Charles Blow gets it (half) right: We're pleased to make an important announcement:
In this morning's New York Times, Charles Blow gets it (half) right!
In print editions, Blow's column appears beneath a brisk headline, along with a boxed sub-head. Those headlines run like this, exclamation point included:
Stop Airing Trump's Briefings!Is it time to stop airing these daily Six to Eight O'Clock Follies? We recommend Blow's entire piece, but he makes his main case here:
Allowing disinformation to appears as news.
BLOW (4/20/20): Let me be clear: Under no circumstance should these briefings be carried live. Doing so is a mistake bordering on journalistic malpractice. Everything a president does or says should be documented but airing all of it, unfiltered, is lazy and irresponsible.For ourselves, we wouldn't describe these events as "briefings" in the way Blow does in that passage. But he makes his case very well, getting this matter half right.
As the veteran anchor Ted Koppel told The New York Times last month, “Training a camera on a live event, and just letting it play out, is technology, not journalism; journalism requires editing and context.” He continued, “The question, clearly, is whether his status as president of the United States obliges us to broadcast his every briefing live.” His answer was “no.”
We have trained the American television audience to understand that regular programs are only interrupted for live events when they are truly important, things that the viewers need to see now, in real time. These briefings simply don’t reach that threshold. In fact, some of what Trump has said has been dangerous, like when he pushed an unproven and potentially harmful drug as a treatment for the virus.
No amount of fact checkers, balancing with the briefings of governors, or even occasionally cutting away, can justify carrying these briefings live. The scant amount of new information that these rallies produce could be edited into a short segment for a show. The major headlines from these briefings are often Trump’s clashes with reporters, the differences he has with scientists and the lies he tells. Just like in 2016, it’s all theater.
Why do we that Blow is just half right? We say that because of the many "failures to perform" which he doesn't mention.
Blow does describe the relentless misconduct of President Trump during these non-briefing briefings.
"The briefings are marked by Trump’s own misinformation, deceptions, rage, blaming and boasting," Blow correctly writes. "He delivers his disinformation flanked by scientists and officials, whose presence only serves to convey credibility to propagandistic performances that have simply become a replacement for his political rallies."
Every point is accurate. Beyond that, Blow notes the lack of actual information which emerges from these events. He contrasts that with the constant onslaughts of rage and the persistent misinformation.
Blow savages the commander in chief in perfectly accurate fashion. But that's pretty much where his analysis ends.
By inference, he does criticizes the cable channels which continue to air these events. But he doesn't name those channels, and he doesn't name the network executives responsible for this decisions.
He doesn't mention the embarrassing way the cable channels start teasing these gong-shows around 5 PM each day. That said, there are other things Blow doesn't mention:
He doesn't mention the scattershot way our upper-end journalists tend to conduct their non-questioning questioning at this absurd events. He doesn't mention the poorly-framed questions these lambs are often inclined to present even when they do attempt to confront their disordered commander.
Finally, he doesn't mention the New York Times and other such major news orgs. He doesn't mention the way these major news orgs have allowed this daily disinformation campaign to go unreported and undiscussed within their own deeply flawed pages.
This weekend's daily sessions were utterly daft. The commander spilled with interruption, invective and rage. Meanwhile, our reporters showed their endless skill at leaving obvious questions unasked.
"Swabs are easy," the commander said yesterday during several mind-numbing monologues. It was only one in a succession of dispiriting points made during yesterday's session.
"Swabs are easy, ventilators are hard," this dumbest of all known Americans actually said at one point.
He failed to explain why, if swabs should have been so easy for the nation's governors to acquire, he had now announced, for the first time, that he would be using the Defense Production Act to compel their manufacture.
That apparent paradox went unresolved during yesterday's scattershot questions and rambling non-answer answers. At one point, the commander even fell back on an earlier, absurd-sounding claim as he discussed the swabs:
TRUMP (4/19/20): They have a lot of them, some of them, some of the states. They were shipped to states and the states don’t know where they are.As once with ventilators, so too now with swabs! Some states have already been given plenty of swabs. They just don't know where they are!
The governors don't know where their swabs are! With that, we cite one last major point Blow doesn't mention today:
He didn't mention the failure of major orgs, like the New York Times, to discuss the possibility that something is badly wrong inside the commander's head. This refusal to serve by our major news orgs has helped create the predicament we now find ourselves in.
Should these daily "briefings" be aired? Blow argues, very capably, that they shouldn't be aired.
This flies in the face of normal presumptions, according to which a presidential press event is an important matter. That said, we think that Blow makes his basic point extremely well.
On that basis, we'd say that Blow gets this matter half right.
What's to be done, the other Vladimir once thoughtfully asked. Starting tomorrow, we'll answer that long-standing question.
Blow is right about the endless misconduct of our Palooka-in-chief. But he largely gives a pass to the upper-end press elite regarding their treatment of these obscene daily TV shows.
All this week, we'll look at the ways the upper-end press has failed to confront the problem we face. Swabs may be easy, but discourse is hard—as is competent journalism during a time of interlocking plagues.
Anthropologists say our species wasn't built for matters like this. Starting tomorrow, we'll list the actions our elites might want to take if we really are "the rational animal," as such elites have long said.
This afternoon: The scattershot and the fury