By Andy Sims
When we start cleaning up the wreckage from this election, we're going to owe Donald J. Trump a debt of gratitude. Trump has performed a valuable service to the American people, probably not on purpose, but that should take nothing away from its worth.
Donald Trump has exposed, in no uncertain terms, that journalism in the United States is dead. It is no more.
To be clear, journalism isn't dead in the way Trump means it. He thinks the media is against him, except for when it isn't, and then it's the BEST, believe me. But as a paranoid narcissist, his thoughts on any complex subject are invariably wrong, and what's more, worthless. But make no mistake, American journalism is defunct.
I say this with no joy in my heart. In my lifetime I have seen small lies to cover a nickel-and-dime burglary painstakingly traced to their source, and end a presidency. The magnitude of such a thing! It wasn't journalism because Nixon resigned; it was journalism because two reporters, with a great deal of help and support, did the work required. They curried no favor, made no deals, and let the story go where it took them, without bias.
As Finley Peter Dunne so aptly put it, "[I]t is the duty of a newspaper to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." Woodward and Bernstein lived it.
Journalism is one of the few checks on power at all levels of government and industry. They ask questions.
What remains in 2016, posing as journalism for a country with very little memory of the genuine article, are two schools of news-monkeys: The Nutless, and the Corrupt.
I actually hold more contempt for the Nutless. I'm cynical, so I expect to be bombarded by half-truths, straight-up lies, and farcical horseshit. I'm equipped to do the research on my own when need be, but a lot of people don't have the time to put the effort in, and others simply don't care because they reflexively believe all they're told, or assume they're being lied to – because the Freemasons, Illuminati and Bilderberg control everything, man!
But to the Nutless, I ask, why? For access? So someone more famous than you will call you back or buy you dinner? So the people you're supposed to be minding will like you? Is that all it takes?
See: White House Correspondents Dinner, a stain on journalism if ever there was one.
At least with the Corrupt Wing of Journalism, it's about the money. I don't respect it, but I get it. I've only had a few times in my life in which someone was willing to make it worth my while to do or say or represent something I wasn't comfortable with. I passed on each occasion. I'm not going to say it was an easy or quick decision every time, but I felt good about my choices.
Now, I don't kid myself and pretend that I can't be bought. I know that at a certain point, there would've been enough money on the table for me, in one case, to pimp 18 year-old kids to join the Army in 2003, despite the fact I had been on the air opposing the run-up to and invasion of Iraq. We're all whores, and we all have our price – and you may be surprised yours is less than you think. A LOT less.
So the Corrupt Wing is getting paid. Fox News makes profits hand over fist, and they pay bright people like Megyn Kelly and mental hamsters like Steve Doocy to fling a fresh batch of wispy gossamer feces at you each day.
Why do they do it? For the money! Do they believe that what they say is true? "What possible difference does that make?!" they'd tell you, exasperated.
So this week alone, two honored alums from my Ohio University alma mater, Roger Ailes and Matt Lauer, have been in the news. The former for groping Gretchen Carlson and being a lecherous creep, and then being handed $40 million dollars – and the latter for giving a warm tongue-bath to Donald Trump in the guise of an interview. Had journalism accidentally wandered drunk onto the NBC News set during Lauer's sit-down, it might have actually elicited new information and exposed Trump, yet again, for the ignorant, oozing pus boil that he is.
Matt Lauer was having none of it.
"Mr. Trump, are you ready to serve as commander-in-chief?"
"Interesting. Moving on…"
This is nutless. It is worthless. Even worse, it's dangerous, because it allows a comb-over wearing lifts to say he answered a tough question from NBC's Matt Lauer, even though NBC has it in for him, always has, even when they were paying him millions to be an insufferable dick on television each week, total sandbag job by Crooked NBC.
"Great buncha guys at NBC News! The best!"
It's common to espouse we get the government that we deserve, but it may be more to the point to say we get the journalism we deserve. All we want any more is clickbait, and if that ends up being a slideshow, to hell with it. I love reading, and there are times when I've found myself closing out a webpage because I see it had five more pages before the end. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but it happens.
Well, thanks to Donald Trump, I, like modern journalism, have been exposed. If you want to know what's going on, you have to put the work in yourself, find legitimate sources of information, and figure out as best you can what comes closest to the truth. The days of having actual journalists available on television and radio have long since passed, but only because we've proven over the last 40 years that we either can't tell the difference, or honestly just don't care. Your credulity will be the death of you – of journalism, of democracy.
In a scene from Joseph Heller's Catch-22, one of the officers, Clevinger, decides to hold question and answer sessions for the men, so they can better understand why they have been sent to war. He is bombarded with nonsensical queries, but from time to time, someone raises a poignant question, the answer to which might not be good for morale.
The brass gets wind of this potential crisis, and Colonel Korn, a cynic if ever there was one, arrives at an elegant solution:
"Under Colonel Korn's rule, the only people permitted to ask questions were those who never did. Soon the only people attending were those who never asked questions, and the sessions were discontinued altogether, since Clevinger, the corporal and Colonel Korn agreed that it was neither possible nor necessary to educate people who never questioned anything."
Andy Sims is a legal researcher, analyst and media critic in Sacramento, California. Like Tommy (and Matt Lauer and Roger Ailes), Andy received his undergraduate degree at Ohio University.
A San Diego County planning commissioner and former radio host and media personality, Tommy Hough works as an environmental consultant and communications professional, and is a California Democratic Party delegate and the co-founder and former president of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action.