America’s News Media Failed America The Same Way Their Imaginations Failed Them

Failure of imagination is a very real thing.  We’re living in its shadow so it must be real.

Remember the fable about the ant and the grasshopper?  The Grasshopper’s happy because there’s food aplenty right now so why not hang out?  Why work like the Ant is — gathering food for the winter?  The Grasshopper’s problem isn’t laziness.  When he needs to eat, he’ll go eat.

His problem is he can’t imagine that there’ll be a tomorrow — and tomorrow, he might NOT have all the food he has now.  The Ant almost can’t deal with what “is” he’s so obsessed with what might be or could be his future.

When the talking heads on pretty much any American cable news show start yammering away at each other — wondering why, say, Donald Trump has such a beta dog relationship with Vlad Putin — they’ll entertain the possibility that they don’t know why it is.  They’ll also entertain the possibility that it’s completely innocent — so they’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

But there’s a third very distinct possibility in the mix that keeps getting short shrift or NO shrift:  Trump kowtows relentlessly to Vladimir Putin because Putin owns him outright.  Though Lawrence O’Donnell was forced to retract his single-sourced story last night that Trump hides his tax returns to hide the fact that Russian oligarchs co-signed his Deutsche Bank loans — it was too soon to report it (that’s what we’ll have to live with until it’s fully proven) — no one is saying or thinking “Gosh, I wonder if that means the whole story is screwed up!” 

When Fusion GPS’s Glenn Simpson testified before Congress (remember when the GOP was trying to undermine every bit of the Steele Dossier’s integrity?), he described how Fusion, upon being hired to do the oppo research on Donald Trump (hired, remember by the conservative Washington Free Beacon, Jeb Bush supporters), they first did their due diligence.  They got ahold of everything they could that even just mentioned Donald Trump in passing.  They got & read every magazine article, newspaper article, saw or listened to every radio and TV interview.  To find that material, Fusion did what any ONE of us could do all by ourselves — they bought, rented, borrowed from the library.

What Fusion found, doing its due diligence, convinced them that Trump had been mixed up with Russian mobsters for years.  And, being good journalists by training, Fusion grokked that if Trump was messing with Russian mobsters, he was likely dirty as hell.

So, Glenn Simpson testified, they hired Chris Steele to do the deep dive because no one had the Russian bona fides that Chris Steele had — he was the Russia desk at MI6.  Steele’s integrity as an investigator was well known to American investigators including the FBI.  The FBI had hired Steele when they after FIFA’s Sepp Blatter for corruption.  They knew Steele was a pro. Everyone did.

That America’s news media still can’t handle the Steele Dossier — most don’t get how different the intelligence world is from the “real” world.  The idea of “raw intel” freaks them out because it’s so grey and their world is so black and white.  Intelligence analysis requires Big Picture thinking.  You have to see what’s there knowing a whole lot of the picture is missing.  You’ll never “see it” but you’ll need to know what it probably is; you’ll have to IMAGINE IT.

That’s the leap most American journalists can’t seem to make.  Maybe their Normalcy Bias Blinders are bolted on too tightly. 

More likely they simply lack the imagination to think of it — until it’s already happened or happening.  Then, what a coincidence, it’s the most natural thing in the world to them.

Our news media’s lack of imagination (best expressed by the question “What do YOU make of this?”) has metastasized into an outright cancer.  The preponderance of the evidence says Trump’s a liar — our news media still faithfully report every word he says without prefacing it with “This is probably a lie but the POTUS said it so we’re telling YOU what he said”.  The preponderance of the evidence says Trump’s a racist — yet our News Media still asks if Trump is a racist; they’ll even report him insisting he’s the least racist human on the planet with a straight face. 

The preponderance of the evidence says Trump’s a rapist and a thief and a fraud.  The preponderance of the evidence says Trump owes Vlad Putin big.  The preponderance of the evidence says Trump and his whole corrupt family are traitors.

We will get there — to the Big Reveals.  One way or another, we’ll get there.  And each time, huge swaths of our News Media will be shocked to their socks by the revelations.  They shouldn’t be shocked.

They wouldn’t be.

If they had any imagination.

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Dear American News Media: It’s Gut Check Time… Are You Up To It?

I’ll admit it straight up.  I’m a “news addict”.  I keep my office TV tuned to the news (mainly MSNBC) most of my waking hours.  In between I’m tuned in to the same place via satellite radio and my phone.  I dare not look away.

I don’t watch for the news — except for the “breaking news” when it first breaks (and not for the subsequent five hours of its “breaking”).  I watch because I’m a concerned citizen deeply concerned that the Fourth Estate is not living up to its Constitutionally mandated responsibility.  I watch like a canary in a coal mine — squawking its head off because the environment is deeply, deeply toxic and will kill us for sure if we don’t stop.

Yesterday — with the drop of the redacted Mueller Report — the American News Media were handed a kind of Magna Carta.  It’s an imperfect foundational document that must be the basis for how America begins to handle the cancer gnawing at our vital systemic organs.  Our News Media will not see it that way.  They’re not deep enough.  They’re not insightful enough.  Their idea of analysis can’t possibly plumb those depths because it can’t take in the required perspective.

If not for  journalists and citizen journalists (Seth Abramson should be nominated for sainthood; so should Sarah Kendzior & Jennifer Cohn and a host of other relentless pursuers of the truth), the US might have already slid past our Democratic Event Horizon — the point beyond which our Democracy could not be pulled back from the black hole of Republican Corruption.  If not for David Corn’s advocacy of the Steele Dossier, while it might have still made its way through legal channels, it would have done so with a hell of a lot more pressure caused by the very criminals it was identifying.

There ARE journalists & writers & thinkers who’ve understood this story — its nature and its core truths — from the get-go.  They’re a small club.

It’s a core truth: take any profession you like — the overwhelming majority of people working in it will be proficient.  Good but not great.  Let’s call them what they are:  “Mediocre”.  Like any other group, the journalism profession is filled with mediocrity.  Unfortunately, these here times need something better.  Voila la probleme!

I’m a storyteller by profession.  My IMDb profile reflects a fraction of my professional storytelling life.  The point of my mentioning it: I’m not some piker. I’m not just another guy out on the internets shouting ignorant Jeremiads into the wind.  I’ve actually made a buck or two doing this thing.  In a world where anyone with a blog can be an “expert”, I may not be “an expert” (let’s call that subjective), but I can sure point to a few examples to suggest I “might” know what I’m talking about.

When it comes to storytelling, I know my shit. Trust me on this.

With that in mind — I’m offering these suggestions to our chums in the Main Stream News Media.  I’ve worked under journalistic restrictions.  I’ve had to back up my shit.  This is about storytelling — with purpose.

Here are your problems in a nutshell:

  1. FAILURE OF IMAGINATION
  2. An addiction to “BOTH SIDES DO IT” thinking
  3. Normalcy Bias

The first is the killer — and FAILURE OF IMAGINATION is the flaw that leads to the other two problems.  I’m not sure it IS solvable.  Maybe it’s just the case that you’re born with imagination or you’re not.  Mediocrity turns most journalists into the proverbial blind person feeling up an elephant for the first time and trying to make sense of it.  It’s outside their range.  Then, in the midst of their confusion, they start to analyze — using not solid data but their own fuzzy perceptions.  Gosh, what could possibly go wrong?

Frequently, watching them, I perceive a veal thrashing against the confines of its box.

An example from the recent past — in order to explain Donald Trump’s “inexplicable” behavior, whole round tables of journalists and journalistic fellow travelers would often “put themselves in his shoes” in order to explain his behavior.  Problem invariably was — each well-meaning but clueless nitwit tried to explain Trump’s narcissistic, sociopathic actions through the lens of their own behaviors. They were explaining Trump as if he was them.

Result — “analysis” that was miles away from the truth — even further away from being of value.  How like bullshit!  It’s all first rate — and so much of it!

To analyze Trump you have to get inside HIS head.  To do that, you have to use your imagination.  BUT — the way journalists are supposed to do it — they use their imaginations based on deep, background knowledge of their subject.  They can point to multiple instances of past behavior to justify projecting similar behaviors forward in a different (more recent) context.  It’s exactly what they’re doing now — projecting future behaviors based on past — except based on the right character (Trump) not the wrong one (them).

I withdraw my “must be born with it”.  I just demonstrated — American News Media CAN use their imagination.  They just have to WANT TO…

I don’t think I’m alone in pointing to “BOTH SIDES DO IT” thinking (“thinking” should be in quotation marks too) as part of American journalism’s core problem.  I would love to know where it came from — where it started.  Was this disease born in some American journalism school and then spread outward like typhus or dysentery?

Guys like Chuck Todd are the deans of “Both Sides Do It” journalism (“journalism” should be in quotation marks too).  “Both Sides Do It” — by its nature — fosters the creation of False Equivalences.  Inequal things get equalized.  Bernie Madoff, we all agree, is a thief.  By the same token — thievery being thievery — so is the character Jean Valjean from Les Miserables (or, for you “kids”, Les Mis).  Madoff stole BILLIONS. Valjean stole bread.

In Chuck Todd’s world, “both sides did it” — both sides STOLE.  Proportion plays no part. All facts have the same feather weight.

It ain’t so.  And every “journalist” who thinks this way is betraying their Constitutionally mandated duty.

NORMALCY BIAS infects us all.  No one is immune.  That’s why you have to be hyper-vigilant about it.  Something in us aches for “normalcy”.  Normalcy equals safety, security.  We hate being on edge 24/7.  It’s wearing us out.  We want normal back.

Wishing won’t make it happen though.  When things aren’t normal, we need to point them out — and if they’re harmful to us (like, say, CORRUPTION is), we need to REFUSE to EVER allow them to be normalized.  Yet here we are.  Normalization is a process.  We didn’t just drop here, magically transported.  We walked here.

If not for normalcy bias, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign would have ended the day it began.  It would have died stepping out of its trench — going down in a hale of “Mexicans are rapists” bullets.  But Trump’s campaign didn’t end that day.  It continued — because the press covering the story let it continue.  Rather than put their collective foot down and DEMAND what the hell he meant — not being satisfied till he admitted the clear, obvious truth: he meant HE’S A RACIST and A BIGOT — the American press accepted Trump’s behavior as “different”.  This was just “how Trump was”.

Just like that, racism and bigotry had been normalized.

Now, granted, “pussy-grabbing” got short-circuited by Wikileaks dumping Hillary Clinton’s emails, but even the emails (in point of fact) were a Republican-backed crime that the American News Media couldn’t wait to normalize and use to their own advantage.  Let’s be quite clear — the principle vector for transmitting stolen Democratic emails & internal data was the American News Media.  They were literally working at Russia’s behest each and every time.  You don’t have to be witting to be a useful idiot.

Russia used our news media’s Normalcy Bias to get them to carry Russia’s message-water.

That has to stop.

What has this done to us?  How has American News Media’s failure hurt us?

Well, for starters — as I just said — it’s undermined our concept of “Truth”.  We’ve put its definition up for grabs like a jump ball.  But the Truth isn’t subjective.

There is Core Truth.  We need our news media to focus its limited skillsets on getting to it. My simple (if not very humble) suggestion is this:  “Keep asking WHY?”  Do not accept any “WHY?” that doesn’t get to the very, VERY bottom.  It means more “WHY’S?” need asking.  No one — NO ONE — ever does things for “no reason”.  A person doing terrible things may not be able to adequately articulate what’s driving them — but “something” is driving them other than “that’s just how they are”.

In the case of Donald Trump, American News Media, it means he doesn’t do what he’s doing because “he’s different”.

You saying “he’s different” means “you suck at your job”.  That’s a problem for us.  For two plus years, you have failed for all the reasons above to TELL the most important story you will ever get to cover and any of us will ever have to live through.  While “crazies” on the left gnashed their teeth about Russia, the American News Media turned up its nose.  Even as they described treasonous-sounding behavior (Trump meeting with Putin sans a single other American), they assumed it must be “normal” somehow because the President of the United States was doing it — and so therefore it must be “normal”.

As recently as last week, actual “journalists” were questioning if the Mueller Report would contain anything of value.  Actual “journalists” were ignoring how AG Bill Barr had used grammar and a damned footnote to bamboozle them into proclaiming right along with Trump that there was “no collusion”.  Apparently the meaning of quotes that start with a [bracketed] first letter didn’t get taught where American journalists went to school…

Barr Summary w highlights

Apparently they never learned how to read footnotes either…

Our News Media were handed a kind of gift yesterday.  They were given insight into massive corruption.  They were given actual perspective.

That is their gut check: Will all those mediocrities gumming up the American News Media be able to use perspective.  Hell, will they even recognize what it is?

I worry for us.

 

Our News Media’s Big Problem – They Don’t Know How To Connect Dots

I have two kids.  When they were little, they both delighted in connect-the-dots books.  They thrilled to the concept that — as they drew (their pencil being guided by the numbers) — a picture would emerge.  And all THEY had to do: connect the dots.

Cute_Elephant_connect_dots

That same concept works in and for storytelling.  Half the fun of listening to a story is anticipating where we think it’s going to go.  Based on the dots already connected for us (by the storyteller), we can anticipate how the dots ahead of us might connect.  We’re also hoping for a plot twist that will completely screw with what we anticipated.  Then the dots will connect a different way.

But — the point is — they’ll still connect.

If the dots don’t connect — there’s no story.  So — in stories, as in life, the dots must (and do) connect.  Just like in the connect-the-dot books.

What can possibly explain our Main Stream Media’s inability to do that simple, basic thing?

We sit in the middle of the biggest connect-the-dots puzzle ever imagined.  It’s massive, stretching in all sorts of directions.  It’s a picture — we can see it already (those of us who can imagine a picture from more than a few hundred feet up) of Massive Corruption — here, in the United States, in Europe, in the Middle east and in Asia.  Even Australia’s contributed — contributing a racist murderer to New Zealand.  Only Antarctica seems free of political corruption; maybe the scientists who’ve worked there know differently.

What we’ve already eyewitnessed ourselves is staggering in its audacity and criminality. Those of us who see crime for what it is, have always seen crime.  Those who easily normalize crime (“He’s a different kind of president”) see normalcy.  The only reason they see normalcy is because they cannot connect dots.

There is nothing normal about these here times. Anyone who accepts this as normal has either surrendered (and needs to stop or just get the hell out of everyone else’s way) or is part of the criminal class — and they need to cut it the hell out — and get the hell out of everyone else’s way.  There has been a steady stream of clear-cut EVIDENCE that Donald Trump has an “unnatural” relationship with not only Vladimir Putin but a whole host of authoritarian monsters.

There are no coincidences — those are dots connecting.

Of course, it’s hard to see the picture the dots are forming when you obsess on the relationship between two dots.  Problem is — while THOSE TWO dots may not connect directly, they’re still part of the same picture.  If you don’t see THAT fact — you’re going to miss what the picture looks like.  Hell, you’ll probably think they’re TWO DIFFERENT PICTURES. And that, of course, is completely wrong.

Welcome to America’s Main Stream News Media.

Back when Fusion GPS first got hired by the REPUBLICAN Washington Free Beacon (Jeb Bush supporters) to compile oppo research on Donald Trump, they started by doing their “due diligence”.  When he testified before Congress on August 22, 2017, Fusion’s founding partner Glenn Simpson (formerly of the Wall Street Journal — not exactly a liberal rag) explained Fusion’s process.  They got ahold of every piece of PUBLICLY AVAILABLE material they could on Donald J Trump.

They got books.  They got magazine articles.  They listened to Trump on radio shows and watched him on TV shows. They bought stuff from Amazon and borrowed it from the public library.  Simpson testified that Fusion got its hands on every existing bit of info (available to anyone) that even hinted at Trump.  And what they found there, said Simpson, convinced them that Donald Trump had a long, clear criminal history — and that history had a long, clear relationship with Russian mobsters.

Simpson and Fusion GPS knew — Russian mobsters equals the Russian government.  You don’t get to be a Russian oligarch (a mobster) without having one particular friend in Moscow: Vlad Putin.  Putin’s a spy by nature and training.  He thinks like a spy and acts like one. He’s always looking for an in — a way to control you and make you his.  If Donald Trump had secrets about Russian mobsters for whom he’d been laundering money — he had secrets about himself and Vladimir Putin.

Understand — the Donald dot does not connect directly to the Vladimir Putin dot. But they do most definitely connect.

They are very definitely part of the same picture.

Oh — before I forget — IF anyone in the Main Stream Media happens to read this — that picture at the top of the post?

It’s an elephant.

 

Having A “Normalcy Bias” Isn’t Abnormal; It Should Be…

If a presidential contender coming down an escalator announces to the world that he’s running for President because America needs a wall to keep out all the Mexican rapists — and everyone (after an initial burst of outrage) shrugs because they’re already consumed by that contender’s next outrage — somewhere inside that shrug was born their “Normalcy Bias”.  Calling Mexicans rapists went — within a sentence — from being an outrage to being… “normal”.

That’s just how Trump speaks, the MSM told us.  Racism?  No.   Poor word choice — yes.  And, just like that, the MSM had built absolute racism into its Normalcy Bias.  Racism was — IS — now completely legit.  Pussy-grabbing worked the exact same way.  A few moments of outrage tempered by the “timely” release of a Wikileaks dump — which, too, got NORMALIZED.  Shall we toss LYING onto the bonfire?

How quickly did the MSM normalized the fact that a president of the United States lied more reliably than he told the truth?  Though they knew what Trump was saying was a lie, still they continued to report each lie as if it WASN’T a lie and therefore had to be considered as possibly the truth.

Sorry, but a turd is a turd is a turd. Call it a “perfumed package” if you like or a “surprise” or even just “poo”.  It’s a turd.  It stinks.  It has to be cleaned up.  Making it “palatable” while making it “do-able” also makes it “palatable”.  Maybe it shouldn’t be.

What our MSM can’t seem to grasp is how badly THEY are being fooled every day by their own Normalcy Bias.  When, say, you know going into a (rare) press conference that the Press Secretary is going to lie to you — and then you LET HER LIE & (worse) let her GET AWAY WITH IT, you are further solidifying HER Normalcy Bias that she CAN get away with just about every time.  What’s the cost of lying?  Nothing.

Normalcy Bias is no one’s friend.   It’s comfort with what is even if “what is” is utter bullshit. Normalcy Bias is how that frog slowly gets boiled to death without ever realizing it.