What “Both Sides Do It” Journalism Gets Especially Wrong: Both Sides Don’t Always Act “Politically”

It’s a simple fact: American journalism has, by and large, failed America. The press is the only job mentioned in the constitution. It’s obligated there to be the final check on power. Too bad they abdicated that responsibility eons ago.

I’d love to know at which J-School this virus first started. “Both sides do it” is the basis for every false equivalence that brought us to this catastrophe. It replaces healthy skepticism with outright cynicism — a very conservative thing to do. The only outcome is a bad outcome (it says) — so assume the worst of everyone regardless of the truth.

“Both sides do it” says that Bernie Madoff is a thief. And, so is Jean Valjean (the hero in Les Miserables). Madoff stole billions because he’s greedy. Valjean stole bread to feed the hungry. But — under “Both Sides Do It”, both men are thieves. So — both sides do it. The difference in scale and context means nothing. All information has equal weight — regardless of whether it’s true or false.

That’s the framing our press insists on. Fortunately, they’ve stopped giving air time to climate deniers (though they put Trump on their air, so I take that back). But, when they put climate deniers on their air regularly, they always sat the denier next to a climate scientist in a 50-50 shot. In the visual language, that means those two points of view are equal.

It’s true. We interpret visual images in very distinct ways. If you present two points of view in a way that says they’re equal regardless of whether they are or not, your framing has already undermined the truth.

Same token — if you present anything Donald Trump says without the context that he’s probably lying, then YOU are lying to your audience. You’re implying via your silence on the matter that, of course, he’s telling the truth. When he says things that (you know) are outright lies and you DON’T correct them immediately? They BECOME the truth. How can they not? No one contradicted their UNtruthfulness.

Each time a “Both Sides Do It” journalist gives the benefit of the doubt to someone or something undeserving (MSNBC’s Stephanie Rhule is especially guilty of this), they give credence to something that had none. “Yeah, but what if total bullshit were true…?” is not “journalism”. It’s indulging liars, fabulists and frauds.

“Both Sides Do It” journalists get suckered by job titles. It’s as if the moment Trump became POTUS, he became “infallible” to some of the press. NBC’s awful Kelly O’Donnell comes to mind. She’ll quote anything Trump says without an ounce of context. The president said it, Kelly insists. She’s just there to report what he says.

I’m curious… if Trump (for shits n giggles one day) said “And I know for a fact that Kelly O’Donnell kills puppies and eats them for breakfast every day”, would Kelly O repeat those words without comment — words that SHE KNOWS are not true? Would she suddenly decide then to be a little less “neutral”?

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what Kelly O would do. She’s that terrible at being a journalist (hell, an open mic on a stand could do what she does).

When Mitch McConnell refused to give Merrick Garland so much as a hearing — THAT was a political act. Any Democrat reacting to Mitch’s abuse of his power is NOT acting politically. They’re pointing to an inappropriate political act.

Similarly — when Donald Trump violates the Constitution (say, by openly violating its emoluments clause every single day), it’s not a political act to point out that fact. It’s somewhere between law enforcement and patriotism. Similarly — when the Democrats called out the Republicans for working with the Russians to steal election 2016, that was not a political response.

It was a CRIME VICTIM trying to report that a CRIME had been committed — against them, against the American People, against democracy itself. FFS — it’s like a robbery victim calling the police — only to have them come and arrest HIM for being the crime’s victim.

That’s the most frustrating part of “Both Sides Do It” journalism. It constantly mischaracterizes what Democrats do, say and think.

Trust me, American Journalism, while my opposition to Donald Trump has a massive political element to it, another big element is purely patriotic. Both sides do not conspire with hostile foreign governments to undermine the integrity of an American election.

Both sides do not then cover up every aspect of that conspiracy in every way they can — out in the open even.

Both sides do not aspire to permanent minority rule.

Both sides do not — like the Kochs — intend to use their money to direct American politics how THEY want it to go.

Both sides do not think there are more important things (the economy) than living.

Both sides do not aspire to open up America’s economy — however many deaths it causes — because they need to win an election.

When this is all done and dusted — and we’ve buried the Republican Party alongside the Whigs — we must then turn our attention to the press.

We need to bury “Both Sides Do It” in the same cemetery.

Dear Rich Guys: Learn From History! If You Kill Off Too Many Workers, The Workers Will Control The Labor Market!

The current crop of Republicans would have felt right at home in Feudal Europe — all of them vassals to corrupt king Donald who, himself, sold out the Kingdom to the Kingdom’s chief rival, King Vlad The Impaler.

Feudalism relied on having lots of peasants to work the lord’s fields. The Black Plague gutted Europe, killing 60% of its population. In the aftermath, when it came time to plow again, there were now far fewer peasants to do the work. That was true for pretty much every lord around — they needed a hundred plebes, they had twenty. Next thing you know, the lords are fighting over laborers, trying to “grab” their neighbors’ peasants by offering them better deals. Bigger plots of land. A better percentage of whatever the peasant farmed to keep for himself and his family.

For the first time, maybe ever, labor sat atop the seesaw.

The economic system that Europe had lived under for hundreds of years disappeared virtually overnight — because the next harvest had to come in. People were starving. That change in the balance of power killed feudalism dead.

The Trump White House aches to send America “back to work” even as our numbers shoot upward alarmingly. The Trump WH’s own projections call for horrifying numbers that should make the idea of opening the country unthinkable. Yet here we are.

Trump needs to restart the economy because it’s the only argument he (thinks he) has for re-election. It was never a good argument to begin with. It’s even more laughable now. You simply can’t make people want to spend money and buy things when they’re in fear for their lives and the lives of their loved ones. You’ll bankrupt them all first.

Trump doesn’t care about killing Americans. He cares about remaining POTUS.

If he loses this election (he’s going to lose it), he’ll stop being POTUS and the moment THAT happens, his legal problems begin. And once they begin, they may never stop. And the moment Trump’s legal problems begin, so do the legal problems of everyone around him. Right now, that pretty much includes the entire Republican Party.

The Republicans aren’t working toward any grand vision here. They’re on a Permanent Minority Rule Or Bust trip. It’s all or nothing now. When they threw in with Trump, they threw in with Russia (which some of them, it turns out, had already done via Maria Buttina or the NRA). The GOP is in it to win it. There’s no other option for them.

They will go down with this ship — the SS Trump-tanic.

On the other side of this crisis — eighteen months from now, give or take — the RW will get the thing they feared most. Their greed and lust for power is now being revealed. There’s no way to pretty up what the Republicans did and are doing. But there’s also no conservative way out of this. We can only go deeper into the shit by listening to them.

We can fall into a deep, deepening depression that takes longer from which to recover.

THAT’S the conservative way out. Everybody dies except them and their money — they hope. That’s not hyperbole. What else does “There’s more to life than living” mean?

We will emerge from this far more socialized. Of necessity. We must expunge profit incentive from our health CARE system. We need to turn our health CARE system into a care system instead of the health INSURANCE system it now is. As the pandemic makes crystal clear, we are only as healthy as the least healthy person among us.

We will also emerge far more unionized. What the meat packing workers and Amazon workers and others being “essential worker-ed” into the coronavirus’ maw have to endure is horrifying and (if it’s not, it should be) illegal. The Republican Party piling on by insisting that workers refusing to work because of the threat to their lives cannot collect any benefits — in addition to being expected, it’s disgusting.

The lag time between a person’s initial infection with coronavirus and the symptoms it gave the person covid-19 can be about two weeks. Or longer. It’s like when people drink but don’t feel tipsy or happy or drunk right away. They think, “Hey, the booze didn’t work this time — what’s up with that? I better have a lot more right now!”

The issue isn’t the booze, it’s the lag time. Now, in addition to being regular drunk when the lag time finally ends, you’ll be extra drunk because of the chaser you threw down. Ah, but Republicans never learn anything. That’s because they don’t want to. What’s in it for them to learn things? They’re conservatives, remember? They want to conserve — keep things as they are now or, better yet, make them how they were back when white people ruled everything.

Conservatives always have a great sense of history — in that there’s a time in history they want us all to return to. They don’t see history as a teacher of anything. That’s why they keep repeating it.

Do Americans Love False Narratives More Than They Love Democracy?

We’ve all had a friend — maybe it’s been us — who loved the wrong person too much. Everyone else but that friend could see from every angle how disastrous their love was and was going to be. But that friend persisted. They had created a false narrative inside their heads that love — theirs in particular — would overcome all obstacles and solve all problems.

They were wrong, weren’t they? That’s how false narratives work. You buy, they fail to deliver. But you keep buying regardless…

Elizabeth Warren — it’s pretty much agreed upon — was the best Democratic candidate still running when she dropped out of the race this week. She was the most complete. That’s after running alongside a host of strong women candidates (that does not include Tulsi Gabbard). But, we’re telling ourselves, voters were afraid of Warren’s “electability”. They feared that a woman couldn’t stand up to mean old Donald Trump.

There’s a shit-ton wrong with that. And every last bit of it flows from the fact that it’s a completely false narrative.

FALSE NARRATIVE #1: A WOMAN CANNOT BEAT DONALD TRUMP

Hillary Clinton got – at a minimum – 3 million more popular votes than Donald Trump got. That doesn’t include all the Democratic votes Republican efforts successfully suppressed. It doesn’t include all the Democratic voters (many African American) whose Facebook pages were barraged with weaponized ads created by Russia’s GRU (its Defense Intelligence Agency) based on proprietary polling data Paul Manafort gave Oleg Deripaska. It doesn’t include any possible corruption of voting machines and altered results.

As we’re learning the hard way, connecting a voting machine to the internet is an invitation to that machine getting hacked. And hacking them is simple. The companies who make voting machines are almost entirely “Republican” owned. They have resisted hand-marked paper ballots in favor of electronic voting systems with no possible way to check them for accuracy — while being entirely open to hacking.

A woman has already beaten Donald Trump at the polls. Hillary Clinton, I betcha we realize, was literally ROBBED of her presidency. We The People were robbed of it too. It’s an entirely false narrative to say election 2016 was “free & fair”. It’s an entirely false narrative to say Russia didn’t impact the election’s result.

It’s an entirely false narrative to say Donald Trump is a “legitimate potus”…

FALSE NARRATIVE #2: DONALD TRUMP IS THE LEGITIMATE POTUS

If the Rule Of Law had been fully functional in 2016, Donald Trump would not be president today. The Rule Of Law says pretty explicitly: you are not allowed to ask a foreign power to help you win the presidency. You aren’t allowed to accept help if they offer it. You aren’t allowed to accept foreign money into your campaign coffers.

And you aren’t allowed to conspire wtih a hostile foreign country who’s declared a cyber war on us.

Do any of those things — so says the Rule Of Law — and you cannot be president. Donald Trump & the Republican Party did ALL OF THOSE THINGS to help Trump become POTUS. Recognizing the demographic dead end staring them in the face, the Republican money cynically threw their lot in with Trump & Russia. They saw a direct route to permanent minority rule and they took it.

The Republican money has always known what it was doing — and why. Mitch McConnell knows better than anyone how illegitimate Trump’s presidency is.

Being illegitimate means Trump has never had the actual authority to do anything legitimate POTUSes do — suggest legislation, hire a cabinet, nominate lifetime judges to lifetime seats. Being illegitimate means Trump’s agenda is equally illegitimate — We The People did not vote for it; in fact, we voted for the exact opposite.

Let’s be real — what the Republicans pulled off in 2016 (with Russia’s direct assistance) was a soft coup d’etat. They deliberately conspired to change the outcome of the election for their own political benefit — never mind that their benefit and agenda were the diametric opposite of what The American Electorate actually voted for.

The Republican Party has busted a cap in the Rule Of Law’s head. They aren’t just ignoring it, they’re pissing on the corpse just to be assholes.

FALSE NARRATIVE #3: THERE’S NOTHING WE CAN DO TO STOP WHAT THE REPUBLICANS ARE DOING

This is the craziest part of the false narrative — the normalization of illegal, immoral behavior to such an extent that we believe it IS the new normal. For starters, regular Americans would have a better shot at standing up to the Trumpian false narrative if the damned news media would stand up to it.

Ordinary people like us don’t have any sort of megaphone beyond social media and blogs like this. We don’t invent the narrative and we certainly don’t broadcast it. If the news media had added information about Donald Trump instead of returning every day to a kind of “square one” where they shrug off the latest Trumpian outrages as a new “new normal”. We should have been at “hair on fire” status on the day Trump both took his oath of office and blatantly violated it at the very same instant.

That wasn’t a good sign.

But our press sold us a false narrative: this is normal now. This is how it is. Get used to it…

America’s always had a thing for false narratives. Think of all the wacky, new-fangled religions that have been invented in America, by Americans. Mormonism & Scientology both demand that their believers buy into some pretty ridiculous stuff. That’s how all religion works. Want to be in the club? Here’s the list of false narratives you need to accept first.

Americans are perfectly happy to vote for a woman as POTUS. We’ve already done it. It’s a false narrative to say that we haven’t.

Damn Right There’s A “Rough Beast Slouching Towards Bethlehem To Be Born” — It’s Republicanism & Permanent Minority Rule!

Just like Trump’s election caused people to seek therapy in droves (that’s a fact — it really, really did!), it caused people trying to articulate what this experience is like to pick up William Butler Yeats’ “The Second Coming”. Bits and pieces of the poem are now part of the vernacular —

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

Or —

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

And then there’s the “icon” —

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Yeats was writing — in 1919 (when he published the poem) about Europe after World War I. “Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world” — which was the context for the best lacking all conviction while the worst, full of passionate intensity, won the day. What Yeats doesn’t answer — though he seems to have an inkling — what exactly IS that “rough beast”, its “hour come round at last”, slouching toward its second coming in a metaphorical Bethlehem?

The seeds of World War II were firmly planted in the result of World War I. And World War I was, in most every way, the death knell of Old Europe. Power was shifting from the hands of the continent’s royal families (they’re all related by blood one way or another) to more democratically-run governments that relied more on the people for their right to govern than because they king said they could. Political ideas like communism were morphing from the abstract into the real with violent consequences. Anarchism seemed a viable alternative to the supposed “order” since that “order” had led everyone into the most catastrophic war ever.

Yeats was writing about a world totally in transition from one thing into another. The problem — what will that “another” become?

We’re in transition too — the whole world. The social democratic order we all took for granted is under assault by backward-thinking greed monsters who can’t bear sharing any of the power or any of the money. If asked directly, the majority of Americans have no desire whatsoever to live in a fascist state. Given a choice between that and a “socialist state” where — while they may not get to be quite as rugged an individual (if your rugged individualism screws with other peoples’ right to live their lives to the fullest, your rugged individualism needs to be curtailed — sorry), most Americans would opt for a country where everyone got to vote, everyone got health CARE (not health INSURANCE) so that going broke cos you got sick was an impossibility, and where everyone got educated or trained to the best of their ability — for “free” (meaning our tax dollars pay for it) because the smarter and better trained our work force and innovators are, the better we’ll solve our collective problems and continue to thrive collectively.

Kinda the opposite of what we’re doing now — while insisting our way must be better, the data be damned.

I don’t know that Yeats anticipated fascism’s rise. Extreme right wing nationalism was very much in the mix in Europe. It was in Ireland. And England. He could have been referring to the Bolshevik Revolution that blew through Russia in 1917, two years before Yeats published his poem.

If ever a man fit the bill “rough beast”, it’s Donald Trump. And the thing causing all those desert birds to flap around so indignantly is the thing that will “be born” when the rough beast finally slouches all the way to Bethlehem — authoritarianism. Permanent minority rule.

Make no mistake. We are living through a coup d’etat. The Republican Party — recognizing their eventual demographic irrelevance — made an actual power grab. They didn’t see themselves working with Trump at first. That part looks like an “improv” born of changing circumstances and tons of Russian Kompromat. We still don’t know what’s contained in all the stolen RNC emails — yes, the DNC’s emails weren’t the only ones Russia stole.

We don’t know, for instance, what caused Lindsey Graham to go from the ultimate Never Trumper to a man who could tell us in great detail what Donald Trump’s ejaculate tastes like. That’s metaphorical, of course. I think…

I wonder — if William Butler Yeats could experience a “second coming” — if Yeats could look around at our world in the context of his poem — what would he say? What would he think?

What would he write?

I’m going to go out on a limb here. I bet Yeats would write: “Didn’t any of you idiots read my damned poem?”

We The People Want Our Stolen 2016 Election Result Back — And The Thieves Who Stole It Punished…

Caveat — We The People show up in sufficient numbers through the primaries (since Russia is now “voting” in them) and the general to overcome what’s sure to be massive Russian cheating on Donald Trump’s behalf and virtually every Republican gets shit-canned. Caveat #2 — A peaceful transfer of power happens.

Caveat #3 — The Rule Of Law becomes a “thing” again. We all agree to adhere to it. We all agree that no one is above the law and everyone gets treated equally by it. As we’ve learned the hard way, relying on people to follow norms might be a moral bridge too far for some of them. There must be significant change — both systemic and cultural.

We need to re-instill both respect for the Rule Of Law but also a sense of civic pride in ourselves. Democracy is incredibly hard to pull off successfully. It can’t be done by a lazy citizenry. Bad actors aren’t lazy. That’s the problem.

The rebuild of our political system and structures will start with reasserting the Rule Of Law. The Rule of Law will demand that we not hold every criminal accountable for what they’re doing now — but, also, for what they did in 2016 when they deliberately undermined the Rule of Law — tried to overthrow it in fact. Tried to murder it dead.

Okay — too melodramatic. The Republican Party stole the Rule of Law from us via an election result and want that election result back.

If we view election 2016 as a “crime scene” & the election’s results “stolen property” – making We The People the crime’s true victims – how will we return that “property” – the thing that was stolen – to US?

It seems profoundly “unfair” (to put it mildly) that the crime’s victims – us – would be forced to endure eternal victim-hood because there was “no way” to return to us what was stolen from us: the election results (minus Russia) that we actually voted for.

We, as a people, once accommodated slavers and slavery. It compromised our Constitution so severely that we fought a Civil War over it. We refused to deal with an INJUSTICE directly. It did not go away.  It lurked.

Just like Russia is lurking. 

Russia got what IT wanted from our election.  Think about that.  They ACTIVELY sought one result vs another – ACTIVELY engaged with our electoral process to MAKE THAT RESULT HAPPEN – and we are STILL arguing about whether the borscht is cold enough.  That’s how far past the event horizon of this black hole we may already be.  We think we’re swimming in a pond unvisited as yet by Russia.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Before fully hitching his wagon to Moscow, Mitch McConnell – at the behest of his masters, the Kochs, the Mercers and all that RW money – set out to hijack the judiciary.  He denied Obama lots and lots of lifetime-appointed federal judges including a SCOTUS judge that was his right to have because WE THE PEOPLE VOTED FOR OBAMA.

See how Mitch was already standing in our way?  But, being greedy (and therefore stupid), Mitch was also getting serenaded by Russia.  Mitch has been taking Russian money into his campaign coffers forever – and Russian money comes with strings.  Lots and lots of strings. 

The Russians know how to use greed and sex to lure stupid, greedy Americans into compromising positions.  Whether or not Putin has video of Trump watching hookers piss on the Moscow hotel room bed where the Obamas slept – while he shouted the “n-word” – makes no difference.  The fact that the threat even exists – and Trump can’t defend himself – speaks volumes.  In a civil trial, it might even clear the 50% preponderance of the evidence hurdle we’d need to clear to win.

As we’re now (FINALLY!) being reminded, it was Mitch McConnell who refused to let Barack Obama inform We The People that Russia didn’t just want Trump to win, they were actively working to MAKE him win. Hey – how familiar is that?  Trump, we just learned, went batshit crazy when Joseph Maguire, the head of the DNI, told Congressional Democrats (including Adam Schiff) that Russia was actively gaming the election – including the Democratic primaries – on Trump’s behalf.

Trump was worried the Democrats would use the information against him (of course they will). That they might use the information to DEFEND THEMSELVES?  Not part of Trump’s equation…

Anyone who thinks the Majority (that’s who was cheated here) can sit by idly while lifetime judges – nominated by a criminal POTUS who never had the authority to nominate anyone (only legitimate potuses are authorized to do that) – continue to steer us AWAY from the country we voted for is foolish.

It will be unthinkably hard – voiding an election’s results – and we almost certainly won’t do it.

But then we should not be surprised when – not too far in the future – the ripple effects of leaving injustice in place catches up with us.

As it will…

History’s pretty consistent that way.

Leaving the results of election 2016 in place is an understandable shoulder shrug in the face of a very hard ask. But the alternative will be another Civil War. How can there not be when we refuse to learn from History – and insist on living a lie that betrays our values and, in fact, leads us diametrically away from them?