Bizarre - Trump is spending a decent part of his informal speech to the staff of the CIA talking about how the press covered up how big his inaugural crowds were. ...
53 minutes ago
Well, all this is interesting to me, anyway, and that's what matters here. The Internet is a terrible thing for someone like me, who finds almost everything interesting.
On top of this, in the last couple days there's been a medium post circulating from a Russian journalist warning his American colleagues of what to expect under Trump. One key paragraph reads ...
You're Always Losing. This man owns you. He understands perfectly well that he is the news. You can’t ignore him. You’re always playing by his rules — which he can change at any time without any notice. You can’t — in Putin’s case — campaign to vote him out of office. Your readership is dwindling because ad budgets are shrinking — while his ratings are soaring, and if you want to keep your publication afloat, you’ll have to report on everything that man says as soon as he says it, without any analysis or fact-checking, because 1) his fans will not care if he lies to their faces; 2) while you’re busy picking his lies apart, he’ll spit out another mountain of bullshit and you’ll be buried under it.
Let me say first the piece is quite good. It's worth reading. But as a prediction of what awaits the American press, I think it is way, way off the mark and the kind of pusillanimous, defeatist attitude we've seen in this cattle call of Trump outrages listed above. Presidents don't validate what is and isn't news. If you're expecting them to, you're doing it wrong. Almost nothing that is truly important about the work of a free press is damaged by moving the press office across the street.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that these things are not important or that all these threats aren't a very bad sign. It is vastly preferable to have a President who believes in or at least respects American and democratic values. But let's get real: we don't or won't as of Friday. Trump is a would-be authoritarian and a bully. He's surrounded by mediocrities who owe all to him and feel validated by enabling his endless transgressions. Of course, he's doing these things. We know Trump's MO. He will bully people until they're cowed and humiliated and obedient. He'll threaten to kick the reporters out of the White House and then either cut a 'deal' or make some big to-do about 'allowing' the reporters to stay. These are all threats and mind games meant not so much to cow the press as make them think Trump is continually taking things away from them and that they need to make him stop.
They don't need to. That access isn't necessary to do their jobs. And bargaining over baubles of access which are of little consequence is not compatible with doing their job. Access can provide insight and understanding. But it's almost never where the good stuff comes from. Journalists unearth factual information and report it. If Trump wants to turn America into a strong man state, journalists should cover that story rather than begging Trump not to be who he is. America isn't Russia. And I don't think he can change us into Russia. So unless and until we see publications shut down and journalists arrested or disappeared, let's have a little more confidence in our values and our history and our country. ...
The truth is that his threats against the press to date are ones it is best to laugh at. If Trump should take some un- or extra-constitutional actions, we will deal with that when it happens. I doubt he will or can. But I won't obsess about it in advance. Journalists should be unbowed and aggressive and with a sense of humor until something happens to prevent them from doing so. Trump is a punk and a bully. People who don't surrender up their dignity to him unhinge him.
Much the same applies to the endless chatter about 'conflicts of interest' and the insufficiency of his plan to separate himself from his businesses. Why are we still saying Trump isn't doing enough to avoid conflicts of interest? He's made clear he wants to profit off his presidency. Let's accept that. That is what he wants to do. If you're a journalist, start documenting the details. If you're an activist or politician start mobilizing against his corruption.
Trump is the most unpopular incoming President in American history. We only have data on this going back a few decades. But there's little reason to think any President in previous decades or centuries has been this unpopular. Indeed, he's getting less popular as he approaches his inauguration. People need to have a bit more confidence in themselves, their values and their country. As soon as you realize that the Trump wants to profit from the presidency and that the Republicans are focused and helping him do so, all the questions become easier to answer and the path forward more clear. His threats against the press are the same. He's threatening to take away things the press doesn't truly need in order to instill a relationship of dominance.
There's nothing more undignified and enervating than fretting about whether the President-Elect will brand real news 'fake news' or worrying whether his more authoritarian supporters can be convinced to believe - pleaded with, instructed to, prevailed upon - actual factual information. The answer to attacks on journalism is always more journalism. And the truth is that Trump's threats are cheap stunts and bluffs, threatening to take away things journalists don't need.
Russia just said the unverified report paid for by political opponents is "A COMPLETE AND TOTAL FABRICATION, UTTER NONSENSE." Very unfair!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2017
You see, I had written a perfect story in my head -- a fairy tale, complete with a knight(ess) in shining armor and the quintessential happy ending. I had it all worked out: the poignant meeting at the airport, the excitement of the kids when they saw their bedrooms, their new backpacks, the cute stuffed animals propped just so on brand-new sheets, the friendship we would forge -- dinners together, laughter, conversation, pass the lamb stew!
The problem was, I had forgotten one critical detail: God, not me, is the author of this story. And long before I knew a single detail about the Yazidi people, long before “sponsorship” and “refugee” and “resettlement” were part of my daily vocabulary, he had already begun to write it. He had plans for each one of us in this story. My disappointment arose from the fact that my plans didn’t match his. The truth is, they rarely do.
"God, not me, is the author of this story."
Actually, you're more the author of this story than 'God' is. There's no evidence that a god even exists outside of your imagination, let alone your particular God, let alone that you have any idea of what a god might be doing.
Do you see what you did? You imagined a fantasy in your head. That fantasy didn't match reality, so you were disappointed.
You've imagined a fantasy about 'God,' too. But reality doesn't enter into it. Thus, you have no check on your imagination. You can - and do - just imagine whatever you want to imagine.
You think you'll meet 'God' after you die, but that's a fantasy that can never be disproved while you're alive. When you're disappointed, you imagine that it was all 'God's' plan, and that can never be disproved, either. Thus, when it comes to 'God,' your fantasy is never challenged by reality.
You know exactly what 'God' wants, unless something bad or unexplainable happens, in which case, 'God' has a reason that we mere mortals can't understand. Thus, when it comes to the fantasy you've imagined in your head, it can never be disproved. Even when it's wrong.
This is why science advances, but religion never does. A scientist may imagine a beautiful hypothesis, a lovely idea - brilliant, inspiring, perfect in every way. But if it doesn't match up to reality, it has to be discarded.
Science stays grounded in reality, rather than in the imagination of some pleasant fantasy, because it's evidence-based. The most beautiful idea in the world can't be accepted without evidence. And although any individual - scientist or otherwise - might be reluctant to find evidence that disproves his own beloved ideas, science relies on other scientists for that. No one, after all, is reluctant to disprove someone else's beloved idea.
Religion doesn't have that. In religion, your fantasies are immune to reality. If you disagree with your church, you can just find a different church or start your own. That's why science comes to a worldwide consensus about what's true and what isn't, while religious believers can't agree about anything.
I find your columns very interesting, because you often get halfway to the truth, but then refuse to take that extra step. This column is a perfect example of that. You recognize that you built up a fantasy in your head, a story that ended up not matching reality. Unfortunately for you, for this story, reality showed you that your fantasy was wrong. So you were unhappy.
But that fantasy about 'God,' that story which you've also imagined in your head, can't ever be disproven by reality, even in theory. Even if you were wrong, you'd never know it. And that's the case with every faith-based believer of every competing religion, too. You all just believe what you want to believe, such that even those of you who supposedly follow the same holy instruction manual can't agree about much of anything.
Thus, all of you can keep your pretty fantasies. Every religion in the world, every interpretation of every holy book, every 'personal relationship' with a god, every story about who your god is, what he wants, what he does,... it's all immune to reality, as long as it doesn't claim something which can be tested by science. (Even then, how many faith-based people reject evolution, or global warming, or the actual age of the Earth? They're not willing to give up their fantasies even when they have been shown to be wrong.)
Unlike you, I care about the truth of my beliefs. I want to believe as many true things as possible and as few false things as possible. So I'm evidence-based, not faith-based. I want to have good reasons backing up my beliefs, and if I'm wrong, I want to know that, so I can change my beliefs. That's why real-world evidence is so critical. Science has shown us that. Science has progressed so rapidly and so greatly for just that reason.
Yes, in your story, this was all God's story. Unfortunately, your story is fiction. At least, there's zero reason to believe that it's anything else.
How to report on a fascist?
How to cover the rise of a political leader who’s left a paper trail of anti-constitutionalism, racism and the encouragement of violence? Does the press take the position that its subject acts outside the norms of society? Or does it take the position that someone who wins a fair election is by definition “normal,” because his leadership reflects the will of the people?
These are the questions that confronted the U.S. press after the ascendance of fascist leaders in Italy and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s.
Hitler also had the advantage that his Nazi party enjoyed stunning leaps at the polls from the mid ‘20’s to early ‘30’s, going from a fringe party to winning a dominant share of parliamentary seats in free elections in 1932.
But the main way that the press defanged Hitler was by portraying him as something of a joke. He was a “nonsensical” screecher of “wild words” whose appearance, according to Newsweek, “suggests Charlie Chaplin.” His “countenance is a caricature.” He was as “voluble” as he was “insecure,” stated Cosmopolitan.
When Hitler’s party won influence in Parliament, and even after he was made chancellor of Germany in 1933 – about a year and a half before seizing dictatorial power – many American press outlets judged that he would either be outplayed by more traditional politicians or that he would have to become more moderate. Sure, he had a following, but his followers were “impressionable voters” duped by “radical doctrines and quack remedies,” claimed the Washington Post. Now that Hitler actually had to operate within a government the “sober” politicians would “submerge” this movement, according to The New York Times and Christian Science Monitor. A “keen sense of dramatic instinct” was not enough. When it came to time to govern, his lack of “gravity” and “profundity of thought” would be exposed.
In fact, The New York Times wrote after Hitler’s appointment to the chancellorship that success would only “let him expose to the German public his own futility.” Journalists wondered whether Hitler now regretted leaving the rally for the cabinet meeting, where he would have to assume some responsibility.
Yes, the American press tended to condemn Hitler’s well-documented anti-Semitism in the early 1930s. But there were plenty of exceptions. Some papers downplayed reports of violence against Germany’s Jewish citizens as propaganda like that which proliferated during the foregoing World War. Many, even those who categorically condemned the violence, repeatedly declared it to be at an end, showing a tendency to look for a return to normalcy.
Journalists were aware that they could only criticize the German regime so much and maintain their access. When a CBS broadcaster’s son was beaten up by brownshirts for not saluting the Führer, he didn’t report it. When the Chicago Daily News’ Edgar Mowrer wrote that Germany was becoming “an insane asylum” in 1933, the Germans pressured the State Department to rein in American reporters. Allen Dulles, who eventually became director of the CIA, told Mowrer he was “taking the German situation too seriously.” Mowrer’s publisher then transferred him out of Germany in fear of his life.