The identity of the NYT op-ed author

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“Treason Toddy” cartoon (1865) of Benedict Arnold and Jefferson Davis with Satan.

For the moment, the Trump cabinet member alleged to have written the NYT editorial remains anonymous. His or her identity is unknown to the public and to the president. But can one really suppose the author’s cry was not part of a larger strategy to remove the president from office?

25th_imageThe president’s immediate response was expected, a silly reprise of Muhammed Ali: “I am the greatest!” Ali was having fun. The president is not, and this morning he is serious, though increasingly isolated and without friends in the search to identify his betrayer. The cabinet members may all turn out to be accomplices of the anonymous author, the  first cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment.

Presidents don’t gain personal loyalty by calling members of their cabinets names. Woodward’s book is filled with quotes in which the president belittles his own closest colleagues, the men and women he himself has appointed to serve the country with him as the Trump Administration.

Whether the NYT author is Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Chief of Staff John Kelley, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, White House Counsel Don McGahn, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, Director of National Security Dan Coats, or — sound the alarms — Director of National Security Bolton, or someone else makes little difference.

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Nathan Hale (patriot spy) postage stamp

Was the NYT op-ed anonymous because the author is a cowardly traitor like Benedict Arnold? Or is s/he an American patriot like Nathan Hale (“I regret that I have only one life to lose for my country”) but choosing temporary anonymity for the purpose of preparing the American public for the Trump cabinet decision to invoke the 25th Amendment?

Bob Woodward’s new book, FEAR, cites former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus calling the presidential bedroom, where Trump’s early morning and late night tweets originate, “the devil’s workshop,” and dubbing early mornings and Sunday nights in the White House bedroom “the witching hour.”

The next few days may tell the story. If the cabinet votes for allegiance to the country over allegiance to a deranged president, it will happen very quickly. If it succeeds, we will see “A Proper Family Re-Union” welcoming a fourth member of the club. If not…America and the world can expect something far worse than a twitter storm, the likes of which we’ve never seen. Perish the thought!

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, September 6, 2018

Trump Cabinet invokes 25th Amendment

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25th_imageViews from the Edge published this tongue-in-cheek “news release” in January. It was a spoof. We were a little early, but can anyone suppose that the Trump administration author of the NYT op-ed doesn’t know the difference between a tactics and strategy? Published on the heels of Bob Woodward’s FEAR is a tactic that prepares the American public for what’s coming: the Trump cabinet invoking the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office. Here’s the spoof we published in January at the time of the president’s medical exam.

NEWS RELEASE

The Dissociative Press
January 7, 2018

Today White House Chief of Staff John Kelly announced the decision of the Trump Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to remove President Donald J. Trump from office.

The decision to begin the process of removal from office follows the Cabinet members’ review of the report of the president’s medical examination by an Army physician at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, a report and decision that move the country closer to  a constitutional crisis.

While the Cabinet was acting on the Army physician’s conclusive medical findings of a personality disorder, rapidly progressing early dementia and other evidence of cognitive impairment, President Trump sent out a series of tweets calling the Walter Reed report a conspiracy by the military, the FBI, and the CIA, the equivalent of a military coup, and declaring he will not leave office under any circumstances.

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Mr. Trump immediately fired Chief of Staff John Kelly and Secretary of Defense James Mattis, the retired Generals at the center of what Mr. Trump called the military establishment, declaring that the Generals had ordered the Army physician to issue the faux report. Moments later Mr. Trump fired his lawyer and his entire Cabinet with the exception of Attorney General Jeff Session, who had abstained during the 25th Amendment vote, citing potential conflict of interest. Vice President Pence was out of the country for the week.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders quickly called a 10:00 A.M. news conference but was escorted off the White House grounds at 9:31 A.M. by members of the Secret Service. Loyal to the President, Ms. Sanders met White House correspondents on the sidewalk of Pennsylvania Avenue beyond the gates to the White House property while the President continued to tweet from the White House living quarters to which he and the First Lady had retreated.

Ms. Sanders confirmed Mr. Trump’s assertion that the medical report is a hoax, arguing that the president had reluctantly yielded to General Kelly’s insistence that the medical examination be done at Walter Reed rather than by Mr. Trump’s long-time personal physician to avoid any public perception of a fraudulent report. Ms. Sanders drew the White House correspondents’ attention to Mr. Trump’s 9:47 A.M. re-tweet from his personal physician in New York declaring full confidence in Mr. Trump’s mental competence. “Donald Trump is the sanest man I’ve ever met,” he said. “He’s a genius, and a very stable one, at that.”

A further incoming tweet at 10:07 A.M. quoting First Lady Melania Trump interrupted Ms. Sander’s remarks, which Ms. Sanders read aloud to the press corps:

“I am a political prisoner. Politics is nothing but a cops and robbers game. I know dirty things. I saw dirty things. I am not going to stand for all those dirty tricks that go on. I am sick and tired of the whole operation.They threw me down on the bed, five men, and stuck a needle in my behind. A doctor stitched my fingers after the battle with five guards.”

martha_mitchellHearing Ms. Sanders read aloud the words alleged to have come from the First Lady, a member of the press whose White House coverage dates back to the Nixon Administration opined that the First Lady’s words sounded vaguely familiar before realizing the tweet was a verbatim quotation from Martha Mitchell, wife of the Nixon Administration Attorney General John Mitchell, claiming she had been kidnapped.

“It’s a hoax,” said the White House Correspondent. “Those aren’t the words of the Mrs. Trump. They are the words of Martha Mitchell during the Nixon Administration. The tweet is plagiarism!”

Ms. Sanders replied that she had no idea who Martha Mitchell was, that she wasn’t even born until eight years after Nixon resigned, and that the reporter was making stuff up to cover up the faux medical exam and the coup taking place inside the White House. She ended the conference by calling on President Trump’s supporters to take to the streets in defense of the Constitution and the greatest president ever to serve the country.

220px-Charlottesville_Unite_the_Right_Rally_(35780274914)Within minutes the sidewalk of Pennsylvania Avenue was crowded with arm-to-arm Trump supporters carrying guns and signs with photos of the President’s personal physician, Dr. Strangeglove, and the confederate flag, calling for the resumption of the revolution to Make America Great Again that had been delayled in Charlottesville.

  • Gordon Stewart reporting for Dissociative Press, Jan. 7, 2018.

A Profile in Cowardice

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News of Senator John McCain’s death highlights the contrast between John McCain and Donald Trump, who belittled McCain’s service, never mentioned his name at the recent announcement of the defense bill that bears McCain’s name, and sent a terse condolence to the McCain family on the occasion of his death:

My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!

The ‘respect’ was for the family, not for the Senator, one more back-handed slap at the now deceased senator. What kind of person expresses ‘respect’ for a grieving family?

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President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

President Trump’s disrespectful tweet calls to mind President Kennedy’s autobiography, Profiles in Courage. Whatever one thought of JFK’s claim of war heroism, and whether or not one supported John McCain’s politics and candidacies for president, the chasm between the two men of courage and Donald J. Trump is unfathomable. But fathom it we must.

Can you imagine John McCain announcing his decision to fire a staff member with a tweet without a face-to-face meeting? Announcing a firing in a tweet, as Trump has done repeatedly, violates the most basic moral norms of common decency. Firing someone in cyberspace without meeting eyeball-to-eyeball in real space and time is not only insensitive. It is everything John McCain was not; it is cowardly.

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President Donald Trump

Senator John McCain was no fan of Donald Trump and Donald Trump was no fan of John McCain. The late Senator criticized Mr. Trump openly on matters of public policy; the president impugned McCain’s character as a loser. Big difference.

Before his death, Senator McCain requested that President Trump not attend his funeral and asked that Mr. Trump’s predecessors, Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush deliver the eulogies. Click this link for more information.

President Obama’s condolences to the McCain family include the following tribute to Senator McCain:

[W]e shared, for all our differences, a fidelity to something higher — the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched, and sacrificed.

Few of us have been tested the way John once was, or required to show the kind of courage that he did. But all of us can aspire to the courage to put the greater good above our own. At John’s best, he showed us what that means. And for that, we are all in his debt.

The American people salute John McCain’s honest character, and his courageous service to his country before and after he endured five years as a POW. The late senator leaves office as a winner.

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Photo of newly elected members of Congress.

Meanwhile, the president who disrespected him remains in the White House until Congress fires him face-to-face, and Presidential historian Michael Beschloss publishes the biography of Donald J. Trump, Profile in Cowardice: High Crimes and Misdemeanors.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 26, 2018.

 

The Pied Piper 2018

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Children of my generation learned the story of the Pied Piper. It’s one of those Grimm fairy tales lodged in our brains.

The Pied Piper is a kind of public savior who, during the Bubonic Plague of the Middle Ages, was freeing the city of Hamlin of the source of the plague that was killing them: rats. Thousands of them followed the music of his flute. But when the city reneged on its agreement to pay him, the Pied Piper led the children out of the city, instead of the rats. Only the irresponsible adults … and the rats were left in the town.

The recent dream of brain surgery shared here on Views from the Edge in which the surgeon was removing a rat from my brain led me to ponder why such a dream would wait until 2018, so many years after I had been freed from the rat-infested house on Church Lane.

Then it occurred to me. Six decades later, I am living again in a rat-infested house. The President charged with protecting the people and its Constitution is a rat, and the rat’s not just out THERE; the rat has gotten inside our heads. Every day. Every night. America is living through a nightmare.

Where is the legitimate Pied Piper who will lead the rats out? More importantly, will the adults care more about their children and the constitutional republic than the rat they confuse with the Pied Piper?

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 6, 2018.

Helsinki Transcript Released

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The following verbatim transcript of President Trump’s and President Putin’s closed meeting in Helsinki was provided to MickeyLeaks by the English-Russian translator at the meeting. 

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Obama: “Get your planes off our border!.” Putin: “Try and stop us, Black Boy!”

Mr. Trump: It’s good to have this time together. Things are tightening up at home. It’s not been a good week.

Mr. Putin: Da! Mueller’s on it, Donald, and that’s not good for either of us. The twelve GRU indictments. Mike Flynn turning on you. I remember very fondly the dinner with Mike. He knew which side buttered his bread. He’s a lot like you, Mr. President.

Mr. Trump: I thought Mike would stay loyal even though I had to fire him.

Mr. Putin: Da! How many times do I have to tell you? Never trust anyone! If you want to be a leader, you have to trust yourself. No one else!

Mr. Trump: My father told me that same thing. Everyone is a potential enemy. We’re not enemies, right, Vladimir?

Mr Putin: Da! We’re very much alike. You speak English; I speak Russian. But we both speak the same language: “Deny, deny. deny; attack, attack, attack; deflect, deflect, deflect”.

Mr. Trump: Language is a funny thing, isn’t it? The media think life’s about reason and logic. That people are convinced by facts and rational arguments. They don’t understand human nature. People are simple. They want short sentences. They want strength. They want certainty, not doubt. That’s what we give them.

Mr. Putin: Da! In Russia it’s easier. We have a legislature but it’s a joke. It’s one thing on paper. It’s another thing in practice, but you’re making progress in the U. S., Donald. Congress has become your rubber stamp.

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Mr. Trump: I’m getting closer. Or I was. But did you see the television clip of Pompeo and Kelly in Brussels? They rolled their eyes and looked away when I yelled at the guy from NATO. Members of my own cabinet sometimes act like Democrats. They don’t speak up, but they don’t look loyal. I can’t fire everybody.

Mr. Putin: Da! Not a problem in Russia. And you have Mueller. In Russia, there wouldn’t be a problem. There’d just be an accident.

Mr. Trump: The CIA used to do that. Just like the KGB. You were KGB, and you have the GRU to do your dirty work. I only have the CIA and the FBI. And now I have Cohen and Roger Stone to worry about. If Michael and Roger flip, I’m toast, Vladimir.

Mr. Putin: Da! But not so much to worry, Donald. Julian’s already talked to Roger. He won’t flip. He knows Mother Russia will always welcome its friends. If you’re impeached, or if you resign because they’re getting too close to the truth, do not be anxious. Look what I did for Eric Snowden. If I did it for him, I can do it for you. I’ll grant you asylum…and then citizenship. There’ll be no extradition. The Russian people love you, Donald. You can build Trump Tower in Moscow. In the meantime, before Mueller releases his report, transfer all your personal wealth and business assets from the United States to Russian.

Mr. Trump: What about the press conference? We’re going out there in ten minutes. We have to get our stories straight. The press is waiting. They’re hungry for fake news. How do we handle the press conference?

Mr. Putin: Not to worry. You’re a showman. We’re friends. We show them we’re friends. You speak English. I’ll speak Russian. They think we need a translator. But you and I won’t need a translator. Only we will know we’re speaking the same language: “Deny, deny. deny; attack, attack, attack; deflect, deflect, deflect”. Remember, people love the strong man. People love friendship! People love FaceBook! Most people couldn’t care less about elections. They want us to be friends.

  • MickeyLeaks, Helsinki, Finland, July 18, 2018

 

To Preserve, Protect, and Defend

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The day a former Director of the CIA publicly declares that a U. S. president’s behavior constitutes “high crimes and misdemeanors” and calls it “treasonous” is not just another day in American politics. John Brennan’s tweet ended with the question for those who continue to support the president: “Where are you?” 

It is a question for every U. S. Senator and Congressional Representative who assumed their positions after taking the Congressional oath of office to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” The president’s oath is a bit different. I do solemnly swear…. to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.”

Although it seems unlikely that Thomas Jefferson or James Madison imagined a future president of the new constitutional republic acting as the nation’s domestic enemy, the framers of the U. S. Constitution were cautious about human nature. They were neither optimistic nor pessimistic. They were realists. They included provisions for Congress to remove a president from office. 

Which is why John Brennan asks members of Congress, “Where are you?” It’s one thing to wait for the report of the Special Counsel on Russian interference in a U. S. election; it’s another to ignore the president’s joint press conference with the leader of the country accused of interfering in the 2016 election. 

Following a private two hour one-on-one meeting with Vladimir Putin, Donald J. Trump preferred Mr. Putin’s denial of Russian interference to his own Department of Justice latest indictments of twelve Russian intelligence officers for covert operations to influence the 2016 election. The president who took the oath of office to defend and protect the U. S. Constitution from enemies, foreign and domestic, had chosen to take his stand against his own government.

For a former CIA director to take the spotlight runs counter to the low-profile culture of the CIA.  John Brennan is not a partisan. His question “Where are you?” will be answered in the weeks to come, as will the other questions: “What will you call it?” and “What — or whom — will you faithfully support and defend?”

Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Betsy Ross are listening.

  • Gordon C. Stewart on the wetland, July 17, 2018.

The Whopper at the Burger King

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A friendly young man at the Burger King — I don’t eat Whoppers; I drive to the Burger King in rural Minnesota for the free WiFi — draws my attention. “What’s going on?” he asks, staring at the television monitor behind me and my MacBook Air. I assume he is responding to the breaking news I’d heard moments before on the drive from the cabin to the Burger King — the shooting of journalists in the office of an Annapolis newspaper. He is. He shakes his head; I shake mine. Then the words spill out. “I guess this is what happens when the press is targeted as public enemy number one.” He shakes his head again and walks away.

MARYLAND NEWSPAPER SHOOTINGA few minutes later he returns to speak his support for the Second Amendment and the president. “All this gun stuff . . . we’ve always had guns in school and stuff, only now the media’s making a big deal of it. They’re blowing it up.”

We’re coming up on July 4th weekend. Celebrating the nation’s independence feels different this year. America is different. It’s the First Amendment that is at risk, not the Second.

The free press, sometimes called “The Fourth Estate” — the people’s independent watchdog of government — has saved us from our worst selves many times. It was the Fourth Estate that brought into our living rooms Edward R. Murrow’s report that stopped Senator Joseph McCarthy’s pernicious attacks on the integrity of American citizens whose political stripe wasn’t his. It was the Fourth Estate’s publishing of the Pentagon Papers that exposed the dirty secrets behind the Vietnam War, leading Lyndon Baines Johnson to become a one-term president. It was the Washington Post’s publication of Woodward and Burnstein’s investigative report on the Nixon administration’s break-in of Democratic headquarters at the Watergate Hotel that led to the impeachment and resignation of Richard Nixon.

CapTimesThe Fourth Estate exists as the instrument of the people to hold accountable those we elect, and the government agencies they are responsible to oversee on the people’s behalf. The First Estate (the executive branch) and the Second Estate (the legislative branch) have often been critical of the Fourth Estate. Because the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press from state control, the Third Estate (the judicial branch) has protected it from the other two branches of government. The Supreme Court has been the court of last resort to protect free speech from Presidents and other elected officials have been wary of it.

There is a world of difference between wariness and assault. The current occupant of the Oval Office has used the nation’s Bully Pulpit to stir up good people like the guy at the Burger King to believe the minority party, once referred to as the “loyal opposition,” is out to destroy their freedom under the Second Amendment. Public perception has been altered. The public enemy no longer is communism, as it was in the McCarthy period. The target is much more in clear public view: the Washington Post, the New York Times, CNN, NBC, CBS, PBS. Every member of the Fourth Estate except FOX News and — who would ever have imagined it? — The National Enquirer. Joe McCarthy is smiling.

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A civil society has quickly become less civil. The Bully Pulpit we once expected to give voice to the unity that underlies our pluralism (e pluribus unum); appeal to “the better angels of our nature” (Lincoln); respect the public and private institutions that make us who we are; and mourn tragic events such as today’s shooting in Annapolis, is used to create the public perception that the president’s critics are America’s enemies. This is an abrupt departure from the commonly accepted norms and expectations for civil discourse on which I remember being raised.

Increasingly, we tend to shout in anger or fall silent. Between the anger and the silence stands a chasm of despair. To some, America is becoming great again. To others, America in 2018, feels more like the aftermath of a coup d’état than a moment of celebration.

1*wH41mwA4_K9A6Zr26Pq6_wThe young man at the Burger King was an adolescent when Donald Trump funded the Birther movement alleging that Barack Obama, America’s first black president, was illegitimate, a charge not based in fact, “faux” news that stirred the latent fear of poor white Americans to believe President Obama was out to take away their rights. Long before the Electoral College elected him President, Donald Trump had a bully pulpit of his own, and he bullied many into believing the lies about the need to rescue the country from the alleged black Muslim socialist who wanted to take away our guns —until the day he suddenly declared, without apology for his error, that President Obama had been born in the U.S.A, as though the Oracle of truth had spoken definitively — years after his false claim movement had accomplished its aim.

Earlier today, before news of the shooting of journalists in Annapolis, the free press informed the American public of U. S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy’s decision to retire, leaving the vacancy on the Court for the President to nominate and the Republican Congress to give, or withhold, its consent and confirmation. The Founders’ intention of a nonpartisan, independent Third Estate — the necessary third leg of the stool of checks and balances that make for the American democratic republic — was idealistic, to be sure, but an independent judiciary is essential to the architecture of the U.S Constitution.

As we prepare for this Fourth of July observance, we do well to remember the architecture meant to preserve the nation by means of legislative and judicial boundaries that put constrain a bully from running away with the country. Doing my best to be hopeful, I still wonder: can a Whopper accomplish a coup d’état without bloodshed — within the architecture of the American democratic republic?

The Fourth of July 2018 celebration goes down hard. Hold the onions!

  • Gordon C. Stewart at the Burger King

Memorial Day 2018

Views from the Edge has been silent for awhile. Given my state of mind, it probably should stay quiet longer. But Memorial Day gives the dumb a hook on which to hang some of what’s been banging around my weary head.

Flags are everywhere today. American flags. They decorate the graves of the fallen in our national cemeteries and wave in front yards across America. But things are different this year.

While driving to the cabin by the wetland here in Minnesota, I see a different flag — a blue one with the name of the current president — waving from a homeowner’s flagpole where the red, white, and blue stars-and-stripes rippled stood before 2017. The dead we honor on Memorial Day didn’t die for this substitution. They fought against it.


Trump flagThe dead are unable to see the American flags posted at their graves or hear the sobering “Taps” that honors their sacrifice. Nor can they see the other flag that has taken its place on the flag pole where Old Glory once waved on Memorial Day. They didn’t die for this.

Like the dead, Memorial Day 2018 leaves me speechless.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, May 28 (Memorial Day), 2018.

Ruminations of an Old Paper Boy

INTRODUCTION: Views from the Edge publishes this reflection of John D. Miller, a fellow curmudgeon who looks at where and HOW we’re getting our news these days. John is serious, but he always has a twinkle in his eye. The links and photo have been added by Views from the Edge.

I was twelve years old when I got my first real job. I became a paper boy for The Capital Times of Madison, Wisconsin. It was an afternoon newspaper.

CapTimesMy bundles of papers would be dropped off at a certain place on the east side of the city. After school, I would fold them and put them into a big wire basket I bought for my bike. It was first business expense I ever had, but I did not know that at the time. Besides, Uncle Sam would not have cared.

I would peddle my papers in a six-square-block area between East Washington Avenue and East Johnson Street. About a third of the families in my entrepreneurial domain were subscribers.

On Sundays there was no Capital Times. Instead, I delivered The Wisconsin State Journal.The Times strongly leaned Democratic; the Journal was Republican. On Sundays, everybody in Madison was a Republican, I assumed.

This employment lasted for a year, until our family moved from the East Side to the West Side. Then, instead of peddling and reading The Capital Times, I just read it. When you’re in eighth grade, you don’t peddle papers any longer, for heaven’s sake, especially on the west side.

It is surprising that my parents, particularly my father, subscribed to the Times rather than the Journal, because they were Republicans. But Dad went to work before the State Journal could arrive. Neither he nor Mom had the time or inclination to read the paper in the morning, if there was one in our home to read. They wanted their news as fresh as possible in the late afternoon or evening when they sat down to read the paper. (This was before television came to Madison.)

In the nearly seventy years that have passed since I was a paper boy, the newspaper business has changed dramatically. In medium-sized cities, like Madison, there used to be at least two competing newspapers, a morning one and an afternoon one. In large cities there were three or more competing papers.

Now, in nearly every community large enough to sustain a daily newspaper, there is only one  paper, which is half the size it used to be. It also has well less than half the number of subscribers it used to have. Perhaps there might be another small struggling competitor on life support.

* * * *

My wife and I live in The Seabrook, a Hilton Head Island retirement community. When we first moved there, we had a young woman who delivered our Island Packet and USA Today to our door.  Before we moved to the retirement home, we also subscribed to the Wall Street Journal. I gave it up, though, because it was taking me at least two hours every morning just to read three newspapers, and I decided that was obsessively ridiculous.

After a while, our faithful, always-on-time young woman took another job. Then the papers began arriving at 8 AM or 9 AM or noon, or maybe not at all. We and our geezer neighbors were complaining. Geezers have taken a lifetime to learn how to become experts in the new avocation of their golden years, and they do it well.

So, unbeknownst to me, my wife called The Packet and said that if they would deliver all the newspapers for our entire retirement community to the door of our retirement building, WE would deliver the papers. Later, after I recovered from my shock of learning about my new journalistic position, she informed me that it is a community service, which it is, sort of. Its main drawback as a community service is that it begins at an ungodly hour each morning.

Thus, a year and a half ago, not long before I became 78 years old, I became a paper boy once again. I guess I’ll be one as long as I am able to wheel my sturdy wagon down the halls of The Seabrook.

* * * *

Since 1951, when The Capital Times depended on me to get the news to citizens in a six-square-block area just west of the East High School in Madison, Wisconsin, the news business has changed enormously. Television came in, much later cable network television came in, the Internet came in, and Facebook et alalso came in.

When cable news and the Internet were launched, newspapers started to lose subscribers. It was because they were an arm of the “cool media,” and thus were old-fashioned. Who knew?

In 1964, the Canadian philosopher and student of media Marshall McLuhan published an essay about the then relatively new medium of television. Soon thereafter he wrote a book which expanded on the essay. He intended to call it The Medium Is the Message.

When the proof for the book came back to him, the title has been miscopied. The typesetter had written The Medium Is the Massage. McLuhan was so delighted with the mistake that it became the new title for his book.

McLuhan’s thesis was that television is what he described as a “hot” medium. That is, it creates a symbiotic relationship between the individual and the screen. This does not happen in the print media, he said — newspapers, magazines, and books. The reason he went with the typo in the title is that he said that television “massages” us as the print media do not.

Most of us would probably agree with that. Surely that is correct for most of us. However, it should also be alarming to us, especially if we are easily massaged by television.

Furthermore, we would have to acknowledge that movies, live theater, speeches, lectures, and similar experiences affect us in ways that are markedly different from the way the printed word affects us.

On the other hand, for some of us there is something about reading words on a printed page that the hot media can never match. I shall call it “The Tactile Transfer.”

The word tactile has to do with touch. Physically to touch something is to engage in a tactile act of communication.

Reading is a tactile activity. We have to touch the pages to keep the newspaper, magazine, or book open.

But there is more to it than just that. Psychologically and mentally, some of us find reading a “hotter” way of gathering and storing information than the supposedly hot media provide us. By touching whatever we are reading, a transfer takes place to our memory and our brain. Reading, to us, is “cooler,” in the late twentieth century sense of that word, than it is for us to watch television or a movie or a play.

Only when I began writing this essay did I finally realize after several decades why I object almost so irrationally to the “technological media.” I would rather get my information from something I can actually touch than from the images or words on a screen, which I cannot touch; I can only touch the screen. The words are less “real” if they are digitalized than if they are imprinted onto paper.

I cannot scientifically explain the Tactile Transfer, but I can verify that for me it has happened for my entire life. For that reason there were many years I subscribed to as many as a dozen or fifteen magazines at a time. For the same reason I have read countless hundreds of books. Let me touch information with my fingers, and it transfers into my head far more readily than if I see it on a screen.

* * * *

Democracy is in trouble because newspapers are going out of business all over the world. For Tactile Transfer thinkers, that is a tragedy. We are convinced that all of us need newspapers and magazines. Everybody needs to touch printed news; it is the only news you can be fairly sure in accurate. Television and other such technological media will not be sufficient for us.

But why should democracy be in trouble if newspapers, magazines, and books become far less frequently employed as media for dispelling information? It is because we then will be forced to rely solely on the “hot media” to learn about the news of the world. And, as we have seen in the last few weeks, the Facebook debacle suggests that the hot media cannot be trusted as much as the “vetted media.”

To “vet” the news means that there are editors and experts and academics who look at news stories before they get publicized to determine whether what is proposed to go press or to go “viral” is accurate. To use a phrase much in the news for the past couple of years, is it fake news or is it real news? Is it truthful, or is it deliberately misleading?

Viral “news” can go out instantaneously from any computer operating anywhere in the world. There is no mechanism for checking its validity. It need not be accurate, and often it is not.

Nevertheless, increasing millions of people, perhaps in order to avoid having to pay for their news, are getting their news on-line. It is increasingly evident that they are not getting the straight scoop, to use a term of newspapers from long ago.

News that puts smudges of ink on your fingers is far more likely to contain vetted, accurate news than the Internet or your cell phone. Very unfortunately, hot media people have not yet widely admitted that. And until that happens, democracy will be in trouble, because elections can be won by means of what must be termed “genuinely fake news.”

All over the country most afternoon newspapers have gone out of business or have merged with the morning newspapers in those communities. Previously, one paper in those cities leaned toward the Republicans and the other toward the Democrats.

A friend emailed an article from The Washington Post that she had read on-line. Because it was from the Post, I considered it well vetted and thus reliable.

The article was entitled A once unimaginable scenario: no more newspapers. It was written by two Canadians, and it referred more to Canadian newspapers than American ones. They noted that two major newspaper publishing companies in Canada have gobbled up most of the newspapers there. They said it is predicted that one of those mega-journalistic enterprises will have fallen into insolvency within five years.

The writers also said that since 1994, American weekday print circulation of newspapers has gone from 60 million subscribers to 35 million subscribers. In that same period, advertising revenue dropped from $65 billion to $19 billion. No wonder newspaper corporations are consolidating or going bankrupt.

Who will uphold verification and balance in the news when newspapers are gone, the two writers wondered. Who will differentiate between vetted news and truly fake news if no professional journalists are involved in that process?

Many decades ago The Capital Times gave up the ghost in Wisconsin’s capital city. Now the Wisconsin State Journal is neither Republican nor Democratic; it is too much a blandly independent newspaper.

* * **

This morning I started my paper route in The Seabrook at the Fraser Center, our nursing wing, as I always do. The people there are up earlier than nearly everyone else in our neck of the woods.

When I walked by the nursing station, I saw a very elderly woman sitting in her wheelchair by the desk. She is 103 years old. I have known her for 39 years.

I asked her what she was doing at the nurses’ desk. In a typical humorous whispered aside, yet also with some degree of seriousness, she told me she was being held hostage there. A nurse overheard her, and said she had become confused, and had been trying to get out of bed. So they were keeping an eye on her until she became herself again, as she always does.

I tried to assure her everything would be all  right, but she seemed skeptical, and not altogether convinced. So I gave her her paper, and went to deliver papers to other patients. When I came back, she was busily scanning the pages of The Island Packet, as she has been doing for the past half-century, seeking the tactile transfer.

Old folks still love to read the paper. Too many people under sixty years of age do not. Part of the reason so many newspapers are going under is because too many of their elderly subscribers are going under the ground, and too few younger citizens are filling the gap.

It is dangerous for anyone to rely solely on the Internet or even on network televised news or cable news networks for their news. It behooves all of us as citizens to read newspapers and news magazines.

Being a paper boy was my first job. Being a paper boy may also be my last one. I’ll keep doing it as long as my elderly lower limbs will carry me.

Maybe McClatchy Newspapers should hire only old paper people to deliver papers. They are the ones who still believe in newspapers, and read them, and they want to read them early. However, no applicants should assume they will able to retire and live happily ever after in a retirement community on the remuneration thereof.

Nevertheless, as my wife correctly reminds me, it is a community service.

  — The Rev. John M. Miller has been the pastor of The Chapel Without Walls on Hilton Head Island for fifteen years. Prior to that he was the pastor of First Presbyterian Church from 1979 to 1996.

 

‘Code Red’ in America

Our democracy is in serious danger. … 

“This is ‘code red‘. The biggest threat to the integrity of our democracy today is in the Oval Office.”Thomas Friedman,”Whatever Trump Is Hiding Is Hurting Us Now,” NYT.

Thomas Friedman is known for being careful with his information, fresh in his analysis, beholden to no one. Friedman does not play partisan ‘Chicken Little‘ to gain an audience. Friedman’s NYT column calling this American moment ‘Code Red’ and the following conversation with Larry O’Donnell took place a month before yesterday’s disturbing news that on April 9 John Bolton, a discredited right wing hawk, will replace H.R. McMaster as National Security Advisor.

I never thought I’d see this day in America. Just when I think it can’t get worse, it does. Unless Congress stops it, Dr. Strangelove will be the president’s right hand man in the White House Situation Room.

Sunday night ‘60 Minutes‘ is scheduled to air Anderson Cooper’s interview with Stormy Daniels. Stormy claims she’s telling the truth. It will be the irony of ironies in a democratic republic if it should come to pass that a truth-telling pornography star alerts Congress and the larger public to the threat to democracy in the White House?

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 23, 2018.