Sharp-edged analyses cite multiple failures in media’s coverage of Trump

REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Donald Trump speaking at a campaign event in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on Monday.

The ascension of Donald Trump has set off a new round of soul-­searching among “the media,” a term now so broad that it includes everything from The New York Times to cable news to self­-edited bloggers to anyone with a Twitter account.

What responsibility does this sprawling aggregation of voices have for Trump’s status today? Is it as simplistic as asserting that he was irresistible catnip to ratings-­chasing TV executives? If so, how do you account for the avalanche of negative coverage he has received and still flourished? What has “the media” missed or misunderstood about his audience?

As you may have noticed, America’s press corps has no shortage of critics. Currently, the profession of journalism has roughly the same approval rating as Congress, which is just barely above that of pedophiles. Sensing a moment for another exercise in self­-examination (or self-­flagellation), New York magazine dispatched writers to interview a couple dozen prominent practitioners of some variation of journalism.

Having read more of these sorts of things than I care to remember, I was struck by both the quality of the cast ­­ — people like Steven Brill, a veteran exemplar of long­-form and genuinely deeply reported dives into broadly relevant issues (his 25,000-­word gold standard story on America’s absurd health-care system, “The Bitter Pill,” consumed nearly an entire issue of TIME magazine in 2013); David Simon, the former Baltimore Sun beat reporter turned creator of “The Wire”; Dean Baquet, editor of The New York Times; academics like the oft-­quoted Jay Rosen, an NYU journalism professor —­­ and the quality of their responses. Even conservative players like Tucker Carlson of The Daily Caller offer sharp­-edged analyses of what the country’s news system does right … and mostly wrong.

The interviews sprawl across a wide expanse of topics (the magazine provides links to each conversation in full), so there’s plenty from which to cherry pick. For the purposes of this story, I’ve plucked a handful that jumped out at me, or appealed to my personal biases, that being a recurring criticism from the chosen subjects.

I think it’s useful to see Trump as very much like an independent television production company that has a hit show called Trump. Or Trump for President. Media ownership, let’s say TV executives, want that show really badly. And this gives him more power than the network’s own people, or their own journalists sometimes — it’s almost like they would rather go for an outside source for their programming than to their own people. So because he produces this show, Trump for President, that has amazing ratings, he was able to command what was called in the trade “free media” — that’s a fascinating phrase in itself. Trump, the independent producer with the hit show, was kind of irresistible.

— Jay Rosen, professor of journalism at NYU.

Comment: Trump clearly understood the value he was bringing to television networks in particular. And it simply isn’t credible for any executive, from Jeff Zucker at CNN to Phil Griffin at MSNBC to the traditional network heads to pretend that Trump’s ability to draw and hold eyeballs wasn’t key to the amount of airtime they lavished on him, certainly in the early primary season, before he became the presumptive nominee. The point of reflection for television executives, should they decide to reflect, is why, since Trump is a fellow New Yorker long familiar to them, didn’t they commence a full and fair reiteration of his business career simultaneous with their all­-in horse race coverage?

The media did not create Trump. I don’t think the media missed a story of Trump, or failed to scrutinize Trump — that’s a ridiculous criticism. The criticism that might be valid is whether the media understood the circumstances that caused so many Americans to vote for Donald Trump. It’s always hard to have your finger on the pulse of the country. It’s one of those things that we’re always beating ourselves up for. We probably didn’t quite understand the deep economic fallout after the financial crisis a few years ago. There were fewer national correspondents out in the country, and we’re one of the last institutions to have a big national staff. That’s probably part of it. Some of the anger was quiet, and Donald Trump came along and turned the volume up. The anger hadn’t quite showed up in ways that were obvious until he came along. But our job is to be out in the country, trying to understand the country, and to reflect the country back to itself in some way.

— Dean Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times.

Comment: The reference to being “out in the country” is an interesting one. While Baquet is arguing from the perspective of one of the country’s last remaining national newspapers, it reflects an awareness that reporters and editors in general do not have a particularly good feel, good “sourcing” if you will, among the population responding most intensely to Trump’s message. Mainstream media take pains (and make a great show of taking those pains) to cover minority groups. But in many cases the stories produced are sympathetic. Minorities victimized by discrimination, and such. But with a group composed primarily of whites making so often ill-­informed, racially based complaints about their victimization, how do you apply sympathy? Specifically the kind of sympathy that engenders good will and builds sources? Moreover, how much time does the average college-­educated, professional journalist spend with such people?

We all underestimated him at first. He was, by every analysis, a ridiculous premise as a presidential candidate. He remains so. But Trump has been caught up on any number of idiocies, offenses and affronts and it just doesn’t matter. Like Huey Long or Father Coughlin, his outrages — even when carefully reported — serve only to excite some of those who are having their deep anger at the status quo fingered by Trump. The press has been fine at holding Trump to his [bleep]­-headedness, and while there is some criticism that can be directed at the media for over­reporting him in the run up to New Hampshire, since then he has been the leader in the GOP field. He gets legitimate attention for being such. I think the press has been exceptionally unimportant at assessing the American status quo for the last twenty years, for losing sight of the trends that were producing the anger that has led to Trump, and in a healthier sense, to Sanders. The marginalization of labor, the purchase of government, the rampant drug war, mass incarceration, the demeaning of the working class and the brutalities of globalization — we told those stories too late or not at all. That was our complacency. This is just one more election cycle.

— David Simon, creator of the Wire and former reporter for the Baltimore Sun.

Comment: Here again the observation that American journalism, certainly in the forms consumed by most of the population, hasn’t done the job it needed to do to gauge and chronicle the antipathies welling up, particularly among the white lower middle class.

Of course the media failed. But they’ve failed with conservatism all along. Now it’s reached a full boil, where suddenly you can’t ignore the failure. You can’t keep ignoring this thing that you call the fringe. We talk about a 10 percent factor of American society; that’s not a fringe, it’s 30 million people. But beyond all that, it’s the idea of the journalist measuring a story’s importance by the scale of the stage on which it occurs, rather than by the depth of meaning it reveals. You go back to the Scopes “monkey’ trial” — the famous evolution trial. Every paper in America declared fundamentalism dead. Good call on that one. In fact, you can find that declaration about every five years. And the reason they keep getting it wrong is that they’re guided by the idea of trends. If creationists’ candidates are not in office, then they don’t stop existing. They’re still there, and they’ll have kids, and they’ll raise their kids to believe these things. [The media failed to see this] not because the press is so left, but because the press is so relentlessly center. … If you have left, center, and right, the center is a position, no more, no less than any other, right? And that tends to skew things. I think that same effect, unfortunately, ripples out from the political realm into other aspects of life.

— Jeff Sharlet, magazine journalist and professor of English at Dartmouth.

Comment: This speaks to the tradition of neutral objectivity in reporting and to some extentstory choice. The idea that the center is a “pure zone,” a temperate, moderate place best suited for a fair (and balanced) presentation of conflict is a concept that needs fresh debate. How often is this center simply a refuge from asserting a demonstrable, verifiable truth? How often is it a safe zone for journalists fearful of blowback, both partisan and financial? Also, how accurately can this temperate, self­-consciously well­-mannered center comprehend and explain the forces of irrationality?

There’s this relatively new principle of journalism that journalists are supposed to be neutral and free of opinion. What that means is that journalists are increasingly discouraged from ever doing anything other than saying, “Here’s what one side says, and here’s what the other side says.” That shows you’re objective. When Harry Reid says one thing and Mitch McConnell says the other, then you get to report that, it’s easy. When you don’t have that, when you have to go searching for it, or when there’s not this clean conflict, it’s difficult to pretend that you’re neutral.

— Glenn Greenwald, co­founding editor of The Intercept.

Comment: I don’t know about “relatively new,” but Greenwald’s underlying point is a challenge to the lazy but entirely acceptable tradition of “both sides equally” reporting. He’s questioning both the journalistic value of this concept of reporting and the sustainability of it at a time when start­ups like his, ProPublica and various fact checkers are bringing near simultaneous veracity-­assessment —­­ of assertions, statements and claims individuals and organizations —­­ into their work.

The real problem with journalism is groupthink. My father was a journalist — he never graduated from high school, he joined the Marines as a 17­-year-­old and then went to work at the L.A. Times. It was not a profession; it was a trade, and you had a whole diverse field of people entering it. Now, for a bunch of reasons — and this is the problem with American society more broadly, in my view — it’s just a masturbatorium, filled with people who think exactly the same, who are from the same backgrounds, who have the same assumptions about everything. And you get a much less interesting product when you have that. And you also get a lot of fearful people. A lot of people who are too dumb to go into finance, so they went into journalism instead. And they get older and they realize, “I’ve got tuitions, and this is actually a pretty shaky business model on which to build a career,” and they just become unwilling to take any risk at all. When was the last time you saw anybody in the press — except the fringe press — really write a piece that challenged the assumptions of their neighbors? That would actually make their friends in Brooklyn avert their gaze?

— Tucker Carlson, founder and editor in chief of the Daily Caller.

Comment: For all the attention paid to bringing diversity to newsrooms, the grand irony remains that regardless of gender or race there is still a significant overlay of homogeneity in the staffing of such places. It’s as much a part of the selection-process criteria as the ability to report and compose a story, albeit far more implicit. Don’t agree? Let’s have the discussion.

For the mainstream media, it’s no longer plausible to say, “Oh, we’re just going to be objective.” How could you not have an opinion at this point, when your reporter is sitting there and Donald Trump is calling him an idiot? It’s not believable. I think that, at some point, the mainstream media — both rightfully and strategically — needs to shed that cloak of objectivity and say, point blank, “This is not a good person, this is not who should lead our country.” They’re handicapping themselves by playing by a set of rules that no one else is playing by anymore. And if they continue to cede that ground, their influence will continue to be diminished.

— Kurt Bardella, former Breitbart News Network spokesperson.

Comment: There’s no danger of Bardella and Dean Baquet speaking from the same dais anytime soon. The former was a singularly cartoonish figure in New York Times reporter Mark Leibovich’s “This Town” that instantaneously classic dissection of D.C.’s media­political elite. But again, the embedded question is this: “At a time when a major political party has been taken over by a man with little to no respect for or interest in facts, and yet remains enormously appealing to millions of citizens, are you, as a professional journalist, providing full service to your readers/viewers by treating him, on the basis of verifiable facts, as anything other than a fraud?” If it’s still a bridge too far, Bardella is correct when he says hundreds of others have already crossed it.

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Comments (18)

  1. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 07/26/2016 - 05:52 pm.

    One of the greatest weaknesses of the commercial media

    has come back to bite them.

    In my lifetime, I have noticed a steady drift toward the sensational and trivial among the mass media. And what is more sensational and trivial than a self-promoting promoter with his own TV show running for president.

    In 1972, we had comedian Pat Paulsen’s fake campaign for president, and I wonder if the media producers and editors thought that the New York Ego’s campaign was something similar, an enjoyable diversion in a field of otherwise uninspiring candidates.

    However, being out of touch with what is happening in this country among the 99%, they did not realize that the Republicans’ thirty-five-year-old formula of cultural conservatism and economic libertarianism didn’t work anymore. People were angry at their lot, and they were beginning to realize that banning gay marriage and cutting taxes on their boss didn’t improve their situation one bit.

    I see the fans of the Blabbing Billionaire as justifiably angry at lost jobs, low pay and rough working conditions for the jobs that are available to them, the feeling that no one cares about them, fear for their children’s future,and the false belief (fed to them by right-wing media) that dark-skinned people and immigrants, even illegal immigrants, receive free benefits that are denied to them.

    As described in the late Joe Bageant’s book “Deer Hunting with Jesus,” an essential book for anyone who wants to understand the unacknowledged class system in this country, blue collar and low-ranking white collar workers are working so hard just to stay afloat that they don’t have the time or energy for researching facts or thinking things through. In addition, as Bageant points out–and I had never thought of it this way, but it makes sense based on what I have heard and read about school districts around the country–local school boards may talk about wanting “quality education” for the community’s youth, but historically and in the present, what local elites in industrial and rural towns really want is not truly educated youth who think and read but job-ready youth, who have the skills needed for local jobs but don’t question what they are told.

    Thus the country is full of people who know that they are getting a raw deal, but not why, so they gravitate toward politicians who project an angry, or at least forceful and self-confident, persona, whether that politician makes sense or not.

    Living in Conventional Wisdom Central, the affluent urban areas and suburbs of New York, Washington, and Los Angeles, the national media figures are either unaware of or scornful of this segment of society, so they never thought that Redhead’s often incoherent rants would him so many fans.

    They also missed what was happening on the Democratic side. I suppose the creators of the mass media assumed that Bernie Sanders would have no more of an effect on the race than Dennis Kucinich did in 2004 and that Hillary Clinton would just waltz to the nomination unencumbred by any significant challenger. It wasn’t until Bernie started winning primaries and coming within a couple of percentage points of winning others that they were forced to take notice.

    Both parties have been rocked by unexpectedly successful insurgents, but anyone who was paying attention to what happens here among the groundlings could have predicted that neither Republicans nor Democrats were going to put up with business as usual this year.

  2. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 07/26/2016 - 08:51 pm.

    My 2¢

    First of all, thanks to Brian for a thoughtful piece. Never having been in a newsroom except as a visitor, I’m often interested in the assumptions behind journalism, as well as the unwritten parts of how it operates – inside and outside the field’s self-imposed lines.

    Ms. Sandness has said it pretty well, I think. I join her in admiration of Joe Bageant’s book, which tells the story of a sizable part of our society, largely, if not entirely, forgotten or ignored by both the political class and the editors and reporters who should have been paying attention. Like the residents in “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” of a decade and more ago, who are themselves part of this largely-invisible segment of the populace, there are people all over the country who are angry at what has happened to THEIR American Dream, and who can plainly see that their reward for, to use the male Clinton’s phrase, “playing by the rules,” has been to see their economic and social position deteriorate right in front of their eyes, and with no sympathy, much less help, from the powers-that-be at every level: local, state and national. It doesn’t help that Mr. Clinton rather obviously did not always play by the rules himself.

    As someone who spent 30 years in a public high school classroom, I think Sandness is largely correct about what local authorities too often mean when they use the phrase “quality education.” Corporate and local employers, and officials, too often think in terms of their high school graduates as “quality employees” rather than “quality citizens.” The two are not at all synonymous.

  3. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/26/2016 - 08:59 pm.

    The media loves bright, shiny things–man bites dog. There is nothing duller than a campaign where the same staid policy speech is given day by day, and Trump breaks that mold. He feeds straight off of the aggrieved people who are unaware of the gigantic trends that toppling their formerly advantaged position in the world and take it as a personally directed attack on them.

  4. Submitted by Allan Wilson on 07/27/2016 - 03:18 am.

    Jeff Zucker and Donald Trump

    Jeff Zucker’s “personal” relationship with Trump is perhaps the biggest scandal in the whole Trump saga. Trump refers to Zucker as his “personal booking agency” and the free airtime given to Trump by Don Lemon early in the campaign has been noted and ridiculed. The idea of a Zucker-Trump Alliance for four (8?) years is at least as scary as the budding Putin-Trump Non-Aggression Pact.

  5. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 07/27/2016 - 06:54 am.

    “…we told those stories too late or not at all.”

    I.e., “The marginalization of labor, the purchase of government, the rampant drug war, mass incarceration, the demeaning of the working class and the brutalities of globalization…”

    The media class, by and large, did not itself suffer these torments. There is a certain air of, “Well OK, but things aren’t THAT bad, are they ?” I.e., they aren’t really bad enough to completely abandon the status quo, are they?

    This opaqueness is at its apex when the propaganda machine answers the suffering of the long-term unemployed and the under-employed, in their MILLIONS, with statements about how well the GDP is doing.

    Have you ever seen a hungry child eat a piping hot plate of GDP?? All those kids who eat breakfast and lunch provided at school during the school year won’t have that meal support for the summer. For some of them, it’s going to be a long summer.

    The media class thinks things maybe aren’t so great for everyone, but they’re not THAT bad – not bad enough to thoroughly reject all seemingly sensible politics, for example.

    I think when the iterated miseries Mr. Simon names in the quote above hit the journalism profession right in their own lives, THEN we’ll get some helpful reporting, not before.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/27/2016 - 08:37 am.

      “The marginalization of labor, the purchase of government, the rampant drug war, mass incarceration, the demeaning of the working class and the brutalities of globalization…”

      I can say that I’ve must have learned about all of these from “the media”, because I’m not a globe-straddling independent investigator.

      There are ten million forms of “the media” out there, and you can easily choose to ignore them if you wish.

      But, in the end, all of those problems (and many more) are GLOBAL issues. And there is a pretty intense whiff of elite exceptionalism contained in the idea that these problems are especially unbearable by the people in a country that has benefitted from and continues to benefit from being one of the major driving forces the negative aspects of the above issues. Sitting on top of the piles of bodies, complaining of your decline in status as the pile settles lower and lower on the crushed, rotting bodies below is rather gauche, if you catch my analogy.

      In the historical perspective, the much-vaunted, much-bruited middle-class never existed–it was a blink in time usually characterized by brute immense power concentrated in a few families. Will it survive ? Who knows, but in order for their to be a middle, there has to be a top and a bottom.

      • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 07/27/2016 - 01:39 pm.

        In terms of the “rotting bodies” in your analogy,

        …I’d say the least reported facts here in the U.S. is just how many people we kill – directly and indirectly – in our foreign adventures.

        Because of the incredibly poor quality of reporting, most Americans would probably deny the facts – IF they ever saw them, which takes quite a lot of digging. Some shrug their shoulders: “War is hell.” in dismissal of our responsibility. Likewise, many Americans don’t really ponder whether all this killing is necessary or even beneficial.

  6. Submitted by Dennis Carlson on 07/27/2016 - 09:50 am.

    Great Article – Equally Great Responses

    There are several points (both good and bad) I want to comment on.

    Regarding breakfast. If you drive around schools this summer you will see around many schools that they are serving breakfast to students – in some cases, for most of the morning. Although people like myself praise that as a significant social need now being met – I know others will criticize it as yet another government handout taking the responsibility away from the family.

    Regarding local businesses and education. When I was in a school district leadership role, we were regularly criticized by a local manufacturer who was dissatisfied with what he saw as an “inferior high school product”. What I found so frustrating was that he did not even pay a living wage for the majority of his employees. My take away from those conversations was that he wanted smart, law abiding, obedient workers but was too cheap to pay a decent wage to get them.

    On to the Media. My frustration with the media has really become focused on the national and metro media outlets. I have been pleased with media outlets like MinnPost, MPR, Twin City Public Television, local newspapers and even local cable stations. I have been greatly disappointed with all national television news broadcasting and even the Star Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press. Only rarely do I feel they do a good job on an issue.

    My job as a local community leader was to find common ground among warring groups who often had extreme points of view about the role of public education. Local newspapers and cable stations routinely did articles and cable TV shows on our school district and always within a context of what is best for our community. They never looked for ways to increase the temperature of these arguments, add fuel to the fire, and let the place burn down for a really good story. When I watch CNN or any other national broadcast I see them taking the low road in all cases just to get viewership and ratings.

    Finally, Trump. I still cannot believe how the media has given him $2 billion of free advertising for his campaign in return for Twitter feeds that do so much damage to the diverse makeup of this country. The media obviously still feels that is a fair trade as the Tweets and damage continue. I feel that media outlets must exist in the context of community and country – otherwise, why exist. They clearly are not out for truth, justice, and improving America.

    I am involved with training young superintendents and I tell them never to trust the media – because they have only their own self-interest in mind – not what is best for you, your schools, or your community. What a sad statement for me to make.

    Sorry this got so long.

  7. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/27/2016 - 01:34 pm.

    I hate to say it, but the 1970s called…

    And they want their media critique back. Most of the observations here are valid, but none of them are new or particularly insightful when compared to ongoing critiques of past decades.

    Ultimately I think problem (and this was an observation made by Chomsky and Herman back in the 1970s) is that the media in a capitalist society almost inevitably ends up servicing the elite. There are variety of reasons for this and mechanisms have been well documented but a full discussion is well beyond our scope here.

    One example of media affiliation with the elite has been on clear display during the last few months and that’s the fact that many in the media actually consider themselves to be members of the elite. Media personalities don’t get into the elite with big banks accounts and powerful jobs but they end up affiliating with the elite by proximity. Consider for instance who attends Minnroast (which among other things is a celebration of Minnpost’s elite status). The stenography/celebrity model of journalism drives reporters towards elite representatives and this becomes a circular feedback loop of “access”. Reporters typically get their “information” in the form of quotes from professional media liaison’s who represent the elite, and reporters go there because they don’t see the need to talk to anyone else.

    The whole “neutral bias” style of writing itself is a concession to the elite because it basically keeps the media docile rather than confrontational. You can lie to a reporters face and have no fear that your lie will be reported as such.

    It’s no mystery that really big stories that affect the lives of the ordinary people have been ignored or simply unobserved by an elite media servicing our political, social, and economic elite.

    Bringing this back to Trump it’s easy to see why Trump is so irresistible for the media because Trump not only represents the elite, he’s a crises among the elite.

    The biggest crime the media have committed in this election cycle hasn’t been to cover Trump, it was their indifferent and sometimes outright hostile coverage of Bernie Sanders. Again, the most obvious explanation for ignoring one of the most compelling political campaigns in US history is simply Sander’s lack of elite status. Neither Sanders or his agenda service the elite and in fact they challenge a status quo that currently benefits the elite. Who cares about that? How could something like that possibly be worth covering?

  8. Submitted by Hal Davis on 07/27/2016 - 06:26 pm.

    It goes back further

    “I think [the] problem (and this was an observation made by Chomsky and Herman back in the 1970s) is that the media in a capitalist society almost inevitably ends up servicing the elite.”

    It was true 100 years ago. Upton Sinclair’s “The Brass Check: A Study of American Journalism,” published in 1919, criticized the Associated Press and the newspapers that owned it for kowtowing to commercial interests. James Boylan in the Columbia Journalism Review said Sinclair portrays American journalism as “an institution in thrall to corporate policy and publishers’ whims, using untruths, dirty tricks, and blackouts to serve political ends… [In their new [2002] introduction, Robert W. McChesney and Ben Scott] contend, with good reason, that Sinclair’s thesis is still valid – that America lacks a press worthy of a democracy.”

    “The whole ‘neutral bias’ style of writing itself is a concession to the elite…” See Associated Press, above. The notion of “objectivity” originated with the founding of the AP just before the Civil War. Newspapers of differing ideologies pooled resources to create the news cooperative, and its news reports were designed not offend its members.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/29/2016 - 07:05 pm.

      There is no ‘free’ press

      Someone has to pay for the costs of gathering news and distributing it.
      Typically this cost is born by advertisers — what you pay for your morning newspaper is a pittance in comparison. If news media were funded only by subscribers we might be free of corporate bias, but that’s in another world.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/30/2016 - 09:43 am.

        Well there’s always the BBC model.

        I think we need to create an American version of the BBC. PBS was a stab at it but it’s reliance on corporate sponsership has always guaranteed it’s loyalty to the elite, and that loyalty has only increased as tax subsidies have been cut from their budget. I tried to watch some of the DNC convention on PBS and just had to turn it off. They cut away from speeches so Mark Shields could deliver the insightful and indispensable comment that he’s seen Hillary look as comfortable with someone as she is with Kaine. They had this “panel” up there that is sooooo completely disconnected from reality it was impossible to watch. And these are the guys who are supposed to be “free” of corporate influence.

        • Submitted by Jim Million on 07/31/2016 - 01:05 pm.


          The British BBC is particularly noted for bias. Most American viewers likely find it a bit too subtle to detect.
          Print media managers often use the “BeeB” as poster child of clear bias.

          I personally find the need for American viewers to be reinforced by favorite commentators telling us what we just saw and heard. Since that reconstruction is often not what we understood in the original feed, I find the protocol quite pathetic.

          Again, for those who can understand major coverage without benevolent expanation, I heartily suggest viewing those major events C-SPAN broadcasts live and without comment. For those who are able to use this outlet, its clean feed simply seats those with open minds directly in the gallery. Once your have seen the feed of certain questions/answers, you must then check various cable channels to see just how what you saw has been selectively cut or even ignored.

          C-SPAN radio covers the Supreme Court in like fashion. Live television coverage is prohibited, unless specifically endorsed by the Chief Justice of the era. The Justices often ask as many leading questions as do Congressional committee member. Chief Justice John Roberts completely re-directed the ACA argument to tax law, surprising both attorneys.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/01/2016 - 10:28 am.

            Bias isn’t the problem

            Since there’s always a bias behind the unbiased the bias can never be eliminated, it simply has to be taken into account. The goal is accuracy and reliability and for the most part the BBC reaches that goal although there have been notable exceptions. The American media on the other hand still hasn’t accepted the fact that the Iraq War was justified by flat out deception and continues to portray moderate republicans (i.e. Clinton democrats) as the political “center”. So we can talk about how awful Trump is, but there’s little if any discussion about the disaster the two parties are pummeling Americans with by giving us a choice between one of two incredibly disliked and distrusted candidates.

            When we do recognize the duopoly the conversation drifts into pseudo-reflections about the constraints of our constitution rather than simply moving to the left. The idea of simply adopting liberal and progressive policies is deemed to be too ridiculous for consideration. Having ruled out the most viable solutions for our nations challenges the media and the political elite endorse the status quo (i.e. a Clinton presidency) and tell us they’re being “optimistic”.

  9. Submitted by Dylan Frankel on 07/29/2016 - 11:40 am.

    Power Elite are a Neccessity

    Right out of the gate, let me just say that I ALMOST NEVER post anything on these pages…having been a blue collar, self-employed handyman for the past 30 years, as a humble servant (read broken toilet, electric, and drywall in your home), I am always careful to have a neutral public face, only because I don’t ever want to alienate any clients, who are my bread and butter. I expect this post may cost me some clients. But the conversation has taken a decidedly DISTURBING turn lately, and I feel compelled to comment openly, lest I fail in my spiritual duty to my country, the world, and all of you.
    Simply put, we have not been able to elect a truly ‘populist’ candidate in a very long time (i.e., Senator Sanders never really had a chance within the DNC framework) because:

    1) This nation was FOUNDED by the power elite of their time, with BORROWED money from other power elites, and we have been indebted in one form or another for the 200+ years since; not a day goes by that we don’t add to that indebtedness. So the concepts of rugged individualism and enlightened self interest that made all our ‘great leaps forward’ possible simply served to get the peasants, and yes, the (gasp) SLAVES, out there into the new west to clear the way so our ‘Robber Barons’ could harvest the newly found wealth and, among other things, maintain that debt. Its simply never been a priority to pay off our debt. We have certainly done amazing things with the wealth that not paying our bill has allowed us. But the debt is still there, and growing every day; running this country like a business (as Mr. Trump would most certainly do) is simply not an option. Ask yourself; would you buy stock in a business that is as indebted as our country is? Would that be a wise or sound investment? Yet we continue to sell T-bills every day….and people wonder why the system is not working. We elect the wealthy, or the ‘created’ candidate (i.e., President Obama) because this is what we, the people, are sold on, because he (or she) has it all together in their life, right?….If you voted for our current President eight years ago (with all respect to the office), I have to ask you, how do you like your ‘change’, my friend? The powers that be simply decided that it was time for that particular demographic to be installed, the DNC raised him from obscurity, and here we are…think about it like the record industry creating the next big boy band. It is an investment in the status quo. A real populist candidate, actually changing the way things get done, is dangerous to our existing power structure, so it can’t be allowed to happen.

    2) The figurehead power that our President holds, to appoint justices, to empower special parts of our government (many of which we will never hear about), and to sway public opinion and policy in general is a MIGHTY force, supposedly held in check by the power of our Congress. This check is simply no longer effective. His (or her) power, between executive order, the war powers act, and the ready-made bully pulpit furnished by our 24 hour news cycle, is (or should be) frightening to us all, and is only truly held in check because of the VERY complicated web of business interdependence between ourselves and the rest of the world. In short, a radical, loutish president is NOT a good thing. While ‘not being a patsy’ can be an attractive campaign vote-getting quality, our electoral college simply won’t install candidates that are actually willing to upset the apple cart, there is too much to lose. Because Senator Sanders actually CARES on a personal level about this country, and Mr. Trump is just an #%*hole, neither of them will be sat in the Big Chair…it just won’t happen. So we are left with Mrs. Clinton, who most likely still believes (like Alinsky) that the particular ends do justify the means; this makes her an electable candidate for the folks who actually control these things. She is willing to make the deal that is best for our structure as it stands, regardless of the personal cost to her ideology in the short term…I believe she was an attorney first, yes? Attorneys make deals, right? Maybe someone has to fact check that 🙂 Giving Presidential power to anyone too extreme is like giving a loaded gun to a teenager; a risky proposition at best, and most likely to end in tragedy. Thus, no populist candidate.

    In Brief, if you would like more of the same (i.e., the devil you know), cast your vote for Hillary.

    If you would like to see our country embroiled in global conflict, and perhaps a nice long profitable war, cast your vote for Mr. Trump.

    If you actually see some hope in changing the basic power structure (almost an impossibility), cast your vote for Senator Sanders.

    But expect Mrs. Clinton to be sworn in come January. Sorry folks; vote your conscience, absolutely, but don’t expect it to make a difference. We are past that now.

    Good luck and may whatever Power you believe in strengthen you and keep you.With love and respect,


  10. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/31/2016 - 10:29 am.

    Meta bias and the power of Trump

    I think it’s important to note the role that the media has played in celebrating Trump over the decades.

    I’ve been talking about the “elite” a lot lately and way that the media serves it. We used to refer to this as a meta-bias that transcends partisan bias. In other words it’s a bias that lay behind the non-bias media facade.

    You can see that in action if you look back the media’s historical treatment of Trump. Reading the New York Times today you’d get the impression that Trump has left a trail of disaster, dishonesty, fraud, broken contracts, and broken and bankrupt partners in his wake over the last several decades. That’s all true, but where was it reported at the time? Almost nowhere.

    Given Trump’s actual record how is it possible that he could have continued his confidence game for decades? Well as recently as a year and half ago the media were celebrating Trump as a brilliant and shrewd example of the wealthy elite. Trump didn’t become a problem in the eyes of the media until he challenged the elite and started winning the nomination.

    So this is actually part of Trumps strength right now. Trump supporters have been watching decades of celebration and when the media now try to claim that the guy they’ve been celebrating for decades has been a scoundrel during those same decades; it’s the media not Trump who have a credibility problem. Basically the question is: “If Trump is such a scoundrel why didn’t we hear about until now?” And frankly that’s a difficult question for the media because they’d have to admit to a meta-bias in order to explain it.

  11. Submitted by Jim Million on 07/31/2016 - 08:01 pm.

    Fresh Reasoning

    Hope readers follow your trail here, Paul. Print media perpetrators usually just send such stories to their “morgue” when inconveniently contradictory. We know the broadcast media could quickly retrieve old stories from their digital archives, as they regularly do to create retrospectives and their montage of the moment.

    Trust me, the networks have lots of HRC stuff from her ’92 campaign, particularly on guns and national insurance. NBC also has a lot of “canned” Trump going back to 2004, I believe. (I watched The Apprentice three times late in its life, just to see if my gut-jerking reactions to what I’d heard would be justified. They were. By the way, he did deliver his final judgments in calm business demeanor.)
    It’s truly a good time to be old. I have only one question I’d really like answered: What was Lois Quam doing for HRC in a minor State Department position based somewhere in Eastern Europe? Those are the e-mails I wish to read. Minnesota media files should have something on that.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/01/2016 - 08:58 am.

      Thanks but…

      I think Mr. Million is complimenting my reasoning and I appreciate that but I need to point out that it really isn’t “my” reasoning. This critique of media and American democracy is derived from Chomsky and Herman’s “Manufacturing Consent” (1988) and Ben Bagdikian’s: “Media Media Monopoly” (1997). Both books have been extensively updated and re-issued.

      It has been interesting to watch the media’s attempts and failures at constructing a narrative that explains or forms a context for this election cycle more so than previous election cycles. Questions like: “Why doesn’t everyone love Hillary?” and: “Why are so many people so angry?” are nearly impossible to address from the elite perspective, and the fact that these are actually the questions the media are asking speaks volumes about their own insularity.

      I think and interesting thought experiment is to ask: “What if the republican elite had actually supported Trump vigorously?” What would have happened had the party rallied around Trump rather than vilified him? Would the media coverage of Trump be so hostile in THAT event? It would be the same Trump, just a different context. I don’t think we’d be seeing attack after attack on Trump if the elite had supported him, think about that for a few minutes. That’s almost scarier than Trump.

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