Media postsTuesday May 09, 2017
That NPR Report on Northerners Flying the Confederate Flag
It's took more than a minute into their nearly four-minute piece on northerners flying the Confederate flag before NPR brought up race.
During that time, two white Iowans who display the flag talk about their reasons for doing so: their affinity with the 1860s Southern cause. Says one:
Those people were fighting for states' rights, and the freedom to make their own way and to choose their own way against a tyrannical federal government.
Says the other:
They wanted their independence, they wanted a smaller government. I find that a lot in people. It's just that rebelliousness.
As for slavery? Or racism? Here's the first one again:
I dismiss it, because I'm not racist whatsoever. That flag doesn't mean that to me.
“But it does for many others,” adds reporter Sarah McCammon, who interviews a professor of history on the topic. But that's about the only clarifcation that's made. One side says this, the other side says that. Who knows where the truth lies?
Compounding the matter, the first guy also tells NPR his interest in “Civil War history and symbols deepened during the Obama administration, when he felt President Obama was overstepping his executive authority.” OK. How did Obama do that? Was it executive orders? Even though Obama signed fewer EOs than George W. Bush or Clinton? And Trump signed more in his first 100 days than any president ever? Can NPR give us (or him) those numbers? Of course not. Let the old men continue with their FOX News delusion. Right-wing media propagandizes, mainstream media simply reports on the result. And throws up its hands.
I'm so sick of this type of reporting. These guys can say the Confederate flag doesn't mean racism to them, but sorry, that's what it means. It's like saying the Swastika represents “nationalism.” Sure. A few other things, too.
NPR's piece does end with this chilling bit of information: In 2015, after Dylann Roof killed nine black people in a church in Charleston, S.C., one Confederate memorabilia outlet “saw a 10-fold spike” in sales.
Small government proponents, no doubt.
FURTHER READING: “Why the Confederate Flag Made a 20th Century Comeback,” from National Geographic.
Just another white man wanting his independence.
Failure of the Press During the Blacklist and Beyond
Glenn Frankel's book, “High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic,” is a good reminder of all of the forces that went into ruining peoples' lives during the blacklist. McCarthy, who gave his name to the era, actually came around relatively late in the process. The big early guns were, in no order of importance, the FBI, HUAC, the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, the studio moguls, business interests, the Chamber of Commerce, and the usual array of near-fascistic right-wingers and bigots.
Oh, and the press:
The daily press tended to report [HUAC hearings] uncritically. The allegations of “friendly witnesses” like Sterling Hayden were repeated without question or rebuttal. Those who were named as Communists were not contacted by reporters and given the opportunity to respond. There were virtually no articles that questioned the committee's methods. The committee provided a libel-proof forum for accusations of subversion against named individuals who were not permitted to cross-examine their accusers. “The press does not merely mirror or report the hearing; it is an indispensable part of it—like a loudspeaker on a high-fidelity sound system,” wrote HUAC critic Frank J. Donner.
Media heroes were few:
Alan Barth, editorial page editor of the Washington Post, was one of the few mainstream journalists to object to this perversion of the press's role of government watchdog. “The tradition of objectivity ... has operated in this context to make the press an instrument of those seeking to inflict punishment by publicity,” he wrote. “Allegations that would otherwise be ignored ... as groundless and libelous are blown up on front pages and given a significance out of all relation to their intrinsic merit after they have been made before a committee of Congress.”
Imagine that: groundless accusations being blown up by the mainstream media. So glad we've matured past such a barbaric time.
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.