Ilargi: Comey and the End of Conversation

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By Raúl Ilargi Meijer, editor of Automatic Earth. Originally published at Automatic Earth

You might have thought, and hoped, that recent events, such as the election of Trump as president of the US, or Brexit, or the rise of Marine Le Pen and other non-establishment forces in Europe, would, as a matter of -natural- course, have led to increased conversation and discussion between parties, entities, whose divisions were material in sparking these events.

But the opposite has happened, and continues to happen at an ever faster and fiercer pace. Various sides of various divides become ever more deaf to what other sides have to say. What still poses as conversation turns into blame games and shouting matches replete with innuendo, fake news and insinuations.

The mainstream media even find they are to an extent redeemed by this -at least financially-. Formerly last-gasp ‘news sources’, suffering from the advent of the interwebs, like the New York Times, CNN, HuffPo and WaPo, as well as Fox, Breitbart on the other side, and many others, have seen their reader- and viewerships expand over the past year as they turned into increasingly impenetrable echo chambers.

They may be losing a lot of potential attention -and revenues- from one side of the -former- debate, but that is more than made up for by rising attention from their faithful flocks. The public feel they need to have an opinion on political matters, and the media are more than willing to define, construct and phrase that opinion for them, to first confirm what people already think, and then raise it a notch or two, or three, or ten.

It works like a charm, and their finance people are looking at the numbers saying: whatever it is you guys do, keep on doing it and add some more, because we’re selling like hotcakes. Still, at least some of the writers must be wondering what exactly it is they’re doing, wondering how to define ‘journalism’ in this day and age.

All this represents a giant loss, one that not a single democracy can arguably tolerate for long, even if few of us seem to care. In democracies, it’s essential that people who do not agree, talk to each other, and do so all the time. The end of that conversation spells the end of democracy.


If anything in the future is revealed about a possible -political- connection between Trump and Russia, it will be gravely tainted by the fact that so much opinion posing as news, and so much news that was not real news, has been published about that possible connection already over the past year and change, without any evidence. The WaPo’s and HuffPo’s of the world will not even be vindicated by such a potential revelation anymore, because they lowered their journalistic levels to match those of the National Enquirer.

But even writing down something as neutral as that last paragraph is prone to lead to demonization from all kinds of ‘sources’. The Russian hack story has embedded itself so profoundly in certain corners of American and European society that it can no longer be denied or even questioned without being interpreted as suspect, if not an outright admission of guilt. All you need to know is there once was PropOrNot and its list of alleged 200 Russian propaganda sites.

It doesn’t matter how often Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov and spokeswoman Maria Zakharova ask for proof of the accusations, because for a large and influential segment of western mainstream media that is a phase that has long since been passed. There is such an all-encompassing conviction that Russia hacked and otherwise influenced western elections that no proof is deemed necessary.

Or rather, the idea has taken on such a life of its own that things are taken to have been proven that never were. “News’, just like advertizing, has to a large extent become based on the concept of relentless repetition. Say something often enough and people will believe it, certainly when it confirms what they were looking to have confirmed to begin with. If the echo chambers fit enough lost souls, before you know it nobody asks for proof anymore.


It’s not about whether Trump is or has ever been guilty of anything he’s accused of, it’s that the insinuating narratives about that have long been written and repeated ad nauseam. It’s about whether the witch hunt exemplified by PropOrNot makes objective news gathering impossible. And the only possible response to that question must be affirmative. If only because you can’t tell one type of ‘news’ from the other anymore.

The MSM have focused on getting Hillary elected, and they failed miserably. So did she, of course, it wasn’t just them. A failure they attempt to hide from view behind a veil of never-ending anti-Russian stories that even now they still can’t prove. Which is where the FBI comes in. Sure, some of it may yet prove to be true, but even if that is so, that’s in the future, not today.

Does Trump deserve being resisted? It certainly looks that way much of the time. But he should be resisted with facts, not innuendo of yellow paper quality. That destroys the media, and the media are needed to maintain a democracy. That is both their task and their responsibility. They exist to inform people, but have instead turned into opinion-fabricating machines. Both because that expresses the opinions of their ownership, and because it’s commercially more attractive.

Take a step back and oversee the picture, and you’ll find that Trump is not the biggest threat to American democracy, the media are. They have a job but they stopped doing it. They have turned to smearing, something neither the NYT nor the WaPo should ever have stooped to, but did.


Democracy is not primarily under threat from what one party does, or the other, or a third one, it is under threat because parties have withdrawn themselves into their respective echo chambers from which no dialogue with other parties is possible, or even tolerated.

None of this is to say that there will be no revelations about some ties between some Russian entities or persons and some Trump-related ones. Such ties are entirely possible, and certainly on the business front. Whether that has had any influence on the American presidential election is a whole other story though. And jumping to conclusions because it serves your political purposes is, to put it mildly, not helping.

The problem is that so much has been said and printed on the topic that was unsubstantiated, that if actual ties are proven, that news will be blurred by what was insinuated before. You made your bed, guys.

A lot of sources today talk about how Trump was reportedly frustrated with the constant focus on the alleged Russia ties, but assuming those allegations are not true, and remember nothing has been proven after a year of echo-chambering, isn’t it at least a little understandable that he would be?

Comey was already compromised from 10 different angles, and many wanted him gone, though not necessarily at the same time. The same Democrats, and their media, who now scream murder because he was fired, fell over themselves clamoring for his resignation for months. That does not constitute an opinion, it’s the opposite of one: you can’t change your view of someone as important as the FBI director every day and twice on Sundays without losing credibility.

And yes, many Republicans played similar games. It’s the kind of game that has become acceptable in the Washington swamp and the media that report on it. And many of them also protest yesterday’s decision. Ostensibly, it all has to do not with the fact that Comey was fired, but with the timing. Which in turn would be linked to the fact that the FBI is investigating Trump.

But what’s the logic there? That firing Comey would halt that investigation? Why would that be true? Why would a replacement director do that? Don’t FBI agents count for anything? And isn’t the present investigation itself supposed to be proof that there is proof and/or strong suspicion of that alleged link between Russia and the Trump election victory? Wouldn’t those agents revolt if a new director threw that away with the bathwater?

Since we still run on ‘innocent until proven guilty’, perhaps it’s a thought to hold back a little, but given what we’ve seen since, say, early 2016, that doesn’t look like an option anymore. The trenches have been dug.

These are troubled times, but the trouble is not necessarily where you might think it is. America has an undeniable political crisis, and a severe one, but that’s not the only crisis.

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  1. Carolinian

    Take a step back and oversee the picture, and you’ll find that Trump is not the biggest threat to American democracy, the media are.

    Oh hell yes. And that’s been true for a long time. It didn’t just start with Trump.

    1. Huey Long

      …and who gives the media their marching orders?

      Advertisers and _____________.

      (HINT: Mockingbird)

      1. DanB

        For regular readers of NC, my apologies for once again making the same point I’ve made before about our media. In 1990, as Germany was unifying, and this meant the total disassembly of socialist East Germany by capitalist West Germany, I interviewed members of East remain media, in print, TV, and radio. One told me that he never gave though to the fact that as an East German newspaper reporter he cared nothing about what the people thought, His audience, he admitted, was the ruling socialist party. Another told me he was trained to be a socialist journalist, which meant some facts had to be omitted for the good of creating a socialist world. And another told me he knew he was part of an ideological struggle between East and West. They knew what the ideal of journalism was, but they also knew it was an ideal that if followed would lead to the loss of their career as a journalist.

        So as I read about the Russian hysteria, fake news, and so forth, I reminisce about the parallels between East German media and today’s “Democratic” media. Media supports the system within which it exists.

    2. The Rev Kev

      Not just a problem for American democracy but much of the west. The media sucks everywhere. In France, before the election, Macron’s photo was on virtually every magazine cover of a photo I saw of a newsstand there. Good thing that they weren’t biased for him.

      Here in Australia I recently saw on TV a very long story on the famine in Yemen that went so far as to say that it was caused by war but not once in the entire story did they use the words ‘blockade’ or ‘Saudi Arabia’. Seriously?

      In Germany, the people there are taking to call the media the ‘lügenpresse’ (lying press), a term coined from the days of Goebble’s controlled press during the third Reich. And now this same media wants to appoint itself the censors of what is real and what is fake news? Gaakk!

      1. JTMcPhee

        That assumes fair administration of the “rules,” and a willingness by the broadcasters to provide a platform for opposing viewpoints. Dontcha know there’s a First Amendment to protect against such stuff?

    3. Furzy

      Has everyone forgotten that Comey and other agencies say they have proof that the Russians hacked Podesta? Was this not reported correctly in the media? The MSM is far from perfect, mostly liberally biased, but to say the media is more the problem than malignantly narcissistic, lying, greedy Trump is preposterous.

  2. James Miller

    “Manufacturing Consent: the Political Economy of the Mass Media” (1988, Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman) Is a detailed and well researched discussion of the same process that you write about here. And though it was written in 1988, it discusses trends that had been in motion for generations before. Not to minimize the timely nature of your very thoughtful piece at all- just to remind everyone that there’s been a fire in the basement for a very long time, and we’ve just fanned the smoke away and gone to the movies.

    1. sierra7

      Good re-mention of Chomsky/Herman documentary.
      The “business” of newspapers, is “business”….period.
      Unfortunately the NYT has been labeled for decades as the “newspaper of record”. Vast numbers of smaller publishers paste their eyes on the NYT every morning so as to get leads of what to publish in their own smaller papers.
      Any democratic system depends not just on a truthful media but on a SELF-informed public. That means that you just don’t read newspapers, watch tv news, roam the web….but immerse yourselves in history; books, publications, government records and documents (remember when it was much easier to visit a government book store and you could get almost any kind of info you wanted from what to plant in May and what the CIA was doing in Guatemala [I have those docs still in my files garnered form the SF Gov book store which is no longer there]). Reagan changed those rules.
      But, it takes work and time to devote to trying to find out what your government is doing. Today, there has to be an “app” so as to bring up anything you wish to know in 3 seconds flat without the necessity of digesting or correlating any of the information.
      Follow the money.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        To be fair to the “app for that” marketplace, primary voters who digested their news through social media voted for Sanders. Guess who cable news viewers voted for! Hillary!

        It might not have prestige of a book, but the ability to search and independently verify is important to the growing generational divide on political views.

  3. nobody

    “Take a step back and oversee the picture, and you’ll find that Trump is not the biggest threat to American democracy, the media are.”

    Really? The media? That’s the biggest threat to American democracy?

    Leaving aside the question of whether such a thing as “American democracy” even exists in the first place, wouldn’t it make more sense to be talking about the folks who own the media? You know:

    [T]he owners, the owners of this country… the real owners… the BIG owners! The Wealthy… the REAL owners! The big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions… They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought, and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the state houses, the city halls, they got the judges in their back pockets and they own all the big media companies, so they control just about all of the news and information you get to hear… [The ones who] own this fucking place!… the big club… the owners…

  4. AbateMagicThinking but Not money

    Threats to democracy:

    News media and poor, restricted public education. How can you make any kind of valid decision in voting, if you haven’t got the required tools in the old noddle? No wonder so few bother to vote.

    If educating the electorate is too much to ask for, at least potential politicians should have some kind of appropriate qualifications prior to even thinking of letting them mess with our lives. Looking at this issue from a ‘market’ point of view, would anyone hire an electrician whom is known to have no experience or qualifications in dealing with electrical power?

    As technology advances, governing is only going to get more complicated, and increasingly wealth, both public and private, rests on more complexity of organization and higher standards.

    If politicians are all bought – one way or another, I should imagine that there is a lot of buyer’s remorse because of the quality of product they’ve saddled themselves with. How to know what you are buying? The system of branding known as political parties is breaking down – it was always a convenience, and it worked well in simpler times.

    I can’t see the current lot (in whatever country) agreeing to upping the specs of politicians, they’d lose too much face.

    Pip pip

  5. Eustache de Saint Pierre

    It all has the taste of lynch mob about it, which in historical terms of large armed to the teeth empires, does not usually end well. I have noticed among certain people I know, that the the effort to conserve their own cognitive consonance has become the equivalent of covering their ears & chanting ” La la la, I can’t hear that “, especially recently, when views have been challenged very obviously, as to Obama’s status as Mr. nice cool guy.

    1. justanotherprogressive

      +100. I have to read that again……or at least watch the video….

  6. Disturbed Voter

    The original Confederacy of 1783 was on rocky terms. The coup of 1787 tried to correct that, and was saved temporarily by the net ratification of the states. The party that supported the coup and the net ratification, the Federalists, were temporarily ascendent for 12 years, with increasing dissent. This led to the rise of the original Republicans and the eclipse of the Federalists in the election of 1800. Eventually the Republicans were renamed Democrats … a confusion of names and principles which continue to this day. The past is prologue.

  7. craazyboy

    Speaking of FBI Agent revolt, I’ve been hearing in the news for a year now that factions were ready to revolt or leak over reportedly suppression of HRC investigations. For almost two years, I heard that second hand, a regional FBI director speak this in hushed terms. He disliked Obama, too.

    But all is quiet. Then I thought with Trump handed the key to the filing cabinets, it was near. But so far nothing on HRC, Inc. and CF, Inc. Obama is out getting rich on the golf course. The higher the score, the slower the round, the more money you make. I guess time management could be the limiting issue, but then you are supposed to hire and delegate to handle these things.

  8. jackiebass

    It’s called divide and conquer. It make people easier to control and distracts from what is really going on.With all of the propaganda being circulated by both sides , it’s hard to know what is true.I’m 75 years old and was clueless for most of my life. When I retired I had more free time on my hands. I started reading everything. Like being hit on the head suddenly I began to put thing together in my mind. I read the book 1984 several times. What came out of my thinking, was that we are living in a world just like the one described in the book 1984. When I was younger I used to listen to adults discuss different issues. I used to think that some of what they said was ridiculous. I now know they were some very wise people. I believe the process starts with how history is taught in schools. It’s a glossed over America is the greatest version of the real thing. Unless you dig out the truth , most of what you get is what the Trump administration calls alternative facts. I remember discussing the events leading up to the Iraqi war. I asked the person I was talking to, he was a 45 year old adult, if he thought the government ever lied to him. His answer was no. This shocked me. I think one good thing from the Trump presidency is that it has made more people question what they are told. Unfortunately we have a long road to travel before our country becomes what it is advertised as being. There is so much good stuff out there to read but unfortunately too many people seem to not care about the truth. Unfortunately the general population lacks the important skills of logic and critical thinking. Without these you are easy prey for the propagandist.

    1. Loblolly

      Unfortunately we have a long road to travel before our country becomes what it is advertised as being.

      I live for that day. The last 16 years has been a long painful opening of my eyes. Eyes that I thought were already open. I find myself saying “ohhhhhh” often these days when my perspective and long held beliefs shift.

      1. Carla

        I don’t recall if I saw it in the NC links, or over at the automatic earth, or it was linked in a comment, but I think this piece is worthy of consideration: “From Richard Nixon to Donald Trump: America’s Great Leap Backwards”

    2. Chauncey Gardiner

      Re: “It’s called “divide and conquer”.

      Yes, and as the ancient Romans used to ask, “Cui bono?” (“Who benefits”… from engineering such division?)

  9. fresno dan

    “Or rather, the idea has taken on such a life of its own that things are taken to have been proven that never were.”

    The idea that the Russians hacked, influenced, and affected the election (not just the democratic servers) is accepted as reality in most of the MSM, that is for most people in the US the source of their “common knowledge.” Even the token Trump defenders on cable news accept as a given that Russians bad, America good. And yet, it was not that long ago that Iraq was a “slam dunk” by an institution that should have been discredited for decades is now held up as a paragon of virtue and truth….

    Why does one believe what one believes?

  10. George Orwell

    Excellent post. It seems the poor timing of this exercise (firing) has only exacerbated the political divide. Each side is blind to its team’s faults and quick to blame without first listening to understand. Meanwhile the MSM media continues to sink to new lows, facilitating the side show at every opportunity.

  11. Kurtismayfield

    The media has been in the “middle class anxiety” business for a long time. The only things you see on the local news are:

    Obvious advertising

    It’s like they know that anxious people tend to buy more stuff. Remember you are the product, and the advertising companies are the customer.

  12. templar555510

    I suggest the following with regard to any ‘ news ‘ content whatever its source in this order :

    1. Give up you preconceptions over Left or Right political issues.

    2. Look and listen for ‘ insight ‘ defined as some observation about some situation, that until that moment you hadn’t seen in that particular way, but which now that it has been spoken has ( to use an old-fashioned phrase ) the ‘ ring of truth ‘ about it.

    Or, to put it succinctly – trust yourself.

    1. MoiAussie

      While 1 may be a good thing to attempt to do, it is undoubtedly hard for most to achieve.
      2 seems like a recipe for confirmation bias – if it feels true, believe it. What about evidence?

      1. Katharine

        I disagree about the confirmation bias, since templar specifically said a situation that until that moment you hadn’t seen in that particular way. That seems to mean that your views are changed, as a result of new evidence, or more likely of a different way of looking at what evidence was already there.

  13. dcblogger

    All this represents a giant loss, one that not a single democracy can arguably tolerate for long, even if few of us seem to care. In democracies, it’s essential that people who do not agree, talk to each other, and do so all the time. The end of that conversation spells the end of democracy.

    This is typical of a pre-revolutionary society. In 17th century Britain the Puritans all knew that Queen Henerita Maire was the head of a Catholic plot and had orchestrated the Irish uprising. In 18th century France people knew that Marie Antoinette was an Austrian spy.

    In my never-was-humble-opinion we need to be building the new institutions to follow, because the current system is imploding whether we want it to or no.

    1. Fool

      In my never-was-humble-opinion we need to be building the new institutions to follow, because the current system is imploding whether we want it to or no.

      Of course. But is it not the point of this Russia hysterica, #Resistance, etc to drown out any new ideas of change / for the future?

  14. ChrisFromGeorgia

    The failure of progressive minded and right/libertarian types to find common ground and look past the melodrama of the moment is truly depressing.

    When Obama was elected all we heard from the talk radio cretins was that it was “the end of America” and that he was some radical socialist who sought to fundamentally transform the nation. Yet we got no mea culpa from them when he proceeded to bomb third world nations like Curtis LeMay, let financial crooks off the hook and tried to ram the TPP through. All acts that would have played out the same in a third Bush term.

    Now we see the mirror image with Trump, except it is the other side screeching on and taking ridiculous bait like the Russian “hacking” story. Meanwhile, our privacy rights get trampled, endless wars continue and the health care and financial bezzles multiply.

    As far as the media goes, I wonder if the shift from local ownership to corporate/tech entities has something to do with the abandonment of journalism as a craft. The WaPost used to be owned by the Graham family and now it’s Bezos and his billions made through financial alchemy … many big city papers have shifted from ownership by wealthy local owners to large conglomerates. These big entities just don’t care about anything other than profits and have no ties to the local community. More fodder for the “crapification of everything” bucket.

    1. AbateMagicThinking but Not money

      The process you describe is what I call Elsewhere-ism. If you have enough dosh in an account somewhere (and we all know where), you can potentially live anywhere – quite nicely. Those who soil their own patch with economic and social poison probably have a back-stop position somewhere foreign. They might actually go there; not only when they are living but when they are dead. I can think of at least one poisonous Elsewhere-ist who had his burial in his ‘backstop’.

      Another aspect of Elsewhere-ism is that if you a have a large standing army – best you don’t have them hanging around at home. If you are going to be indulgent of their true nature, keep them occupied abroad, rather than have them causing havoc in the metropole, where they are apt to cross the notional Rubicon at the drop of a hat. At least, In that respect you don’t want to poison your own patch.

      pip pip

  15. George Phillies

    Extremely well said. Some reader with more time on their hands then I have might search back, for example I think in, to the period when Congressional Intelligence Committees were being given access to raw intelligence, alleged were not finding Russian links that actually involved tweaking the election outcome, and were seriously concerned about what their constituents would say if this turned out to be the final report.

    The book is unfortunately out of print, but I would urge you to find David Potter The Impending Crisis about American politics in the 1850s, in which after John Brown was executed the two sides stopped listening to each other. Note also that there was a crossover from Unionism to slavery as the related issue. The outcome was unfortunate; two thirds of a million soldiers, and large numbers of others whose count is rarely reported, became deceased, and considerable parts of the country were devastated.

  16. George Phillies

    Separately, note also Lincoln and His Party in the Secession Crisis, also by David Potter, in which Lincoln and his party after winning the election and seeing Jeff Davis become CSA President still had considerable hopes that the matter would blow over rather than blowing up. After all, North Carolina and Virginia had decisively voted down secession, so the hope was that after a while the strong sentiment for Unionism would again surface.

    In my opinion, there is an increasing likelihood that the resolution will be partition, likely into five or six countries.

  17. djrichard

    As others have noted, this isn’t really that much different than the campaign to war, to get the US into Iraq. Somebody decided that what was good for precipitating Saddam being deposed was good for precipitating Trump being deposed too (or at least creating a restoration of the pre-Trump era). But look what happened after Saddam was deposed. It didn’t exactly create a restoration.

    1. djrichard

      P.S. campaigns for war aren’t meant to produce conversations. In fact, that’s the last thing desired.

      1. vteodorescu

        Truth is the first casualty of war – the first recorded use seems to be by Philip Snowden in his introduction to Truth and the War, by E. D. Morel. London, July 1916

        1. Anonymous

          I thought that was Thucydides, from ‘The Peloponnesian War’. It’s in the first few pages, as I recall. It’s often translated as, ‘the first casualty of war is truth’.

          Virginia would likely not have joined the seceeding states if Lincoln had not raised troops to invade the South. The first ballot for secession failed, and the question was not taken up again until Lincoln began raising troops. Had Seward been President instead of Lincoln, there would have been a cooling off period. The elimination or adjustment of the Tariff might have well brought Southern states back on board. They were tired of paying so disproportionately for the Federal government.

          I’m not sure if a ballot for secession failed in NC. They were the last state to join, and suffered the greatest casualties. They were reluctant participants in secession.

        2. Ulysses

          “”Among the calamities of war may be justly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates and credulity encourages.”

          Samuel Johnson, 1758

          While this “first casualty of war” remark is often (mis)attributed to Aeschylus, nothing very close to it actually appears in any of his extant writings. Thucydides does mention the difficulty of knowing the truth about any human events (including wars) that are very remote in time, early in his history. He does not, however, say anything like “truth is the first casualty of war.”

          Chances are that the Johnson quotation is the earliest verifiable one for this cliché.

          Pedantic interruption over!! :)

          1. Gaianne

            But Thucydides does say truth disappears in civil war, as factions strive desperately and ruthlessly for advantage. This comes up early, specifically in his description of Corcyrus.


  18. willem

    Well said, and something I was reflecting on this just the other day after wading briefly into the waters of an online forum. I read and sometimes comment on articles representing thought across the political spectrum, and what is most noticeable since the last election cycle is the change in tone.

    No one is interested in a serious discussion or debate in most online forums nowadays. When I challenge a position taken by a given article, looking to stimulate a discussion, the vast majority of the responses now are simply abusive, profane, and/or insulting. The responses seldom contain any real rebuttal. Although almost all of the sites seem to have become echo chambers, the rudeness and abuse seems particularly prevalent, profane, and nasty on more left-leaning articles. It made me wonder why those people were reading the articles–self-affirmation, I guess….?

    1. Ivy

      Facts, who needs facts anymore? Those faded away with critical thinking skills, brushed out of the curriculum. Now, people seem to stagger from one fear-reaction to another without time to pause or reflect. That isn’t much of a life.

  19. RRH

    Fast forward 18 months and the MSM will be postulating that Trump is definitely “the Anti-Christ.” He will be characterized as the embodiment of Damian from the movies.

    It is impossible for any individual to sift through all the mud from MSNBC to the NYT and WaPo. Morning Joe is talking about a “Constitutional Crisis” in every segment. If you talk about it long and loud enough, guess what. Like the article says, we have lost the objectivity of the MSM and the off-shoots that call themselves media. I used to watch MSNBC to get my dose of liberal thought, but no longer. It has become a forum for fantasy news.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Outside of Olbermann’s show (believe it or not because he obviously lost his mind in a desperate attempt to get back on tv; his guests and interviews were always interesting) and Phil Donahue, MSNBC was always a dumpster fire. See Chris Matthews. Sorry for the Brock link!

      Its Hardball with Chris Matthews and frequent guest Ann Coulter!

      Joe Scarborough of course was part of the 1994 Gingrich Revolution before the murder of his mistress ruined his political career. Maybe he could have survived the affair, but gosh, his mistress was dead.

      Mika is the daughter of Zbigniew Brzezinki, so you know she never had a shot to be a decent human being or even a tolerable one.

      Its truly a bastion of lefty politics! That Don Imus and Michael Savage were hosts! Fun times!

  20. Fool

    Good lord this one hurt to read. It feels like all the grifters and the idiots have won.

  21. Robaniel

    The conversation ended when the FCC repealed the “Fairness Doctrine” under pressure from Reagan in 1987. Combine that with the monopolization of MSM, the resultant priority of profit over anything else, and the “news” has become just more entertainment used to attract eyeballs.

    1. Wisdom Seeker

      If the government will not enforce antitrust law, it falls to the people to boycott the monopolists wherever possible. Minimize consumption and support alternatives wherever possible.

      And shame those who still patronize the monopolistic corporations.

  22. PKMKII

    The author is correct that the media have become insular echo chambers and shameless promoters of particular political views. But that this leaves writers befuddled as how to “define” journalism? That it is a threat to democracy? Poppycock. The vision of the press as the Great Neutral Arbiter of what is the news only became the status quo in the early 20th century. Prior to E.L. Godkin, no one even fancied the idea that the press was anything other than mouthpieces for particular political parties and movements. And democracy managed to function.

    The problem isn’t the echo chamber, it’s that there’s no actual journalism going on. No sleuth work, no digging. Everything has been reduced to reaction, press release, and rabbit holes of meta-analysis. New York Times, WaPo, anything in the Murdoch empire, they’re no different anymore from a political meme facebook group or subreddit.

    1. JTMcPhee

      “And democracy managed to function.” Really? What are the insignia and hallmarks and elements of this “democracy,” then? Don’t see nothing that corresponds even with my wishful mental shibboleths of what “democracy” is presumed to be. Last time your legislator that you voted for or against legislated anything for your benefit and the benefit of your community? Does he or she take your calls? And bland, say-nothing robo-responses to those thoughtful and/or angry letters and emails and such don’t count. Faux ballot choices don’t count, either. Can you influence the platform, much less the “policies,” of any political party you identify with?

      I’d maybe agree that somehow (in the fortuitous presence of deep reservoirs of lootable “resources” and events like the Great Wars past and ongoing), ordinary people have somehow managed to keep up pretenses that somehow they have “Freedom” ™ and “a voice in government.” And keep “the economy” going, out of necessity day to day, despite what has been close to one mortal blow after another…

      Seems to me all the vectors and momentum of concentration of wealth and power have completely overcome any kind of anything that might be characterized as “rule of the people…” even though the forms may continue to trundle along.

      Nice of the rich folks to let us net-players continue to serve as the blowoff valve to keep the pressures that one of a “liberal” bent would think ought to have built to the kind of explosions that have occurred occasionally in years gone by. Wonder how long that is going to be tolerated.

      1. PKMKII

        If you’d prefer more cynicism, functioned no better or worse than during the supposed glory days of objective purity in the media.

      2. Left in Wisconsin

        I would say the problem is that, compared to earlier times, people now are much less connected to the (entire) world around them – it was a simpler world, people were much less isolated from neighbors and social institutions and those they disagreed with than they are now – so that there was much less dependence on the mainstream media to provide an ‘objective’ sense of the world. But of course no one on the east coast had any idea what was really happening in the south, the midwest or the far west.

        It wasn’t great back then and it’s worse now. “And democracy managed to function.” Not sure how to judge that. We are here now. I guess it functioned to that degree.

  23. Tom_Doak

    The key phrase for me was at the conclusion: “Since we still run on ‘innocent until proven guilty’ …”

    That may be the rule for our courts … officially at least, though they are often bypassed now. But it hasn’t been true of the media for a very, very long time, if ever. And as the author points out, it’s the media that is the problem here.

  24. JEHR

    “But he [Trump] should be resisted with facts, not innuendo of yellow paper quality. That destroys the media, and the media are needed to maintain a democracy. That is both their task and their responsibility.”

    It seems to me that all the lies from everywhere prove that democracy is now dead in the United States of America. I am amazed at all the CNN reporters who beat the drum of truth as if it were still viable and who treat each and every utterance of Trump and his minions as something other than what it really is–the utterances of those who no longer believe in democracy and are on a voyage to destroy democratic institutions. Each death of a democracy is different: this one is dying by lies. I wish someone would stand up and say, this President is a bald-faced liar and does not deserve to be the leader of our country. We don’t want him and he must leave.

  25. Rocktaster

    From reading these comments. I am truly heartened by the eloquence and open-mindedness of all the vocal NC readers out there. There is hope.

  26. Anti Schmoo

    Indeed; the view from the Hermitage would agree with Ilargi; the media is the real threat to the U.S. of A.
    Even Amy Goodman is failing on many issues; validating the White Helmet’s, being a recent example.
    It is said, knowing the problem leads to a solution; however, the majority seems enamered with their MSM; thus no solution is possible.
    Benjamin Franklin said we had a republic; if we can keep it…

  27. John

    Look, I get it. NC readers love to go against the grain of the pro-establishment MSM and the liberal know-it-alls by attacking the Democrats and their accusations against the Trump administration.

    I also mostly agree with the premise of the article on the MSM.

    But there are some blatant factual errors. The notion that “the idea has taken on such a life of its own that things are taken to have been proven that never were” is inaccurate. A CIA, FBI, and NSA report declassified in January concluded that “Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a campaign not just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system but to affect the outcome. The agencies said Putin and the Russian government had a “clear preference” for Trump to win the White House. Putin’s associates hacked information, paid social media “trolls” and backed efforts by Russian government agencies and state-funded media to sway public opinion, the agencies said. The report stopped short of assessing whether Russia succeeded in swaying the election result.”

    Or are you guys going to tell me that Reuters completely fabricated this report? Now I haven’t read the report, nor do I really care. The Democrats deserved to lose the election for rigging the primary, and we’ve interfered in so many elections that this would be karma. I’m uninterested in the outcome unless it directly implicates the Trump administration. But to say that there is zero evidence whatsoever of any Russian meddling in the elections is blatantly false.

    Then the day before the head of the FBI is supposed to testify before the Senate on the matter, he gets fired? (And one Republican Senator’s response was, “well, he didn’t fire the whole agency”?) Comey sure as heck didn’t get fired for incompetence because it’s been nearly four months since the inauguration and it just happens to be the day before his testimony that he got fired. So this is the story that we’re running with? That the MSM is too anti-Trump and anti-Russia? Perhaps both of those are true, but none of you, including the author of this story, even want to comment on this? I just read a story that argued that what just happened isn’t as bad as Nixon firing Archibald Cox. Is that really how low the bar is set? And don’t tell me that Hillary and the Democrats are worse. It doesn’t matter if they are. This is happening right here and now, and it needs to be resisted. But rather than resistance, people want to talk about how bad Hillary is or that worse things have happened in our history.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Did you read the post carefully? It appear not.

      This is about the claim that the Russian government has influence over Trump. Your Reuters link is irrelevant to that.

      And perhaps more important, the underlying report has been debunked even by a world-recognized critic of Putin, in of all places, the New York Review of Books, an outlet of what passes for American intelligensia and therefore firmly liberal, as in anti-Trump. Key section:

      A later building block in the story, which has become its virtual cornerstone, is the joint intelligence report on Russian interference in the campaign, which was released in December and is, plainly, laughable. Is it possible that there is a trove of yet-unleaked classified information that proves that a Russian conspiracy existed, and succeeded in hijacking the American election? Yes, it is. Is it also possible that a few, or many, intelligence officials, who feel, understandably, both insulted by Trump, who has openly and repeatedly denigrated the intelligence establishment, and terrified of what he might do to the country, are using scant or inconclusive evidence to try to undermine his credibility? Yes. What is indisputable is that the protracted national game of connecting the Trump-Putin dots is an exercise in conspiracy thinking.

      Gessen cites the strongest part of the not-compelling story as the DNC “hack”. That has also been repeatedly debunked, see the link below for one of many examples.

      I could dig up more but some of them would take time to find again. Another example was another top Russia critic, a less well known Bellingcat type, wrote a post that said (roughly):

      Do you want to know if you are a victim of Russian propaganda?

      Step one: Are you in Ukraine?

      Step two: There is n other step. If you are not in Ukraine, the answer is no.

      His version was funnier and longer, but that was they key part. And that is why people like Gessen and the other Russia experts groan at strained “intelligence” reports like one you cited that are obvious handwaves.

      And intent does not prove effectiveness.

      Moreover, Lambert has done EXTENSIVE analysis of why Trump lost. Russian media outlets have almost no sway. And I refer you to this post by no-slouch Russian opponent

      1. John


        I did read the post, twice, and I’ve read some of those articles too. I doubt the report means anything. The only thing that I’m quibbling with is the statement that there is “zero evidence.” There is evidence. It may be flawed, but there is evidence.

        Hillary lost the election not because of Russian interference but because she was a horrible candidate who ran a horrible campaign. That’s why I don’t really care much. But that Trump would fire Comey the day before he was to testify, after nearly four months in office (let’s not forget that he tried to make Comey pledge allegiance to him, which is so F’ed up on so many levels)…this is the type of thing that he shouldn’t get away with. He’s trying to send a message–that he’ll take down anyone that opposes him. And we need to resist him.

    2. Fool

      John, pretend you are Trump for a minute. The (demonstrably incompetent and mendacious) head of the over-budgeted FBI, whose agency is investigating you for basically treason, comes into your office asking for more resources to investigate you. Mind you, the grounds for this hyper-politicized investigation, which so far relies on absolutely no falsifiable evidence, boils down to “Putin didn’t like your opponent.” Would you write this grandstanding official an open check? Or would you suspect ulterior political motives — and, in turn, fire him?

      Look I get it. If the Dems can pull off an independent investigation, they can straitjacket his presidency, perhaps even uncover an unseemly mob dealing from his past (having nothing to do with Russia). I grant you that this would be good. But even if this wasn’t a cynical ploy for the Establishment to control the narrative and consolidate their power in lieu of having an actually progressive agenda — which it is — the dumbing down of this country, a propagandizing and xenophobic witchhunt corroding it, is a steep and ultimately self-destructive cost.

      (And lastly, if you take a step back from the MSM tub-thumping about Nixon & authoritarianism etc., the notion that firing Comey would somehow impede this Russia investigation is a non-sequitur.)

      1. John

        It’s one thing to turn down Comey’s request for more funds, but it’s another thing to fire him the day before he was supposed to testify, after months in office. Trump is trying to intimidate the bureaucracy and send a message to institutions like the EPA–that anyone who opposes him will be taken down. How does this not bother you?

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