In the “Pantheon Of Wrongheaded Common Wisdom”, “Both Sides Do It” is king, queen and the rest of the demented Spanish Aristocracy. It takes a nubbin of “maybe” and makes it incontrovertible fact. Bad behavior does not belong to any political party. Yes, both sides are physically capable of doing things they shouldn’t and then lying about them to keep from being revealed. Historically, both sides have “done those things”. But (and here’s where “both sides do it” hits a wall and loses), if we put it all on a scale and measured the two piles of awfulness against each other? As with right here, right now, Republican-brand awfulness is exponentially worse for America than Democratic-brand awfulness in large part BECAUSE THERE’S SO MUCH MORE OF IT!
Proportion and perspective are two things “Both Sides Do It” journalism jettisons from the get-go. It says a thief is a thief is a thief — regardless of whether it’s Bernie Madoff stealing billions because he’s a greedy pig or Jean Valjean stealing bread to feed hungry people. “Both sides ‘do it’.” See what I mean? Though theoretically correct, it is absolutely wrong in its framing because it equates two things that shouldn’t be equated.
I’ve worked as a journalist. I’ve been held to journalistic standards. In the absence of hard evidence, one must be skeptical. That’s SKEPTICAL as opposed to CYNICAL. There is a difference.
If your starting point for every story is “both sides do it”, you’re not being skeptical about human beings, you’re being cynical; you’re assuming the very worst for no reason other than you’re assuming it. Authoritarians want the population they control to be deeply cynical — making authoritarianism the only means to control all that irredeemable, inevitable bad behavior. When the press equates an act of extreme corruption with Joe Citizen claiming a few deductions he’s not entitled to — that puts a smile on a cynic’s face.
“See?” he’ll say, smiling, “Both sides do it!”
Take this to the bank, American news media: both sides DON’T do it and never have. You need to expunge “Both Sides Do It” from your way of thinking — from your brains entirely. That’s not a helpful suggestion, that’s a demand. Going forward, America needs “moral journalism”. I don’t mean phony “moralistic” journalism puked out by phony journalists who place themselves above the fray (though both sides “do it”, they apparently don’t), I mean journalists who bring perspective to work every day.
This is not an impossibility. MSNBC has multiple journalists hosting multiple shows that DON’T “Both Sides Do It” — Ali Velshi (an awesome journalist), Nicolle Wallace (fearless as hell!), Rachel Maddow (relentless and so articulate), Joy-Ann Reid (equally relentless). So, it IS possible for news networks to hire and keep journalists on their roster who DO bring perspective to work with them every day. But they also have Chuck Todd — the King of “Both Sides Do It”. They have other reporters like Stephanie Ruhl (who, though excellent when reporting on the financial world, gets lost in “Both Sides Do It” the instant she turns to reporting politics) — let’s call them “Both Sides Adjacent”. And they have Kelly O’Donnell — the QUEEN of “Both Sides Do It”.
“Both Sides Do It” refuses to take sides — even when there are no sides to take other than “pro-democracy” and “pro-athoritarianism” and the pro-authoritarian side accuses the news media of being fake. To accept that statement because you dare not get involved is to validate bullshit — even if that’s not the intent. THAT’S the biggest, baddest ripple effect rolling off of “Both Sides Do It’s” cynicism — the validation of bullshit.
Want to know why America felt so ripped apart at the end of the Trump years? Because we were facing the terrible consequences every day of being told the lie — that both sides would take us to this same, awful place.
Want to know why this morning feels so wonderful — on top of the change in leadership coming less than two weeks from now? Because we now look forward to breathing air that doesn’t stink of bullshit. That doesn’t stink of “both sides doing it”.
We don’t have anything like a “complete picture” of the Trump Administration’s raging incompetence in their handling of the coronavirus pandemic, yet we already know — with that limited perspective — that their incompetence isn’t just “raging”, it’s outright CRIMINAL. Imagine how much worse it will look when we DO know all the nuts and bolts details. Those details will tie THIS treachery into the LARGER Trumpian treachery — Russia. Perspective’s funny that way. It’s like seeing part of a mosaic and thinking that’s the picture. But, then, we pull the camera back — because there’s almost always more room for perspective — and we realize how much more complex and interconnected the world is once we see how vast and complex a world it is.
A huge heaping of the blame for our collective lack of perspective sits heavily on our News Media’s lap. Their stone cold refusal to AGGREGATE the story of Donald Trump cannot go unaddressed! We just had an election where — for the first time ever in our history — a sitting POTUS was running for re-election having been impeached! And the thing he was impeached for? CHEATING in the very election he was now running in! And the cheating — that was via a foreign government’s intervention in our election — a variation on the exact same “cheating strategy” (one of them) he used in the 2016 election! You would think that would get a mention in the run up to that election. You’d think a NEWS MEDIA would want to bathe in it. They’d want to ask that candidate about it repeatedly — and the squirrelier that candidate got on the subject, the more they’d want to ask. Especially if that candidate was the sitting president!
They got ahold of every piece of PUBLICLY AVAILABLE material they could possibly find on Donald J. Trump: books, magazine articles, newspaper stories, radio interviews, TV show appearances — literally everything they could in order to create a picture for themselves — in order to create the perspective with which to start the investigation: what do we already KNOW about Donald Trump?
Turned out? What we KNEW — it was all there in PUBLICLY AVAILABLE material — should have set the alarm bells ringing. The former journalists at Fusion GPS saw so much likely EVIDENCE of outright criminal behavior — Trump using his bankrupt Atlantic City casinos to launder Russian mob money — that Fusion hired former MI6 Russia desk legend Christopher Steele (and his company Orbis), to do the “research” inside Russia since, it was agreed, Steele had the best contacts inside Russia bar none.
When Fusion went “fishing” in Russia for dirt on Trump? They knew exactly where to drop their lines. And damn if there wasn’t a whole SCHOOL of treason swimming around. The reason Chris Steele worked so hard to put his dossier of RAW INTELLIGENCE under the right noses was because those noses needed the perspective that raw intel would provide. Was everything in the dossier guaranteed verifiable? Of course not — IT’S RAW INTELLIGENCE. You have to understand what it is and how you need to look at it. There are few smoking guns in this world but plenty of smoke. You have to look for where the smoke is thickest — and make educated guesses from there.
The news media glommed onto the most sensational of the stories in Steele’s work product — the Moscow hotel room and the hookers peeing on each other while Trump watched (maybe or maybe not screaming about Trump and his race). The news media — having zero perspective — assumed that if that one story wasn’t spot on, one hundred percent correctomundo, then every last bit of Steele’s RAW INTELLIGENCE could be discounted. Oy!
Now, the people most intent on undermining the dossier’s authenticity (after Trump) have been almost the entire Republican Party. That, after all, was the whole point of dragging Glenn Simpson before the Senate Judiciary Committee (controlled then as now by Republicans hell bent on interfering with any oversight) — not to get at how true the dossier was or wasn’t but to completely undermine every last vestige of any reliability. People obstructing justice aren’t doing it “just because”. They’re doing it because what the rest of us call “justice” scares the snot out of them.
To this day — more than a MONTH after Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the 2020 Presidential Election, almost every Congressional Republican (minus 27!) STILL refuses to acknowledge that fact. The news media gazes at that fact, utterly baffled by it. They scratch their heads so hard, as they contemplate it, that they’ve begun to carve divots into their skulls. “Why do the Republicans continue to go along with Trump?” “Don’t they realize what they’re doing to their own legacies?”
If the news media had aggregated this story — adding to it every day, adding to WHAT WE KNOW and then building upon that knowledge base to MOVE THE STORY FORWARD — Donald Trump would not have survived the primaries. His whole candidacy would have gone up in “Mexicans are rapists” flames. That’s because the Trump heading down the gold escalator would NOT have been seen as the “successful businessman” and “master negotiator” that Mark Burnett INVENTED for “The Apprentice”, he would have been seen as the racist, bankrupt FAILURE he was. If the news media had done the same due diligence Fusion GPS had done, they’d have thrown “and likely criminal” into the mix too.
The instant Team Biden takes over at the Department of Justice, our whole perspective on the Trump years will begin to change appreciably. For starters, the DoJ will be re-dedicated to serving Justice and not as a corrupt president’s consigliere. It won’t be a question of should we or should we not prosecute Trump and the entire Republican Party for their transgressions. The SECOND Trump stops being POTUS, he WILL be indicted. He’s already BEEN indicted — but, because he’s been the sitting president, that indictment has gone un-delivered. It WILL get delivered now. And then the litigation-prosecution-punishment merry-go-round will begin. It might never stop.
Donald Trump will not go down alone. He won’t. He won’t keep his mouth shut. He won’t keep his secrets or anyone else’s because those are all worth something to him now. And, don’t forget, he’s not a “master negotiator”, he’s a horrible one. He’s all tells. And Republicans have known at least since before the convention that Trump (and other Republicans) were dirty, dirty, DIRTY when it came to Russia. As current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy put it in 2016, just before the convention, as he entered a meeting of the GOP leadership: “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump”.
The correct response to such a statement should have been “Whaaaaaat? Kevin, why do you say that? Why do you even THINK that, dude?” Even if the connections Kevin made were tenuous, that they could have been possible should have guided their actions — that is, if Kevin or then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan or any of the other GOP leaders present had had an ounce of integrity. They didn’t, of course.
The Republican Party has known all along the Trump was dirty. They’ve known all along that THEY are dirty. Why, it’s even been REPORTED IN THE NEWSPAPERS. All one has to do — to benefit from that fact — is READ.
Remember the Mueller Report? Same damned thing. The Report itself says one thing but Bill Barr — and then every single Republican — said it said something else entirely. How does one gain perspective in such a situation? YOU READ THE REPORT! And, if you’re even a semi-literate journalist, you get: inside this NARROW SLICE of the Trump-Russia story, it was hard to say with certainty whether or not Donald Trump and his presidential campaign were guilty of crimes (connected to Wikileaks and how information flowed from and to it) — though there’s significant evidence suggesting it — because of all the OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE in our way. THAT is what the Report’s conclusions actually say.
Imagine, if you will, where we’d be if the news media had simply added those two pieces of information to the knowledge base they reported from: 1) the Republicans knew Trump had a criminal relationship with Russia and 2) they consistently denied that fact and were actively covering it up. That’s with the Perspective Meter turned down super low so it only catches the most OBVIOUS takeaways.
Our news media — its head stuck deeply up its own “Both Sides Do It” ass — STILL thinks Donald Trump might could go on to “build a media empire” or “run again in 2024” as if we were going to simply deny that anything even remotely CRIMINAL or TREASONOUS happened — as if we were all just going to stand here denying the truth. Even if criminal charges only ever got leveled because we need to prosecute Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic response (and all his friends who got rich off it), it will touch EVERY SINGLE MEMBER of the Trump family. They’ve all profited!
It’s strange — having perspective — when you compare notes with someone who doesn’t. Talk about not reading from the same hymnal. You ain’t even in the same house of worship. But then, that someone experiences a revelation or a catharsis. They open their damned eyes. And they put down the nonsense and read from the real “Good Book” — reality.
Here’s the reality: if we don’t hold Donald Trump, the GOP as an institution and every single Republican responsible for attempting a literal coup d’etat, we will get to experience “Slavery, The Sequel” — a terrible, immoral misjudgment that can never and will never sit right. Perversely, our current crisis is very much a product of not outlawing slavery at the outset. Institutionalized racism (“All men are created equal” did not mean “all men” — or even “all people”) was America’s original sin. It haunts us to this day.
The Republican Party is trying to perpetuate that racism via permanent minority rule. Why else would you BEG state legislators in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Michigan to overlook the popular vote in their states to IMPOSE Donald Trump upon them? Ignore the voters because they voted AGAINST racism — that’s what they’re selling.
The news media though continues to scratch its head, unsure still if what they’re seeing IS indeed racism. There’s an old joke we used to tell on the schoolyard. Kid sees a pile of what could be poop on the street. He picks it up. Sniffs. Smells like poop. Has a lick. Uh huh — tastes like poop, too. He puts it back down on the street and continues on: “Sure glad I didn’t step in it!”
Hey, News Media: you’ve already stepped in it. Pick up some perspective. You won’t make the same mistake again.
I just watched morning host Cris Jansing — while interviewing fellow host Joe Scarborough about his Harry Truman bio — ask if Joe DiGenova (one of Donald Trump’s LAWYERS!) suggesting execution for people with whom they disagree politically was just “some strategy”. The obvious answer is “No, of COURSE that’s not just “some strategy”. Wanting to execute people with whom you disagree is monstrous. It’s evil and indefensible. Yet Chris Jansing called it a “strategy”. What if executing political foes WAS a Trumpian strategy? What would Chris Jansing call it then? What would Chris call such an immoral strategy? Would she break down and call it “immoral”?
She should. But, the fact that we don’t know that she would? That’s as much a reflection on Chris as it is the school of journalism she practices: “Both Sides Do It”.
Journalists need skepticism in their tool belt. Too many think cynicism is just another brand of skepticism. It’s not. They’re two very different things. A skeptical journalist wants receipts for everything — or, hopefully, enough good circumstantial evidence that “equals” a receipt. A cynical journalist just flat out assumes the worst possible outcome because everyone’s a scumbag. End of story.
From that point of view, a thief is a thief is a thief no matter the scope of the thievery. Bernie Madoff stealing billions (albeit mostly from millionaires) is exactly the same as, say, Jean Valjean (the hero of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables) stealing bread to feed hungry people. A thief is a thief is a thief: both sides do it. Except, really, they don’t. Scale matters. Motivation matters. Patterns of behavior matter.
Yet something in “Both Sides Do It” can’t aggregate anything. While assuming the worst of people, it doesn’t aggregate the “worst” — the reasons for thinking the worst. So, if Donald Trump says “pussy grabbing” after insisting that “Mexicans are rapists”, “Both Sides Do It” journalism doesn’t add those two together. By the time Trump said “pussy grabbing”, most “Both Sides Do It” journalists had already forgotten “Mexicans are rapists” as if some “other” offensive candidate had said it.
That’s the normalization process at work. By the time Trump got to “pussy grabbing”, “Both Sides Do It” journalists had already normalized “Mexicans are rapists”. It was just something a “different kind of potus candidate” says. And, eventually — the kind of thing a different kind of potus says. To normalize evil is to be evil. That’s because evil never compromises with anyone. People always compromise with IT. And the moment you do? It’s “game over”. Evil just won.
Among “Both Sides Do It’s” worst offenders is NBC News’ Kelly O’Donnell.
Kelly is an award-winning journalist. She’s respected by other journalists. That’s a problem. She’s not just terrible at her job, she’s immoral and every time she gets on camera, she spews immoral journalism at us. Kelly thinks her job is to faithfully report whatever Donald Trump or his administration says without editorializing. In “normal world”, reporting about a “normal administration”, that would be one thing. That has NEVER been the case here. Reporting lies you KNOW are lies without FIRST pointing out that they’re lies is journalistic malpractice at best.
Is there a line in the sand for Kelly? Is there something Trump might say that was so deliberately cruel and egregiously incorrect that even Kelly might hesitate before repeating it? For instance — what if Trump spewed “And, by the way — people tell me Kelly O’Donnell eats children for breakfast!”? Would Kelly O repeat the president’s words faithfully because, well, “they’re the president’s words”? Or would Kelly O FINALLY draw a line in the sand?
Would Kelly O think “Hey, wait a minute — I KNOW I don’t eat children for breakfast (too much cholesterol!)” Would she say to herself “If I repeat these words, people might think they’re true — that I really DO eat children for breakfast!”? Would she put her foot down finally and say “Mister President, NO! I refuse to repeat what you just said because it’s bullshit!”?
I wouldn’t hold my breath. I guess that makes me cynical where Kelly O is concerned.
Yeah, okay — ya got me. I have zero faith that reporters/hosts like Kelly O’Donnell or Chuck Todd or John King or Wolf Blitzer or Andrea Mitchell or Alex Witt or Kris Jansen will ever bring enough perspective with them to work each day to evolve. Even as the Chuck Todd’s shake their heads in consternation, unable to fathom why Trump or Republicans do the seemingly inexplicable things they do, they’re looking for ways Democrats do the exact same things.
Except Democrats don’t do the exact same things. If Democrats did the exact same things as Republicans, they’d BE Republicans. We don’t. We never have. We’re still every bit the same group of whom Will Rogers said “I’m not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat”. Diversity doesn’t not march in lock step. It does the opposite; that’s its strength. “E Pluribus Unum” — out of many, one — preaches the opposite of “Both Sides Do It”. There are no “both sides”. There’s OUR side. The American side.
We are engaged in a Great Moral Struggle. The American People didn’t just “vote Trump out of office”, we repudiated him. More Americans voted for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris than have ever voted for any presidential ticket — and by a margin of over six million votes. As for Trump’s number, let’s stick a pin in it. As any journalist with an ounce of perspective would tell you, when Donald Trump complains about something, whining about it relentlessly, pay attention to it: he’s projecting his guilt. If Trump’s accusing Democrats of voter machine fraud, it’s because HE’S COMMITTING IT HIMSELF.
As I wrote here, when you “own” the machines, when you have full backdoor access to them, when you your political interests are tied in to one of the two parties whose elections you’re always tallying — and your business is completely unregulated — it offers opportunities to the less scrupulous. People avoiding transparency (could Diebold and ESS — who make the majority of American voting machines — have tried any harder to resist hand-marked paper ballots for security reasons?) shouldn’t be given a pass just because they’re white, Christian guys running a business. But “Both Sides Do It” journalism refuses to aggregate or judge a story. They get the pass every stinking time.
One could probably count the number of times on one hand that ANY American broadcast journalist or news show host reminded their audience before a segment that Donald Trump was the FIRST POTUS EVER to run for re-election HAVING BEEN IMPEACHED for CHEATING in the very election he was now running in. It’s never happened before. It’s truly extraordinary.
And yet — it never even made it INTO most news stories about the election. Both sides DON’T get impeached for cheating in elections. Both sides don’t get impeached over blow jobs either but that’s a whole other story.
I have to wonder. If we transported the bulk of American journalists from today back to Germany in 1931, how would they “represent”? Would they sniff out Hitler for the monster he was? Or would they “Both Sides Do It”? Would Hitler’s authoritarian violence just be the “Both Sides Do It” counter to those pesky communists protesting? People did see Hitler for who and what he was. Just not enough people in the right places.
That’s what makes “Both Sides Do It” journalism so dangerous to our democracy. Its lack of perspective isn’t just a character flaw, it’s a fatal one. It TURNS political behavior INTO innocuous behavior when Republicans suppress Democratic voters and turns a victim reporting a crime into political behavior when Democrats react to having their votes suppressed. When journalists refuse to judge these acts — and call them what they are up front — crime and crime victim become one and the same thing.
Both sides do NOT do it. They never have. They never will.
Racism, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. It’s not for the racist to say whether or not he’s racist — how the hell would he know if he’s racist or not? He hasn’t the perspective; that’s why it’s up to the racist’s victim — the person the racist behaved in a racist way toward — to say whether or not racism occurred. They get to say “That was racist!” or it wasn’t. The same goes for political legitimacy. You can claim it — but it’s not yours to bestow.
Think of it from Moscow Mitch McConnell’s point of view. Having Trump around your neck is a burden-and-a-half. You’ve accomplished your mission: you’ve hijacked the federal judiciary with lifetime appointments that should set America back a generation while keeping most of the real power in America concentrated into the minority rule-ing hands of the Republicans. Who needs the daily tsoris (that’s the technical term) of Trump yanking everyone’s chain this way and that? While Mitch and the Republicans can’t betray Trump directly (he’s got too much hold over them, too much kompromat, I’m guessing, or too much knowledge of how deep their criminal complicity runs), the American People could — via an election — solve their problem FOR them.
From that moment on, not a single Republican could honestly say Donald Trump’s campaign was legitimate. They sure have worked hard, the Republicans, to keep Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia and Vlad Putin a secret. These aren’t things that make you go “Hmmmmm…”, these are things that make you go: “I get it”. But then, political legitimacy is not a thing you can claim for yourself. In a democratic republic like ours, legitimacy flows from We The People. We grant the legitimacy and authority required to govern us via our votes. If we do not or did not grant you such legitimacy? You do not have it.
If you STEAL an election result — as Donald Trump and the Republican Party did in 2016 — literally giving the majority of voters the diametric OPPOSITE of what they voted for — you cannot claim to govern legitimately. You can call yourself “the president” all you like. In point of fact, you are not the president. You’re using the power gained via your illegitimate power grab to call yourself “president” but the facts say something else. And the facts are about to land on your head.
The Republicans have done everything in their power to avoid oversight and use their offices to help Donald Trump undermine our democracy. Even now, the majority of Congressional Republicans have refused to acknowledge Joe Biden’s legitimacy — as if that would deny it to him. That, in poker, is called a tell. It’s the Republicans acknowledging very quietly that they know that THEY lack legitimacy.
But then, that’s so on-brand for Republicans — claiming to be one thing (patriots, say) while in fact being another (traitors).
That’s why traitors or criminals or Republicans don’t get to say whether or not they are patriots. That’s for others to say. If Republicans feel so compelled though to talk about themselves, there are plenty of things they could confess to. We The People will be happy to listen. But then, pirates like the Republican Party aren’t exactly down with contrition.
They’re not down with legitimacy either. It’s too hard. Requires too much work. Too much honesty and integrity. For criminals, it’s just easier to do whatever works — to put money that isn’t theirs into their pockets and power that isn’t theirs into their hands. Republicans are all children, their mouths crammed with cookies, a cookie in each hand, insisting that, no, they don’t know anything about any stolen cookies.
The “Ragin’ Cajun”, James Carville, coined “(It’s) The economy, stupid!” during Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. Why would people vote one way(for Bill Clinton) vs the other (for GW Bush)? Back then, in those heady, carefree days (relatively speaking), the economy was our biggest, baddest problem. Oh, the luxury of only having to deal with one mega-crisis at a time! Nowadays — in Donald Trump’s America, every day brings a whole new mega-crisis. Or it seems to. If we’d just pull the lens back as far as we can so we could see Donald Trump, the GOP, election 2016 and election 2020 with the widest possible perspective — we’d see that, really, just like in 1992, we’re only facing ONE mega-crisis: Donald Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party was the GOP’s final and total surrender to the corruption that’s been stalking it… well, forever.
The Republican Party prides itself on being the Big Money Party. Anyone in class today who thinks money doesn’t corrupt? Anyone who doesn’t think that the more money there is the more likely corruption there is? Good. Everyone’s a realist then. That helps.
Politicians and the money that owns them rely on corruption to have their way because relying on the majority of voters to vote for their ideas is pointless. The majority of Americans want the OPPPOSITE of what corrupt Republicans want. That’s why the majority voted the way it did in 2016 and 2020. Let’s stop pretending that the Electoral College reflects anything other than how slavery would vote. In 2016, the Republican Party managed to use both slavery’s vote and a silent vote from Russia to overcome the majority’s will. When you factor in the fact that Russia is and has been waging CYBER WAR against us, you can only conclude that Republicans were SO desperate to win that they even resorted to TREASON.
We The People felt corruption’s grip on us the instant 2016 was called for Trump. Democrats felt (rightfully) cheated of the result THEY’D WON in 2000 when Antonin Scalia stepped in and STOPPED the vote counting in Florida, crafting a mountain of bullshit into an argument that completely contradicted the very originalism he’s been selling from the trunk of his car like hot merchandise. Bush v Gore is the picture portrait of bullshit. Al Gore didn’t concede because he thought he lost to W. He conceded for the good of the country.
In retrospect, OY!
Corruption got us again. It caused us to make a terrible decision; we chose appeasement. Compromise. But, while WE compromised with corruption, corruption did not compromise with us. It simply caused us to NORMALIZE that much more corruption. It caused us to grow that much more cynical about ourselves and our democracy. Want to know why so many Americans went into the streets the moment it became a fact that Joe Biden was President-Elect? Because we’re sick to death of Donald Trump and the corruption he imposed onto our lives.
Remember: we did not vote for Trump. We voted against him. We voted against what he’s doing to us, to our Allies, to the planet.
Our news media needs to stop framing the Donald Trump story from corruption’s point of view as if corruption was just “another way of doing business”. It’s only “another way” if we let it be. If we put our collective foot down every time corruption reared its ugly head, corruption would quickly learn — don’t rear your ugly head (it could get stepped on)! But, when you indulge the boy who cries wolf every time he falsely cries wolf (without ever making him pay a price for doing it), he will cry wolf every chance he gets. If our news media would stop giving credence to the boy crying wolf — if they’d see him for what he is (a fraud) — maybe they’d turn their attention to more important parts of the story.
When the story of our times gets written — with the perspective of history — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will be infamous as one of America’s worst traitors ever. Moscow Mitch’s name will replace Benedict Arnold’s as the epithet Americans use to call other Americans “traitor”. Mitch still thinks he’s on a grand crusade to re-cast the judiciary as the last bastion of white, Christian male hegemony.
That grand plan isn’t Mitch’s. Mitch McConnell doesn’t do grand plans. He’s a functionary. A petty politician doing the dirty working for Big Money Interests. The Big Money has the grand plans — an unfair world where they all get richer while the rest of us fall further behind, our debt growing, our health failing.
Mitch is their bitch. His job — manifest these terrible, repressive, regressive grand plans into our reality.
That’s why Mitch worked so hard to deny Barack Obama all those federal bench openings. It’s why Mitch denied Obama so much as a hearing for Merrick Garland. Mitch was in the middle of pleasing his masters — of hijacking the judiciary on the sly. Here’s the thing: the popular vote reflects the majority’s voice. Barack Obama was the majority’s voice and choice — to fill every judicial vacancy during his tenure. Our voice and choice was denied us by Mitch McConnell — for the benefit of his masters. That is not hyperbole.
And this is not how our democracy is supposed to work. Not according to the rules or the rule of law.
In addition to destroying the judiciary, Mitch also has destroyed the Senate. Anyone suggesting the Democrats aren’t showing enough comity toward their Republican co-workers needs to shut up. Comity will be reserved for whatever party replaces the Republicans. No one who calls himself “A Republican” can do so without also being a Trumpist. Trumpism & Republicanism are now equal in every way.
Mitch has operated in the shadows for most of his career. He’s about to end his career in the spotlight. That is, his corruption is.
The Democrats are about to retake the Senate. What was a likelihood before is now a dead certainty. RBG’s passing — even without all the additional political baggage — would have moved people to action. It would have motivated tens of millions of women at the very least. Now it’s a question of Legacy. And reproductive rights. And basic health.
What happened in 2018 — that massive blue “wave” — wasn’t a wave. It was the leading edge of a much larger wave. The Trump years have torn every last bit of cover off our various failings. Remember — we didn’t vote for this, this was forced on us. Donald Trump — with massive Russian assistance — stole the outcome of election 2016. Together they stole our intention — what WE wanted this country to do for our benefit and in our name. Their aim is to make that theft permanent.
Their problem: America’s women aren’t down with and aren’t going to be. Ever. That’s Mitch McConnell’s biggest miscalculation of all.
Mitch, when he’s done, will have finished the hard work of turning America’s women into the most potent, dynamic, unstoppable political force in America. He’ll be shocked by how socialist they are by nature. Of course women are more “socialist” — they care above all about their babies and they KNOW from pure experience that it DOES take a “village” to raise a child — of family members and community members and teachers and mentors and coaches and friends. The healthier and happier that village is, the healthier and happier their babies will be.
Women — and I’m generalizing, but biology does impact us in particular ways — think communally — and seek the group’s wisdom before making a decision while men think they alone can fix it. If we look at the current world leaders and how they’ve handled the pandemic, the women — Angela Merkle in Germany, Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand — did especially well in both protecting their people but also protecting their economies.
I’ll go further onto this limb. Merkle and Ardern’s success relative to Trump’s stems in large part from their political and personal strengths and skills but also, to a measurable degree, from their chromosomes. They have a little more empathy baked into their genetics. That radiates in the form of humanity — and then policy.
America truly stands on the precipice. We will go one way or the other. There’s no middle route.
Either Mitch McConnell will see the rot he introduced succeed or Mitch will fail spectacularly with dire, terrible consequences for every single Republican legislator who had the least inkling what Mitch was up to. Keep in mind — Mitch is a traitor. That’s not hyperbole either. He’s taken gobs of Russian money into his campaign coffers (though legally via his PAC but not-so-legally with added perspective), denied We The People the knowledge that Russia was fixing the 2016 election for Trump, canned the sanctions Obama implemented BECAUSE of that election interference and TO THIS DAY has refused to spend a penny on election security.
Mitch McConnell is one of the biggest traitors in all American history. And THAT isn’t hyperbole.
It’s vitally important that we not only punish Mitch McConnell for what he’s done but that we punish him to the very fullest extent the rule of law allows. We need to make an example out of Mitch for all time. We need to send the lesson that, perhaps, would have been sent had we punished Richard Nixon instead of pardoning him — abuse of power (especially at the executive level) is wholly unacceptable.
Mitch is already the architect of his own downfall. We owe it to Mitch to see that those plans get carried out all the way.
I suppose if you suddenly sprang into being right next to Donald Trump — so his essence, his aura, his version of the world was all that you knew — HIS version of the world might seem possible. But step outside the treasonous bubble of Trumpism — and a 2 X 4 of realism goes upside your head. The man’s lying even when he mutters “Hello”.
No one who isn’t already corrupted by Donald Trump thinks Trump’s view of the world, of events — of his own horrible family — reflects reality. Look at the “defense” the GOP’s “brain trust” banged together for the first day of formal, public impeachment hearings. There was no attempt whatsoever to argue the merits. There was no attempt to say “No, he didn’t do that” because everything’s been admitted to already.
If we approach the GOP’s behavior yesterday with a close up lens — as our Main Stream News Media likes to do — you get Trump’s defenders strategizing how to defend the indefensible. If you step back a few paces — using a slightly wider lens — you get get… well — if you COULD step back a few paces, you’d have done that a long, long time ago.
And if you had stepped back a few paces long before yesterday — if you had as much perspective as possible, say — you wouldn’t still be scratching your head wondering why Trump defends Putin the way he does and why the Republicans continue to defend Trump the way they do. Our MSM is YET to due their due diligence on Trump. They’ve never, most of them, done a top-to-bottom study of who Trump REALLY is so that when they report on him, they’re reporting on HIM and not some bullshit version of him. They’re not the same thing.
Back when the Republicans were doing everything they could to undermine the “integrity” of the Steele Dossier, they hauled Glenn Simpson, co-founder of Fusion GPS before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, August 22, 2017. Fusion, Simpson testified, had first been hired by the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website to do oppo research against Trump. Being pros, before they got going on the real assignment, they did their due diligence. They got their hands on piece of publicly available material on Donald Trump in existence. They combed Amazon and actual book stores. They got magazines and newspaper articles. They got tapes of radio shows and TV shows. They even went to the public library to find stuff.
What Fusion found while doing their due diligence — the scuttwork FFS — convinced them that Trump had been deeply involved with Russian mobsters for years. They saw clear indications that Trump had laundered untold millions of dollars of Russian mob money through his Atlantic City casinos (which kind of explained how/why they failed — and how/why that was the point). Simpson explained that, suspecting what these professional journalists now suspected, Fusion contacted Chris Steele, former head of MI6’s Russia desk, the Westerner with the best contacts inside Russia bar none.
Chris Steele then produced his “dossier” — the raw intelligence that he’d gathered.
Instead of telling any of THAT story, pretty much all of our MSM — not doing a lick of due diligence — slapped the word “unverified” on Steele’s work (losing all sight of WHY he was doing that work, answering WHAT question asked by WHOM). Imagine how much quicker we’d be to telling and understanding this story if all the “publicly available” perspective had been applied to the story from the beginning — the way Fusion GPS did…
Our media blocks itself from bringing perspective to any story because they start from the premise that “Both Sides Do It”. Regardless of what it is, bad or good, I suppose, “both sides do it”. Neither side has any particular reason — other than their tribal impulse toward one extreme or its diametric opposite. People do things “just because”. All information weighs exactly the same — because (in American journalistic parlance) “who’s to judge?” That’s why lies and empirical truth weigh the same in so much reporting. Too many American journalists think they’d be editorializing to assume the information they’re reporting is actually true.
If you report that Donald Trump is DEMONSTRABLY a racist one moment, he doesn’t stop being a racist the next when he claims NOT to be a racist.
Similarly, when Trump behaves like a traitor — when he does openly treasonous things (like betraying the Kurds where the Press could enumerate every single way Trump’s action served only one person: Putin) — he doesn’t stop being a traitor just because it’s time to report on election 2020. That’s why we’re now telling the Ukraine story, get it?
Trump thinks he’s gotten away with stealing election 2016 so why not finish gutting American Democracy by stealing election 2020 — and using IT to UNBLAME RUSSIA for stealing election 2016? If the American MSM had done its due diligence… ya see where I’m going?
Then — bad to worse — the MSM scratches its head wondering why the Republicans (in the face of so much horrible truth) continue to defend Trump when (look at yesterday) there’s literally NO DEFENSE — for actions that scream from the rooftops “WE’RE CRIMINAL!” Because they live in a “Both Sides Do It” universe where lies and truth weigh exactly the same, this clear evidence of obstruction of justice (rather than seeking justice — it’s not seeking Justice when, like Lindsey Graham, you refuse to look at evidence cos it’s all a “hoax”) gets reported like… like it’s NOT an actual criminal behavior.
Boom — just like that, a CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR gets normalized. Legitimized.
When you have no perspective and you allow yourself to “see the world” through the criminal’s eyes as if the criminal wasn’t a criminal, you get corrupted yourself. If you had an ounce of perspective, of course, you wouldn’t have gone there to begin with. You’d have known that criminals were trying to bamboozle you.
We are zooming toward a bunch of big, big reveals. When this goes to the Senate — whenever that happens — and the Senate refuses to convict on charges so simple and so clear, we will arrive at the place this battle needs to arrive at. Who are we as a country?
Are we the lawless, authoritarian 1850 hellhole of ignorance, racism & old tyme religion the Republicans want us to be? Or are we America?
Lack of perspective kills.
A swimmer who sees only the immediate water around them – lovely and
turquoise – but not the school of hungry sharks circling that lovely bit of
turquoise? That swimmer is chum.
Religionistas will insist that their deity wants them to live according to the rules set down by ignorant (by our standards) iron age desert dwellers because everything anyone needed to know was “known” and set down in the texts those iron age desert dwellers produced. But, what if those iron age desert dwellers, before they sat down to write, had had access to all the information we take for granted today?
What if those scribes had known that microbes and pathogens cause most human diseases? What if they knew what RNA and DNA are? What if they had a Hubble Space Telescope and every bit of its remarkable data flow to chew on? Would they have written texts that killed people with magical plagues or put the earth at the center of everything?
If the men who wrote the OT had read Darwin or Stephen
Hawking, if they had taken in a geology text book or a scientific paper on
genetics, if they had ever gotten a chance to use the internet – would they
have sat down and written the texts they wrote the exact same way?
The people who wrote, edited and put together the canonical
New Testament used significant portions of the old texts as the basis for their
new texts. The mythology Paul created
leaned heavily on the Pentateuch. The whole
basis for original sin is Eve and the Garden of Eden. If the men who wrote the originals never
wrote those originals – because they were better informed about how the world
really worked – the course of human history would have been radically
We may not have been any less self-destructive (homo sapiens are still homo sapiens) but at least we would have been denied that particular flavor of bullshit to use as an excuse.
So – if the people who wrote the religious texts so many Americans say they rely on as the basis for their lives had been just a teensy bit more educated via access to modern technologies – had they been able to “pull the lens back” even a little — human history would have been spared the chaotic, illogical darkness that certain religions have repeatedly inflicted upon humanity.
By the same token — if our Main Stream News Media were able to find the widest possible lens they can find, they might finally be able to tell the story we’re all living through. Nearly three years in to this nonsense, there are STILL reporters (like NBC News’ well-meaning but hopelessly feckless Kelly O’Donnell) who repeat back Donald Trump’s words as if he spoke gospel truth. It never occurs to them to contextualize Trump by saying – before repeating his words – that nothing he says is reliable.
They don’t. They position their reporting lens inside Trump’s bubble – where bullshit is true just because Trump says so. They report from inside the lie with the lie as their only apparent frame of reference. Either they genuinely believe the lie is true or they lack the perspective to see and report the relationship between lie and truth. Either way, they render themselves useless to We The People just when we need them most.
At the end of the day, when the smoke can finally clear and we see this story with whatever perspective we can before our generation literally dies off (and real perspective finally has a chance to flower), I bet we’ll post mortem the press this way: they failed on two major counts. First – Lack Of Perspective. Too often, our press has turned a laser focus on a piece of the larger story. While their focus was admirable, the fact that they lost perspective while focusing in so intently was not. For all the detail a guy like NBC’s Steve Kornacki can tell you about how voters vote, he never places them in the context of their times.
We have never lived through what we’re living through
now. We have never had elections stolen
by foreign countries before (at least not that we’re aware of). We have never experienced one party tossing
out the Rule Of Law in a desperate grab for permanent minority rule. When these things happen, it kinda changes
things. It’s like someone shitting in
the pool. Is swimming in it – with turds
bobbing around – the same experience?
No, Steve Kornacki, it is not. Steve epitomizes this sort of “intense focus”
journalism. He can tell you everything
you want to know about a particular grain of sand. Ask him where the grain of sand IS – on a
beach? In the middle of the Sahara? In some kid’s sand box in a suburb somewhere?
Steve has no idea.
That’s a problem where storytelling is concerned.
Second – Failure Of Imagination. It’s directly related to the first problem –
lack of perspective. It’s kinda the “ouch”
to lack of perspective’s “pinch”. If you
can’t really see what the problem (or the story) is, you can’t possibly solve
it (or report it accurately).
What happens when we pull back the lens on most of our Main
Stream News Media is we see that they’re failing us – failing their
Constitutionally mandated role as final check on power. I suggest we keep the lens back here. Their close up is really, really ugly.
If ever one word captured the age we live in — it’s “bullshit”. And could a man embody & epitomize bullshit any better than Donald Trump?
Shameless plug first — I just finished (and I’m agent-shopping) a book: How To Live Bullshit Free (And Other Showbiz Tales). It’s a painfully funny, brutally honest, name-dropping Hollywood memoir. I’ve had an unusual career (you can IMDb me here) that’s given me the chance to work with some of the most talented people in The Business. It’s also a “why you shouldn’t kill yourself” book (I came within inches of committing suicide three days before Christmas 2016 — or, as I like to think of it, I came within literal inches of bullshitting myself to death.
As I began to healthy in the aftermath (thanks to a great therapist, a mood stabilizer to cage the depression — it all flowed from a sexual assault at 14 I had buried — and loads of THC to mitigate my hypomania), I saw the myriad ways bullshit was still kicking my ass on a daily basis.
The first thing you have to do — to get bullshit out of your life — is to acknowledge all your own bullshit first (you have to deal with yours before you can even think of dealing with anyone else’s). And the first thing you’ll find, when you begin to deal with your bullshit, is how completely bullshit has destroyed your perspective. Bullshit, like depression, reduces your view of the world to an extreme telephoto lens — dialed in on one thing (how much you hate yourself, say) to the exclusion of everything else. Both destroy perspective until all you can see is your bullshit — and your bullshit is lying to you.
So — what can one do to become the alpha dog in one’s relationship with one’s ownb bullshit? Understand — calling out the bullshit in your life is not a one-n-done project. Bullshit is like herpes. It never really goes away. You manage it at best. But you have to manage it. Every day – or it’ll metastasize from herpes into something a hell of a lot worse.
HOW TO LIVE BULLSHIT FREE: THE DAILY 7 STEP ‘TO DO’ LIST
1 Get Perspective
2 Be Clear on What Is and What Isn’t
3 Keep Perspective
4 Refuse to Engage With Bullshit (It’s Pointless)
5 Own Your Own Bullshit First (Own It All Every Day)
6 Maintain Perspective
7 Wake Up Tomorrow and Repeat
If you look at how the list is structured, one thing kind of
leads to another. Nothing on it is
intrinsically difficult – unless you try it in isolation. The daily hunting and pecking at bullshit is
a grind. You see a lot of familiar
faces: your bad habits for instance – they’re bullshit. Bad habits you know you can break (and should) are bullshit on steroids. Those are the ones that trip easily into Red
Flag Warning territory. There’s a reason
they’re habits despite the fact that they’re bad.
The getting, keeping and maintaining of perspective are all a matter of pulling ‘the camera’ back as far as you possibly can. Are you seeing the biggest picture? Sure you can’t pull it back just a little bit more? Remember – bullshit eats perspective.
If you can master that – seeing your circumstances in their fullest context – it may not make you happier, but you’ll know exactly what stands between you and happiness. You will always know where the bullshit is in your life – and which bullshit you can live with and which you can’t.
As much as I might want to see the world through another person’s eyes, it’s a physical impossibility. The best I can ever really hope for is to imagine what the world literally looks like as they see it. It’s a fact — we all experience “experience” differently.
Imagine a cube sitting alone on a vast, featureless plain. From the cube’s point of view, all one can see — turning 360 degrees — is plain. From the plain’s perspective however, there’s endless plain — and a cube. Differing perspectives see differing things. But one of the two perspectives saw everything (or more of everything) while the other failed to see a key detail.
As a Nation, we stand at a moment of existential crisis because we have lost perspective — and our perspective was dubious to begin with.
How is it that a criminal and traitor occupies the White House and we are seemingly powerless to remove him from office? How is that all this information about Donald Trump’s criminality — including 488 pages of Mueller Report — and we STILL can’t even officially accuse the man of what he’s demonstrably done?
It’s like the Truth is that cube sitting in the middle of vast, featureless plain — and we, living inside the Truth, can’t see it because we’re so “close to it”. If we could just get some perspective, we’d get it. Our news media has a related problem. They want to get at the truth — but don’t seem to realize that the deep dives they take — while detailed — aren’t adding significantly to our overall knowledge because they’re too focused on detail. Or on the wrong details…
A story (like Trump’s with Russia, for instance) is a mosaic. Each tile is significant. The problem is, our Main Stream News Media — while awfully good at boring into any particular tile — have a tendency (while boring in on the particular tile that’s drawn their interest) to forget all the other tiles in the mosaic.
Some of them even forget that the thing they’re looking at is part of a mosaic. They convince themselves that the piece they’re looking at IS the whole picture while the Whole Picture actually looks a lot like this —
On a related note — and a similar metaphor — there are the numbers crunchers like NBC’s Steve Kornacki. Kornacki can tell you a lot of fascinating detail about the numbers themselves — how a district voted historically, how a particular candidate has fared with a particular group of voters. But Kornacki’s assumption that the past is prologue doesn’t apply to now. We’ve never had an actual traitor as POTUS — and we’ve never had one of our two political parties committed to keeping that traitor in power.
The details on the ground matter more than the fact that there’s “ground”. Put another way, Number crunchers like Steve Kornacki can wax rhapsodic about a grain of sand (how small it is — or big compared to other grains of sand, what kind of rock it came from, how old it is, what its future probably is) …
Yeah — Kornacki can show you the beauty in a grain of sand. But beyond that things get sketchy…
Almost as important as knowing about the grain of sand is knowing where the grain of sand lives. And that’s something Kornacki can only guess at — because he’s lost perspective (and maybe never had it to begin with). For all Kornacki knows, the grain of sand he’s fixated on comes from here…
But, for all Steve knows, it could just as easily come from the surface of Mars…
It’s lack of perspective that first fed the ludicrous idea that “both sides do it”. “Both sides do it” always functions without any sense of scale — or perspective. To the “both sides do it” crowd, Bernie Madoff and Jean Valjean (from Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables) are both thieves — never mind that one ripped off people to the tune of billions while the other stole bread to feed the hungry. The respective-less Both Sides Do It club says thievery is thievery is thievery (if poor people or people of color do it).
Storytellers need to be able to pull the camera back as far as it will go — and then further still. A storyteller with no perspective is a person to whom that story is being told.
They’re like a cube sitting on a wide open, featureless plain…