Covering the daily comings and goings of this maladministration is a bit like being trapped inside one of those “Star Trek: The Next Generation” episodes where the space-time continuum goes sideways. Blink your eyes and Worf’s uniform has changed from yellow to red, Picard can see four lights and Riker still wants to separate the saucer section for some reason. The behavior of President Trump and his people is one thing. The manner in which that behavior is being handled by the corporate “news” media is quite another.
Pardon me for stepping into the Wayback Machine for a second, but I’m still reeling from Trump’s German wingding last week. Speaking to a European Union official, Trump said, “The Germans are bad, very bad. Look at the millions of cars that they’re selling in the USA. Horrible. We’re gonna stop that.” Grrr, tough talk, we like, more please.
… except for the fact that BMW’s largest facility on the planet resides in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The Mercedes-Benz plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is huge. Daimler has a pile of R&D facilities here. Volkswagen, likewise, has a large plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Some of these companies actually export enough cars made here that they’re putting a dent in the US trade deficit. They employ thousands of American workers.
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What do South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee all have in common? They went for Trump by galactic margins in 2016. According to him, however, those people having gainful employment has to be stopped. The brutal degree to which some of Trump’s MAGA devotees are going to take it in the teeth thanks to Fearless Leader becomes clearer by the day.
So of course, scant days later, when Trump starts flipping out via Twitter on German Chancellor Angela Merkel after she essentially called the US an unreliable ally, the corporate “news” media undertook a fevered round of navel-gazing trying to figure it all out. Why did Trump attack her? Why is Merkel distancing herself from the US? I found myself bellowing at the television, “BECAUSE HE CALLED THE GERMANS ‘VERY BAD’ AND VOWED TO OBLITERATE THEIR AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY MAYBE 100 HOURS AGO. TAKE GODDAM NOTES NEXT TIME, YOU PACK OF BREATHING XEROX MACHINES.”
The last two weeks have borne witness to one of the most remarkable, frightening, disgusting runs of news in the history of the North American continent. Attorney General Sessions was again caught leaving off vital data from his background report. Former FBI Director Mueller was named special counsel to investigate Trump’s Russian ties, an act that led the White House to open a “war room” to fight back against any investigations, with staffers walking around quoting The Godfather about “going to the mattresses.” As columnist Charles P. Pierce observed, “There is going to be blood on the floor as the investigations continue, and it doesn’t matter how many anonymous aides or young in-laws the administration throws overboard. It has been determined that this will be a streetfight.”
Not to be overshadowed, investigations by various House and Senate committees also continue apace, promising exactly 0.0000 percent results thanks to the Republican control of Congress. They’ll try to make it pretty, though. Take the most recent case in point: The Senate and House Intelligence Committees formally requested that Michael Cohen, President Trump’s long-time attorney, appear for questioning. He turned them down flat, but said he would show up if subpoenaed.
The corporate “news” media went predictably berserk at this revelation, going for the dramatic music and deploying ominous terms like “in the crosshairs.” There’s only one small problem here, however. Cohen is Trump’s attorney. Let’s say he does get a subpoena, and let’s say he arrives before a committee buffed up like a shiny new penny.
Upon the very first question, he will say, “Sorry, folks, I can’t answer. Attorney-client privilege. Say, this has been fun. Let’s do lunch.” Game over, turn out the lights when you leave. The House and Senate committee members may not all be lawyers, but they have lawyers. Battalions of them. They know Cohen won’t provide an answer of substance. Calling him is nothing more or less than “Jesus Is Coming, Look Busy” smoke.
And then there is the curious case of Jared Kushner and the Russians. According to The Washington Post, Kushner, aptly described by Charlie Pierce as Trump’s “Secretary of Everything,” tried to open a so-called “back channel” with the Russians during the campaign, suggesting they use Russian communications equipment in order to circumvent any meddling by the US intelligence community. This hedges treason if true, and at a minimum should have Kushner out on the street with his security clearance in tatters at his feet.
As with every one of the other incredible incidents from the last two weeks, the corporate media treated the Kushner revelations like John Dean exposing the existence of recording devices in Nixon’s Oval Office. Bigger than Watergate … for about 24 hours, and then the paddle wheel turns, and the steamship rolls down the river, and The Biggest Story Ever is just some more churned water in a diminishing wake. This is exhausting for the electorate, and a fairly effective way to get people to tune out — and to be less fazed when the big stuff hits.
More importantly, though, it is utterly demoralizing. All of these horror-show revelations coming in this endless full moon tidal surge, and nothing is done, nothing is said, but we all get to watch the “news” people cling to their “objectivity” even as they undermine all they purport to represent and defend. “It’s the business,” I heard one of them say on MSNBC when a counterpart noted how many important stories aren’t discussed any more.
Well, the business sucks. Congress is a void, Mueller is a wild card. Who in the media will step up and say it is enough already? Who will be Walter Cronkite calling the Vietnam War unwinnable? Who will be Edward R. Murrow finally bringing Joe McCarthy to heel? Who will rally the people, stay on point and compel the cretins in power to actually act?
As a member of the independent media, it is especially galling to bear witness to so much lazy, coddling, for-profit journalism as we wade through such perilous times. It is actively dangerous to the life and health of everyone on the planet for these people to be bad at their jobs, to become bored of important stories that require more than a day’s coverage, to treat the whole undertaking as mere entertainment instead of what it is: the delivery of vital information to the people who need to know it most.
This is not even dimly a democracy. This is government by mayhem, and if left unchecked, it will become an F-5 tornado tearing across the land. Everyone knows this, but the people with the largest microphones on Earth and ratings to protect do not want to say it. This is unsustainable.
We in the independent media are not exempted from the responsibility to lean into the important stories and keep with them — to avoid flavor-of-the-month journalism. The times require no less of us — all of us — in “the business.”