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☆ Media utopia

When I was a kid, I delivered newspapers. After school I read it. Oh not cover to cover, I'd skip the ads and the sports and usually most of the “lifestyles” stuff. It wasn't hard to spot a pattern. What appeared in the newspapers usually appeared on the local news within a day or so. By the time I hit high school, I had discovered the local and school libraries with their out-of-state newspapers. Once again, there was a pattern. Three papers would usually have the “important” stories first, the next day or so the major papers would have the stories, and then within a week or so the other papers and the local television news.

It wouldn't be every story. But it would be the big stories, the ones that everyone would be talking about. So if you wanted to stay ahead of the curve, you'd read those three papers every day you could. The three papers were The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. Oh, The Economist was good too, but I couldn't always find that.

These papers set the agenda that the rest of the nation's press followed. Not always the opinion, but definitely Which Stories Were Worthy. Even newsweeklies and the television news magazines followed the stories that these three newspapers had pointed out.

Telling people what has happened, that's reporting. But the best reporters went beyond that, they put it into context. If the President rapped his knuckles on the desk, they'd tell you what his predecessors did, when, and why. You'd understood how it fit.

There never was journalistic objectivity, but that was okay. As long as some differing opinions made it to press, the public would learn what happened. Reporting was the priority.

Over the years, the Washington Post grew convinced that it had taken down a President. Maybe setting the agenda wasn't enough. Maybe they could shape world events with their reporting. If they said it happened, maybe enough people would believe and the Elected Leadership would react. It worked kinda-sorta with Ronald Reagan, and it worked well with George H. W. Bush.

Then came Bill Clinton who wanted to change the world. So he cultivated and seduced the press. He convinced them that his administration together with the press could change the world if they only tried hard enough. And before the press admitted that there were all sorts of juicy tidbits in Clinton's background, it worked out pretty well. It also cemented belief that the press had a Higher Calling, and it was up to them to turn ignorance into enlightenment.

After Billy-boy came George W. Bush, Bush the Younger. Or Bush League as I eventually called him. Bush the Younger would have been a tolerable President, but then we had 9-11. And the press didn't want a war. Or at least, they didn't want an Official War® with heroes and patriotism and Amazing America riding to the rescue. So they decided to control the agenda. Most of the heroism coming out of 9-11 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan never made the headlines. The failures, real and imagined, did.

Yeah, about that imagined bit. It was the Higher Calling. American ideas couldn't be allowed to succeed, especially on a world stage. America had to have more failures if only because America had more success. For most of his administration, George W. Bush could do no right according to the popular press.

And then came Barack Obama, the Imperious Leader, He Who Could Do No Wrong. The press loved this guy. For the first time ever, a president mostly played along with what the press said. The press didn't have to report it, they could create reality. That's what happened for eight years.

By 2016, the press had forgotten that their primary job was reporting what happened. No one realized that while the Grand Vision was put in place, they were losing Democrat lawmakers and elected officials to keep it into place. Meanwhile many people resented being dragged into a Utopia without their consent. Especially when Utopia was more expensive and more tyrannical.

So Donald Trump happened.

The press completely missed it. What happened wasn't nearly as important as what was supposed to happen.

The truth was a prison. The answer was to do what had worked for eight marvelous years. Reality had to change. Legality didn't matter. Morality didn't matter. Only the Utopia.

The untruths came fast. No one was going on record but it was obvious that Trump would fail if he got pushed. He couldn't hope to succeed. So stories of high-level meetings that never happened came out. Stories about sex orgies and golden showers in Russia. Stories about Trump hoarding the White House ice cream. None of these stories could be verified. The answer was to accelerate the news cycle. That was easy enough with the internet. Literally hours after each story was released came the debunking, new stories followed minutes after that.

We've reached the point where most of the “news” about President Donald Trump and his administration can't be trusted. The newspapers and news sources I used to trust can't be trusted.

I hate admitting it, but Trump is right about the press. And it's because the press won't report the news. The press wants the Utopia.

Truth doesn't matter.
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