Well, we’re past Trump’s 100 days and, as of right now, we haven’t been disintegrated by a nuclear blast. Life is good!
A couple of months ago, this blog lobbied for increased vigilance against poor journalism, but left out specific examples of what could (should?) be avoided by the serious news seeker, problem-solver, and political peace-maker. Therefore, please find examples of poor journalism enclosed herein dear readers (all five of you). These were taken from just one liberal clearing house – Alternet on 5-2-17– because that was on the computer screen at the time. This is not to pick on Alternet. Huffington Post (now Huffpost), Daily Beast, Salon, Slate, Politico…you name it, they all have bloviation like the following. The focus here is on liberal journalism because most conservative journalism is so far gone any kind of analysis is an exercise in futility. Article titles are in italics. Comment follows.
“Steve Bannon Wrote a Shakespearean Rap Musical, and It Is as Horrifying as You Might Imagine”
So what? Bannon’s influence has been curtailed significantly and we all already know about his alt-right cosmology. Why beat a dead horse, unless you just want to mock the man? That would be fun, except obsessing on Steve Bannon keeps him culturally relevant and who wants to continue to have to look at his graphic novel villain face and think about his loathsome ideas any more than absolutely necessary? Let’s toss him to the footnotes and move on to something else. (Besides, reading or listening to his “Shakespearean musical” is not something anyone, except English teachers and historians should have to endure.) This article is just red meat for liberal readers. There’s been too much red meat already, and it hasn’t moved us one inch closer to a solution.
“’Completely Inept’: CNN Pundit Says ‘Too Late’ for Trump to Save Presidency After Bizarre Civil War Remarks”
Yes, the remarks by Trump were bizarre and inept. Tell us something we don’t know. No, really – tell us something we don’t know. Pundits spend time we don’t have following and exploring news. Their job should be telling us something we don’t know, not rehashing the obvious ad infinitum. Also, the prominent placement of “too late” in the title makes it seem like the author of the statement (CNN contributor Maria Cardona during a May 1 broadcast) is extraordinarily prescient and believable, when the election of Trump has demonstrated that no pundit is extraordinarily prescient and believable. Finally, Cardona did not actually announce “It’s too late to save Trump’s presidency” after citing incontrovertible evidence. She made a passing remark which could be interpreted in a couple of ways, not a proclamation ringing with innate authority.
“’He Just Seemed to Go Crazy’: Senior GOP Aides Stunned by Trump’s Demented Behavior in Last 24 Hours”
Oh boy…First of all, anyone who has worked in a psychiatric hospital knows what “going crazy” and “demented” look like. When a patient “goes crazy” they yell obscenely, throw things, endanger themselves (by hitting their head against the wall, for example) or endanger someone else. The immediate solution is to call in four or five strong men (or women) and put the patient into restraints – on a bed with his or her hands, feet, chest, and possibly forehead strapped down. Contrast this with the “stunning, going crazy, demented” behavior trumpeted in the title: 1) Trump claimed President Andrew Jackson was very angry about the Civil War and could have prevented it, even though Jackson died 16 years prior, 2) Trump said he was considering breaking up the banks and establishing a gas tax, 3) Trump said he would be “honored” to meet with North Korea dictator Kim Jong-Un, and then said “nobody’s safe” from North Korea’s nuclear weapons, 4) and Trump praised the high approval ratings of Philippines strongman President Rodrigo Duterte. In other words the “demented” behavior the article is screaming about is Trump acting like…Trump. He didn’t run up and down the halls of the White House hollering he was Napolean; he didn’t throw the china at Melania; he didn’t hide gibbering like a wounded puppy under the bed. Yes, he might be heading for honest-to-goodness “crazy,” but, as far as anyone knows, he isn’t quite there yet. (How much do you want to bet this title launches a thousand ships of conspiratorial fancy that some people will take very seriously?)
Second, the source of the quote was an off-the-cuff remark by one unnamed GOP aide, not a Greek chorus of 10 middle-aged white guys in expensive suits bursting with gravitas. Was the lone source even a “senior” GOP aide?” Who knows. Define “senior” (which the author didn’t do). Were any “senior” aides nearby agreeing with the comment? Probably not, since a group of aides using such dramatic language to describe their boss would almost certainly have been reported (and I use “reported” in the loosest sense possible).
“’I’m Not Sure He’s OK’: MSNBC’s Joe and Mika Are Worried by Trump’s ‘Bizarre’ Behavior: The ‘Morning Joe’ co-hosts stopped just short of diagnosing the president.”
Oh no!!! A semi-Republican pundit (with no expertise in psychology that anyone knows of) almost diagnosed Trump as mentally unstable! If Scarborough and company had actually diagnosed Trump as unstable, that would certainly have been curtains for Trump and his administration! The Republican party would have disintegrated in shame, the world would have been saved, and we could all start sleeping at night! NOT. This is just more hot air fogging up your television screen and more electronic pixels wasted on the obvious. Everybody already knows Trump is unhinged for criminey’s sake!! We don’t need a Joe Scarborough to (cue sharp intake of breath) – diagnose him as such – before we become true believers! (Okay, you can exhale.) Here we are and here we’ll stay for a while yet, no matter what Dr. Scarborough says – barring a primetime news report showing Trump foaming at the mouth while running naked on the White House lawn covered in motor oil and wearing an aluminum foil hat.
“Leading Historian Believes ‘It’s Pretty Much Inevitable’ Trump Will Try to Stage a Coup and Overthrow Democracy: ‘On Tyranny’ author Timothy Snyder says we have less than a year to save our democracy.”
Here we go again (apologies to Ronald Reagan)…another prophet of impending doom! This one happens to be qualified to have an opinion on the subject (he’s a history professor at Yale and an award-winning author), but his qualifications don’t make him infallible. (How many times has your medical doctor been tone deaf?) The bottom line is that every theory this guy has ever propounded could be hogwash and that is what readers need to realize. (We all assumed Ben Carson, brilliant brain surgeon, had a brain himself and we were all wrong there.) Let’s apply a little logic here. In his first 100 days as president Trump has demonstrated, if nothing else, that he is remarkably and dependably incompetent. He and his administration barely pulled off the annual Easter Egg Hunt, and yet this buffoon is going to stage a coup? In a country with 200+ years of democratic tradition and layer after layer of checks and balances? Using whom – an intelligence community and military who have little confidence in him (if we can believe news reports)? When the majority of citizens (many well-armed) voted against him? Not impossible, but, shall we say, somewhat unlikely. It’s good to publish an expert’s expert opinion, but what about all of the other historians who don’t agree with said expert? (If a majority of historians did agree, it would be on enough news pages to paper Grand Central Station.) How many readers will be pushed over the edge because of one guy’s book-selling burp blown out of proportion by a sensation-seeking “reporter”? How helpful is that to our cause? Why are there so many questions in this paragraph? Who knows? (Oops! Another question.)
Let’s talk about a red and white poster for a minute. “Keep Calm and Carry On” was a poster designed and printed, but not distributed, by the British Ministry of Information between June 27 and July 6, 1939. The Ministry’s intent was to help British citizens fearful of German bombing raids and poison gas attacks at the beginning of World War II cope with the new, day-to-day possibility of annihilation. Think about it. The United States was not in the war yet and, while it may have been true that Britain owned or controlled so much territory that “the sun never set on the British Empire” the nucleus and nerve center of that empire was an island off the coast of Europe. An island. If Hitler could have destroyed or demoralized this island he would have been unchallenged, because everybody else in Europe was either backing down or getting beat up. (France fell in 1940.) To quote British prime minister Winston Churchill,
Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him all Europe may be free, and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands; but if we fail, then the whole world will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say: “This was their finest hour.”
The “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster was this reality condensed to a pithy slogan. As such it signified one of the most courageous and classy acts of defiance in history. The British determination to keep calm and carry on in spite of daily bombing raids that lasted for months conceivably saved the world. Today, of course, we see stuff like “Keep Calm and Hate Apple (Microsoft), “Keep Calm and Pandicorn,” and “Keep Spending and Carry On Shopping,” among hundreds of other cheesy imitations, some so trivial it makes you stupider just to read them. And yet, the luxury of being able to trivialize such an important historic text is a result of the relative peace and security brought about by exactly what the poster represented. Losing our minds over careless, lazy, sensationalistic journalism is not going to help anybody. We Progressives are the hope for the future. Let’s make sure we act the part. (Not saying you, in particular, don’t. Just wrapping up the blog.) Keep calm, stay critical, and carry on.