Media postsThursday April 20, 2017
Bye Bye, Bill
Yeah, you can shut up now.
And just like that, Bill O'Reilly's gone from Fox News. I assumed he would never go. Like asthma or acid reflux.
As Capone with taxes, O'Reilly was undone not by his deeper crimes (lying, bullying, using patriotism to bring out the worst in scoundrel America) but by his awful, loutish behavior around women. It was less than three weeks ago, April 1st of all days, that The New York Times ran their in-depth feature on O'Reilly “thriving” despite the numerous sexual harassments suits against him. They tallied up five, added details, and I seriously thought that would be the end of it. We elected a man president of the United States who's done worse. But then the calls for boycotts of his show. And they stuck. They worked. They actually worked. Alex Wagner has an interesting piece over at The Atlantic about how O'Reilly can blame Trump for all of this. If Trump hadn't arrived in the awful, lying, sexual harassing manner he did, classless and idiotic, stupeflyingly oblivious to how hated he is around the world, most folks would be carrying on as normal. Now they're riled up. Women especially. Thank god.
There were calls for boycotts, they worked, and advertisers fled in droves. But I still thought he would stick. He was Fox's most popular guy. He was the John Wayne of their sad little studio: tall and craggy-faced and sometimes calm but mostly angry. He seethed with righteous, racist anger. He was less the benevolent Wayne in “Liberty Valance” than the awful Wayne in “The Searchers” or “Red River.” Now what do they got? Hannity? He's the Rory Calhoun of their sad little studio. Tucker Carlson? He's Jeffrey Hunter.
So both O'Reilly and Ailes were undone the same way. Not really a shocker. You hire a bunch of ruthless, domineering, craggy-faced guys, pair them with hot young things, sprinkle over everything a sense that America's best days were pre-civil rights and pre-feminism, when white men were men and all women were sex objects, well, don't be surprised at what grows in that awful, backward experiment.
According to Joe Muto in his insider look at Fox News, “An Atheist in the FOX Hole,” O'Reilly always asked, “So who's the villain in the story?” To get the outrage, you needed the target: “A name and preferably a photo that could be splashed onscreen for the host to point to and say, This is the bad guy. This is the guy hurting you.”
So who's the villain in the story? The one Bill O'Reilly least expected.
- Stephen Colbert calls upon “Stephen Colbert” to say good-bye to Papa Bear.
- In the wake of the allegations, Jia Tolentino reads Bill O'Reilly's 1998 novel ... about a TV newsman who commits murders after being fired.
- The Daily Show's Trevor Noah says goodbye with some pretty angry, racist shit O'Reilly spewed over the years.
- Randy Rainbow parodies the Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein song “Just My Bill” with some of those same O'Reilly rants.
- Finally, Stephen Colbert again, reeling, and reading from that '98 novel.
KUOW's Science Coverage Needs Peer Review
On Monday morning, my local NPR station, KUOW, ran a piece in which various scientists talked up the March for Science this Saturday. One is marching, she says, despite politics (“If there was a Democratic president who was doing the same things, I would feel the same way”), one feels marching reinforces partisan politics (i.e., “scientists have their own political agenda”), while a third gets into the squishy areas of liberal thought rather than the hard facts of science (“We are marching to defend an inclusive and diverse culture inside of science”).
It was a kind of “meh” piece, to be honest. I wondered: Are these three supposed to be representative of the scientific community? Are they outliers? Does the media tend toward the outlier, which feels like a story, even when it's supposed to be doing a representative piece?
But whatever. I was shaving. I was moving on with my day.
Then KUOW had to add a coda.
The piece seemingly over, they suddenly introduced Alex Berezow, a Senior Fellow at the American Council of Science and Health, with a Ph.D. from the University of Washington. For some reason, Mr. Berezow's thoughts aren't even part of the transcribed portion on KUOW's website. What were his thoughts?
Republicans, he said, may be known for denying climate change and evolution, but what about the left, which denies the benefits of GMO and the safety of nuclear power? “So I don't just buy that this is a one-sided war on science,” he said.
The he told a story of that infamous anti-vaccer, Barack Obama.
Specifically, he talked about the vaccine shortage during the 2009 flu epidemic and the response by the Obama administration's FDA, which didn't use adjuvants to extend the vaccine, because some thought they increased the chance for autism. “The Obama administration's FDA had given in to a couple of very fringe ideas, and as a result we had a vaccine supply shortage,” he said. “So I don't buy this idea that the war on science comes from the right, I don't really buy that it comes from the left; I buy that politicians are politicians, and they will throw science under the bus whenever they think it suits them.”
That was the end of the piece. No follow-up, no fact-checking from KUOW. Although it did add this, cryptically, about the American Council of Science and Health:
On its website, the council says part of their mission is to fight back against activist groups that have targeted GMOs, vaccines, nuclear power and chemicals.
Wikipedia is more explicit. The ACSH is a pro-industry group, often funded by the Scaifes and Exxons (and nearly the Phillip Morrises) of the world. I don't know why KUOW didn't just tell us this. Because this is my thought: Businesses are businesses, and they will throw science under the bus whenever they think it suits them.
As for Berezow's line about “the Obama administration's FDA” caving in to “a couple of very fringe ideas”? That leaves a little something out. This is from a New York Times piece on Senate hearings from Nov. 2009. Dr. Lurie is Nicole Lurie, chief of preparedness and response for the Health and Human Services Department:
Dr. Lurie said the adding of adjuvants had been discussed repeatedly but would have meant pulling doses off the production line. Also, she said, because anti-vaccine activists have expressed a fear of adjuvants, even though they are naturally occurring oils that have been used safely in Europe for a decade, public confidence in the vaccine was “not as robust as we'd like it to be” and officials feared some people would avoid shots.
I spent half a day researching for nothing what KUOW couldn't bother to tell us. Well, at least I learned how to spell “adjuvant.”
'Tension Between Immigrants and...?'
Can no one on NPR talk straight? Just say what is?
Shaving this morning, I listened to a segment on “The Takeaway,” out of NYC, about designing the public library of the future, and how they're community centers and what have you; and at one point host John Hockenberry began to ask this question:
There's been so much talk about the tension between immigrants and...
He paused, and I'm thinking: Pres. Trump? The Trump administration? The GOP? America Firsters? Reactionary SOBs? What's he going to say? I'm trying to help him along in my head. And he finally gets it out:
... and ... uh ... the, uh, authorities, the people who want to deport them...
The message of the piece is ultimately pro-immigrant, but c'mon, people. Call a Trump a Trump.
NPR Reduces Nunes' Actions to 'Partisan Bickering'
NPR's reporting pissed me off again this morning. I've come to expect it now. I expect them to display rotten journalistic instincts; to lean way too far to accommodate the right.
This morning the discussion between host David Greene and national security correspondent Mary Louise Kelly was supposed to be clarify (“take a deep breath here” Greene said at the outset) the congressional investigations into connections between Russia and the Trump administration. But Greene and Kelly shot themselves in the foot immediately:
GREENE: Let's start with this House investigation. They had the director of the FBI come testify. It seemed like they were making a whole lot of progress, then they just descended into partisan bickering. Is that a...
KELLY: A partisan bar brawl, as I've taken to calling it...
GREENE: Partisan bar brawl. Yeah.
KELLY: (Laughter) Yeah.
GREENE: I mean, can that committee actually credibly get back on track?
Partisan bickering. Partisan bar brawl.
Are you effin' kidding me?
The Republican head of the intelligence committee, Devin Nunes, acts in an unprecedented and unethical manner by working with the Trump adminstration rather than his own committee, by sharing intel with the people he's supposedly investigating, and by holding a press conference at the White House that toes the Trump line ... and this is reduced to “partisan bickering”? Even though members of his own party, including John McCain, are perplexed by, and have condemned him for, his actions?
Man, am I sick of this. The GOP knows that if they gum up the works, it's generally reported as “partisan squabble,” and readers/listeners wind up with a “plague on both yer houses” attitude. It allows the GOP to be bad actors, as Nunes is here, and get away with it.
What's worse is the knowing smirk in Greene's and Kelly's voices. Looks like those clowns in Congress did it again. What-a-bunch-of-clowns. It's so lazy. And it never gets at what the story is.
Yes, eventually Kelly mentioned Nunes, but that aspect of the story was couched in the usual language of false equivalence. Almost everyone agrees that Nunes acted unethically, and that his counterpart, Adam Schiff (D-CA) acted honorably, but, on NPR, the White House says this is a “witch hunt” and Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), a moderate Republican, says the whole thing is too “politicized,” so ... that's that.
What a bunch of clowns.
The Media Trump Wants But Doesn't Have (Yet)
Anthony Kuhn has been a journalist in China for years, but this month he became a viral sensation for asking a question about President Xi Jingping's “megaregion plans” around Beijing and the relocation of businesses/residents there. Video of his question at a government press conference went viral for a number of reasons: 1) he speaks Chinese like a native; 2) he seemed concerned about Beijing citizens; 3) the question was more pointed/critical than what the domestic press normally asks.
On NPR, Kuhn writes the following:
All Chinese media are nominally state-owned, and the government has increasingly leaned on journalists to “correctly guide public opinion” to the conclusions that the government prefers.
China's leaders acknowledge that the press has a watchdog role, which they call “supervision by public opinion.” But since the heyday of investigative Chinese journalism, much of it done by metropolitan tabloids in the 1990s and early 2000s, the government has muzzled many of the country's more independent media outlets and forced many journalists either to censor themselves or quit the business.
It's exactly the kind of press Pres. Trump wants. And gets? Everyone applauded the German reporter last Friday for asking Trump about why he is scared of “diversity” in the news, dismissing anything he doesn't like as “Fake news,” and about his constant, unproven claims. It was a breath of fresh air. She all but asked, “Why do you keep lying?” It was a breath of fresh air because nobody else is saying that to his face. He dismissed her as “Fake news.”
Scarier: Andrew Marantz in The New Yorker on the right-wing blogs and jackass conservative sites that are increasingly making up the White House press corps.
Really, the kind of press he wants is the question.