Gresham's Law and the Press
Gresham wasn’t the first guy who said it, but he evidently had a better press agent than his predecessors, so he gets the public credit for “Bad money drives out the good.” Originally, at least, Gresham’s “bad” money referred to counterfeit money.
Who’da thunk the day would come when we would be saying that about “news?” We are awash with counterfeit news. It dominates the public attention, captivates a material part of our population, and therefore the press. The result: the counterfeit stuff drives the real stuff out of circulation. Given the current nature of our republic, that is a serious problem. Even people who know better (or at least should, given their status as political leaders), latch on to it, repeat it, and encourage others to spread junk news when in their political interest. Because of modern technology, beheading the messenger is no longer the most efficient way to combat real news that you don’t like. Today, the best way is to bury it (the news, not the messenger), is to make facts disappear in a wash of junk news.
But it’s complicated. Once we recognize false news drives real news out of circulation, we need to identify what news is false. You might think that most adults with an IQ equal to at least 50% of their body weight, would recognize that Obama is not a Kenyan Muslim, it was not the Israelis who took down the Twin Towers, and Hillary did not abduct children at the Ping Pong Pizzeria, but you would be wrong. The statistics are scary.
And those are the easy ones.
Law professors, philosophers, and game-theory intelligence specialists love hypotheticals. Here’s my hypo, and it is the outline of my next book, a le Carre-type novel entitled, Triple Reverse. There are four chapters to the current outline:
During the campaign, Mr. Trump reveals himself to be an uber-boor, by boasting, on tape, that, with impunity, he grabs unsuspecting women’s pussies, and fucks women he has just met. The Russians are hacking our election, North Korea is building bigger and better nuke missiles, the mid-east is in total chaos with millions dying, and yet Trump’s grope-and-fuck story is page one, above the fold. (This story is so big, some editions of the NY Times actually printed the words “pussy” and “fuck”, a first, I am sure. I may devote a whole chapter to the newspapers internal debate on that subject). The “hook” to the pussy/fuck story,-- a fact the makes the story even more salacious and therefore more “newsworthy,”-- is that we are led to think we are eavesdropping on what Trump thinks is a private conversation. But how could he be unaware? He is a professional on-camera personality, he knew the bus was loaded with sound and video technicians, the video we all saw was not shot with an iPhone, it was done by a professional crew using professional shoulder-borne equipment, along with sound recorders, standing within six feet of him, and what a coincidence, all three participants, Trump, the tv host, and the attractive woman who met the bus, were shot facing the camera! But my book is a novel, not a history book, and in my story Trump pulls off the deception because it is essential to the false news avalanche that follows. The press buys it, it dominates the news, the honorable, intelligent First Lady issues a dramatic condemnation of the candidate, and all that attention yields two hoped-for results: the white male voters who were Trump’s base admire the guy even more, and the story about Trump’s unprecedented refusal to reveal his tax returns is not only driven from page 1 to page 10, but disappears from the nightly news altogether.
The Russians continue to dribble stolen Democrat emails to the press, which eats it up and plays it like a Kardashian striptease. Trump denies it’s the Russians, tweets he knows stuff our intelligence agencies don’t know, and suggests the hack was done by a 300 pound kid from New Jersey. Chris Christie takes it personally and gets fired from the campaign. Comey bites the shiny poisoned apple, and the tax return story gets demoted from page 10 to page 25.
Phases 1 and 2 are successful: Mr. Trump wins the election, and Ms. Kellyanne Conway is declared the only nominee for a new Academy Award Category, the title of which is to be announced. On cue, it is revealed that a British former intelligence officer with a sterling reputation, who had been employed first by anti-Trump Republicans, then by Democrats, to do “oppo research” on Trump, has produced a 35-page dossier asserting the Russians have a video of Mr. Trump consorting with Russian prostitutes who satisfy Trump’s deviant desire to participate in a “Golden Showers” episode, and at his command, the ladies pee on the bed where Mr. Obama slept in a Moscow Hotel. The dossier cites numerous Russian sources, none of which can be confirmed. Golden Showers becomes the new front-page story and the new lead on tv network news. The cable news channels are lovin’ it.
The not-yet-celebrated author of this not-yet- best-selling novel (reminder, c’est moi) has several options for the end of his novel. In no particular order, they are:
Option 1: The Golden Showers report is mostly true and the President-elect is not only a bully and a liar, but also a sicko. He was entrapped by the brilliant former KGB officer now CEO of Russia, Inc., who now holds the switch that can release the sword currently swinging over Trump’s head.
Option 1 (a): The Russians not only taped the event, they arranged for its publication, knowing Mr. Trump would deny it, and thus be exposed to the blackmail threat for the next four (or more) years.
Option 1 (b): The Russians know what Trump did because the women were Putin’s agents, but they have no tape. Trump does not know that, so he is still living in Option 1(a) land.
Option 2: The report is a brilliant piece of fake news, and its release was carefully planned to occur after the election. It relies on a multiplicity of unverifiable sources, and was crafted so as to capitalize on Mr. Trump’s affinity to grab pussies and fuck strange women, which are added indicia of the likelihood of truth. Forget the glove—this is about the shoe: if it fits, wear it. The impossibility of determining truth or falsity makes the story hotter, as does Mr. Putin’s, chilling, smug-grin, denial. After all, isn’t a Putin denial evidence of the opposite?
Even the details of its release were wickedly clever. Putin counted on the self-consciousness of the established press agencies caused by i) the belated recognition they had been doing Russia’s bidding via their failure to throttle coverage of the Clinton email story even though there was abundant evidence it was part of a Russian plan, and ii) the constant Trump “working the ref” criticism of the press every time they published a truthful but negative report of something Trump said or did. Unable to verify the accuracy of the scandalous report that circulated before the election, the press refused to bite. How did Putin know Comey would publicly discuss his investigation of Clinton before the election, but wait until after the election to effect a publication of the Golden Showers investigation, is a subchapter I have not developed yet, but it should be fun. In any event, after the election, Comey and Company revealed the still-unverified report to the President and the Trump team, and it instantly became the number one song on the hit parade. If I take this route, I will reveal who on the Trump team arranged the release of the report so Buzzfeed could out it. This gives the press two things now to gum about: is the report true, and what is the “ethics” of reporting this still unverified piece of raw intel. The Putin plan was the work of genius. With all the chatter, Putin, possibly with the complicity of Trump, has succeeded in driving the Russian election-hack story deeper into the first section of the paper, and the Trump tax return story onto page three of Business Section. That’s only a way station. It’s headed for the Society Pages.
I haven’t yet decided which of these options I will adopt for Chapter IV. I will deal with that later. Now I am too busy entertaining offers from publishers. I am holding out for a seven figure advance. Stay tuned. Triple Reverse will sell for $29.95 on Amazon, and my blog readers are eligible to receive discounted autographed copies.