Saturday, September 17, 2016

Memo To Media: You've Been Getting Played for 15 Months

I love it when the media has an epiphany. It's like watching an alternate version of the movie A Christmas Story, only in this version when Ralphie looks behind the desk, instead of getting a Red Ryder air rifle, he gets a chemistry set. The look of WTF on his face is priceless.

CNN's John King, upon learning that Donald Trump's "press conference" on President Obama's birthplace was really nothing more than a self-serving publicity stunt for his new hotel, said "We got played again."

No shit, Sherlock!

It's getting to the point that even these geniuses are starting to figure out that Trump's whole campaign has been nothing more than one giant scam on the American public. Those of us who bothered to pay attention knew who he was and what he was up to, but the John Kings of the world keep getting burned.

Well I've got a news flash for King and his compadres: you've been getting played for the last 15 months. And not only did you go along with the gag, you enabled his con game to the tune of a trillion dollars in free advertising. Not only don't I feel sorry for you, your incompetence is now principally responsible for this snake-oil salesman being in the position he now finds himself in.

I say principally only because Hillary Clinton must bear some responsibility here. If she had run a smarter campaign or had less baggage, she'd be up by a wider margin. But throughout all of last year and for a good chunk of this one, the media's lay down in the face of the most polarizing and divisive figure in modern politics was shameful and beneath contempt. Edward R. Murrow must be spinning in his grave.

This is what happens when journalists stop being journalists and instead become umpires. This is also what happens when corporate profits are more important than journalistic integrity. My understanding of journalism, such as it is, is that it is first and foremost concerned with getting at the truth, no matter where that may lead. Today, the press and the media seem more concerned with being fair and even-handed. Both sides are equally guilty, even if the facts prove otherwise.

Witness the coverage the Clinton Foundation received vs. the coverage the Trump Foundation received. In the latter we have clear evidence of a quid pro quo; in the former, an appearance of impropriety. While I will grant that Bill and Hillary did not handle this potential quagmire well, there should be no doubt to any objective person that Trump paid off the Florida Attorney General to ensure his university would escape prosecution. One foundation broke the law; the other was guilty of bad optics.

And yet when one examines the media coverage, it's clear the Clinton Foundation received far more attention and far worse treatment. Only over the last few days we have we started to see some unflattering news stories on Trump and his apparent scam foundation. How much traction this issue gets will depend on how aggressively the press pursues it. If the last 15 months are any indication, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for it.

You can go back as far as you like and what you will find is astounding. Clinton is called on the carpet while Trump gets off virtually Scott free. Indeed the only hot water Trump seems to get into is when he opens his mouth and makes an ass out of himself; something he did yet again last night when at a rally he suggested that Hillary's secret service detail be disarmed. How many Second Amendment references must this man make before he is held accountable?

Thanks to the even-Steven tact that the media has taken, both these candidates are now virtually tied in unpopularity, despite the fact that only one of them has a track record of dishonesty going back to the '70s. The faults of these candidates are now so baked in to voters perceptions of them that Trump is free to say whatever outrageous thing pops into his head without fear of reprisal. Indeed, the fact that he is still in the race with all that he has said and done is an indictment of both our political system and the people who report on it.

Sadly, I don't know how we get out of this one. The most dangerous and unstable individual ever to run for president is less than two months away from possibly being elected. If that happens an awful lot of people will have an awful lot to answer for, starting with the vaunted Fourth Estate.

And to think all Ralphie had to worry about was shooting his eye out.

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