PLAY-ACTING JOURNALISM

The whole routine CNN, Jake Tapper, and White House sycophant Stephen Miller went through on Sunday was as pointless as it is dumb, and as dumb as it is exhausting.

Tapper and CNN are predictably taking victory laps now, playing endlessly the clip of Tapper cutting Miller off and accusing him of wasting the audience's time. Meanwhile, hot garbage like "The 24 most grotesque lines from Jake Tapper's Stephen Miller Interview" dots their homepage and will no doubt creep well into the upcoming week.

If Tapper is concerned about wasting his audience members' time, the answer is simple: stop giving Stephen Miller, Kellyanne Conway, and all these other skeletal fascist nitwits an opportunity to take your microphone and address a worldwide audience. What I saw Sunday was not Jake Tapper being a great journalist; I saw Jake Tapper inviting a man he knows to be a lying, callous, racist piece of crap onto his show for the explicit purpose of kicking him off the show and looking tough. You don't invite Stephen Miller onto the show because you think you're going to get a good interview out of him or that your audience will learn something. You invite him onto the show because A) you agree with him, or B) you want to use him as a prop. This was the latter.

Great job shutting him down, Jake. It would be even more impressive if you didn't have him on your show in the first place.

We are two years into the Trump-as-Serious Politico era and I promise you there is not one single person alive in the United States who is one cable news interview away from suddenly realizing what Trump and the people he surrounds himself are. The idea that CNN or any other journalists are "exposing" these people, here in January 2018, is so stupid only a truly committed "Both Sides Do It" Centrist could find value in it. Nobody, and I mean not one single person, is going to see Stephen Miller on CNN on January 7, 2018 and walk away with a changed opinion. "You know, I thought Team Trump was full of nice, smart people…but now I'm having second thoughts!"

Who ARE these people? Who needs yet another interview full of lies and whitewashed racism and soft-pedaled fascism to suddenly realize what they are? Who hasn't figured it out but will if the legendary journalistic skills of Jake Tapper show them the path to enlightenment?

Stop it. Just stop it. Stop giving these people a platform. Worse, stop inviting them on the show simply to play Mr. or Mrs. Badass for a day. "Stephen Miller came on the show and started spewing lies. And I said, NOT TODAY, MISTER! and shut him down!" Stephen Miller spews lies. That is his thing. It's what he does. When you bring on a serial liar and then scold him for lying serially it feels more than a little…disingenuous? Not fake, but more than a little pointless.

I get that CNN's ratings blow and that Sunday shows in general are taking a real beating since audiences are burned out on Trump and politics. In that light, I suppose this is a harmless enough stunt. Certainly no one will ever feel badly for Stephen Miller. Tapper could drop-kick him in the back of the head and most viewers would walk away satisfied. If CNN is really concerned about its audience and its on-air integrity, though, the simpler solution would be to refuse to have as guests the president's dumbest hangers-on who have proven beyond any doubt congenitally incapable of telling the truth.

Until then, spare us the Journalistic Integrity routine. If you had any you wouldn't have been interviewing Stephen Miller a year into this presidency.

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36 thoughts on “PLAY-ACTING JOURNALISM”

  • You're fighting the wrong battle here.

    I haven't watched the Tapper/Miller thing, and I won't. Your measure of a hypothetical success–persuading advocates of one side to switch to the other–is unrealistic and a bit cynical. Why even impute to CNN an ambition for the "simpler solution"? The minute-by-minute, day-by-day bullshit you call play-acting journalism (but you repeat yourself) is not aligned with a simplification of matters that neglects corporate interests.

    Your rant should be to your readership, among other media "consumers." It would be even more impressive if nobody watched the show in the first place. Stop it. Just stop it.

  • In some ways I prefer Stephen Miller-types to a toady weirdo like Mike Pence or a suck up like Lindsay Graham that are much more polished and proficient at obfuscating the ignorance and racism they rely on to keep themselves employed.

  • It seems like an elite version of those Cletus Safari articles, with Stephen Miller taking the place of the old white residents of rural Fentanyl Springs, Arkansas for the rest of us to shake our heads sadly at the bullshit that comes tumbling out them.

  • The value of this, Ed, is that Donald Trump is still president and Stephen Miller is still his senior policy advisor. And we need to be reminded of that every fucking day until Election Day 2018 when we will have the opportunity to elect a legislature that can shut the Trump presidency down for the duration.

    When Trump is no longer president and Miller is back in his parents' basement (although I read somewhere that Miller is from SoCal and his parents are lifelong Democrats which if true means that they are more mortified by him than we are), we can transition to ignoring them.

  • From FMguru:

    "Fentanyl Springs, Arkansas"

    Through my beautiful but very odd mind…

    Freebie for Ed; next book/article/something–"OxyContinent–Opioids, They're Not Just For Black Junkies, Anymore!"

    You're welcome.

    Journalism, these days, mostly ain't.

    A real journalist would simply show photos of the WOH crew and say, "Assholes, fascists, scumbagz. Wanna know more? Go to our webpage!".

  • Robin Farley says:

    This is why I don't blog, I don't have to because you always nail it. You know how you can tell Stephen Miller, Kellyanne Conway, or any of the rest of them are lying? They're lips are moving.

  • Sadly Ed, there are enough suburbanites safety insulted from reality enough to have been able to tune out. I spoke with one just last week who finally allowed that Trump may be nuts, but that his retirement portfolio had performed triple this year, so he was still on then bandwagon.

  • "Certainly no one will ever feel badly for Stephen Miller. Tapper could drop-kick him in the back of the head and most viewers would walk away satisfied."

    One situation where I'd support continuing to invite him on TV.

  • I enjoyed watching it. Agree that these pricks like Miller are best ignored, but unfortunately they are meddling in our lives every day.

  • *If* CNN (or at least Tapper) will really stop bringing Steven Miller on for interviews, then I can kind of see a little value in this; it's the "documentation" as to why Miller will no longer be interviewed. Otherwise, I completely agree with calling it a stunt.

    It does bring up a question I've had for a while now. Supposedly a reason some journalists are soft on politicos is so that they don't "lose access." What good has that access be doing, though? I suppose there's always the possibility of the interviewee slipping up and actually answering a question completely honestly, but that rarely happens. Why have access if all you're going to do is allow the verbal equivalent of a press release with no push-back on the bullshit or the dodging of questions?

  • The idea of the media being the guardians of democracy here is rather curious seeing as how CNN gave Trump tons of free coverage. People also act like SNL is "resistance" despite the fact that their response to Trump's "Mexicans are rapists" speech was to invite him to host the show.

  • Gerald McGrew says:

    Um…….as RosiesDad points out, Donald Trump is still President of the United States. Also, CNN is still a national news network. So it stands to reason that CNN will invite administration officials onto their shows to speak for the White House.

    And that makes me wonder about your post Ed. Exactly which WH officials should CNN invite to their programs?

    Basically you seem to be saying that our news networks should stop having WH officials on their programs. To me, that seems even worse.

  • > we will have the opportunity to elect a legislature that can shut the Trump presidency down for the duration.

    The problem is that you don't have such an opportunity. Even if 100% Democrats were elected in the next election, Trump would not be impeached and much of his agenda would continue. Democratic leadership opposes impeachment and supports a large part of the Republican agenda.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Back in the day, on Meet the Press, the invitee(s) actually met several members – meaning, more than just the one single host every week – of the press, answered their questions, AND follow-up questions.
    These were real reporters, asking real questions.
    And sometimes, real, actual news happened.

    Now, all of the Sunday bloviation festivals are the same.
    One host, who cares far more about keeping his/her access to "news-makers" than in making news/seeking the truth. Sure, they ask the occasional "GOTCHA!" question. But it's not often that some guest gets "got."
    Republican guests are always sticking to their talking points, and Democrats, theirs.
    Dem's do sometimes go off-script.
    Republicans almost never do.

    And don't get me started on these shows panels of guest commenters (read that as: fuck-witted punTWITS).

    No major news has come out from one of these shows in ages.
    In my memory, little new information was revealed.

    So, why do people still watch any of these shows?

  • CNN continues to hire Republican toadies, so that's one thing. The main problem I see about the Miller vs. Tapper performance is that all the conservatives can now be happy that the "libs got owned" once again by the Trump administration. It just gives them more fuel. But as many people have asked here, just who are they supposed to interview from the Trump administration?
    Heard a Trump promo spot this morning on NPR from Sonny Perdue. Now, NPR pisses me off mightily these days because they just give these Repugs a microphone and let them spew all manner of bullshit. This morning Sonny Perdue rattled off a bunch of ridiculous nonsense about Trump being a brilliant negotiator and the reporter didn't challenge him once. Then Sonny Perdue states that the American farmer is who Trump REALLY cares about, because they voted for him. To which the reporter should have said "Trump only cares about farmers? Do you mean to say that he is not the President for the entire nation, but just for farmers who voted for him?" But no, the reporter just thanked Sonny Perdue for spouting his bullshit. It's appalling.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Also, too:
    These shows are like Kabuki Theatre.

    "If it's Sunday, it's time to meet today's political Kabuki actors."

  • My read on this is that it's the only viable response other than silence to the cries of "fake news." At least CNN can claim it's trying to talk with these nuts. If MSM stops this crap (or the Cletus safaris) then they won't have any defense against claims that they only focus on the left (or the "elite"). Yes, this way it seems we all lose, but what better option do they have?

    Flip that around and assume that Trump puppets have a similar pressure. They need to show that they tried to talk with* the left even though everyone knew the left wouldn't listen. Because of their own inability to reason or communicate honestly, they're stuck in this situation, too.

    * Maybe "tried" to "talk with" or somesuch. Add quotes to taste!

  • @MS—If the Democrats regain the majority in either chamber, the Trump agenda, whatever the fuck it is, comes to a grinding halt. Because the Democratic Speaker would not advance it. (This is true whether it is Nancy Pelosi, Tim Ryan or someone else.) . If the Democrats regain the majority of the Senate, Trump appoints no more judges to the federal bench or SCOTUS that Dems find objectionable.

    Dreaming of impeachment is a complete waste of time. Even if a Democratic House voted to impeach him, there is a 0% chance that 14-16 Republican Senators would join the Democrats to convict. This is why the D leadership opposes impeachment. Unless Trump did something that caused a large number of R's to join the D's, it's a pipe dream.

  • Look, I get it, but the reality is that these assholes are the government. It's important that we see these guys in all their "glory" instead of letting them control their narrative.

  • Still waiting for just ONE of these sunday am inquisitors to ask Lindsay Graham just WHEN did he decide Trump was not a “kook”

  • What Tapper did is what the MSM should have been doing since Republican toadies appeared on news shows telling non-stop lies. I'm talking about years ago and not just since Trump became a candidate.

  • Huh, CNN platforming a white supremacist? Is it a day that ends in -day already?

    I think a lot of the "Tapper exposed Miller for who he truly is" readers seem to miss that any actual exposure has happened long ago. The left doesn't need convincing, and Trump supporters aren't going to be convinced that otherwise. However, appearing on CNN does give Miller some credibility and platform to expose the general non-aligned public to his terrible bullshit from a platform with some standing. That's all that debate with white supremacy actually accomplishes: giving them more places to seem authoritative from.

    You can actually destroy white supremacist talking points in the public sphere without giving actual white supremacists a platform to gain exposure and look good. Debate is a meaningless fetish of the center.

  • The routine with Tapper and Miller was dumb and exhausting but it was not pointless. It was an effort to generate viewer interest and hopefully drive up media buys on CNN which is the point CNN.

    I can only imagine Jake Tapper standing in a circle of light before CNNs council of overlords who instruct him as to his true purpose and mission. Some paraphrased cross between the trial of General Zod and Authur Jensen's corporate cosmology speech in Network. CNN needed ratings and Tapper faithfully executed a plan to make that happen. When they invite Stephen Miller/Kellyanne/Huckabee back on they can assassinate Jake Tapper (or vice-versa). Whoever dies can be comforted by the knowledge that they went full-Chayefsky and their sacrifice nobly sold more catheters/slap-chops/pomegranate juice.

    Tapper has ventured into a weird space now, 'bad-ass journalist' AKA untouchable pariah as far as whitehouse access goes. I guess the overlords at CNN decided that since Trump was at war with them already they might as well have Jake do a full-on Daffy-duck 'greatest trick ever' with Stephen Miller. What happens to Jake now that he's wearing a robe and playing a harp is anyone's guess. He may be headed for the phantom zone.

    I think fear of becoming the 'bad-ass journalist' is what largely got us President Trump. Too many million-dollar-hairdos played it safe and 'reported' the Donald Trump 'controversy' in 2015-16 rather than call a celebrity dotard a fucking dotard which normalized his greasy way through the rotten guts of the GOP primary process. That and the help Trump got from Putin's psy-op minions and boy did we underestimate how super racist a big part of the populace is and how poisoned the Hillary apple was…boo-hoo.

    Ed says "…stop giving Stephen Miller, Kellyanne Conway, and all these other skeletal fascist nitwits an opportunity to take your microphone and address a worldwide audience…" but I imagine the Aurthur Jensen types would wail "…how are we going to keep selling dick pills if we stop promoting the status quo and change our brand to REVOLUTION!???". The route to continued prosperity is inviting Miller/Kellyanne on-air to scornfully deride your network employees and promote fascism. The route to personal and corporate financial destruction is to openly declare for the revolution. If you were an Aurthur Jensen type, what would you choose?

    I can't watch the cable/network/npr 'news' anymore, I get crazy outraged over the disingenuous 'both-siderist' editorial line, the constant efforts to normalize Trump so they can keep hawking me dick pills or 'public-interest-wash' corporations like Exxon when they sponsor NPR. Has Koch Industries started openly sponsoring the News Hour yet? I haven't watched in years.

    Rude Pundit and Driftglass tirelessly comment on this sort of thing with an appropriate amount of outraged profanity.

    I am grateful to Ed for this blog and the people who comment here. I am also very happy for Ed's recent successes in the publishing world.

    Maybe Jake Tapper can interview Ed and save his career?

  • Aardvark Cheeselog says:

    I sympathize with the spirit of the rant, but when you consider how much human politics resembles a bunch of monkeys waving their dicks in one another's faces, and how one-sided the dick-waving has been in the US these last 40 years, I take the episode as a sign of progress. Of a sort.

  • "@MS—If the Democrats regain the majority in either chamber, the Trump agenda, whatever the fuck it is, comes to a grinding halt. Because the Democratic Speaker would not advance it. "

    Wanna bet? You're right that there are a few things that Democrats wouldn't advance. But, frankly, the majority of the "Trump agenda" is supported by Democratic leadership. Tax cuts for the wealthy, deportations, confirming most judges nominated by Trump, war with whoever… the Democrats support these things. If you look at the judges nominated so far by Trump, Democrats have largely voted yes for them…

    http://www.wgrz.com/article/news/local/new-york/schumer-hopes-ny-can-benefit-from-trump/355396440

  • I love what you've written but I think we all know that nobody at CNN is going to get any credit for not having someone on their air. I think they would have to openly state that they consciously weren't, which would look awful and not make any news. If I were in charge of PR at CNN, I feel like I would make the admittedly tackier choice to have him on and throw him off. I get why it's childish, but I want CNN to get the credit they deserve instead of just making the right, hard choices and only getting constantly insulted in return because we never hear about them.

  • @RosiesDad–

    I'm with you.

    If it seems as though Tapper vs Pee Wee was disingenuous, it's probably because it was. The point of the whole exercise and reason why liberals appear to be cupping Tapper's balls right now is that it was emotionally satisfying to watch. Of course conservatives aren't going to admit defeat, of course they're The Most Persecuted Patriots Because Muh First Amendments, and of course there's no audience of Independent Moderates to be won-over by all of this. It kicked the "liberals are pussies that won't stand up to conservatives on the playground" narrative squarely in the sack.

    This is why this is not really that big of a deal: the Republicans are excellent at manipulating large swaths of the population because they're very adept at using the mainstream media's biases to their own Republican benefit. They know that the "Conservative vs. Liberal bias" argument is a bullshit distraction, and that the truly important biases include things such as Spectacle, Laziness, and Horse Race. They give the mainstream media what they want, and in turn, the mainstream media enables the fuck out of them. *This is what works.* The mainstream media will never, EVER come around on this. As long as we continue to value staring at dumpster fires (and we will not change: this is practically ingrained into our DNA), the human horde will never, EVER come around on this. So we can either start playing the game, or we can take the "high road" and continue to allow the Republicans to define the discourse. They will continue to do it with or without our participation.

  • @jcdenton—

    Literally the ONLY thing you will see me give Bill O'Reilly credit-for is calling televised political debates "so-called 'debates'". It's true: they're a display purely designed to showcase and glorify conflict for conflict's sake. No one gives a single flying fuck about the actual content, all they care about is the performance. Media outlets know this. I'm certain the only reason they're still called "debates" in our post-radio era is simple tradition.

  • @Aurora S

    I agree that the spectacle is certainly more important than the content for many networks, but it is possible to combine the two without platforming a white supremacist. Probably the best example of edutainment (because that's all we get these days) is Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. It's not as in-depth as I would like, but in terms of getting the narrative across, it does an excellent job.

    CNN's spectacle is feeding into a lot of centrist fetishes for "debate" and "exposure". The idea that if you could just reveal someone's hypocrisy on air, if you can only show them "the facts", the masses will cheer and rise up (and support your centrist policies). This is, of course, nonsense. Politics is narrative, not facts, and only the relatively tiny sliver of people who genuinely care about hypocrisy will actually pay attention to hypocrisy (and most of them are libs/leftists anyway). Even so-called "honest" debates would have no impact on the parties in question. It's a dead-end idea.

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