Three things happened yesterday with vital importance and lasting impact on the American political, social, and economic landscape. And Congresswoman Maxine Waters wasn’t involved in any of them.
It’s no shock any longer that our national news media is, to put it plainly, crap. It is driven inexorably toward sensationalism by the twenty-four hour news format, to the detriment of its ostensible mission. CNN purports to provide the news, but what it actually does is entertain, a nonstop soap opera masquerading as important — this in spite of the valiant efforts of some brilliant journalists they have on staff. But, between feeding the insatiable voyeurism of a mindless American market and the political and social biases of the producers, there is little room for news that truly informs.
The major headlines over this past weekend had nothing to do with the narrow passage of the Federal Budget by the Senate (it’s going back to the House, with a final vote due tomorrow). Instead, we had exhaustive coverage of what the President may or may not have said to a grieving military widow, and whether or not Representative Frederica Wilson truly qualifies as being wacky for politicizing the event.
I want to be very clear: I do indeed think the Honorable Representative is wacky, and not because of her unique attire. (I habitually wear plaid with stripes, Hawaiian shirts, and even worse. I’m in no position to judge.) But the amount that I don’t care about her motivations in this situation positively beggars description. It’s not worthy of attention; it’s not news.
Seriously, I put it to you: What’s the headline? “Showboat Fringe Politician Politicizes Grieving Widow”? Why is that at all unexpected? And why are we spreading the filth by giving it airtime? The only thing less newsworthy is the headline that supports the opposing position: “Odious President Trump Behaves Odiously”, perhaps? Or how about “Famously Poor Communicator Communicates Poorly At The Worst Possible Time”?
We’re about to have a new Federal budget in place for the first time in over a decade. No more Continuing Resolutions and government shutdowns over procedural matters; no, we’re going to actually have a Congress that did its job for once. Yes, it’s a bad budget, but so was the last one and the one before; that’s not the point. Congress is doing its damn job! That, my friends, is news!
So where’s the headline?
I mentioned three important things that just happened. None of them will get any real coverage, certainly not of the sort they deserve. These are:
- It’s been revealed that certain prominent Democrats — and Republicans — paid for the research that led to the infamous Trump Dossier, a scurrilous compilation of obvious fictions, rumors, and the occasional genuine scandal that manipulated the FBI into nearly derailing the Trump Campaign. Names won’t be named until Friday, but the story has leaked and heads will roll. One of those heads may be named Clinton. Unlikely, but not tinfoil-hat time either.
- The Senate has voted against a rule that would have permitted banks and credit card lenders to be targeted in class action lawsuits. This is huge, and there’s compelling arguments both for and against. And there’s no coverage, and thus no national dialogue.
- After a 120-day review, State has reopened refugee admissions under USRAP pursuant to executive order. We’ve gone from seven to eleven countries that we’re scared of now, though, and we can expect the repercussions from this to be both broad and lasting. It’s a huge achievement for the Administration, arguably a crushing blow for civil rights — and it gets zero play in the press.
And what do we read about instead? What gets the top of the hour pride of place in the news cycle?
Apparently, Congresswoman Waters of the California 43rd was intemperate in her language when she called for Trump’s impeachment. She’s a fiery octogenarian, and sometimes she does that; she’s been in Congress forever and is likely to remain there no matter what she says. But some of her opponents back home — who have less than zero chance against her — have called for her arrest for threatening Trump’s life. Which of course she didn’t do.
Why do we care!?
Other stories I for one don’t care about include the NFL officially deciding to take no position on the anthem kneelers (which is exactly what they always do, so no credit from me), Senator Flake denouncing the President from the Senate floor in his retirement speech (again, no surprise there either way), and the NAACP warning its members against American Airlines, using the same language they employed to condemn the State of Missouri a few months back. I haven’t explored this last, but my admittedly cynical guess is that membership and those all-important contributions are running low and they want some headlines.
When these things get press coverage that they quite evidently don’t deserve, it does more than merely promote divisive issues. In a very real sense, the news source that publishes stories about something that is unimportant grants it a platform that otherwise it wouldn’t have. It’s a very real form of tacit endorsement.
The only way to responsibly cover these stories is to strongly condemn the amount of attention they’re getting. This is a lesson the American news media should have learned that time it managed to get Donald Trump elected — but I guess it hasn’t.
Tomorrow, the Federal Budget is going to pass, and that’s going to be big news. Or it won’t pass, and that’s going to be an even bigger story.
Except, given the way things have been going so far this year, it won’t even make the front page.
NOTE: I pick on CNN here, but every major network does the same. So does print. The biases vary, but the end result is the same: News we cannot trust.
Credit for “nonstop soap opera masquerading as important” and “the insatiable voyeurism of a mindless American market” should properly belong to Aaron Sorkin, but he’s apparently done with television.