To the Publishers and Editors of the United States: An Open Letter

russian-billboard_getty

Dear Friends and Former Colleagues,

Donald Trump has been dominating news coverage for so long now, the stories have become predictable. There is a larger story about this election playing out which no news organization seems to be taking advantage of. Whoever breaks this story first is going to regain a lot of reader trust and generate a lot of internet clicks.

There are Pulitzers and book deals here in the offing for an enterprising journalist. All that journalist has to do to win them is find the truth and report it honestly. I’ve put together a list of facts to help you on your way.

1. The New York Times has published a long, well-detailed story about President-Elect Trump’s potential conflicts of interest which stem from his business relationships abroad. Time  and The Washington Post have published accounts Mr. Trump’s connections to Russia  and admiration of Vladimir Putin.

2. On Nov. 28, 14 members of the U.S. House Oversight Committee communicated a letter to Chairman Jason Chaffetz requesting that the committee begin a review of Mr. Trump’s finances “in order to identify and protect against conflicts of interest.” Ranking Member Elijah Cummings requested this review two weeks prior, and as of Nov. 28. had received no response from the chairman. The letter of Nov. 28 states that the Committee’s offices have received more calls from citizens asking for this investigation than they have ever received about any other issue.

3. On Nov. 29, seven members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence requested in writing that President Obama take steps to declassify information about Russian involvement in the recent Presidential election. The letter was made public.

senate_russiaAt the very least, this is notable enough to warrant front-page coverage. Intelligence matters are typically negotiated privately. It is highly unlikely that seven senators would make such a communication public unless they were sure the information requested includes facts the American people should have access to immediately. See Rachel Maddow’s report on 12/1 and Spencer Ackerman’s “Senators call for declassification of files on Russia’s Role in US election” in The Guardian to confirm the facts.

The overseas relationships and the Russian manipulation of the election must intersect somewhere. Follow the money.

If I were a publisher, I’d commit serious editorial resources to investigating all this. I would be investing money into the effort. I would have my best people on it and I’d be looking for a long series of front-pagers or cover stories.

The direction of U.S. policy for decades to come, the well-being of future generations, and the survival of press freedom may very well turn on the decisions we make about how we respond to this situation.

Sincerely,

Gene’O

-ed. The Trump/Putin billboard was captured in Macedonia last month by both Getty and Reuters and is verified as authentic by Snopes. The Getty version appears here. I’ve seen several other examples of this sort of imagery from Russia and the former Soviet sphere of influence in the last couple of months.

Personal.

I am having a strange moment of cognitive dissonance right now. I’m supposed to be getting Tolkien and Batman ready for later in the week on the other blogs, but there’s a knock-down, drag-out legislative battle going on around me over Mississippi Senate Bill 2681, which would allow people to assert religious freedom as a way of discriminating against non-heterosexual people, and would also, in my opinion, open the door to all kinds of other mischief.

Since I’m too stirred up to write about books right now, and I’m waiting on my social media to tell me what to do next, I thought I’d come here and express my feelings about all this. So here’s how I feel.

First of all, we need to get away from the business of prescribing sexual norms to consenting adults. Sexual prescription is one of the hallmarks of authoritarian societies, and I think the Western world has had enough authoritarianism to do us until the end of time. Everything else I say here really flows from this first point. Non-violence is a theological principle for me which I will not compromise. The belief that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights is something I take for granted, so you can see why my patience is running out with people who want to make sexuality criteria for legal discrimination, and use religious freedom arguments to back it up.

Second, I am embarrassed for Mississippi, because this is not how we really treat people. Our legislature is pandering to the 60-and-older crowd with a few fundamentalists thrown in. Young Southern people are different than the way Southerners are portrayed in the media. They have interracial relationships. They have differently-sexual relationships. They’re friendly to first-generation immigrants.

Third (and now we might be getting somewhere) I’m a little pissed off about the fact that I feel compelled to participate in politics all of a sudden. Because I swore off participation the minute I actually felt competent to understand it.

Politics is nasty business. It gives people an excuse to destroy one another, and mostly, the destruction is over nothing. It makes me sick to look at it. But at the same time, it affects peoples’ lives. And I’m talking about real people – sons, daughters, parents, wives, husbands, cousins. Homeless people and rich people.Politics is important, whether I like it or not. I do understand it, and I’m good at it. You know what that means.

So I don’t know what to do, as I sit here and wait to see what the next move is, except write this, and publish it even though it’s really not up to snuff, and hope that this time — just this once, my side wins.

The bill is online now. (Via Deep South Progressive.)