It started with a tweet.
BREAKING: We’ve got Trump tax returns. Tonight, 9pm ET. MSNBC.
— Rachel Maddow MSNBC (@maddow) March 14, 2017
And with that social media went to work. 85,000+ retweets and countless Facebook shares, the audience was set for this big reveal, myself included. For almost two years we have wanted to see what was in the President’s tax returns, for two years, we’ve been promised that we would see them only to be left empty-handed. So finally it appeared we would get some answers.
Speculation raged about what might be revealed. Was this the final gotcha in this battle of one-ups? As the time for the show drew closer, information on the returns started to filter out. There was only one return, from 2005. Then the White House released information about what the returns showed. The realization this may be nothing more than a rating’s grab quickly began to loom.
As the show started, I quickly understood that there was going to be almost nothing to the hype. No matter how many times Maddow said “oligarchs” she wasn’t providing any new information. With each cliffhanger commercial break the likelihood that this would lead to any new information evaporated.
When the “return” was finally revealed, we discovered it was only two pages from a twelve-year-old tax filing. Two pages of generic information that had been hyped to make us believe it was the new Watergate. I usually like Rachel’s reporting, I think some of the investigative journalism that she has done has been outstanding up until this point. I also have no doubt that she will continue to search to uncover new information that will be beneficial. This time I think she and her staff got caught in this same trap of putting credibility in a precarious position, just to be first with something.
These are they types of “reports” that give even small credence to the new term of “fake news.” It also does a disservice to the actual need for transparency and information from what may or may not be in the tax returns of our President. It does two things at the same time; it allows supporters to say “See he pays taxes and has nothing to hide.” It also permits detractors to say “Where is the rest? What is being hidden?” Both statements are accurate and at the same time damaging to any chance of constructive dialogue. We have to do better than this.
If we continue down this road of questions with no answers and answers to questions unasked, we will never reach any type of truth. It’s becoming merely about showmanship and a desire to discredit the other side instead of seeking what is true and accurate. As long as mainstream news outlets let themselves fall into this trap truth will always end up being subjective. It will also allow the administration to dodge real issues and questions by releasing their own brand of fake news. Which becomes more acceptable to the general public because of some of the failings in journalism. Leaving truth somewhere in the gray area, completely ignored.
The hatred on both sides is palpable and influences all of us. We grasp for the next gotcha, the new explosive rumor. No longer looking for truth, we now search for any report that confirms our belief. Anything else is “fake” or “lies.” Our ability to be discerning and use reason have been replaced by the need to be right.
The urgency to see the tax returns is real and reasonable. There are serious questions that need to be explained. Influences that may need to be exposed and any potential violations investigated and prosecuted if they exist.
Also, there needs to be an acceptance that, if nothing is found, the worst of what we think may not be true. Because simply expecting something devious to be happening doesn’t mean that it is.
Both sides of this issue cannot be right. However, without the information, we will neve know which side. Quit looking to be right, start looking for what is true.
The real question then becomes, who is actually scared of the truth?
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