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Media Blunt Force Trauma

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There are a great many problems facing our nation today, but I wonder how many of us notice that we rarely actually discuss them. We are instead constantly beat over the head about a single issue that is apparently so earth shattering that it is far more important than any other matter facing our nation or world today:

(whack over the head)
Russia

(Another Whack Over The Head)
Russia!

(YET ANOTHER WHACK OVER THE HEAD)
RUSSIA!

If there is not some codicil in the Geneva Convention that prohibits this, there should be. Being bombarded with a steady stream of overcooked accusations, breathless innuendo, and anonymous attacks—all of which have so far added up (using Hillary Clinton’s famous characterization) to a “nothing burger”—has been excruciating. Given that a Special Counsel has been appointed to study the question of the Trump campaign’s supposed collusion with Vladimir Putin to throw the Presidential election (although, just how, nobody has yet explained), one would hope that sane minds in our mass media would simply wait for the investigation to determine whether any laws might have been broken. However, apparently they need a steady stream of eyeballs in order to sell advertising and subscriptions. Therefore…

(whack over the head)
Russia

(Another Whack Over The Head)
Russia!

(YET ANOTHER WHACK OVER THE HEAD)
RUSSIA!

Of course, some of this fixation is driven by a wild hatred of President Trump that is now the most salient characterisic of the news coverage offered our major media outlets. To say that all pretense of balance and objectivity has flown out the window would be like saying that the ocean is wet—at once blindingly obvious and wholly insufficient. Certainly the idea of journalism that is free of the taint of partisanship has been more an ideal than a reality for the vast majority of our nation’s history, but rarely have we seen coverage of a political leader that is so nakedly and unremittingly one-sided. I know that politics is a rough and dirty enterprise, but the sharp elbows exhibited by the press over that past couple of years have been a real eye-opener for many, and go very far to explain the 74% of Americans who, in a Pew Research Center poll conducted last summer, asserted they believe news coverage tends to favor one side over another. Of course, even this dismal lack of trust is likely the fault of…

(whack over the head)
Russia

(Another Whack Over The Head)
Russia!

(YET ANOTHER WHACK OVER THE HEAD)
RUSSIA!

There are, of course, perfectly reasonable arguments to be made against many parts of the Trump agenda and its implementation. The efforts of his administration and allies in Congress to erase most of the Obama regulatory, legislative, and foreign policy legacy virtually overnight raise legitimate questions about the effects of these actions on our nation’s citizens and our standing in the world.

Unfortunately, the response of President Trump’s critics has boiled down to a single inflammatory message on most every issue: “This man is insane!” Whether we are talking about the balance between cost and patient outcomes in healthcare, implementation of environmental regulations, school choice as a mechanism for improving student achievement, oil exploration as a means to greater energy independence, temporary immigration restrictions and enforcement of existing laws, or Federal and Supreme Court nominations, reasoned debate has been buried under acid rhetoric and doomsaying. All these policy changes could be the subjects of thoughtful and cool-headed inquiry by the press and mass media—and, to be fair, there has been some excellent work done—but a recent study of broadcast news found that 55% of news stories regarding the Trump administration have focused upon…

(whack over the head)
Russia

(Another Whack Over The Head)
Russia!

(YET ANOTHER WHACK OVER THE HEAD)
RUSSIA!

Now we have the peculiar saga of Donald Trump Jr. meeting with a Russian representative in the hope he could obtain some dirt on Hillary Clinton prior to last November’s election. Just to put this into context, Mr. Trump was looking for scandalous or salacious information on his father’s opponent—he wasn’t selling nuclear secrets. As described to date, the whole episode seems more Curious George than John le Carré, and those who are anxious to spin this clumsy and amateurish effort into a sinister plot to bring down our democracy might want to consider switching from Red Bull to decaf. It is possible more information could come to light that would result in a more dire interpretation of events, but that will come only after careful inquiry, sworn testimony, and thoughtful evaluation based on reality rather than supposition.

However, regardless of the actual facts of the matter, the talking heads are ready and raring to go. So, without further ado…

(whack over the head)
Russia

(Another Whack Over The Head)
Russia!

(YET ANOTHER WHACK OVER THE HEAD)
RUSSIA!

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