The problem with the American press…

We can all agree that the video of Jim Acosta was doctored to make it look like he struck a woman. It was a clumsy and stupid move by InfoWars, but we’re used to clumsy and stupid from that source. What I want to know is why journalists continue this farcical White House press conference rigamarole? It’s a mob of suits begging for attention from a guy who loves attention, and who especially loves to lord it over the room. It’s nothing to the news networks but an opportunity for drama and mutual reinforcement of each others’ self-importance.

And now what is completely ignored is the question Acosta was asking. Trumpistanis are only going to talk about how rude Acosta was, the media are only going to talk about how imperious and arrogant Trump was, and the Q&A is totally sidelined. Just for the record, here’s the exchange leading up to the notorious microphone-snatch:

“I wanted to challenge you on one of the statements you made in the tail end of the campaign, that this caravan was an invasion…”

I considered it an invasion.

“As you know, Mr President, the caravan was not an invasion. It’s a group of migrants moving up from Central America towards the border with the US…”

Thank you for telling me that.

“Why did you characterize it as such…”

Because I considered it an invasion. You and I have a difference of opinion.

“Do you think that you demonized immigrants…”

No, no, not at all. I want them to come into the country, but they have to come in legally. You know they have to come in, Jim, through a process. I want it to be a process, and I want people to come in, and we need the people.

“Your campaign…”

Wait, wait, you know why we need the people. Because we have hundreds of companies moving in. We need people.

“But your campaign had an ad showing migrants climbing over walls…”

That’s true.

“But they aren’t going to be doing…”

They weren’t actors. They weren’t actors. Did you think they came from Hollywood? These were people…this actually happened a few days ago.

“They’re hundreds of miles away, though. They’re hundreds of miles…that’s not an invasion.”

Honestly, I think you should let me run the country, you run CNN, and if you did it well, your ratings would be much higher.

And then begins the wild rumpus with an intern trying to take the mic from his hands.

Could we please talk about that conversation? The president of the US simultaneously accuses Central American people of staging an invasion and declares that he’s going to welcome these people as workers, completely avoids the point that they’re nowhere near the border, and tries to pretend that a racist campaign ad was a factual and representative observation of real people.

By hectoring Acosta, he completely short-circuited any news about his inconsistency, his dishonesty, and his demagoguery. As an exercise in lying to a camera, it was brilliant. As an opportunity to gather information, it was a waste, because all those “journalists” aren’t going to call him out in the press, because they want this pretense of access.

I’ve read a few opinion pieces that suggest the principled thing for the press corps to do would be to boycott the whole charade. They won’t. Because a) they aren’t principled, or they wouldn’t be patiently waiting for a source to bless them with knowledge, and b) the whole point of the charade is to dance with the Orange Bully in front of your peers, not to actually learn anything and disseminate it to the public.

Trump knows exactly how to deal with fawning courtiers, which is all those “journalists” are.


  1. willj says

    Sounds like Carl Jung: “what you resist persists”. I disagree. The orange bully has to be resisted publicly, even if some of the resister’s goals are impure, and the dialog imperfect. You can be certain that Fox won’t boycott, so what message will the public will get in the end?

  2. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    “45” said <blockquote<I considered it an invasion. … MY opinion, you have different OPINION
    fine. [metaphor]

    when will this “thing” learn that the POTUS is to represent the people’s opinions and uphold the laws. Not assert his own opinions as dictates and not fabricate his own laws from whole cloth. We have a toddler, in office, with no concept of the job he’s in.

    yes that is not the topic here.

    the media is being easily distracted by his nonsensical behavior away from the issues “45” needs to be brought back onto.
    We (yes we) really shot ourselves in the foot with our open and free and fair society.

  3. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says


    I’ve read a few opinion pieces that suggest the principled thing for the press corps to do would be to boycott the whole charade.

    those are “opinions”, not statements of principality. The principle thing to do is 1)ask the question. 2) record the response. 3)next question. do NOT engage with counter-response expecting an answer, simply take the response, and move on. In the report, discuss the response did not answer the question and explain the validity of the question “he” was avoiding to answer.
    in short. it is important to ask, in order to get the question on air and in the mind of everyone, and show how he does not answer the point. The error, I see, is trying to force him to directly address the question, It can result in severe “backfire” by getting people to raise defensiveness and backlash against the “4th estate”
    thank you letting me ramble

  4. jrkrideau says

    Has anyone watched Vladimir Putin recently?

    One watches him and wonders where the US bought the clown.

  5. Doc Bill says

    It’s impossible to make sense of what Trump says because he doesn’t know what he’s going to say until he hears it with his own ears. That’s why he says contradictory things back to back. In Trump World sentences, sentence fragments, words and sounds are all totally independent of each other, existing in their unique space-time. It has to be a form of dementia because videos of him talking a decade ago illustrate a completely different ghost in the machine.

    Unfortunately for us, this sick man is being manipulated behind the scenes by people pursuing their own agendas and lining their own pockets. Meanwhile, we sit idly by like sheep, baaaaaa-ing at the unfairness of it all.

  6. Chris Capoccia says

    The main problem is not that the press is there with questions. The main problem is that the whole thing gets broadcast live and unedited without being properly digested with analysis.

  7. anchor says

    And because the American press has straightjacketed itself into framing the news for the market – to what they think the consumer ‘taste’ would most likely ‘buy’ according to their bean-counting analysis.

  8. olfroth says

    Trump said he wanted them to come here legally, and follow a process. Well, its perfectly legal to come here and ask for asylum.

  9. says

    @olfroth, Trump does not know what “Catch 22” is, but he seems to be doing it with immigration. Because in order to apply for asylum, you have to cross the border. But you must do so legally, so you must have the proper paperwork. You can apply for the proper paperwork only in USA etc.

    He never was hungry, never had to work with his hands, never had been in a warzone. He does not know what suffering is, and so he could not empathise with refugees even if he were not a narcissistic sociopath.

  10. chrislawson says

    slithey tove–

    Your suggestions for how journalists should act would be great in a functioning democracy with well-resourced, independent journalism with public support. But each of the strategies you outlined has been tried by journalists and has failed. Those strategies don’t work because politicians are now trained to deflect questions—seriously, they pay to have PR people and ex-journalists coach them on how to avoid questions and turn them to advantage without answering the actual question—, journalists who refuse to kowtow are excluded, media owners are either political hustlers themselves or if not openly partisan, will refuse to risk putting off advertisers, and finally, as ampy demonstrated on a daily basis, the people of America by and large do not care that their president routinely lies, bullies, and extorts in his official capacity.

    At this point, the only principled thing for a journalist to do would be to refuse to attend the White House press meetings. I mean, really, what’s the point any more? So you get to report on yet another spewing forth of bile and untruth that half the population already knows is crap and the other half refuses to appraise. And for what? There has not been a single good outcome from WH press conference journalistic critique. If anything, it just helps spread the lies because a ton of people are willing to accept the lies even when accompanied by overwhelming evidence that they are lies. So stop reporting on it.

    Frankly, the White House Correspondents’ Association should have had all of its members bail after the Michelle Wolf shitstorm, but no, the senior members of the WHCA actively spread the Trump team’s misdirection and sucked up to the king. If I had been a senior journalist at that point, I would have been rounding up as many colleagues as I could to launch a no-confidence motion and force a new election of WHCA leaders. And if that failed, I would have resigned from the association. But since neither of those things happened, the clear message is that the WHCA members are craven bootlickers and any journalist who displays even a shred of integrity (say, by doing any of the things you recommended, or say, by doing any of the things Jim Acosta did) will be sacrificed to the greater good of permanent employment regurgitating presidential agitprop. At best the WHCA puts out the occasional terse media release protesting the president’s most inflammatory actions, which Trump and his supporters would not even be aware of and wouldn’t care if they were.

    (My anger is not directed at you, btw, but at the current political system that makes your recommendations unworkable.)

  11. unclefrogy says

    why yes I have similar thoughts myself, he does sound like someone who lives in “lala land” but still has his aggressive instincts intact

    uncle frogy

  12. Ragutis says

    Just something to consider…

    If Trump hates CNN, and thinks they’re just “fake news”, one has to wonder why Acosta was seated front and center.

    Trump knows nothing about government or governing, but he does know TV.

  13. consciousness razor says

    At this point, the only principled thing for a journalist to do would be to refuse to attend the White House press meetings. I mean, really, what’s the point any more?

    Yeah, who needs journalists asking their own fucking questions or raising any issues they think are important? Since the “principled” thing is apparently giving up on journalism, because Trump’s a lying asshole who wants to control every conversation, why not give that to him? Just read whatever garbage Trump happens to tweet at us and be done with it — that’ll show ’em.

    Not sure exactly what the principle is … you think they’re all craven bootlickers and Republicans are unreachable/hopeless, so everybody should quit, in order to accomplish … nothing? I’m definitely not an expert in journalism, but that doesn’t sound like something they would teach in journalism school.

  14. zetopan says

    “MY opinion, you have different OPINION”

    Trump continually (and of course unknowingly) highlights Asimov’s statements from many years ago:
    “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” Issac Asimov

  15. chrislawson says


    I didn’t advocate giving up on journalism. I advocated giving up on the theatre of a White House press conference that achieves nothing other than to further Trump’s agenda. Investigate and report, but stop feeding his propaganda machine.

  16. chrislawson says


    A follow-up. You regularly misinterpret people’s commentary here and almost always take a condescendingly dismissive tone even when you’ve completely misread the comment. Something to work on.

  17. consciousness razor says


    I didn’t advocate giving up on journalism. I advocated giving up on the theatre of a White House press conference that achieves nothing other than to further Trump’s agenda.

    Then what does it entail, to “[give] up on the theatre of a White House press conference [that achieves blah, blah, blah]”?

    Does it mean don’t have White House press conferences, don’t have a particular sort of White House press conference which journalists have no choice but to conduct theatrically, do have a sort that achieves at least one thing that isn’t furthering Trump’s agenda even if it must be theatrical, or what? If you’re really going to be picky about which one I should think you’re advocating, then pick a formulation that you’ll be happy with.

    If it’s supposed to be like some kind of journalistic boycott (hard to even make sense of the idea) of the White House or Trump’s administration or some such thing, then isn’t it “giving up on journalism” to the extent that such journalism would have covered them? What kind of journalism (if any) do you expect them to do about it, if they do as you say? I don’t know much about that job (do you?), but you want them to not do some parts of it for some reason: which parts and why?

    I hadn’t assumed that you meant giving up on journalism entirely, no matter the topic — you should try interpreting my comment charitably and inserting the appropriate qualifiers and caveats, which I had implicitly taken to limit the scope of the discussion (WH press conferences, obviously). Still, you apparently would think there’s a good precedent for giving up, at least when it’s hard or when you have to cover our racist idiot of a president or whatever … and I do wonder how it’s a principled thing and what that principle is supposed to be. You’d have to be more clear about it, if there’s an explanation for why it should only apply to extremely specific things like certain types of White press conferences, because I definitely don’t have an explanation like that to offer.

  18. wzrd1 says

    @5, I agree, a boycott for the purpose of removing a platform from which to spew bullshit would have a desired effect. After all, he is an attention hog and if denied that outlet, he’s largely left with Fox, InfoWars and Twitter, which will leave him attention starved. Only cover him when he behaves with proper decorum and factually, refuse to cover him when he’s bullshitting. It’s called positive reinforcement, works great for training children and animals, should eventually have a positive effect in raising Trump to adulthood.

    @15, abandoning a venue is not abandoning an entire profession. One is removing a platform to spew bullshit, half-truths and fanciful inventions, such as his “invasion” that is no such damned thing.

    Where the now ejected journalist failed was in how he addressed Trump, “Sir, you said a great many words, but entirely avoided answering my question”. I’ve pinned down politicians that way on many occasions, eventually, I’ll either get an answer or the entire discussion was sharply curtailed and that was commented upon. Shutting down discussion by refusing to answer a simple, honest question and when called on it, ending discussion. That never looks good in the press or to the public, as then, it’s suspected that the politician in question is hiding something.
    Calling him on invasion is simple enough, as invasions are military in nature, so he would have to show armed military approaching our border – something obviously missing.
    Then, challenging him on plans to close any legal border crossing that the caravan eventually approaches.*

    *No, I cannot discuss my source, but it’s internal documentation that has drawn raised eyebrows among the US Armed Forces.

  19. ck, the Irate Lump says

    chrislawson wrote:

    I didn’t advocate giving up on journalism. I advocated giving up on the theatre of a White House press conference that achieves nothing other than to further Trump’s agenda. Investigate and report, but stop feeding his propaganda machine.

    Except that this would suit Trump and the right wing press perfectly. They would be happy if it was only Fox News, WSJ and Breitbart reporting on them, and to let the other news outlets have to re-report what Fox has already published. It would drive moderates and centrists to get their news from Fox so that they can get it first hand and sooner, where they could be radicalized towards the right. I’m not a fan of centrists and moderates, but I’d rather not see them become outright right wingers.

  20. unclefrogy says

    well a boycott sounds good on the surface but the effect would probably not be what is desired.
    The better action might be for all the reporters involved refuse to ask softball questions and continue to ask the same questions until the true answers are forth coming and not just word salad political baffle-gab . It would have been more explosive if the next reporters who were called on after “He” was so dismissive of Yamiche Alcindor with his racist comments had asked the same questions until he answered them . I think it would have been revealing to get him to use the “N” word out loud.
    I think what he would like the least is direct confrontation in public because it spoils the allusion he is trying to create and maintain.
    uncle frogy

  21. chrislawson says

    We’ve just had the president’s press team revoke Jim Acosta’s access, complete with a faked propaganda video smearing him, and all this because he repeatedly asked Trump to justify his calling the Mexican refugee caravan “an invasion”. You CANNOT do good journalism in this setting. A boycott is the only way to improve the situation because Trump and Huckabee Sanders bullying and abusing the press corps on camera is part of the fascist methodology. Better not to participate in the circus.

    This does not mean you can’t report on what Trump announces in his press conferences. The vast majority of the world’s reporters and editorialists who write about US politics are not physically present at WH events and don’t have to be. (Journalists can powerfully report on, say, the Pentagon Papers without ever having been present at any of the meetings.) Not being present saves you from being forced to play to Trump’s theatrics by asking questions that will not be answered, or will be answered in a manner that furthers his grotesque maladministration, or if you actually do land some stingers, will get you banned from the room and lied about and added to his list of examples of how the media are all evil libruls who can’t be trusted. There is no winning option.

    (An analogy: trying to do good journalism in the Trump press room is like trying to do teach biology at any of the private American evangelical “universities”. If you teach a good foundation in biological science, you will be fired. And the institution cannot be reformed from within. It’s not giving up on teaching to go somewhere else.)

  22. Onamission5 says

    Consider that if all legit journos in the Press Corps boycott these staged events Trump would be absolutely delighted because the only ones left to ask questions of him or Huckabee-Sanders will be Fox, Breitbart, CBN, TruNews, Daily Signal (heritage foundation’s rag), Washington Examiner, LifeZette, Daily Caller, et al. They certainly won’t boycott. Trump wants them there, after all, they kiss his ass and hand him his propaganda points.

  23. says

    First you call President Trump the “Orange Bully” and then you congratulate him for knowing just how to deal with those no account pressies. Sounds like you’re trying to play both sides of the political fence. You’re simply smarter than anybody and Trump is a “bully.” Perhaps you haven’t read any of Hillary Clinton’s hateful, profane remarks, or those of the stunningly ignorant, hideously ugly Maxine Waters.

  24. kevskos says

    The lady who was ordered to rip Jim Acosta’s mic is not an intern. She is Lindsay Walters and she is a White House Deputy Press Secretary, just another Sarah lie that she is an intern, She has a Wikipedia page and appears to have only worked for Republican organizations and on Republican campaigns.