When we last went to press, AP had just fact-checked Individual-1’s assertion that “the real insurrection happened on November 3rd, the Presidential Election, not on January 6th—which was a day of protesting the Fake Election results.” Hidebound as ever, AP passed up the chance to level the charge “fake” at the statement’s perpetrator, settling for the prim term “false.”
Normally we would refrain from wasting ink and paper on the blatherings of a person clearly untethered from reality and unfettered by morality. What makes this newsworthy is that it’s such an appalling spectacle: the august AP fact-checking the jabberings of a depraved baboon.*
How has the nation come to such a pass? In hindsight—which we happen to have here in abundant supply—it was inevitable. Does anyone here need a refresher on the three branches of government, and the role of the Fourth Estate? No? Good. The short answer to this question, then, is this: we have met the enemy, and he is us.
In his 1920 expose The Brass Check,† Upton Sinclair wrote “…American newspapers as a whole represent private interests and not public interests.” He did allow for occasional exceptions, since, “in order to be of any use at all, the newspapers must have circulation, and to get circulation they must pretend to care about the public. [Once in a while, though] it will happen that a ‘scoop’ is too valuable to be thrown away. Newspapermen are human, and cannot be blamed by their owners if now and then they yield to the temptation to publish the news.”
Nearly 20 years later, Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes agreed. He said in 1939, “the lack of a free press is the most serious threat confronting our democratic government.” The problem, Ickes said, stemmed from the “vast financial investment” required to operate a newspaper. This “binds them closely to the business world from which they draw their sustenance. Freedom is impossible…when the counting office holds the whip hand.”
A microcosmic example made his point. “According to Secretary Ickes, newspapers never publish stories about elevator accidents in department stores ‘on the basis of news value,’ and never publish anything about “the low wages of of retail clerks, except in ten-cent stores, which do not advertise.
“He said that the advertising agencies of the country ‘sent out orders to the newspaper publishers to get busy and kill” the amended Food and Drug Act introduced in Congress in 1933, and that ‘the newspapers vied with each other to see which could show the most devotion to the makers of impure drugs and poisonous cosmetics.”
Being so dependent on “the business world from which they draw their sustenance” naturally aligned newspapers—and other less-prestigious media—with the political party which dedicated itself to serving business interests.
When watchdogs are pussycats, shenanigans ensue. Republicans grew accustomed to plentiful slack. Offered an inch, they took a mile, then another mile…. Lately they’ve been snatching up astronomical units.
Jackie Calmes, a journalist since 1978, wrote in June, “[t]he radicalization of the Republican Party has been the biggest story of my career.” She worked “as a reporter in Washington through four revolutions—Ronald Reagan’s, Newt Gingrich’s, the tea party’s and Donald Trump’s—each of which took the party further right.”
The press responded to this shift by pretending it wasn’t happening.
They achieved this goal through wholesale usage of a practice called false equivalence. For example, if Democrat accepts a free apple from a local bodega, and a Republican deceitfully swindles a widow out of her families’s ancestral orange grove and sells it to Monsanto for a toxic waste dump, both must be treated equally.
Calmes told Dan Froomkin, of PressWatchers.org—himself a worthy successor to Sinclair—“I felt more pressure of the bothsidesism sort coming from the New York Times than I did from the Wall Street Journal…and I think that’s because the New York Times is sensitive to the fact that it is known to be a liberal paper, so it bends over backwards to give both sides their due.
“She described ‘timeworn’ traditions at the Times, such as: ‘If you’re saying Republicans do something wrong you have to indicate that Democrats bear some blame too.’”
So, here we are. As Froomkin writes, “No one can possibly argue that modern political journalism has fulfilled its essential mission of creating an informed electorate.”
A video clip making the rounds on Tuesday proves his point. A Virginia voter is asked, “What’s the most important issue in this Virginia Governor’s race?”
“Teaching Critical Race Theory to our children,” he replies.
“And what is CRT?”
“…I don’t have that much knowledge on it,” he says after considerable hemming and hawing, “but it’s something that I don’t care for.”
It is possible that AP’s fact check of Dolt 45’s “real insurrection” lie was meant as an exercise in satirical reversal: “Let’s treat this farcical statement seriously—as something worthy of our most august scrutiny. It will be hilarious.” If so, well done—it is.
Longtime Republican operative Tim Miller posted an antithesis at the conservative website, The Bulwark. In loose, lively, funny prose, he delivers news to chill your blood.
Online oddsmakers, he writes, say “…Donald Trump is now the odds-on favorite to be president of the United States in 2025. …more likely than any other person in the world to take the next oath of office on the Capitol steps on January 20, 2025.
“How is that for some weird s__t?”
* The management apologizes to the several species comprising the genus Papio for this implied insult.
† Sinclair self-published The Brass Check because no one else would. Disdained by book publishers, it sold some 150,000 copies. An open source pioneer, Sinclair did not copyright the book; it’s widely available on the internet and highly recommended. The term “brass check” refers to the stamped tokens which were given to customers by brothel owners. Sinclair used the term as his title to drive home his theme: “there is more than one kind of prostitution which may be symbolized by the brass check.”