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Dec 29 2017

What Makes Real News “Real”?

Let’s face it, most writers on the Internet are not what you would call “journalists” in the sense that they go out on the street or get on the phone and present original information they gather from named sources, let alone factual descriptions of events they personally witnessed. Instead we, meaning I at least, read widely from a variety of sources and present what Historians call “Secondary” reports and comment on their significance in the context of our existing body of knowledge about the subject, whether that consists of a straight recapitulation via the process of editorial selection or original content.

It is equally true that even the majority of people employed as “journalists” don’t do “reporting” per se, instead using a technique I first became aware of via Murphy Brown in the mid 90s that I call “access journalism”. In this method your primary tool is the list of personal contacts you’ve cultivated and can persuade, either on or off the record, to reveal “confidential” information.

The obvious flaw is that you cultivate a source though flattery, inherently compromising your ability to present what might be called objective truth lest you lose your access.

It does not help that even the act of maintaining and creating that contact list, to say nothing of the extreme physical labor of picking up a phone or even thinking and typing, falls to staffers and producers and so called “journalists” are merely pretty people reading words they barely understand from teleprompters.

This makes credibility very difficult to evaluate.

I mention this today because of 2 stories. The first reports that Nikki Halley, the current UN Ambassador, is so ignorant and clueless that she was deceived by Russian comedians into commenting on Binomo, an entirely fictional country. Actually I find it quite easy to believe, this Administration is populated by the stupidest and most incompetent people I have ever seen, incapable of the simplest Google search, truly reflecting the low IQ part of the Bell Curve that represents Trump’s base. The pushback is of course to cry “fake news” in the absence (at least as far as I have seen) of actual tapes and transcripts. Even though I consider the provenance of the multiple primary sources credible, it’s not a story I feel comfortable promoting.

The second is Trump’s unsupervised interview with The New York Times. Sadly for him that was all recorded and the transcripts, while they read much worse than they listen because everyone speaks worse than they write, are damning enough and can hardly be denied. Witnesses saw and listened to it. The voice is undeniably Trump.

And yet.

I was on a website recently, one I consider reliably Left but not out of the mainstream, and I ventured the opinion that Trump was clearly Obstructing Justice when he fired Comey (that also is on tape in his interview with Lester Holt, it’s undeniable), that he was in violation of the Emoluments Clause (again, his D.C. hotel, Mar-a-Lago), and that he lied to the FEC on his campaign paperwork (that signature on the bottom? That means if you lie it’s a felony). I thought these were pretty generally agreed on facts, entirely uncontroversial.

The flame war was extensive.

I’m not angry or upset. The public has been lied to by the National Security apparatus and the Corporate Media (not to mention Politicians) pretty constantly for over 50 years now so it’s very difficult to accept those sources on faith alone. When I quote The New York Times or Washington Post or Bloomberg I don’t necessarily expect my readers to say- “Oh yeah, that must be absolutely true.” Remember Iraq.

Instead I do it to illustrate the wide acceptance of these ideas and suggest contrary positions may require a greater degree of evidence if they are to be convincing.