Ian Harris: Mueller madness
This past weekend, the long awaited Mueller Report was released. Or at least, it was given to the Department of Justice, who published a brief four-page summary without disclosing most of what is contained within the actual report. Pundits and political commentators will probably spend now until forever debating this turn of events, but what I found most striking about this weekend of Mueller Madness is the way in which news networks and media conglomerates chose to cover this event.
At halftime of an NCAA tournament game on Sunday, CBS News did a special report on the Mueller announcement promising “The Mueller Investigation,” an in-depth CBS-only look at the story surrounding the report — hyping it up for the next few days like it was the Superbowl or the next big blockbuster movie. The Mueller investigation, like the Kavanaugh hearings and Trump’s entire political career before it have been treated by society like entertainment instead of politics, to the ultimate detriment of our media and country. Treating the results of the report like the results of a basketball game changes the way that the public perceives these events. People aren’t asking the important questions — why did Russia want to interfere in our election? What did they do to interfere and how can we stop this from happening again in the future? Instead the questions debated are whether or not this was a “win” for Trump or the democrats.
This obsession with wins and losses, with putting everything into a binary column of victory or defeat, only serves to further perpetuate the boxing match mentality of our political sphere, alienating people all across the board who just want our politicians to worry about the issues and problems actually facing people today. A New York Times article published Mar. 25, titled “Disappointed Fans of Mueller Rethink the Pedestal They Built for Him,” is the perfect example of this. This article goes into the cult of personality around Robert Mueller that is not dissimilar from the kind of religious fervor that surrounds Donald Trump. Many liberals and even some centrists seemed to hold out hope over the past two years that Mueller and his report would swoop in like a knight in shining armor to save them from the horror show of the Trump presidency. That feeling was always misguided, and in aftermath of the actual report being delivered to the DOJ, laughably so.
But it is not individuals alone who are responsible for this belief — it is also the media itself. Reporters and journalists have spent years hyping up Mueller v. Trump like it’s Rocky v. Apollo, when the circumstances surrounding Trump’s contacts with Russia have always been murkier than that. The Mueller report was always unlikely to make a final decision about whether or not Trump colluded with the Russians, as all along Mueller and other officials have made it clear that they believe that to be a determination that congress needs to make. Portraying the results of the report as conclusive one way or another on any level is a mistake on the part of news agencies.
The story surrounding the Mueller report, Donald J. Trump and the Russians is far from over. But until the media starts treating it like news instead of entertainment, entertainment columnists will continue to be compelled to write about politics instead of movies or music.