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December 7, 2018: Robert Mueller’s Day of Infamy

On the evening news shows of all three of the Big Three cable news networks, December 7, 2018 was a bombshell. On CNN and MSNBC, the commentators referred almost exclusively to what they forecast as the inevitable end of the Trump presidency. On Fox News, however, the talk was all about how the politically motivated Robert Mueller consistently avoids references to the obvious crimes of Hillary Clinton, and that evening Donald Trump was only occasionally mentioned.

To the liberal Big Two, the Mueller report for that date represented major nails in the coffin of the President. To the conservative Big One, the Mueller report was simply more evidence of how corrupt is Mr. Mueller and his never-ending misguided investigation.   

For an hour and a half early on that evening, this writer watched both MSNBC and CNN, as is often the wont of this writer. But for another hour and a half, later, Fox was my sole source of news. (Recently, that is occurring with greater frequency.)

Both sides of the Big Three networks referred to the redacted Mueller twenty-page paper, but it was as though it was two completely unrelated news reports. I woke a little before 4 AM (ET) on Saturday, the 8th, and watched the Big Three, amazed at their disconnect, for another two and a half hours.

The Big Three have become either increasingly liberal or conservative with their coverage of “the news” through the passage of recent years. That is particularly the case with news since Donald Trump became the President. The political polarization which is widening in the USA is even more the result of the treatment of “news” by the Big Three than it is by the statements or actions either of elected Republicans or Democrats at any level of government or by the 45th President.

As polarizing a figure as he is, Donald Trump is no longer the primary problem of our polarity, if he ever truly was. The problem is centered in the board rooms and newsrooms of the Big Three. There is no longer any pretense at political objectivity by any of the three major cable news networks.

Far too many people get far too much of their news solely from the three largest cable news networks. Too few people get most of their news from written sources: newspapers, news magazines, or books.

For that reason, it was a brilliant means of provoking a serious civics discussion when Robert Mueller released his report on Friday, DECEMBER 7. With little other competing news, he knew his findings would be debated for the whole weekend and will continue to be the main topic for many days and weeks to come. Going public on a memorable date just before a weekend guaranteed it.

Is the President in dire legal trouble? CNN and MSNBC think so. Is Hillary Clinton in newly overheated hot water? Fox is sure she is.

For several hours that day, those who appeared on the television news shows on the Day of Infamy in 2018 had been carefully scrutinizing every word of the sentences between the many blotted-out sentences of the deliberately leaked Mueller report. It was impossible for anyone to absorb the full impact of what the words said, implied, or avoided saying in so short a time span. But those truncated words were then and are still now the headline stories of most news accounts in most of the media in the country.

Mr. Mueller is no Washington naïf. He knew exactly what he was doing. He wants the American people to prepare fully to engage themselves for the contents of what shall be the Un-Redacted and Un-Expurgated Special Prosecutor’s Report whenever it finally is published. (That statement is not a fact. It is a subjective supposition by this writer.)

     In order for us to understand the report’s vast complexities, we are required to read widely in newspapers, magazines, and books to know what really is going on. Televised news shows can never succeed in presenting the total story. They are too brief, and too slanted. Much reading is required. Citizenship and civics require careful and extensive reading.

Countless numbers of people involved in every cable news network spend countless hours reading material related to whatever brief segments go into their news programs. Collectively, they then make digested commentaries on it on their news “shows.”

What we, the news consumers must do, is also to take time to read, analyze, and ruminate on what the news, apart from news commentary, truly means. No one can grasp the big picture merely by watching any or all of the Big Three for any number of hours to get the facts. Facts are discovered only by “the people” unearthing the facts for them themselves. As citizens, each of us is responsible for discovery of the facts behind the news, if our votes are to count and our democracy is to succeed.

Mr. Mueller was extremely clever by releasing a small part of his Special Prosecutor’s findings on a never forgotten date and on a pivotal day before a long weekend of political palaver on the usual news shows. It was a sneak attack on the Big Three, except that it was not similar to Pearl Harbor at all. Before his redacted hints were made available, it looked like December 7, 2018 would be just another day in another news cycle. It was not. That day changed everything - - - perhaps. Or then again, perhaps not.

Was December 7, 2018 the beginning of the end? For the next year or two, the Big Three will be striving mightily to answer that question to their own satisfaction. Depending on their essential viewpoint, the American people should strive even harder to formulate their own answer to their own satisfaction. Taking ownership of the news requires thinking. Thinking leads to far greater national progress than merely being told what to think.


John M. Miller is Pastor of The Chapel Without Walls on Hilton Head Island, SC.




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