What If White House Reporters Actually Held the President Accountable?

If White House reporters had any self-respect or were oppositional at all, they would fight back against Donald Trump’s ruthless mistreatment at press conferences.

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  • Imagine, Ted, not only that US White House reporters would no longer permit Mr Trump’s bullying, but that other countries would no longer permit the USA to bully them. A consummation. Devoutly to be wished ?…


  • Journalists are prisoners of their professional frame and will succumb to someone prepared to play fast and loose with conventions and without a care for maintaining respect of institutions. A lot of this feels deja vu to me, having grown up in Austria with the antics of Jörg Haider. He also used to play the media like a fiddle, while (correctly) claiming that they were against him.

    I particularly remember a masterclass in “communicating”: once he began a scheduled interview with an actual journalist by physically taking over the microphone and intoning in the voice of the perfect statesman: “Before we begin the interview, let us note that you are an employee of the state broadcasting corporation and therefore against me. Please proceed” and handing back the microphone. Then he would use subtle body and voice cues ensuring that the audience would not forget that he pwned the journalist hard (well before that idiom was invented).

    The journalist came prepared for the usual evasions and making shit up, but not for this, and throughout the interview chose to strictly adhere to the most neutral and professional conduct – anything more and Haider would have pounced on him triumphantly as proving his very point. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

    Of course one would wish that the media would not be eternally surprised at the same dirty tricks like an enlightened Zen monk – or rather a deer in the headlights. I distinctly remember Austrian media (much higher quality stenographers but stenographers nonetheless) hounding Haider for weeks (thus keeping his mug in the headlines) to demand an apology for something particularly outrageous (borderline Nazi crap). At boiling point Haider would call a press conference, grin suavely into all the cameras to declare: “I guess I’ll apologize then, whatever. Wink, wink.”. They couldn’t think of what to do next since he technically apologized. It was pathetic. Sound familiar?

  • The lifeblood of a journalist is access.

    Bill Clinton was asked some questions by Amy Goodman, was excoriated by him, and he never appeared on her show again.

    If one works for one of the corporate fake news programs, and lose access to the powerful because of “irreverent questioning”, start looking for a new employment elsewhere because you’ll be blackballed.

    Trump has already excluded a reporter from his press conferences for this reason.

    • The sheep that attacks the wolf leaves the flock and stays for dinner with him.

    • Listen to Bill Clinton scold Amy. He expected soft ball questions and his reaction was worse than any of Trump’s (so far).


      The are many YouTube videos of the full interview for those who want context.

      • Amy Goodman often talked about her “critical questions” in this interview as being her finest hour on the air. So I went and listened to it. Unfortunately I must say I found it a squandered opportunity. I agree with Amy on any and all of the issues she raised with Bill Clinton. However, Amy made this into a fight and it would appear she likely lost this fight to most neutral observers. At best it was a draw.

        Clinton was arguable the most gifted orator of his generation, but Amy had her head bashed in doing actual reporting on the genocide in East Timor. This blood that is on Bill Clinton’s hands for material support of this genocide. Mere words cannot explain away this blood. This shouldn’t have been even close.

        Unfortunately, there were less “critical questions” than 2 people clearly unaccustomed to have their worldview not instinctively shared and hence constantly mis-communicating.

        Bill Clinton was stuck in his religion, where US foreign and “defense” policy is well-intentioned but sometimes bungling trying to engage really complex geo-strategic and historical conflicts. Amy was equally stuck in hers, where it is essentially a criminal enterprise, and finding this out is the essential coming of age moment of our religion.

        The interview essentially degenerated into her stating triumphantly “but you must agree with us that is is criminal!”. He would say “no, let me explain, we’re well intentioned.” At some point he did show frustration but it was when they they just increased the tempo – “What about Palestine? What about Kurdistan? Huh?” and hardly giving him time to even roll out the usual platitudes “a difficult conundrum for the ages, legitimate grievances on all sides, etc.” which again Clinton himself probably believed and which she never even acknowledged, let alone question, just moved on to the next hotspot.

        And why Clinton not believe his own PR – this was in the absolute heyday of the establishment, right before everything went to hell in a handbasket. Remember Clinton would have to physically go a great distance out of his way outside of the Washington D.C. bubble before finding a single person whose belief system would question his worldview… whereas at the time Amy would have to religiously stick with the absolute fringes to even find like-minded people.

        I am aware I did not have my had bashed in East Timor, and certainly was not live on the air with the president calling with without time to prepare. Still, I would have hoped that Amy would have remembered Noam Chomsky and his insistence that he is fully aware that to a mainstream audience he sounds like he is from Neptune. I am afraid Amy never actually confronted the mainstream reality in terms understandable even to someone still on the fence:

        “Look, I recognize that we always portray ourselves as well-intentioned and you truly believe you are working hard for the best interests of the American people, even to do the right thing universally. But when I was there in East Timor, when I visited Kurdistan, I didn’t find any good intentions, only piles and piles of dead children. Was it really in the interests of the American people to ship billions of dollars worth of advanced weaponry to these war-zones, which I found worked as designed, I still have a dent in my skull from a US made rifle and the children were killed with the utmost efficiency. We cannot in good conscience condone these crimes committed in our name, even if they were in our interests, which they are not. From where we stand it looks like it is only in the interests of the defense contractors and mining industry CEOs the likes of whom you surround yourself with.”

        That sort of thing.

      • Andrea,

        I never expected Amy to make converts, or to enlighten the masses with a few words from her own “from Neptune” perspective.

        But, I have to give her credit for going where “no man has gone before” on a daily news program.

        Clinton never, to my knowledge, ever went live on the air with Amy again after that encounter. One could see this as a retreat by Clinton instead of a snub of Amy by him, a recognition that if he were to make a return visit, he would again be met by someone who doesn’t live or die on the favor of being granted access to the powerful. In other words, Clinton was grievously insulted by being addressed in that forum by Amy as if she were his equal.

        The White House press corps looks like a classroom full of submissive students trying to get a passing grade, which amounts to avoiding a snub and getting an invitation to return to work there another day.

        When you’re in a fight you don’t always have to win in the first encounter; you just have to make the stronger opponent consider the losses he would take in winning a Pyrrhic victory.

        I’ll take Amy over a hundred ass kissers to power.

    • Yer right in that it’s all about access – so long as the prez has the power to say who he will or will not talk to it will remain so. Unfortunately, freedom of the press does not guarantee access, and getting answers to low-ball questions is better than getting no answers.

      So, how about a moderator for press conferences? Moderator gets control of the mic (prez can’t interrupt.) and has the ability and obligation to officially call the president for not evasion. (the moderator for the ‘debates’ should *definitely* have those powers.)

      That would work right up until Duh Don refused to show up at all, and we’re right back where we started.

  • So, maybe they’re trying to teach Hair Furor manners by setting a good example?

  • alex_the_tired
    October 3, 2018 12:44 PM

    Notice the symmetry between the press and the current worker mentality? Both are groupthink; the slave constructs the system for his* own continued confinement.

    No one in the press objects or asserts the dignity of agency. When one does, that person is quickly isolated and the contamination of that wrongthink is removed right after it serves its purpose of sending a message to the rest of the fieldhands: if you do this, you will suffer, and the system will go on anyway.

    This is what’s happening with workers. Amazon was recently shamed into doing “right” by its workers. Sure. A company that made billions in profit is now going to bump the wages to $15 an hour. Now, if anyone “complains” that person will be dismissed by the group as being unreasonable (like the Berniecrats who wanted the totally unpossible wish of universal single-payer healthcare. HRC, the millionaire who has lifetime platinum-level healthcare WHICH CANNOT BE TAKEN AWAY FROM HER, told us it was not possible, and she should know. I mean, when she talks, Goldman Sachs pays her six figures).

    And there are STILL people who think HRC was the way forward.

    On a completely unrelated note, I have some lovely beachfront property in Florida, and I’ve got to unload it quick. So if anyone is interested, just send me your social security number and your bank routing and personal account numbers (purely for a totally required and legitimate credit check) and I’ll be in touch shortly. …

    • “Notice the symmetry between the press and the current worker mentality?”

      Yes, big time.

    • > Notice the symmetry between the press and the current worker mentality …

      … and that of serfs and slaves and second-class saps throughout history?

      I sometimes despair that humans are not yet ready for democracy, let alone ‘the blessings of liberty.’ They seem eager to give them up at the slightest excuse.

    • Re: “Notice the symmetry between the press and the current worker mentality? Both are groupthink; the slave constructs the system for his* own continued confinement.”

      Why not “identity” rather than “symmetry”?

      The press are workers and, along with the non-press workers, are under control of the same corporatocracy.

  • This Guardian piece by David Sorota can be considered, at least in part, to be an attempt to answer the question posed by Ted above….


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