis is legalized, it’s still drenched in the bullshit mythology Anslinger created for it. We still frame cannabis from the point of view of a racist lie.

Every time a Hallie Jackson or an Alex Witt or a Chris Matthews goes to commercial with a tease that asks “Was the FBI SPYING on the Trump Campaign?” they’re literally FRAMING the story from THE CRIMINAL’S POINT OF VIEW. Think about it. The FBI wasn’t spying, they were carrying out a legitimate counter-intelligence investigation because good, solid evidence fairly shouted that Trump was owned by the Russians — but MSNBC is still FRAMING the story as SPYING because that’s what the subject of the investigation — the guy owned by the Russians — calls it.

It’s ludicrous. It happens every damned day.

Terrible framing is why so many of us remain in a constant stage of agita. We expect the Fourth Estate — as part of its Constitutionally mandated responsibility — to be the final check on power. To do that, they need to acknowledge that indeed that IS their responsibility.

I bet if they framed it that way to themselves, they’d get better at their jobs immediately.

Dear CNN & MSNBC: Your Problem Is Simple — You Suck At FRAMING

How you tell a story is almost as important as the story itself.

The moment you fade in on your narrative, you frame it. You establish a point of view — even if its strict neutrality. And strict neutrality is rarely as neutral as it thinks it is. That, too, is a framing problem.

If you report a lie — without framing it as a lie — it’s perceived as the truth. When you sit a climate scientist next to a climate denier on a set and shoot them 50-50, you’re framing their conversation as a 50-50 — literally. The visual language says these two points of view are being represented on the screen in their proportional likelihood of truthfulness. At 50-50 — to judge by the framing — either could be right.

Quick side note, CNN & MSNBC — A more truthful, accurate screen representation would have the climate scientist occupying 99% of the screen and the denier getting roughly 1% — not because what he’s saying is 1% valid but for shits n giggles. I want to experience a climate denier shouting (at 1% of the audio mix too) into the wind as the wind devours them. See? I just framed a cruel streak in myself. I like to mock stupid people. And I think people who frame things badly are stupid.

Every time the Main Stream Media tell a story that’s framed incorrectly, they lead us further astray — and further down the authoritarian rabbit hole. The whole point of making the Truth hard to know starts with FRAMING IT THAT WAY. By “framing” the Truth as “hard to know”, those unwilling to question that assertion will now accept as truth that the Truth is beyond them. And all it took to get there was dishonest framing.

If you frame abortion as “baby-killing”, you’re framing it dishonestly. If you frame hunting as “sport”, you’re framing it dishonestly (you’re murdering animals for fun — admit it — the animal would tell you that’s what’s happening). If you frame

The fact that Donald Trump became president and is still president is a failure of framing. The CORRECT framing of Donald Trump was obvious the moment he rode down that escalator in that whorehouse of a building of his and announced that Mexicans are rapists. Trump framed himself as a racist. A few days later we heard him frame himself as a rapist, too, whose wealth apparently gave him permission to sexually assault women at will. Donald Trump framed himself as a criminal every time he bankrupted a casino. Everyone with a brain knew he’d been laundering money for the Russian mob. The proper frame for Donald Trump has always been a “thing”.

And yet… Our news media framed Trump differently. They stuck racism and bigotry and rapey behavior IN the frame (in a corner) but they didn’t use them to FRAME the way THEY were “telling” Donald Trump. In spite of the honest way Trump himself was framing himself, the media insisted on framing Trump as the imaginary character that had been created for him by Mark Burnett so as to make “The Apprentice” make sense.

As we now know, The Art Of The Deal wasn’t just utter bullshit, it was the utterest bullshit. While Trump was putting his name on Tony Schwartz’s writing, he was on his way to losing 1.7 billion dollars. A more honest framing of the book would have been The Art Of Near Total Failure.

I just wrote the last installment of a series called Blunt Truths for Weedmaps news — about the true story of cannabis prohibition. Yes — it was racism start to finish. But the way Harry Anslinger — America’s first Commissioner of Narcotics used racism to frame cannabis was a stroke of dark public relations genius that’s still haunting us. Even as cannabis is legalized, it’s still drenched in the bullshit mythology Anslinger created for it. We still frame cannabis from the point of view of a racist lie.

Every time a Hallie Jackson or an Alex Witt or a Chris Matthews goes to commercial with a tease that asks “Was the FBI SPYING on the Trump Campaign?” they’re literally FRAMING the story from THE CRIMINAL’S POINT OF VIEW. Think about it. The FBI wasn’t spying, they were carrying out a legitimate counter-intelligence investigation because good, solid evidence fairly shouted that Trump was owned by the Russians — but MSNBC is still FRAMING the story as SPYING because that’s what the subject of the investigation — the guy owned by the Russians — calls it.

It’s ludicrous. It happens every damned day.

Terrible framing is why so many of us remain in a constant stage of agita. We expect the Fourth Estate — as part of its Constitutionally mandated responsibility — to be the final check on power. To do that, they need to acknowledge that indeed that IS their responsibility.

I bet if they framed it that way to themselves, they’d get better at their jobs immediately.

Wanna Know What America’s Problem REALLY Is? White Man BAMBOOZLEMENT Syndrome

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader — and traitor — Mitch McConnell got up on the Senate floor to give his “final thoughts” on The Mueller Report. Despite the fact that everyone in the whole world capable of reading English could see with their own eyes that Mitch was LYING about the Report’s conclusions, Mitch said — in his emphatic turtle voice — that the Mueller Report said what MITCH wanted it to say — nothing to see here, everyone can go home now — “case closed”.

Then — as they always do — members of the American Mainstream News Media dutifully played back Mitch’s words — or repeated them — without pointing out — there and then — that what Mitch had said was contradicted BY THE FACTS. By the very report itself.

This toxic game of telephone only works like this because we, as a culture, have been “seduced” — or bamboozled — into believing that what Mitch McConnell said was true – even though it wasn’t. And the REASON we’re supposed to accept that what Mitch said was true is because Mitch is WHITE.

If Mitch were female, the media would have been all over Mitch like he was Elizabeth Warren maybe not being that little bit of Cherokee she grew up believing (and loving) that she was. If Mitch were black or brown or Asian or anything other than an old white guy — getting up and LYING so outrageously, so blatantly — so disrespectfully — would have earned Mitch some very quick, very stiff retribution.

We have a disease. A bad one: White Bamboozlement Syndrome. We will accept as true — or false but acceptably true — whatever white Christian men tell us. They don’t even have to really be Christian. They just have to SAY that they’re “Christian” — and the bamboozlement — that they “are” Christian — does the rest. Even “real Christians” (whatever that is) will go along and say, “Yeah — the fake Christian’s a ‘real’ Christian now”. They’re willing even to bamboozle themselves.

That’s some powerful stuff.

But White Bamboozlement Syndrome could describe an awful lot of America’s history. Not outlawing SLAVERY at the Republic’s start, say. That was another case of White Men Bamboozling themselves and everyone else into believing that slavery could co-exist with and inside a democracy. Why, you’d have to be a white guy — a white Christian guy — to believe that.

How ironic. White Christian culture — as opposed to anything spiritual connected to the teachings of a character named Jesus — is based on a story woven almost completely from whole cloth that even a mildly skeptical mind could poke giant holes in. But — because white Christian men say “Believe It”, people are supposed to let go of all critical thinking and “buy”.

Bamboozlement complete.

Again — Jesus preached “Do Unto Others”. He didn’t preach ooga-booga. Yes, he was a theist teaching a more direct connection to the Father Figure, but he was trying to minimize all the ooga-booga the temple (the church) was throwing in the follower’s way. To Jesus’ credit — even atheists need to be fair — he wasn’t leaning on his capacity to bamboozle people. He was saying DO AS I AM TRYING TO DO. Not — per bamboozlement’s playbook — “Do what I say (but know damned well I would NEVER be so stupid as to do it — like YOU ARE)”…

Be honest — when you watch or listen to a Jerry Falwell Jr or a Franklin Graham — doesn’t your Bamboozlement Radar suddenly go off? When these two “men of faith” stick their heads so far up Donald Trump’s ass you can see their faces when he smiles — don’t ya kinda think, “Hold on, now — this smells an awful lot like Grade A Primo Bullshit”. Even ooga-booga has its limits, logically.

America is deep in the vice-like grip of its White Christian Money Lords. Having seen the future — they lose power and influence because the demographics are running hard against them — they have thrown down every last bit of White Bamboozlement Syndrome super power they can muster. They have insisted on telling a story — that Donald Trump won an election — that simply is not true.

The Republican Party is openly insisting that we NOT investigate all the terrible facts that we already know about how exactly Trump and the GOP “won” that 2016 election. They want us to simply ACCEPT that they won fairly & squarely.

Stop thinking analytically, they say. Believe what we’re telling you. Trust us — we’re White Christian Men.

We’d never bamboozle you…

Wanna Know What America’s Problem REALLY Is? White Man BAMBOOZLEMENT Syndrome

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader — and traitor — Mitch McConnell got up on the Senate floor to give his “final thoughts” on The Mueller Report. Despite the fact that everyone in the whole world capable of reading English could see with their own eyes that Mitch was LYING about the Report’s conclusions, Mitch said — in his emphatic turtle voice — that the Mueller Report said what MITCH wanted it to say — nothing to see here, everyone can go home now — “case closed”.

Then — as they always do — members of the American Mainstream News Media dutifully played back Mitch’s words — or repeated them — without pointing out — there and then — that what Mitch had said was contradicted BY THE FACTS. By the very report itself.

This toxic game of telephone only works like this because we, as a culture, have been “seduced” — or bamboozled — into believing that what Mitch McConnell said was true – even though it wasn’t. And the REASON we’re supposed to accept that what Mitch said was true is because Mitch is WHITE.

If Mitch were female, the media would have been all over Mitch like he was Elizabeth Warren maybe not being that little bit of Cherokee she grew up believing (and loving) that she was. If Mitch were black or brown or Asian or anything other than an old white guy — getting up and LYING so outrageously, so blatantly — so disrespectfully — would have earned Mitch some very quick, very stiff retribution.

We have a disease. A bad one: White Bamboozlement Syndrome. We will accept as true — or false but acceptably true — whatever white Christian men tell us. They don’t even have to really be Christian. They just have to SAY that they’re “Christian” — and the bamboozlement — that they “are” Christian — does the rest. Even “real Christians” (whatever that is) will go along and say, “Yeah — the fake Christian’s a ‘real’ Christian now”. They’re willing even to bamboozle themselves.

That’s some powerful stuff.

But White Bamboozlement Syndrome could describe an awful lot of America’s history. Not outlawing SLAVERY at the Republic’s start, say. That was another case of White Men Bamboozling themselves and everyone else into believing that slavery could co-exist with and inside a democracy. Why, you’d have to be a white guy — a white Christian guy — to believe that.

How ironic. White Christian culture — as opposed to anything spiritual connected to the teachings of a character named Jesus — is based on a story woven almost completely from whole cloth that even a mildly skeptical mind could poke giant holes in. But — because white Christian men say “Believe It”, people are supposed to let go of all critical thinking and “buy”.

Bamboozlement complete.

Again — Jesus preached “Do Unto Others”. He didn’t preach ooga-booga. Yes, he was a theist teaching a more direct connection to the Father Figure, but he was trying to minimize all the ooga-booga the temple (the church) was throwing in the follower’s way. To Jesus’ credit — even atheists need to be fair — he wasn’t leaning on his capacity to bamboozle people. He was saying DO AS I AM TRYING TO DO. Not — per bamboozlement’s playbook — “Do what I say (but know damned well I would NEVER be so stupid as to do it — like YOU ARE)”…

Be honest — when you watch or listen to a Jerry Falwell Jr or a Franklin Graham — doesn’t your Bamboozlement Radar suddenly go off? When these two “men of faith” stick their heads so far up Donald Trump’s ass you can see their faces when he smiles — don’t ya kinda think, “Hold on, now — this smells an awful lot like Grade A Primo Bullshit”. Even ooga-booga has its limits, logically.

America is deep in the vice-like grip of its White Christian Money Lords. Having seen the future — they lose power and influence because the demographics are running hard against them — they have thrown down every last bit of White Bamboozlement Syndrome super power they can muster. They have insisted on telling a story — that Donald Trump won an election — that simply is not true.

The Republican Party is openly insisting that we NOT investigate all the terrible facts that we already know about how exactly Trump and the GOP “won” that 2016 election. They want us to simply ACCEPT that they won fairly & squarely.

Stop thinking analytically, they say. Believe what we’re telling you. Trust us — we’re White Christian Men.

We’d never bamboozle you…

Wanna Know What America’s Problem REALLY Is? White Man BAMBOOZLEMENT Syndrome

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader — and traitor — Mitch McConnell got up on the Senate floor to give his “final thoughts” on The Mueller Report. Despite the fact that everyone in the whole world capable of reading English could see with their own eyes that Mitch was LYING about the Report’s conclusions, Mitch said — in his emphatic turtle voice — that the Mueller Report said what MITCH wanted it to say — nothing to see here, everyone can go home now — “case closed”.

Then — as they always do — members of the American Mainstream News Media dutifully played back Mitch’s words — or repeated them — without pointing out — there and then — that what Mitch had said was contradicted BY THE FACTS. By the very report itself.

This toxic game of telephone only works like this because we, as a culture, have been “seduced” — or bamboozled — into believing that what Mitch McConnell said was true – even though it wasn’t. And the REASON we’re supposed to accept that what Mitch said was true is because Mitch is WHITE.

If Mitch were female, the media would have been all over Mitch like he was Elizabeth Warren maybe not being that little bit of Cherokee she grew up believing (and loving) that she was. If Mitch were black or brown or Asian or anything other than an old white guy — getting up and LYING so outrageously, so blatantly — so disrespectfully — would have earned Mitch some very quick, very stiff retribution.

We have a disease. A bad one: White Bamboozlement Syndrome. We will accept as true — or false but acceptably true — whatever white Christian men tell us. They don’t even have to really be Christian. They just have to SAY that they’re “Christian” — and the bamboozlement — that they “are” Christian — does the rest. Even “real Christians” (whatever that is) will go along and say, “Yeah — the fake Christian’s a ‘real’ Christian now”. They’re willing even to bamboozle themselves.

That’s some powerful stuff.

But White Bamboozlement Syndrome could describe an awful lot of America’s history. Not outlawing SLAVERY at the Republic’s start, say. That was another case of White Men Bamboozling themselves and everyone else into believing that slavery could co-exist with and inside a democracy. Why, you’d have to be a white guy — a white Christian guy — to believe that.

How ironic. White Christian culture — as opposed to anything spiritual connected to the teachings of a character named Jesus — is based on a story woven almost completely from whole cloth that even a mildly skeptical mind could poke giant holes in. But — because white Christian men say “Believe It”, people are supposed to let go of all critical thinking and “buy”.

Bamboozlement complete.

Again — Jesus preached “Do Unto Others”. He didn’t preach ooga-booga. Yes, he was a theist teaching a more direct connection to the Father Figure, but he was trying to minimize all the ooga-booga the temple (the church) was throwing in the follower’s way. To Jesus’ credit — even atheists need to be fair — he wasn’t leaning on his capacity to bamboozle people. He was saying DO AS I AM TRYING TO DO. Not — per bamboozlement’s playbook — “Do what I say (but know damned well I would NEVER be so stupid as to do it — like YOU ARE)”…

Be honest — when you watch or listen to a Jerry Falwell Jr or a Franklin Graham — doesn’t your Bamboozlement Radar suddenly go off? When these two “men of faith” stick their heads so far up Donald Trump’s ass you can see their faces when he smiles — don’t ya kinda think, “Hold on, now — this smells an awful lot like Grade A Primo Bullshit”. Even ooga-booga has its limits, logically.

America is deep in the vice-like grip of its White Christian Money Lords. Having seen the future — they lose power and influence because the demographics are running hard against them — they have thrown down every last bit of White Bamboozlement Syndrome super power they can muster. They have insisted on telling a story — that Donald Trump won an election — that simply is not true.

The Republican Party is openly insisting that we NOT investigate all the terrible facts that we already know about how exactly Trump and the GOP “won” that 2016 election. They want us to simply ACCEPT that they won fairly & squarely.

Stop thinking analytically, they say. Believe what we’re telling you. Trust us — we’re White Christian Men.

We’d never bamboozle you…

Having A “Normalcy Bias” Isn’t Abnormal; It Should Be…

If a presidential contender coming down an escalator announces to the world that he’s running for President because America needs a wall to keep out all the Mexican rapists — and everyone (after an initial burst of outrage) shrugs because they’re already consumed by that contender’s next outrage — somewhere inside that shrug was born their “Normalcy Bias”.  Calling Mexicans rapists went — within a sentence — from being an outrage to being… “normal”.

That’s just how Trump speaks, the MSM told us.  Racism?  No.   Poor word choice — yes.  And, just like that, the MSM had built absolute racism into its Normalcy Bias.  Racism was — IS — now completely legit.  Pussy-grabbing worked the exact same way.  A few moments of outrage tempered by the “timely” release of a Wikileaks dump — which, too, got NORMALIZED.  Shall we toss LYING onto the bonfire?

How quickly did the MSM normalized the fact that a president of the United States lied more reliably than he told the truth?  Though they knew what Trump was saying was a lie, still they continued to report each lie as if it WASN’T a lie and therefore had to be considered as possibly the truth.

Sorry, but a turd is a turd is a turd. Call it a “perfumed package” if you like or a “surprise” or even just “poo”.  It’s a turd.  It stinks.  It has to be cleaned up.  Making it “palatable” while making it “do-able” also makes it “palatable”.  Maybe it shouldn’t be.

What our MSM can’t seem to grasp is how badly THEY are being fooled every day by their own Normalcy Bias.  When, say, you know going into a (rare) press conference that the Press Secretary is going to lie to you — and then you LET HER LIE & (worse) let her GET AWAY WITH IT, you are further solidifying HER Normalcy Bias that she CAN get away with just about every time.  What’s the cost of lying?  Nothing.

Normalcy Bias is no one’s friend.   It’s comfort with what is even if “what is” is utter bullshit. Normalcy Bias is how that frog slowly gets boiled to death without ever realizing it.