Why Does Our News Media Insist On Equating Bullsh*t With Truth?

Some day, when the worst of Trumpism is behind us and American democracy is no longer under threat (or even duress), we owe it to ourselves to take a good, long, hard look at how our news media performed during this patch of time. Now, in their defense, America really hasn’t faced circumstances quite like the hand we’ve drawn here. On top of a Russian cyber war that put Trump in the White House in 2016, we’ve had a violent right wing surge across the planet that’s deliberately set out to wipe liberal democracy from the planet, massive climate change that’s already creating climate refugees, a violent, right wing near-putsch of our own and, last but hardly least, a worldwide pandemic. That’s a lot of news story for even a great journalist to wrap their mind around. Alas, our news media has not met the challenge head on. They’ve blinked — still are blinking like Chuck Todd signaling “I’m thinking!” to his audience — and resorted to old tropes instead looking at the events happening in front of them.

We owe it to ourselves to find that journalism professor at whatever J School it was who first proposed that “both sides do it”. We owe that academic a giant heap of scorn. I assume “Both sides do it” originated in academia among academics who couldn’t get hired as journalists themselves and so took to telling others “how to do” something. There’s an old comedy line (I refuse to source who said it because Woody Allen’s dead to me otherwise): “those who can’t do, teach and those who can’t teach, teach gym”. These journalism professors can’t even teach gym. Unfortunately they’ve taught a generation of journalists how to be cynical instead of skeptical and how to equate bullshit with the Truth.

After a reporter has reported that a certain person — a POTUS, say — lied to their face thousands of times, said reporter is entitled to characterize this liar as “a liar”. Actually, that reporter was entitled to describe the liar that way after just ONE lie. The reporter would have been reporting the truth. To NOT call them a liar then is to NOT report the truth. Now, why on earth would a journalist think that way? I suspect racism plays a large part here. Many white reporters are loathe to call out white people for bad behavior because we’ve already moved the goal posts where white bad behavior is concerned. If Kyle Rittenhouse was Black not white, he’d have never gotten to trial for killing two, wounding a third and nearly hurting lots of others with his semi-automatic weapon. He’d be dead already, shot down by the other white guys who were there that night with their guns, or the cops.

“Both sides do it” is fatally flawed walking in the door. It dispenses with all proportionality. A Republican who steals a million from the public kitty is the same as a Democrat who purloins a box of paper clips. Yes, both are thefts from the commonweal. No, they are not even remotely “the same”. But, our news media will hold up this fact as prima facie evidence that “both sides do it”. Therefore when Republicans do something — gerrymander, say — the automatic response is “both sides do it”. And yes — in the past, Democrats have gerrymandered Congressional districts. But they haven’t done it with the organization and purpose with which the GOP now is doing it. The Republicans clearly stated goal is to circumvent the will of any place’s Democratic majority by carving them into pieces and then attaching each piece to some far-flung Republican stronghold that will outnumber them. The whole reason to do this is to circumvent the majority’s will for the minority’s sole benefit.

Democrats do not do that. And Democrats don’t suppress Republican voters either. They don’t have to! Democrats can rely on the strength of their ideas to sway independent voters.

And Democrats aren’t working overtime to undermine every other democratic institution either. Have ya noticed the number of ex-Republicans disgusted by their party we now have versus the number of ex-Democrats with the same complaint? Do ya suppose that means something noteworthy? Our news media doesn’t. They think all the ex-Republicans in their ranks and amongst their punditry — all vocally outraged by what their former party is doing — are a sign of politics as usual. The news media seems to think it’s “normal” that one party backs anti-vaxism and gets violent if you ask them to put on a mask in a public space.

Republicans have become the “Feelings Over Facts” Party because facts are not their friend. Because they insist “both sides do it”, our news media immediately equates any Republican’s feelings with any Democrat’s facts. How a Republican “feels” about being vaccinated suddenly has equal weight to every fact a Democrat will put on the table about the very same thing. Nothing good can come from that. And nothing good has.

What The Hell Do Ya Do When Ya Realize — Half The Entertainment Ya Love Was Made By Racists Or Pervs?

So I’m flipping around the satellite television last night — something I rarely get to do in my house. But, having the house to myself, the only person there to argue with me was me. I agreed to behave.

When “Gone With The Wind” popped up on the channel guide — over on Turner Classic Movies — I went for it. I’m a movie buff to the core. Hell, I write screenplays (occasionally for a living even). I can remember when I was in high school and MGM rereleased Gone With The Wind to theaters. My friend Andrea Zipper and I went equally apeshit over it.

I still have visual memories on file of Andrea’s remarkable ability to morph her face into Clark Gable’s. They looked nothing alike, I assure you.

I arrived just as Atlanta was burning to the ground. The back half of the movie (including intermission) comprises losing the war and suffering through reconstruction. That’s SLAVE HOLDERS (who never apologize to their former slaves for stealing their labor but whose former slaves never stop behaving like slaves) suffering deprivations. After losing a war. Over slavery.

We acknowledge — as a culture — that D. W. Griffith’s technically brilliant “Birth Of A Nation” is deplorably racist from its first frame to its last. But, have we stopped to consider that lots of other “technically brilliant” books and movies are equally racist (just not so blatant)? “Gone With The Wind” isn’t technically brilliant (though it’s an example of great craftsmanship and artistry) but it contains a character that makes the piece brilliant: Scarlett O’Hara.

In a lot of ways, Scarlett is a very modern character trapped in antebellum times. She’s a resilent, goal-oriented pragmatist. She does everything she can to pursue the thing she wants most — Ashley Wilkes — even after she knows he’s not the man she needs him to be. That’s the antebellum part of her character. A modern author writing Scarlett today wouldn’t dream of Scarlett continuing to want a weak partner like Ashley. Aside from that though (and her inherent racism), Scarlett’s a dynamo. She’s a survivor: smart, determined and pragmatic. She’ll do what she has to do. And if it all comes a crapper? Tomorrow is another day.

But there’s the racism in her heart. And she’s our hero. Our other hero in the piece — Rhett Butler — is just as racist (even if it seems kinder and gentler). Captain Butler has risked his life for the Confederacy. That makes him a traitor. And a slavery enabler.

In the end, I had to turn off “Gone With The Wind“. All that normalized racism just isn’t as entertaining as it used to be.

It brought to mind what happened the night before while I was flipping channels and found Woody Allen’s “Sleeper” playing. Allen made “Sleeper” back before “Annie Hall” turned him into a filmmaker. Even though “Sleeper” is one of Allen’s “funny movies”, I couldn’t watch it without thinking of the whole Soon-Yi story… and all the other stories about Woody Allen.

“Manhattan” horrifies me now. A grown man dating an inappropriately under-aged HIGH SCHOOL GIRL should have been the movie’s deal-breaker — why no studio would put up the money to make it. Let’s compare it to to Lolita for a moment — its most obvious relative. Lolita is a satire whose whole point is Humbert Humbert’s perversion. Humbert comes to a terrible end as does his nemesis Quilty. They both end badly because they lusted after Lolita.

While the age difference between Allen’s character and Mariel Hemingway’s character does get talked about — it’s never really seen as grossly inappropriate; in fact, it’s understood to be okay ultimately. At the end of the movie — where Allen casts himself as Charlie Chaplin at the end of “City Lights” — the sad lover whose love will go unrequited — the under-aged girl character overlooks every bit of her inappropriately older lovers’ terrible behavior and attitude toward her. What’s worst: the thing Allen’s character craves — and fears losing — is the thing he destroyed at the start: Tracy’s innocence.

I can’t watch “Manhattan” now. Can’t watch any of Woody Allen’s work. That kills me because an awful lot of it IS brilliant. Hannah And Her Sisters, Crimes & Misdemeanors and Brodway Danny Rose are all great filmmaking. Great comedy but also great art.

But I cannot separate an artist from his or her product. An artist is defined by the prism inside their head — that thing through which Life refracts and translates into art. In Woody Allen, that same prism that refracts life experience into great movies also refracts some very unhealthy, misogynistic attitudes about women. In the absence of the Soon-Yi story in his bio, jokes about one’s ex-wife play one way. But, knowing that Allen was attracted to, secretly courted and married a girl he should NEVER have looked at “that way” — it colors those formerly funny one-liners.

There was chatter about Kevin Spacey going back eons here in the showbiz trenches. Sexual predation has been part of Hollywood’s business model going back to when the first guy showed up in LA with a movie camera and a dream. He’s got great taste in material, does Kevin. He’s a good actor with lots of range. But he’s a predator — and his love for boy’s bottoms is the bottomest line there is.

Can’t watch “The Usual Suspects” anymore… Can’t watch “American Beauty“…

While we’re at it — and we should be at it because this is all racist bullshit that we have to stop excusing as being “of its time and place” — “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” (the movie, not the book) has to stop playing because Irish to his core Mickey Rooney playing a Japanese character is offensive even on paper — never mind seeing it brought to horrible, embarrassingly racist life…

The same goes for every Charlie Chan movie in TMC’s vault. Charlie Chan was played by white guys like SWEDISH Warner Oland, mostly SCOTTISH Sidney Toler and POLISH-JEWISH Ross Martin.

And, though it pains me deeply to write this, the same should probably go for classic movies like “Lawrence Of Arabia” and “A Passage To India” wherein one of my favorite actors ever — Alec Guinness played an Arab and then an Indian. Sir Alec’s saving grace — he wasn’t mocking his characters like, say, an American actor in blackface or Mickey Rooney. Seriously, if you’ve never seen it – this tiny slice of the movie’s opening is all you need to know…

I’d complain about losing all the great movies of my youth to racists, racism and racist memes but that just seems to “First World Problem”, know what I mean?