Dear CNN, MSNBC, New York Times, Washington Post Et Al — You seem to have a persistent problem reporting on Donald Trump. After all this time and bullshit, you STILL don’t know who he is. Maybe if you pulled back the lens you use to look at him, you’d see that the various different Trumps you report on are all parts of the same “Uber-Trump” where all the horrible Trumps pool into one giant cess pit of corruption.
You can’t seem to grasp that the ludicrous Donald Trump who wants to buy Greenland is the SAME Donald Trump named as an Unindicted Co-Conspirator in court documents for having committed ELECTION FRAUD.
It’s the same Donald Trump who the Mueller Report accuses of persistent Obstruction Of Justice — and whose obstruction didn’t permit a thorough investigation into possible conspiracy (within the narrow scope of stolen data, it’s passage to Wikileaks and Wikileaks’ transmission of said data out into the world as part of a GRU (Russian military intelligence) active measures campaign.
It’s the same Donald Trump who we KNOW had a deep, abiding friendship with pederast Jeffrey Epstein.
It’s the same Donald Trump who — on day one of his campaign — announced his overt racism to the world: “Mexicans are rapists”.
It’s the same Donald Trump who PROUDLY confided in another privileged male that HE was so privileged that he could grab any woman’s pussy — and she’d let him do it.
It’s the same Donald Trump who insisted after a white supremacist mowed down anti-hate protester Heather Heyer that “both sides had good people”.
It’s the same Trump who shared OUR SECRETS with the Russian Ambassador in OUR WHITE HOUSE.
It’s the same Trump who meets privately with Vladimir Putin because he knows — if WE THE PEOPLE knew what HE was saying out of our earshot, we would have him on trial right this second for TREASON.
It’s the same Donald Trump who puts brown children into cages after kidnapping them from their parents — the whole point of the exercising being to dehumanize, brutalize and dis incentivize asylum seekers (many of whom are seeking asylum because of violence caused in their home countries by American drug gangs).
It’s the same Donald Trump who bragged about walking in on GIRLS in their dressing room at a beauty pageant he owned.
It’s the same Donald Trump who cheated on his wife just after she’d given birth to his child.
It’s the same Donald Trump whose own WIFE accused him of raping her.
It’s the same Donald Trump who has lied over 10,000 times (by a conservative count) since literally STEALING the presidency.
It’s the same Donald Trump who would not be POTUS if not for Russia MAKING him POTUS.
These aren’t “different” Donald Trumps (no more than Trump is a “different kind of POTUS” — there’s no such thing. All these Trumps are one and the same with THE Donald Trump — the bloated orange jackal turd who literally STOLE the presidency.
You cannot report on just “one” Donald Trump because that’s not who he is. It’s like reporting on Voldemort as a guy in need of some rhinoplasty.
There’s so much more to Voldemort of course — just as there’s so much more to Donald Trump. If only you (our MSM) had perspective… then you might see Donald Trump for who & especially WHAT he really is — just like Fusion GPS’ Glenn Simpson (a former WSJ reporter) did when first hired by the RW Washington Free Beacon to do oppo research on Trump.
The real Donald Trump has always hidden in plain sight. That our MSM refuses to see him for what he really is — that’s entirely on them.
It physically hurts watching most of our Main Stream News Media grapple with Donald Trump. He’s so much a creature of their making — his entertainer’s DNA is the same as theirs — that they fail to see their own fatal flaws in him.
It’s days/weeks/months/a presidency like this that make me think about Paddy Chayefsky’s brilliant screenplay Network.
If you haven’t seen it, see it! When you remember that Chayefsky wrote it eons before Fox News flared to life in Roger Ailes’ fetid mind (the feature came out in 1976) — a propaganda tool designed from the ground up to stop a Richard Nixon type president from ever getting caught again (that’s right — Roger Ailes believed that had Fox News been around during Nixon’s time, Nixon would never have had to quit) — Network becomes even more visionary.
Chayefsky anticipated the marriage of news and entertainment — and the birth of their Frankenstein Monster-like love child — a wildly out of control noise machine that gleefully blurs the lines between fact and fiction, reality and bullshit, ordered moral rectitude and total Machiavellian chaos. In one extra-brilliant scene, Ned Beatty — playing the Chairman Of The Board — explains “the rules” to renegade anchor man Howard Beale (Oscar winner Peter Finch). This is a wonderful example of “FRAMING”…””
9A5% of our Main Stream News Media cannot “frame” a story to save their lives. To save OUR lives either. We need to remember — so does our Main Stream News Media — that journalists are storyteller first and foremost. News is just the story of what’s happening now and why. Journalists must follow the same rules fictional storytellers play by — if they’re going to be any good at storytelling.
All storytelling begins with framing. It’s storytelling’s “In the beginning…”. Do we frame Hitler (in a story about him) as a good guy or a bad guy? The overwhelming majority of us would probably frame Hitler as the villain regardless of the piece. But a few — white nationalists for instance — would probably frame Hitler as a hero. Framing equals point of view. Whose point of view does a story represent.
If you go and frame a story from Hitler’s point of view — or, say, Donald Trump’s — then things like Jew hatred to the point of causing a Holocaust or caging Latino babies at our southern border — then outright evil doesn’t seem so… “evil”. Evil gets normalized. Not all at once — but enough so that the next evil act plays to a collective psyche that accepts a certain amount of evil as “just how things are”. No, they’re NOT how things are.
Framing begins with what you know and what you can legitimately believe based on the preponderance of evidence. Donald Trump is a liar. Donald Trump is a money launderer. Donald Trump is a fraud. Donald Trump is a bully. Donald Trump is a racist. Donald Trump is a rapist. Donald Trump is a traitor. One could legitimately frame any story about Donald Trump from any one of these points of view — and successfully tell a NEWS story.
One could NOT (for comparison’s sake) frame a story from the point of view that Donald Trump is an honest actor who believes every word he reads off a teleprompter. That story would be demonstrably false even as you told it. And yet — our Main Stream News Media persists in framing the Donald Trump story from that very perspective: that Donald Trump is a normal person and a normal president. Sorry — I got that slightly wrong: they frame Trump as a “different kind of potus” who “expresses himself directly”.
Allow me to translate from the bullshit — “Trump’s a chaos agent and we have no idea how to report on him”. There’s no such thing as “different”. A journalist reporting that a politician is “different” because he ignores all rules and norms is a lazy journalist. “Why” are they different? “What do you mean exactly by ‘different’?” To call Donald Trump “different” is to frame Trump from the point of view of bullshit. It helps no one — except Donald Trump.
And that — right there — is the problem. When you frame a story from the point of view of, say, a villain — you see the world through the villain’s eyes. You empathize with the villain and see their goals as our goals. You normalize evil and make it not only respectable but desirable.
The Poster Girl for this rancid brand of un-journalism is NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell.
I’m sure Kelly’s a lovely person. I’m sure she’s a wonderful friend — she seems very empathetic. But she lacks critical faculties. She’s no more discerning of the Truth than an open microphone. Kelly happily reports everything Trump says from her White House beat as if Donald Trump was a tower of integrity whose every word was his bond.
FFS, Kelly — when we look back at this period a few years from now (provided we’re not all living in a gulag or a mass grave), we’ll look squarely at the Fourth Estate and their many profound failings. Journalists are the only job mentioned specifically in the Constitution. They are obligated to be our final check on power.
But a check that frames stories from the point of view of the things it’s supposed to be checking cannot check shit. It surrenders the necessary perspective the moment it starts reporting. Any story about Trump that doesn’t immediately frame Trump as a liar is a lie itself — how can it not be? It’s telling the liar’s lie for him. carrying his lying water wherever he wants it carried.
This isn’t hard to fix. Gaining perspective is as easy as stepping back from a story and allowing yourself to see all the great details you’ve uncovered in the largest possible context — so that you can see, evaluate and appreciate how your small cogs work as part of the larger wheel. I think of NBC’s number cruncher Steve Kornacki.
I’m sure Steve’s a lovely person, fun to lunch with. And he’s bright, too. I’ll give him that. But bright without perspective is less bright than it could be. Than it SHOULD BE. Steve Kornacki can tell you everything you want to know about a grain of sand — so long as we’re only talking about that one grain. Does that grain of sand live on the beach at Malibu or smack in the center of the Sahara Desert? Steve can’t tell you that.
He can only frame the grain of sand’s story from the grain of sand’s point of view. That is only part of its story unfortunately.
We need our news media to report the WHOLE Trump story every time out of the gate. We need them to see Donald Trump the way Fusion GPS saw Trump. Fusion, you’ll recall, was the research entity hired by the Washington Free Beacon then (through intermediaries) the Hillary Clinton campaign to learn all the could about Trump — through legitimate means. Fusion (as principle Glenn Simpson testified to Congress), upon being hired, started the job by doing its due diligence. They got ahold of every bit of publicly available material concerning Trump. Books, magazines, video, radio, internet. They bought from Amazon, browsed book stores & magazine racks and even went to the public library. What they found in publicly available material so convinced them that Trump had used his Atlantic City casinos to launder Russian Mob money that they hired former MI6 Russia desk guru Christopher Steele. Steele had the best sources inside Russia.
Fusion, in its report to its clients, framed Trump from the widest possible perspective. That perspective saw Trump as a criminal.
There is nothing whatsoever — still, to this very day — stopping America’s Main Stream News Media from doing the exact same due diligence.
It’s a little late now, of course. CNN & MSNBC (and all the rest) could easily have done this back when Trump was insisting that Mexicans are rapists. Perhaps if our Main Stream News Media HAD done that, there wouldn’t be a pile of dead Mexican bodies right now in El Paso.
When our MSM mis-frames stories, it isn’t just bad storytelling, it’s toxic to our Democracy.
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?
The Supreme Court just refused to rule on political gerrymandering — EVER — in essence legalizing minority rule in America. Meanwhile — stunning tragedy occurs daily on our Southern border — by design. And also meanwhile, a Russian intelligence asset occupies the White House while his whole political party stands by — because they, too, are, it turns out, Russian intelligence assets.
Some of us have been screaming about the death of American Democracy for so long now, we’ve merged into the background noise. Even those of us who saw Trump’s craven criminality, his duplicity, his deceptions — and even his outright treachery — from the beginning are shocked by how much worse TrumpWorld has been.
Let’s nail that down — TrumpWorld has been exponentially worse than even the worst worst case scenario.
The thing we didn’t count on — the lurking iceberg, it turns out — hasn’t been Donald Trump’s treasonous relationship with Russia, it’s been the Republican Party’s deeply cynical play — to USE Trump’s relationship with Russia (and their own) as a means to force permanent minority rule down the country’s unwilling throat. Republicans can’t ever seem to get the “rapiness” out of their system.
We live inside a false narrative — that Donald Trump won an election. He didn’t. If anyone won in 2016, it was Russia. Take Russia completely out of the Trump equation and Trump doesn’t even survive the primary process. Betcha there’s evidence aplenty that Russian efforts and active measures also were employed against Trump’s republican foes. Russia owns us. Not entirely. Saudi Arabia also owns a piece of us now. As does the UAE… and Israel.
Our values, our institutions, our norms — lots of it is gone already. We’ve normalized lying and deception and fraud. A flagrantly criminal administration openly obstructs investigations into its own flagrant criminality — while the MSM watches, muttering to itself that it can’t be witnessing a crime — cause crimes don’t get witnessed.
So — the SCOTUS won’t stand up for American Democracy. The Republican Party certainly won’t do it (it’s counter-intuitive for them). And the Main Stream News Media won’t or can’t do it because they’re too addicted to “both sides do it” journalism, false narrative manufacturing and navel gazing to meet their Constitutional responsibility as the final check on power. The Democratic Party wants to do the right thing but has a historical tendency to dither.
That leaves US, fellow Americans. The survival of the greatest experiment in human self-government will fall to US. Here’s the joke. The overwhelming majority of us WANT this experiment to continue. We want it to be better. We want it to serve waaaaaaaay more people — both Americans and people who want to be Americans. And we want the experiment to reach, benefit, and draw in every American and every person who comes to America, seeking their fortune and future.
No one else can make that happen except us. The more of us that show up in 2020, the better our chances of continuing the experiment. That doesn’t mean chase white men around, begging for their vote. It means chasing the 50% who don’t vote — but need to.
That’s the challenge facing us. There IS a way out of this. It won’t be easy, won’t be fun, won’t be clean, won’t be without lots of bloodletting. But, we have no choice.
The alternative is republicanism, authoritarianism and — say it with me — “permanent minority rule”.
Hi there, ladies ‘n germs — I’m your host Chuck Todd (excuse me while I roll my eyes thoughtfully as if I was physically capable of having thoughts) —
— And welcome to another installment of “Benefit Of The Doubt — the game show where we give the benefit of the doubt to folks who we probably shouldn’t ought to give it to. But, hey — that’s what I think journalism is cos otherwise, I’d have to do research and prep for interviews! Did I say “Welcome to Benefit Of The Doubt yet? I can’t remember — I get so easily distracted.
Tonight’s panel are, first, my co-worker over at NBC News, Chris Matthews —
Chris — say something to the folks!
CHRIS: I miss Bobby Kennedy.
[While Chuck rolls his eyes thoughtfully] CHUCK: Do you think… What I mean is… What if… Is it possible that Sirhan Sirhan was aiming at someone else that night in the Ambassador Hotel kitchen?
CHRIS: No. Sirhan was Palestinian. He said he hated Bobby’s position regarding Israel. It wasn’t really a question of— Now, wait a minute, Chuck — were you playing the game without saying?
CHUCK: Guilty! I bet if I hadn’t spent the whole time rolling my eyes thoughtfully, you’d have never caught me.
CHRIS: It’s true… Umm… could ya stop now, Chuck — it’s starting to weird me out.
CHUCK: I’ll try, but — now I’m just trying to see if my bangs are straight… I wish they hadn’t left those pruning shears on my makeup table… Our other panelist tonight is CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
WOLF: Hi, everyone. I just want everyone to know that the look on my face isn’t because I’m thinking about anything, I’m doing math — I’m figuring out how long much longer I can hold onto the fart now in the chamber. Not much longer to judge from my expression, right?
CHUCK: Thanks for the heads up, Wolf. I’ll just move my chair way over here. [As Chuck moves his chair] Our first guest tonight is Climate Change.
[Polite applause as Climate Change enters and takes the seat next to Chuck’s.]
CHUCK: Welcome, Climate Change! You’re really in demand right now. I feel like we were lucky to get you as a guest.
CLIMATE CHANGE: Well, I am trying to get around — what with the book coming out and–
CHUCK: What– wait– what? You have a book coming out? Why didn’t anyone tell me?
CLIMATE CHANGE: Probably cos you can’t read.
[Chuck flashes angrily] CHUCK: What? I can read just fine. Don’t blame me cos I bore easily. Wait — are my bangs straight?
CHRIS: Please, Chuck, I’m begging ya — stop rolling your eyes! In two seconds I’m going to start hurling last year’s St. Patrick’s Day’s corned beef and cabbage. And that disagreed with me then.
WOLF: I bet the gas was intense.
CHRIS: You know it was.
CHUCK: So, Climate Change — We know… what I mean is…
CHRIS: Chuck — stop rolling your eyes–
CHUCK: I’m trying, Chris, I swear it but it’s gone a little autonomic on me. I’m not that in control of it–
CHRIS: Well, I’m not that in control of what I’m about to puke up either.
WOLF: Please stop saying “puke”, it gives me gas.
[Meanwhile, Chuck has continued rolling his eyes]. CHUCK: Are my bangs…? Is it… Would you say…What if the climate deniers are on to something?
Rene Magritte’s Ceci N’est Pas Une Pipe poses the perfect “is it?/isn’t it? existential question (true fact — its actual name is The Treachery Of Images). What really is — or, more to the point, is anything really “is”? Is anything real?
For those of us (me, for instance) who love wrestling with esoteric brain puzzles, this is a top of the line WWF cage match.
On the one hand — the viewer has to disagree — “What’re ya talking about? Of course it’s a pipe!” But, as Magritte himself pointed out when his piece first started making viewers crazy, “The famous pipe. How people reproached me for it! And yet, could you stuff my pipe? No, it’s just a representation, is it not? So if I had written on my picture ‘This is a pipe’, I’d have been lying!”
What really is vs what actually isn’t. Can we believe anything anymore?
For the non-theater majors, Theater Of The Absurd was a literary genre that emerged from World War II like existentialism’s louder, loonier twin sister. Like existentialism, Theater Of The Absurd saw human beings as pointless. After all, didn’t most of humanity just fight a world-wide duel nearly to the death?
For comparison’s sake, a very similar reaction occurred after World War I. The Dadaist movement rejected everything about capitalism and its “values”. Art itself had no value to the Dadaists — even as they created it. A famous, wonderful example is Marcel Duchamp’s series of “readymades” including this shovel. The shovel, Ducamp claimed, was already art. All the artist had to do was sign his name on it.
Dadaists got what existentialists & Theater Of The Absurdists later got — our faith in humans being logical, rational and just is based entirely on bullshit. We’re all bonkers and need to face that fact. Theater Of The Absurd put words in the mouth of our insanity.
The most famous — most performed — example of Theater Of The Absurd is Samuel Becket’s Waiting For Godot.
Spoiler Alert — Godot never shows. That’s the point — lots of waiting, lots of speculating, lots of hoping, lots of random cruelty — and all for nought. Who knows if Godot even exists?
For pure existential crunchy goodness though, the quintessential Theater Of The Absurd play is Eugene Ionesco’s La Cantatrice Chauve (The Bald Soprano) — which has played continually at the Theatre De La Huchette in Paris since 1957. Nothing in the play means anything. A husband tries to remember where he’s met his wife before — perhaps in the bed they’ve shared every night for years? All information is meaningless. All communication futile. “Experience teaches us that when one hears the doorbell ring it is because there is never anyone there.”
And what’s the point of fighting it? “Who has any interest in prolonging this confusion? I don’t know. Let’s not try to know. Let’s leave things as they are.”
A more recent version comes from Alex Cox’s exquisitely nihilistic movie Repo Man: “The more you drive, the less intelligent you are.”
Does that not feel like us — in the here & now? Does it not feel like we’ve come all this way only to discover we never left home. Well, some of us never left home. Some of us still live in our parents’ basement — if mentally.
Watch any hour of CNN or MSNBC and I DARE you not to feel like you’re Waiting For Godot — justice in our case. I DARE you not to feel like the dialogue spewing from any talking head discussion has all the weight of a mal-formed soap bubble. The one thing you can probably count on, when the bubble bursts, the soap will get in your eye.
In the movie Princess Bride, Wallace Sean’s Vizzini, confounded by their inability to outrun Cary Elwes’ Westley, repeats the word “inconceivable” with increasing consternation until, at one point, Mandy Patinkin’s Inago Montoya responds famously —
We have the exact same problem with the whole concept of INTEGRITY — never mind the word. A Democratic system of government relies on the integrity of its voting process. We think our voting system has “integrity”. That’s bullshit. There are several terrific citizen-journalist-investigators who’ve done deep, deep dives into the fact that our voting systems have pretty damned close to ZERO integrity (Jennifer Cohen and Mike Farb have been especially intrepid and indefatigable in their pursuit of the truth).
Our inability to see this core problem — this complete lack of integrity in a system — shouts volumes about our inability to see a lack of integrity in other humans. Isn’t that the way con men work, after all? The first thing they sell you isn’t a product, it’s bullshit — that they have integrity and you, dear rube, can absolutely trust them.
Donald Trump is a fabulist who has never understood that such a thing as “Truth” even exists. To a sociopath like Trump, the truth is whatever he thinks it is in that moment — whatever he says “the truth” is. Its connection to reality is irrelevant. Anyone who stands beside Donald Trump — knowing (and how can you not) that he lies as easily as he breathes — not only accepts Donald Trump’s lack of integrity, but demonstrates that they, too, have none. How can you stand with a liar and still have integrity?
It’s impossible. You just can’t.
When America stops standing by its word — when we pinball around erratically with no moral compass — we demonstrate that we AS A COUNTRY no longer have integrity (with the caveat being that our integrity has been under assault — if not completely DOA — forever and ever). Should we be surprised when Iran prepares for war against a schizophrenic foe whose word means nothing? Should we be shocked when every country with an agenda understands that with enough money, you can get the American government to do your bidding — even if it runs counter to America’s best interests?
Our news media doesn’t grasp how THEIR integrity lies in tatters. They don’t grasp that the moment they shrugged off “Mexicans are rapists” and then (as if that wasn’t enough FFS!) “pussy-grabbing” — they busted a cap in their own integrity as the final check on power. Even as every norm of behavior, decency, logic and longstanding tradition sloughed off around them, CNN, MSNBC, The WaPo, the NYTimes — pretty much our entire MSM — continued to turn a blind eye in the name of access. If they dared confront a blatant liar with his lies, they worried, he might not talk to them. Correction: he might not lie to them.
We’re living in an age where Joseph Goebbels’ famous “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth” has, ironically, become a kind of truth. It’s how things “are” now.