RANGER AGAINST WAR: The Fourth Estate is Bankrupt <

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Fourth Estate is Bankrupt

Are you for or against us
we are trying to get somewhere
--Join the Boys,
Joan Armatrading
Change is avalanching upon our heads
and most people are grotesquely unprepared
to cope with it
--Future Shock,
Alvin Toffler  

Nobody will have to leave home
 to go to work or school, 
or even stop watching television. 
Everybody will sit around all day 
punching the keys of computer terminals 
connected to everything there is, 
and sip orange drink through straws 
like the astronauts. 
--Ladies and Gentlemen of 2088,
Kurt Vonnegut
 _________________________

When did we go crazy?

The New York Times asked last week if the press should cover a duly elected presidential candidate in a disinterested way, sans commentary or prefatory disclaimers and disdain with no apparent irony in absurd non-sequitur, “Trump is Testing the Norms of Objectivity in Journalism,” (when it is THEY who are demolishing the norms.)

I am a stranger in a strange land reading this.

The press should be an institution tasked with collecting and disseminating the news in a thorough and disinterested way; only the editorial side of the house is permitted to make commentary. 

When did this outrageous fascistic press arise which arrogates to itself the power to decide what we see and how we see it? Why have we allowed this and -- moreover -- why do we fed greedily at their trough?

August 8 2016 saw the first NYT coverage of Mr. Trump as a candidate with a platform, and not simply a caricature to be derided.

Three days prior, Robert Parry and Andrew Bacevich considered in separate pieces that Trump is actually a candidate, and that the the liberal media entity has failed both us and themselves in its project to discredit the candidate. In fact, the media has succeeded only in dropping the democratic standards of a free and disinterested press by several rungs.

The shame is entirely upon the press which has fomented the hatred in the public square and erased any serious debate between the candidate’s positions. The talking heads and pens and their creative efforts to curry reader's outrage became the story the year.

Their collective egos trumped the actual story, which is beyond their hatred or disdain.

Surely our abdication of rationality and impartiality to our egoistic social media feeds are partly to blame for our isolation in our respective echo chambers. But there is something else, something more atavistic, which is being awakened in the public.

The decency imposed by exposure to a marketplace of ideas has been erased as a new Left arises which brooks no censure of itself. To be Left qua Left today implies having a lock on the progressive impulse.

Any thought they deem conservative is labeled as hopelessly reactionary and foolish. By extension, the people who hold conflicting ideas are voted off the island of sophisticates. 

But it is the Left in the United States which is missing the bus in their snarky boy-in-the-bubble deshabille. This smug dismissal is ignorance of the highest order.

Opposed to the media story is a mass of people who are chagrined by dynamic world events, and they are not reacting obediently to the Left’s unrelenting insistence upon change-as-progress (lest one be labeled a Neanderthal.)

The Left is wallowing in the madness of the riotous mob (theirs), born of fear and hatred of the unfamiliar, of that which challenges its tidy status quo. They have become bullies. They are they (and therefore, enlightened), and we are we (who are by default, not.)

The reformist and progressivist impulse is gone. I have no sympathy for them and their project to silence their opponents.

By rendering the other side of the aisle as some vague menacing enemy, they give lie to the reality of our political process which for all its variations in opinion, seeks to safeguard and enhance our republic via mediation and amalgamation of a marketplace of ideas.

What I have seen from the erstwhile legitimate liberal press resembles nothing so much as World War II agitprop, which depicted the Japs and Huns as various vermin with exaggerated and grotesque features. Such is the image rendered repeatedly, ad nauseum, of Republican candidate Trump.

Lobbing verbal mortars is so much easier than actually listening and allowing a space for understanding.  One may understand this crude impulse from the average person who lacks access to the details of a precise news feed. But one may not excuse this behavior from the press.

This derogation of the "Other Candidate" is what the liberal media has being practicing for the last year, and they have done so with our imprimatur. Slaves to our shibboleths, the press -- like liberal media wonk Nate Silver at his site FiveThirtyEight who failed so dismally in calling the Republican primary – has NO idea what time it is in our nation.

We are not a very serious people. We play Angry Birds and we are Angry Birds. We prefer to flame-out online versus to engage in rational dialog, and have bifurcated into two dismally remote factions, glowering at each other from our respective caves.

But the more shameful ire and bigotry has arisen from the Left, the corner which should be a shining beacon for liberal thought. The Left has lost any prior claim to excellence and understanding. It has become mean and shrunken.

Snarkiness and much worse rules the day. It is an ugly elitist bastard copy of liberalism with which we are bombarded. Do you present another point of view? “Lalala”, they say, “I don’t hear it”. Moreover, “You are not one of the cognoscenti, because you are with us or agin us.” And with a fillip, the possibility of  an emergent unity from difference is disallowed.

Back to The Cave.

The obituary of liberal and progressive media will say it went down a rabbit hole of begrudging anger and verbal violence born of befuddlement of their fellows, the “Other 50%”. They got lost pursuing cleverly violent bilge to stoke and corral anger against the Other Candidate and his electorate in their easy and predictable derision.

In their refusal to countenance Mr. Trump’s message, the Left shows itself biased, arrogant and dismissive fools. I am not a part of that club. My interest is for the whole of my society, and to understand the impulses behind people’s contentions, and the solutions which are forwarded.

I can’t see all of this from within Plato’s Cave, which is where my liberal fellows currently reside.


August 15 was the first time Trump was mentioned by name as-candidate on the ABC Nightly News. Unfortunately, it was simply to deride some campaign-trail rhetoric (regarding the genesis of ISIS), juxtaposed with an audio-visual of Mrs. Clinton saying something derisive in response.

Because it is her voice alone which was featured, the implication is that she is the Serious Candidate, and therefore alone is sound-byte worthy.

Later the same day, BBC America also mentioned candidate Trump in service of its agenda. Program emcee Kitty Kay asked Former former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen about Mr. Trump’s position vis-à-vis NATO.

Rasmussen predictably said, “[NATO] has worked very well since it’s inception in the Cold War.” (An era which has been, of course, OBE.)

Undeterred by the superannuated bias of her guest, Kay asks Rasmussen asks in her very American form of editorial reportage, “So do you fear for the safety and security of the West if Mr. Trump is elected President?" in what used to be called a "leading question", suggesting candidate Trump would put the entire world in mortal danger from the "bad guys" (Rasmussen's term).

“Indeed,” replied the agreeable-to-being-led Rasmussen (a sina qua non of being Secretary General.)

This abdication of pure reportage -- more pointedly, its devolution into cartoonish verbal partisan violence – is shocking and sad.

We the People do not need to receive this hate and nearsightedness. What fools we are to accept this bludgeoning to our psyches on a daily basis.

We need excellent, careful, disinterested reportage, and we are not getting it.

[cross-posted @ milpub.]

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49 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I commented to my better half recently that, when I was a boy in the mid to late70s, I attended a really excellent middle school that had a great world wide social studies/history program. The wise leaders of the institution linked the duck and cover under the desk (and kiss your ass good bye) nuclear war drills with sections of study on the Soviet Union. It was a largely a compare/contrast approach. The US is free. We have a 1A that keeps us that way. In the UUSR all information is controlled by the govt and ideas contrary to the programming of the elites are not allowed.

As 12 year olds +/- we were able to grasp the awfulness of the Soviet arrangement. We'd come home and tell our parents what we had learned and they would reinforce the bleak evilness of the Soviet propaganda machine. "Be grateful that you have the privilege of living in a society where all points of view can be openly discussed".

Fast forward 40 years. What the hell happened to all of those true believers in freedom generally and freedom of the press? My parents ate gone now. I don't have any personal contact with any of my old classmates from that era, but I have "friended" a few on Facebook. Based on the "memes" they post, they have become mindless idiot drones and two "unfriended" me for being a "Racist Nazi Trump supporter" (LOL). What happened? How did so many allow themselves to stop thinking? To stop valuing freedom? To become such cowardly herd animals?

Guess it just kind of sneaks up on people that live sheltered lives?

avedis

Wednesday, August 17, 2016 at 9:45:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Avedis-
what did i learn in school today? ,by tom paxton.
while you're at it ck his VN war protest songs.
check it out.
jim

Wednesday, August 17, 2016 at 1:14:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim, I hear what you and Tom Paxton are saying, but at least my generation started out with the ideal of a free press. Now we are the dull witted consumers of and producers of crap that Pravda would have considered high art. With blogs and social media EVERYONE can be their own little Joseph Goebbels (or WR Hearst).

I have come to the conclusion that humans are, first and foremost, hive creatures. They say "social", but it's more than that. Social is having a beer and talking about the Tigers/Mets game. Social would allow for respectful discussion where the participants disagree. Hive minded means that all dissent much be seen as a threat and crushed out with extreme prejudice and with a righteous sword to boot. The latter is all I see on all sides these days.

avedis

Wednesday, August 17, 2016 at 4:29:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger BadTux said...

Avedis, what we experienced as very young children was one of the most censored presses in world history. Yes, it was supposedly "free", in that the government did not dictate what they printed. Still, they very carefully chose what facts they would print in order to build a consensus view of what "real" Americans should think, say, believe, and behave like that tended to agree with what government think tanks felt "real" Americans should think, say, believe, and behave like. The same with the textbooks we received at school, and the curriculum that teachers were required to teach. And it worked. Mostly. The Jesuits undid much of that indoctrination with me, but most of our generation became just what we were supposed to be. Just as our mothers and fathers before us became just what they were supposed to be. When mothers were supposed to work in war industries, they worked in war industries. When they were supposed to go home and breed, they went home and bred. Because that is what everything -- radio, newspapers, the politicians giving speeches, the bosses at work, everybody -- said that real Americans were supposed to do. So they did.

I now have access to the press of multiple countries around the world, and the contrast is striking. For example, the UK press doesn't bother with any notion that they're non-partisan. They're blatantly partisan. I find that refreshing. No longer do I have to guess and read between the lines of Pravda on the Potomac or Izvestia on the Hudson to figure out what may have really happened given their ideological underpinnings. And while MSNBC and Fox News are blatantly partisan, let's face it, you know when you're going in what exactly you're getting, unlike with the press of our youth that carefully chose which facts they would report in order to create their consensus of what "real" Americans should believe, think, and do. Read Walter Cronkite's' autobiography, it is enlightening, he didn't even deny that the press in his day used that method, he seemed *proud* of it. At least with today's easy access to the world's press, I can now look at world events from a wide variety of ideological viewpoints and perhaps arrive at the truth somewhere in the middle, instead of having a lockstep press tell me what the "truth" is in much the same way that Pravda and Tass did, except more subtly. It has been a really eye-opening 15 years since world news organizations jumped onto the Internet...

So anyhow -- there's no such thing as dispassionate "just the facts" reporting. Not. Ever. Even reporting only facts, you can move people to think and believe a way you want them to think and believe by choosing *which* facts you report. Again, read Uncle Walter's autobiography. He tells you how CBS news did it in his day. And was proud of it. Giving the lie to the notion that we *ever* had a press that was devoted to truth. Given that, I *want* my press wearing its biases proudly on its sleeve. At least then I don't have to parse between the lines of Pravda on the Potomac or Izvestia on the Hudson to figure out what *might* be going on.

Thursday, August 18, 2016 at 3:20:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Iron City said...

Civilized discourse requires information and thought. If your means of collecting information is suspect you have modest fodder to work from, regardless of how much you think.

The general purpose media (newspapers, television (cable or traditional) in many things I have personally been involved in and know for a fact what the story is because I was there do a poor job of providing fodder facts to work from, they always get it some degree of wrong. I don't think they were necessarily trying to get it wrong, they just were just lazy and went with what everyone else said or made honest errors because they didn't understand mostly. And sometimes they were just spouting their editorial point of view in the news (thank you Scripps-Howard newspapers). The trade press generally gets the facts a little better but is not necessarily very good at critical reporting, so they get it wrong more than they should if the facts don't fit the prevailing narrative.

That's the facts and thought part. Then the discourse. It means as Ranger points out actually listening to the other person and really thinking and really discussing. And that isn't done much in this country today, unfortunately. Over the last 30-40 years we have slipped more into the yelling from our own cave model. And maybe we never were the model of the Socratic dialog dispassionate intellectual debate on the issues of the day that we would like to think we were more like.

So what do we do? Encourage the media (and I'd include bloggers etc....media writ large...to try to get the facts as best they can and be honest about their point(s) of view. Points of view are like bellybuttons everybody has one so don't claim you don't. And then pick some sources on the various points of view that aren't yours, OPFOR intel. if you like, and try to discuss. A dip into other countries points of view is always at least interesting or amusing if not enlightening because they have their own different points of view. Then you can start understanding, maybe, and when people start understanding maybe we can collectively make a little progress.

Thursday, August 18, 2016 at 6:31:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Avedis,

Yes, any 12-y-o should understand the difference between blatant agitprop and basic data. I don't know what has happened to my fellows today. Well, they're not my fellows, and I derive no pleasure from their cliquish hatred.

I agree that we're more tribal and clannish than social. "Pro-social" behavior = "what's best for my tribe?"


BudTux,

Like you, I collate materials and winnow to find the truth. Cronkite shamelessly crossed into editorializing in his VN "reportage"; unforgivable. Take off your news anchor hat if you choose to do that. Of course today, there is not even any semblance of disinterested reportage.

While of course you are correct in that the press will deliver a bias based on the liberalism or conservatism of the outlet (like UK Guardian vs. Telegraph) ...

BUT, you may read the facts and understand the bias. Contrast this with what is happening in the US: Out and out hatred in major outlets towards Trump, with no effort to provide us actionable reportage.

It is shameless decision-making on their part for us!


Thursday, August 18, 2016 at 2:45:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Iron City,


When you say,

"I don't think they were necessarily trying to get it wrong, they just were just lazy and went with what everyone else said or made honest errors because they didn't understand mostly."

--you are NOT describing the behavior of a legitimate paid news writer. You ARE describing the expected faults of a high school newspaper student.

There is simply no excuse for the grotesque partisanship of which I am speaking. This FAR outstrips the notion of errors in reportage. This is blatant propaganda. This IS Big Brother stuff.

When I made an "honest error" in a college journalism class, I earned an "F", and rightly so. There is NO room for error, not when you have access to the data points.

The FIFTH estate (bloggers, et al.), may be sloppy and angry. Who cares, for it's all opinion anyway.

I am talking about the news in world historical outlets in a democracy, and the expected standards to which the profession should hold itself. Errors may happen, but we're talking about a daily pattern of editorializing for over a year.

We have libel laws to prevent dissemination of disinformation.

That is not what adults should expect from their news. This has all been done with our capitulation, and this is amazing, stupid, and a really dangerous precedent.

Thursday, August 18, 2016 at 3:00:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous David said...

As I see it there are a couple of problems. And yes, Lisa, you're right that some of the material that's printed demonstrates laziness that should have got a failing grade back in college. But if that's the dreck that people are hired to produce, well...

I can't agree with BadTux on the "just the facts" point. There's a middle ground between just reporting the facts the government decides are acceptable on the one hand, and just printing pure opinion on the other. That middle ground is what used to be called "investigative journalism." There are two problems with investigative journalism.

First, it's expensive. If you're a media company with uncertain ad revenues looking to maximize quarterly turns, it's way cheaper to hire a stable of basically glorified gossipmongers than to pay the expense accounts of a legion of reporters snooping for good leads everywhere from Washington to Europe to the Middle East, etc. So they've been slashed.

Second, it's not popular anyways. Most people go to news sources that pretty much just confirm for them what they already believed. Turns out you can make a pretty decent living selling people your opinions in place of facts. Some of us are on here griping about how it's inadequate, but I doubt that the major outlets count any of us as a prized demographic, pretty much exactly for that reason.

What's happening in media is the equivalent of what's happening with your dishwasher and your washing machine. A 30 year-old machine was good quality and may still be with you (mine is). A brand new one won't last half that. It's primary selling point is that it's cheap and there will be another one along just behind it once it stops working.

Thursday, August 18, 2016 at 4:58:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

David,


Yes, hiring good reporters is expensive. So many major papers have closed and staff have been cut at those left standing. The precedent set by the HuffPo where people basically write for free has filled in the void with its own void, simply reprinting stories from other outlets, scant fact-checking.

People seem content to read what others send them on their FB feeds, and feel comfortable in that echo chamber. It is as the Post-modernists envisioned.

So we have Baudrillard's news (art) in the age of mechanical reproduction (Warhol saw it) and Brecht's theatre of the absurd. Everything is campy and amusing, and Orwell's Soma helps the medicine go down. The watchword is The Stones'"Gimme Shelter", cos we feel things are vaguely unwell.

I'm noticing a very small Howard Beale-type protest among the thinking writers. I will probably collate what I see, soon.

Thursday, August 18, 2016 at 7:20:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Iron City said...

Lisa et al:

The mistakes, errors and omissions that I speak of are in pieces filed by beat reporters of major, well-respected newspapers, not some local fish wrapper or blogger. Many of these mistakes are because they aren't doing their own original reporting from primary source information so they just copy what another reporter or other source gives them...lazy. Another source of the errors is actual events that don't fit with the "approved" narrative so it must be twisted and edited to fit. Or the third case where they plain don't understand. How many first rank, first class reporters at major national publications reporting on, oh, say, military contracting know the difference between O&M, Procurement and MILCON or can explain it? What proportion of the U.S. population cares to understand? So maybe we get the media the bulk of the population demands.

Bloggers are an interesting sub species. Some few are very close to the coal face and can give you timely reportage of what is really going on in the real world. Must allow for the limited scope or "worms eye view" if you will. In this case it is not just opinion, it is raw material of reportage. Blogging that is all opinion or posing for the micro audiences that support/encourage them is not journalism or the 5th estate, very much, and are primarily for entertainment.

The just the facts approach/criteria is appealing and must be the foundation of reporting but there is always some degree of interpretation and drawing connections, illustrations and comparisons that stray more of less from the just the facts model. This is the value added good quality reportage provides and it is getting more and more rare in media that is under resourced and under pressure to provide more and more content to disseminate more advertisements to make the exercise pay.

Thursday, August 18, 2016 at 8:14:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Iron City,

Yes, exactly what I'm saying.

But it is not only the turning of events to "fit with the 'approved' narrative," it is the CREATION of that narrative by the news outlets which is the outrage.

Let political parties create their platforms and their narratives, and let the news print those, as news.

Instead, the agenda of the source has become the narrative. We think people like Jon Stewart, Colbert and Rachel Maddow are legitimate news people.

Thursday, August 18, 2016 at 8:36:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lisa, I'm going to go off on a bit of a tangent, as I am wont to do, but hopefully not to far into irrelevancy.

We are at war and, at times of war, the media has, traditionally, stepped up to the plate to support the war effort; keeping moral high, etc, etc. That's what's happening now. That explains the biased to the point of bombastic propaganda that we are seeing.

What war? Cultural. The rapid advancement of technology has, to the minds of many, rendered some old traditional archetypes obsolescent. Maleness is one of these. Patriotic dedication to country is another. Archetypes make for powerful mojo. Way more powerful than "rationality".

So we have all these educated people that live in climate controlled protective bubbles,pampered six figure family incomes in professions where women are just as effective as men. These people never break a sweat (unless they want to at the gym or yoga class), never kill for food (and certainly have never trained to kill another human), never get their hands dirty. They live in a utopia compared to the rest of the world and compared to human history. The media people come from this bubble.

Then we have farmers, soldiers, cops, dock workers - rough people, mostly men, and the women that like that kind of man.

The Bubble People's very existence depends on preservation and expansion of the bubble. The Rough people are a disturbance in the aura of the The Bubble. They are savages living in darkness and must be assimilated or eliminated. So we get notions of globalism, no borders, imperial wars to pacify the savages. All the crap in John Lennon's "Imagine" being seen as the path to Utopia.

Opposing this are The Rough People, who think the Bubble People are fools. They see the murderousness of the inner cities, the barbarism of the Jihadis, the Latino gangs and they say, "Hey! You need us! You fools and your ideology are going to get us all wiped out". They do not want to believe that people can be re-engineered into some new genderless compliant drone in a hive.

So we have Big Grandma versus Trump. The media, who are Bubble People, side with their Big Grandma without shame because that is what responsible media does when there's a war for survival going on. The little bit of media that is for the Rough People does the same re; Trump for the same reason.

These are actually desperate times, more so than is often recognized. The media's behavior is reflecting that desperation, IMO.

avedis

Friday, August 19, 2016 at 6:32:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

avedis,


Compelling depiction of the Bubble People vs. the Rough People. Your thoughts are apropos, as we must seek the drivers behind the drivel which is being fronted.

Yes, the archetypes are being challenged. Jim & I have discussed this -- the re-consideration of the staying power of everything from religion to gender relations and norms, and yes, violence, too, is a part of all of this. A big part.

To me, this is a big story, a human narrative which is fighting for survival in a chaotic world, against those who would re-configure or even demolish it.

Meanwhile, we hear about hands and hair on the media feeds, and those who can manage to do so, smile snarkily.

But about what, I know not.

Friday, August 19, 2016 at 10:49:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous blakenator said...

Quote from Mark Twain: "People who don't read the newspapers are uninformed, people who do read the newspapers are misinformed." So your news bias scoop has been around for a whle now. Your reference to Colbert and Stewart is dated, they both moved on some time ago and their network was COMEDY CENTRAL in case you missed it. MSNBC, CNN and FOX news run a couple of "mostly news" programs before they run the OPED part, Madow joins Hannity and several others in that part of the networks. That's no secret, either.
You mentioned Cronkite going "editorial" way back then, I, for one, am glad he decided to question the wisdom of the strategic, tactical, and moral disaster that was Viet Nam (I am a Nam vet, BTW). Oh yes, what you choose not to report says as much or more as what you choose to report.
You seem to be upset with the "left" but I might remind you Fox was created to give the "conservatives" a bubble of their own. Remember "Conservapedia?" It was created because sombody's feefees were hurt by Wikipedia "bias."
Oh, and the Conservative Bible Project was founded to banish "liberalism" from the good book.
I think the "news as entertainment" model has hurt the public.
I did read the NYT article and the writer seemed to be questioning the value of total neutrality in every story. I, for one, would like to see a bit of old fashioned skepticism in reporters. My beef is when they let public officials and politicians off easy by acting as stenographers rather than reporters.
The speed of the media is what is new. What once took three weeks to cycle around the world now takes three minutes. That makes room for quite a bit of garbage time to fill, which allows the ultra fringe crap to get the attention it doesn't deserve.
Still, it is up to each of us as individuals to be smart enough to figure out what matters and what doesn't as long as we accept that we are entitled to form our own opinions but not our own facts, even when it makes us a bit uncomfortable.
Same as it ever was.

Friday, August 19, 2016 at 5:56:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous David said...

blakenator -- I think there's probably a difference between skepticism and op-ed/editorializing. The problem is, investigative journalism is time-consuming, expensive, and, as it turns out, not really what a large demographic of the public wants. If you can make money supplying cheap thrills in the form of rampant partisan opinion-peddling, that's what you're going to do, and the people who are good at doing that rise to the top, because that's what a critical mass really want in the end: media that will stroke their egos by confirming for them what they already believed in the first place. Same reason reality shows have eclipsed good drama, I imagine: why go to the trouble of crafting high-quality performance art when there's enough of an audience that can be drawn by cheap trash?

This is true on the left, the right, and everywhere in between, but the most obvious manifestation of it is the Trump campaign, in which policy platforms are trivial irrelevancies, nakedly authoritarian tendencies are dismissed as authenticity, and the media coverage lurches from one breathless "oh my God look what Trump said now!!" story to the next exactly like a puppet being jerked by the strings, which of course in this case is exactly what they are.

Saturday, August 20, 2016 at 4:34:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

blakenator says,

"So your news bias scoop has been around for a whle now."

To your bromide, "Same as it ever was", I am challenging that.

Reliably I'm met by the liberals with an ad hominum, vs. an actual consideration of the issue being addressed.

--Lisa

Sunday, August 21, 2016 at 7:48:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous David said...

Well, we could talk about substantive issues if you wanted. For instance, we could discuss the plausibility of any scheme to compel Mexico to build a border wall for you, or to ban American citizens from re-entry into the United States based on a religious test, to name just two fairly concrete policy proposals.

You'll forgive me if I have a hard time believing that the left has cornered the market on the things you seem so upset about.

Sunday, August 21, 2016 at 9:02:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger BadTux said...

There are certain substantive issues that simply have no response other than an ad hominum response. For example, the substantive issue of whether the Jewish race should be exterminated and turned into soap is one where I think we all agree the only viable response is an ad hominum response decrying the racism of the person making such a proposal. I mean, do we *really* think there is a substantive conversation to be had regarding the notion of turning the Jewish race into soap? If the notion is that "the truth is always in the middle", does that mean only *half* the Jewish race should be turned into soap? Or can we all agree: Turning the Jewish race into soap is a horrible, horrible thing to propose, and anybody who proposes it is a bad person? I.e., an ad hominum attack.

Replace "Jewish" with some other subset of the human race for effect, and you will see why ad hominum responses occur. When someone proposes doing something horrible to some subset of the human race, that person is a bad person. We don't need to discuss the substantive issue of whether gay people should be hung from lamp posts in Mosul. I think we can all agree: the ISIS bastards who do that kind of thing are Bad People. Yes, that's an ad hominum response, but short of validating the entire notion of hanging gay people for the crime of being gay, what other response is possible?

Monday, August 22, 2016 at 2:09:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous David said...

I'm not sure I could agree with that. I see where you're going and if you're strictly talking about a moral judgement, sure, there really isn't a rational debate to be had about whether death camps fulfill some obscure but appropriate ethical rule.

However, and I hope won't take this the wrong way, but when it comes to political or for that matter military affairs what you're suggesting is exactly the kind of oversimplification that has landed the West in the current mess to begin with. ISIS is not just "bad people." They are a specific group of "bad people," with a specific agenda, specific goals, a specific history, specific values, specific rules of engagement. Those are different, in all cases, from -- to take your example -- the other "bad people" of Nazi Germany. If we're going to think about how to engage with such groups, then oversimplifying probably isn't going to help us much.

That's where I think that ad hominum-style politics, whether it's left versus right or right versus left, harms democratic politics in much the same way. It chokes off any meaningful discussion and it suggests lazy thinking. That said, I'd be interested in hearing Lisa explain what she had in mind more fully. It seems to me that it would be very hard to debate Trump on any substantive issues because he has yet to advance any policies that are both clear and ones that anyone seriously believes he would follow in office. He engages in endless ad hominum attacks, and the left reciprocates. If it becomes an endless cycle of that, then very quickly, the only people who will really care about nailing down who started it will be the historians.

Monday, August 22, 2016 at 2:43:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I mean, do we *really* think there is a substantive conversation to be had regarding the notion of turning the Jewish race into soap? ...Replace "Jewish" with some other subset of the human race for effect, and you will see why ad hominum responses occur."

Who is saying such things? I know liberals that perceive Trump's emphasis on immigration law enforcement as being the equivalent of the Nazi final solution, and the media certainly tries its best to carry that tune in a passive aggressive fashion, but, really, there you have it - exactly the sort of hyperbolic nonsense that is under discussion.

The only genocidal maniacs in the world today are the Wahabi Muslims and, oddly, we're not really supposed to call them what they are. And, for reason inexplicable and not discussed on the media, we want to bring a bunch of them here to the US.

Another odd fact - The US gave Mexico tens of $millions to build a wall on its Southern border. So Mexico building walls and other countries giving $ to build them isn't so weird or impossible after all. And progressives, of which Obama certainly is one, do like walls to keep immigration in check. That's a story you saw on your favorite media outlet, right? Not!

And I have heard Trump advance a lot of serious and specific policy policies. But I didn't hear them on the MSM. I had to go look for them. That's is not Trump's fault as much as it is MSM's for trying to make it appear that he has no policies, which, apparently, it has been successful in doing.

Lazy thinking indeed

avedis

Monday, August 22, 2016 at 8:18:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous David said...

The U.S. giving a very small amount of money to Mexico to build a wall that the U.S. wants does not sound implausible. Mexico giving a very large amount of money to the U.S. to build a wall that it does not want, however, is a pipe dream. Even if they were willing to, which they aren't, Mexico does not strike me as having the sort of government that has tens of billions of dollars laying around to spend on another country's infrastructure projects.

I suggested two specific Trump policy proposals for discussion: his proposal to ban American citizens from re-entering the United States if they are of the Muslim faith, and his proposal to have Mexico pay for a border wall. I'll grant you I did not select them at random. I selected them because they are evidence that the Trump campaign is profoundly unserious when it comes to policy platforms. It's a bit rich to listen to people who support Trump complain that others are engaging in ad hominum attacks and failing to discuss serious policy issues when the Republicans are doing things like holding mock trials in absentia of Hillary Clinton.

Frankly, listening to Trump supporters complain that we need to talk about serious issues instead of repeating ad hom attacks ad nauseam is a bit like listening to Clinton supporters insist that they really, really do care about the rule of law, which they plainly don't.

Monday, August 22, 2016 at 11:41:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger BadTux said...

The problem with Trump's policies is that about half of them make complete and obvious sense, while the other half are complete lunacy he just made up on the spot to say he had a policy. That said, the media is poor on covering policy for *all* candidates, turning it all into shallow personality contests that do no good for America or Americans. That's not specific to Trump. How many of Hillary's policies have been covered by the media? (Hint: none). I think what the media is slowly getting clued in on, however, is the fact that they are being played by Trump. They don't know how they're being played (I do), but they're being played like an organ. So they try to counter that by being biased against Trump.

How they're being played, of course, is by Trump taking advantage of the lazy journalistic standards of today's press. It's all about controversy and personality. So Trump gives them controversy and personality. I doubt that Trump is serious about having Mexico build a wall for the United States, but throwing that out there, by being controversial, gets immigration on the plate. And it turns out there's a lot of Americans who *are* concerned about immigration. And about free trade. Neither of which has been good for the average American. But the media spending time on serious policy discussion on those issues would take attention away from controversy and titillation, so. Trump gets them attention the only way he can, given today's press -- with over-the-top proposals that are calculated to generate controversy. And today's press runs with it because that's how they're wired.

It's nice to imagine a national media that was all about somber debate of the issues and serious discussion of policies. I don't remember there ever being one though. Certainly not within my lifetime, and I've been reading newspapers and watching the news since 1970. I remember Jimmy Carter being elected because he had a big smile and Gerald Ford was a dufus who thought the solution to inflation was big buttons that said "Whip Inflation Now". A big smile. Is that a qualification for being President? But his smile was what the news harped on. Then he got elected and turned out to be Mr. Rogers talking down to Americans like they were toddlers, and ended up getting UN-elected by a telegenic actor who made good speech. Policy debates? Really? There were some of those? No, we voted for Reagan because he was the kindly grandfather who was going to make everything right again, not because of policy proposals that the media didn't bother mentioning except as vague generalities, if they mentioned them at all.

Maybe we had a national media that was capable of somber policy discussion at some point in our nation's past, though. I can't rule it out. Just doesn't seem very likely, given what I know of how the press handled major other incidents (such as the famous "you give me the photos and I'll give you the war" where William Randolph Hearst's newspapers saber-rattled the United States into war with Spain with a campaign of half-truths and outright lies). But if you can give me a time and place where the media supposedly was capable of somber policy discussion, I'll be sure to check it out....

Monday, August 22, 2016 at 12:06:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Avedis,

Like you, I don't get the reference to Nazism ... it feels like there's some hot emotion behind that; it has no pertinence to my piece.

Like you, I am simply addressihng the fact that the MSM has not addressed issues that matter. Only in the lasts serveral weeks have a few serious serious writers (like Matt Taibbi) addressed this fact. I've been saying it for a year, but Ranger wanted to stay apolitical.

I could stand it no longer.



avedis,

I don't agree that the media is "being played by Trump". The media is simply throwing hate and aspersions upon his person.

I was not reading papers in 1970, but I would say Carter won because Watergate (and VN) had so fully demoralized the nation. Carter was a Navy man, peanut farmer, and Roslyn and he were totally unpretentious. He even had Billy and Miz Lillian, a sort of "Mayberry RFD" redux. The nation needed that simplicity.

For sure we've always had yellow journalism, and for sure (as mentioned) we (everyone) has more conservative or more liberal outlets.

That said (as I've commented @milpub), prior to the internet, prior to "infotainment", I believe news was more ecumenical and reporters, reported. Yes, you always has wire stories, but there was not the terrible pettiness and gossip that we have today.

The hatred fairly makes my skin crawl.

Monday, August 22, 2016 at 8:13:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Blakenator said...

Sorry if you took my comment as an "ad hominum," because the point I was trying to make is there has always been media bias and we, as consumers, have to accept that and be willing to listen to many voices (including those we disagree with) in our effort to ferret out the truth. My mention of "news as entertainment" was meant to point in the direction of media outlets always going after the sensational trivia over the boring policy (that has effects for years). I will have to point out your "ad hominum" for assuming and calling me a "liberal" because I saw the general temr "left" in one of the posts and decided to point out some "right" equivalences. For the record, I am very much an independent skeptic. Please don't assume that when I attack the "righties" that I am somehow in love with the "lefties." I don't even trust the politicians that I like. I view our current two party system as competing branches of the same criminal cartel.
Lastly, you seem to be upset with the treatment Trump is getting in most of the press but he just keeps feeding them the ammunition. I will say the fellow has said a few things that actually make sense but he manages to follow any of it with a blast of nonsense that erases any interest in the preceding comments.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016 at 12:56:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous David said...

Just because there was bad journalism in the past does not mean it cannot get worse, but I think the history examples kind of miss the point. The problem is no longer that you have a handful of wealthy publishers who want to control the news. The problem is that now that we've handed people way more choice over what news to consume than ever before, it turns out that a critical mass are perfectly happy to be fed crapy opinions and not investigative reporting. I guess this is going to sound pretty cynical, but in a way it's even hard to blame the media when they're obviously just filling a profitable niche for themselves, any more than you can blame a tobacco farmer for causing lung cancer.

I can go to progressives who say the hate from Trump supporters make their skin crawl if that's what I want to hear. They have their stories about biased journalism and political opponents refusing to engage with issues, too. What your side doesn't have, notably, is any stories about Clinton saying she wants to punch people in the face for protesting her speeches, or that she wants to ban American citizens from re-entering the country if they belong to the wrong religion, or that the president of the United States founded ISIS and was born in another country. Please don't pretend this is a one-way street you're observing here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016 at 1:50:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look, it's pretty simple really. If the media got up off it's lazy scurrilous ass and talked about the issues, in some depth, and made that the focus of their campaign reporting, then the candidates would have to respond in an intellectual way (e.g. TPP is bad/good for America because......Immigration is a net benefit/is not a net benefit because.....our interests in the MENA are/are not A,B,C, D and E and the best way to protect them is X,Y,Z or J,K,L).

Again, really simple. Candidates are not going to get into these issues if the media is focused on throwing spit balls like 3rd grade jerks. You could write out a 300 page detailed policy position with cites from experts, etc and the media is just going to find a single line that they can use to build some juvenile profile. So your candidate resources are going to go into working on staying afloat in that environment.

avedis

Tuesday, August 23, 2016 at 9:02:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Dave said...

avedis -- I agree with you but I think it's only half the problem. Obviously yes, if there was a functioning media, it could hold politicians' feet to the fire.

The part that makes me despair though is realizing that the media is working to its constituency there. If you think about it in evolutionary terms or in economic terms, the "survival of the fittest" in the media isn't going to be the places that produce news that is more truthful, or more skeptical, or more hard-hitting. In today's economy, it's going to be the ones that generate the most clickthroughs and the most ad exposures. Donald Trump is "good" at this insofar as he gets the media a lot of business. Whether reporters like him or despise him, he's generating a truckload of business for them.

Now, if what people really wanted was solid investigative journalism, then that wouldn't matter so much, but clearly it isn't. I watch what friends and family circulate on things like Facebook and I have to say, I can understand why a reporter who writes "5 Reasons That Donald Trump Is Worse Than Hitler" is going to do better than the one who writes a very thoughtful and researched 3500-word essay on the historical parallels between Trump's foreign policy platform and that of Bush, Reagan, Nixon, or Eisenhower. Same with coverage of the Democrats.

Can you blame the press for going where the money is? Of course in the long run it's a vicious spiral down, but then again, tell me that's not what we're all in right now.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016 at 12:19:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Fred Gould said...

I don't take every word from the media or anyone as the absolute truth As for Mr Trump, I have listened to several of his press conferences and 3 rallies held down here in Florida. That is why I cannot support him.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016 at 12:56:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave, I sort of disagree with you a little ;-)

You've bundled two issues, IMO, that you shouldn't. 1. The business model/financial incentive to be lazy and produce low grade sound bites on the media's part and 2. Consumer preferences.

Regarding the latter, I'm not so cynical about people and their abilities. Yes, some smart people, like you and me, will seek out "the truth" on our own. We may come to different conclusions, but we try to be informed on the data points that count. We just connect the points in different ways with different emphasis. And yes, there are true idiots out there; bell curve and all.

However, I see lots of people at least trying. They're out on the internet trying to get the facts. They're reading "expert" analysis/opinions to help them arrange facts into coherent stories with some depth. Sure, sometimes these stories take on the appearance of conspiracy theories, etc, but, again, the people are trying to get to the bottom of things. MSM is NOT doing this for them. It's not trusted. It's not providing the depth. Hence the internet. Hence talking things over with buddies who know someone that knows someone that was there. I say the people are hungry for more that the empty scraps the MSM is tossing to them.

Let me provide you with a personal anecdote. My wife and I had a son in Afghanistan. He was out on some crumby FOB on the Pakistan border. We watched the news every night to see what was happening. Not a peep from MSM. It's like there wasn't even a war going on other than a story once every couple weeks about some general saying things about Taliban on the run. Meanwhile we found internet sites that posted daily the sitrep for that sector. Rockets, mortars, roadside bombs. US troops getting wounded. Some getting KIA. Afghan troops turning their weapons on US advisors... WHY DIDN'T MSM EVEN COVER THESE EVENTS IN THE LEAST BIT? That's downright pathetic for a news agency. That's when I realized the depth of the depravity of the MSM and forever lost any faith in the bastards.

My disgust became even greater more recently when I'd watch (on line of course) Trump give a speech at a rally and then an hour later hear MSM completely misrepresenting what he said. Point being not that I am upset about their abuse of Trump per se, but that if they twist that so horribly and obviously, what else are they twisting where I don't have the actual facts of the underlying event to go by?

Another one - I work on the ACA segment for one of the large national healthcare insurance companies. The MSM gets that situation materially wrong every time they talk about. It is clear that they did no research, or, if they , did, they discarded what they learned in favor of some moron level talking points. More to the point, I was having a burger and a beer with a construction guy and a fellow horseman (he's a full time horseman) this past weekend. They asked about the problems with the ACA and I was able to explain it to them in about a half hour. They got it. This is not difficult.

People come to that same perspective as I in their own ways for their own reasons. I am hearing people from all walks of life express a similar sentiment. I happen to be a reasonably good barometer of this b/c I have this weird life where I work a six figure white collar job in corporate America and yet live in a rural environment surrounded by farmers with whom I also interact a lot.

As for your former point about the profit motive favoring cheap quick and easy reporting - maybe so, but it's a losing business model. One day people will stop viewing/purchasing MSM all together and they will be gone. Kind of like Kodak missing the move to digital photography. It happens. I blame Kodak for being out of touch and arrogant and inflexible.

avedis

Tuesday, August 23, 2016 at 1:28:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Blakenator says,

"you seem to be upset with the treatment Trump is getting in most of the press but he just keeps feeding them the ammunition."

Trump is a candidate, and playing that game. The game is not a gentleman's game. If he "agitates" the press, then they are NOT doing their job.

They do not have the right to write their agitation and call it news.


David,

I do not have a side; I am just observing. When this election cycle began, I could not have been less interested (for the first time in my life.)

However, when I began reading the hatred which otherwise respectable outlet were incessantly throwing at candidate Trump, I became interested.

The imablance in their coverage is spectacular, IMHO. There is no hatred from Trump that I can discern.

Today's NYT editorial board asks if Ameria can recover from Trump! --

under the head: "The message of hatred and paranoia that is inciting millions of voters will outlast the messenger" -- yet the hatred and paranois is THEIRS!

To my ears, the hatred and paranoia is spewed from every news source I read, and it is directed at the Republican candidate. I guess they cannot imagine anyone actually being allowed to speak his mind in this great country.

Trump says what a LOT of people feel. You can't humiliate them away into non-existence, though the press would like to do so.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016 at 8:20:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger BadTux said...

Uhm, actually, the press *does* have a right to write their agitation and call it news. It's called the 1st Amendment. I've read early 19th century newspapers as part of history research, and yeah, it's an American tradition.

Now, I agree that we would be better served by a press that spent its time in dispassionate search of the truth, and which engaged in and encouraged serious discussion of policy rather than turning everything into a personality contest. But I haven't seen any examples of such in the United States on any large scale since... well, since. What I have seen is that our modern media is less circumspect about flying their freak flag, if you read newspapers from the 1970's they're just as biased but the biases are hidden in fake "dispassionate" language and careful selection of the facts they decide to report that's intended to manipulate you without seeming manipulative, as I noted, Walter Cronkite's biography has some excellent examples of such which he was quite proud of. But I don't see that as a sign that our press has become any more biased. Rather, I see it as a sign that today's press is owned by giant entertainment conglomerates who neither understand nor care about reporting, and as a result major media outlets have lost much of the talent and expertise that allowed them to once pretend to be "fair and balanced", resulting in amateur hour.

And that last is the big story: The loss of talent and expertise that once staffed our press. It's a society-wide problem. For example, one reason the F-35 fighter is coming in so over-budget and under-performing is because in the 11 years between the first flight of the F-18 Super Hornet and the first flight of the F-35, the United States lost most of its remaining manufacturing infrastructure (other than for the automotive industry and the auto industry has steered clear of government contracts since seeing the government destroy multiple car companies that way), plus the majority of the aircraft designers who had worked on the F-15, F-16, and F-18 programs had retired. So the infrastructure and expertise to build leading-edge fighter aircraft had to be developed literally from scratch, leading to a lot of amateur hour and a bad plane. We're seeing this loss of expertise all over our society right now. Everything got outsourced overseas, denying multiple generations the ability to learn these things on the job, and now that the baby boomers, the last people who had the ability to learn these things on the job, finish retiring... well. With that loss of critical intellectual knowledge that is embodied in no book and taught in no school, we're going to have to reboot our society from scratch. And that reboot right now is looking more like Mexico North than anything that resembled the America of our youth...

Tuesday, August 23, 2016 at 8:57:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous David said...

avedis -- I hope you're not taking what I'm reading as a defence of the press. It's just that in my experience, incompetence usually happens more than deliberate malpractice, whether that's horribly twisting the story about something or anything else. And maybe you're right, but my own opinion is that the two factors are inseparable. If you give me a couple hours, I am quite certain that I could come up with a list as long as my arm of blogs and social media pages dispensing "facts" about Afghanistan that you I would both agree are complete bullshit. I don't think people deliberately set out to get lies, but I think a critical mass of people don't really think critically about their chosen news sources and tend to seek out things that they already agreed with -- e.g. "Joe says things I like about the Afghanistan war, so he's probably accurate when he says what's happening on the ground."

Maybe in the long run this will spell the end of corporate media. At the very least, some of the traditional sources - most newspapers for instance - are locked into what is probably a permanent spiral of decline. In the meantime, though, lazy slapdash reporting is able to produce a steady stream of content for the 24/7 news cycle. It may not be good content, but it's content, and evidently that's enough.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016 at 9:32:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger David Vogt said...

Lisa - Donald Trump has claimed, on various occasions, that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim who was not born in America and who founded ISIS.

I won't say the Times is a bastion of reasoned, careful, critical thinking, but it does seem to me that American politics has hit a new low when a major party's candidate starts saying publicly that he wishes he could beat up protesters and that his predecessor has conspired to cover up his foreign birth. Is it paranoia to say it's alarming that such talk evidently earns one a constituency in modern America?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016 at 9:34:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, "I hope you're not taking what I'm reading as a defence of the press. It's just that in my experience, incompetence usually happens more than deliberate malpractice, whether that's horribly twisting the story about something or anything else"

No worries. We just having a convo and trying to understand. I think you're making good points that have expanded my perspective a bit. And I think you're right about the incompetence factor. It's definitely a major contributor. I'm just emphasizing the other aspects more because I think they are important too and shouldn't be dismissed. The trend needs to me monitored.

David V - Well Obama has brothers and sisters that are hard core Muslims and live in mud huts in Africa, That's fact. He has vacationed with them relatively often during his presidency. There are photos of Obama in traditional African Muslim garb at family weddings. He had two Muslim parents (a father and step father). He has the Muslim Brotherhood and related groups over to the Whitehouse frequently. The only Christian church he is known to have attended regularly is basically a base for haters of America; especially white America. So I don't see it as off base to question his religion.

Then there is supplying weapons to the so called "moderate" Syrian rebels who turned out to be Al Qaeda/Al Nusra Jihadis. The only reason ISIS was pounded into dust a few years ago is because the O admin fostered their development. Why? to get rid of the Assad govt. Admittedly some Rs were in on this too; ex; the lunatic McCain. BUt the buck stop with Obama and Sec State Clinton. They didn't "found" ISIS, but they sure helped the nascent lizard grow up to be a big nasty Godzilla. But yeah, you can split hairs over verbiage (Define "found").

avedis

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 at 5:57:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

correction "..wasn't pounded into dust...."

Look at CNN's anchors. You've got a guy like Anderson Cooper, the son of a Vanderbilt and an open flamboyant homosexual and, of course, a denizen of New York City. Don Lemmon a black rights activist and flamboyant homosexual. Wolf Blitzer and wealthy urbanite Jew (nothing against Jews, but they are a minority in most of America). And some urbanite woman. Are these people even remotely capable of not being severely biased? How can they not have agendas they are pushing? How can they related even remotely to some averages Joes and Janes living in the rust belt, or in coal country or out on a ranch in Montana?

Could CNN have selected a group of anchors less representative of the US populace?

avedis

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 at 6:07:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lisa, to clarify my comment about Wolf Blitzer, which didn't sound good in re-reading, much policy and reporting these days concerns the MENA. I cannot be objective about Muslim Jihadis, etc due to my heritage and have seen that many of Jewish heritage cannot be dispassionate about Israel. It's understandable and human that they cannot be. They are probably even "right" much of the time, but it's another skew on the CNN anchor team that renders it distant from the natural perspective of he swaths of the US.

avedis

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 at 6:49:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous David said...

I would be very interested to see how you could possibly defend your claim that Obama meets frequently with the Muslim Brotherhood. Frankly that's the sort of thing that gets Trump and his supporters labeled paranoid, but I'm prepared to be corrected on that.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 at 11:10:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, maybe I can't....better sources would not confirm the "frequently" qualifier. Just sometimes - http://www.breakingisraelnews.com/30281/secret-meeting-obama-meets-muslim-leaders-ties-terror-middle-east/#GZoYQwomkQP1tWIG.97

avedis

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 at 12:25:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous David said...

And by sometimes, you mean that on one occasion, Obama met with someone from an organization that is not the Muslim Brotherhood, but which certain online news sources claim might have ties to it or at least sympathize with it. I don't want to personalize this overly, but do you see how as an outsider, when a major political leader or his followers routinely make statements that are quite sensational but turn out not to be based in fact, they might be labelled as paranoid? Because you started out by saying that Obama is frequently meeting with a terrorist group at the White House, and now it turns out not so much. Which if I may say is not pointing one way or the other to anything, really, because whatever his political sympathies might be, he's hardly going to invite members of a terrorist group to a public building for tea.

The broader problem that concerns me, however, is the reason I hope we don't end up fighting too much over this. Here's what concerns me: "left" and "right" in America are increasingly getting into nastier brawls in politics over less and less actual territory. If I believed that Donald Trump was going to remake American economically and politically, solve the problems with Islamists and illegal immigration, even go a few steps towards breaking the economic and political hold of elites that is strangling what used to be the American working and middle classes, then I wouldn't care so much.

Trump is, however, by any measure unfit for the office, dangerously divorced from reality at least in his public positions, and has a penchant for proposing absurdities, whether those be about "facts" (Obama wasn't born in America) or "policies" (Mexico will pay for your wall). Even given all that, I wouldn't think you were crazy for voting for Trump if you decided that the alternative was even worse. While the media fixates on Trump because he sells copy for them, Clinton is probably getting the easiest time of any candidate in recent memory despite some pretty serious lapses, not just in political terms but legal ones. People who say they are concerned that Trump wouldn't uphold the law while in office should presumably be equally concerned that Clinton has already been in office and failed to meet that same standard.

At the end of the day, however, what I fear is going to happen is that Americans are going to continue to tear the country apart over partisan feuds like this, and then at the end of the day, there will be one of two establishment figures in the White House anyways. Trump is a billionaire celebrity investor, and to me a lifetime of actions speak louder than words over the past year. As I've said before, if we were talking about some hypothetical third country and I told you, "Things are going to change now because they've just elected a billionaire with massive real estate holdings who says he's going to tear up the economic treaties that helped make him rich," you'd probably wonder what Kool-Aid I'd been drinking.

That's all a bit long-winded but I figured it would be worth writing because most of the anti-Trump obsessions seem to be because he will be the next Hitler. I do not see that. All I see is that eight years ago a lot of people on the left elected someone they believed would bring wonderful changes because they liked his speeches, even though nothing in his life before that showed any evidence that he'd be a great leader and a lot of his rhetoric was, on closer inspection, empty at best. Now I fear that people on the right are about to do the same thing.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 at 3:48:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David,
We are travelling way too far off topic. I have already worded badly being rushed and distracted and possibly unintentionally insulted one of our hosts, which pains me. The main problem is that I am working long hours at this time and don't have time to go digging things up to prove an off topic point.

read this: http://gulfnews.com/news/mena/libya/us-document-reveals-cooperation-between-washington-and-brotherhood-1.1349207

Heck, even if I am wrong, and may be, it proves that the media isn't doing its job responsibly, whether pro or con Trump, Clinton, etc.

avedis

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 at 6:51:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

To all:


I am pleased to see this robust dialog among thinking citizens, and a civil one, at that :)

I'm on the road so haven't much time at the mo', but just a few things --


Badtux,

Tho' you are correct per the letter of the law, perhaps not the intent when you say:

Uhm, actually, the press *does* have a right to write their agitation and call it news. It's called the 1st Amendment.

Defamation law has long contested that absolute right, and of course, libel is litigatible.

Agitation is not news; it is the domain of editorial writers. When one reads the bile produced by people like Charles Pierce, one senses that one stands before a cult of personality and will gain little to foster any understanding.

I do, however, agree with your observation that the loss of talent is something from which the nation is suffering across the board.


David,

Per, "Is it paranoia to say it's alarming that such talk evidently earns one a constituency in modern America?" --

It is neither alarming nor paranoia, but it IS disingenuous. Look at the part of the U.S. which is suffering, and come to understand their misery.

They (and we) all suffer the bromides dished out by the candidates who never vary in their patter. Trump listens, understands, and dares to speak to the people who have been marginalized and lied to.

Finally, someone here addressed the tragedy of the extreme polarization of the nation. This is a TRUE tragedy. There is a hope that Trump is a moderate Republican who will seek conciliation.

However, since each side is so entrenched -- and since his own GOP cannot see fit to even support him unilaterally -- it is unlikely he could attain a conciliation. Ditto for Mrs. Clinton.

This gulf has been fomented by our deeply partisan, even hateful, media. The people follow their lead and so this cave-ing to the party line has become the new normal.

Truly a pity for the U.S.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 at 9:00:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous David said...

avedis - Fair enough. As I hope I've made clear, I'm less concerned with debating the relative merits of Trump vs. Clinton than what I fear is an intense and divisive debate that will leave the same class of people holding all the cards in the end anyways.

Lisa -- I think possibly the only thing we disagree on there is the degree of Trump's own disingenuousness. Maybe I'm just overly cynical on that. Sure Trump is speaking to a group that has been marginalized, but to my mind he is just the latest in history's long line of manipulative populists. I definitely agree with you that the bigger problem here is the way in which media and especially social media are dividing people into hostile, irreconcileable camps. I can't help but shake the feeling that no matter who wins the election, the nation will lose.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 at 11:15:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Yes, David -- the nation has already lost. They have gone down an electronic rabbit hole and hear only their echo chamber; everything outside is fuzzy, suspect and unknowable to them.

We have been growing irreconcilably divided for over a decade now. I see the parallel development of designer news feeds. Even my various email accounts receive radically different hedalines from the same paper, depending on what the search engines for that server decide my proclivities are!

In ONE day a few months agao, I received heads from the same paper (the NYT) that told me ISIS was BOTH "fading into oblivion due to funding losses", AND that it was "enjoying a solid resurgence".

SO, which one was it? It all depends on what the viewer wishes to read or hear (more likely).

Friday, August 26, 2016 at 7:38:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous David said...

I don't know the answer to your question, but in my defense, I do not think anyone at the New York Times does, either.

On a related note, I was reading a New York Times magazine article (they usually do good well-researched articles on those topics, at least) on Facebook news feeds the other day which confirms your suspicions about networks pre-selecting headlines for you. Soon we will all get to live in our own little computer-generated echo chambers.

Friday, August 26, 2016 at 4:42:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

David,


Jim suggests you may wish to visit our friend Peter Van Buren's site, We Meant Well (which can be accessed via our sidebar links). It's a daily reader for him, and often quite informative beyond what's given by the usual sources.

Just this week Van Buren speaks eloquently on CNN and his interview there which magically disappeared in the editing process. Thus, the viewer misses the alternative P.O.V.

As it ever was.

Sunday, August 28, 2016 at 9:13:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous David said...

Thank you for the suggestion -- I'll definitely do that.

Sunday, August 28, 2016 at 4:49:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Anthony Dewees said...

This is the biggest pile of horsehit I think I've ever read. It must seem cool to rail against the press for telling you what to think...when in fact the message is quite different than you describe. The press if anything has failed to call this man for what he is, a dangerously delusional sociopath...the birtherism, tear up the Iran nuclear deal and on and on might make you conspiracy nuts feel better. I hope you are eventually held responsible along with all the others who think diving down this angry white man rat hole gives you some type of inner sustanance. Almost all despots were "legitimate"...it is time to speak up...do you think the african american president came to ofgice twice through subtreguge, that building up the military and bombing Iran...or somebody in order to make angry white men feel they've regained their testosterone worth the consequences....for a blog that puports to be rational, this is pure poor me emotion

Friday, September 23, 2016 at 11:02:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Per the "pure emotion", my p.o.v. is disinterested, but your reply -- OTOH -- is pure emotion. You betray your agenda; I do not.

There's nothing "poor me" about this; it has nothing to do with me. This writer is independent of the subject. my title tells you what the piece is about.

Saturday, September 24, 2016 at 3:03:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

P.S. --


Since you are an associate, Anthony, perhaps you can try again, and aim for the level of civil debate which the previous commenters have achieved.


L.

Saturday, September 24, 2016 at 3:05:00 PM GMT-5  

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