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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Itchy and Scratchy School of Journalism

Whilst I was away, this headline appeared in the USA Today "newspaper."

Trump, Clinton both threaten free press: Column

I know Trump has stated that if elected he will loosen the libel laws to allow him to sue reporters who write negative stories about him. That seems like a pretty serious threat. But in what way has HRC threatened the Fourth Estate?

Well, let's see.
Oh, first of all, in the interests of full disclosure, let me once again state that I am no fan of Hillary Clinton. I have a lot of issues with her, but next to Trump, she looks like George Freaking Washington.

Anyway, let's see how the comparison shakes out.

The public’s right to know is infringed if certain reporters are banned from a candidate's events because the candidate doesn’t like a story they have written or broadcast, as Donald Trump has done.

Okay. You'll get no argument here.

Similarly, refusing to regularly answer questions from reporters in a press conference, as Hillary Clinton has, deprives the American people of hearing from their potential commander-in-chief in a format that is critical to ensuring he or she is accountable for policy positions and official acts.

Oh, sure because that's totally the same. . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . wait, what?

"She doesn't hold enough press conferences" is the equivalent of "he bans reporters who dare criticize him?" In what universe?

This is just the latest example of what I like to call "Itchy and Scratchy journalism."

If you've never seen "Itchy and Scratchy," the cartoon-within-a-cartoon featured on the Simpsons, it goes something like this. There's a cat and a mouse. Each episode begins with the cat either minding his own business or trying to be friends with the mouse. Then the mouse murders the cat in some spectacularly gruesome and sadistic way.

 But the opening title sequence of each episode is this:

The lyrics to the theme song are:
They fight
And fight 
And fight and fight and fight.
Fight, fight, fight!
Fight, fight, fight!
The Itchy and Scratchy Shooooow!!!!!

And sure, it's funny. But it gives a completely false impression of what the show is all about. They don't fight and fight. The mouse just eviscerates the cat for no reason other than his own psychotic enjoyment. But if all you saw was the opening, you would think it was some sort of fair fight between equally-matched opponents, both of whom, hate the other.

Similarly, if , like most news consumers, you just glanced at the headline and maybe skimmed the article, you could be forgiven for thinking that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are equally villainous in their treatment of the press.

I remember the first time I noticed this phenomenon. It was during the 2000 Presidentiual campaign, after one of Bush and Gore's debates. The article listed any number of instances where G.W. Bush had lied, distorted, or otherwise told falsehoods. Then they tacked on a bit about Al Gore exaggerating some statistic and slapped on a headline that read something to the effect of  "Both Candidates Stray From the Truth" or something like that.

Anyway, this is why we can't have nice things. Because no one in the media has the nerve to stand up and say "hey, you know what? Both sides don't always do it! Sometimes it's just the one side."

So no one will say "by refusing to even consider a nominee for the Supreme Court, the Republicans have entered in an unprecedented level of partisanship, pointless obstruction, and politicizing of the court." When's the last time you heard Merrick Garland's name on the news? Today, he just broke the record for the longest time waiting to be confirmed, did you hear about that on the evening news? And not only has he broken that record, but he's broken it without a single hearing. It's completely unprecedented, but no reporters have the guts to poin it out. It's just "partisan gridlock," or "business as usual in Washington" and **shrug** what can you do? The two sides just can't get along!

And that's why Trump advisors can say things like this:

“This whole thing disgusts me, Hillary Clinton should be put in the firing line and shot for treason,”

or this:

Without it even being a story.

That's why people could keep getting beaten up at Trump rallies without it being a major scandal. They're so married to their supposed "objectivity," that they can't bring themselves to admit that the two parties are not the same, not mirror images of each other. One party has gone completely off the rails and the press stands by and says "Gosh, the emperor's suit is fantastic!"

Which is why it should be heartening to hear that Chris Cuomo actually said the following to Trump surrogate Paul Manafort:
“I can't move on,” Cuomo said. “Because you keep lying about it, so I can't move on from it.”
Hearing a journalist actually state the obvious, that someone is telling a lie, is about as rare as hearing Pavarotti covering Led Zeppelin. But, of course, the exchange took place during a discussion about Melanoma Trump's plagiarized speech. No journalist (no mainstream, corporate journalist, I should say) would ever call a lie a lie when it's about something important. All we're likely to get from them on issues on importance is " they fight. And fight. And fight and fight and fight. . ."


Bob Slatten said...

I wish our media would "get" the memo that, if they called out a candidate for not being truthful, for outright lying, or for the things that they say then try to walk back, we might actually be able to have respect for the media.
As it ism they're just lapdogs looking for Fifteen minutes.

Margaret Benbow said...

The distortion of reality from newspeople is constant and goes all the way to the middle of the earth. No relief in sight. Hardly anyone paid attention when perennial incompetent Chuck Todd said that it was not the media's responsibility to point out political liars.
whose responsibility is it? It's as though we're being forced into

One Fly said...

Yes to everything. Driftglass has been after this for years too. To me it's obvious the media has probably become this country's biggest enemy but hey they are the Right, the rich and most powerful and the 1%.

It's truly amazing what is seen on the tb day in day out. Not by me for years and so much better off. The only time I see or hear a commercial is when there just isn't another choice.

With this piece about the media it needs to be said it was Democracy Now who reported everyday damn near in the lead up to the illegal invasion of Irak that there were no WMD's. With facts too imagine that.

The bastards

Few want the truth but love the swill just love it! What makes Merka great ya see.

anne marie in philly said...

REAL journalism died when saint ronnie raygun got elected.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

I applaud your brilliant analysis of Itchy and Scratchy! And oh yeah, of the free press thing too.

Lowell said...

The media has done quite an effective hatchet job on Secretary Clinton. While her spouse was in office, FAUX News and other right wing morons concocted stories of murder and mayhem out of thin air. The MSM played along hinting that there's something sinister in the Clinton household. It makes for good press (defined as selling newspapers or gaining a share of the TV market.)

I don't know if I agree with Sec. Clinton on everything or not. I accept the fact that she remains in the mainstream of Christianity and while she doesn't wear her faith on her sleeve, it appears that she has taken seriously some of her Lord's commands about assisting the poor, visiting the sick, etc. I think she was a very effective Secretary of State who was well-regarded around the world and was a great ambassador for our country.

In fact, the more I think about it, I can't come up with any negatives regarding her person or her service to our country. I discount rumors, the personal problems with which she had to deal, and the fact that she somehow doesn't appeal to everyone. I may not agree with her on a few issues, but she knows a hell of a lot more about them than I do.

What I see primarily are made-up scandals designed to take her down. And white, male America remains just as fearful of a strong, intelligent woman as it always has.

I think she'll make a fine president and I really doubt she'll start another war in the Middle East to protect the Saudi oil interests.