Media postsFriday April 06, 2018
Recommended: Andrew Marantz's New Yorker portrait of Reddit, midflight, as it tries to figure out where to draw a line it didn't think it had to: between free speech and hate speech; between acceptable and un. Full title: “Reddit and the Struggle to Detoxify the Internet: How do we fix life online without limiting free speech?”
No easy answers. Well, there are. One is to say it's all free speech, but then you run into the problem of us. You wind up with subreddits on revenge porn or Jewhating or worse. You wind up with Donald Trump as president.
A recurring bit is when Marantz describes some awful subreddits, then adds a parenthetical, “(Yes, it gets worse.)” As here:
In September of 2011, Anderson Cooper discussed the [jailbait] subreddit on CNN. “It's pretty amazing that a big corporation would have something like this, which reflects badly on it,” he said. Traffic to Jailbait quadrupled overnight. Twelve days later, after someone in the group apparently shared a nude photo of a fourteen-year-old girl, the community was banned. And yet the founder of Jailbait, an infamous troll who went by u/Violentacrez, was allowed to stay on Reddit, as were some four hundred other communities he'd created—r/Jewmerica, r/ChokeABitch, and worse. (Yes, it gets worse.)
Despite the dive into the worst of humanity, the piece isn't without its laugh-out-loud absurdities. In 2014, Ellen Pao became CEO of the often-misogynistic site. She lasted eight months:
Early in her tenure, Reddit announced a crackdown on involuntary pornography. If you found a compromising photo of yourself circulating on Reddit without your consent, you could report it and the company would remove it. In retrospect, this seems like a straightforward business decision, but some redditors treated it as the first in an inevitable parade of horrors. “This rule is stupid and suppresses our rights,” u/penisfuckermcgee commented.
I'd like the audio version read by Jason Bateman.
The Times: Poking, Chortling
Writer-editor Tom Scocca (Gawker, Deadspin, The Baltimore City Paper, New York Observer and Slate) is starting a new website called the “Hmm Daily,” and for once, and despite the title, it doesn't sound like something that makes me want to take a shower. It sounds smart. He sounds smart—someone I could learn from.
Here's the portion of his interview with Columbia Journalism Review that made me perk up and all but shout, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” while pumping my fist in the air:
In this new project, what is it that you are working in opposition to?
There’s a quick answer that I feel is a woefully incomplete one. I think in my pitch [for the site] I outright said that this is going to be against everything The New York Times opinion section stands for. There’s a whole style of argumentation out there that’s grounded in bad intellectual faith. People are trying to do provocations based on partisan self-positioning. The way James Bennet keeps describing the Times opinion operation is great; it’s great to challenge your readers, but that’s not what they’re doing. They’re just poking their readers in the eye and then chortling about it. If there is one thing I try to get across to people in editing them, it’s that somebody is going to find the weakest part of your argument, and it might as well be you. That kind of taking responsibility for what you say, and making sure that it will seem meaningful and defensible to other people, is the thing they just are categorically not doing there. There’s just so much room for a higher level of honest discussion and argumentation.
The line after the highlighted is great, too. Need to remember that one.
It is a shame how bad the Times Op-Ed page is. Not sure which is worse, that or NPR's “Morning Edition.”
NPR Thought It Thaw a Thaw
The mainstream media still bends over backwards to appease the right-wing in this country. Even The Washington Post, which normally does better, ran this headline over a post-Parkland piece about the grades given to U.S. Senators by the NRA:
52 senators have an A-minus NRA rating or higher — including four Democrats
“Including four Democrats.” Republicans don't even make the cut. They don't get the blame unless you do the obvious math: Ninety-two percent of the politicians who back the NRA's agenda are Republicans. In what world does the 8% become the headline rather than the 92%?
You can argue the headline is pushing back against the conventional wisdom that says it's all the Republicans' fault—except they never run that headline. They run headlines blaming “Washington” or “Congress” or “politicians.” So the above pushes back against a conventional wisdom that is never aired.
On NPR this morning, as part of their top-of-the-hour news rundown, they mentioned that Mitt Romney officially declared his run for U.S. Senate in Utah, then talked about his icy relationship with Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign. This icy relationship, NPR said, thawed after the election.
Thawed? This is that thaw:
These small things add up. You can't keep describing a reality that doesn't exist without losing readers and listeners.
‘And the Public was Glad to Go Along’
“Nothing had bugged me more during and right after Watergate than the know-nothing charge that the press had gone after Nixon because he was a Republican and the press consisted of a bunch of liberal Democrats. ‘You guys never would have gone after Kennedy,’ went the dreary charge, ‘if he were involved in Watergate.’ Truth is, at the Post anyway, we were always praying for good Democratic scandals ... and found more than our share. But that criticism, the suggestion of bias, wore me down over the years, I now think, and I know we walked the extra mile to accept the official version of events from the [Republican] White Houseexplanations that I doubt we would have accepted from the right-hand men of Democratic presidents. And the public was glad to go along.”
Ben Bradlee, “A Good Life,” pg. 409
A Succinct Answer to a Convoluted Question
Yesterday on NPR's “Morning Edition,” host Steve Inskeep talked with two top ethics lawyers from previous administrations, Richard Painter (Bush II) and Norman Eisen (Obama), about the lack of ethics of our current president. I know: shocker. Both men are on the board of CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which has sued Pres. Trump for violating the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution:
No Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.
I.e., you can't make money from being prez. Trump is ignoring that. Ironically, at his apparent financial peril.
CREW's first lawsuit was tossed out because the judge ruled the org lacked legal standing. They're appealing, and states, which do have legal standing, are now suing on the same grounds. All of which led to this exchange:
INSKEEP: I want to ask about another aspect of this because as I understand the judge's ruling—throwing out your lawsuit—the judge said, really, this ought to be up to Congress to police, among other things. Congress, of course, is controlled by Republicans. They've said they want to hold the White House accountable. They've been accused of actually defending the White House.
But, you know, we're just been discussing immigration, and it's an issue in which it appears the president was at one point ready to compromise with Democrats, and conservatives realized they needed to stay very close to the president and talk to him a lot or he was going to wander off and not support their policies. You have an example of why Republicans in Congress need, politically, to stay close to the president. What would you advise them to do when it comes to ethics and this president?
PAINTER: Do their job.