Sunday, January 1, 2017

Meat the Press

Via Daily Racing Rag, January 2016, a site you might enjoy.
Just to add my own trumppence' worth to what everybody, and by that I mean Shakezula at LGM, has had to say about the meeting of the press with Meet the Press, in the persons of Wall Street Journal editor Gerard Baker and New York Times editor Dean Baquet, who consented to be interviewed by Chuck Todd this morning, just like common political actors, as if to acknowledge that in spite of all their earnest efforts to avoid it, their work might occasionally have some influence on the course of human events.

Perish the thought! Asked by Todd if he "would've covered Donald Trump differently, knowing what he knows now", Baquet replied that he wouldn't change that at all, but might have done something else quite differently:
Sure, I would've done stuff differently. I'm not sure I would've covered him differently as a candidate. I think I would've tried to go a little bit deeper in understanding the anger in the country. It was the same anger in the country that led to the rise of Bernie Sanders and led to the rise of Donald Trump.
I think if news organizations made a mistake, and I can only speak for my own, I think that we wrote stories about anger in the country. We even did a series called Anxiety in America. But, of course, we should've done more. And I think people would've been less surprised, had we done more. That's what I would've done differently.
The worst thing, you see, "knowing what he knows now". isn't that the United States elected a manifestly incompetent clown to serve as the country's president; it's that people were "surprised" by it. If the New York Times had written more about anxiety, or anger, or whatever, is there even any important difference in whatever peculiar little emotions those hillbillies might be feeling out there, maybe they would have known in advance that Trump would win.

So it seems Baquet's audience is gamblers, who lost a lot of money when the orange-faced long shot came in first by a nose against ridiculous odds, not the American people who are stuck with the outcome, and especially those hillbillies, who are just data points for the reportage. It's not the press's responsibility to inform the public of what the consequences of their vote might be; their responsibility is to keep the punters up to date on the state of the turf, the weather, and the candidates' knees.
I think there's a huge amount we don't know about Donald Trump and his finances. And even, I would say, what he believes in. I think that Donald Trump himself has said many things about different issues. He's said different things when he met with The New York Times. He has said different things in large rallies. I think that there are a lot of question marks about Donald Trump.
But what the hell? What really matters is that we didn't know he was going to win!
We learned a lot about his business. We learned a lot about him as a person. I think what we could've done better was to understand why the country found Donald Trump appealing and why the country found him more appealing than some of the more traditional candidates like Jeb Bush.
And answers such as, "because we allowed him to lie freely about his background and his plans while circulating equally absurd lies making the opposing candidate sound like a warmonger, bribe taker, and even occasionally pedophile sex trafficker, without contradiction," will not be accepted.

After all, it simply isn't done to call somebody a liar, even if they do have a habit of lying, as Baker explained; if folks don't think the person is a liar, they might get offended:
It's about trust. If our readers see that you're saying scathing things about Donald Trump on Twitter or they hear you on TV saying things in a commentary way that appear to be very critical and hostile to Donald Trump, they're not going to trust what you write.
It's much more important that people should believe you than that you should say what's true.
"Lie" implies much more than just saying something that's false. It implies a deliberate intent to mislead. I think it's perfectly -- when Donald Trump says thousands of people were on the rooftops of New Jersey on 9/11 celebrating, thousands of Muslims were there celebrating, I think it's right to investigate that claim, to report what we found, which is that nobody found any evidence of that whatsoever, and to say that.
I think it's then up to the reader to make up their own mind to say, "This is what Donald Trump says. This is what a reliable, trustworthy news organization reports. And you know what? I don't think that's true." 
That definition of "lie" there, while unobjectionable in itself, is deflecting the issue. As so many are saying nowadays, Trump may not be a liar in that sense anyway, but a bullshitter, who is less interested in concealing the truth than he is uninterested in differentiating between truth and fiction. I believe he is often a liar in the strict sense, working to conceal particular truths from his own financial situation to his association with Russian interests, and I would love to see a hard-hitting debate on the question "Donald J. Trump: Liar or Bullshitter?" I'd be open-minded on the outcome. But that's not what our media are interested in.

But the press certainly can tell us whether his statements are true or not; not "here's his statement, here's our carefully reported and vetted evidence, you decide," as in Baker's formulation, but "here's our carefully reported and vetted evidence, and what Trump says, regardless of whether he intends to deceive or not, is false." That's what we need to see from our cherished national media.

And we should see more reporting on the sorrows of laid-off factory workers and coal miners, too, no doubt, and the new classes of white drug addicts and diabetics, and the social and spiritual factors in their unhappiness, but not because it gives us a clue as to how they're going to vote. We should be hearing about it because all lives really do matter, and attention must be paid. And we could also be hearing about what candidates hope to do about the situation, from Hillary Clinton's elaborate complex of educational and economic proposals to Donald Trump's naked #MAGA.

And then you might be able to say of readers furnished with that kind of information that they could "make up their own mind"—not on what kind of bet to place but on whom to vote for.

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