Media postsThursday November 13, 2014
Pointless: Jon Stewart Weighs In on #Pointergate
Finally, Jon Stewart and The Daily Show take on, and get the story behind, the idiocy of #Pointergate:
Here's my take from last week. In the comments field, you'll notice that Tim has anticipated Jon Stewart's reaction ... but with an even better photo.
Known Southside gangbangers Minnesota Nice and Vanilla Nice, flashing signs in 2010.
My Pointergate Scandal
Daily Kos called it “may be the most racist news story of 2014.” Former mayor R.T. Rybak said on Facebook that he had to “reread this article three times before I could be convinced this wasn't a joke.”
What is it? It's called Pointergate or #Pointergate. Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges was helping volunteers with Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, a Get Out The Vote campaign in Minneapolis, and took a photo with a young volunteer. They were arm in arm but pointing fingers at each other. The mayor is white, the young man is black. Then local news reporter Jay Kolls of KSTP-TV filed a report that the Mayor was flashing gang signs with a gang member.
Reporter Jay Kolls said in his story that “law enforcement agencies” told him it was a sign used by a north Minneapolis gang. ... “Is she going to support gangs in the city or cops?” John Delmonico, president of the city’s police union, said in an on-camera interview.
Here's the photo:
Here's another one, taken four years ago, which didn't make the news:
It's sort of a well-known gesture: You the man; no, you the man. It's something people do when posing for the zillionth photo.
It's hardly worth talking about, to be honest. It's a distraction. Even if there's comeuppance for Kroll and Delmonico, they'll find a place. If KSTP fires Kroll he'll get hired by FOX-News. World without end. “Liberal media.”
The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations for Right-Wing Pundits
“The problem with our media ecology is—just as the question from my editor friend suggests—that conservatives are protected from any consequence for their intellectual failings. ...
”Which returns us to the problem I have with my friend’s question to me in the first place: why is it that liberals and moderates and editorial non- and anti-ideologues of (too) good faith insist on making like the Greek philosopher Diogenes, scouring the horizon for the last honest conservative, instead of accepting the fact that there are virtually none to be found? ...
“Some smart speechwriter for George W. Bush once came up with a rather brilliant phrase to describe what conservatives see as the moral failing of affirmative action: that it imposes a 'soft bigotry of low expectations.' By patting under-qualified minority candidates patronizingly on the head and giving them jobs and educations for which they are not prepared, the argument goes, liberals supposedly do the objects of their tender concern more harm than good—and the greater public good a grievous harm as well. Time to stop the soft bigotry of low expectations toward the right. No more affirmative action for conservatives. It does no good for a right-wing literati that would be better served by a swift kick in the ass.”
-- Rick Perlstein, “There Are No More Honest Conservatives, So Stop Looking For One,” in The Nation.
It Depends on What the WSJ's Meaning of the Word 'Was' Is: Revealing propagandist tendencies in the right-wing press
James Fallows posted this on his Atlantic blog the other day. It’s a screenshot from a reader’s iPad newstream that tells the same story two different ways:
Fallows’ post was headlined “Why to Get More Than 1 Newspaper, iPad Edition,” and included the following subhed:
One paper’s headline writers choose the word “dips”; the other's choose “only.” The difference those two words can make.
To me, Fallows focuses on the wrong word. It's less “only” than “was.” Something sinister lies behind that word.
Let’s look at the headlines again. The New York Times:
U.S. Economy Adds 148,000 Jobs, as Unemployment Dips to 7.2%
This is a Sgt. Friday headline: Just the facts, ma’am. Both things are correct.
Now here’s The Wall Street Journal:
U.S. employers added only 148,000 jobs in September; unemployment rate was 7.2%
Until now I didn’t notice the difference between “U.S. Economy” and “U.S. employers” but that’s problematic as well. It’s as if the WSJ is dredging up tired GOP talking points. But onward.
Fallows focuses on WSJ’s use of “only” but that doesn’t bug me too much. It’s a value judgment but ultimately, or at least comparatively, correct. In the eight months prior, the U.S. economy added more than 148,000 jobs five times, and exactly 148,000 jobs one time, so, yes, September wasn’t one of our better months. Last year, eight of the 12 months were better in terms of job growth. So I’ll let them have “only.”
But they fuck up big time with “was.”
First, writers and journalists go out of their way to avoid passive verbs. “Is” and “was” just sit there. That’s what they do. That’s their job.
The WSJ headline writer went out of his way to embrace the passive verb. Why? Because he wanted the unemployment rate to just sit there. Apparently he didn’t want people to know that it moved.
Read it again. It’s so awkward: Jobs added and “... unemployment rate was 7.2%.” Was? You mean in the past? So what is it now? Oh. That’s what it is now? So why didn’t you just say that?
The headline writer has tied himself into knots to avoid any sense of movement, and in so doing has created a sentence fragment that doesn’t inform. He is trying to hide facts, rather than reveal facts, with his words. That’s not the work of a journalist; it’s the work of a propagandist.
Indeed, this little screenshot is indicative of exactly what’s wrong with the mainstream media. The Times strives for objectivity and gives us the facts. WSJ strives for right-wing talking points and hides the facts. Somehow, even in the mainstream press, this combination is known as “the liberal media.”
Objectivity Is Not Stupidity: The Culpability of the Mainstream Media in the Government Shutdown
From Bill Moyers:
Beltway reporters who see their professed neutrality as a higher ground bear an enormous amount of responsibility for encouraging this perversion of democratic governance. With a few notable exceptions, the media have framed what Jonathan Chait called “a kind of quasi-impeachment” in typical he said-she said fashion, obscuring the fact that the basic norms that govern Congress have been thrown out the window by a small cabal of tea party-endorsed legislators from overwhelmingly Republican districts. The media treat unprecedented legislative extortion as typical partisan negotiations, and in doing so they normalize it.
But it’s not normal.
I keep seeing this, too, particularly in the national New York Times coverage and the local Seattle Times coverage. The latter has been particularly bad at the false equivalence: a kind of, “Oh can't those two get along?” exasperation. Those two being Pres. Obama and the full Congress, rather than one house of Congress, rather than one faction of one party of one house of Congress.
Is the coverage getting better? Some say so. But it's taken awhile, too long, and not just the country but the truth has been sacrificed in the meantime.
This is not rocket science, kids. The job is pretty easy:
- What is the thing?
- Describe it.
This, for example:
A long time coming.