Media postsMonday March 20, 2017
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.
NPR, Steve Inskeep, Pull Back from Tree to See Tree
Hey, on NPR this morning Steve Inskeep promised that we would back away from all the blathering news stories for a moment “to see a theme many of them share.” He explained further: “It's like we're backing away from a tree to see the forest.”
That theme? That forest? “A conflict between core American values: religious freedom and equality.”
According to a back-and-forth with reporter Tom Gjelten, the most recent example of this conflict is a potential “draft executive order” coming out of the Trump White House (sorry, threw up a little in my mouth) that would bar the government from punishing people or institutions who hate the gays. No, Gjelten didn't say that. He said: “... who support marriage exclusively between one man and one woman.”
So we're back to that. Ted Cruz is also offering up legislation on same. Being a reader of Orwell and 1984, he calls his bill “The First Amendment Defense Act.”
It's a seven-minute piece. All about how to protect both equality and (religious) freedom.
And since, as Inskeep promised, we would get to see the forest, NPR backed up enough to see how this religious freedom argument factored in religions from all over the world. For example: What if a devout Muslim haberdasher didn't want to wait on an infidel?
No, sorry. NPR didn't mention Islam at all.
Oh right. But it did mention, say, the Jewish baker who didn't want to serve Catholics.
No. None of that.
Hinduism? Buddhists? Taoists? Sikhs? Mormans?
Yeah, no. It was exclusively about conservative Christians.
Helluva forest, NPR.
NPR Uncovers Three Trump Supporters Still Supporting Trump
I was listening to NPR Sunday morning when Lulu Garcia-Navarro interviewed three Trump supporters to see how they were doing three weeks into his presidency. Had they changed their minds about their man yet?
This was pre-Flynn resignation but judging from the talk I doubt today's national security crisis would've had an impact, either.
Sure, there were reservations, and a few down-home chuckles. But mostly they thought: Fasten your seatbelts, cuz he's going to make things happen. Direct quote: “He comes off as offensive, but I voted for him to get the job done, not to protect people's feelings.” How about to protect their lives? Or the American experiment? Or American values? Nothing.
The most offensive part was probably at the end when Garcia-Navarro asked sum-up questions. This is the exchange she had with Becky Ravenkamp, a farmer and educator from Hugo, Colorado:
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Becky, what are you worried about more broadly or what are you hopeful about?
RAVENKAMP: Well, I'm hopeful that when the administration is all in place and when the decisions are being made, that we can really get back to the heart of what makes us America. And I think for me this election was not just Republicans versus Democrats. It was the people versus Washington D.C. And I'm hopeful that, you know, maybe we sent a message with this election saying we are putting Washington, D.C., on notice, you need to start working for us instead of yourselves and that they're going to start behaving like the representatives that we elected and start compromising and working together to make this country move forward. If that happens, I think we're going to see the temperament turn around and Americans start joining together and coexisting, like Kevin said. I hope for that because I have children in this country.
I don't know where to begin. How do you parse delusions? That the last eight years wasn't what “made us America”? That she thought this last election wasn't “Republicans vs. Democrats”? That “the people” finally spoke? And that the message was to “start compromising and working together”? That's probably the most offensive of all. She and other voters just rewarded eight years of Republican obstructionism by electing more Republicans. If we can't co-exist, this is why: a great percentage of the country lives in a world devoid of logic and facts.
Much of the above also feels like code for “We finally got a white guy in the White House again.”
Follow-ups from Garcia-Navarro? None.
The Question Journalists Should be Asking Trump About His Anti-Refugee Ban
There was a key moment on NPR's Weekend Edition this morning when host Lulu Garcia-Navarro inteviewed William Lacey Swing, of the International Organization for Migration, which, according to NPR's website, oversees the travel plans of most refugees resettling in the U.S. They were talking about Pres. Trump's recent excecutive order, of course, banning refugees along with all immigrants from seven specific countries:
Can the vetting [of immigrants] be improved? This is all, fundamentally, according to the adminstration, about keeping Americans safe.
Well, it's hard to imagine a more strict vetting than we have now—this came in after the 9/11 attack in 2001. You have eight U.S. government agencies who are vetting them, they are looking at six different security databases, they are doing five different background checks, they have three separate in-person interviews and then two interagency security reviews of that. So part of the problem has been that since 9/11 security vetting has been so strict that you're talking about at least 18 months until you can travel.
Since a week ago Friday, I've been waiting for a journalist, any journalist, to ask that question of the Trump administration—with this tweak: What about current vetting worries you? What needs fixing? Once again, though, the press is letting Trump get away with ignoring the details, even though it's the details that matter. We are safe, or not, in the details. That should be the focus.
I've been waiting for this, in part, because in my day job we've interviewed and featured quite a few immigration lawyers over the years, so I'm at least aware of the arduous vetting process for immigrants. I know it's arduous. I know immigration attorneys want it impproved. I doubt Trump's EO is the improvement it needs.
That EO, of course, has been temporarily struck down by a federal judge (in Seattle!), but even this, I fear, plays into Trump's hands. Imagine if we now get attacked from within—by Muslims or refugees, rather than the usual crazy white Christian men with guns. This would play right into his and Bannon's hands: “We tried to keep you safe but they stopped us. Now give us the power we need.” It could be Trump's Reichstag fire.
Anyway, bravo to Garcia-Navarro for asking the question and kudos to Mr. Swing for his answer. To the rest of the press: Follow the details.
NPR Allows Libertarian to Prevaricate About Lies
The New York Times has a good piece on the front page of its Sunday edition, entitled ''Up Is Down': Trump's Unreality Show Echoes His Business Past,“ on all the lies coming out of the Trump administration in its first eight days in office. It's hardly news for anyone paying attention but it's a good compendium. Here's the lede:
As a businessman, Donald J. Trump was a serial fabulist whose biggest-best boasts about everything he touched routinely crumbled under the slightest scrutiny. As a candidate, Mr. Trump was a magical realist who made fantastical claims punctuated by his favorite verbal tic: ”Believe me.“
Yet even jaded connoisseurs of Oval Office dissembling were astonished over the last week by the torrent of bogus claims that gushed from President Trump during his first days in office.
And here's Steve Schmidt, John McCain's 2008 campaign manager, on the dangers of Trump's blantant lies for representative democracy:
In a democratic government, there must be truth in order to hold elected officials accountable to their sovereign, which is the people,” Mr. Schmidt said. “All authoritarian societies are built on a foundation of lies and alternative facts, and what is true is what the leader believes, or what is best for the state.
Also this morning, NPR did a piece on Trump's lies but from the perspective of David Harsanyi, a libertarian-conservative writer for The Federalist. His take? Report all the lies. Did he mean Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan and Chuck Schumer? Maybe. But his example involved the most famous broken promise of Barack Obama.
In the 4-minute segment, two lies are mentioned: Donald Trump's insistence that his inauguration numbers were higher than has been reported by everyone else, and Barack Obama's 2009 comment on the ACA that ”If you like your health care plan, you can keep it," which PolitiFact called the No. 1 lie of 2013. That's it. Those two.
See, everyone lies. And really, Obama's was more substantative. It affected all of us, it wasn't just ego-driven like Trump's.
It's beyond the false equivalency, and the refusal to acknowledge the new, dangerously 1984 territory we're in. I would've liked it if host Lulu Garcia-Navarro had simply drilled down into what was a lie and what wasn't. Was Obama's a lie? Or was it a promise that didn't pan out? And what's the difference? Does intent matter? You say something you know to be untrue at the time you say it. In this regard, you might even say Donald Trump's lies aren't lies since he may believe what he says. Which would be worse, of course, since they would indicate a diseased mind in control of America's nuclear arsenal. Not to mention its armed forces.
At least this time around, NPR let us know its guest was a conservative. Unmentioned were the books Harsanyi has written. Among them:
- Obama's Four Horsemen: The Disasters Unleashed by Obama's Reelection (2013)
- The People Have Spoken (and They Are Wrong): The Case Against Democracy (2014)
Remember those disasters unleashed by Obama's reelection? No? So are these lies? Or are they simply wrong?