Dear American News Media: America Needs YOU To Do Better

The last four years turned me from a news consumer into a news junkie. I bet I’m not alone. In fact, I know I’m not. But, let’s be clear: the fix I’m after isn’t “news”, it’s Truth. They aren’t necessarily the same thing. That, right there, is our problem. It’s why I watch the news so obsessively now — not because I need them updating me but because I feel compelled to point out every time they confound “spouting information” with telling truth. In the age of Trump, every piece of information spewing from people notorious for lying should be seen as suspect first and true only after rigorous examination.

And, by the way? Both sides don’t “do it”.

First problem? The apparent inability to AGGREGATE information the way storytellers are supposed to. Information from one scene gets added to what we know — and that information directs us toward more questions which, in turn, produce more information that adds to what we know. Except that process has broken down with our news media.

The moment Donald Trump insisted that “Mexicans are rapists”, the correct response from our news media shouldn’t have been “Oh, well — we guess he’s just a different kind of presidential candidate”, it should have been “Donald Trump is a bigot and a racist”. Everything they reported after that fact would have built upward from our FIRM KNOWLEDGE (based on Trump’s own words!) that Donald Trump is a racist.

Every story about Trump thereafter should have included the background that everything Trump said or says is in the context of “he’s a racist”. But, because we allow racists to decide whether or not they’re racist, Trump got to claim HE was the “least racist person in the whole world”. Oy.

See how we let a racist determine the context — to the detriment of the story and our ability to understand it? Imagine, if you will, how different a place we’d be in today if we WEREN’T still debating (if the news media wasn’t still debating) whether or not racist Donald Trump is a racist or not.

If you can’t aggregate simple, evidence-based information into a narrative, journalism (storytelling in general) baffles you. Find another line of work.

Once the news media started down the “He’s just a different kind of POTUS” path, they were lost. “He’s a different kind of…” is what a journalist says to affirm that they’ve normalized what should never be normalized.

They did the same thing with pussy-grabbing, preferring to chase “But, her emails” instead. Keep in mind the perspective: pussy-grabbing plus 20+ accusations of rape, sexual assault and indecent behavior. It’s what real storytellers call CONTEXT.

Quick reminder — when Fusion GPS’s Glenn Simpson testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on August 22, 2017 (the Republican-led committee was desperate to undermine the Steele Dossier’s integrity), he described Fusion’s process after they’d been hired by the conservative-run Washington Free Beacon to do oppo research on Trump. The very first thing Fusion did, Simpson testified, was their due diligence. They got their hands on every piece of publicly available information about or by Donald Trump — newspaper stories, magazine articles, Howard Stern appearances, TV interviews. They visited Amazon and used book stores. They even went to the public library looking for publicly available material.

What Fusion found — in publicly available material — convinced them that Trump had been involved with criminal behavior for years and that he’d likely laundered Russian mob money through his (now bankrupt) Atlantic City casinos. In other words, Fusion found enough evidence of criminal conduct that they felt compelled to do MORE research. By then, Jeb Bush (the Free Beacon’s choice) had dropped out and Democrats backing Hillary Clinton were paying Fusion’s fees. The whole reason Fusion sub-contracted the Russian part of the oppo research out to Christopher Steele is because he’d run MI6’s Moscow desk and had top tier contacts inside Russia.

Until Fusion hired Steele, they were doing something every news organization could have done on their own, by themselves: due diligence. Like Fusion, THEY could have gotten THEIR hands on every piece of publicly available material on Trump. Like Fusion, THEY could have met the minimal obligation before beginning their formal work of reporting on Donald Trump.

Except they didn’t.

Steele’s work product is raw intel — and needs to be understood that way. That’s just context. Take away the context and Steele’s product becomes “unverified” meaning “probably untrue”. But, raw intel is all about context. There’s rarely a smoking gun but there can be the preponderance of the evidence. Plenty of smoke flows from that.

Lacking context and convinced that “both sides do it”, our news media has spun a relentless false narrative flowing from the mis-reporting that “Trump won in 2016”. We will arrive at this conclusion: take away intense voter suppression in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin (the product of Paul Manafort handing Oleg Deripaska proprietary polling data from those three states plus Minnesota) and the Comey Letter 10 days before the 2016 election and Trump’s not close enough for the machine flipping operation.

Remember — Trump won by a combined 77,000 votes across those three states in order to secure the Electoral College votes. If Trump committed treason to win those three states (and win the election) then he did not “win”. Cheating to win can NEVER equal winning. Committing treason to win — that should go double. We KNOW for a fact that any voting machine that connects IN ANY WAY to the internet is hackable. We KNOW these systems have been hacked and are still being hacked. The reason vote-by-mail horrifies Trump and the Republicans in this election is because their whole cheating op is based on using disinformation to foster low turnout by disenchanted voters. Then, with the race inside the polled margin of error, the hacking op can flip or add just enough votes for the result to look dicey but within the margin of error and therefore “possible”.

Also remember — Trump asked repeatedly — OUT LOUD — for Russia to help him. Also remember — Trump was impeached for doing the exact same thing with the Ukraine except in THIS election. You know, the one he’s currently running in?

That fact alone seems not to have been aggregated: Donald Trump is the first (and only) president to EVER run for re-election having been IMPEACHED for cheating in the very election he’s running in. You’d think that fact alone would keep the news media actively engaged. You’d think an impeached president running for office — while STILL cheating — would be grist for plenty of great, Pulitzer-worthy reportage.

And yet…

None of us wants the news media to fail. On the contrary, we NEED the news media to succeed. That’s why it breaks our hearts when most of them continue to trip over themselves daily. It’s not just personal failure they’re courting as they try to disentangle themselves from themselves, it’s our collective failure they’re flirting with. Their inability to see the larger story is going to kill us.

The first trick with helping an alcoholic or a drug addict is getting them to SEE their own weakness. There’s nothing wrong with having weaknesses. It comes with being human. But we don’t have to be prisoners of our weakness. We CAN overcome them with a little, um, due diligence. The news media needs to acknowledge that it HAS a problem: a lack of perspective born of a failure of imagination.

Our news media still can’t “imagine” the enormity of Trump’s crime. Therefore they under-report and normalize what they see. A talking head round table might examine all the possible explanations for Trump’s behavior. They’ll ALWAYS include the possibility that there’s some innocent explanation (he’s just a “different” kind of POTUS). They’ll NEVER include the opposite possibility — that Trump is guilty of criminal behavior; he’s a “different” kind of POTUS all right, just not in a good way.

These are all fixable. But, like a good 12-step program, freedom from addiction starts with acknowledging that one HAS an addiction.

One last suggestion to help our news media (especially televised news media) be all they can be. Forget about primping before you go on air. Spend more time prepping instead. Got that? “Prepping Instead Of Primping”.

What’s your size, American News Media? I’ll put it on a t-shirt for you…

Dear News Media: There IS No Precedent For What Trump & The Republicans Are Doing; Stop Pretending There Is One

There’s corruption, there’s Republican corruption and then there’s Trumpian corruption. America has experienced the first two. It’s the Trumpian corruption for which we have no precedent. That fact has befuddled America’s news media from the get-go. But then, befuddlement was a natural outgrowth of thinking (and reporting) that “both sides do it”.

Nietsche warned “stare into the abyss long enough and the abyss will stare into you”. The same can be said about bullshit. Stare at bullshit long enough and you will become the bullshit. That’s the disease now ailing our news media. They’ve consumed so much bullshit that they can’t discern reality anymore. That’s why they regularly equate bullshit with the truth.

Since “both sides do it”, bullshit “could” be true since one side insists that it is. The news media can’t get it into its head — everyone’s entitled to their own opinion; they are NOT entitled to their own facts. The news media has confused the two in its own head. If Donald Trump says “Mexicans are rapists” or that it’s acceptable for a rich, white man to grab women by their pussies, then “maybe” it “could” be so.

Right off the bat — there’s no precedent for that: there’s no precedent for an American running for president (who isn’t named George Wallace) to be so blatantly racist, misogynist and bigoted.

But then, there’s no precedent for an impeached POTUS running for office again — while still committing the very criminal acts for which HE WAS IMPEACHED.

There’s no precedent for a POTUS or his party to wipe their asses with the rule of law and the Constitution. There’s no precedent for the level of corruption and self-dealing that permeates Trump’s cabinet. There’s no precedent for a POTUS profiting every single day and in myriad ways just because he’s POTUS. There’s no precedent for a POTUS filling the topmost levels of govt with his family members.

There was no precedent for Mitch McConnell denying Merrick Garland a hearing — or refusing to fill hundreds of lifetime federal court appointments because he was hellbent on hijacking the judiciary. There is no precedent for Russia passing so much money through so many hidden avenues to so many Republicans.

There’s no precedent for an American running for office to openly implore a hostile foreign government to help him.

There’s no precedent for an Attorney General doing everything humanly possible to destroy the Justice Department. Or a Secretary of Education doing everything possible to undermine education.

There’s no precedent for lying on the scale Donald Trump has lied on. That all by itself should tell us everything we need to know.

Fact: Donald Trump has always been corrupt and everyone knows it.

Republicans have spent generations lusting for power because they feared losing it forever. The trick — how to grab it and get away with it. Donald Trump — and his Russian friend — gave the Kochs, Mercers & McConnells a partner-in-crime with both the will and the stones to attack American Democracy right at its beating heart: elections. The Republicans pulled off a soft coup d’etat in plain sight. They stole an election out from under not just Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party but out from under We The People.

Unfortunately, there’s plenty of precedent for Republicans gaming elections or stealing them outright. Where they’ve taken their criminality to a bold, new height here is through their total commitment TO that criminality. The GOP has stopped being 1) a good actor, 2) compliant in any way, shape or form with the rule of law, 3) even remotely patriotic & 4) concerned with the fact that we all know it now. To this day, Mitch McConnell has refused to take up a bill passed by the House that would firm up election security in the face of a Russian onslaught against it. That’s because Moscow Mitch wants and needs Russia to do that thing it does.

And yet… on MSNBC, Steve Kornacki will get out there, bright-eyed & bushy-tailed in his button-down-blue-shirt and khakis uniform, pointing at numbers from 2016 as if they had anything to do with right now. How can they when Steve’s 2016 numbers don’t factor in Russia. Oh, Steve might allow that Russia “influenced” the election but — what does that even mean?

Nothing, of course — it’s bad journalist-speak for “I haven’t a clue, I’m not going to have a clue and therefore, I’m not factoring it into my story”. That’s an instant red flag, telling us that the journalist in question sucks at journalism. Any Russian “influence” should stop the story dead right there. “What influence, how?” a semi-competent journalist would ask, “Is it measurable? Is it possible that that “influence” influenced the election’s outcome?

We get NBC News’ Kelly O’Donnell acting as Donald Trump’s personal steno pad, burping out whatever Trump says — free from context — as if it were true just because he said it.

We get the Guru of Both Sides Do It, Chuck Todd, rolling his eyes (as if a thought was passing behind them) and stammering (as if he was searching for the “right word”). We get Stephanie Ruhl asking “Yeah, but what if…?” questions that give credence to bullshit. “Yeah, but what if bullshit was true?” No, bullshit is never true — but thanks for telling your NEWS AUDIENCE that, sans any evidence, it ‘could be’.

We get hosts who apparently don’t watch their own news network — and whose own shows reflect a lack of familiarity with the very narrative other (far better — and better rated) hosts regularly put out as product. How can a news network not know how to aggregate a narrative into something cohesive — based on their own reporting?

I wonder if there’s precedent…