The Media Let Us Down


The House hearings with Bob Mueller this week revealed something, but not what I was expecting.

Here was a moment when the man with the stellar reputation, who had led a historic investigation to understand how Russia had interfered in our election, and to learn how the president and his associates behaved while we were being attacked, and then again how they behaved once under investigation, would speak about what he uncovered. Yes, his Report has been available to the public for a while but it is abundantly clear that most Americans haven’t read it, or even part of it.

Those of us who follow politics closely already knew what was in the Report, and how it was mischaracterized by the Attorney General. But now was the time when Mr. Mueller himself would answer questions on TV so that a much wider audience of citizens would finally learn what the investigation revealed.

The media, though, did not appear to grasp the point of the hearing. At all.

No, instead, the news programs and pundits acted as though these hearings were just for them and their media colleagues. (Hello? There are people on the other side of the TV who are listening to you.) The media folks were unhappy that no new information was revealed. (Uh yeah, if you’ve read the Report, no new information should have been expected.) They were unhappy that Mr. Mueller didn’t make for “good TV” or that there weren’t any “fireworks.” (Mr. Mueller isn’t here to tap dance for you, you dolts.)

So instead of getting wall-to-wall coverage from the media to explore what Mr. Mueller said, putting that information into context for the viewer, demonstrating its importance both now and historically, what we got was them whining about Mr. Mueller’s delivery, blaming the Democrats for that (???), and then moving right along to the next story.

Seriously, throughout the day yesterday, I switched between major news channels and was dismayed that the media had essentially stopped talking about the hearing.

Now some of you might find that putting any kind of trust into the media to get the story right is misplaced. But the way I see it, how the media handled this hearing affects another fairly major issue that’s on everyone’s minds: Impeachment.

I think this president deserves to be impeached then convicted, and thrown out of office. He has clearly obstructed justice and should be impeached just for that. He’s also done a great many things in office that I personally think is impeachable. But I get that impeachment is complicated politically and that there are many opinions about it.

Most everyone I know who is pushing hard for impeachment understand the sad reality that the Republicans will not come through for us, so a conviction in the Senate is incredibly unlikely. Like 0% chance. But they argue that having impeachment hearings in the House to lay out all the evidence is critical so the American people understand what a lawless president we have.

That argument made a lot of sense to me, but post-Mueller hearing, are you seeing the same problem I am?

Sure, the Democrats have the power to start impeachment hearings, but for the hearings to be effective at all, they’ll need the media’s help. And we just saw how the media handled the Mueller hearing. Essentially we got, “Yawn, I didn’t learn anything new. I already knew this. Was it me or was he just ‘off’? Anyway, moving on to our next story, which is what summer movie the Democratic presidential candidates want to see next!”

If the media handles impeachment hearings the same way, the whole effort is utterly pointless. We rely on the media to get news and information out to the broader public. If they won’t do that, there are precious few remedies. Honestly, I can’t think of one.

Again, for the record, I will be 100% behind impeachment if the Democrats open an inquiry. I have called all three of my members of Congress about this and was thrilled to learn just yesterday that my Representative is now on record for supporting an impeachment inquiry.

But ultimately, what I want is to have this president held accountable. An impeachment in the House that doesn’t lead to a Senate conviction doesn’t do that. An impeachment inquiry in the House that is barely or poorly covered by the media doesn’t do anyone any good. Too much of this process is out of my control and that makes me anxious.

So I’m going to concentrate on putting my energies into an activity that I can control, that I understand, and that if successful will make Trump pay for what he’s done: I’m all in on getting the biggest Democratic voter turnout the country has ever seen in 2020 and kicking his sorry ass out of my White House.

End rant.

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13 replies

  1. Actually, the media is altogether somewhat culpable in the election of Trump. Remember the statement by the president of CBS: He may be terrible for the country but he’s great for our ratings.

    Sent from Nine
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    TokyoSand posted: ” The House hearings with Bob Mueller this week revealed something, but not what I was expecting. Here was a moment when the man with the stellar reputation, who had led a historic investigation to understand how Russia had interfered in our election, an”

    • Yes, giving Trump all of the airtime in 2016 was a terrible disservice to the country. As far as I can tell, they haven’t learned a thing from their mistakes.

  2. Well said. This is the very first argument I have seen that makes a whit of sense about the negative side of impeachment. All the rest is political and plain old silly when we have a President who is so clearly impeachable. I still think that impeachment hearings would be different, but maybe you’re right? Maybe no one would care because it would be covered as a show. It’s certainly true that this President relies on our fatigue from his constant insanity. He relies on most Americans tuning out the egregious acts of his Admin. He relies on a press that treats everything as a game and a laughing matter. Yes, I was disgusted by coverage too. I often am. Print journalists Greg Sargeant of the WaPo and Charles Pierce of Esquire both do a great job of talking about that because they seem to get it. So few TV personalities do.

    I have been saying for some time that an impeachment inquiry should have been opened the day after the release of the report. All eyes were on their TVs and the media WAS for once talking about content. It was the logical moment. But they dithered and weren’t prepared. Now?

    So I’m with you. I’ll keep calling my cautious Dem Rep about impeachment every day as usual. But I’ll get busy working for the 2020 elections. I don’t think anything about them will be free or fair so it’s scary. But work we will. Thanks for a smart essay as usual.

  3. Unfortunately our media is in the “entertainment” business, not the news business. Because like you pointed out, news is about educating the public to help them understand the facts.

  4. Yes, I watched Anderson Cooper last night interviewing Nadler and it’s exactly how you point out in your piece. He kept trying to get Nadler to admit that Mueller wasn’t up to the job…performed badly..etc…He wouldn’t take the bait of course, but that’s the media narrative. It’s so damn frustrating. I’m with you about impeachment. I just don’t think it’s going to happen. Overwhelming Dem turnout is what’s going to take him out. We’ve got to do this!!

    • We obviously can’t count on the Republicans and now we know for a certainty that we can’t count on the media. We have to rely on ourselves and thankfully, we can take action to move us forward.

  5. The media is a creature of our wider culture. We are a society that loves celebrity, pays for attention, covets eyeballs, which commercial tv does, incl most political punditry. D.T. is a reality show phenom, for years put on a show of personal power behind those words: “Your fired!” He demands that viewer attention be always focused on him, and apparently 40% of the U.S. population loved it, still does. No thought/evaluation necessary, just smile, clap and chant. Like monkeys in a cage grabbing the bananas thrown at them. .
    THAT’S the issue here. The media follows our eyeballs and eardrums, pants for exposure and high ratings, will present anything that sells their advertisers’ product, ‘cuz that’s how they buy the yacht and private jet. The media is like everything else in our country: you pay for what you get, if you DON’T like it, don’t BUY it ,(and SAY you don’t buy it), then create an alternative space and product. that examines the status quo, i.e. focus people’s attention on choices for 2020. That’s tough, b/c it’s “long term” and we are also a society that has the attention span of a cup of sherbet in the hot sun.
    But we know we’re NOT monkeys fighting over bananas, we are thinking human beings who value our country’s survival above party affiliation, and realize that just b/c we can’t cure all society’s ill with one silver bullet is no reason to sit back, clap, chant, and watch the country go down the drain with the monkey shit.
    Apologies to all monkeys and zoo keepers. You get my drift.

  6. I had hoped to respond to this post in a more timely manner. However spending precious time with my 5 1/2 year old Grandson was first and foremost until just now. Throughout the last few days I had limited time to read the columns from my usual sources and the journalists that I respect. I was somewhat surprised that a few of them had negative responses to the Mueller Hearing…but, I felt that they had missed the point. As expected, Nicholas Kristoff of The New York Times did not disappoint me. The one that positively impacted me the most was by Lee McIntyre in The Conversation dated July 24, 2019 and titled “The Mueller hearing and the death of facts”. If you have not read it, you may find it of interest. I had become acquainted with Mr. McIntyre by reading his Feb. 2018 book “Post-Truth” and I recommend that too. I definitely agree with your suggestion in the final paragraph. Thank-you!

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