Hey, what’s up? It’s been awhile since I’ve checked in. Is everyone enjoying this spectacular 2017? Glad to hear it. With all the great news pouring in from around the world, it’s hard not to be lovin’ it, amirite? (Note: My marketing team advised me to reach out to Millennials. TMW I nailed it BAE, amirite?)
Anyway, I haven’t written anything here at Washington Babylon for awhile and thought I better update you about what’s going on, why we’ve been publishing so infrequently and what we’re planning ahead.
First off, I moved down to Miami earlier this year, for an undetermined amount of time, where I’m working on a long-term project along with the usual scattered journalism stories. I got started on the project immediately after arriving so I haven’t had time to do much else.
Secondly, Washington Babylon got off to a great start after launching last August and I’m proud of what we accomplished. Unfortunately, despite initially raising modest sums of money from a small group of generous and wonderful contributors — I sincerely thank every one of you — we’ve had a difficult time when it comes to “monetization.” Put simply, we’re low on cash which means I spend less time on the website and more time doing other things to make money.
Thirdly, and I hope you’ll indulge a minor but related rant here, it’s become more than a little bit degrading and disheartening to be a journalist these days. (And keep reading please, because the future of Washington Babylon comes at the end.) The pay was rarely great but for most of my career I worked as a freelancer and was able to survive, and even do reasonably well.
Nowadays, as I’m sure most of you know, that’s become almost impossible. Payment for freelance pieces rarely makes it worth the time involved and fees offered for investigative stories aren’t significantly higher than for 500 to 800-word thumbsuckers. Meanwhile, fewer and fewer places are interested in investigative journalism and when they do commission stories writers sometimes need to bring in money to fund the research because expenses have been slashed.
Journalism is also degrading because so much of what’s currently published is simply embarrassing. Great reporting obviously still gets done but much of today’s journalism is just reporters parroting the party line for one side or the other. For many years being a reporter, especially an investigative reporter, was a badge of honor. Now the press is, for good reason, no more trusted or popular than the political class.
None of this makes the journalism profession pleasant and I personally don’t enjoy working amidst the ongoing Russia hysteria and having to take a side — what a choice: for Trump and the GOP or for the Clinton-dominated Democrats — or risk the wrath of people who are too simpleminded to see that you can reject both without being an apologist for either.
Vladimir Putin may well have sought to influence the U.S. election — indeed, he would have been derelict in his duties as Russian president not to — but he did not elect Donald Trump or destroy American democracy, Hillary Clinton’s nonstop Excuses Tour notwithstanding. And American “democracy” is an ironic concept to begin with, since it was based on a global system of empire that generally screwed most of the rest of the world economically and which repeatedly and routinely destroyed democracy in countries which were deemed to be threats.
Furthermore, call me old-fashioned (or worse; I’m sure many will) but you can’t impeach the president just because you don’t like him and his policies, and that’s what a good part of the “Resistance” and the media is pursuing with Trump. It’s the same sort of thing that happened on the right when Obama was in office, and it’s just as reckless because it undermines the whole concept of electoral democracy.
There is in a real sense a conspiracy afoot to remove Trump from office, which began immediately after the election, and journalists are, wittingly or not, part of it. Trump is generally right when he says the media is out to get him and labels it the “opposition party,” which only helps him maintain his diminishing base of supporters. We move from one media-manufactured crisis and scandal to the next; it’s become impossible to keep track of them let alone evaluate their true significance.
Remember Steakgate? You may not like the writer’s politics, I generally don’t, but he got that one right. That massive Saudi arms deal that showed that the Trump administration would put commerce before human rights? (Haha, that never happened before.) Well, as it turns out, “None of the deals identified so far are new, all began in the Obama administration.” For three days Trump, the media reported in near unanimity, was going to block Comey from testifying before Congress. He didn’t. Meanwhile, Time and Newsweek covers promote the idea that Putin is already running the country through his surrogate, Trump.
Hey people, if you don’t like the outcome at the polls, try again next time, but you need ideas and a political program, not a crude anti-Russian campaign that looks like something straight out of the worst days of the Cold War. Sure, our “democracy” is increasingly a joke, but at the moment that’s the best option. As Paul Starobin recently wrote on Facebook:
> So no, I think this is a good time NOT to make the case for impeaching Trump. My point is not simply that, even if a Democratic House, say, voted for impeachment, that still leaves the problem of conviction–removal from office–by the Senate, a two-thirds super-majority needed. Has NEVER happened in U.S. history. But apart from this, my view is that Trump is best defeated, convincingly, at the ballot box, by we the people. He’s doing now what he said he would do in his campaign. Pull out of Paris accord, check. Pull out of TPP, check. Browbeat the Europeans to pay more for defense, check. Keep up the Tweet-storm, check. Embarrass us, often, check. (Ok, that wasn’t on his list.) Anyway, vote him out of office in 2020.”
I’m not saying people shouldn’t be looking into Trump and his team’s ties to Russia, nor am I dismissing that story. But up until now there’s no smoking gun on collusion and unless one emerges and a real legal case can be made, impeachment is not a remedy. Meanwhile, there are a lot great stories related to the Trump presidency that should be pursued and which would seem to be more important to most people — i.e., his horrifying budget proposal, whose impact over time, if implemented in anything like its original form, is going to hurt him enormously with his base.
Look, most of the media may not have caught on yet but this is a moment of systemic crisis and the country is teetering on the brink of real danger. The economy is broken for most Americans (and everyone else) and our leaders in both parties have no answers beyond continued calls for discredited policies of globalization and “free trade.” The political system is broken, too, with both parties having collaborated to make it impossible for independent challengers or a third party to emerge, and so we had an election in 2016 which featured two of the worst candidates of modern times.
Anyway, this is all just a way of saying that under the current environment it’s sometimes hard not to simply retreat to NBA, Netflix or some other distraction from politics.
But for some dumb reason or another, I continue to cling to the hope that journalism matters and I’d like to keep publishing Washington Babylon. So, with the help of the indispensable Melissa Eckert Garriga and Andrew Stewart, Washington Babylon is going to get a makeover. We’re going to look more like Andrew Sullivan’s old Daily Dish (just the format, not the politics, and without the awards and Bristol Palin obsession), with more shorter items, commentary and links to the day’s news, and of course periodic long form and investigative stories, as time and cash allow.
It’s going to take a little while for this to kick into gear but I hope you’ll continue to check in here. Thanks for your support and see you again soon.