This is my fight song.
Brace yourself for a long-winded response to uninformed media critics, including our presidential liar-in-chief. And pick up your hankies and smelling salts if you think you might faint at a profanity or three; this isn’t the essay for you.
I posted a simple meme on Facebook that just said, “They defend our freedom without a gun. Thank a journalist for their service.” (The editor in me wants to change that meme to “his or her service,” but I digress.)
And one relative responds with denigrating snark, while another essentially says, “Sure, you’re ethical, but most people in your field are not.” Now hold onto my head so it doesn’t actually explode. I am SO SICK of lazy-ass bigots using me and my colleagues as a scapegoat for their own discomfort at hearing that the president they elected is a dangerous and amoral loon.
SOOOOOOOO … here’s what I posted in response to those two cousins who I love but kind of want to choke this morning. Read and reflect.
I’M NOT THE LIAR BUT I KNOW WHO IS
Don’t be disingenuous. You’re trying to justify using an unfounded generality in a major smear campaign against my profession. And I won’t let you off that hook.
There are idiots and lying scumbags in EVERY field — say, in sheriff’s offices in Texas, as you may find if you peruse your former co-workers — and journalism is no different. But just like most people in life are decent, honest and ethical folks on the whole, so are journalists. They don’t have a disproportionate share of asshats, as evidenced by our asshat of a president and people in every other field, because they can easily point to dozens of unethical and stupid asshats.
It’s frankly lazy as shit of you and Bruce to just squeal, “Fake news!” because you heard your idiot-in-chief repeat it enough times until it turns into brainwashing-level indoctrination. You have NO BASIS for trying stupidly to indict an entire profession just because it’s inconvenient for you to critically examine a known liar, moral-free jackass who currently resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.
How about — instead of doubling down on the bullshit– you for a moment walk a mile in my shoes? Take a look:
ONE: I work for low wages in a high-stress, high-pressure, highly public field that is open to public scrutiny — IN PRINT — every single week. In past years, I’ve done it every single day when I worked for dailies. I’ve been in this field for most of my professional life, which started back in 1985; I have a few turns around the track on my resume. And most journalists have lifelong careers in the field or in related fields, because it’s not something you just wander into without really investing yourself in it.
TWO: An entitled and stupid president who just doesn’t like being called on his documented lies and bullshit decides to start a public, highly vocal, widespread and completely uninformed and petulant smear campaign against your profession. A difficult profession where you invest your whole heart for low wages and high stress because you just freaking love it and you think you make a difference in a messy and damaged world for the betterment of everyone. One major reason you love it is that you help to lift the veil of ignorance for your fellow citizens; you go to the many-hours-long board meetings and pore over city budgets and police reports. You interview people who want to squeal on an illegal business just down the street from them, and you talk to business owners about their successes, and you cover the sad story when an innocent family’s gorgeous home accidentally burns to the ground. You put your heart and brain and everything you’ve got into the work. And when you think of your readers, you think about the fact that in some ways you’re their spokesman who knows how to speak truth to power and how to research and how to write stories that inform, entertain and provoke thought.
So then there’s this very prominent babbling shit-gibbon of a president spewing a river of bullshit — with bobbing chunks of malice swirling in the currents — about you and your kind.
[This note was in my original post to my cousin on Facebook, FYI. – cb] Jan: At least one of your past jobs was as a skip tracer for a sheriff’s office in Texas, right? So I’ll use that as an example below. Buckle up. (IMPORTANT CAVEAT: If you know me at all, you know that NONE of what I’m writing in the point below is what I really think about your field; I have respect for you and your work. I’m going to smack it around for a few sentences, though, to give you the feels on this.)
THREE: Let’s say that the governor of Texas is a major media hog, embroiled in scandals and lawsuits, with demonstrated unethical practices in both his personal and professional life. And let’s say he has some weight to throw around. And because he has a personal bug up his ass about law enforcement, let’s say he works into every speech something like this: “Well, as you know, I’m a stable genius — believe me, I’m bigly awesome — but I can’t seem to get it through the abnormally thick skulls and inbred brains of the lying idiots in XYZ County’s sheriff’s office. I mean, there’s no wonder they are underpaid — they’re not worth more! I have caught them in so many lies; it’s unbelievable. You won’t believe the number of bribes they take, and the laws they break themselves, all the time. The so-called ‘sovereign citizens’ have it right — ‘Fuck the police,’ and ‘Fuck the sheriff’s deputies.’ They are all incompetent, manipulative and disgusting people who would rather lie than breathe. I’m just telling the truth!”
And let’s say his crowd of head-nodding bobbleheads starts chanting — at every public appearance he makes — “Fake police! Police brutality! Fuck the thin blue line! Have you challenged an officer tonight? LET’S DO IT!”
Every. Single. Time. He. Speaks. For a year. And he’s broadcast to a world of people who are fed up with challenges in their own lives and who are feeling very put-upon by life in general, so they are eager to find some scapegoat for their collective discontent.
And then let’s say you go on Facebook with people you love who decide it would be fun to tell ya, “Well, YOU seem okay, but most of the people who you work with and respect are really just scumbags. You can’t get mad at me for telling the truth!”
Yeah. I can.
I know who the liars and unethical people are. And they are not me and my colleagues.
FOUR, to my cousins and the world: Do you maybe, kinda, sorta, just a little bit, a teensy-weensy bit, GET IT now?