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Fair Play and the Plague
by G. Murphy Donovan
“Most Americans say they do not trust the media.” - Columbia Journalism Review.
Murray Kempton once said that “a critic is someone who enters the battlefield after the war is over and shoots the wounded.” Kempton, earned his spurs at Hopkins and then at the Baltimore Sun at H.L. Mencken’s knee. There was a time when some journalists were well-read social critics, not partisan hacks. Today, it is difficult to distinguish urban journalism from the agitation and propaganda of the old totalitarian left.
George Orwell, an old school pundit, would recognize today’s political pig sties.
Most contemporary reporting and writing today has a political agenda. Truthfully, to one degree or another, press objectivity has always been honored in the breach. Habits of mind usually wash facts and conclusions through a sieve of personal predispositions. All politics in the end are local – and personal. Most beliefs are a function of emotions or feelings, not facts or reason.
Perception is not a synonym for logic.
The important issue isn’t really bias anyway. It’s fairness. It is possible to make an argument that is both biased and fair. Indeed; formal logic, scientific argument, and judicial proceedings have agreed rules for that very purpose. Leading questions and assumptions not supported by facts are not permitted in a court of law because rhetorical tricks violate the rules of logic, evidence, and the ethos of fairness.
“Gotcha” is a game not an argument.
A fair debate, or trial, relies on fair argument. Trump doesn’t trust the Intelligence Community for the same reasons we can’t trust the press. The President doesn’t trust either the press or Intelligence. Now, neither can we.
Unhinged press bigotry is an abuse of reason and the law, an abuse of the Bill of Rights that makes freedom of the press possible. Were James Madison with us today, he would probably amend the 1st Amendment to read “freedom of, and from, the press.”
We simply cannot believe what we see, hear, or read from most media outlets today. Only yesterday, “millions” of Americans were supposed die from the “pandemic.” Covid morbidity to date in America is about 50 thousand.
The policy of shutdown is designed to stop illness, not death. Preventing illness is an impossible goal. Ordinary flu or AIDS prophylaxis are examples. We can mitigate some diseases, but not prevent them. If low morbidity is the goal; then we might isolate, test, trace, and treat only the most vulnerable, not the entire population.
Fake news, what the Communist left used to call agitprop or dezinformatsiya has been normalized. The price of fairness is trust; the lack of which threatens to erode faith in the very institutions supposed to protect and sustain democratic republics.
Since 2016, Donald Trump is a kind of litmus test for fair play, in print/broadcast journalism and politics. Trump rants about “fake news” are now a regular feature of his pushback against bias in the fourth estate. Now even the Covid-19 virus has been weaponized. Morbidity and science data are being used to try and do what Robert Mueller and Adam Schiff could not.
Trump haters would like to extend the viral crisis up to and including the November Presidential election.
Partisanship in the Trump era, withal, has a unique and seditious twist. A politicized media has aligned itself with a national security establishment that, by law and tradition, is prohibited from partisan behavior. The Washington federal cohort, aka “deep state,” largely resides in the District of Columbia, Maryland, or Virginia, a partisan demographic by any definition. Well over ninety percent of the DMV voted for Clinton in the last election.
Personal partisanship in the nation’s capital is a given.
Partisan activity, however, by unelected federal bureaucrats of the Intelligence Community and Justice Department since November 2015 comes perilously close to sedition or treason.
These matters are now, and have been, the subject of investigations by both parties since the 2016 presidential election. Alas, expecting the Justice Department to investigate itself, or the larger IC, makes about much sense as a partisan impeachment inquiry. Traditionally, self-policing of federal mandarins has been left to inspectors general and we know how well that works. By tradition, an American federal IG is usually a homer, an apparatchik, or a fig leaf. Were IGs the answer to sedition or corruption, arrogant plotters like James Clapper, John Brennan, and James Comey would be impossible - or already in Leavenworth.
Attorney General William Barr and U.S. Attorney John Durham are about to wrap up an “investigation of the investigators,” a flicker of hope in the most recent dark chapter of American history. Unfortunately, unrelated events now conspire to bury any attempts to bring federal conspirators before the bar. Corvid-19 hysteria has sucked all the air out of the public square - in an election year- where the specter of an economic depression/recession threatens to do more damage to Trump and America than any bug from China.
The Barr/Durham investigation was never on the media’s radar and now it might become less visible if that’s possible. No news, especially on matters like treachery, has never been good news.
Ironically, even if indictments are returned, they will be widely dismissed as partisan, business as usual in an election year. Indeed, Donald Trump’s best hope for justice and fair play rests with the voters in November.
Attorney General Barr might be well advised to keep his powder dry until the wisdom of crowds is heard.
At this point, one thing is clear. Those team Obama national security mandarins who believed that they were/are above the law are correct - for the moment. Indeed, Joe Biden, at best an unindicted co-conspirator in the Russia/Ukraine, now Covid hoaxes, is now the Democrat standard bearer for November.
Twenty-twenty will be remembered as the year of the plague and the year when irony went viral.
G. Murphy Donovan writes about the politics of national security.