When I was a kid (here we go again), the newspapers which we got at home, first The Washington Post and later The New York Times had what was called an ‘editorial page’ which contained several editorial comments from the newspaper’s editorial board and several op-ed pieces from guys like ‘Scotty’ Reston, who were old, white men with weekly access to the President.
That was it! The rest of the paper’s content was news reports either from reporters on the paper’s staff, or content from the wire services (UPI, AP) and was divided into local, national, and international news.
There was also a sports section, a section of classified ads for jobs and for selling your old car, and of course there were plenty of ads, particularly in the edition published the day before a big sales day like Black Friday (although they didn’t call it Black Friday back then.)
Every weekday night my father would come home from work, sit down in his easy chair in the living room and read that morning’s paper until my mother finished setting the table and we were all commanded to come into the dining room because dinner was ‘served.’
My father read two sections of the newspaper – the most important international and national news and the lead editorial – the latter read out loud. He read the editorial out loud so that he could then make comments about it which sometimes carried over into the dining room as well.
That was then, this is now. And now, thanks largely to those goddamn 24-hour so-called news stations like CNN, Fox, and MS-NBC, what used to be a clear distinction between fact and opinion has disappeared. And worse, with the advent of digital news venues which ‘stream’ content directly to your computer or phone, the merging of facts and opinions has only gotten worse.
Take a look at the digital edition of The New York Times. Now take a look at today’s printedition. Notice the difference? The print edition has an op-ed about Trump in the left-hand column, the rest of the front page contains news. The digital edition, on the other hand, contains more than ten op-ed pieces right at the top of the page, and of course readers are invited to make comments about those editorials so the paper can figure out which of their ed-op writers are attracting an audience and need to be promoted even more.
Which brings me to the op-ed content in The Washington Post which provoked me to write this story in the first place, namely, a lengthy piece by a Brookings ‘expert,’ Robert Kagan, about how Trump will surely turn the federal government into a dictatorship if he is re-elected next year. Incidentally, the column has already received almost 19,000 replies.
I could pick this op-ed piece apart word by word, but I’ll focus on only one concluding sentence which reads like this: “we continue to drift toward dictatorship, still hoping for some intervention that will allow us to escape the consequences of our collective cowardice, our complacent, willful ignorance and, above all, our lack of any deep commitment to liberal democracy.”
Let me break the news gently to Robert Kagan, okay? This country has now been a fully functioning democracy on a level not found in any other country for 236 years, two months and 18 days. Not only do we have a national government which is based totally and completely on democratic procedures like voting and public debate, but we also have no less than 50 state governments which transact their political business in exactly the same way.
With all due respect to the riot which occurred on January 6th and the thousand or so schmucks who charged up the Capitol steps and have now been charged or charged and convicted with some type of insurrectionary behavior, this country’s governmental stability is unlike any other country anywhere on this earth.
This country is so fucking stable, so law-abiding and so committed to democracy that when the Congressional delegations of 13 southern states walked out in 1860-61, the first thing they did was to form their own government with the same three branches which they had left behind.
And the idea that Donald Trump would have the energy or the desire to ‘remake’ the government into some kind of authoritarian exercise in governance assumes that he would do anything beyond what he did the last time he was in office, which was to sit behind the real Resolute desk for a couple of hours before leaving for the golf course and shooting off his mouth.
Trump talks and barks like some kind of latter-day Mussolini or Hitler for the simple reason that such language gets him immediate attention from the Fake News. But that’s because, as I said above, the news is now based on opinions, not facts or the reportage of facts.
And what could stir up the media to pay attention to Trump more than how George Soros and the rest of the Deep State vermin are taking this country right to Hell?