Is the sum of the tweets greater than the tweets?

It’s been almost a month since I last posted. My apologies. I’ve been working on a longer, reported article, among other lousy excuses.

I have, however, continued to post frequently on Twitter, growing more frustrated, angrier, and more frantic almost every day.

The January 6 committee hearings gave the political media the grist it needed — and a great big shove – to acknowledge, once and for all, that the leader of the dominant wing of the Republican Party incited and encouraged an attempt to steal the 2020 election.

But after a day or two (if that) of not both-sidesing the threat to democracy posed by the GOP, it was back to the broken, inadequate normal for the mainstream, corporate media.

I know I tweet way too much. My excuse is that it’s a way to memorialize my thoughts as well as, hopefully, make an impact on the media industry and the twittersphere.

But I’ve been wondering if -– just as I did with the items I collected every morning in order to write my White House Watch column for the Washington Post many years ago -– I could create a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. In others words, if I looked through a day or a week’s worth of tweets, would I pull out themes that deserved more attention and a longer shelf life?

So as an experiment, I went through the last four weeks of tweets to test my hypothesis. Read on and tell me if you think it’s worth doing more often (and shorter).

On the January 6 Committee Doing the Media’s Job

The January 6 committee exposed not just Trump’s conspiracy to steal the election, but the media’s conspiracy of silence.

The last two hearings were really extraordinary:

I thought reporters made a mistake when they wrote up non-responsive talking points from Republicans whingeing about how the hearings weren’t fair. They should have asked:


One of the achievements of the hearings was to take us back to a moment where everyone knew things had gone too far, even the Republican leadership:

And it reminded us that, in real time, neither Trump nor anyone else knew how it would turn out.


The committee did a great job, but inevitably left many leads for journalists to pursue. Instead, some reporters turned to whining:

The central if unstated purpose of the hearings has been to prod the Department of Justice to indict Trump and his cronies. Unfortunately, as I wrote here, the “democracy teams” at our major news organizations are way outnumbered by Team Impunity. Then again, Politico doesn’t even have a democracy team.

I think this is all very calculated:

And soon enough, reporters went right back to centering their coverage around Trump, his base, and their reaction.

It’s important to keep in mind that — with the exception of a few details about just how childish Trump was when the Secret Service told him he couldn’t go to the Capitol after his speech —  there has been no substantial pushback from anyone about any of the facts the committee has put forth.

Yes, there are a bunch of books (and excerpts from books) coming out, but they are mostly full of gossip that makes whichever sources were most obliging to the authors look good — rather than answering the many still outstanding questions.

How did the media miss all this stuff in real time?

The answer, I think, is that this was all a game for our top political journalists, who were competing for attention when they should have been crusading for the truth.

There was a lot they didn’t miss. But when they got a “scoop”, they turned it into ephemeral clickbait.

Axios, for instance, had written about the “unhinged” meeting Trump held with crackpots on Dec. 18, 2020 that was treated like a major bombshell after the July 12 hearing.

Trump’s attempt to steal the election was fully apparent to reporters — I would argue as early as September 2020. It was certainly obvious well before Election Day, and all the way through Jan. 6.

As with the most outrageous and morally indefensible things he did, he announced his intention ahead of time.

So it’s not wrong to treat this as big news now. It was, it is, and it will be big news.

But it also goes to show the media’s abysmal failure to express sufficient alarm that certain things it discovered got the attention they needed. It was all just noise to a media ecosystem that was too scared to pull the emergency brake.

On the Media Rooting for Garland to Fail

As for the larger investigation, the serving of a search warrant at Trump’s Palm Beach home to seize documents he absconded with from the White House does not actually cast any more light on whether Attorney General Merrick Garland will approve an indictment of Trump based on inciting insurrection.

It did, however, elicit from shockingly bad takes:

How is the larger investigation going? The New York Times ran an attention-getting article in July suggesting that the department was only now, for the first time, “discussing the topic of Mr. Trump more directly.”  But the article was a journalistic shitshow.

So basically we’re supposed to take an anonymous Lisa Monaco’s word for the fact that DOJ wasn’t “talking about it” until after the committee hearings? Seriously?

On the Failure to Call Out the Crazy

Here’s my question:

But instead, even when they explicitly write about the potential for anti-democratic violence, reporters consistently leave out the essential context.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman thinks he knows why:

The job of the media is simple: to inoculate the country with the truth:


The Failure to Explain What’s at Stake

As I wrote a while back, the goal of a responsible news organization is not to get people to vote a specific way. But it is to make sure that everyone understands what’s at stake.

But our elite political reporters seem incapable of doing this. They know, for instance, that a Trump candidacy would be dangerous, and another presidency would be cataclysmic. But they treat it like just another spectacle.

He still rules their world

There is no acknowledgement that the Republican agenda is toxic to most Americans.

That’s giving them credit for having an agenda at all:

They should be asking why the Republican Party is even competitive given its extremism and conspiracy theories.

And they should be saying this is not OK:

Our most elite media figures spread disinformation:

When their task is clear:

Everything is Bad News for Biden

Washington Post opinion columnist Perry Bacon wrote a seminal column about this:

Part of it is that they adopt a Republicans frame for the narrative:

All of Biden’s victories are fleeting, and there’s always another shoe to drop:

They refuse to acknowledge the role of the media narrative in driving down Biden’s support:

They refuse to consider that some of the Biden disapproval is from the left, and does not translate to support for the GOP:

Then they put every policy or electoral battle in the context of Biden’s approval ratings:

Veteran journalist Marvin Kalb had some thoughts:

On Corrupt Democrats and Climate Change

Political reporters at our elite news organizations found themselves incapable of accurately reporting on the transparently venal motives of Sens. Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema in blocking passage of Biden’s biggest policy proposals:

On climate change, the coverage is still shockingly anodyne:

On the Heroes and the Goats

I read some great stuff over the last four weeks. And some awful stuff.

Three Washington Post stories stood out — none of them by political reporters. So kudos to the Post’s Michelle Boorstein, Chris Mooney and Harry Stevens, and Hannah Allam.

Boo to Post opinion writer Karen Tumulty, Post reporter Gregory Schneider, and Time reporter Molly Ball for responding to Va. Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s presidential trial balloon with egregious sycophancy. Kudos to pundit Norm Ornstein and New York Times opinion columnist Jamelle Bouie for calling it out.

Boo to Sam Stein of Politico for creating a media circus about nothing.

Kudos to civil rights lawyer Alec Karakatsanis for his blistering and well-documented critiques of mainstream police reporting.

Boo to Washington Post “fact-checker” Glenn Kessler, who ignores responses to the nonsense he posts on Twitter.

And boo to would-be media umpire NewsGuard for succumbing to both-sidesism by giving MSNBC a lower “trust” score than Fox.

Should I or Shouldn’t I?

Now that I have done it, it seems obvious to me that trying to cram this many tweets into one story was a bad idea. But should I do it daily or weekly? I don’t know. You tell me. At least I feel caught up now.


  1. Dan: As a constant reader from back in your White House days, I think a weekly summary of your tweets would be very useful for those of us who avoid Twitter out of principle or a lack of time. One point from your tweets that I’d like especially to endorse:

    “They refuse to consider that some of the Biden disapproval is from the left, and does not translate to support for the GOP.”

    I believe that left-wing disappointment with Biden is a very significant factor in his low popularity ratings. I’m a progressive social democrat myself, and whenever I respond to a Civiqs survey I label myself as “rather dissatisfied” with his administration so far.

  2. Mr. Froomkin,
    In your e-mailed newsletter, get rid of the large peace signs and the repetitions.
    It looks much better on your site than in the e-mailed newsletter.
    My opinion, and I’m a fan of yours, is that you should spend less time tweeting, a medium only good for wise-cracks and impossible for reasoned expression, and more time writing essays and articles.
    Write this out, with your ideas and the many good references and links; in sentences, each of which I learned in school is supposed to be a complete thought; in paragraphs, each of which is a short discussion or argument; and an essay, which has a demonstrated conclusion.
    I want to read your reporting and your knowledge.

  3. This is perfect. A single source for all the egregious reporting-weekly works fine, but whenever you like is also fine.
    Thank you for doing the yeoman’s work that our MSM is supposed to be and getting paid big bucks for doing.

  4. I mostly avoid Twitter because I find tweets are too disjointed. It is much easier to grasp your main point/points in an article than in a serious of separate statements. It would be wonderful if you posted a weekly article. The late Eric Boehlert was the only person who regularly wrote about the harm the mainstream media is causing our democracy. Media Matter used to be a great site for that but in recent years they mostly cover right wing media. Steve Bannon was right when he said it’s the mainstream media that does the real damage to Democrats so criticism of them is imperative.

    I have a major criticism of this post. The media didn’t give up on calling out Republican craziness sometime during the last six years. They have been refusing to do so ever since Republicans allowed Newt Gingrich to become House Speaker. Dana Milbank made this point in a recent column in the Washington Post:

    “House Republicans encouraged the conspiracy theory that Vincent Foster, a lawyer in the Clinton White House, had been murdered — possibly, in the belief’s craziest formulation, by Hillary Clinton. After four separate, independent investigations concluded Foster died by suicide, Gingrich said, “I just don’t accept it,” and one of his committee chairmen, Dan Burton, shot a melon in his backyard to reenact the “murder.” “

    The Foster murder slander was just one of many rightwing generated pseudo-scandals Republicans used in their attempt to destroy Clinton but it was by far the craziest. The mainstream “liberal” media not only didn’t hammer Republicans for that insanity they actively helped legitimize other slanders. Whitewater, Filegate, Travelgate, Chinagate/Wen Ho Lee were all fake scandals that the MSM, led by the New York Times, gave credence to.

    To make matters worse the media openly admired guys like Lee Atwater and Karl Rove whose dirty campaign tricks were well known, especially after Atwater apologized for them on his deathbed. Even the fact that a top Republican, likely Rove, had bragged about how Republicans were creating their own reality and mocked Democrats for living in the reality-based world didn’t force the media to acknowledge how dishonest Republicans were.
    The media openly admired Frank Luntz who was inventing new ways for Republicans to talk about their unpopular goals to mislead voters. NBC even hired the blatantly partisan Luntz to conduct voter focus groups that they broadcast.

    Had the media pushed back against the Republican descent into pervasive dishonesty and extremism in the 90s I believe they could have stopped it. Back then Fox News getting started and most people still got their news from mainstream media outlets.

  5. Re running tweets: if you have this much, weekly please. Monthly is too much.
    Anyway, the problem the mainstream:
    Ever since the national ethos became a belief that there’s no greater good than accumulating wealth by any and all means, the mainstream media have been failing to the point, as I’m wont to say, that they’re actually harmful.
    They weaken Biden because of their shtick of crapping on the Democrats every chance they get. Afghanistan is a great example. Over forty years of underreporting and misreporting on US actions against that nation, the withdrawal was believed to be the huge failure the media characterized it as when honest reporting prior thereto likely would have had people understanding that it was a) overdue and b) reasonably well handled given the circumstances. Instead, we get Richard Engel bitching.
    At the same time, the mainstream gives the GOP pass after pass after pass. We have had at least a couple hundred thousand Covid deaths that were wholly avoidable but for Republican leaders blocking efforts to mitigate the pandemic. They are, by definition, killers but the mainstream refuses to report it as such.
    The Dobbs decision is a complete disaster in legal reasoning; that was ignored by the mainstream. People maybe should know when the basis for a major decision is completely baseless.
    And, of course, so much more.
    Anyway, these are the decisions dictated by a for-profit press in these times. Given owners putting profits first, there won’t be and under the current economic system (unrestrained capitalism) there can’t be any change — we can’t get a non-toxic mainstream press.
    Alternatively, the audiences theoretically can learn what are trustworthy sources but practically I can’t see that happening.
    A functional democracy requires everyone acting in good faith. The GOP hasn’t done this in at least thirty years. And neither do the mainstream media. When a Maggie Haberman is in any way a star reporter at a premier outlet, there’s something seriously, deeply wrong.
    My only solution is the audiences abandoning the mainstream and finding more trustworthy sources. I do not see that happening on a sufficiently large scale. Also required is voting the GOP out of; likewise not betting on that happening.

  6. I don’t use Twitter either. I thought I was the only one.

    It might be useful to publish Twitter threads in quasi short essay form. But it shouldn’t eat into long essay time. Is there a writing form, the ‘consolidated-tweet-style’ essay? Ideally, there would be a Twitter client that saved consecutive tweets in word-processing file (I won’t say the name of MS products. Worked in IT; spite) at same time they are posted, and added some minimal formatting to make them readable in longer form.
    Or more if warranted later. The point should be to publish in both formats simultaneously. If you were an academic, a grad student would do this.


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