Why Johnny Can't Do Journalism

Our media can't report the truth because it conflicts with their core beliefs.

Back in 1966, Rudolf Flesch published Why Johnny Can't Read which explained why so few public school students were able to read at the expected grade level of days gone by.

The journalistic quality of what's produced by our media has been dropping as fast as pupils' reading abilities did in the past, so it's time to explore "Why Johnny Can't Do Journalism."  Merriam-Webster defines "journalism" as

...writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation.

Some may remember Sgt. Joe Friday's perpetual admonition to witnesses, "Just the facts, ma'am, just the facts."  He had to say this often because of the human tendency to editorialize, to present their interpretations of what happened instead of "just the facts."

For lo these many decades, our mainstream media have claimed that their news pages contained "just the facts" and that opinion and interpretation were strictly limited to the editorial pages.  Conservatives, on the other hand, have claimed for just as long that the media were seriously biased against conservative views and weren't journalists at all, but their observations were mostly laughed off.

This began to change with the advent of Barack Obama: it is not tenable to claim you are an unbiased journalist while simultaneously telling America that a particularly partisan politician makes a thrill run up your leg.  This same liberal slant continued throughout Mr. Obama's presidency, annoying more and more Americans who felt that Mr. Obama was, at best, a middling president, certainly not the second coming of Abraham Lincoln.  It also seemed passing strange that, by purest chance, all the politicians the media liked happened to be of the same party as Mr. Obama and all the politicians the media hated happened to be of the other.

After Mr. Trump won the Republican nomination, the media were so appalled at the prospect of his winning the election that they openly admitted they were going to print whatever lies they thought might defeat him.  They have a First Amendment right to do this, of course, but when they do, they're no longer practicing journalism.

Despite that admission, and plenty of voices bringing their bias to America's attention, the concept of "fake news" didn't really take hold until Hillary moved the Overton Window to make room for it.  She complained that fake news, some of it supposedly planted by the Russians with the help of the Trump campaign, had cost her the election.

Given her august permission to discuss media bias and lies masquerading as news, we happily documented a number of long-ago harmful lies that had been peddled by the MSM without suffering any criticism when their stories were shown to be false.  It's possible that true journalism died years ago and that we're only now realizing it.  RIP?

Trump Derangement Syndrome

After Mr. Trump's victory, our media stated publicly that they planned to abandon partisanship and return to their tradition of reporting "just the facts."  We don't know how many people believed them, but it can't have been for very long: their reckless tendency to publish any anti-Trump material they could ascribe to an anonymous source without bothering to verify it suggested that, like many of their readers, they continue to suffer from Trump Derangement Syndrome.

For the past several months, Democrats and their media allies have been trumpeting innuendos and rumors about Mr. Trump having colluded with the Russians either to swing the election to him or to otherwise betray our nation.  This crescendo of accusation reached a peak when Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey, notwithstanding the many calls for Comey's sacking from Democrats.

This accusation is even sillier because Mr. Trump ran on a platform of improving relations between the United States and Russia.  He said repeatedly that the US and Russia were not in conflict over anything important and that we share a common interest in containing both militant Islam and nuclear-armed North Korea.

Improving relations with Russia was a campaign promise which the American people decided sounded worthy of their votes!  How, we might ask, is he to do that without secret interaction with Russians at all levels of government?  As the saying goes, "90% of diplomacy takes place in the dark."

Given the trumpeted campaign promises of Mr. Trump, it would be surprising and disappointing if he weren't interacting with as many Russians as he could buttonhole.  Calling this treason is a prime example of Trump Derangement Syndrome.

When Mr. Comey illegally leaked his notes about his conversations with Mr. Trump through a long-standing friend and delivered advance information about what he intended to say when he testified, Democrats thought they would be able to impeach Mr. Trump for obstruction of justice and for treasonous collusion with the Russians.  Talk about derangement!

In the end, what happened?

Mr. Comey swore that he had told Mr. Trump on three different occasions that the FBI was not investigating Mr. Trump, which is precisely what the President had repeatedly claimed, and been repeatedly assailed as a liar for saying this.

Instead of stating the truth publicly, Mr. Comey allowed the storm of criticism of Mr. Trump to continue until he had to testify under oath that Mr. Trump was not the subject of an investigation.  He also criticized "journalists" for quoting anonymous sources who claimed access to classified information without checking before spreading it, even though he himself sponsored one of the leaks.  He said:

The challenge - and I'm not picking on reporters - about writing on classified information is the people talking about it often don't really know what’s going on and those of us who know what's going on are not talking about it, and we don’t call the press to say, "Hey, you got that thing wrong about this sensitive topic."

As a result, swarms of Democrats are now asserting that they'd never said that Mr. Trump had conspired with the Russians, not ever.  That's a joke, given the specific and demonstrably false New York Times March 20 headline: "F.B.I. Is Investigating Trump's Russia Ties, Comey Confirms."  The National Review quotes many. many other liberals insisting that Mr. Trump was being investigated - all of which is now shown under oath to be grossly mistaken at best, if not deliberately fabricated lies.

The Democrats have made it clear that they hoped to impeach Mr. Trump for obstruction of justice, but according to the written testimony of Mr. Comey, Mr. Trump told him "go ahead and get anybody satellite to my operation and nail them, I'm with you on that."  Given that he was specifically urging Mr. Comey on in the prosecution of "anybody" who had committed crimes, it's hard to believe that Mr. Trump at the same time told Mr. Comey to lay off.

This is yellow journalism at its worst.  Mr. Comey testified that not only did he never say that Mr. Trump was being investigated, he further stated that he had briefed Congress to that effect.  As Sen. Marco Rubio, not a Trump fan, noted, this fact was widely known among his Senate colleagues - and was the one fact that never leaked, while all sorts of non-facts spent months on the front page.

Many liberals and anti-Trumpers owe both Mr. Trump and the American people an apology, most especially the Democrat Senators who knew full well that the accusations were lies, but gleefully poured gasoline on the flames of falsehood.  Until the media are willing to report negatively on the Democrat Senators who knowingly spread falsehoods as they do every day against Republicans who merely put forward standard Republican party-platform beliefs that the liberal media believe to be untrue, we'll know they're still not ready to be journalists.

Sympathy for Mr. Comey?

You don't have to be a journalist to be worth reading, of course.  Scragged has never claimed to be a newspaper of record; we present fact-based opinions and analysis.  We make every attempt to base our positions on truth, but we make no pretense of being impartial.  Sgt. Friday would be most dissatisfied with us.

If you want to do opinion writing and be taken seriously, though, you have to at least make an attempt to put forward facts and apply logic that makes common sense.  For example, another National Review article claimed that it was improper for Mr. Trump to meet with Mr. Comey without anyone else there, but how can a President make deals without dealing directly with the counter-parties, and sometimes one-on-one as the deal requires?

During the one-on-one, says Comey, the president said that he "hoped" the bureau could "let go" of its investigation into former NSA director Michael Flynn, the subject of an ongoing criminal inquiry.

We wonder if Mr. Trump taped the meeting.  Given how he's been treated, one suspects that if he wasn't taping before, he'll start doing it now - bearing in mind that no matter what classified information might happen to be discussed on such a recording, the President has full legal authority to release it even if no other human being can do so without committing a jail-worthy crime.

Mr. Comey suggested that he regarded this statement as direction to shut down the Flynn investigation, but he continued it and Mr. Trump never followed up his "hope" statement.  In any case, the law requires high-level law enforcement officials to immediately inform other Justice Department authorities if anyone tries to pressure them on an investigation, which Mr. Comey never did.  Either he did not truly feel pressured, in which case he lied in saying that he had and Mr. Trump is innocent, or Mr. Comey committed a felony by not immediately reporting Mr. Trump's wrongdoing to the proper authorities.  You can't have it both ways, but Mr. Comey is trying and the media are playing right along with this contradiction.

We normal people wouldn't think that Mr. Trump expressing "hope" was a command to stop doing something, but Mr. Comey has been associated with the Clintons for a long, long time, with extensive personal and political connections to their various corrupt "charities."  The wife of Comey's second-in-command at the FBI received a great deal of campaign support from key Clinton allies and it's inconceivable that Mr. Comey didn't know about this, although for some strange reason, the donations weren't listed on required federal disclosure forms.

As we see it, if Hillary had said she "hoped" the investigation would end, she'd have meant it as a command backed up by a well-funded threat.  Mr. Comey has moved in those circles long enough to know how many high-level people who displeased or threatened the Clintons have died under peculiar circumstances.

He doesn't know Mr. Trump as well as he knows them, but he knows that Mr. Trump succeeded in New York City real estate.  As a high-level FBI agent, he probably has superior insights into the degree to which corruption is needed to get anything built in the Big Apple.  It's not inconceivable that he assumed that Mr. Trump, too, had connections with the corrupt, powerful, and violent.

Mr. Comey says that he regarded Mr. Trump's "hope" as direction to stop - yet not only didn't he stop, he backstabbed the President in the most dramatic way.  In contrast, he has said not a peep against the Clintons; presumably he could have offered evidence of their wrongdoing as a sop to Mr. Trump if he'd wanted to keep his job.  But he didn't.

In other words, Mr. Comey is more afraid of an ex-President and ex-Senator who hold no official position than he is of a sitting President who many people believe has connections to the New York mob.  What on earth does that say about his opinion of New York politicians in general and of Hillary in particular?

We also have the mainstream media, largely based out of New York City themselves, who also know Donald Trump well and also are also familiar with the corruption of Babylon-on-the-Hudson.  They, too, don't seem at all afraid of whatever evil connections Mr. Trump might have, nor of his supposedly fascist power as President and Commander-in-Chief.  They, too, feel free to lie, cheat, and steal with impunity without knowing or caring that it's not working!

If Mr. Trump were the fascist they claim, they'd be pushing up daisies.  What's more, if Mr. Trump were Mr. Putin's puppet, they'd also be pushing up daisies, the Russians not being at all shy about offing their enemies in broad daylight on the public streets of foreign capitals when the situation seems to call for it.  And if they truly believed either of these things, they'd be acting just a bit more respectfully; they certainly don't seem to have the slightest shred of courage against anyone who might actually hurt them.

One might suppose there'd be a Pulitzer prize in some real investigatory journalism along these lines, but either no modern journalist is brave enough to take the chance, or none of them have sufficient faith in the nonpartisan probity and commitment to journalistic excellence of the Pulitzer prize committee.  Or perhaps both.

In Conclusion

There are several take-aways from the impeachment movement, Mr. Comey's statements, and the media's behavior:

  • Mr. Comey either committed perjury when he testified that Mr. Trump directed him to shut down his investigation of Gen. Flynn or he committed a crime when he did not report this to the specified authorities within the justice department as required by law.
  • Mr. Trump campaigned on a platform of improving relations with Russia.  It's hard to see how he could do that without a lot of conversations with Russians.  Talk of impeaching him for that is a vivid example of Trump Derangement Syndrome.
  • The media are outraged that Mr. Trump goes around them by posting to You Tube and Twitter.  He's said he doesn't like doing this, but he has to because he doesn't trust them.  Having been cut out of his information stream has made them rely more on unconfirmed leaks which are coming back to haunt them - yet they don't seem at all willing to give them up no matter how it degrades them.
  • Republicans are gearing up to run against the media in 2018, which will play well except on the two coasts, and maybe there if they keep lying.  Standard political advice is "Don't pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel," but Mr. Trump has demonstrated that the old rules don't apply in the modern era of free, fast, ubiquitous Twitter and a voting public which already knows the media can't be trusted.

Our "journalists" are so obsessed with the rightness of their unworkable liberal ideas and with the sheer evil of Mr. Trump's promises to "drain the swamp" that they're incapable of committing actual journalism.  The only cure for this is bankruptcy and replacement by a fresh set who will.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like that will happen soon; as they were a century ago, the major media outlets are becoming the playthings of oligarchs who made their money by some other means.  Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post with pocket change and the New York Times is supported by a Mexican billionaire.  The lies will flow!

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for Scragged.com and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Society.
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