Skepticism and cynicism are not the same thing. Don’t believe me — look em up. If I was being skeptical, I’d want to see proof of something before going along with it. If I was being cynical though? I wouldn’t care about any proof because I’ve already assumed the worst. A pox on everybody’s house — “both sides do it”. If I was cynical, I wouldn’t need proof that “both sides do it”. And if there was any sort of “proof”, it wouldn’t need to be equally distributed; most on one side and a little on the other is the same as fifty-fifty; it’s still a matter of “both sides do it”!
“Back that up or it’s bullshit!” would be a perfectly legitimate response to a politician saying something for which he has zero receipts. It’s appropriately skeptical. Are you telling the truth? Okay — prove it. By contrast, asking someone a “But, what if bullshit is true?” type questions — that’s not being skeptical at all. “What if bullshit were true?” is the quintessential cynical question.
The only place where bullshit can be true is in a completely cynical world. It can be true, it can be untrue, it doesn’t matter. The ending has already been decided. Everything sucks and there’ll be no changing it; we might as well all fold up our tents and go home. Seeing the world cynically means seeing the very worst in people no matter what. Even if they prove their worth, the cynical have an explanation ready to go. They’re not what they seem. Nothing is so don’t trust it. Assume the worst and you’ll never be disappointed.
You might not be disappointed, but you’ll never be happy either. And you’ll never see the truth or be able to discern it. There’s really no advantage to becoming cynical — unless you want to end your days living in a police state where survival is what matters. Cynicism assumes that the bad guy will get away with it in the end — that, on some level, everyone’s a bad guy, so what difference does it make who wins? Everyone’s motives are suspect. Everyone has a political agenda — even if they don’t think so.
That’s rubbish. It’s stupid too. And offensive.
When a Republican suppresses a Democratic voter, the Republican is doing it for an entirely political reason: to win an election so as to put the power of government into his hands and not the Democrat’s hands. When the voter whose vote is being suppressed raises their hand to complain about what the Republican is doing to them? They’re NOT being political. They’re the victim of a crime. One of their rights has been taken from them and that needs to be addressed. Not for political reasons but for reasons of justice and free and fair elections.
If the news media had taken a more skeptical approach to Donald Trump than the cynical approach they took, things might have turned out better for them. They would have demanded to know WHY Trump thought “Mexicans are rapists” before moving on to “pussy-grabbing”. And a skeptical press would never have been content to let that slide. A skeptical (rather than a cynical) press would have handled “But her emails” a lot better. Rather than cynically assuming the worst about Hillary Clinton, the press would have taken a more moderated, evidence-based approach. They would have concluded – as they did – that there was no “there” there.
If you want to see rock solid journalistic skepticism hard at work, watch Nicolle Wallace’s Deadline Whitehouse on MSNBC. Watch Rachel Maddow and JoyAnn Reid. Watch Ali Velshi and Chris Matthews. Watch Lawrence O’Donnell.
If you want to see empty-headed cynicism, watch Chuck Todd. Chuck is the “dean” of “both sides do it” journalism. He has zero intellectual curiosity. Zero perspective. Zero critical thinking skill.
We’ve survived Trumpism. A rejuvenated Department of Justice is going to make the next few years a rolling smorgasboord of corruption prosecution. There’ll always be a dozen or so pots on the boil with a few more waiting in the wings. From the second he stops being POTUS, Trump will have legal problems that no amount of bullshit pardons can assuage. He’s not running in 2024. The only running Trump will do between now and then is, maybe, a run for the border. I suggest slashing the tires on the Trump jet to prevent that from happening.
In a time as immoral as ours, moral choices matter. MSNBC is about to broadcast an interview with a “non-voter”. That’s a strange concept in an environment as morally clear as this one. Even if you don’t love Joe Biden, the other choice — Donald Trump — has taken the country to a moment of genuine existential peril. That is not hyperbole. The choice isn’t so much between two men as it is between two diametrically different directions for the country to go in. This isn’t between two variations of beige paint for the living room walls. It’s actual life and death. Who the hell is STILL having a tug-of-war in their heads about which one they’d prefer?
The non-committed voter is not being careful, they’re being indecisive. It’s not the same thing. Where a careful person is weighing the information, the indecisive person is weighing their own fear of being wrong. They have no moral convictions to guide them. Their compass reacts to how the group perceives them. The last thing on earth they want is to be unpopular. They need to be accepted and they’ll do ANYTHING to be accepted — like change their mind. Or make their mind your mind.
If being accepted means hating Black people or Jews (even if on the quiet), they’ll do it even if Blacks and Jews mean nothing to them. Even if they actually like Blacks and Jews. The undecided are utterly spineless. Utterly empty.
And yet MSNBC just made the case — by “yeah, but what if-ing” a “case” for the undecided: “Yeah, but what if the undecided are right and there isn’t a clear case between Biden and Trump?” Yeah, but what if there isn’t a clear case between Hitler and whoever is running against him? What if there isn’t a clear case between throwing children in cages or separating them from their parents forever and not doing those criminal things? What if there isn’t a clear case between protecting the nation from the pandemic and NOT doing it?
It’s not just a stupid question, in the current context, MSNBC, it’s offensive. And journalistically irresponsible.
It’s the kind of question a practitioner of “both sides do it” journalism would ask because that kind of journalism, steeped in cynicism (instead of skepticism), assumes the worst of everyone. It assumes that everyone does what they do for the exact same reasons. The thief and his victim, the murderer and the murdered, the rapist and his victim. In a both sides do it world, no one is truly innocent because everyone is guilty of something. We just don’t know what.
That’s how a Donald Trump can get away with literally everything — including rape, treason and murder. He says “Don’t blame me — blame the other guy!” — his version of both sides do it. The “both sides do it” press hears the dog whistle and falls right in line. “Yeah, but what if THIS TIME Trump’s telling the truth?” they think in their heads — and they give Trump the benefit of the doubt he long ago stopped deserving.
If America’s news media were capable of aggregating the Donald Trump story, he’d already be in a federal prison — along with his whole family and the entire Republican Party. Oh, we WILL get there. We absolutely will. It’s the only place this country can go if they ever want to get healed. First things first: wrongs must be undone as much as they can be. What Donald Trump and the Republicans have done — in order to hold onto power indefinitely — must be UNdone. Or changed completely.
The big irony of our story is that the RW Money, in their desperate attempt to establish a state of permanent minority rule, will have caused America to go the very socialized places they most feared. Socialized medicine. Socialized secondary education. Universal Basic Income. Higher taxes for the wealthy (heading back toward the 1950’s when America’s economy boomed) and a bigger, broader, more compassionate social safety net. The fact is, we have no choice. There are no conservative ways out of this. They simply do not exist.
The pandemic has driven one point home: it always starts with ONE PERSON. Patient Zero. We are all susceptible because one person can infect all humanity. Therefore we must be able to treat every single person inside our borders for our own collective good. If we charge them money for it, it may be an obstacle to them seeking the care they need and we need them to seek. It would be self-destructive therefore to charge money for something essential both to each individual and to us as a society. We can only ever be as healthy as the least healthy among us.
Freedom works the exact same way. We can only really be as free as the least free among us. Freedom can’t be “everything”. That’s how children think. Freedom in a free society is weighted — the individual vs the group. Too much freedom for any individual that infringes on the group’s freedom — say, to not get shot while going to school — cannot be. One person’s perceived freedom (to own all the guns they want and fire them at will) cannot cancel another person’s freedom to live securely within their own body. Something has to give. Guess who?
I hope that’s not a hard decision. If it is — and choosing between obvious good and obvious evil — challenges you, it just so happens MSNBC just did a segment about you.
Having turned in a (not unexpected) horrible performance at the first presidential debate, Donald Trump ducked the second debate (that is what he effectively did) by refusing to address his own diseased status. That’s the headline here, NBC News: Donald Trump is diseased. And not just with coronavirus. He’s decimated every bit of our whole way of doing things — in large part because YOU (and the rest of the news media) have, to this day, refused to hold Donald Trump accountable for any of the overtly criminal, deceitful acts we’ve watched him perpetrate right in our faces.
The Republican Party is waging a culture war on the rest of America — and YOU continue to carry its water. Donald Trump continues to tell YOU you’re full of shit while YOU put his shit on the air often without contextualizing his shit as shit. And you look at yourselves in the mirror…
Now, in your defense, at least you now say openly that Trump is, on average, a liar. But you don’t behave as if that means anything to you. Though you know the odds are what Trump says is a lie, you still present it, first, as if it “might” be true. In other words — right off the bat, sight unseen, you are giving bullshit all the credence of Truth. Or, as you call it, the benefit of the doubt.
The benefit of the doubt is a “But, what if bullshit was true…?” question. What if pigs could fly. What if the Pope did shit in the woods? What if Donald Trump could declare himself emperor for life? The moment you give bullshit credence, you make bullshit results possible. That’s what happens when un-reason triumphs over reason. That never works out in the end.
America is more polarized than ever in part because corruption is rarely if ever held accountable. That’s happened in part because our news media sees everyone they cover in cynical terms. Everyone’s a cartoon character who acts exactly the same regardless of whether they’re Democrat or Republican. Oh, the Democrats might say they want to make peoples’ lives better but they’re no different from the Republicans who just want to get rich and keep power in the hands of white people. See? They even sound the same.
Who does NBC News thinks is going to watch Donald Trump tonight? Trust me, NBC News — people who hate Donald Trump (and, right now, people are willing to wait in line 12 hours to vote Trump out) are not going to tune in to you tonight. If they do, it’s because you’ve done and are doing the nation — and our democracy — a gross disservice. Donald Trump doesn’t want to stand toe-to-toe with Joe Biden because he can’t. Rather than expose that weakness (something one would think a news operation would WANT to do), you’ve allowed Trump to have his forum all to himself.
Please don’t ask us to trust you — that you will hold Trump’s feet to the fire when he refuses to answer anyone’s question. You haven’t done it for four years. You’re not starting now. You’re not.
Some ideas (“Manimal” comes to mind) should die on the vine.
This bit of “counter programming” was one of them. This isn’t just a bad idea, NBC News, it’s the kind that harms a news organization’s integrity — and (after the way you’ve handled sexual assault allegations inside your ranks) your integrity wasn’t exactly healthy. Never mind how angry some of us are today. Surely you can think longer term than that.
America is going through a massive sea change in its political culture. Women and people of color are taking the power they deserved to have eons ago. The truth is, we’ve never had a level playing field here. Before we can really be the country we aspire to be, we need to address that. Now that so many of us have come out to vote — to hold political power in our hands — more of us will recognize that democracy works only when we make it work. And we will work to make it work.
There’s a circle of fire ahead. The process of rooting out the corruption that nearly destroyed us will be brutal. It has to be. Just as you can’t compromise with evil, nor can you compromise with corruption. The act of compromising immediately corrupts you. One of the questions we’ll have to ask is how did corruption come so close to overwhelming us? Where were the critical voices that should have guarded the commonweal more vigilantly?
When that question comes up, all eyes will look to our news media.
“Evil” is a loaded word. It’s a little like “Nazi” or comparing people to Hitler. Back when Donald Trump was sworn in — and some of us noticed how evil and Nazi-like Trump was already behaving — “Godwin’s Law” was invoked (Godwin’s Law says that “as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1”) to poo-poo any such comparisons. Donald Trump — per the news media — was just a “different kind of potus”. You know, the kind that doesn’t follow rules. Or the law. Or the Constitution.
Donald Trump is not a “different” kind of president, he’s a criminal. He’s a rapist and a thief and a money launderer and a traitor (not necessarily in that order). That’s all in the public record. It would be how we already think of Trump — except the news media keeps setting side all the details they learn about Trump in order to start each day’s reporting from that “he’s a different kind of potus” perch.
If Donald Trump walked into the house of each of those journalists who can’t put the proper names to Trump’s criminal, corrupt, treasonous behavior and deliberately infected them and their whole families, I bet those brave journalists would call out Trump for being not just evil but Evil. I guess once their families are in the game, shit gets too real. But what about other families?
Evil is evil is Evil. Raping women is evil. Donald Trump is a rapist. Money laundering is evil. Trump has laundered copious amounts of Russian mob money. Separating children from their parents and putting them in cages is evil. Trump has done that. Committing treason is evil — as is stealing an election (then trying to steal your re-election) and lying about a pandemic because it hurts your electoral chances.
Mitch McConnell — he’s evil, too. Where to begin?
Mitch’s pandemic relief proposal is designed to be too little to do anyone any good. Remember: it’s Mitch’s game plan to kill off any possibility of “socialized” government. Pandemic relief — to the RW money behind Mitch — is the same as UBI (universal basic income). That’s even worse than socialized medicine to these crony capitalists. As horrified as Mitch is by Nancy Pelosi’s $2.2 billion dollar demand for relief, he was even more horrified by Trump spitting and spewing how he wants to shell out way more (he’s at that desperate “buy all the votes you can!” place).
The point: Mitch isn’t negotiating. His starting point was meant as his end point — and he was reluctant to be that generous. By design, Mitch’s proposal won’t pay anyone nearly enough to stay home and wait out the pandemic (like most other countries have done). Like Trump, he’s happy with everyone rushing into the pandemic’s maw — so long as he gets to stay safely at home.
Quick reminder: In the leadup to election 2016, Mitch refused to let We The People in on the dirty secret that Russia was weighing in to the election, bent on making Trump president. It was Mitch who tossed aside the sanctions against Oleg Deripaska so he could score a $400 million Russian aluminum factory in Kentucky. Deripaska, remember, was sanctioned for his role in subverting the 2016 election.
Mitch McConnell is evil — with a turtle face.
The news media — and a few wavering Democrats — want Nancy Pelosi to compromise with Mitch and the Republicans. They want us to take Mitch’s bullshit proposal seriously. They want us to make a deal with bullshit. With evil bullshit.
While some very desperate people will get relief the desperately need, that very short term fix won’t solve their long term problem. In fact, it will exacerbate their long term problem. Evil will have gained greater leverage.
How might the Jews have compromised with the Holocaust hunting them? How might the Armenians have compromised with the Turks hell bent on slaughtering them? How about the Croats being snipered by the racist Serbs? I could go on.
The people urging compromise with evil have never been subjected to evil. Or, if they have, they’ve sold out as a response — hoping like hell that by selling out, they can avoid the slaughter. Like the Jewish capo’s who worked with the Germans in the Warsaw Ghetto — offering to fill the railroad cars bound for the camps themselves. These Judenrats — Jewish councils — did all of Hitler’s dirtiest work for him — and then got tossed onto the same pile of bodies anyway.
All compromise bought was a little time — at the expense of one’s soul.
That’s a terrible deal.
It’d be like compromising with Donald Trump — and letting him inside your house to harangue you (while infecting you and your entire family).
Only a fool — or, apparently, an American journalist — would do such a thing.
Why, oh why, can’t America’s news media tell the Donald Trump story? In their defense, there is a lot of the Trump story to tell and it’s always happening at breakneck speed. There are Constitutional violations, violations of decency, outright racism, sexism and bigotry, lies about the coronavirus and his criminally inept response to it. There’s outright treason and all-around insanity. With so much to keep track of, maybe what our broadcast news outlets should do — if only for themselves — is run a “Previously On…” sequence before they start any new reporting on Trump.
The “Previously On” sequence has become a staple of serialized television storytelling. Here’s what you need to know from past episodes so that THIS episode will make sense. The storytellers dip into the AGGREGATED storyline to remind the audience WHAT THEY ALREADY SHOULD KNOW. America’s news media (especially its broadcast news media) has made a total hash of covering Donald Trump specifically because it can’t even remind itself what it knows about the story they’ve been covering now for five freaking years.
A lot of us watch MSNBC and CNN less for the news itself than for how the Fourth Estate acquits itself. Journalism is the only non-governmental job mentioned in the Constitution — as our final check on power. Imagine having a story this amazing to tell! Imagine being this bad at telling it. How the hell does that even happen?
How can a network that has smart, quick minds like Nicolle Wallace, Rachel Maddow, Ali Velshi and JoyAnn Reid — the whole Trump story clearly in their heads — also put dullards like Meet The Press host Chuck Todd and Weekend host Alex Witt on its air? How can Nicolle be so far ahead of the story while Alex is so far behind it?
It’s strange to, in essence, know certain things when Nicolle’s on the air then know nothing as soon as Alex Witt slips into the hosting chair. Nicolle would never ask any of the questions Alex asks because, in essence, Nicolle’s already asked them — asked them (when the details were fresh), established new details as facts then built on those facts to advance the narrative. Alex Witt, meanwhile, asks generic questions that suggest she’d be shocked to learn what her colleague there at the news network knew a week ago.
How is that possible? How can one news show on a news network be fully up to date with important details that the very next show up seems to know nothing about? The result of this “some know, some don’t” dynamic is that — from the audience’s point of view — we can never be sure of what we know because even the news networks refuse to ever be sure about it.
If you were watching a new, serialized TV show that never played a “previously on” sequence and, instead, kept taking the show back to a kind of “Square One” to begin each episode, after a while, the audience would bail out of sheer frustration with the storytellers. Tell the story or get out of the way.
What a “previously on” sequence also does is create context within context. Context is our news media’s kryptonite. But then, our news media still believes “both sides do it”. They can hardly even spell “context”.
It is immoral to equate Truth with bullshit. Yet that is what the bulk of our news media does every day. They equate the stone cold facts of what Donald Trump has done and is doing to our democracy with the utter bullshit of his denials.
But, on MSNBC, their White House stenographer, Kelly O’Donnell reported that Trump vigorously denied saying any such thing.
What are we, the news audience, to make of this? On the one hand — solid reporting of a newsworthy transgression by a president dedicated to committing transgressions. That’s also a president newsworthy because he lies about literally everything. On the other hand? Kelly O’Donnell insisting that Trump says it isn’t so. Zero context from Kelly about, you know, all the other stuff the rest of us know already.
Kelly O’Donnell wants us to accept what she’s telling us as truth — or a possible truth — that Donald Trump never said what all those witnesses said he said. In the face of the Truth, Kelly O’ wants us to believe that bullshit could still be true.
That is immoral. And that is the problem with far too much American journalism.
When we finally begin to put what’s left of America back together again, we need to launch an investigation into who or what started “both sides do it” journalism.
Trump couldn’t have done what he did to the country without the full-on complicity of nearly the entire Republican Party. And the GOP couldn’t have done what it did — allow Trump to take America to the brink of catastrophe — without the news media cutting them all the slack they needed to drive us here.
It’s understood that covering Trump is unlike covering anyone else. He’s deeply sociopathic, a narcissist’s narcissist, incapable of any sort of self analysis. He’s utterly shameless. And willfully cruel — even to his own family. He says anything that comes to his mind, no matter how outrageous and untrue. But then, none of that is a secret.
The press has reported it since he slithered down that golden escalator into the lobby of Trump Tower and insisted that “Mexicans are rapists”.
That, of course, is not true. Virtually nothing Trump says about himself is true — except perhaps that he has a thing for young girls. And his own daughter.
Trump wasn’t “kidding” when he said that, by the way. Trump can’t kid. He can’t joke about things because he has no sense of humor. When Trump does “make jokes”, he’s not actually “making jokes” — he’s bullying. The tell whether you have a sense of humor or not is “can you laugh at yourself?” If the answer is no — as it absolutely is with Trump — you have no sense of humor.
It is a false narrative to ever say Trump is joking therefore. But then, Trump is a collection of false narratives and, for some reason, our news media prefers false narratives to real, verifiable ones.
“Donald Trump, Successful Businessman” is verifiably untrue. Yet our news media chose to accept that false narrative without checking it out. Checking it out would have meant acting like a news organization and doing some scut work. Kind of like how Fusion GPS did after the republican-owned, Jeb Bush supporting Washington Free Beacon hired them to do oppo research on Donald Trump. Fusion was co-founded by two former Wall Street Journal reporters.
What Fusion saw, Simpson testified, convinced them that Trump had, at the very least, used his (now bankrupt) Atlantic City casinos to launder Russian mob money. To violate the law.
Worst of all — Fusion saw that Trump was deeply compromised in ways that made him vulnerable to Russia. No one with half a brain thinks Russia wants anything good for us. Matter of fact, we already know that Putin has drawn up plans for cyber war against us. Gosh, if all the journalists working the Trump beat had been aggregating everything they know (from their own reporting) about Trump, he’d already by in federal prison.
We know Trump violates the rule of law and the Constitution because we’re watching him do it — in real time! It’s not as if finding Trump’s criminality requires much heavy lifting. FFS, just quote the guy and you’ve got him nailed. When journalists go deep into Trump, they always come up with treasure. The deeper they go, the more valuable the treasure. And yet, they demur… It boggles the mind.
It makes one wonder — why do they refuse to tell Trump’s story? Is it fear of losing access? Trump needs the press way more than the press needs Trump. He knows he can’t rely exclusively on Fox to spread his toxic messaging. That means the press doesn’t have to let Trump frame his story his way. THEY should never have let him do it to begin with. But, going forward, the news media could absolutely frame Trump correctly — based solely on the collective reporting of the American news media.
It’s baffling why a guy like Seth Abramson doesn’t get more news media attention. He’s the ultimate aggregator of the story the news media itself is trying to tell. If only they’d look at the perspective they themselves have created about Trump. Our starting point, every day wouldn’t be “Trump, the normal POTUS, running a normal re-election campaign”, it’d be “Trump, the corrupt, soulless, criminal, impeached president who committed treason to steal his first term in office and now wants to keep committing treason in order to remain in power forever because the moment he stops being POTUS, he’ll be indicted and sued out the wazoo”. That should be where all reporting about Trump BEGINS.
So — how does our news media heal itself?
First, it must open its eyes and truly look at itself. Regardless of whether “both sides do it” infected them in journalism school or later via contact with infected journalists, all journalists need to disavow “both sides do it”. They need to atone for equating skepticism — that thing all journalists are supposed to have in their tool kit — with cynicism. Cynicism assumes that everyone’s a rat bastard who deserves what they get.
That’s bullshit. Not everyone is motivated by self-interest. To brush everyone that way is despicable. Worse, it’s immoral.
Worst of all? It ain’t journalism — not the way journalism needs to be practiced going forward. From here on out, American journalism needs to stop equating political neutrality with neutrality. No one can remain neutral in the face of evil — even at its most banal. If, say, a reporter knows someone is doing something terrible in real time, they are obligated to stop it from happening if they at all possibly can.
Not as a journalist, AS A HUMAN BEING.
Journalists need to remember who and what they are first — before they take on the mantle of “reporter”. They’re humans living amongst other humans in (we hope) a civil society. They need to follow those rules first.
They’re also Americans — whose interests, while diverse, also hew to a particular set of rules. Citizenship doesn’t just come with benefits — voting, an American passport (for what that’s worth these days) — also it comes with responsibilities. Voting. But also an obligation to stand up for the rule of law. It can’t stand up for itself, you see.
We The People need to be the rule of law’s guardian. We need to defend it because that’s what our whole system of government is based on: a mutual understanding of the rules that keep us from killing each other. Journalists aren’t just another segment of We The People — which they are part of — they’re also charged with being the last check on power. That’s what it says in the Constitution; journalists are the only actual “job” enumerated in the Constitution. Journalists have a double obligation. But then, they chose journalism as much as it probably chose them.
Because we failed to prosecute or enforce the rule of law equally, the rule of law seems to have broken down. It hasn’t. We’re the thing that’s broken down. The moment we go back to enforcing the rule of law (this time properly)? It will begin to work for us. So long as we don’t extend any special treatment to anyone, just by enforcing the rule of law again, we’ll feel our sails begin to fill with forward momentum toward justice. If we can get there, not only will we fulfill our mutual obligation to give every single one of us the same chance to achieve our maximum potential, we’ll have helped America achieve the potential it aspired to back at its founding — minus all that white, Christian, European male Chauvinism that hogged all that potential for itself.
A Great Moral Reckoning is coming to America. It sure would be nice to see our news media actually riding that wave — atop its crest even. The way they’re going right now, they’ll be watching it from the shore.
Quick — who are the most popular journalists at MSNBC? By journalists, I mean people capable of working journalistically because they’ll back up everything they say with receipts?
Joy Reid just premiered her show The ReidOut to huge ratings. Rachel Maddow’s interview of Mary Trump killed everything else on TV the night it aired. Nicolle Wallace — once Sarah Palin’s handler — has become a beacon of clear-eyed, ethical reportage. None of them shies away from the “political bent” their journalism clearly favors — that is, by telling the story correctly, with full perspective, the story forces them to certain conclusions the facts spell out. Those conclusions — in the current environment — support one side’s arguments over the other not because they’re politically better but because one argument is moral and the other is immoral.
Those three women — plus Ali Velshi — represent a kind of journalism that doesn’t seek to take sides but, now that it knows what it knows, it must START from a place that “appears” to support one side only in that so does the truth. The truth supports only one side here — because only one side in this argument HAS “a side”. Bullshit and lies are not one “side” of an argument. They’re an attempt to de-legitimesize the argument as a whole. To give them any sort of credence is to say “Okay, but what if bullshit was true?”
That’s a false dichotomy since bullshit is never true. We shouldn’t have to consider the possibilities of doing things because “bullshit says” because why would anyone listen to bullshit in the first place?
“Both sides do it” journalists, that’s who.
“Both sides do it” journalism is corporate journalism’s answer to any sort of burgeoning advocacy journalism. “Don’t get on your high horse,” it wants to tell advocacy journalism, about the injustice it wants to actively engage, “Democrats ‘do it too’.” What they’re equating — if there’s anything to equate — is “Republicans are corrupt” but “so are Democrats”. Republicans may be corrupt on a scale that dwarfs anything any Democrat could even imagine but if even one Democrat behaves corruptly?
Both sides do it.
So — there’s no point in seeing Democrats’ reacting to Republicans behaving criminally for what it is since (the theory says) Democrats behave just as criminally (both sides do it). Therefore, Democrats are just behaving politically. And just like that — following the rule of law becomes a political act.
Fox News has been acting as the GOP’s propaganda arm forever and everyone knows it. They even say it out loud. Fox News regularly practices advocacy journalism. So long as we all understand that that’s true? I, for one, don’t have a problem. I’m all for MSNBC owning outright its left-leaning nature. Remember — if leaning left wasn’t paying off for MSNBC, they wouldn’t be doing it. Leaning left DOES pay off. We may not deliver the zombie numbers of Fox viewers but (in a normal economy), left-leaning viewers are further up the purchasing power food chain.
Remember: most major buying decisions in American households are made by women. Piss them off and they’ll stop buying your products. That’s what big advertisers like Coca Cola recognized a few years ago when they told Fox News they would no longer advertise on Bill O’Reilly’s prime time show. Coca Cola knew from research that if they did stick with O’Reilly, a big chunk of their customers would stop buying their products because Bill O’Reilly had a habit of abusing women and sexually abusing women. The 21st Century Fox board knew it had no choice but to kill its cash cow. To have kept O’Reilly would have been far more expensive.
Perversely, that was an example of the roots of advocacy journalism — wanting to do the right thing — catching up to Fox News via its board room.
The “Right Thing” exists. It’s real and it’s doable. It applies to ordinary citizens and our politicians. It applies to journalists, too. Freedom after all is not free. It can’t be because nothing is free. The cost of being free is having responsibilities and obligations TO that freedom. These aren’t abstract debts — they’re real. If you don’t pay your debt, your obligation will soon overwhelm you.
American journalism also has an obligation — the one enumerated in the first amendment — to be the final check on power. That, all by itself, is advocacy journalism. Right is being advocated over might.
In other parts of the world — England, for instance — where newspaper cultures still exist, it’s understood that The Daily Telegraph and the Times Of London are right-leaning if not entirely right wing newspapers while The Guardian and The Independent have a more progressive bent. In other words — the editorial slant of the papers is well known up front. The journalism stands on its own — though the stories they pursue do answer their call toward progressivism. So long as a journalistic source makes that clear up front?
Then they have no other explaining to do to justify their work and their conclusions. You can measure their investigations and work against their politics and make up your own mind as to how much their politics colored their investigation. If, however, the investigation is well-documented? That fact should speak loudest.
While Progressive advocacy journalism will absolutely have a political sheen to it, everything below the sheen is real. That’s the nature of advocacy journalism because what advocacy journalism is always advocating for: the Truth.
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.