Our News Media Doesn’t Understand What “Integrity” Is (Or Why It Matters)

The Importance of Integrity in Business | FreshBooks Blog

Everyone is born with the same amount of integrity: one hundred percent. As we drop from the womb, we haven’t betrayed any principles yet, haven’t gotten lazy when intellectually challenged, haven’t let anyone down. If we “say” we’re hungry that’s what we mean. If we say we’ve pooped or peed ourselves, we have! If we’re sad or lonely or happy as a clam, we’ll broadcast that fact as loudly and clearly as we can. We are as honest as we’re ever going to be. Then we go out into the world and one of the first things we learn how to do is be less honest. Part of that’s just what it takes to get through a day filled with different kinds of relationships. A certain amount of truthiness goes with being human and living in a human society. But, there is a line. People who take on “important jobs”, work that could genuinely mean life or death to others (airline pilots, physicians, police officers for instance) can be less than honest with their romantic partners, but we need them to be totally honest with their passengers, patients or perps. Would you allow a surgeon with questionable integrity to slice into you?

Me neither.

Integrity is like a balloon made of platinum. As solid as it seems, it’s easily punctured. And once punctured. it’s irreparable. If Donald Trump had a radical change of heart (and character — let’s pretend okay?) and suddenly (on the inside) became absolutely honest, would we believe him? Certainly not. And, ironically, the more Trump pled his newfound honesty, the more dishonest we’d be sure he was. That’s what happens when you bust a cap in your integrity. It dies. And the world’s perception of you solidifies: you are a liar. If Trump could keep up the act, not just insisting he was honest but actually being that way, perhaps in a few years, our skepticism would begin to subside. To the degree that one’s integrity can be repaired, the process moves as slowly as nerve regeneration in humans. Glaciers can beat it in a foot race.

And yet, our news media regularly restores the broken integrity of the very least deserving. Richard Nixon was a criminal — full stop. At the very least, Watergate should have fixed Nixon in our collective understanding as a man with zero integrity. Of course Nixon himself would want to restore his integrity — or bamboozle others into thinking he (somehow) still had some integrity to trade on. Why would our news media want to help him though? Better question: why would our news media want to put ITS integrity on the line for someone their own reporting established had none? I don’t think it’s because our journalists don’t have integrity, I think it’s because they simply don’t know (or maybe even care) what it is.

“Both sides do it” brand journalism conflates skepticism with cynicism. Suddenly everyone becomes a variation on a theme : the lust for political power. Regardless of what they actually do or say, so goes the thinking, their motives are all exactly the same. From this vantage point, NO ONE has integrity. How can they when (per the journalist doing the reporting) everyone’s hedging or gaming everyone else? This simply isn’t the case. Progressives don’t want what conservatives want; they don’t want to live in a past where white, Christian men had all the power and money — the very thing conservatives want to conserve. Progressives will tell you openly that they want a rising tide to float every possible boat. Conservatives, on the other hand, will lie to you about just about everything because, they know, if they told America the truth about them — about their motives — they’d be in jail already.

When our news media gets up on its hind legs and insists that Mitch McConnell or Kevin McCarthy or Mark Meadows or Devin Nunes or Bill Barr or Mike Pence or Chuck Grassley or Susan Collins or Jim Jordan or Marjorie Taylor Greene or Brett Kavanaugh or Steve Bannon or Ted Cruz or anyone in the Trump clan is an “honest actor”, they’re committing journalistic malpractice. They’re labeling criminals as honest then demanding why Democrats won’t negotiate with them. But, even when our news media reports actual acts of treason — based on hard evidence they themselves have vetted — they refuse to connect the dots their reporting suggests do connect.

Example: On June 25, 2016, current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy walks into a meeting of GOP leaders — a month before the GOP will nominate Trump to be their presidential candidate. They know Trump’s candidacy is inevitable. McCarthy is worried however because he fears that Trump is corrupt: “There’s two people I think Putin pays,” he says, “Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!” No one in the room balks at the thought. There’s nervous laughter — that’s what motivates McCarthy to insist “Swear to God!” He wants to be taken seriously. He wants his news to be taken seriously. But, then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan asserts his “leadership”. He shuts down the conversation. They’re not going to discuss this secret; instead, they’re going to keep it — this knowledge that a hostile foreign government has compromised the man they’re going to nominate to be POTUS. “That’s how we know we’re family,” says Speaker Ryan, third in line to the presidency himself.

No one in the room questioned these accusations of Trumpian criminality. No one doubted that they were possible. And no one insisted they they should — per their oaths of office to uphold the Constitution — call the FBI to warn them. The total amount of integrity in that room by the time the conversation finished? Absolute zero.

Has anyone in the news media gone back to revisit these shocking accusations — and the even more shocking acceptance of them? To be fair, yeah — a few intrepid reporters have questioned Kevin McCarthy about “There’s two people I think Putin pays”. Kevin insisted he was just joking — and that (as always) ends the discussion even though it’s demonstrable that Kevin McCarthy (like Donald Trump) has no sense of humor. Bullies, as an absolute rule, NEVER have a sense of humor. It’s part of why they’re bullies. Oh, sure — bullies can laugh. But bullies (think Donald Trump) never laugh with others (except other bullies), they always laugh AT others. See the difference?

Since then, Kevin’s reported-upon statement has sat in the Trump-Russia evidence room, gathering dust. That’s a reflection of our news media’s integrity or lack thereof.

I’m old enough to remember how connecting Trump to Russia only ever got you rolling eyes in response. Same goes for describing Trump and the GOP as authoritarians and fascists. As we stand here today, those who correctly spotted the GOP’s authoritarian and fascist leanings were right: they still have their integrity on the subject. Those who shrugged off what the Republicans were/are doing? I’m not sure I’d ask their advice on a lunch order any more. I wouldn’t trust their taste as I wouldn’t trust they were telling me the truth. It’s not just Republicans whose integrity has been destroyed by Trumpism. Silence in the face of this attack is tacit complicity.

Anyone complicit in this coup d’etat blew up their integrity a long time ago.

When Trump openly told his four underlings NOT to cooperate with the January 6 Truth Commission, he openly committed a crime. Citizen Trump doesn’t have the authority President Trump had to say such a thing without criminal liability. It’s not a question whether or not Trump did this thing — he deliberately broadcast it as part of his strategy. That doesn’t legitimize it. It should, instead, make prosecuting this bloated orange pirate a thousand times easier. But, that would demand that our news media stop reporting Trump as a politician and start reporting him as what he is: a stone cold criminal in the middle of a treasonous crime spree.

I wish it were possible to buy our news media some integrity. Hell, they need it so desperately, I’d even steal it for them.

Who In Their Right Mind Would Vote Republican When Voting Republican Gets You Killed?

Politics in America make little sense because too much of our “common wisdom” thinks everyone does everything for entirely political reasons completely divorced from any desire to actually govern. That “common wisdom” is deeply cynical and deeply conservative — as all “common wisdom” is, coming, as it does, from either long held knowledge or just long held traditions pretending to be knowledge. I don’t know if American politics have always been this cynical (I suspect it has been) but the presence of cynicism also marks the presence of a very real divide. The much LARGER group — on the other side of that divide? They aren’t cynical. They don’t think the worst of everyone. They absolutely experience the same intense gravity from the same tribal pull but, having lived in a diverse culture, they recognize that E Pluribus Unum is the cure for all that. Out of many, one.

Please, let’s be straight up here (like it was a question): only one side in this “conversation” we’re having about America’s future sees diversity as a threat to their hegemony. White people have held political power (and, hence, da money) from the get-go. That’s not because the great idea they spun said that’s how it was supposed to be (the great idea says, literally “all men are created equal” and not “all men who look exactly like us”), that’s because the MEN who crafted these founding documents were flawed (of course they were flawed — they were the male of the human species!). They came from a Northern European culture that mistook the advantages their pathogens gave them as cultural superiority. It wasn’t Christian virtue that laid low the heathens of North America, it was small pox. Thus is cynicism born.

The very idea of “E Pluribus Unum” makes “originalism” bullshit. Originalism is itself a pathogen. It’s the racist mis-step at America’s founding given a deceptive branding. Think about what originalism is really insisting — that how America IS should reflect only what its white, Christian, male founding FATHERS were thinking when they drafted our founding documents. We must accept their world and their world view warts as our world view regardless of any or all changes to our knowledge or thinking caused by our subsequent history. We must accept that this country’s founders understood the “Pluribus” of E Pluribus Unum to be exclusively white people. Originalism is an attempt to excuse and justify racism. It is pure cynicism (as racism is).

But, our news media — lacking perspective — doesn’t see originalism as racism. They see originalism (as they see racism) as a legitimate opinion even if (in the case of racism), it’s an opinion the racist insists isn’t his. It may be an opinion journalists pooh-pooh as offensive — but, considering that their measure of a racist is whether or not a racist owns his racism — that’s really all the current journalistic culture thinks racism is — an unfortunate opinion about other people that good people shouldn’t have. “Common wisdom” therefore says you can ask someone “Hey, are YOU a racist?” and whatever their answer is — that’s the truth we should all accept about them. They would know if they’re a racist, right? And they’d be honest about it!

This is how cynicism “thinks”. From the inside. It’s a rabbit hole constructed entirely of bullshit. And all bullshit is ultimately toxic.

Outside that cynical rabbit hole filled with “common wisdom” and bullshit, that’s where the rest of us live. We watch our news media report on that rabbit hole like IT was reality. We watch them constantly get our story wrong because they’re not reporting our reality.

As with most cynicism, a nugget of truth gets colored all one way. Americans do not vote en masse in mid-term elections the way they do in presidential elections. Except when they DO vote en masse in mid-terms as Americans did in 2018. They also vote en masse — contrary to “common wisdom” — in special elections like the one in Georgia that put two Democrats in the Senate. Our news media really didn’t see that coming because they — being cynical — thought the worst of Georgia’s electorate. When our news media tells us what terrible voters we are, we tend to behave like terrible voters. When they tell us we’re good voters, well — they’re usually behind that curve.

Why did Americans lose their civic pride? Why did Americans stop educating themselves about their own government when their form of government DEMANDS their participation — and therefore their education in HOW to self-govern? Self governing still doesn’t come naturally to human beings. It’s something we have to work at — hard. But you have to keep reminding yourself of all the steps it takes. It’s not unlike playing tennis. Want to have a good ground stroke? It’s all about the fundamentals regardless of the ball coming at you. If all you do is react to the ball — rather than attack it fundamentally, the will will own you. Your ground stroke will be late and it will suck.

Democracy is a contact sport that demands our involvement if we want it to work. And the overwhelming majority of Americans WANT democracy to work. We don’t understand the question, in fact. In fact, we don’t want — and did not vote for — the authoritarian alternative the Republicans and their Russian pals imposed upon us in 2016. Here again, it’s the originalists who are dancing with Russia because even though Russia is a hostile foreign government, all-white originalism lines up with all white Russia and Vladimir Putin’s dreams of a renewed Crusades to take back the Holy Land. Think that’s nuts? It’s for real. Ask Steve Bannon. It’s why Bannon had no issue with Donald Trump hitching America’s wagon to Russia’s: because Steve’s bizarre, Jesus-was-a-white-guy version of Christianity says this must be.

Ah, but the “common wisdom” — even though it heard Bannon and reported on Bannon and even talked about Bannon in their talking head discussions — says this is “just how it is!” Of course certain Republicans think like this and, when in power, of course they do everything they can to manifest their craziness in our reality. Can you feel the cynicism?

Through nearly a year of Trump’s candidacy, four years of his presidency and, now, nearly nine months of his post-presidency, our news media has treated this abomination as if it was normal. As perverse and outlandish as Trumpian pronouncements could be, our news media — rather than saying “Hey, that’s really perverse and outlandish — I’m digging in my heels right here!”, shrugged their shoulders and willingly moved on from “Mexicans are rapists” to “Pussy grabbing” – and then to “But, her emails!” because THAT, suddenly, became the story. As we know, there was zero “there” there. And it’s not as if our news media rushed back to their previous outrage to defend either Mexicans or women or any American.

A lot of “common wisdom” stays that way not because it’s wise but because people keep repeating it. “Common wisdom” doesn’t know what to do with people being woke because “common wisdom” — being conservative — cannot tolerate wokeness; all new information threatens the old information’s validity. If some of that “old information” is “white guys are superior to everyone else and therefore deserve to govern and have all the money”, well, you can see how those believing it would be mightily threatened by those who don’t. That, in a nutshell, is America’s dilemma. The rich white, Christian men are unwilling to share power or money. Like Charlton Heston’s gun, it will have to be plucked from their cold, dead fingers. Metaphorically speaking, of course

From the moment our news media finally agreed that Joe Biden fairly and squarely beat Trump — while taking back the Senate — they’ve pointed to the “common wisdom” that off year elections are always catastrophic for the newly elected president. Yes, that’s based on plenty of history. But none of that history is remotely like now.

That’s another of “common wisdom’s” blind spots — the assumption that nothing ever changes. That we live in a constant whose circumstances repeat endlessly. That is the world conservatives dream of. It’s the world they want to bamboozle us all into thinking “is”. It isn’t. Human beings evolve and change and adapt. And they get woke, too.

The moment Trump became potus, America changed. Rather, change was forced upon America and either we were going to accept that change — a right wing power grab aided by a hostile foreign power actively engaged in a cyber war against us — or we were going to reject it. This is the stone cold realpolitik reality. A fearful white minority is trying to hold onto power forever via permanent minority rule. Elements of this fearful mindset have been actively suppressing Democratic voters and gerrymandering elections for a generation at least, the point being to deny the diverse majority its rightful vote and voice.

Only white people could possibly look at the current political landscape and think “do nothing”. Literally every other group is more keenly aware than ever of the threat white people pose to them and to the very notion of America. But, alas, that sentiment, true as it is, flies in the face of the “common wisdom” that says 2022 is an off year election so therefore give it to the Republicans because that’s how it always is.

Yo, America’s news media — trust me on this: nothing about the Trump candidacy, presidency or post presidency is or was normal. That’s not “just because”. It’s because Trump entered the political stage already an international criminal compromised by other international criminals. The Republican Party itself KNEW before they formally nominated Trump that this was true. They said so out loud amongst themselves. As current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy put it in 2016 at a leadership meeting held a month before the party nominated Trump: “There’s two people I think Putin pays – Rohrbacher and Trump – swear to God!” That, American News Media, is not NORMAL. Doing nothing in the face of such an accusation by one’s own party? NOT NORMAL!

In fact, cynical. To report such a story — as the Washington Post did a year later, its reporter having heard the RECORDING of the meeting — and not follow up until the question gets answered: why did everyone in that room of GOP leaders agree to keep this terrible information “in the family” rather than call the FBI to report it? Want to know how every Republican in the room could persist and how our news media could report it and not become laser focused on getting to the bottom of it? Cynicism.

If our news media were doing the job imagined for them in the Constitution, they’d be We The People’s final line of defense against unbridled political power. They wouldn’t be political power’s propagandist of choice. That’s what access journalism (the brand practiced too often during the Trump years) creates: news compromised by the access required to get that “news”. It becomes “sales” instead.

I dare the news media to point at one positive benefit voting Republican could do for anyone except for indulging their hatefulness and ignorance. Would voting Republican in Florida or Texas or South Dakota alleviate the pandemic’s onslaught on those mask and vaccination mandate-free states? No, in fact, continuing to vote Republican will exacerbate this tragedy. Yet, cynically, our news media insists that — because 2022 is a mid-term election, Americans will “naturally” pull the lever for Republicans because “we need something different!” or “the other party is more motivated”. True, Trumpanistas may feel motivated — but that’s only if they’re not dying from COVID-19 as more and more now are. To assert — because “common wisdom” — that stupid, sick Americans will show up en masse while healthy, woke Americans won’t is to mis-read the landscape even worse than the news media did in 2018. If you go back and look at the “video tape” of 2018, our news media were determined that Donald Trump was going to win that night big.

He did not. In fact, the exact opposite happened, “common wisdom” notwithstanding.

In the “common wisdom’s” defense, it’s easy to keep in your pocket, even easier to pull out and put down on the table. No one ever was called out because they went with the common wisdom. Until now. There’s a terrible “come to Jesus” moment in our news media’s future. We The People will absolutely prevent the Republican Party from destroying American democracy because doing that is in our best interest while succumbing to the GOP’s authoritarian power grab isn’t. Life’s really that simple. While, sure, fascism overcame even the “good Germans” as it took over Germany, Germany was almost entirely homogenous. Everyone succumbing to Hitler’s totalitarianism was German going back a thousand years. Going along to get along with the tribe was hard-wired. Fascism didn’t work as successfully in France because the French — after a thousand years of becoming French — don’t act the same way.

America presents an entirely different set of circumstances especially since the majority of Americans are NOT part of the same tribe, or even the same culture. Our culture is still very much in its formative stages in large part because something like America — where all these cultures come together, some blending, others not — has never happened before in human history. E Pluribus Unum never happened before. And E Pluribus Unum is what’s now woke and waking up more and more.

Our news media doesn’t see it because they still don’t see us. They’re corporate, most of them, don’t forget. They step on set having been educated in a corporate way of thinking (“both sides do it”) and relying on playing the corporate game to keep the money flowing. They’re invested in the “common wisdom” without even knowing it. And, so, they report what (maybe) was as if it was what “is”.

Cynicism cannot tolerate perspective just like perspective cannot tolerate cynicism. Americans cannot tolerate Republicanism the way our bodies cannot tolerate the coronavirus. Like that deadly virus, Republicanism’s goal is to invade a citizen’s soul like a virus invades their cells, turning them into it. The cure is simple: vaccination. Up here in the political sphere, that manifests as information. Perspective. Why would anyone vote for Republicans when voting for them produces nothing good (not even for them)?

They wouldn’t. A news media with perspective would report it that way.