Is the Free Press Bringing You Down, Mr. President?

It really helped America that one of its smartest founders was a journalist and newspaper publisher. Benjamin Franklin wisely knew that if a dictator controlled the press they could easily control the country they ruled. As a trained journalist and broadcaster, I studied people like Vance Packard who wrote The Hidden Persuaders and The Naked Society. He was a critic of consumerism and taught us lessons about how media can manipulate us into believing, well, anything.

From outlines of naked women in the ice of touched-up advertising photos for a soft drink to more nefarious “liberties” taken by marketers, the golden rule is, “If it moves product, don’t judge the lie; it’s just an exaggeration.” As Donald Trump has said, “People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration —and a very effective form of promotion.” Hey, I didn’t make that up. It’s in his book The Art of the Deal.

When Trump declares that a statement he knows to be false is an innocent form of exaggeration, his intent is deception. When he then pairs the word hyperbole, his claims are not meant to be taken literally. It’s putting lipstick on a big, fat swine sham.

I always urged my kids not to lie. I wonder what Trump’s evangelicals are saying to their children about the President’s lies. Now that we have seen the DNC virtual convention, there’s lots of denigration and exaggerations being tossed around. That brings us to our subject today, the lazy media in America and how they can’t resist “truthful hyperbole.”

First, Joe Biden is not in the grip of a mental meltdown. Clearly, the hashtag #TrumpMeltdown didn’t blow up Twitter by accident. It was the perfect time for people to tweet away to @RealDonaldTrump. Ironically, Trump is in court right now saying that his Twitter account is not official government business and thinks he deserves to block people from saying bad things about our poor little baby.

Even though the White House has said on many occasions that his personal account postings are official declarations, he doesn’t like to be spanked by people he doesn’t know. His Twitter account is official, of course. He’s threatened nuclear annihilation of countries, fired and hired government workers via the platform, and used the account to talk to his over 85 million followers. That case will never make it to the Supreme Court before the election and one could raise the point that when Trump becomes a private citizen after the election the account should be terminated by Twitter.

I confess that I did not watch all 12+ hours of the Democratic National Convention, but I did see all the major speakers and many of the inserts that were used to lay out the viewpoints of the party. I was shocked when I watched TV Friday night into Saturday when multiple critics were blasting the convention and its leaders because they didn’t talk about poverty and those most hurt by the imbalance of wealth in America.

I felt the virtual event was a refreshing way to experience a convention. There were no smoke-filled rooms, backstabbing factions and long-winded, self-serving speeches to make us turn away. An attempt to ignite a war between progressives and establishment would be all too easy. It would be like trying to pit the Tea Party clique in the Republican party against the new QAnon-racists in the party. Does the tea-party even exist anymore?

In a screenwriting class I once attended, the instructor taught us that drama cannot exist without conflict. Modern media outlets often create an artificial conflict and their efforts are transparent and do not create meaningful discussion. Right after the Joe Biden nomination acceptance speech, the commentators on CNN were positive and excited about the presentation, I wondered if it was a commercial for his presidency. True to form, CNN added their token conservative Scott Jennings to the mix. I felt sorry for him. He was outnumbered. I’m sure Scott is a nice guy and he’s a decent writer and thinker, but his comments were thin. I wondered why he was there at all.

Most of the left and slightly left of center media outlets are carrying a heavy guilt for not confronting Trump sooner. Philip T. Griffin, president of MSNBC and Jeff Zucker, president of CNN, are not just bending journalism to match their own philosophies, they are doing everything they can to get and keep ratings. They do research and they know about the anger of their base audiences. They can see the fear that most moderates and liberals have about a second Donald Trump term. The happy ending for their cumulative audience would be a defeat of Trump by Joe Biden.

We know that lately Fox News has been showing signs of not being happy about a few Trump things. I couldn’t believe that Laura Ingram said nice things about Biden’s speech, much to the chagrin of her guest, Don Jr. Some insiders claim that all is not rosy in the Rupert Murdoch empire. He’s lost one of his sons in management over the climate crisis and there are those who say that Murdoch is pissed off at Trump for botching the COVID pandemic. They will move slowly like a turtle, however, because most of their guests are full-fledged sycophants of the party. They can challenge those speakers only a little lest it becomes too obvious.

ABC, NBC and CBS, the old grand dames of over-the-air TV, are doing a good job presenting the facts and pointing out the weaknesses of government, but they too can only go so far. CBS’ Sixty Minutes and Fox TV’s Fox News Sunday present penetrating questions, challenge their guests and dissect the facts, but such gutsy, great journalism covers only a couple of weekly hours.

Speaking of the poor, the homeless, those poor Americans left behind, I was amazed how quickly certain networks jumped on this bandwagon of DNC critical reviews claiming the “show” didn’t present enough platform and details, you know, the boring stuff that people don’t watch on TV. Really, media?

While we have more than 175,000 dead Americans, social unrest, wretched government response to the calamity called COVID, twenty major wildfires in California and two large hurricanes threatening the Gulf Coast, are we really going to fault and over-discuss what happened last week? This is the headline they all should be focused on: Chris Wallace says Biden blew ‘a big hole’ in Trump’s ‘mentally shot’ claim with DNC acceptance speech.

Quoting Vance Packard, “The most common characteristic of all police states is intimidation by surveillance. Citizens know they are being watched and overheard. Their mail is being examined. Their homes can be invaded.”

Why did we let Donald Trump invade our homes? It’s time to turn him off, vote him out and let the Southern District of New York start their march toward justice.

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