The Outrageous Malfeasance of the Press in the Trump Era

When I was in rehab long ago, I was taught how to “play the tape out to the end” when considering thoughts about drinking. This was a metaphor used to teach us that alcoholic thoughts never include the inevitable damage from our actions. Hence, the need to deliberately stop and think about how it will end, which reveals that we are the authors of our own bad habits and their results.

This remarkable exercise teaches us that we can’t always trust the thoughts that drift through our minds like a herd of wild horses. We don’t have to mount every single thought, and this is enormously freeing to the addict. Who knew?

This way of thinking is relevant in our politics today, for while we’re all thinking about today’s latest self-centered and damaging proclamations coming from the West Wing, we really don’t think much about where it’s all going. The press is ignorant of the truth about how we got here and where we’re going.

The press simply can’t believe what’s in front of them, because they try to understand it through their lens as “professional” observers.

The Trump administration was put in place as part of a vast criminal conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. Government using bogus tax exemptions to fund it. This conclusion is based on my own experience and the reading of Anne Nelson’s stunning investigative work in her book Shadow Network.

The Trump administration was not simply a political switch, because Trump’s organization functions more as a criminal enterprise than leaders of the free world. Bullying, suing, projection, and downright lies are the weapons of this régime (and that’s a good word for it). By any standard of thinking, this is evident above and beyond the mere distractions that the press attempts to report within the construct of our usual political system. The problem is that there’s NOTHING usual at all about what’s been foisted upon us by first class manipulators of truth. In fact, the Trump Administration exists as a conduit through which flows the aspirations of big, corporate business, also known as the one percent. Big business has overtaken the government, and there’s nothing “legal” about it.

Trump’s régime gets away with it, because he has tickled the ears of white evangelical Christians with promises that he really cares about them and serves their best interests. He doesn’t, because it’s not in his nature, which is to lie, sue, retaliate and threaten. Folks, he’s been doing this his entire life, and his most significant business history is bankruptcy and failure to pay his bills. He’s not the President, for he simply isn’t competent to handle such a job; he’s much akin to a crime boss, and it doesn’t take any “analysis” whatsoever to figure that out.

Good grief, where is the press?

They are far too busy being complicit in the takeover. In trying to shape the news based on old paradigms, including Daniel Hallin’s Spheres of Consensus, Legitimate Debate, and Deviance. But the Trump Administration violates our laws with impunity and the under the threat of lawsuits. It’s not the American way; it’s Donald Trump’s way. And, again, there’s nothing new about Donald Trump.

Attempts to intervene are painted as political, because that’s the only thing the “savvy” press understands. But they’re not political, because they flow from the hearts of people wanting nothing more than to inject a specific brand of religious fundamentalism into the public square. Unawares, these Christians are risking their own salvation in supporting the idolatry of political power over trusting that nothing happens under the sun without God’s approval. They are on very dangerous ground, because their zealotry has been manipulated by people much smarter than they are. Will God hold them accountable? You bet, because that’s the way life works.

The press ignores religion, which gives those driven by religion the ability to speak past the media and directly to their constituencies. And when the press actually “covers” religion, they reach into the sphere of deviance to do so. This is the great shortcoming of the press as it tries to make sense of the world around us in these troubled times. It’s terribly stupid, not to mention naïve and fearful.

It’s particularly gobsmacking to watch these high priests of journalism fawn over each other in their weak and pathetic attempts to provide us with insight and direction for the future. Wake up, press representatives, or we’re going to end up in serious trouble as a nation.

Does anybody remember Steve Bannon and his vision to reinvent government? Friends, our government doesn’t need reinvention and especially not in the views expressed by Bannon. The press has forgotten that he was the architect of Trump’s victory in 2016. Just read his own words and draw your own conclusions:

I’m a Leninist. Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.

The women that would lead this country would be pro-family, they would have husbands, they would love their children. They wouldn’t be a bunch of dykes that came from the Seven Sisters schools up in New England. That drives the left insane and that’s why they hate [conservative] women.”

Fear is a good thing. Fear is going to lead you to action.

And we’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict, of which if the people in this room, the people in the church, do not bind together and really form what I feel is an aspect of the church militant, to really be able to not just stand with our beliefs, but to fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting, that will completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years.

The church militant? Would somebody please show me this in the Bible? Are we talking about the Crusades? Onward Christian Soldiers?

Bannon has declared his intention to become “the infrastructure, globally, for the global populist movement.” Right. And he needs the church for this? God bless America!

We need to heed well the words of John Milton in calling out certain people who similarly wanted power, “License they mean when they cry liberty.” Exactly, because this group doesn’t believe in responsibility to others; it’s all about power under the sun. They think their radical form of conservatism is something new. It’s not. We’ve seen this before from those who’ve wanted dominance over the planet.

“Conservative non-profit” is a euphemism for the radical right’s playbook. A tax exemption can be a license to steal, and the extreme right has used such to fund themselves illegally, for the IRS is (was?) very particular when it comes to political action funded through tax exemptions. I know, because we lost our 501©3 status at CBN for the years 1986 & 1987 and paid a substantial penalty for doing exactly that. You simply can’t use such tax exemptions for political purposes, but it’s a moot argument as long as Republicans control the administration. If the Democrats retake the White House in November, watch for wholesale actions by the IRS (something you won’t hear about from the press until it happens).

To be sure, there are facets of the press who are actively working to present our current danger to the people, but their efforts don’t speak to the underlying realities. Anne Nelson has done the initial investigation.

How about the rest of us pick up the ball and run with it?

Raise Your Hand If You’re Going To Heaven

Golf’s attraction for the rich isn’t merely the game

Private Country Club life is an important part of the American aristocracy, and not merely because they enjoy the game. Private clubs especially shield their members from those whom they deem unwanted, primarily over what happens after the rounds of golf, where privacy affords these mostly white, older men the opportunity to discuss maintaining their control over the masses in order to produce wealth for themselves.

They are very well-connected and serve their own best interests.

They are the Inner Ring of C.S. Lewis and the Shadow Network of Anne Nelson. They are the puppeteers of Edward Bernays and the invisible government made possible through his innovative propaganda.

They have their reward in this life, and as Jesus taught us, it’s harder for them to enter the Kingdom of Heaven than even shoving a rope through a needle’s eye. To them, the salvation of believers is made to order for their manipulation, because with eyes focused on their promised Christian afterlife, the things of this life don’t really matter so much. Christian believers, then, assert that their future is set and promised, which excuses any sort of behavior in the name of saving the lost.

Heaven, therefore, is the ultimate Inner Ring, which fills church halls with, “Thank God, I made it!” The hugs, the handshakes, the joyful dancing in the aisles, the lifting of the hands, the emotional worship, the altar calls, the music, all of it flows from their spirits to themselves and those around them in a relentless expression of “I’m going to Heaven.”

Dante’s Inferno begins thusly:

Midway on our life’s journey, I found myself
In dark woods, the right road lost.

‘Lest we find ourselves in Dante’s dark woods, let us heed the warnings of the Good Book about liars and thieves among us.

I may not be able to lose my salvation, but I can give it away. Free will, you know. Why would I do that? Because the devil is a liar and the father of all lies. What greater deception is there than to rest on one’s laurels, confident in our belief that we’re going to Heaven?

He is THE wolf in sheep’s clothing, so his evil intent is hidden from us.

I am saved, and I am free, but I’m not called to use my freedom to right the wrongs of the world under the sun. I’m given grace in the first place to safely ride out those storms, not to try and control them.

And this is how I lose myself amidst the shadows of Dante’s dark woods.

Until politically active Christian people (almost entirely white) can recognize and admit their role in all this, we’re going to have to deal with the fall-out. God’s judgment is upon us, but that judgment is reserved first for those who are called by His name. This is the great mystery to me. How can believers honestly think this way? Here’s an inconvenient little piece of scripture that contemporary Christians apparently don’t have to read:

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." Matthew 7:1-5

We all know the teachings of Jesus at the end of Matthew 25. He’s talking with the disciples before he is arrested and sentenced to die on the cross. As usual, the disciples want his insight on the end of all things under the sun.

This section of the Bible is highly relevant to today, for He speaks of who on earth will be invited into heaven and who will enter the fire. The dividing line is simple; it rests entirely on how each have treated their neighbors. Listen and be afraid, for there are elements among us today who skip this teaching in the name of advancing a political agenda.

"‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

We need to be careful today in casting our lot with those who tickle our ears with the prosperity that takes from the very people Jesus mentioned in this sermon. Despite what others are telling us, we need to stand with Jesus in how we deal with our neighbors, for ethnicity and legal status don’t matter at all.

Christians today don’t want to assimilate with a culture they see as corrupt and secular and non-white. Hence, the mistaken belief that they are supposed to fix it politically or “Come out from among them and be ye separate.” This would be fine, if it didn’t bleed over into every nook and cranny of the culture, especially with those who don’t believe the same things.

"There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers." Proverbs 6:16-19

The mistake of the white evangelicals is the insistence that God’s Word speaks to the culture and not the church. It eliminates the need for self-examination, that God’s judgment begins at the house of God.

The betrayal of the church in these days is leading their flocks to despise and reject their neighbors in the interest of ultimate self-protection in the afterlife.

And that, my friends, isn’t Christianity at all.

The Christian Right’s Appalling Lack of Faith

Anne Nelson

Anne Nelson’s brilliant investigative account of the growth and influence of the Christian Right (Shadow Network) is a powerful indictment of the church in America. Nelson paints the picture of a handful of people — including my old boss Pat Robertson — who developed a group called the Council for National Policy (CNP) in 1981 with the sole purpose of turning the country to the right.

Guess what? It worked, and these people represent the shadow government that Pat told us at CBN was necessary to turn the country from sin. Let us never make the assumption that the CNP was strictly a conservative political organization; its roots run deep in the practice of a narrow form of Christianity. The constant references to “Biblical” mandates alone is sufficient evidence to reveal those roots. More secular conservatives were hesitant to alter this focus, because they were witnessing the birth and growth of a whole new slew of Republican voters.

The clever use of propaganda to create a narrative of a “lost” nation that God wanted restored to its original intent, as defined by them, of course, was the basis for political action. As I’ve written many times, it was actually pretty easy, because current events at the time were easily presented as secularism as pitched by the left. So, not only did this narrative portray themselves as righteous but their political “enemy” as Godless. What 700 Club viewer would ever argue with it?

It takes a work like Ms. Nelson’s to fully see the drift these Christians made from faith in God to faith in man. Of course, they believed that God was calling them to this, but in pronouncing God’s unhappiness with the culture, they missed any thought that would suggest a self-centered core. Besides, the Bible clearly states that God’s judgment begins with the house of God, not the culture separate from the church. It’s much more accurate, therefore, to suggest that cultural sin is the result of the church abandoning its salt and light mission and not any separate rise of sin in the culture.

What’s astonishing to me — as a guy who was there — is how far this organization drifted from trusting God in any way and instead pressing for their form of government to take care of its flock. It is perhaps the greatest heresy in the history of Christianity, and the ramifications for future generations are profound.

“Some trust in horses, some in chariots, but we will remember the name of the Lord, our God.”

When Pat told us we needed to form a “shadow government” that would take over when everything collapsed, he claimed the message was from God. We believed him and the 700 Club grew increasingly political, as Pat himself prepared to run for President in 1988. Honestly, that Ms. Nelson came up with the same kind of phrase for her book is more than coincidental, and it has helped my own personal mission to turn this mess on its ear.

Consumed by earthly power, these once well-intended believers have drifted far away and placed their very salvation in jeopardy.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Assuming the pearly gates will open for those who abandon the faith to pursue political dominance is a very dangerous thought. Moreover, in politically abandoning the poor and the afflicted in the name of suburban white well-being is sticking thumbs in the eyes of God. How dare we?

“Well, I trust God, but…”

Don’t get me wrong. These people have a right to their beliefs and to behave accordingly, but what they cannot do is alter the gospel in so doing. The “teach a man to fish” premise promoted by the right is a logical fallacy, for it assumes all the bodies of water everywhere are packed with fish and that access to the best equipment for the job is equal for all. It’s not, and that carves a giant hole at the bottom of this nonsense. When Jesus fed the 5,000, he didn’t just hand out fishing poles and bait. C’mon, people!

He simply fed them.

Everything about the white Christian Right is based in selfishness and protecting oneself from being removed from the inner ring they fear leaving. “I’ve got mine” is the shadowy unspoken position of this group. Pretending to be FOR others is overshadowed by desperation born of a fear that what they have will be taken away from them, and this is a powerful and manipulative thought that’s exploited by leaders with their own agenda.

The right question for them is “where is God in all of this?” The answer is He’s far away and watching this desperation trample over those for whom Jesus died.

Here’s a giant, public thank you to Anne for her important work. Let us all be wise as serpents as we call this what it truly is — an act of the flesh disguised as one of faith in God.

I tremble at their ultimate fate.

TV News Is Its Own Worst Enemy

On the desk in Milwaukee late 1970s. Typewriters. Film. Wall maps. Rich content.

I’m aghast at the imagery of network reporters being abused, treated as criminals, and rebuked by the con man pretending to be our President. It reminds me most of 1968, when what appeared to be anarchy was quieted by the law and order campaign of Richard Nixon. That’s not possible today, for law and order are the twin demons responsible for everything. Oh, Terry, just shut up.

I can’t do that, because “the news” is in fact a part of today’s problem, although most in the press would dismiss that as ignorance.

I can’t write about this without first declaring my sincere hope that the following doesn’t turn out to be one of those old man rants about the way things used to be. There will be some of that, of course, but I’m hoping that the overall tone is one of intelligent argument. For the record, I cut my teeth in the television news world in the early 70s on the assignment desk in Milwaukee. The reason that’s important is that at that time, news was a very difficult business in Milwaukee. We had a mayor’s office with hard rules of no contact with the company that I worked for at the time. We also had a police chief with dictatorial control over law enforcement. The only police officer authorized to speak to the media was the chief of detectives. I guess the point is we had to be resourceful.

The other dynamic at work was that we hadn’t become a profit center yet, so we had no reason to behave by anybody’s financial rules. With profit margins often hovering around 50%, there was no requirement to cut costs. This is to say that news people today wouldn’t recognize what we had, even though it’s clearly glamorized in textbooks, fiction, and movies.

What I’d really like to present here is the differences in the way I thought versus my competition, because it makes a statement about one of the reasons the press today plays the role of instigator far more than it thinks.

To begin, I need to digress for a moment to tell you a story from my own experience in the business. As the decade turned from the 70s into the 80s, I was working as the host and producer of PM Magazine for WHAS-TV in Louisville, Kentucky. I was also musical and played the 5‑string banjo, so I was selected to be the host of our live coverage Friday night and Saturday night of the Bluegrass Music Festival of the United States. It was my first experience with being the host on live TV, and I was terrified. The first night went great. The videos of earlier performances came and went without a hitch thanks to my natural commentary and ideal conditions. Everything went well, and my producer and boss, George Hulcher, thought it was an outstanding performance by everybody. It was.

However, Saturday night turned to crap immediately, because we were a CBS affiliate, and CBS was carrying the U.S. Open tennis tournament and that most memorable, 5‑set match between John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors. We started about 90-minutes late, which wouldn’t have been a problem except that the final act of the night was EmmyLou Harris, and EmmyLou had some requirements for the festival, including having our entire set struck and put away by the time her performance began. The sun had already set, and it was too dark for me to be seen anywhere. So production gave me a single photographer and a night light and put us in the middle of thousands of drunk EmmyLou fans. We came out of the final videotape to me, as George said over my earphone, “I’m sorry, Terry, but you have FIVE minutes to fill.” The light came on, and suddenly everybody around me came to life with noise, shouts, vulgarities, and revelry. It was the most embarrassed I’ve ever been. The plan for me to talk to fans went out the window, because these folks obviously didn’t care when they said or did, so I basically told my life story about bluegrass surrounded by this loud and crazy mob.

That was the night I left the park immediately and took a Greyhound to see family in Chicago and just steamed about it. I swore I’d NEVER let anybody I was producing end up in a situation like that. It was also the night I decided that on-the-air work just wasn’t for me. I’d already had much knowledge about the disruptive nature of TV cameras in public, and especially with a bright light that pierces the darkness.

Going live from newsworthy locations is a production, promotional, and presentation technique and little more. Its domination of television newscast production strains credulity, but nobody complains, especially about what happens to the news itself in the process. This “innovation” in “storytelling” was led by technology, news consultants, and producers who wanted to generate artificial drama in the presentation of television news. So, what happens when the drama present is real and unpredictable?

Look at it this way. “Live” reports are an effect in the nomenclature of TV production. Effects are only effective when they’re not presented as the norm. Just what we wanted, eh? Live for live’s sake overtakes everything else, and we’re left with a useless effect that’s no longer effective in stacking a news program.

So, what we’re witnessing today — with police treating the press the same way they’re treating protestors — is what happens when you put reporters in the middle of things — like my EmmyLou Harris experience — you end up with potentially great drama but also reporters miffed that they can’t do their jobs in the process. People, in the final analysis, didn’t we do this to ourselves? Going live serves a useful, journalistic end, but it also tilts the story towards those who are telling it and away from what’s happening behind or in front of them. There’s no way we should allow our reporters to become the story, but this is what’s being taught in our schools and in our practice. “Involve yourselves in the story as if YOU are the audiences eyes and ears” sounds terrific until it’s put into actual practice, wherein they actually alter the story by drawing attention to themselves. Not always, mind you, but enough that we ought to take a step back for a moment and think about what we’re doing.

As a television news director — and more so as an assignment manager — much of my daily focus was on what could or would be our lead story. The smaller the market, the more difficult the task and not because the police blotter was any less dominant, but because newsworthy human behavior is more obscured and the ability to uncover it is restricted by a community that works hard to keep such things under wraps. I knew a young reporter on Kawaii, for example, who worked for the local cable company and was forbidden from reporting on automobile accidents involving anybody other than tourists. This was to “protect” the local citizenry from embarrassment or residual difficulties. Granted, this was extreme, but the story reveals how difficult it can be to cover the news when the audience is your neighbors.

The point is that finding that lead story was not easy, so it was my number one priority, and I was very good at getting inside the community’s mind through data research and getting to know those who were well-connected and in the know. Knowing how important family (Ohana) was to Hawaiian people, for example, I accepted an appointment to the Governor’s Commission on the Family, which opened the door to endless stories and trends.

News stories never exist in a vacuum; they must be nurtured through contacts, sources, and especially an understanding of how things work locally. Who really calls the shots? It’s rarely anybody elected, but you wouldn’t know that from watching the local news. It requires shoe leather and especially an abiding curiosity about community thinking. Only in that way can you reasonably expect to become an essential part of the area’s information leadership. This is something you want, because it will lead to trust and eventually viewership.

In Huntsville, for example, I needed to know who the movers and shakers were, so we sent letters to people in positions to know (like the “committee of 100”, etc.) and asked them to anonymously give us names. The result was a series of reports about what we’d learned. Our senior anchor did the interviews, but the real value of such a project was to find our way to the inside track of community development, which led to a great many other stories downstream. GREAT reporters help, of course, but they need the evidentiary push that such knowledge can provide.

This ability to focus clearly on what community leaders felt was important and understanding the “why” was one of the things that undergirded my reputation as a news director. I still strongly believe that coverage is the best path to status and to tangible news leadership in the market. My colleagues in the news consulting business would argue that marketing is the answer here, along with consistent branding within the language of the newscasts, and I don’t disagree. However, I think the marketing mission is made so much easier with coverage that “makes” news instead of waiting for it to come to us. Instead of homogenized “investigating” gleaned from what “worked” in another market, our value proposition should be based on local knowledge, values, and mission.

Presentation and language are super important, but what’s being presented and marketed is vastly more important than how it’s presented. That doesn’t mean (at all) that presentation and marketing aren’t important. They very much are, but in the place where newsrooms hold their editorial meetings — which the promo boys attend — they should address not the newscast but the news itself. Some days may require a totally different form of presentation, but creativity often goes out the window when placed in a box of one-potato, two-potato, three-potato, four. And, the bigger the market, the more likely presentation matters over content.

So, I was always a coverage guy, and I was eager to offer undergirding data and information that would allow reporters to blossom and grow their own curiosity and skills at identifying and telling stories.

At the time I was there, Richmond was the per capita murder capital of the country. Lots of stories had been done, but the year we topped 200 murders, I had one of our reporters put numbers 1–200 on poker chips and put them in a big basket. She then randomly selected five numbers for a series that we called “Remember Me.” The reporter did profiles of each of the five victims in an effort to share their humanity. It was stunningly powerful and attention-getting.

In Chattanooga, I drew up a challenging plan for us to examine religion in the Tennessee Valley. We surveyed the population and created a mailing list of clergy in order to give them the same survey. The differences between their answers and the answers from the public formed the basis for two weeks worth of stories that we shared with one of the local papers. The series — dubbed “I Believe” — lasted a month and doubled our ratings. Had I stayed there, it would’ve become a weekly franchise.

Believing that the people in the newsroom always knew more than outsiders, I always surveyed my staff to understand their grasp of the issues and our coverage. It was a great way to begin my own investigation and to implement a philosophy for us to follow. Each market was different, and if coverage is to be your foundation, it had to be founded in purpose and community leadership. Such knowledge is essential in dismissing pretenders with self-serving eyes on forcing themselves into acceptance of other community leaders.

For this, I chose to remain in small and mid-sized markets, which my critics used to tag me with the pejorative title of “journeyman.” I was nobody’s “manager,” so I really had no use for long-term babysitting of a newsroom. I was more of a fixer of newsrooms than the manager of any organization, and that required that I move around a lot.

Local television news is mostly about the weather these days. It’s the one thing local stations can do that others cannot, because it’s one of the few information sources where proximity still matters. Of course, proximity could matter more, if the people working in our newsrooms were trained more to think than to “present”.

I noticed a change in such people during my career, and so I put this question into my interviews with job candidates: “Why did this business choose you?” Early on, most of my colleagues were former newspaper people who were seriously into the idea of making a difference with their lives. As the 80s came and went, most of the candidates answering my question told an almost identical story: “When the local TV anchor came to my school, I just KNEW this was what I wanted to do.” Not only is that long distance from making a difference, but it’s remarkably self-centered. It’s like saying “I want to be on TV”, which is not far from those with a simple cell phone go these days.

And, who do they emulate? The news people who are bound to the identity they created for themselves in this crazy world that we call television journalism today.

The Power to Say “No”

Disclaimer: Entire books have been written on this topic, so my handling of it may seem shallow to some. Sorry, but I don’t feel I’m supposed to write such a project, but I do think it’s worth discussing here.

The most important aspect of human life is consciousness and, especially, the mind. The human mind is the command and control mechanism for all of the systems, processes, and behaviors that make us human. Science doesn’t go here, because it requires grappling with human nature and things that cannot be measured in the scientific way. All we have is anecdotal evidence, and no scientist worth her credentials would be so foolish as to give their stamp of approval to such. Even the science of the mind — also known as psychology or psychiatry — admits as much, and this is across the widest possible slice of the à la carte menu of mental health treatments.

I recall when Sandra Seich and I put together our company ANSIR (A New Style In Relating), we spoke to a great many psychologists, both clinical and counseling practitioners about our instrument. This spectrum is fascinating, for one relies entirely on science and scientific theories, whereas the other offers a more holistic approach. What we discovered was the counseling psychologists are patient-focused and, therefore, open to all kinds of ideas and options. Clinical psychologists, however, are driven almost entirely by scientific methodology. As several people told us in analyzing our personality test, the more scientific the test, the less useful it becomes in counseling actual people. This is because science demands broad, provable categories to study, while counseling psychologists tend to see each individual patient as unique within the symptoms presented. You can judge for yourselves which is for you.

The point is we don’t “know” much about the human mind, even though countless investigators have tried. For this, we must turn to other practices including religion, pseudoscience, countless non-religious yet spiritual institutions, such as New Age thinkers, and even the anecdotal experiences of professionals within the field. This of course fits nicely within the realm of quackery and deviance, which is another reason science wants nothing to do with it.

Even what can be considered breakthrough schools of thinking receive skeptical responses from those colleagues who stick to their scientific guns in defending against the relentless growth of mental health issues within our culture. While mental health is tricky to navigate — and for whatever the cause — those poor suffering souls I’ve known in my life (self included) all seem to have lost the ability to say “no”. The real mystery is why and, perhaps more importantly, what to do about it.

Knowing that it’s not good for us, why do we sneak that piece of cake just before bedtime? Why do we “just have to” gaze at the beauty of comeliness and covet possession of the same? After awhile on the river of alcohol consumption, why is it that the first thing we think of upon awakening from a spree with a hangover is doing it again? Why do we allow friends to convince us to do things we know we ought not to do? And, why do we get so defensive when observers of our behavior try to help us, and why do we agree with those who say that regardless of the cause (if there is one), modifying behavior is the only process that can help.

We do so, because the alternatives are considered beneath our dignity. Perhaps our problems are not the problem but rather our inability to reject a course of behavior that will eventually lead us to ruin. The Apostle Paul wrote that he was perplexed by his own behavior, in that he would do the things he knew he should not do, and that he would not do the things he knew he should do. “O wretched man that I am,” he wrote. “Who can deliver me from this bond of death?”

Trauma only makes matters worse, for our reactions to trauma seem to set us up for future mental health difficulties, such as anxiety and depression. Why does this effect some and not others, or does trauma have a way of forcing an escape from reality? Is it not all wound around an inability to say no, whether it’s forced or assumed? And, is the cause at all related to the cure? Do we simply just need to say no?

Bob Newhart’s wonderful skit about a psychologist who’s only treatment is the use of the words “stop it” is a marvelous illustration of the foolishness of such thinking. That’s because we think of these problems in terms of ownership, and it defies logic to give up what we have. “My” illness. “My” condition. “My aches and pains. “My” anxiety. “My” relatives. “My” ex. “My” helplessness. “My” upbringing. “My” uniqueness. “My” cancer. “My” fibromyalgia. My” suffering. “My” affliction. “My” thorn in the flesh. “My” depression. And so forth.

No, no, no, no, a thousand times no!

Look, afflictions are real. Diseases are real. We’re not talking about the things of the flesh. However, when we take ownership of such, we’ve entered dangerous territory, for such things do not actually define us. If that were the case, we should all hide our heads in hopelessness. The truth is that these things stand in the way of self-discovery, and that is a spectacular piece of self-deception, one that’s based in our senses under the sun. Healing, therefore, is found — is often found — in the here and in the now, for that is the time and place of life, and life rejects all forms of artificial death, e.g. “poor me”. Like many other things in life, it isn’t the affliction that causes our suffering, per se, but rather our reaction to it.

It’s time to talk about the Biblical devil, for evil is always the outcome of self-deception, whether big or small. If the devil is the “father of all lies,” then his realm must be the human ego, for that is the person within us that often makes the decisions for us — for our protection, of course — especially in times of stress. For purposes of this discussion, let’s define evil as that which draws us from the here and now with its incumbent rejection of any life that exists beyond the sun. This results in all forms of inhuman behavior, including those events that seem to lead our news reports hour-by-hour. Man’s inhumanity towards man ought not to dominate our minds as it relates to life, for this is a profound limitation to our lives under the sun. There’s absolutely nothing “new” about it, for the matter of evil is part and parcel of our nature.

Are babies born innocent and later “learn” selfishness? That’s illogical and provably so, because crying when hungry is most certainly a form of self expression. To argue that a baby learns this through trial and error is to deny the first screams and tears. Yes, she learns that it works, but where does that initial behavior originate? The senses demand to be heard, but at the same time, they send false signals of satisfaction that are never enough. Satisfaction may last for a season, but eventually, it requires more and more and more. As Olivia Newton John asked a musical question, “It’s never enough, never never enough. Why is all that we have simply never enough?”

Absent our ability to actually study the matter, for a very large group of people, the devil is an answer that’s sufficient. Creative attempts to offer a different perspective have come from enormously talented and curious people, especially those who’ve taken the time for individual study of what is commonly known as the human ego. If you are human, you have an ego. He exists to provide answers where none seem possible, and it’s to him that we often turn in times of distress. Thoughtful, intriguing, and soaring books have been written about such things as “ego states,” trauma bonding, and other manifestations of ego study. They deserve our attention, because they come from minds with a lifetime of deep diving when it comes to understanding the human mind. Adam and Eve had egos. It was Eve’s ego that led her to the Tree of Life (“You don’t really think that God would kill you for eating it, do you? I mean, it’s not poison.”). Jesus faced and defeated his own ego in the wilderness. His stomach was growling during the 40-day fast, so the voice of his ego rose to tempt him to turn rocks into bread. It wasn’t a guy in a red suit with horns and a pitchfork. That is the stuff of myths. Hell, we don’t need a devil when we have such an intimate enemy as our own ego.

One of the things that was so different about Jesus is that he recognized the voice of his ego and said a resounding “no”! So, it seems to me that we can do the same. Otherwise, we are most to be pitied, especially for Christians who say they “follow the ways of the Lord.” The first deception of the ego is that he doesn’t exist, and that gives a great multitude an excuse to give up without even trying. After all, their discomfort is greater than any earthly solution, and therefore, we should all just suffer while bearing our own personal thorns in the flesh. Nonsense. Either that, or Jesus was not “the firstborn among many,” and the gate he claimed to represent leads to nowhere.

I fully appreciate the potential for mischief that’s presented with this missive, for we still see through a glass darkly. However, in order to talk back to our egos, we must first learn to recognize its voice, even during times of panic. “You’re going to be abandoned” was a constant, almost unspoken message that I heard throughout my life. Think about that for a minute. It was a marvelous deception foisted on me as the result of an episode of what seemed to me an abandonment in my youth. A mind incapable of separating such a voice from the situation that brought it about is impossible for a 5‑year old, and so it became an essential part of my thinking about myself. I fought it, and I fought it, always to lose and try again.

I learned through AA that what I thought made me unique was all bullshit and that I needed a miracle to overcome it. I got my miracle, and the most obvious evidence is in my sleep. When we give up fighting the deceptions that dominate us, it is an enormous weight lifted from the shoulders of our souls, and the problem of sleeplessness disappears. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous contains the stories of many people who had found recovery from the addiction that drove their lives for sometimes a very long period of time. These stories are filled with addicts trying to explain their drinking to themselves and others. Example episodes of their perplexity often begin with “I had this thought” or “it came to me that I should.” These triggers were, in fact, the voices of their own egos attempting to rationalize or make an argument for drinking.

So, we know it’s important, but how exactly do we learn to recognize the voice of our ego? It’s actually very simple. Deliberately place a temptation in front of yourself. Don’t do anything but listen. Trust me; it’ll be there, perhaps even in thoughts that are profoundly familiar. Listen anyway. We KNOW what the outcome will likely be, so it’s very important that we hear those thoughts as they pass across the horizon of our minds like so many wild horses.

Redemption is what gives us the power to say no to that which is pretending to be us. You might be amazed at how effective a simple “shut up” can be in a conversation with what you think is yourself. As we say in AA, “My mind is a dangerous place, because I’m not alone in there.”

How true, my friends. How very, very true.

Can/will the Virus Open Eyes?

The deception that is Fox News grows more dangerous to our republic as time passes and more and more people are bathed in the lie that it is a news organization. It is warping our sense of unity and pitting American versus American at a scale that wasn’t even present during the Civil War. Add to this the omnipresence of so-called “conservative” commentators who mix news events with their propaganda, and we have a monster storm against “peace and good will” on this Easter weekend.

Well, Terry, but they’re no different than those on the other side of the aisle.

And this, my friends, is the essence of the lie. It’s perhaps too late to fix it, but let me explain.

The news doesn’t care about political affiliation. It is neutral in that sense, because it’s always based upon that which is “new.” If “new” drives the news agenda, “old” drives the conservative point-of-view. This was evident in Donald Trump’s Make America Great AGAIN slogan. We can’t go back as a culture, and everybody should know this, for to run with a perspective that pushes only the good from yesteryear without considering the alternate pressures that were also in play is foolishness gone-to-seed.

Political coverage is certainly a part of any “news” agenda, but only to the extent that news organizations can speak to new events or trends in informing their audiences. It’s very easy to accuse, but when the accusation is required to justify one’s own existence, it ceases to be relevant to the very concept of news. Simply stated, it’s just propaganda. Contemporary marketing is very often a form of propaganda, foisted upon us in the name of commerce. The same is true with conservative “olds”, and that’s the point.

If news organizations spent as much time trying to shape those thoughts as they are accused of doing, we would have left-wing propaganda groups sharing their views in the form of news. We don’t, and ANY attempt to shape a narrative that says otherwise is pure and self-serving folly. It’s simply absurd, so the argument that “both sides do it” is specious, at best. Survey any group of citizens, however, and this is exactly what they’ve been taught to believe, namely that the news industry’s players are either left or right. Nonsense, and I know, because I was there when we created the concept of “conservative news” in the early 1980s at the Christian Broadcasting Network. We wrote the playbook that Fox copied.

A key part of this effort was to position ourselves alongside existing news organizations and claim that a liberal bias was the same thing as liberal propaganda. Hence, we saw no problem with presenting our conservative propaganda as a participant on the same level as CBS, ABC, and NBC. We spent our money on technology and especially graphics to make ourselves look no different than the rest. We were selling this to an audience ripe for the taking by stating our abhorrence with what we felt was a satanic effort to destroy America.

Conservatism is not at all associated with the news except to provide a “side” to developing stories. News organizations have an ethical governor that demands presentation of all sides in any issue relating to political points of view. The organization itself has no political point-of-view, except perhaps from their editorial boards. As anybody who has worked in the news business knows, there is a vast separation between a news organization’s newsroom and its editorial side. But ownership is ownership, and there are plenty of stories of owner pet projects that find their way into the content presented.

The point is that the bias of news is towards that which is new, and if that is seen as political, the only response can be propaganda. It cannot be expressed as “news”, because that would require a bias towards something else. It also requires looking the other way when events — take, for example, the gender identification movement or political correctness — weaken or destroy its propaganda. Again, this is why we cannot use the term “news” in describing something that isn’t “news”.

I was ridiculed and mocked during a talk about this subject with a group of Colorado right-wingers. When it got too uncomfortable for them, they retreated to the gospel to end the discussion. Open minds, these were not. I knew that going in, but the overwhelming and defensive response revealed that the matter is far more important to their worldview than most observers really imagine. Why else use the Bible to talk back to me, the former Executive Producer of the TV program that created the thing in the first place?

This is why I often reference religion in my writing. White evangelical Christians are completely convinced of their righteousness in this or any other argument.

Methinks they doth protest too much.