“Previously On” The News…

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”.

There Is Nothing Wrong With Advocacy Journalism — Hell, Our News Media Have Been Doing It For The Right Wing For Years

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.

Since “Republican” Is Now Toxic, What Should “New” Republicans Call Themselves?

From a purely branding point of view, it really sucks to be Republicans right now.

If you’re still a card-carrying member of the GOP, think of all the awful things your brand is now co-branded with — joined at the hip and head like the most freakish conjoined twins ever: overt racism, religious extremism, self-destructive intolerance, backwoods misogyny, Bond Villain corruption and the worst kind of treason — purely cynical treason without an ounce of ideology.

Wow. Pick a side of history and it’s guaranteed the Republicans will run toward the wrong side. That’s also the Republican Brand now: being wrong about everything. But then, this isn’t news to the GOP. Whenever it was that the Koch Brothers decided to use their money to alter American politics — the Will Of The People be damned — that’s really when 2016’s coup d’etat formally began. The extreme Right Wing Money saw demographic extinction on the horizon — white guys would become such a minority that even rich guys and their money couldn’t stop them from losing power. Rich white guys weren’t having it. They got the poor white guys riled up against all those “others”.

Been there, done this. Again and again and again.

The “Republican Party” is about to check into the sarcophagus in the History Of American Political Parties Graveyard right next to the Whigs’ moldy pavilion. I hear the view sucks.

It’s a “Republican Party” as a brand is finished. Its luster won’t improve between now and November 3. In fact, I’ll wager, the worst is yet to come.

Plenty of people with living, breathing consciences have shredded their Republican Party membership cards. In the media, there’s Nicolle Wallace, David Jolley, Steve Schmidt and Jennifer Ruben among others. They’ve all vocally disassociated themselves. They, somehow, can’t comfort themselves with the tax breaks they’ve gotten while the rest of the country is betrayed.

As much as those on the left might love to have a free ride here — where everything we want becomes a wish granted — that’s as unhealthy as letting the right run riot. We know what that feels like. This isn’t a question of compromising with lunatics. We’re talking to reasonable people after all. Even when we disagreed with them vehemently, they were still reasonable people.

This blog is called “How To Live Bullshit Free”. The trick to living bullshit free is understanding that each and every one of us has a mountain of our own bullshit to deal with before we even think about looking at anyone else’s. Some of us have whole mountain ranges of bullshit in front of us. And dealing with your own bullshit isn’t a “one n done” proposition. Bullshit’s like zombies: damned hard to kill. But if you don’t deal with your bullshit, your bullshit will deal with you.

No one wants to be at bullshit’s mercy. It has none. I don’t want to be at yours and, believe me, you do not want to be at the mercy of mine.

I wouldn’t recommend “conservative” because, like “Republican”, the brand’s been destroyed by the people who swore by it. We get it — as their name says, conservatives want to conserve. The problem is what conservatives want to conserve — America circa 1850 when white Christian men (especially those with money) did what they wanted to anyone they wanted.

We’re back to the America Republicans want us to be. Sucks that it’s an America the overwhelming majority of Americans reject out of hand. Throw in a stolen election and this is why even “Conservative Party” would just result in good people dealing with bad marketing when they should be defending their ideas and ideals.

What should these good people call themselves? Normally, I’d be brimming with “helpful suggestions”. Something about this assignment fails to inspire. “Moderate Party”? Sounds dull as dishwater — like a party that hates enthusiasm about anything. “Heal America Party”? Sounds too sanctimonious already — and the moment they craft a platform, they’ll contradict themselves because someone won’t feel “healed”.

What does one call modern “people without a country”? Immigrants.

Mmmmmm… Not seeing “The Immigrant Party”. Not that there shouldn’t be one — and not that such a party (if it really spoke from the heart of the immigrant experience) wouldn’t be a welcome addition as we attempt to make our politics more reflective of us. And it’s not to say that this new party couldn’t speak to or represent people wanting to come here and be new Americans.

This new party is more diverse than that. I bet guys like Michael Steele would join it (he used to run the RNC). If it was moderate enough, I bet a fair number of conservative Democrats would check it out — and feel a fair amount of camaraderie.

The truth is, plenty of older African American voters are “conservative”. That is, they’re skeptical first. They want change but they want to make sure it’s the right change; they’re willing to be patient. They, too, might like this new party.

The same is true of Latinos and Chinese Americans and pretty much every group I can think of. It’s this diversity thing. Politics wouldn’t divide along racial lines if racism hadn’t been one of the country’s founding principles. Not that we can ever completely vent racism’s stink, but now that we’re all staring at it, we stand a better chance of not succumbing to its poison.

You see what I’m seeing here? A party as diverse on the “right” as we’ll have on the “left”.

But I still haven’t answered the question I started with: what to call them?

Maybe it’s not on us to name them. Maybe that’s something they need to do for themselves — pick a word, a short phrase, an icon — that tells us who they are. That speaks from their hearts to ours.

That’s what they’re going to need above all — the capacity to speak to the rest of us because they relate to the rest of us. This new party, I suspect, will better understand that all Americans (minus the 30% – 40% who are Trumpian) understand that we’re pulling the cart in the same direction. The differences are far less than everything we have in common.

And often, our differences are more like “framing” issues. Perspective helps those.

Whatever this new party calls itself — whatever their mission statement — I look forward to sitting down with them and getting down to the hard, serious business of fixing what Donald Trump and the Republican Party did to America.

We’ve got a mountain ahead of us.

“How It Feels To Be Part Of MSNBC’s Audience: A Playlet”

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?

MSNBC: We hate when that happens.

Audience: Welcome to our Brave New World.

And… SCENE!

The Difference Between Bullshit & Horse Shit — And, Yes, There IS A Difference…

I think of “now” as A Golden Age Of Bullshit. And we are the mountaineers bravely climbing Bullshit’s highest peak — the Trump White House.

Humanity has invented and lived through countless Ages of Nonsense, Lies, Rubbish & Self-Delusion. Pick a religion. Add a little dogma. Bam! You have bullshit on your hands now. The Golden Ages are when religionistas take up arms against each other — killing on a grand scale in order to prove that their imaginary friend can kick the other guy’s imaginary friend’s ass.

Bullshit can kill people. Climate deniers use bullshit to justify doing nothing as if “doing nothing” would prove climate change isn’t real. But climate change will happen and destroy human lives regardless of what humans think. Only what humans “DO” can effect or even, hopefully, slow what we humans have done to our own freaking habitat.

We all know bullshit when we see it, smell it, hear it, right? It’s like they used to define pornography. We can’t say quite what it is (it covers so much territory), but we know it when we “experience” it. It’s that distinctive.

Horse shit, by comparison, is milder stuff. Horse shit is your idiot RW uncle at Thanksgiving “Yeah, but”-ing every argument, because he still thinks blaming the Clintons works.

Horse shit is your kid missing curfew and swearing they were caught in traffic.

Horse shit is 60% of all Cable News talking head panels. It’s rubbish — mostly harmless, masturbatory navel gazing done by second tier talent who keep getting air time because there’s so little first tier talent. The other panels are 10% worthwhile conversations (mostly via Nicolle Wallace’s Deadline White House) and 20% outright bullshit.

There are certain regular guests on some of these shows who are especially good at pointing out the dividing line between horse shit & bullshit. Dr. Jason Johnson is always good at laser-lighting it. Elie Mystal is amazing. So’s Zina Maxwell and Anand Giridharadas. Dr. Eddie Glaude articulates the dividing line beautifully. So does Maria Hinojosa.

Hmmmmm… Do ya suppose it’s a coincidence that those most skilled at seeing the difference between horse shit and bullshit have been most beaten up by bullshit? Slavery was/is bullshit. Racism is bullshit. All bigotry is bullshit. All misogyny is bullshit. I’m biased. I’d say pretty much all conservative thinking is bullshit (whereas people thinking conservatives and progressives could ever work together again — that’s just horse shit).

Dear CNN & MSNBC – Virtually All Of Your Talking Head Analysis is RUBBISH Or Worse – Here’s Why

Stop me if this is too familiar: you’re watching a cable news show — they show Trump on the White House lawn pitching bullshit so bullshitty it hurts your ears. They cut back to the studio where the show’s host introduces three or four regulars to poke at what they just heard.

Now, some shows bring real conversations to these segments. Nicolle Wallace’s Deadline White House on MSNBC is consistently excellent. That’s because Nicolle doesn’t suffer bullshit. She doesn’t suffer bullshit guests and she doesn’t suffer bullshit conversations on her show. What a wonderful difference it makes. Put Nicolle (and Lawrence O’Donnell and Rachel Maddow — though she rarely does whole panels, preferring to go one-on-one) off to the side. We’re talking about pretty much everyone else.

Having watched Donald Trump lie egregiously for the gazillionth time, the host will turn to their panel and ask the epitome of the Bullshit Question: “What do you make of this?” They might as well say “The sky’s blue… GO!” Into this shapeless, lazy intellectual void, trudges the Talking Head. They start excitedly chirping — almost verbatim — what Trump said, the equivalent of a chirpy open mic.

Then the Host will ask what they think is a solid follow-up. Why do the think that is? So — a bullshit analyst is about to employ buckets of bullshit to answer a bullshit question. What could go wrong?

The first thing the Talking Head invariably does is put themselves into Donald Trump’s place. Huuuuge mistake. The Talking Head, for starters, isn’t a treasonous, corrupt sociopath like Donald Trump is. The Talking Head has a heart and probably can’t buy their way out of trouble like Trump always has. The Talking Head’s whole way of seeing the world is completely different from Trump’s — but they’ll ignore that fact as they answer “why Donald did it” from THEIR point of view and not Donald’s.

That’s why — bet the ranch on it — every last word they spew will be pure drivel, unconnected to reality (certainly unconnected to Donald Trump’s reality). They’ll chalk the most recent racist rant as Trump’s strategizing or “solidifying his base”. They’ll describe thought processes they can’t back up with any sort of data. They’ll put words in Trump’s mouth that he would never ever say. They’ll characterize Trump as a normal potus doing normal things. Except he’s not.

Donald Trump is a career criminal. He’s a rapist. And a racist and a misogynist and a tax cheat and a money launderer and a fraud, and a charlatan and a con man and a traitor. At the very least, he’s a liar. We have ample proof of it.

Yet, that TV Talking Head will represent what Donald Trump thinks as if he’s never lied in his life. In other words, the TV Talking Head is talking about and analyzing a Trump who doesn’t exist. What, I ask you, is the point?

This isn’t just masturbation, it’s unproductive masturbation. Indeed – what’s the point?

Want to know how to fix it? Watch TV. Watch Nicolle Wallace.

Otherwise, you’re just a bunch of morons on the Titanic, arguing over what time to have dinner tomorrow.

Why America’s News Media Sucks — The “Nicolle Wallace” Exception

By all rights, a left wing loon like me should detest Nicolle Wallace from a thousand miles away. But I adore her. I adore her show, Deadline White House on MSNBC. If you aren’t watching it or listening to it, you’re missing one of the few bright spots in the American News Media firmament — I’m also a Maddow fan, a Lawrence fan, a Joy-Ann Reid fan, an Ali Velshi fan and mostly an Ari Melber fan).

A good news show should be redolent of its host. Bad news shows work the same way of course. Meet The Press Daily is dopey as hell regardless of whether or not Chuck Todd is actually hosting it. I won’t go off on Chuck here — this ain’t about him). Accordingly, Deadline White House seems to flow directly from host Nicolle Wallace’s id.

Before she scored her own show, Nicolle co-hosted a season of ABC talk show The View. Before that she was GWBush’s White House Communications Director then served as a senior advisor for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign — tasked with handling Sarah Palin. She appeared frequently on network and cable news programs as the campaign’s spokesperson and defender. Nicolle has solid Orange County Republican bona fides.

I used to have family down in Orange County. I used to feel — driving down to San Clemente to visit — like we were driving into a strange foreign country with distorted values. That’s how different Republican Orange County felt from Democratic LA. On paper, I should watch Nicolle’s show the way I watch, say Alex Witt or Chuck Todd — with teeth gritted (Alex because she’s so mediocre, Chuck because he’s such a “Both Sides Do It” douche nozzle).

In 2016, Nicolle quit the Republican Party as it went Trumpian. Either the leap spurred something in her or she was always a softer version of an Orange County Republican.

Watching her show these days, if you didn’t know Nicolle’s past — deep in the Republican core — you’d be shocked to learn about it. She sounds so much like… like me. Yes, I’ll own it — I like Nicolle Wallace & her show because I agree with them. But I agree with the politics on a lot of MSNBC’s shows. Strangely, I rarely feel as justified after watching those shows. After watching Deadline White House, I often feel even more justified in my left wing loonie position than when I started.

That’s because Nicolle’s bottom line is receipts. Ya gotta bring receipts. Nicolle’s view of the news and the news landscape is fact-based, not feeling-based. Years of watching her convince me that this matter-of-fact, limited melodrama, relentlessly honest worldview reflects who she is down to her toes. The discussions are almost always smart, informed, savvy, clear-eyed and fearless.

And when it comes to pillorying Donald Trump and every Trumpanista, no one delivers a clean kill the way Nicolle does. She shies away from playing too much Trump on her show. But, when she does and the camera returns to Nicolle’s face — wow.

Sometimes there’s a laugh. It’s so particular, that laugh. It’s the laugh of a woman who knows she’s just had a man bullshit her. It skewers all by itself. But throw in Nicolle’s laser-like eyes — she’s good on camera, too — and you’ve got something that crosses rock solid news analysis with poetry.

When The Time Comes To Give The American MSM Its Report Card For Reporting On Donald Trump – They’re Going To Fail – MISERABLY

Living inside a slow motion train wreck is wearing us out. We can see the catastrophe we’re heading toward. We can see what’s driving us there. But we can’t seem to find where the brakes are — or how to put our foot on them. A big part of what makes the experience so agonizing is the empty-headed way most of the news media has reported and continues to report this story.

Granted — we’ve never had a president before whose election would never have happened if not for the direct actions of a hostile foreign power — our main nemesis no less. Granted, we’ve never had a political party seemingly without any sort of moral compass whatsoever — whose sole mission is to get and hold power forever regardless of the fact that they are a shrinking minority. Granted we’ve never lived through a cyber war before.

The fact that none of those things have happened before should inform how we see, think of and report TrumpWorld. One way — the way our news media did it — is to shrug it all off with “he’s a different kind of potus”. He “speaks his mind directly”. He “goes with his gut”. That is all bullshit. There’s no such thing as “just different”. There’s a reason under-girding “different”: Donald Trump (like the rest of his family) is a CRIMINAL.

At this late date, that shouldn’t be a question. The only reason it is — our news media sucks. Back during the 2016 campaign, conservative web site The Washington Free Beacon hired Fusion GPS to do oppo research on Donald Trump. Fusion was co-founded in 2011 by Glenn R. Simpson, a former investigative reporter and journalist for Roll Call and The Wall Street Journal; Peter Fritsch, former Wall Street Journal senior editor; and former Wall Street Journal journalist Thomas Catan. Meaning — Fusion had rock solid investigative bona fides. They weren’t pikers — and they weren’t raving leftists either.

On November 14, 2017, Glenn Simpson testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Republicans — in total control of Congress at the time, remember — were trying to undermine the integrity of The Steele Dossier. They wanted to show that Fusion was biased; after the Washington Free Beacon stopped paying for Fusion’s research (March 2016), the law firm Perkins Coie, on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, retained Fusion to continue digging into Trump. But Simpson’s story didn’t go along with the GOP’s bogus narrative.

Simpson testified that the first thing Fusion did was its due diligence: they got their hands on every bit of publicly available material on Donald Trump.
They got ahold of every book, magazine or newspaper article, every radio or TV interview. They went to public libraries, scoured book stores and the internet. They looked at everything they could — and what they saw clearly in that publicly available material convinced them that there was enough evidence of Trumpian criminality (money laundering especially via his failed casinos) that it warranted hiring Christopher Steele to do further research.

Chris Steele’s bona fides were equally rock solid. He ran MI6’s Russia desk because he had rock solid contacts in Russia. No one in this part of the equation was doing anything nefarious. They were concerned professionals who’d stumbled upon some terrible truths — and wanted to know HOW true they were.

Fusion GPS and Chris Steele would both get A’s if we were grading them. Well-deserved A’s.

Everything I just wrote is true. It all exists in the public record. I’m just a guy tapping away on his keyboard. The American news media is supposed to be in the business of doing this as part of its standard operating procedure. Doing research should be as automatic as breathing to a journalist. That’s research on both the micro and macro levels. As much as journalists need to get all the deep-down details they can, they need to contextualize those details.

It’s all very good to know everything about one grain of sand. That knowledge becomes almost useless however if you’ve no idea on what beach — in what country, on what continent — that grain of sand sits. Our news media suffers from that exact lack of perspective. They love to bore in on the poll numbers (as useless as they are this far out) and the horse race even as the race track burns down around them.

The main culprit — no revelation of course — “both sides do it” journalism. When every opinion has to be met with its diametric opposite (regardless of its actual validity), bullshit gets a place on the talking heads panel. Perfect example — climate change. When the MSM puts a climate scientist next to a climate denier on its air — in a 50-50 shot, they are making the false (visual) statement that these two positions are total equals. It doesn’t matter how much bullshit the climate denier spews, it will play as legitimate — because that’s how the visual language works.

When two unequal points of view get reported as equal, a false narrative begins — and begins by completely mis-framing our political debate on the subject. No wonder nothing gets solved. We’re always focused on problems that don’t actually exist.

Instead of informing its audience, our news media continues to obscure the truth. They seem incapable of adding information as they get it — then using that new information to expand our knowledge base — which they should use to continue building the story. But our MSM never adds information to the knowledge base. They keep ignoring what they know in favor of what they knew. They keep going back, in essence, to Square One.

Lack of perspective is one thing — willfulness to avoid having perspective is malpractice. How do you explain a Kelly O’Donnell? NBC’s White House reporter, Kelly’s not an amateur. She’s been working a long time as a journalist. And yet… Watch any of her stand-up — any — and Kelly will demonstrate a shocking lack of perspective. She reports what Donald Trump says as if you could take every word to the bank.

We know that’s not true. But there’s Kelly — steno pooling whatever Trump said as if it formed the basis for how we should think of the world — never mind that it was framed by a liar, a thief, a traitor.

Kelly’s not alone. That’s the massive problem. There are isolated journalists doing yeoman’s work everyday to try and enlighten their own fellow journalists as well as the larger audience. It’s physically painful to watch a Chris Matthews talk over David Corn because Chris can’t see the bigger, darker picture David is talking about. Chris still thinks — all evidence to the contrary — that Trump has a strategy — that he’s every bit the master of industry Mark Burnett says he is.

It physically hurts, I tell ya.

What won’t hurt is giving the MSM the grades it deserves. We’ll accept that the “good ones” will have been filtered out. Joy Reid gets a good grade. Rachel Maddow does and Lawrence O’Donnell. Ari Melber flirts with good grades but he has a bad habit of asking “benefit of the doubt” questions that flirt with absurdity. That only ever gives bullshit credence — it’s a bad habit, Ari. Trust me on this.

The valedictorian of the class — A+ all the way — is Nicolle Wallace. Her show Deadline White House is consistently smart, biting, deeply skeptical and funny. The big irony — Nicolle was a lifelong Republican until the Trump Age. Her fidelity to Truth in the Trump Age gives me hope. It pains me however when Nicolle hands MSNBC’s air over to Chuck Todd.

Then I’m reminded — the whole rest of the class gets an “F”. A giant “F” — for failure… and feckless… and futile… and flawed… and “for what?”

If you want to be journalists, BE JOURNALISTS. If you just like being on television — go away. Let me revise that: Take your “F” and go away.