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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Did Edgar Allan Poe offer the secret on how to treat the media?

An old saying goes something like “Believe half of what you see and none of what you read,” which is an adaptation of the famous Edgar Allan Poe line from one of his poems, “Believe nothing you hear, and only one–half that you see.”

Folks in 2017 can be forgiven for getting Poe’s exact words wrong since the media makes the first example a lot more relevant to what’s happening in our contemporary times. With present-day journalists being who and what they are there’s no mistaking that a lot of what you read – and hear (in the case of cable news) – is likely Edgar Allan Poeto be a load of deceitful rubbish unsuitable for even the ghastliest of landfills.

President Donald Trump labels it “fake news”. That seems to sum it up well.

Surveys show trust in the media ranks down there with that of Congress, lawyers and used car salesmen, so how is it the citizenry puts so much stock into what these reporters and pundits write and say?

Some people have had just about enough of the whole business. Matthew Continetti wrote in National Review over the weekend, “The fact is that almost the entirety of what one reads in the paper or on the web is speculation. The writer isn’t telling you what happened, he is offering an interpretation of what happened, or offering a projection of the future. The best scenario is that these theories are novel, compelling, informed, and based on reporting and research.

“But that is rarely the case. More often the interpretations of current events, and prophesies of future ones, are merely the products of groupthink or dogma or emotions or wish-casting, memos to friends written by 27-year-olds who, in the words of Ben Rhodes, ‘literally know nothing.’ There was a time when newspapers printed astrology columns. They no longer need to. The pseudoscience is on the front page.”

This is too true. I suppose I should take offense at Continetti’s suggestion that everything found online is just voodoo and speculation, since that would certainly include this column, but the National Review writer makes a great point. Literally for months last year media members told us, again and again, that Donald Trump couldn’t win the presidency.

According to them the polls said so. The consultants thought so. Republican party leaders didn’t enunciate it explicitly but you could gather from their actions and body language that they didn’t believe their candidate had much of a chance. Some of them didn’t even show up to the GOP convention in Cleveland, all the while pretending they didn’t approve of Trump’s rhetoric or his Twitter habit…or some other laughable reason.

Some of them tried to get him replaced – or removed from the ticket. The #NeverTrump contingent is still offering a lot of the same limp excuses for refusing to back Trump now. It’s stupid – I really don’t know a better way to phrase it.

Many conservatives, myself included, argued the differences were never about policy, but only concerned Trump’s unusual-for-politics personality. But upon deeper reflection, maybe it really is about policy too; for if Trump managed to win the election – which he did – everyone figured business as usual would be out the window. The outsider wolves would take over the henhouse. There would be a man behind the desk in the Oval Office that the establishment couldn’t control, at least not completely.

So what we have now, as Continetti articulated so brilliantly, is a bunch of know-nothings writing and speaking a cluster of forecasts based on incorrect interpretations of history and faulty data (in the form of polls) that likely doesn’t paint a true picture of what’s really happening out there in the hinterlands.

If this weren’t the case then the Russia/obstruction of justice facade would have been dead and buried long ago. Instead practically every major news outlet (other than strictly conservative publications) includes something on the topic ranging from special counsel Robert Mueller’s phishing expedition to the latest gossip on whether or not Trump actually possesses tapes of his past conversations with James Comey.

It’s gotten to the point where Trump himself is apparently angry with his own lawyers because the matter won’t go away. Nancy Cook and Josh Dawsey of Politico reported, “Trump started the week by giving [White House counsel Don] McGahn, a loyal supporter who was among the first Washington establishment figures to sign on with his presidential campaign, a dressing down in the Oval Office for not doing more to quash the Russia probe early on.

“The episode — recounted by four people familiar with the conversation — came as part of a broader discussion on Monday about the president’s frustrations with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, which now includes the question of whether Trump himself tried to obstruct the investigation by firing FBI Director James Comey.”

Seeing as this story is from Politico, it should be taken with a major grain of salt. So much of what the left-leaning online news source produces is strictly speculation and innuendo; as a result it can hardly be taken seriously. But similar to how rumors in The National Enquirer have a tendency to be true, Politico usually offers some degree of factuality to their reporting though it’s usually hidden underneath a thick layer of slime.

This particular story includes a number of digs at the president himself, including writing, “One person who keeps in touch with the president said that while Trump gets angry at almost everyone on his staff, his outbursts at McGahn have been more frequent.” 

According to whom? What makes it more frequent? And what qualifies as angry? Does the president actually shout, use terse language, turn red, drum his fingers, require his subjects to ask him why he’s not happy, throw a few things, give the silent treatment, refuse to offer his visitors a cup of coffee or, perhaps worst of all, say in Darth Vader’s voice, “you have failed me for the last time.”

Politico’s story is basically fake news because while it’s true Trump may indeed be angry with McGahn or others associated with the phony Russia affair, people outside the president’s inner circle have no way of knowing for sure what’s actually going on, what really was said and what actions are being or were taken to correct the problem.

It’s all speculation. Again, it’s “Believe half of what you see and none of what you read.”

The same could be said for the Democrats who are apparently turning on their leaders – and each other – in the aftermath of last week’s crushing (for the party) defeat in Georgia’s Sixth District.

W. James Antle III wrote in the Washington Examiner over the weekend, “It wasn't a good week for the Democrats. After losing the most promising of several competitive special congressional elections this year in Georgia's 6th District, party activists formed a circular firing squad and began taking pot shots at one another.

“There was infighting between centrist and liberal Democrats, with the latter quoting Bernie Sanders in saying of defeated Georgia 6th nominee Jon Ossoff that not all Democrats are equally progressive. There were debates between whether it made more sense to turn out minorities or win back working-class white voters.

“Most surprising, perhaps, was the criticism of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi...

Unlike the tabloid-like Politico piece cited above Antle weaves quotes from named sources into his reporting to bolster his premise. There aren’t any anonymous utterings from people spouting off about things they know-nothing about. The Democrats are in trouble and it’s because they don’t have an agenda other than offering warmed over socialism.

Regrettably for America the problem of media incompetence – or outright corruption – won’t go away anytime soon. Colleges and universities continue their efforts to suppress conservative speech while propping-up the anti-Trump hatred from the left. Such a slanted point-of-view shows up in the media coverage consumed by the nation.

Some people realize it and ignore it; others recognize it and welcome it. The Founding Fathers counted on an informed citizenry to keep watch over their government. Unfortunately for us the apathetic and antagonistic elements of the populace don’t seem to care about the facts and all too willingly buy-in to the media’s speculation.

Until it changes, it will be hard for anyone to believe what they see…and even less of what they read.

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