Tomorrow will be Groundhog Day for the media. In the eponymous 1993 comedy, a reporter assigned to cover the annual event finds himself stuck in a time loop, condemned to repeat the same day in a kind of Nietzschean eternal return. Phil hates the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, hates the yokels who live there, hates the kitschiness of the ceremony. It’s living hell, but he can’t get out of the day.
With the release of the full Mueller report on April 18, 2019, the media entered their first Groundhog Day. They pored over the report, which was supposed to prove conclusively that Donald Trump had colluded with the Russian government to steal the election from Hillary Clinton and that he’d thereafter obstructed Mueller’s investigation into the matter. Only the report didn’t say that. And no matter how they framed their narrative about what was in the report, the reality was that there were no convictions or pleas for anything that happened before the investigation was concluded and the report was published that related to the issues of collusion or obstruction.
The second Groundhog Day occurred on May 29, 2019, when Mueller bizarrely held a press conference to announce that he had nothing to add to, take away from, or in any way alter his published report and that he had no intention of saying anything more about it. Ever. This didn’t stop the frenzied media from going at the evidence all over again. Previously, they’d only read the report. Now they heard it from Mueller himself. This made all the difference, apparently.
Only it didn’t. As President Trump succinctly put it: There was no collusion, no obstruction.
There is a certain hardness about facts in the world, a certain givenness that doesn’t yield to narrative preferences. Narratives are flimsier than facts. For a narrative to be convincing, everybody has to buy into it. In that case, you might get a kind of mass hypnosis. If only one person looks up at an illusory UFO hovering overhead, you ignore him. But as more and more people gather to look, you begin to doubt yourself. Eventually, you might even see the flying saucer yourself, and the little green men, too.
But if it’s not actually there, if it’s not real, then the murmuring of the dissidents in the crowd — those who refuse to go along with the ruse, who proclaim that there’s nothing in the sky but clouds — will not allow the story-spinners to rest. They’ll need and demand yet another do-over.
In this way we’ve come to the third Groundhog Day: Mueller has been summoned to appear before Congress. To what end, though? No one other than confirmed political junkies is going to tune in, so disgusted and bored has the rest of the country become with absurd displays of empty posturing by our elected representatives.
Mueller will repeat what he’s already said. He can do nothing else. The media will again reframe their narratives. They, too, can do nothing else. But they won’t find release, because minds won’t be changed. So, they’ll be compelled to do it again and again, each time tweaking the narrative in a different way in the vain hope that it will solidify. Their agony will be prolonged indefinitely because in the end it’s not about framing or narratives. In the end it’s about the stubborn facticité of reality.
The only exit out of Groundhog Day, for them and for the country, is to reconcile with what they can’t change: No collusion, no obstruction.
Nietzsche called this resolution Amor Fati, the loving acceptance of one’s fate. Only so can our country move on to deal creatively with the very real problems we’re facing: homelessness leading to diseases we once thought eradicated; a border crisis that threatens the stability of our institutions; and the looming menace of a Middle East war, to name just a few.
Now that we see the Russian and Chinese air forces conducting joint military exercises, we might ask the following pertinent question: Who lost Russia? Perhaps the appointment of another Special Investigator is in order.