, , , , ,

Read as I do.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was poised to ride this momentum into Northeast Asia last week, but instead sustained a series of self-inflicted wounds. Before even departing Washington, he broke tradition by not inviting the State Department press corps on his plane, needlessly damaging relations with the media and forgoing the opportunity to better explain the contours of his mission. (“I’m not a big media press access person,” he said later, as if the only purpose of talking to reporters would be to serve his own agenda. “I personally don’t need it.”)

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/03/tillerson-bumbles-around-asia-214936 – 3/20/2017

It appears President Trump’s Administration wishes to be seen as imperious as well.

Within the past month, it has managed to slight the most impartial BBC and others by excluding the targeted similar in bona fides from an informal “press gaggle” before moving on to the direct insult that is the cry of “Fake News!”, that insults the reading and broadly discerning public.

As all against Bashar al-Assad are in Assad’s estimation “The Terrorists”, it appears that all news not fitting President Trump’s image or ends becomes “Fake News!”.  From being held to standards over the scale of the inauguration turnout (which news turned up wildly varying estimates — to Trump it looked like 1.5 million; by the estimates of authorities, fewer than a million were expected — without any official observation and measurement available to settle the score) to “kompromat” and the Christopher Steele dossier; Manafort-YanukovychMillianKilimnick; and the FBI’s investigation of the 2016 election hack and potential related relationships, all would seem to fit the “Fake News!” concept or serve (“the whole Russian thing”) as a ruse (but for what and for whom)?

“People knew that he represented various countries, but I don’t think he represented Russia, but represented various countries,” Mr. Trump said at a news conference in February. “That’s what he does. People know that. That’s Mr. Manafort, by the way, a respected man, a respected man, but I think he represented the Ukraine or Ukraine government or somebody, but everybody knew that.”

BackChannels thought the comment obfuscating and vague, the verbal equivalent of a bully’s shrug (“I don’t know nothin’ about it; I didn’t do nothin'”).

Here’s the source of the quotation:

And here is a little bit more about the very respected Paul Manafort:

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2016/04/paul_manafort_isn_t_a_gop_retread_he_s_made_a_career_of_reinventing_tyrants.html – 4/28/2016.

If you click on the link — or either of the links in this section — you may soon know more about Paul Manafort than the dissembling President of the United States a) either knows or b) cares to share with the public.

Here’s a potential positive spin: could Manafort have been urging his clients away from “political absolutism” and toward the graces of the modern democratic and rule-of-law world?

Anything’s possible — but how would the public know with the curtain drawn closed with mumbles?

Let’s move on to something thornier.

In its apprehension of geography and history, where is America’s voting public?

How ignorant a people are we?

How well informed?

Should the public know so many of the details of deals — like “Uranium One”, which took years to form during a period in which Moscow and Washington appeared to be at peace and not running headlong into a Cold War sequal — and policies that well  may not be so much a part of its daily cultural (and intellectual) experience?

Or is the public sufficiently active and informed in all of the dimensions of public interest and well deserving of engagement with its Administration by way of responsible 24/7 press coverage?

If the ignorance proves vast, well then perhaps Americans deserve the development of a “privatized government” in the hands of “people who know best” and who need not be forthcoming as regards their goals, ideas, strategies, or tactics.

In fact, is there anything wrong with the idea of a paternal government packed with powerful actors — CEOs and generals — that within its own ranks chooses to operate with autonomy behind a curtain of increasing silence?

The question is trick: ask Orwell — there’s a lot wrong with the notion of government left to unchecked elites, and it’s that thought prompted the title of this post (and as generally true around here, a title a little larger than the content intended to support it).  Sigh.

Back to Tillerson’s comment at the top of the post — here’s another tack and one especially appropriate to relations between Moscow and Washington, both nerve centers attached to the prospect of nuclear war: perhaps for Tillerson and others, private no-access space is of necessity for national security as well as consideration and quiet.  After all, the press appears welcome to hound officials at their destinations.  Getting cozy, getting the scoop, getting the inside skinny in flight — do the “journos” or public need that unknown moment so badly?

Give it break, guys and gals, and let the real “Fake News!” people, the writers of fiction, have their turn.

Journalism affords practitioners flexibility in methods of attribution.  The most general options involving acquisition or interview for information are these:

  • On the record (for dissemination) / off the record (for background only)
  • For attribution (use the name) / not with attribution (use “official” or “spokesman”)

For a sophisticated businessman to complain that that a news item lacked a named source would seem not only disingenuous but contemptuous of the audience as well.

Posted to YouTube February 24, 2017.

A similar clip appeared in Real Clear Politics —  http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2017/02/24/president_trump_fake_news_media_making_up_anonymous_wh_sources.html – on February 24 and readers will find there a transcript of much of the above address.

Another suggested BackChannels question: who is — who was — “they”?

And when will we know that “they” have cleaned up their respective acts?

BackChannels readers may keep in mind that the editor interprets America’s political polarization with the model “Brown v Red-Green” and with that division between Republican “New Nationalists” and Democratic “Old Comrades and Neo-Islamists”, the use of so much polemic would seem of equal opportunity.

Most likely, elements in the press would have dogged Clinton too, and she would have bit back.

It so happens, the “New Nationalist” won, and what he’s doing in the above video is not slamming lowly bloggers cutting and pasting cyberspace junk from  remote shores but calling out CNN and similar others and thereby degrading confidence in the reporting and opining of the strongest part of the Fourth Estate.