What the Devil won't tell you
Blake Masters must choose between reality & the fantasy he seems to prefer
GOP Senate hopeful buys into Trumpist conspiracist tropes as he sells himself to Az Republicans
The Arizona Republican primary/slasher flick to win the right to challenge Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in November has taken a dramatic turn, which requires a sane-minded columnist to say "hold the freaking personal data device, there, Sparky."
The situation has more than a little vibe of Disney Channel tween drama to it, so allow me to summarize.
See, former President Donald Trump has long had his fangs out for state Attorney General Mark Brnovich because Brnovich wouldn't call "fraud" on the real-world 2020 Arizona victory of President Joe Biden.
But Brnovich still wants to rub himself all over Trump, and has sent out fundraising emails all but saying that Trump loves him and not one of his GOP opponents.
But as I just wrote, Trump actually hates Brnovich and has endorsed his opponent Blake Masters. See, Masters was apparently built in a lab by tech billionaire Peter Thiel. Thiel is one of Trump's chief toadies (or is it the other way around?) and so Masters got the nod from the 45th president. They're so cute together as they lie about the 2020 election and anything else where the truth hurts.
Trump's lawyers have sent a cease and desist order to the Brnovich campaign, insisting they stop pretending Donald likes them. He doesn't. Anything to the contrary is a lie. So there.
The Masters campaign took a break from roughing up the elderly (in freedom's name, of course) to send out a press release gloating over how the Washington Post caught Brnovich in a lie.
And here's where I come in, with a pitchfork at the ready because Masters' campaign team sent out a press release saying "Hey, check out how Brnovich has been caught in a lie. Now sic em."
Oh, no no no no. Masters and Trump don't get to just re-enter the fact-based world when it suits them and they sure as hell shouldn't be brandishing a "failing" Washington Post's report on the story as anything other than "fake news."
It's been said that the worst part of being a fugitive from the law is that you are no longer able to avail yourself of it. The same should be true for the modern Right as they declare facts are for losers and liars are tough leaders who get away with it.
If we in the press are going to write about the America First crowd — especially when they are attacking each other — maybe we need to do it in the manner they've demonstrated works better than the truth Then let Arizona voters decide.
The media has been absolutely clueless about how to handle the Trumpist political movement's insistence on saying whatever charges up their emotions, regardless of reality.
We don't hear Biden declaring inflation a "hoax" or that the withdrawal from Afghanistan was "perfect."
And yet the GOP can now declare the 2020 election was fraudulent, Trump had a policy-based presidency and their political opponents are pedophiles. And then flip and ask the press to hold their opponents to standards of accuracy.
And the press — slaves to the fact-based world that we are —gets right on it.
So I say to the Truth or No Consequences Crowd: "Before I fact check your opponent, accurately describe what was in the Mueller Report?" Yeah, I'm still on that. It was 500 pages detailing collusion and obstruction by the Trump campaign during an election, but Masters says it was a giant nothing burger.
The media has largely given up on pointing to the incriminating facts of that supposed "exoneration."
That's fine. I don't think their craziness should be vetted under the banner of "Fact Checking." Politifacting should be reserved for politicians who try but occasionally screw up a detail or three.
Instead, the correct move is to call out Trump, Masters, Brnovich and their ilk under the standing headline: "Oh, Good Lord. What Are They Saying Now?"
And in daily reporting, it may be time to give these folks a taste of their own sedative.
The Washington Post wrote the Masters-Brnovich story like this:
"Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has spent months groundlessly telling Republicans that they can be on 'Trump’s Team' or 'Endorse Trump for President in 2024' by giving to his U.S. Senate campaign...."
Yeah, that's gotten us nowhere but to the edge of a fascist takeover.
Organize the story like this instead:
"Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich dismissed as 'fake news' the legal action taken by former President Donald Trump, who claims he does not support the Senate candidate's campaign and slammed Brnovich for purposefully propagating false information.
See, using the term "lie" is so unfair.
Now it's time to move to step two of the rather grievance-based formula so familiar to the former president to dismiss reality.
Brnovich insists Trump "has said very nice things about him," while blaming Masters for being "very unfair to him."
"This witch hunt is out to silence millions of patriotic Arizonans," Brnovich said. "No candidate for any office has ever been treated this unfairly."
And step three:
When pressed about how Trump has, in fact, endorsed Masters, the Arizona attorney general shot back: "It's the greatest fraud ever perpetrated on the people of Arizona because — frankly — I did win the Trump endorsement."
And the coup de grace, with a side of emasculation:
"People are saying — and you know this better than anyone — that his campaign is small and limp. He's got a very small campaign that's just limp, I guess you call it but that's what people are saying."
Now, the mainstream media outlet is free to go into the 1,200 words of accuracy — complete with a pie chart and explainer graphic — explaining the ins and outs of the story because that works so well.
Asymmetry of faith
Someone had better figure out something, because traditional journalism has been outclassed by cascading calculated disinformation which the public finds more interesting than dull old facts.
To properly function, down-the-middle, get-both-sides journalism requires a symmetry of actual good faith from sources.
That kind of story telling falls apart when one set of sources mocks the whole reporting process by jabbering in nonsense that makes them feel good, feel mad or feel like victims.
At that point, journalists become complicit in duping the American people.
I've long believed the press' job to "truth sandwich" by bracketing lies with internal fact checks. I've come to realize that just exhausts readers with detailed accuracy they find dull. So instead readers just remember the colorful lie. At best, they resort to splitting the difference and instinctively decide the truth is in the middle of between the two sides.
What's the midpoint between truth and lies? Such is the current American political X-Y diagram.
At least we tried
If Brnovich is able to insinuate a non-existent Trump endorsement onto himself, Masters and Trump have no one to blame but themselves.
They made these rules.
If Masters thinks it's OK to lie about the election results, then isn't it hunky-dory for his opponent to lie about endorsements? He's claimed Trump's ties to were proven totally false, when they were proven totally true. Why does he get to argue for facts now?
Hell, gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake is running on Trump's endorsement and accusing her opponent Karrin Taylor Robson of unethically turning single donations into weekly withdrawals. Team Trump invented that scheme and Lake simply saluted.
Is a slavish devotion to accuracy an effective rear-guard action to save democracy? Or is a little bit of fantastical imitation a better reflection of the truth? I'm not sure strategic retreat is our best play.
I've been wondering if the best way to save freedom is to convince its attackers their movement is just a false flag by George Soros and WokeCorp. Anyone who believes differently is a sheeple.
Maybe all that's left is denying them admittance back into reality when it suits them, while subjecting them to the very rules they create.
Of course, this is a flight of fancy on my part and I appreciate the readers' indulgence.
We're going to keep doing what we do because that's kind of built into our genetic code. Our judge may not be the people growing more and more confused and frustrated by the clatter. Our judge may be history, which will note we tried.
Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist who worked in daily journalism for nearly 20 years and is the former communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party. Now he’s telling you things that the Devil won’t.