President Trump’s “fake news” awards last week inspire me to make some Trump Derangement Awards on our local scene. It was only last night (Jan 23), for starters, that the ABC’s $400,000-plus woman Leigh Sales on 7.30 was fawning over Michael Wolff, author of a hatchet-job book on Trump, Fire and Fury, purporting to be an inside account of the presidency. Sales’ questions were as soft as a week-old puppy’s tummy.
LEIGH SALES: What is Trump like in private? When staff attempt to brief him on issues that he needs to know about, what is he like in those moments?
For heaven’s sake, Ms Sales! The White House says Wolff never got one interview with President Trump. Wolff never claims he did. In a typical obfuscation, he says he has had three hours of conversation with Trump including during the election campaign.
And in terms of the ABC’s impartiality charter, how’s this for a smug, insulting question from Sales about the American President, our most powerful ally in a rapidly-shrinking free world?
LEIGH SALES: How did Trump’s advisers work out what policies he wants and what he wants to do?
It’s almost beyond belief, except that this is indeed the ABC. Trump is such a total moron, Sales suggests, that he’s just a puppet of nameless advisers. Trump himself, Sales imagines, has had nothing to do with turning the US into an energy superpower, driving home the biggest US tax cuts in 30 years, and sending the Dow Jones soaring 30% in the year to date.
Sales should have taken a look at the trenchant TV interview of Wolff by columnist Meghan McCain[i], who waded in : “You know, Michael, your credibility is being questioned. Trump says the book is full of lies.” When Wolff asked for specifics, McCain rattles off the following list of people: “New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, New York Times’ John Martin, David Brooks, CNN’s Alisyn Camerota, Tony Blair, Tom Barrack, Kate Walsh, Anna Wintour all denying quotes.” Wolff lamely responded that lots of people hadn’t denied their quotes.
Inside the ABC bubble there seems zero interest in the book’s truthfulness and accuracy. It’s as if Wolff had never said: “Read the book. If it makes sense to you, if it strikes a chord, if it rings true, it is true.” Even key parties in the US liberal media have excoriated Wolff’s tome. CNN anchor Jake Tapper, for example, said the book “abandoned all standards”.
Credulous Sales is therefore a front-runner for the Trump Derangement Prize, but she has plenty of competitors. When Trump had been in office a bare five weeks, ABC airhead Geraldine Doogue was burbling about Trump and fascism to her interviewee, a totally Trump-deranged London academic Sarah Churchwell:
Doogue: Quote, ‘…a Fascist is someone whose lust for money and power is combined with such intensity of intolerance towards other races, parties, classes, regions or nations, as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends.’ It’s a pretty devastating old quote. You don’t think Trump is a fascist though really?
Churchwell: Yes actually I think he is. I do, I do.
Doogue: Oh you do! OK!
Churchwell: That description is a very good description. I think Trump is a fascist in the strict sense of the term, a lot more like Mussolini than he is like Hitler.
Doogue (enthusiastically): or Berlusconi, it is a very interesting comparison actually.”
If we follow the trend to giving prizes to collectives, like the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize going to the now jihadi-infested European Union, and Time’s person-of-the-year going to The Endangered Earth (Planet of the Year, 1988, no kidding), then in such a tradition, the ABC per se would contend for the prize.
If you google “ABC Trump Hitler”, note how seriously the ABC’s talent takes the Trump/Hitler analogy. Sometimes the analogy is raised and then disparaged, followed by a qualifying nudge the other way, as in
Mr Trump is no Roosevelt, nor Marx, nor Hitler, though there are some eerie parallels between the world that has given us soon-to-be President Trump and the period between the wars that gave rise to fascism.
My own variant, which makes equal sense, goes, “Victorian Premier Dan Andrews is no Roosevelt, nor Marx, nor Hitler, though there are some eerie parallels between the world that has given us soon-to-be Premier Dan Andrews and the period between the wars that gave rise to fascism.”
Night after night on the 7pm TV news are pieces-to-air on the past 24 hours’ anti-Trump fluff, no matter how trivial, faked or context-free.
Enough with the shilly-shallying. My Derangement Award goes to journalist Aaron Glantz. You’ve never heard of him? Fair enough, he’s a Californian investigative reporter who has won a slew of prestigious awards on other topics, doubtless well deserved. But he displayed his drooling derangement in my own fair city of Melbourne as lunch speaker for the Melbourne Press Club.
The Press Club’s president last year was ABCTV newsreader Michael Rowland[ii] and CEO is Mark Baker, former Age senior editor and former managing editor (National) of Fairfax Media. They organized a session, “Fake News Fightback”, in conjunction with the Walkley Foundation and featuring Glantz and another US journalist, Tonya Mosely, who among other things researches implicit bias in reporting.[iii]
I trotted along on August 29, naively expecting a clash of pro- and anti-Trump views from two dueling protagonists. No way! Both reporters were competing as rabid anti-Trumpers.
Glantz concluded, in all seriousness:
“I worry that America could slip in a fascist direction and you could have police rounding people up in my neighborhood, and throwing them in prison…
“It seems like members of Congress are not at this time inclined to move towards any kind of impeachment or anything like that.
“I don’t know quite how to approach it as a journalist. I say to myself , ‘This guy is going to be president for four years. You can’t kill yourself, they [media employers] are going to need you tomorrow. You need to be available tomorrow and the next day to continue to do your work. Sometimes I think we could all be dead tomorrow, so, anyway…’”
His co-speaker Mosely chided him,
“Oh Aaron, you were supposed to give us something to lighten up!”
The audience gave Glantz’s meltdown respectful sympathy. I didn’t laugh, that would have been like farting in church. I’ve disliked some Australian Prime Ministers — Julia Gillard, for example — but I never considered, in my professional capacity, killing myself over her.
Glantz scored this own-goal for himself, for the Democrat-fawning media and for his hosts the Press Club, which is supposed to promote fair and balanced reporting, even on Trump.
Assuming Mr Glantz since August has not implemented his suicide, he therefore wins my antipodean Trump Derangement Prize. Readers can see how richly he deserves the award by watching the video below.
Community service announcement: Any ABC or Fairfax journalist contemplating suicide over the Trump presidency should contact Lifeline.
Tony Thomas’s book of essays That’s Debatable – Sixty Years in Print, is available here.
[i] Also daughter of 2008 Presidential candidate John McCain
[ii] Currently, Adele Ferguson.
[iii] Glantz is a senior reporter at Reveal, the publishing platform of the San Francisco based Center for Investigative Reporting, whose investigations have sparked congressional hearings, legislative changes and high-level criminal probes in the US.
Mosley is a senior Silicon Valley reporter for public radio station KQED in San Francisco, and been named Journalist of the Year by the Washington State Association for Justice.