The web is its own culture

This month is the 15th anniversary of the first Bloggercon, a conference for new media pioneers to advance the cause of blogging, which nobody else seemed to understand. The event was conceived and organized by Dave Winer, a man I certainly hope history will record as one of the key early players — if not THE key player — in the development of the paradigm shift in media:

    • That everyone with a web connection can be a media company.
    • That the cost of making media had been effectively reduced to zero.
    • That the web views hierarchies as inefficient and routed around them.
    • That the birth of so‐called “citizen’s media” was a response to a lack of trust in the pros since Watergate.
    • That the web is a culture unto itself and must be given its due as such.
    • That this networking of people would become a cultural swing point similar to what Gutenberg had brought about with moveable type in the 15th Century.
    • That the blogging format was the proper way to communicate information via the web.

    There was always a profound sense of the future at Bloggercon and all subsequent gatherings, because the people who attended were pioneers and innovators. We talked a lot about where this was all going, and honestly, there’s no contemporary replacement for what was accomplished, because there are too many people today vying for self‐centered inclusion in the web’s inner circle. Oh, there were plenty of big egos at Bloggercon; it’s just that they were all able to work together for the common good. There would be no podcasting today were it not for Bloggercon.

    So what’s happened 15‐years downstream? The efforts of those early gatherings have been absorbed by the whole, and the vision of those days continues outside the mainstream, which continues to insist that the web is merely an add‐on to our status quo. How unfortunate, for absent eyes to see, a whole generation is missing the innovations being made by mostly younger people who don’t view the web the same way as their parents. Let me give you a couple of examples.

    I’m not sure exactly how it began, but I’m a member of Bachelor Nation, that devoted group of fans who’ve crossed over into the darkness of reality dating television, specifically ABC’s The Bachelor. Even though I know it’s heavily edited to fit an ongoing producer narrative, I find that it fills a sort of mindlessness cleansing for me during exposure. The magnetism of this show is hot, young people vying for attention of a suitor, but it’s the backstory available to fans today that sheds a new light on what’s shone to the television audience.

    And, because I’m in the middle of it, I follow a guy in Dallas named Steve Carbone, known to backstory fans as the evil “Reality Steve,” who has a habit of spoiling the weekly episodes long before they air. Reality Steve provides the play‐by‐play of the creation and execution that is the narrative, and in so doing, not only “spoils” the programs (every one) but also reveals the story beneath the story, which, trust me, is far more interesting than the show itself. This knowledge, in fact, makes watching the program a different experience, because it teaches us all to think like producers.

    In this light, there’s an important media lesson in The Bachelor, a revelation, if you will, of one way the culture is adapting favorably to the digital age. You need eyes‐to‐see in order to engage, however, and this is always the problem for people trying to analyze currents as they relate to this new age. Enter the podcaster, the vlogger, the blogger, the social media influencer, and beyond. “Social media influencer” is a real job for a lot of real people who are simply responding to one of the means by which people are making a decent living while supporting themselves. And, I’m certain there will be those who’ll say that there’s really nothing new here, but vast companies are now doing business with people who have a significant following on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, and so forth. Granted, it’s the old reach‐frequency game, but the money is not going to traditional media players. Reality Steve has a podcast as do a great many others in Bachelor Nation.

    The program’s recruiting of nice‐looking young people for the show has also shifted greatly in the wake of the above. Whereas earlier cast members of the program all joined with the ultimate purpose being to find love, today’s applicants have another purpose in mind when signing up to be contestants — it’s a great way to increase one’s influence in social media, which means there’s now significant income available to people who make the cast, and this has changed the nature of the program. “Is she here for him, or is she just interested in the fame?” This used to be a viable question with The Bachelor, but not anymore, for all contestants now get a shot at making significant money simply by being on the program.

    The simple truth is this: the web has evolved distribution of media (and most importantly, advertising), and this was one of the things we knew was happening back in those Bloggercon days.

    If you pay attention to how families use Facebook, you’ll notice another phenomenon occurring that has evolved to a business, and that is social media photography. Several times a year, each of the families in my daughter’s circle post professional photos of family members in addition to pictures they take themselves. Whether celebrating a season, a significant event, birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, or just a spontaneous idea, these people want to look their best for what is becoming a book of life for participants. They want to look their best as they keep up with each other for bragging rights on who posts the best photos. This is spawning a whole new industry, one that uses the very technologies we were innovating at Bloggercon.

    One day, resorts will offer a similar service designed specifically to be made a part of the customer’s own media distribution, and documenting our lives will become an even more important part of our use of social media. This discovery is being made over and over again by the people who take full advantage of the distribution patterns provided by social media. Those gathered a Bloggercon knew that what the web does best is connect people, but mainstreamers can only bring themselves to use it as an extension of their old, brand‐oriented value propositions.

    The web isn’t just another add‐on to Western Culture; it’s a culture unto itself, and this is what Dave and the others we were all trying to say those 15‐years ago.

Shock & Awe with Kavanaugh

EDITOR’S NOTE: We apologize for the headline. We couldn’t stop ourselves.

Now that Justice Kavanaugh is seated, let’s review and prognosticate.

We have learned without a shred of doubt that the U.S. Supreme Court is a political institution. This is astonishing to me, for one of the pronounced qualifications for Christian conservative Judges is that they be “strict constitutionalists” when it comes to interpreting law. That means the Supreme Court ought never make decisions based on anything other than the Constitution, and yet, here we have our “majority conservative” justices, which means that we ought to be able to predict with certainty how they will vote. In my experience, this is a very slippery slope, but we shall see.

Yes, conservatives have achieved their vaunted “conservative court,” although we’ve not really asked ourselves what that means to the judges. The old saying is waiting, “Be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it.” One has to wonder, too, how the savvy press will respond. Are they moving forward with expectations about how the court will behave, or are they willing to take a wait‐and‐see approach? It’s all about the narrative with these reporters, and my guess is that there’s a quiet competition underway to see who can first spot evidence of this “conservative court.”

Let me emphasize here that the Christian Right in this country has been fighting the Roe v Wade straw man for so long that few remember what it was like before that law was enacted. Abortion is among the top, most‐consistent fundraising keys for big ministries, because the “evil” of abortion has always made it easy for a certain group to open up their wallets. Electing this “conservative court” has been part and parcel of the fight against abortion. It is so foundational to the fundraising success of said ministries that one is left to wonder how they will deal with this. That’s what I would be watching, if I was active with the press today.

Predicting what comes next is actually pretty easy, if you’re familiar with the inner‐workings of these ministries. There are two likely paths of action for these zealous believers, the first using the same screed that the “pro‐lifers” used.

  • Abortion is sin
  • God hates sin (but He LOVES the sinner)
  • The cause of this scourge has been the sexual sin that is rampant in our culture
  • God expects us to wage war against sin
  • We’re willing, but we need your help to fight on your behalf

One might even say that a whole social movement has grown up alongside this premise, and now that the scent of victory is in the air due to the Kavanaugh confirmation, the energy behind it is likely to wane. Nothing kills social movements like the believed approach of the finish line. The movement will disappear unless those behind it can find a way to institutionalize the anger and its subsequent attachment to revenue giving.

Meanwhile, the church needs another straw man with which to stir things up and motivate giving, so it’s pretty easy to predict what comes next, and that will be an all‐out effort on capping sexual deviance and “the liberal sex practices” foisted upon us and our children (and especially, our grandchildren) by the pornographers, the escorts, the adult entertainers, Hollywood, the media, and those damned evil liberals. After all, wasn’t it this that led to the unwanted babies that abortion has slaughtered?

The irony of this particular President leading the charge is even more pronounced, but it won’t make a difference.

The second logical effort on the part of these evangelicals is Israel.

  • God loves Israel
  • God’s plan for the salvation of man includes the end times described and exegeted by the church
  • This plan includes the return of Jesus Christ TO JERUSALEM.
  • It’s the duty of believers to unilaterally support all efforts of Zionists, including driving Palestinians out of their homeland and the designation of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
  • The Bible warns those who would oppose Israel in any way, so Israel can do no wrong.
  • 1948 was a true miracle demonstrative of God’s restorative grace
  • We need to do what we can to support Israel, and that includes you through supporting us, because we’re a part of the plan.

And so, these Christians will go hard after support for Netanyahu and his cronies who force illegal methods into maintaining their narrative that Jews are a persecuted people and that God miraculously gave “the promised land” back to the Jews in 1948. At this point, it doesn’t matter whether this is true or not; it is the perceived truth made known to the world through the political propaganda of the hard right. Atrocities, like forcing apartheid on Palestinians, are dismissed as collateral damage in God’s plan to put Israel back into the Middle East. Look at what’s happened in just two years under Mr. Trump’s leadership:

  1. We’ve moved our embassy to Jerusalem, to land given to the Palestinians during the original regional conflict. The Israeli’s don’t care.
  2. Settlements have expanded at a rate far above previous administrations. During the Obama Presidency, the State Department regularly criticized expansion but no more.
  3. The U.S. has cut off all aid to Palestinian groups who used it to care for the sick, injured, and starving Palestinians. By doing this, President Trump has declared to the world that his form of peace negotiations is through the subjugation of the Palestinian people. This is going to get worse, the farther downstream we drift on the path to setting up Israel as dictatorial rulers of the entire region.

Mark my words, the Middle East is going to boil as a result. In Biblical prophecy, these right‐wing fanatics believe, Iran, Turkey and Russia will come against Israel, which will jump‐start Armageddon. The Christians see nothing wrong in doing whatever they can to urge this forward. After all, maybe WE are supposed to be the agents that God uses to usher in the 1,000-year reign of Christ. Could be, right?

So get ready for a really HOT summer in 2019, for people who believe they’re doing God’s will are an immovable force, and the world is a much more dangerous place today than it was just a week ago. Personally, I’m shocked and awed.

May God have mercy on us.

Christian Islamophobia’s Grip on the Middle East

In what has to be the single most disgusting false witness ever published, Christianity Today — that bastion of truth for white evangelicals founded by none other than Billy Graham — asks “Can Christians Trust Muslim Hospitality?” People, let me be honest here: this article is straight from the pit of hell and is not fit for human consumption. It twists lies and half‐truths and out‐of‐context “teachings” to argue the dangerous and tired old madness that Islam is the greatest evil in the world. It makes me sick, and to the church I say, “Shame on you.”

We walk around parroting the damning lies of political propaganda never once stopping to question whether these lies might just be a little too convenient to be true. The narrative that Israel is the shining beacon of light to the region is so out of touch with what’s taking place on the ground as to make sanity seem the enemy. You can choose for yourself what’s real and what’s not, but for crying out loud, at least do the bare minimum of research for yourself and not just repeat what you’ve heard in church.

Let’s set the stage. This article claims, among other things, that Islam has an “alleged permission to lie” and goes on to actually urge caution in all dealings with Muslims. The piece quotes Tharwat Wahba, professor of mission at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo (note: It’s a Christian institution):

“Accept kindness and friendship, but be alert and awake. Don’t be naïve. Some have agendas.”

Come on, man! You mean Christians don’t have agendas?

Christianity Today “Middle East correspondent” Jayson Casper is absolutely spinning in his own spinning when he makes the following false statements:

…some Christians today are comfortable delving into the conscience of everyday, ordinary Muslims, finding deception at every turn.

…Muslims are permitted by their faith to lie if it will advance the cause of their religion.

…in much anti‐Muslim discourse, taqiyya has been redefined into a religious obligation for Muslims to lie to non‐Muslims not simply for survival…but to serve the expansionist agenda of their religious community.

…an anti‐Muslim website draws attention to several references which seem to imply a license to lie.

Seriously? I mean, let me ask again, seriously? Where do I start with this utter nonsense? Firstly, taqqiya isn’t in Islam at all; it’s a part of the Shia religion, which is a far different animal. The West insists the Shia represent Islam, because their extremism makes for a better foil than the actual religion, but the differences between this small sect of fundamentalists and the religion as a whole can be profound. When arguing religion, it always helps to have your facts straight. Correspondent Casper surely knows where to turn to find “experts” who’ll validate the absurdities of his predisposition, and what good Christian would doubt a Middle Eastern “Christian” expert anyway, right?

There is MUCH at stake in proselytizing these falsehoods, for Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, largely because at its essence, the faith speaks to the poor and disenfranchised. Christianity — especially as its defined today — most certainly does not. It is now the great defender of the rich and, of course, the Republican Party tenets that favor the rich. As such, the war underway between Christians and Muslims is for the souls of that great mass of have‐nots globally, and in this battle, Islam is surely winning. It’s a war not only for souls but for resources, and little do the Christians realize how their sliding numbers are impacting the movement of global resources. America, especially now with Donald Trump, is seen worldwide as an oppressive tyranny of lust and greed that cares little for anyone other than themselves. And it is seen as such, in very large measure, due to its dominant religion — Christianity — supporting such a culture.

Just last week, Donald Trump ended America’s fiscal support for the oppressed Palestinians. While Pat Robertson claimed that we’re “sticking our fingers in the eyes of God” over cross‐dressers reading to children in a library, yanking the rug out from underneath people who are being systematically destroyed is the real rejection of God in the West. After forcing the UN to discontinue aid, we’ve now completely bowed out of any direct help to the oppressed, and we WILL pay the price.

This is just part of the reason this article in Christianity Today is so damning for the church. By dehumanizing Muslims, the magazine is giving its stamp on the process of eliminating them altogether, because they stand in the way of the global dominance of Americans, which is surely not that for which Jesus suffered and died.

“Serve Allah, and do not join any partners with Him. Do good to parents, relatives, orphans, those in need, neighbours who are near and neighbours who are strangers, the friend by your side as well as the traveller, and what your right hands possess. Allah does not love the arrogant and proud ones.” (Qur’an 4:36)

(Psst: And let me repeat that Allah is the Arab word for “God.” Do you think God cares what language is used to worship Him? How will you deal with that?)

The “We Know Better” Bubble

“I know better than you” is a mother’s claim that ends many an argument with her 5‐year old, but it becomes problematic when used among adults to obtain a position of authority absent evidence. It’s a tool that political and cultural manipulators also use to get their way, citing some unknowable form of knowledge to claim victory in a debate. It’s never all that obvious, however, for it can be hidden from the view of spectators while communicated directly to followers who’ve been led to believe that they’re in on the secret.

This is not necessarily the case with Christians and Christianity, for who doesn’t like to claim a little insight that the other guy doesn’t possess? It can be omnipresent, however, in arguments involving the church, like whether or not church attendance is a prerequisite for righteous living. In a recent essay in Christianity Today, Megan Hill adapted her work from the book Identity Theft: Reclaiming the Truth of our Identity in Christ in a piece that cites “Four Lies That Keep Us from Church.”

Though the world would tell us that church is an option, an irrelevance, or a human invention—a group of people who thought it would be a good idea to get together since they share the same beliefs and spiritual practices—we know better. The body is established by Christ, protected and nourished by him, and governed by him.

A great many Christians live in this “we know better” bubble, which is afforded them by separation from the enemy they know as “the world.” The bubble is a truly remarkable place in that “we know better” governs absolutely, and it’s one of the key reasons we have Donald Trump as our President. Those who live in the bubble have their own rules — both written and unwritten — their own language, their own worship, the Bible to support every expression of faith, self‐restriction of the senses, and “fruit of the spirit” to validate their presence “in” Christ. But the most politically significant trait of the bubble is that “we know better” means a willingness — perhaps even a need — to deny logic and rationality in the name of claiming a higher authority.

Thomas Paine, the 18th Century philosopher and pamphleteer, whose writing bolstered the American Revolution, noted this phenomenon in his series, The American Crisis, and it’s as apropos today as it was when it was written:

“To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture.”

This is why attempts to reach the occupants of the “we know better” bubble about the Trump Presidency produces such a vociferous and strident defense that includes a comparison to the ancient Babylonian king Cyrus, who though corrupt and an unbeliever, permitted the Jews in captivity to return to Jerusalem. God used him, the bubble thinking goes, to give favor to the Jews regardless of his status as a reprobate. And, in this theorem, nothing of Donald Trump’s behavior matters; it’s all about the favor he’s showing to white evangelicals. Such is the fruit of “we know better.”

But the biggest concern we all should have with the “we know better” bubble is the ease with which ulterior motives (usually of a self‐serving nature) can be used to guide and manipulate the people who fully trust the bubble. The real and artificial podiums found within speak (down) to the masses with an authority that insists it’s alright — sometimes even necessary — to deny common sense.

We used this every day at The 700 Club when I was the show’s producer in the years leading up to Pat Robertson’s run for President in 1988. The revival ushered in by the Televangelists in the early 80s was in part due to this bubble, for when we acted as though God Himself was blessing us, it was a powerful draw for new members. We’d just come out of the Vietnam War, Watergate, and the failure that was Jimmy Carter. People were hungry for something meaningful, and Reagan and the Televangelists provided it. What nobody knew at the time was that this attraction was based on the self‐centered desires of the masses. It’s so easy to switch the Bible into a self‐help manual, and that’s what we did. Pat Robertson was an aristocratic politician first and a minister of the gospel second, and it was just a matter of time before the GOP altogether was shifted to the far right under his puppetry. We set and prioritized the agenda for the right. Pat always knew and expressed that “Christians” could be turned into a valuable voting block, largely through manipulating the “we know better” bubble.

And, we were really, really good at it. The greatest communications accomplishment of the Twentieth Century was to get Christians to vote against their own best interests and in favor of the rich and prosperous. We painted them as of the same ilk; told them that God wanted them blessed and prospered; taught that they could save themselves and their families by voting Republican; and showed them a path that ran right through giving to the ministry of CBN. This web of desirable outcomes was compliments of the “we know better” bubble. Just listen to us and learn God’s ways, we postured. The world may hate you for it — personally, professionally, and politically — but fret not, for God is with you. “They” think they know it all, but we know better.

In debate parlance, “we know better” is an unacceptable and weak response designed to thwart an opponent’s argument. It’s an appeal to tradition or faith in order to shut down the adversary’s narrative. It’s a response that’s really not a response, similar to a street argument that ends with the flummoxed loser’s comeback of, “Well, oh yeah?”

Of a truth, the church and the study of theology, through the process of exegesis, relies on certain conclusions within the sphere of “we know better,” so it’s not that the concept is inherently evil. When institutions of mankind run into difficult questions, they’re often met with a variant of “we know better,” so the idea is fairly mainstream in the West. But, I’m speaking of those Christians who use the bubble for selfish gain, and such a heresy can only be judged from within. This is why I’ve been saying for years that God isn’t judging the world today; He’s judging believers and the institution that represents them. And, it’s really not very pretty.

Those Christians who rely on the bubble to defend their political beliefs and their Christianity will never be convinced otherwise by an opponent from outside the bubble, for that would be a fundamental denial of the bubble’s purpose. It’s the perfect manipulator’s tool. To those on the outside: “Well, they’re of the world, so their eyes are deliberately blinded. After all, God uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.” To those who call themselves Christians but don’t abide by the rules of the bubble: “Well, they’re not true Christians. They have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof, and we are to run from them.” These are actual responses, so the futility of arguing directly is obvious.

However, there are some within the bubble who are quietly expressing their concern, and it’s to those that we must offer our encouragement, for they are the only ones with the chops to make a difference from the inside. I can only hope that they will be emboldened by reading this and the work of others who rail against manipulation of the bubble.

It’s a heady thing to think of yourself as among “the elect,” the promise from the pulpit that fuels the “we know better” bubble. The only way to arrive at this conclusion, however, is to deny the red words of the New Testament, and that, I believe, is to also deny the very essence of the gospel.

You may think otherwise, but I know better.

Trump’s “Fake News” Insult is a Steaming Pile of Bullshit

President Trump and New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger butted heads over the weekend on the matter of “fake news” and public references by the President calling journalists “the enemy of the people.” Sulzberger made his points via a statement after Trump broke the off‐the‐record agreement he had made with Sulzberger following a July 20 private meeting on the issue. Using his Twitter account, Trump spoke of the meeting while again attacking the press. This prompted a reply from Sulzberger:

“I told him that although the phrase ‘fake news’ is untrue and harmful, I am far more concerned about his labeling journalists ‘the enemy of the people,’ ” Sulzberger said. “I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence.”

This apparently angered Trump who went on to assail journalists and — as NPR put it — “dismissing them as unpatriotic and irresponsible.”

Needless to say, this has become a very ugly, nasty, and highly dangerous dispute, if for no other reason than it shifts press focus away from the bigger issues impacting everyone one in America under the anti‐leadership of this slick and manipulative salesman that we put in office. But, perhaps that’s his purpose in this whole charade anyway.

So, let’s try this again. There is not now, nor has there ever been a liberal political bias as part of the mainstream news media. I’ve had people actually laugh in my face when making this claim, but my evidence is conclusive. It’s just that some people shut down when they hear it, because they are so absolutely convinced of the opposite. And this belief is nothing new. Remember that Nixon’s Vice President Spiro Agnew said the exact things we’re hearing today coming from the right, yet people examining media history today would hardly view Walter Cronkite as a flaming liberal. The problem Agnew had was that he had no media outlet to back him up, except perhaps William F. Buckley’s National Review.

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. Joseph Goebbels, Nazi propagandist.

For the sake of this discussion, let’s make a distinction between the words “news” and “politics.” While it’s true that the discussion of political matters may be a necessary part of the news, it does not follow that the news business IS a political instrument. This is the fallacy that has clouded our judgment in the arguments over what is and is not “fake news.” When our President uses the term to tag the mainstream press, he is bearing a false witness and demeaning an institution that needs, instead, our protection. This is the nut of it.

I’m one of the people who helped originate the concept of non‐liberal‐biased TV news by calling it conservative and including conservative political arguments. But this strategy is based on the assumption that the mainstream is, in fact, political, and that is simply not true. Hence, the best we could rightly claim is that we were feeding viewers the kinds of propaganda that we claimed that liberals were doing with the mainstream press. Do you see the inherent conflict in the argument? From the manual on manipulation, The Thinker’s Guide To Fallacies: The Art of Mental Trickery and Manipulation, this tactic is Dirty Trick number one: Accuse Your Opponent of Doing What He is Accusing You of (or worse).

And yet, those convinced of this fallacy LAUGH at me. I spoke to a group of such people in Colorado last year, and when I started talking about this, they ended the meeting through their astonishment, mockery, and disdain, choosing instead to bring their Christianity into the discussion. I suppose I deserved this by presuming the right to challenge their beliefs directly, but the current political situation in our country demands honesty and open‐mindedness in our thoughts and speech, regardless of what anybody thinks.

One must be a fringe conspiracy theorist to actually believe that “the Democrats” are somehow behind the actions of the press. This is absurd on its face, and to argue it is a waste of everybody’s time. It gets traction, however, because it’s said so often, and it fits so well with the grand narrative of the political right. The suggestion likewise that the press might instead be behind the Democrats’ thinking is even more absurd, and yet this is the position into which we are forced by those who have a beef with the progressive culture.

The press does not speak on behalf of the culture; it speaks to the culture. It speaks about what is NEW. That’s why it’s called “the news!” If the culture is moving in a progressive manner, of course we’ll hear about it from the press (and we do), but that doesn’t mean there’s anything of a political (read: manipulative) nature behind it. The press isn’t dictating to the culture how it believes the culture should behave. Of course, the press does provide the editorial page as a separate entity and includes letters to the editor, but this isn’t what Trump is talking about.

The culture doesn’t decide anything based on the news that the press provides. If anything, in providing its observations, the press gives the culture information upon which it can make its own political decisions. If one doesn’t like the current culture, they have every right to resist and object, but it accomplishes exactly nothing to shout “liberal conspiracy” at the messengers. Except, that is, to demonize the press as a political opponent. It is not.

Dog bites man, it’s not news. Man bites dog, it is news. To accuse the messenger of bias in this account is like saying, “Why is the press reporting on these idiots who bite dogs?” or “Oh, Lord, let us please go back to the time when men didn’t bite dogs.” In this sense, so‐called “conservative” news isn’t really news; it’s “olds.” I say so‐called, because news that is birthed of a political purpose (that’s what we have when we say that this news or that news is “conservative”) is actually propaganda, the kind of which is calculating and deliberate.

And there is nothing righteous about a society that’s built around a backbone of propaganda.

When propaganda is presented as news

Statements this week by our slick salesman President shine a light on how obsessed the man is with the destruction of the profession created to be a check on his behavior in and out of the White House. Unless some serious remedies are found, he and his followers will make it impossible to judge between what is news and what is propaganda, and the very future of our democracy is at stake.

To a group of veterans in Kansas City on Tuesday, he criticized the press and made this remarkable statement:

“Just remember, what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening. Just stick with us, don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news.”

Many observers responded with fear and noted that the statement was eerily similar to Orwell’s dystopian 1984. That’s a problem, because the press seems to have no response to the corner into which they are being painted.

At the same time, Trump’s FCC took steps to block the merger of Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media, which enraged the President. Tuesday night he tweeted: “So sad and unfair that the FCC wouldn’t approve the Sinclair Broadcast merger with Tribune,. This would have been a great and much needed Conservative voice for and of the People. Liberal Fake News NBC and Comcast gets approved, much bigger, but not Sinclair. Disgraceful!” Very briefly, local news groups have so far escaped the claims of bias and are trusted a great deal more than the national press. Sinclair owns more TV stations than anybody else. They’re famous for forcing anchors to read conservative scripts and editorials penned by Sinclair managers. One day they’ll destroy that trust between viewers and local news, but that’s downstream a bit. The point is that the President of the United States has called the move “disgraceful” in his attempts to control the Washington narrative.

One of the roles of journalism is to write the first draft of history, including all the stuff taught to our children. Without the chronicles of observers — professional observers — where would we begin in drafting the various narratives that make up the grand narrative that is certified as history? Much of my writing life has been dedicated to understanding this process, and we’ve now entered a new era where political propaganda has replaced professional journalism in a bold, manipulative, and dangerous plan to capture the minds of the masses.

My book, The Gospel of Self, is largely about how I helped Pat Robertson produce a form of point‐of‐view journalism in my substantial role at The 700 Club during the 1980s, up to and including Robertson’s run for President as a Republican in 1988. We literally wrote the book on presenting a politically conservative form of “news,” and as I’ve said many times, long before there was Fox News, there was The 700 Club. The most visible fruit of this unholy snow job today is Donald Trump, President of the United States and a master of propaganda as news.

What’s lost is the need of free people to access truth in current events and thusly our writing of history. News organizations aren’t politically liberal just because their product is often progressive. That’s because news is “new,” not only in its name but also in its mission to report what is new. It is not now, nor was it ever birthed as a form of political propaganda, but the same cannot be said for so‐called “conservative news.” I know, because I was there when it was created.

The press simply must stop playing defense in all this and go on the offensive, which should include the use of its own facilities to educate the masses about journalism. All who carry the banner of “professional press” should join together in this process, for the Trump right takes advantage of the ignorance of the masses in this area.

We need to do this now, before this mischief is dragged into yet another presidential election year.