Schmuck of the Week: CNN Endorsed Trump’s Fake News in the Debate

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Schmuck of the Week: CNN Endorsed Trump’s Fake News in the Debate

Schmuck of the Week is a new subscriber-only column I debuted last week detailing Donald Trump coin, probably(?) run by famed criminal pharma-bro Martin Shkreli. This week, and for the next few, it will be free in an attempt to show folks what they’re actually paying for. I detailed why you should subscribe to Splinter here, as this monopolistic world has rendered the traditional content business model insufficient, and it is clear that subscriptions must be part of any sustainable content-generating business model so long as our government thinks that tech monopolies are super cool. The vast majority of Splinter will still be free, but we have to create some value-add for the kind folks willing to support us most. Paste is sharing twenty-five percent of subscription revenue with all our writers too, putting their money where their mouth is in their dedication to provide a proper home for valuable sites like Splinter, Jezebel, and AV Club.

This week’s Schmuck of the Week is everyone at CNN involved with last night’s farce of a presidential debate. No one benefited more from Joe Biden’s complete and total implosion than they did. CNN should be thanking the president for centering panicked concerns about his health and cognitive state today, because otherwise the story would be how the entire network produced a debate that was the antithesis of journalism. In a sane world, last night would put to rest the notion that Jake Tapper and Dana Bash are journalists. They’re glorified game show hosts who get paid to squint and nod in a way that is pleasing to American power’s lizard brain.

There was no fact-checking in the debate by design. The only interpretation you can take from that format for what CNN billed a “historic debate” is that it was an expression of CNN’s ideals. There are a lot of great journalists further down in their organizational chart, but the upper echelons of CNN have clearly eschewed even the pretense of doing journalism at this point. Their farcical post-show fact-check after every non-TV news brain damaged person in America had turned the debate off was worth less than nothing. Daniel Dale is a terrific journalist, but next to Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, he serves the same purpose as all of Fox News’ journalists: to provide cover for the cynical entertainers directing their programming.

Donald Trump used “Palestinian” as a slur to describe Joe Biden. Trump said that immigrants are “taking black jobs now.” Every other word out of Trump’s mouth was a lie, and Jake Tapper and Dana Bash let it all happen with no pushback nor clarification. Joe Biden was put in a handicap match last night, where CNN and Donald Trump teamed together to unleash a hurricane of bullshit on a sundowning old man. Everyone associated with that debate on CNN’s side should be ashamed today, and if you aren’t, that’s how you know you’re not a journalist.

Journalism is not stenography for the powerful, no matter how bad servile stenographers like Jake Tapper want it to be. It’s about ascertaining the truth, which is a tricky endeavor. Epistemology can get pretty trippy once you start drilling down on how you know what you really know. What we consider to be objective reality is constantly changing and evolving, so instead of standing in place and asserting that is the real truth, it is better to adhere to a set of principles to help us navigate these rocky waters. Principles like real-time fact-checking when people are actually watching and have an opportunity to be informed instead of putting it in the third segment of your shitty post-debate panel where the only value anyone brought was being a conduit to panicked Democratic Party apparatchiks finally being forced to confront their candidate’s signature glaring weakness.

What CNN and many TV news networks produce is not journalism. Infotainment is the most common name for it, but I would assert that Trump’s charge of fake news is the best literal description of what people like Jake Tapper and Dana Bash do every day. They sit on a set that looks like a news broadcast and they talk about the news of the day, but they don’t adhere to any kind of journalistic standards other than the ones they and their masters in power have made up for themselves. It’s a fake version of the real thing.

Last night’s debate format springs from the bird-brained centrist worldview so helpfully articulated by a speechwriter for Michael Bloomberg this week, who penned an insane pro-slavery essay at the Washington Post, as it is rooted in the mythology surrounding the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Those are supposedly the pinnacle of American intellectualism, as we allowed two titans of their time to spend hours debating things like whether or not black people should be returned to their captors after escaping slavery to northern freedom. These simpletons genuinely seem to believe that a debate between two biased parties without any journalistic interference is good journalism.

Now to be Fair and Balanced™ like our cable news overlords brand themselves, here’s a guy who got hit in the head on a weekly basis for over a decade thinking that actually, CNN did great.

Trump would lie and then Jake Tapper or Dana Bash would literally say “thank you Mr. President.” If nearly every journalist out there is lamenting CNN’s decision to side-step any attempt to inform their viewers, but a famous football player is saying it was good entertainment, that’s about as good of a descriptor of where CNN is headed as you will see. That they introduced commercial breaks into the presidential debates for the first time was CNN’s most honest moment last night. TV news isn’t designed to inform viewers, it’s designed to carry them commercial to commercial with a shallow spectacle of political entertainment pretending to be news. It’s fake news.

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