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Genre Expectations and Reporting

From the world of politics and journalism is a lesson that no one is above genre expectations. In writing about it there is also a lesson that to essai is to often not come to the conclusions you thought you would when you started.




Slogans of the Ministry of Truth – 1984 by George Orwell

This past Saturday three men were beaten in Portland. One man was an elderly gentleman whose crime is unclear to me. The second man was a man whose crime was to come to the defense of the elderly gentleman. The third man was a gay man of Vietnamese descent.

The crowd that beat them was uniformly white.

For the most part these beatings have raised little concern in the media. You would think in an age when we are told white supremacist right wing violence is on the rise these would be all the national media discussed. When we are told that gay people have gone back to living in fear of violence you would think the intersection of race and sexuality would dominate the news cycle. In an age when we are told people live in fear of speaking up or standing up the brutal beating of a man who defended another man would draw outrage from people like J Lemon and Rachel Madow.

But it didn’t.

I failed to mention the gay Asian man is a freelance journalist.

Jim Acosta has a book describing the dangers he faces, such as having a microphone taken away at a press conference after he was asked a question. We are told the US is the most dangerous nation in the world for journalists.

However, we now have journalists telling us this gay Asian freelance journalist was asking for it. I’m surprised they have not told me what he is wearing.

The reason the media is for the most part is ignoring these three beating is the nature of the white mob that committed them.

That mob was Portland Antifa.

And, as Chris Cumo at CNN made clear, Antifa is on the side of the angels.

It’s just time to pay the price

For not listening to advice

And deciding in your youth

On the policy of truth

“Policy of Truth” by Depeche Mode

The reasoning they are on the side of the angels is, of course, Donald Trump is president. This reasoning ignores the repeated attacks on Trump supporters prior to the election. This inversion is important to understand how Donald Trump became president.

That violence against Trump supporters did not make Donald Trump president. The press justifying it as a fight against hate or outright ignoring it may have made Donald Trump president.

Right now I am betting it will keep him in the White House another four years.

The press response to these beating is not a new thing, except perhaps in what they are covering for and how brazen it is. Consider that, unique among presidencies in my lifetime, the press still contends that the Obama administration was remarkably scandal free.

It was scandal free only in that the press carried water for everything that had a whiff of scandal, no matter how minor. The House had found Attorney General Barr in contempt. The press informs us that is a scandal striking at the heart of the rule of law and is without precedent. It does have precedent. The House found the same of Eric Holder during that remarkably scandal free administration of Barrack Obama. Then it was the House that is out of bounds said the same people who call Barr’s presence a strike against the rule of law.

Then the press is amazed that Trump gets traction calling them fake news. The fake news accusation burns more than it might because originally the press used it against Trump’s statements.

The press is in very low regard and fail to understand they did it to themselves. Instead of correcting course and lining up behind Andy Ngo for the most part, CNN being a notable exception, they are all telling us “look at what he was wearing.”

So let’s all smash through

Through the fear of being real

Through the fear of being really you

“Go” by Tones on Tail

The press has a problem of genre. If your ask students at a school of journalism what they want to do, the most common answer is change the world. There is nothing wrong with wanting to change the world. It is an honorable estate in history. We honor the Suffragettes and the Abolitionists for not only seeking to change the world but accomplishing it.

Certainly, wanting to change the world is as valid as wanting to write dark science fiction. The problem occurs when people who write dark science fiction use some of the trappings and the names of hopeful science fiction. You can write Star Trek or you can write grim dark science fiction. You can even write both. What you cannot do is write them as the same thing.

The same is true of reporting. You cannot report what happened if what you choose to report is only things that support a particular narrative that you wish to use to change the world. Eventually you will be confronted with a contradiction. At the instant of the contradiction you must choose which objective, reporting what happened or reporting what will support a particular path of change.

After that choice people’s trust in your ability to pursue the role you rejected will diminish. At some point, you will choose one of the two often enough that you lose all credibility.

The journalists who are saying Andy Ngo deserved the assault he faced or should have known better (in fact he did, but he thought reporting was worth the risk) have made their choice. They have chosen to tell stories that encourage a specific change in the world.

They are within their rights to do so. It accords well with what they say they desire to do.

But it will sell much better if they label it the correct genre, activism, instead of the wrong one, journalism. Readers have genre expectations and success, both in sales and providing inspiration, are greater if you meet them. In fact, if you mislabel your genre you just might inspire the opposite of what you intended, as President Hillary Clinton will tell you.

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