As the lights come up, a member of MSNBC’s audience sits down to watch some news. Almost immediately, the audience member is incensed. And… fade in —
MSNBC: Donald Trump said ‘this’ today.
Audience: But ‘this’ is a lie and you know it is. Nicolle Wallace spent a whole half hour reporting on it extensively.
MSNBC: But, what if what Trump said is true?
Audience: How can it be true? Rachel Maddow presented hard evidence on your air that it can’t possibly be true. Doesn’t anyone at your news network ever watch Rachel?
MSNBC: Republicans are treating the coronavirus pandemic politically – but so are Democrats!
Audience: What are you talking about? Democrats aren’t withholding aid from blue states because the governors refuse to lick Trump’s nutsack. Democrats aren’t refusing to stay at home, socially distance or even wear masks.
MSNBC: Both sides do it.
Audience: Do WHAT? Consort with hostile foreign powers to win elections? Do both sides do that? Do both sides actively work to suppress the other sides voters? Do both sides gerrymander states so perversely (in Wisconsin, for instance), that though Democrats won 53 percent of the vote, they got only 36 percent of the seats?
MSNBC: You’re just being political!
Audience: No, no, I’m not. I’m simply reporting facts – like you’re supposed to do! When Republicans violate the Constitution or the Rule Of Law, they’re doing it for political reasons, right?
MSNBC: Ummmmmm… yeah…
Audience: But, when Democrats respond to what Republicans are doing, that’s them reacting to violations of law – they’re pointing out a fact: Republicans are actively violating the law. They should do that regardless of political party. You understand, right – when Democrats do that—
MSNBC: They’re playing politics.
Audience: But- didn’t we just- does anyone at your network ever watch Rachel Maddow or Nicolle Wallace. Ali Velshi even – he’s good! And Lawrence! Chris Hayes used to be good – but he sucked down the Tara Reade koolaid like a champ. And don’t get us started on Chuck Todd!
MSNBC: Chuck is a respected—
Audience: Oh shut up. Every time Chuck opens MTP, Tim Russert begins spinning so fast in his grave that if they hooked him to the power grid, he could supply a small city with electricity.
MSNBC: It’s not up to us to voice our opinions. We just report facts.
Audience: Do you report all the facts?
MSNBC: All of them? Well– we try–
Audience: Does, say, Kris Jenner report everything learned during Joy Reid’s show? We’ve heard interviews Kris has done — immediately following Joy’s show — where Kris acts as if everything learned during Joy’s show never existed. That’s a neat trick. Wouldn’t it make more sense if the network kept track of the story it’s telling — and the characters — and how they evolve every day — and, you know, the way stories are supposed to work — the storyteller keeps updating the story with new information. That way, all your lesser on-air talent could benefit from (and tell the same story as) your topline talent. Imagine that — consistency!
MSNBC: If you hate us so much, go watch CNN.
Audience: We do when necessary. They’re no better. But we hold out hope for you. We see great hires like Nicolle and Joy and Rachel and Lawrence and we get hopeful. You have it in you to deliver great TV journalism. You do it almost every day already — we just want you to do it more. Look — why give credence to people whose announced intent is to dismantle everything? Who call YOU “fake news”? Are you “fake news”?
MSNBC: No – of course not—
Audience: Are you the “enemy of the people”?
MSNBC: Actually, we are “the people”. That’s all we are – people trying to do our jobs and get the truth out. But it’s hard because—
Audience: We know. We get it. Never mind the coronavirus pandemic – the Trump-Russia story is massively huge and virtually impossible for anyone to fully grasp because there are so many moving parts. It takes a team to connect all the dots. But, it’s incumbent on you to do the connecting.
MSNBC: We’re trying—
Audience: Try harder. Better yet – sit down and watch Nicolle Wallace. Watch Rachel Maddow. Watch Ali Velshi. If they can do it, so can everyone else on your air.
MSNBC: Hmmmmmm, ya suppose?
Audience: Well, not everyone, of course—
MSNBC: Chuck’s a non-starter—
Audience: Careful – did you not realize your mic was still on?
That won’t be the case, of course though more of us are going to telecommute. Those of us that have jobs to return to, that is. More of us are going to shop from home. More of us are going to entertain ourselves and small groups of friends at home.
I just heard an interesting discussion on MSNBC. The almost always excellent Ali Velshi led a discussion on how the pandemic will impact work in America. The most obvious impact — that Ali himself was experiencing if only while the pandemic is raging — was working from home. The news networks adapted with remarkable speed to their situation on the ground. They got equipment and lighting to the homes of all their key hosts — green screens and monitors behind them so it looks like a news set. I’m sure everyone got brand-spanking-new computers with plenty of fire power.
Now that we’ve all learned how to broadcast from home — and seen that we can do it — and the audience has adapted to how it looks and sounds — why would anyone doing a TV appearance get in their car and drive to a TV studio when they can do it more easily from home. Or even their hotel room if they’re on the road.
All anyone has to do, really, is open their notebook computer. Or the app on their phone. Telecommuting will not be a small thing. Currently, half the American workforce — that’s 164 million people — are working from home. That 82 million people. If even 10 percent of those people never commuted to their job again (except for special occasions), that would be 8.2 million people.
That’s 8.2 million Americans who aren’t getting into their cars or onto public transportation to get to work anymore. That means less cars on the road (less pollution — good for the planet) and less demand on public transit (at rush hours). Fewer cars traveling all those miles means less gasoline will be needed — suppressing the demand for fossil fuels. Good ripple.
Fewer cars making fewer trips should also put less wear and tear on our roads and bridges. Good thing since we’re not sure how we’re going to repair them right now anyway.
Extrapolating out a bit — less demand for oil and gas will mean the fossil fuel business looks a little less scary to our legislators. Another good ripple.
Fewer commuters also put less wear & tear on worn out public transportation systems.
Fewer cars making all those trips also means fewer second cars needed. So, fewer cars bought. That’s millions of cars that aren’t being bought, financed, serviced or insured.
Ripple, ripple, ripple.
On the local level — not having to go to work except on rare occasion means needing a lot fewer work clothes that have to be bought but also dry cleaned. Not going to work also means having lunch at home — not at a restaurant or fast food place near the office. Lots of lost business for them, a little more found business for your local grocer and local restaurants.
Your power bills will go up. Will our employers help defray the costs of our telecommuting — helping to cover our connectivity (since the better that is, the better our work product will be)? Insurance companies will feel the loss in auto insurance revenues but perhaps they’ll make up for it increased coverages elsewhere based on new-fangled insurance products just “aching” to be invented.
With more people home, burglars will have to be way more careful. Crime patterns could be impacted.
If two working adults are home — what will that do to home life? What will it do to the distribution of labor at home? What will it do to child-rearing when one parent is pretty much home most of the time (unlike now when two working parents isn’t pretty much a necessity). Why, it’d be like living back in the 50’s except either mom OR dad could play June Cleaver.
All those people who created businesses tending to our lives while we’re at work — dog walkers and plant waterers and errand-runners — they’ll have to reinvent themselves yet again. Those gigs just went away, most of them.
The pandemic’s enduring impact on us won’t be fully felt or understood even for a long while yet. We’re just at the beginning, lucky us.
A lot of people will be more devastated by the pandemic’s ripple effects than by the pandemic itself. That’s even more cruel. You survive the sinking of the Titanic — ending up in a lifeboat — only to die of hypothermia. Some people can’t win for losing.
But, as with a lot of things, while one can see the pandemic as a huge obstacle to normalcy and living happily ever after, one can also see it as a huge opportunity. New businesses will have to be invented. New systems. New ways of thinking. New ways of working together while working remotely.
Some of the new inventions will take time to develop, test, market and manufacture — we’re talking years. Who has time like that when you’re trying to get rich? But that’s how we should frame the future: as an opportunity just waiting to be exploited (in a good way).
Every TV show now begins with two words: “Previously On”.
On the one hand, it’s a nod to any newbies who might be watching. These are the basic story threads you need to know about. But, on the other hand, the “Previously On” part of a show is where the storytellers get to remind the whole audience about certain important, key details from the story’s past that are about to become very important to the story’s future.
The point is, “Previously On” begins with a very clear concept: THIS IS WHAT WE KNOW.
This is what the story — and its characters — have revealed and revealed about themselves so far. This is our accumulated, aggregated knowledge. This is our STARTING POINT going forward.
Why, I’d like to know, can’t journalists — well, our most of our video journalists for sure — do this simple, storytelling thing? Why can’t they aggregate a story before reporting on it? Why can’t they start from what we know so far instead of what we knew back then (whenever “then” was)?
It’s like watching a TV show where the audience is always miles ahead of the storytellers because the audience has been keeping track of the story while the tellers keep going back to “fade in”.
If America’s journalists had been keeping track of Donald Trump — adding to what we know about him and then basing all new reporting off of that — Donald Trump would never have been president in the first place. That is, he would never have gotten close enough for his pal Vladimir to vote suppress & cheat “wins” out of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan in 2016. That’s because even before Trump ran, we knew — meaning the information was available in the public domain if only one went looking for it (journalistically) — that Donald Trump was a criminal.
What motivated Fusion to sub-contract out to Christopher Steele, was the question. Steele had been The Guy running the MI6’s Russia Desk. He had the best sources inside Russia of anyone outside Russia. Steele’s rep was solid top to bottom. When the FBI went after FIFA’s Sep Blatter for corruption, they hired Chris Steele to do a lot of heavy lifting for them. He’s good.
But, WHY did Fusion feel the need to sub-contract anything out to Chris Steele? Simpson testified that, upon the hire, Fusion did what they always did — what any reputable research company would do: their due diligence. In Fusion’s case, it got its hands on every PUBLICLY AVAILABLE newspaper article, magazine piece, radio interview, TV appearance — anything and everything about Donald Trump. They researched online. They bought things from Amazon. They listened to Howard Stern. They went to old book stores and combed the shelves. They even went to the public library.
Simpson testified that what Fusion found there — in publicly available material — convinced them that Donald Trump was very possibly a criminal. A shitload of evidence pointed to Trump laundering Russian mob money through the buying and selling of condos in Trump properties and (especially) through his (now bankrupt) Atlantic City casinos. Regardless of whether Trump humiliated himself sexually with Russian hookers on video or humiliated himself by being overtly racist (on video) while Russian hookers pissed all over the bed in Moscow where the Obamas slept, Trump laundered Russian mob money. As much as Trump and those around him insist that “Trump’s a germaphone! He would never consort with hookers!” no one has yet asserted “And he would never launder money for Russian mobsters”.
Strange that, don’tcha think?
You’d think, in the story we’re all bingeing on because it’s our lives, that THAT kind of detail — that no one denies Trump’s a money launderer for the Russian mob — would make it onto the “Previously On” somewhere somehow. And yet, between CNN & MSNBC, no one seems to grasp how stories and storytelling works. They certainly don’t grasp that, in a sense, ALL stories begin with a collective sense of “Previously On”.
If our MSM had “Previously On-ed” this story from the beginning, here’s (a little of) what that “Previously On” would contain…
Mitch McConnell refused to let We The People in on the secret that Russia was actively trying to make Donald Trump POTUS. At the September “Gang Of 8 Meeting” in the White House, McConnell told Obama that if he made that fact public, McConnell would accuse Obama of politicizing the intelligence. In point of fact, Obama was trying to tell America the truth.
His political party openly broke every established norm that allowed for bi-partisan governance. Mitch McConnell denying Merrick Garland a hearing was a Constitutional crisis all by itself because one branch of govt was denying another its Constitutionally mandated role. We The People voted for Barack Obama. THAT was his authority to nominate judges.
When we get to the “How the HELL did this happen?” phase — after the bad actors are all safely in prison — we’ll need to turn our focus on the American news media and the myriad ways they failed us and their own Constitutionally mandated obligation to be our final check on power. American journalism failed us — repeatedly and tragically.
It all starts with an unsupported insistence that “both sides do it”.
When a Donald Trump violates the Constitution (and the oath he took to uphold and protect it), he’s doing it for a political reason: to undermine the Constitution’s integrity so as to hold onto power. Political. Nakedly so.
When a Democrat responds to Trump violating the Constitution by saying, “Hey, look — the President is doing something he shouldn’t be doing!” that is NOT a political response regardless of the “D” next to the Democrat’s name. It’s an act of patriotism. It’s an act of law abiding citizens demanding Just like an assault victim who cries out for help while being attacked does not “become” their attacker (“both sides do it”) just because they pointed out that they were BEING attacked. The attack victim, like the Democrat (who’s electoral win was stolen — and with it the Will of the American People) has been wronged. And while, in reporting the story, it’s incumbent on the press to be fair and even-handed, “fair and even-handed” does not mean giving credence to bullshit.
Both Sides Do It journalism assumes — without any evidence — that “both sides have an argument”. Both sides may have a point of view and both sides may try to explain why they did something but, if we’re talking criminal behavior, one of those two points of view is going to want to obscure the truth for obvious reasons. When the climate debate first started (before putting climate deniers on TV became verboten), news panels frequently put climate scientists up against climate deniers in a 50-50 presentation.
Understand — just like words and grammer make a language, so do images and video editing. Since the advent of motion pictures, audiences have learned a new language — the visual language. One of the things a modern audience intuits without being told — an argument presented 50-50 visually must be an argument where both sides have equal validity.
That’s what putting a climate denier in the same-sized frame as a scientist does — it visually validates them and their bullshit. Unintentionally — but clearly and (to a modern audience) distinctly. But that’s not a problem to Both Sides Do It journalism since all that matters is that climate deniers have a point of view. And it’s not their job to “judge”. It’s their job to “present the facts”.
Ah, but what if YOU can’t discern what the “facts” are? Or, worse, what if you suck at passing what little discernment you have on to your audience? What if your inability to tell what’s real from what’s bullshit has you reporting nonsense as truth? What if that nonsense has to do with coronavirus? What if your inability to discern truth from bullshit (because journalism school taught you both sides do it) gets people killed?
There’s a voice I can’t get out of my head. It’s become, to me, the signature sound for how terrible the press has handled this. It’s MSNBC’s Alex Witt. Alex is a decent person — I’ve not a doubt. But she’s a piss-poor “journalist”. That’s mostly because she exemplified “Both Sides Do it” journalism. “But aren’t they just playing politics” is a quintessential Alex Witt question — asked not out of intellectual curiosity but out of abject intellectual laziness.
What does that even mean? Does Alex assume that both sides do things for entirely cynical reasons? Does she honestly think that both sides see power the same way and treat people the same way? Is this the world this “professional journalist” has observed for a good, long (for Alex) professional career? Of course not.
To a degree, I don’t blame Alex. She didn’t invent “Both Sides Do It”, she just does it well.
The truth is both sides wouldn’t handle our response to the coronavirus the same way. One side wants to ignore stone cold reality and “get America back to work” regardless of how many people die “to save the economy”. The other side believes in science and doesn’t want one person to die who doesn’t have to. Whole other way of thinking.
There’s nothing radical in these observations. Over the past three years, one side has consistently behaved one way while the other side consistently behaved the exact opposite. Both sides don’t “do it”, in fact, both sides “do their own thing”. That’s what American journalism should have been reporting all along.
Both sides don’t have a Watergate in their past and both sides will not have a Trump-Russia, a Trump-Saudi Arabia, a Trump-North Korea, a Trump-corruption and a Trump-Treason in their present and future. Both sides don’t obstruct justice as easily as they breathe and both sides do not suppress the other sides voters.
Both sides don’t hand proprietary polling data to the Russians (via Oleg Deripaska) and both sides don’t have secret phone calls with Vladimir Putin where even the translator notes must be destroyed.
Both sides don’t botch the response to a human tragedy like coronavirus because they’re worried about “their numbers”.
Both sides don’t see tens of thousands — more likely hundreds of thousands — of dead Americans as “victory”.
Both sides don’t shrug off things Donald Trump says or tweets (like “Liberate Virginia”) because they’re just words.
Both Sides Do It journalism breaks the first rule of journalism right out the door — it starts with a totally flawed premise. Both sides may do “things”, but those “things” are not the same. Some of those “things” are anti-democratic to their core. They’re authoritarian and cruel and must be stopped right here, right now. Both sides do not do it.
Both Sides Do It fails not only as journalism, it fails as storytelling. It fails at being good for anything.
The Trump Era keeps proving — it’s hard to keep your eye on the ball when there are fifty balls flying at you. Trump’s coronavirus response has been everything you’d expect it to be — a chaotic, self-centered act of corruption. It’s been such a massive failure that it’s even managed to make everyone forget this essential fact: Donald Trump is a traitor who would not be POTUS if not for Russia MAKING him POTUS.
Imagine losing sight of that fact — but we have. The press — even with Trump lying daily about pretty much everything — they’ve reverted to treating Trump as a legitimate president whose every utterance about the crisis they must cover. The hue and cry to stop covering Trump’s daily campaign rallies has come from all over. it’s a puzzlement why MSNBC & CNN can’t treat it the way they treat Trump’s impromptu WH lawn news pressers. They regularly put some lag time between Trump lying and their broadcasts of his lies. Occasionally they even contextualize Trump’s bullshit — imagine!
I’ve written here often how I think we got here — not so much the coronavirus crisis (though it’s intimately connected) as the underlying political crisis that comes from having the intelligence asset of a hostile foreign government running OUR government. Hillary Clinton did not “lose” election 2016, the correct result was stolen from We The People — which would have made HRC POTUS.
The leadership of the Republican Party has always known what’s going on here. Kevin McCarthy “knew” back when he told a meeting of the Republican Party’s muckety-mucks during the 2016 GOP convention: “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump”. Then Speaker of the House Paul Ryan — third most powerful politician in the country — told now GOP leader McCarthy: “Let’s keep that ‘in the family’.”
“In the family” — like a bunch of stinking mafioso.
The GOP’s extreme deference to Trump is way beyond tribalism. It’s criminal conspiracy to commit election fraud, obstruction of justice and treason. That’s why the Republicans can’t stop this train from going off the cliff. The instant Trump stops being president, shit will get real for Trump and everyone sporting that “R” next to their names.
Whether he likes it or not — whether he knows it or not — on January 20, 2021 regardless of whether Trump cancels the election — his term expires. So does Mike Pence’s. On that day, if no election has happened, the presidency will default to the third in line — the Speaker of the House. It is now and will be then Nancy Pelosi.
This is why Mitch McConnell is begging every older conservative judge to retire now. Mitch hopes like hell that the old rules — the ones he violated regularly — will hold and his corrupt hijacking of the judiciary will stand. Mitch is going to be sorely disappointed. I’m with former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner (his Twitter feed is here): when this is all done & said, we must address the fact that everything that flowed from election 2016 — every bit of Republican legislation & chaos, every American Enterprise Institute-approved lifetime judge named while President Obama was denied the appointments — must be considered in the light of treason — of the entire Republican Party knowingly conspiring with Russia to not only seize control of the government but to maintain that control forever: permanent minority rule.
Bill Barr has come damned close to corrupting the Department of Justice beyond repair. Mike Pompeo has nearly destroyed the Department of State. Mitch McConnell, of course, has broken the Senate — with the purpose of hijacking the judiciary for all time.
And then coronavirus screwed up their plans.
For starters, shutting down the govt has already made voting by mail for every American a very real possibility now. Coronavirus has pushed a lot of ideas into the foreground that have struggled for attention up till now. That horrifies Republicans more than anything. The economic chaos — lots of it exacerbated by the damage done by crony capitalism — can only be cured by progressive, social democracy type solutions.
When a version of universal basic income works in ways austerity never could (because it’s always austerity for everyone BUT the rich) — when everyone infected by the coronavirus or kovid-19 finds relief through our socialized medicine response (you won’t get billed for your care or bankrupted by it) — when more Americans realize that the whole point of government is to create an environment where as many people as possible have the education, training and opportunity they need to succeed, they’ll stop seeing it as “the enemy”. If Americans got things for their tax dollars that they could point at — like, say, good health CARE that can’t bankrupt them if they get sick — they’d stop seeing taxes as a black hole.
This is not to say the Republicans won’t still do everything they can to hold onto power. Consider their motivation. They know they could all end up like Paul Manafort — eating prison dinner every night. And Trump knows that the moment he stops being POTUS, he becomes private citizen Don Trump — an INDICTED co-conspirator to election fraud. He could well lose every building he owns to confiscation. Sad, no?
Make no mistake — Neither Trump nor the Republicans “won” election 2016. Without heavy cheating and Russian involvement there’s no way they win election 2020 either.
As of today, Vladimir Putin insists the Russia alone conquered coronavirus. Oh, the things authoritarian shitheads say out loud. That’s just not true — and regardless of what Putin allows the disease sweeping through Russia to be called (a rash of pneumonia), it will clear out people with brutal efficiency. If Russia were suddenly stricken and found itself consumed by not dying instead of poking around in our political system, what would Trump do then?
Imagine Trump & the GOP having to run a “fair” campaign. They couldn’t do it on principle.
Maybe this is another fatal flaw in “both sides do it” journalism. The problem with “neutrality” is that in refusing to judge anything (“just here to report the facts”), you end up giving everything you report equal weight. Because you won’t call out a lie, you give it equal validity with the Truth. How can a news audience discern what “is” from what “isn’t” when the reporters on the ground refuse to differentiate between the two?
We now see reporters in the WH Press Pool asking Trump harder (but still not hard enough), direct questions — then getting flummoxed as, like yesterday, Trump responded to NBC News’ Peter Alexander’s question about helping to quell peoples’ fear by telling Peter Alexander what a terrible journalist he was. When Trump went on to the next reporter, that reporter asked THEIR question — letting Trump GET AWAY with what he did to Peter Alexander. And the Coronavirus update went on — filled with even more misinformation, disinformation and…
Let’s be real. Trump’s now using these daily updates to replace his rallies. It’s not a coincidence that, as Trump tries to lay the blame for his failures on China (by calling the virus Chinese), Bill Barr is grabbing for more unrestrained power — asking Congress to approve new, sweeping powers to arrest and hold people indefinitely. Donald Trump intends to remain in power past January 20, 2021 — the day on which his term expires. In point of fact, Donald Trump will LOSE ALL PRESIDENTIAL AUTHORITY on that date. He won’t have the Constitution on his side — at all. It will treat him as of that date — and everyone in his administration — as ordinary citizens, subject to the same rules. There will be no executive power to hide behind.
Trump may try to. His followers may try to. The chain of command will not respond. It better not. It sure sounds like it absolutely won’t. It’s just not set up to work the way Trump ultimately wants it to. And while coronavirus & Covid-19 will make responding to Trump harder — Trump has already set in motion so much misery, economic ruin and death that no one will be untouched. No one except the hardest hard core Trumpanistas will even think about going along with him.
This can only end one way. Coronavirus will do what the truth could not: it will destroy Donald Trump.
But, in the meantime, it is incumbent on every one of us — the press especially — to mitigate that as much as we possibly can. Every time Trump gets to use the news media — and a crisis — as a campaign event, we are doing ourselves great harm and making the inevitable more catastrophic and bloody. We KNOW for a fact that Trump is lying to us daily. We have to ask why.
That is — our news media has to ask. They’re the ones with the microphones & the cameras. They’re the ones in the room. They have to be us more than ever — and, as of now, they are letting us down.
CNN & MSNBC run “Breaking News” banners all day for news that broke hours before. It ain’t breaking all day. The same logic should apply to Trump’s daily lie-athons. If Trump says something that’s “breaking news” now, it will still be “breaking news” five minutes from now. Between Trump’s utterance & broadcast though, there needs to be fact-checking so that either Trump’s lies are cut out or they’re marked in real broadcast time with some clear, visible, unmistakable disclaimer that what Trump is saying to America is 100% certified bullshit.
The press pool needs to take all attention off of Trump. Washington Post columnist (and former Republican) Jennifer Ruben had a great suggestion this morning on AMJoy — the pool reporters need to stop asking Trump anything. Direct all questions to the experts. When Trump jumps in, ignore him and direct the question back to the expert. The adults in the room need to stop treating the infant like one of them.
But, ya see, that’s when “both sides do it” bites even the most intrepid reporter on the ass. “Both sides do it”, ya see. How can they treat an infant like an infant? That would be “judging” & they’re all just there to report the facts.
I stopped drinking alcohol about two years ago. I didn’t have to but the mood stabilizer I’m on gives alcohol a terrible aftertaste. It was an unexpected side effect — and, frankly, I’m grateful for it.
When I say I didn’t “have to” stop drinking, what I mean is, I didn’t stop because I perceived I had an alcohol problem. I did — I just didn’t perceive it. Ironically, alcohol (and my denial that I had a problem with it) contributed significantly to the depression that drove me to within literal inches of killing myself. Alcohol’s pretty powerful that way. It gives bullshit crazy power over you.
Not drinking, I’m cut out of a big part of what we think of as a “social life’. I go out with my wife and friends to bars or parties — where nearly everyone but me drinks. Over the course of an evening, conversation goes from crisp and sparkling to… well, a little less crisp. A lot less sparkling. The irony (there’s loads of irony) — when you’re drinking, you’re convinced that the alcohol is making everything crisper and more sparkling.
That’s alcohol lying to you.
Over this past weekend — just before California and Washington State and lots of other places started calling states of emergency because of the coronavirus — alcohol turned a casual conversation about masks into an argument that nearly ended a friendship.
A friend was talking to their college-going son about masks. He was relating how he’d told his son to run to CVS to buy masks.
“Don’t bother,” I said. They’re sold out. Everyone’s sold out. CVS, Target, Amazon… “And anyway,” I said, “The masks in question won’t do anything to stop the virus”.
That wasn’t the point to my friend — who was halfway through his third glass of wine. The point was his kid had anxiety issues and wearing the mask would help them.
I started to tell him that — just for clarity’s sake — the mask was only useful if you had the virus and wanted to minimize the chances of infecting others. BUT — this was the crux of my point — there were more PRO-ACTIVE things even someone feeling anxious could do…
I never got there. My drunk friend had grabbed onto “MASKS” with both hands and was not going to let go. For the next ten minutes, we argued about masks and the relative value of thinking you’re protected when, in fact, you are not. I pointed out that not telling his son the stone cold truth about masks could reverberate negatively when his son learned the truth — and also learned that he’d been lied to about the masks’ efficacy. By his dad.
My friend got louder because louder means more right when you’re drunk. That’s alcohol lying to the drinker again.
Alcohol convinces you that the emotion you’re feeling right that second is the most intense, most valid feeling you’ve ever experienced. That’s why people who’ve been drinking argue like obsessives. They can see their one point and literally nothing else. The truth is, they can’t even “see” their one point. They can repeat the point endlessly — their form of “arguing”, but they can’t actually articulate it.
When I caught myself pitching deeper into the rabbit hole, I bailed. I told my friend three times that I was not going to continue arguing with someone who’d had too much to drink. Like a cliched person who had too much to drink, my friend got all insulted about my calling out their drinking. They insisted — slurring their words — that they were not, in fact, slurring their words.
It got heated and then it ended. My friend said he didn’t want to talk about it any more — and maybe he didn’t want to talk about anything with me ever again.
That stung. But I knew one thing — and, the next morning, when my friend called to apologize, I brought it up immediately. The first thing he said as we started talking was “I think I’ve had too much to drink…”.
“I agree with you,” I told my friend. “You had too much to drink”. As far as I was concerned, nothing else happened after that. Nothing that mattered — not to me anyway. My friend needed to look closely at their drinking. That was my takeaway.
By the end of the day, my friend had come around. They were still pissed at me (no one likes to be called out for drinking too much; I know this from experience) but they didn’t drink that evening. The next morning, we talked it through. I wasn’t calling my friend an “alcoholic”. I was simply telling him that when he drank too much, it altered his personality in troubling ways. What he did about that was his deal, not mine.
And then my friend and I “kissed and made up”. It seemed ludicrous to let an argument begun while one of the two arguers was drinking to undo a good, solid friendship. Irony? Within 36 hours, it was common knowledge that wearing a mask would protect you from nothing. My friend’s whole reason for now questioning our friendship was blown up by a news cycle.
In the same way that it’s madness to chase an alcoholic’s argument down a rabbit hole, it’s equally mad to chase a liar’s argument. It’s hard to throw facts at something that has no basis in reality. Watching our news media chase Donald Trump down HIS rabbit holes is especially depressing. They’re so obviously bullshit, concocted on the fly in order to deal with the crisis of the moment. That’s a crisis of Trump’s own making.
To argue with bullshit & bullshitters is to give bullshit & bullshitter credence. “Okay,” you’re saying, “What if bullshit “WERE” true?
Problem is, bullshit is NEVER true. It’s a nonsensical question but — because you asked it — you gave credence to something that did not earn it or deserve it. You engaged with bullshit on its terms — and nothing good can ever come of that.
The time has come (it passed eons ago actually) to stop accepting a liar’s words as true first. No, liars should be told to back up everything they say — or it’s bullshit. The press needs to stop respecting a POTUS who has no respect for them, the office of the president, the rule of law, the Constitution — any of it. They need to refuse to accept anything he says without his providing receipts.
No receipts? YOU DON’T REPEAT IT. Who cares if “the president said it’? The president is a LIAR.
Imagine that first time journalists refused to engage with Trump’s lies. What if instead of repeating it verbatim they shook their heads and said “No. Not going to report that. It’s bullshit”? What if the White House Press Corps demanded truth from the White House — and if they don’t get it? THEY DON’T REPORT WHAT POTUS SAYS.
Trust me, CNN & MSNBC, Donald Trump needs YOU waaaaaaaaaay more than you need him. You just need to trust that fact — it’s true.
It’s time for all of sane Washington to hold an intervention for Trump & the whole GOP. Drinking and lying aren’t that far apart as vices go.
It seems so damned elemental it shouldn’t need explaining: Truth and lies are entirely different things. Being made of reality and real stuff, the Truth always has heft. The Truth can be unbearably heavy at times.
Bullshit on the other hand — while it looks like it weighs a ton — weighs nothing. That’s what it’s made of: nothing or one of nothing’s derivatives.
It’s galling as hell to watch supposedly informed members of the news media (MSNBC’s Chris Matthews is on my TV screen as I tap this out) give bullshit weight it doesn’t deserve. Chris Matthews — having just listened to five minutes of solid truthful reporting — instantly presented the (easily) anticipated Trumpian defense: bullshit.
But, Chris reported the bullshit as if it “could” have weight. What if? He false equivalenced five minutes of actual reporting with fifteen seconds of nonsense. Ummmmm, clean up on aisles three through infinity!
What makes it worse is, if you took Chris off set and shot the shit with him, he’d be the first to tell you (I sure hope) what a guilty traitor Trump is! Backstage, when no one’s worried about pissing off the Boss, you know a lot more nitty makes it into the gritty. On air, you have to double and triple source everything to pass muster. Off air — you heard what you heard.
Trust me — everyone’s “smarter” backstage. They know everyone else’s “play”. They know everyone else has a play.
But, on his air, Chris consistently (as he did today) presented Truth and outright bullshit as having equal weight. Truth could be true but, hey — so could the bullshit. That must be why MSNBC is putting it on its air — because it’s true, right?
It IS that simple. Media works that quickly, that efficiently, that effectively. I’m grateful most media has stopped presenting climate scientists & climate deniers in a 50-50 shot as if both sides of THAT conversation weighed the same. Keep in mind — in the visual language, a screen divided exactly in half has two sides of equal value. That’s how visual vocabulary works.
When that happens, the news media creates a “trompe l’oeil” — a visual trick — that makes empty, valueless bullshit look like it’s a dead ringer for stone cold Truth. A more truthful visual representation of a climate scientist debating a climate science denier would be the scientist taking 99% of the TV screen (maybe even 100%) and the denier getting the rest. Their mic volume would reflect the same proportions.
In other words, we would never see or hear from climate deniers because their bullshit had been properly “weighted”.
Truth’s problem is it isn’t sexy. It just is. Usually, the only reason anyone ever talks about “The Truth” is because someone else is questioning it — or denying it.
When all this is done & dusted, I want us to promise ourselves that we’re going to enshrine in law the illegality of “Both Sides Do It” journalism.
The Chuck Todd-ification of American journalism has not worked out well for us because (Duh!) it’s based on bullshit — and the nincompoop notion that everyone and everything is political. It’s not. If a Republican mugs me, my issue is with him mugging me, not his political affiliation.
Similarly — when a Republican violates the Constitution or commits treason, my objection is entirely to the fact that he’s committing a crime. The fact that the crime is being committed against me — a law abiding registered Democrat who demands that the Constitution be upheld — STILL isn’t political.
Ironically, the Republican has behaved politically at every step along the way.
When a reporter like Chuck Todd gets his hands on a story though — if the Democrat is objecting to the Republican (even the Republican was literally murdering him), Chuck would insist that the Democrat is objecting solely because the guy trying to kill him had a different political affiliation.
I’m watching live right now as Katy Tur debates the idea that we’ve come to see actual RIGHT & WRONG in political terms. That’s insane. The fact that Republicans refuse to even read transcripts — that the press knows (having read them) are filled with actual EVIDENCE OF CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR) should tip them off to that fact. This isn’t about politics.
Both sides do not commit treason as a means to hold onto power.
But one side clearly does. One side continues to defend a president whose ties to Russia are flat out treasonous. I’m old enough to remember when that word could NEVER be uttered on a cable news set without creating a firestorm of controversy.
Now? Who DOESN’T speak the word “treason”?
That’s no because the word suddenly got popular, it’s because treason is actually afoot.
I sure do wish CNN & MSNBC would get this through their thick skulls — only one side commits treason to hold onto power.
Only one side stands between traitors and the end of our Republic.
The worst part of Both Sides Do It journalism is its stupid assumption that everything must be political.
That’s the dopey go-along with “Every argument has two sides”.
People may express two sides but that doesn’t mean there are two sides — and it certainly doesn’t mean that if there are “two sides” that those two sides walk in the door in a 50-50 relationship.
Take climate change and climate denial. Early on, our MSM regularly presented these two arguments in a “Both Sides Do It” framework. Any actual climate science had to be “balanced” with someone willing to voice the “other side’s argument”.
But, in the case of climate change, there IS NO other side’s argument. There’s bullshit and lying and subterfuge and nonsense. But, even bullshit — when presented as a 50-50 possibility — can suddenly seem viable even though it isn’t. Every time CNN or MSNBC or any other news operation put a climate scientist on their air with a climate denier — and framed them in a 50-50 shot (each talking head taking up the exact same amount of screen), they were telling their news audience (even if unintentionally) that climate SCIENCE and absolute bullshit were equally true, equally believable.
Except it’s NOT true.
Both Sides Do It journalism creates false narratives (like Trump “won” election 2016 without Russia’s help). It says that if Republicans cheat to win elections then Democrats must cheat, too.
But, unlike Republicans, Democrats do NOT suppress votes. They don’t jettison names off of voter rolls. They don’t conspire with foreign powers to win elections either. Both sides absolutely do not do this.
What if we take election fraud out of the equation and, instead, make the crime a shooting — on 5th Avenue. Donald Trump, as promised, pulls out a piece and blows the brains out of a supporter right there in front of everyone. If a Democrat dials the FBI on their cell phone to report Trump, it’s not politics motivating them — it’ stone, cold MURDER.
That Democrat isn’t being political, they’re being a good citizen. Only a republican — or an American journalist — can see an act of citizenship in purely political terms.
If I were to mug a journalist — demand their wallet — it’s not politics motivating me, it’ greed. Perhaps if our MSM were to pull its head from its bottom and stop seeing the world in purely political terms they might grasp the larger story they’re reporting on. They might see my intent for what it is and for what it isn’t.
The Democrats in the House aren’t prosecuting Trump because they don’t like him (they don’t) or because he’s a republican while they’re Democrats (Trump isn’t even really a Republican — he’s nothing & nothingness). They’re prosecuting him because he violated his oath of office the literal second he spoke it.
The Rule Of Law either is or it isn’t. There’s no middle ground. If one violates it, one must get punished for it. The whole point is that it ISN’T political and upholding it STANDS OUTSIDE politics.
If I object to Trump shooting people on Fifth Avenue, I object because it’s illegal, immoral and disgusting.
The “R” next to Trump’s name is irrelevant except as a marker.