Monday October 25, 2021
Fox & Fascists: What Birtherism Gave Birth to
“[Roger] Ailes tested something too: a Trump call-in segment on Fox & Friends. On March 28 , the hosts teed up Trump to irresponsibly fearmonger about Obama's birthplace. Gretchen Carlson looked skeptical, but the men went right along with Trump's lies. Doocy even took a shot at the news media, telling Trump, 'They're trying to paint you as the mayor of Crazytown for bringing this up'...
”This, it turned out, was the first episode of 'Monday Mornings with Trump,' a weekly segment that changed the course of American politics. Ailes even ordered up TV promos for the segment. 'Bold, brash, and never bashful, the Donald now makes his voice loud and clear every Monday on Fox,' the announcer said. Trump loved it. He was ticked off that people weren't taking his political gambits seriously, and the segment helped him change that by giving him a direct connection with the conservative base. Through the weekly calls, he got to know Ailes's priorities. He got to know Fox's priorities. He got to know the people who became his voters. And they got to know him...
“The birther smear helped cement the impression of Obama as a foreigner in the minds of millions of viewers, wedded Trump to the Fox base, and foreshadowed Trump and Fox's full-throated embrace of white identity politics.”
-- from Brian Stelter's “Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth”
Wednesday October 20, 2021
If Anyone Would Like to Say a Few Words About the Deceased...
So this arrived yesterday via the usual social media circles. It's a eulogy for an American hero delivered by a former American president. And yet something seems slightly off about it:
Statement by Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States of America
Wonderful to see Colin Powell, who made big mistakes on Iraq and famously, so-called weapons of mass destruction, be treated in death so beautifully by the Fake News Media. Hope that happens to me someday. He was a classic RINO, if even that, always being the first to attack other Republicans. He made plenty of mistakes, by anyway, may he rest in peace!
I know we expect nothing from this fuckstick, and so the notion that he would release the above a few days after the death of Colin Powell isn't exactly news. But it is news. Because former American presidents have never acted this way before. This is how Trump got away with it in office. He'd do this kind of shit, the mainstream press wouldn't cover it, thinking it wasn't news, and then he could do it again. On social media, his detractors would gasp, his supporters would guffaw, and on he'd go. There were no consequences. World without end.
I'm curious if any of his inner circle tried to prevent the statement's release? Or tried to edit it? “Mr. President, that first sentence doesn't quite make sense. I think you mean infamously rather than famously, and either way it gets in the way. I think it's smoother without. And I'd excise that whole second sentence. Don't make it about you—I know, but don't—and also aren't you implying that once you've died you hope the press will forgive all the big mistakes you've made? Yes. That's what you're implying. You're implying big mistakes, famous mistakes, on your part. And why repeat the mistakes thing in the last sentence? The whole statement is pretty short and you're already repeating yourself? I'd also lose the anyway, which is childish, and the exclamation point, ditto. I mean, the whole thing is childish. It's petty and pathetic and shows the smallness of your soul. Sir.”
The New York Times didn't cover it, by the way. Not news.
Monday October 04, 2021
Quote of the Day
“Coverage of the Democrats' efforts to craft a reconciliation bill has been relentlessly superficial. Reporting from inside the Beltway resembles campaign horse-race journalism, with an unwavering focus on minute-by-minute assessments of who's up and who's down. ... At times, it almost seems as if reporters are uncomfortable with the messy give-and-take of legislation and negotiation — preferring instead a cleaner, more autocratic style, in which a few highly-placed people snap their fingers and things get done in lockstep.”
-- Joe Ferullo, “Journalism has 'comforted the comfortable' for too long now,” in The Hill. Great article. Agree with so much of it. In this process, the messiness of the give-and take of democracy is dinged. I'd love for the Democrats to finally agree on an infrastructure bill, but at least they're having a discussion about what we value, how fair is society, and the role of the federal government in all of that. The Republicans are just a bunch of dicks dicking around. Useless.
Sunday July 25, 2021
Harry Rosenfeld (1929-2021)
Bradlee, Dusty, Rosenfeld at the movie premiere. I like the drinks Bradlee and Rosenfeld are sharing. I like the plate under Rosenfeld's arm.
There's a scene halfway through “All the President's Men,” a front-page meeting/city-desk meeting, in which the various editors get together and figure out what the top stories of tomorrow's edition will be. There's some disagreement, a lot of banter and humor, and a healthy dose of cynicism. In tone, dress, posture, they remind me of my father's generation at The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and thus the literal adults in the room when I was a child. Sadly, the adults in the room are leaving us.
For the film, Rosenfeld, the assistant metro editor at The Washington Post during the Watergate years, was played by Jack Warden, and he has a couple of memorable scenes—one in which he shoos away a nosy Carl Bernstein, who is asking about the burglary at the Watergate hotel. Both Bernstein and Bob Woodward were on the metro desk, a lesser beat, and they got the story because it was considered a lesser story—a “third-rate-burglary,” to quote Ron Ziegler, at a local hotel. Then their reporting, particularly tracking a check in the bank account of one of the Watergate burglars directly to Nixon's re-election committee, helped turn it into a national and international story, so managing editor Ben Bradlee was considering giving the story to the National desk. It was Rosenfeld who voiced the objection: “They're hungry. Don't you remember when you were hungry?” Bradlee listened. And the rest is history. Not to mention historic.
I didn't know Rosenfeld had been born in Weimar Germany, witnessed the rise of the Nazis, experienced Kristallnacht first-hand. I like this quote from Peter Osnos. “He brought brash New York savvy to Washington before you could get a decent bagel there.” I like this quote from Rosenfeld on the theme of his journalistic career: “holding to account the accountable, the more powerful the better.” We need more adults in the room.
Monday April 19, 2021
NY Times Buries Lede on OAN
The New York Times ran a good article yesterday about OAN, the right-wing network run by Robert Herring, but under a lousy hed/sub:
One America News Network Stays True to Trump
A recent OAN segment said there were “serious doubts about who's actually president,” and another blamed “anti-Trump extremists” for the Capitol attack.
Why is that lousy? This is the fourth graf:
Some of OAN's coverage has not had the full support of the staff. In interviews with 18 current and former OAN newsroom employees, 16 said the channel had broadcast reports that they considered misleading, inaccurate or untrue.
First: Not the full support of staff? I guess that's right. I guess 12% isn't full. Second: The 88% who disagreed with their own news coverage didn't do so lightly. It was vehement. Some even hoped that Dominion Voting Systems, which has sued Fox News for defamation, will do the same to OAN, since “maybe if they sue us, we'll stop putting stories like this out.” Which gets to the larger point: It feels like the Times buried the lede, while its headline missed it entirely. OAN staying true to Trump isn't exactly news. But OAN staff disagreeing with OAN coverage? And hoping it'll get sued? That's news. I don't know why you wouldn't highlight that. I don't know why the Times keeps softening its coverage of how off-the-rails the right-wing has become.
Actually I do know why. Goes back to Agnew. They're scared of being labeled “liberal news.”
This was the JFC moment in the piece for me:
Assignments that the elder Mr. Herring takes a special interest in are known among OAN staff as “H stories,” several current and former employees said. The day after Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, Mr. Herring instructed OAN employees in an email, which The New York Times reviewed, to “report all the things Antifa did yesterday.”
Herring is another rich old codger holding America hostage with his delusions. Great.
Here's another word missing entirely from the Times story: propaganda. It's like when they couldn't bring themselves to call Trump's lies lies. C'mon, guys. Plant your feet and tell the truth. Do your job. Don't pretend you don't know what you know.
Friday February 19, 2021
Rush Limbaugh (1951-2021)
I heard the news via Twitter. Since I don't follow any dittoheads, Foxholes or Qberts, the type of response I saw was mostly versions of the Clarence Darrow line, “I have never killed anyone, but I have read some obituary notices with great satisfaction.” Some even quoted that line. Or misquoted it. Or attributed it to Mark Twain.
One of the first responses I saw was one of the best:
My friend Vinny said something similar: “Don't care how many evil little motherfuckers got born today, the world's a little less poisonous with Rush Limbaugh dead.” People pointed out Rush was “Trending with: Good Riddance; Rot in Hell.” Others pointed out Rush wasn't exactly circumspect about the death of others. The day after Kurt Cobain died, Jim Walsh wrote, Rush called him “a worthless shred of human debris.” Rush daily celebrated the death of gay people from AIDS with bells and horns. He regularly attacked Chelsea Clinton when she was 12. He coined “feminazi.” He mocked Michael J. Fox's Parkinson's Disease. He was a horror show.
Even the Shakespeare Twitter handle got into the act:
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar.
Rush is a big part of how we got here—with 40% of the voting public thriving on fact-less, looney-tunes vitriol. I remember when he broke big in the 1990s, I couldn't get quite wrap my mind around what was happening. I reveled at Al Franken's great takedown, “Rush Limbaugh Is a Big, Fat Idiot, and Other Observations,” as I reviewed it for The Seattle Times. I thought the takedown would take care of things. I wrote: “I won't feign objectivity here: Rush Limbaugh is to the '90s what Father Coughlin was to the '30s: a blotch upon the decade for future historians to wonder over.” Except few wondered over it and Rush kept going. He moved us away from the Age of Enlightenment and into something darker; he created communities outside of objective reality that continue to grow: from Fox to Breitbart to NewsMax to QAnon. Rush begat that ecosystem.
I wonder what he felt in his final moments? Was he fearful? Were there epiphanies? Did scales fall? Whatever there is to know, now he knows.
Saturday October 10, 2020
Rupert Murdoch's Son Politely Slams Fox News
“A contest of ideas shouldn't be used to legitimize disinformation. ... At great news organizations, the mission really should be to introduce fact to disperse doubt—not to sow doubt, to obscure fact.”
-- James Murdoch, son of Rupert, on why he left Fox News, in Maureen Dowd's article “James Murdoch, Rebellious Scion” in The New York Times.
Dowd buries her lede. This is the eighth graf but hugely important. Attorneys do this, by the way. If they have a losing case, if the facts are against them, they do what they can to sow doubt. I think for 30 years or longer, the facts have been against the right-wing in this country but they're very good at sowing doubt. That should be the discussion. Or a discussion.
I wish we'd gotten specifics, examples, of Fox sowing doubt. Don't know if Dowd tried or if she was too busy writing about the lunch in her garden or talking about “Succession.”
Thursday October 01, 2020
Could NPR More Remove Trump from Accountability?
Some legit news organizations have figured it out. They've realized that bending over backwards to “both sides” an issue or event, particularly where one side is extreme, egregious or just plain dumb, isn't doing anyone any good: readers, viewers, participants, accountability, American democracy, the truth. Even The New York Times is improving:
And others, like Rachel Martin and “Morning Edition,” still haven't figured it out.
The morning after the first presidential debate of 2020, in which Donald Trump shat all over decorum, the debate format, and—again—American democracy, she began her report this way:
The first presidential debate between President Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden was unlike any other. The orderly 90-minute debate format broke down into chaos quickly. Despite moderator Chris Wallace's warnings, debate decorum was thrown out the door. Instead, there were interruptions, cross-talking, name-calling, shouting.
I recall a Louis CK standup routine from a few years ago: a friend said something to his girlfriend “and then she got her feelings hurt.” He said a thing, she got her feelings hurt. Louis' line: “Could you more remove yourself from responsibility?” Let me ask that question: Could Rachel Martin and NPR more remove Donald Trump from accountability? There were interruptions? Who was doing them? Who created the chaos? Who threw decorum out the door? Both men? Of course not. It was just one. One major asshole.
And then Martin has the nerve to suggest that voters who wanted “a clearer understanding of the candidates' policy positions” were out of luck. Right, Rachel. Same with listeners of your broadcast.
Later in the segment, in which she talks with a Democrat and a Republican strategist, they do clarify things a bit. You know who does it? The Republican strategist. Martin is opaque, the Democrat waffles, but the Republican attacks Trump head on: “He went from being on offense to being offensive.” At least someone has the guts to say it.
Saturday September 12, 2020
Quote of the Day
In a dictatorship, the state media tells you the sky is green. In a failing democracy, the free press tells you that one candidate says the sky is blue and the other candidate says the sky is green, without mentioning which is correct. https://t.co/pXFE7oUB6a— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) September 7, 2020
Sunday August 30, 2020
Quote of the Day
Any reporter who thought it was important to point out that most Americans don't know or care about the Hatch Act are in a different profession from the one I've been in.— adamdavidson (@adamdavidson) August 30, 2020
Our core job is to report on things people don't know they should care about. And to make them care.
I'm worried about this election. Everyone do what you can.
Saturday August 29, 2020
Jamison Foser brought this up on Twitter. Last Saturday, August 22, The New York Times ran a piece by Michael M. Grynbaum and Annie Karni on the preparations for Donald Trump's upcoming Republican National Convention. Here's the hed/sub:
Republicans Rush to Finalize Convention ('Apprentice' Producers Are Helping)
The party is promising a more traditional in-person spectacle with President Trump speaking every night. Coming into this weekend, major TV networks had only a foggy idea of what to expect.
Most of the article plays out like that. The convention was going to be in Jacksonville and Charlotte, but Covid, and this is the “Apprentice” producer, and this is what's wrong with the convention the Democrats just had, and wow there was anxiety but now we think we've got it together. A lot of Trump's relatives will speak. There will be a Black speaker, too. And here's more of what's wrong with the Democrats, and our convention will be better.
And then this in paragraph 21:
All of the sites are controlled by the federal government, which some ethics experts say would violate the Hatch Act, a Depression-era law that bans the use of public spaces for political activities. Trump aides said that the White House venues being used are considered part of the residence, and therefore are authorized for political use. Some of Mr. Trump's aides privately scoff at the Hatch Act and say they take pride in violating its regulations.
Oh yes, by the way, the Repubicans might be breaking the law. But they're fine with breaking the law—they take pride in it. They scoff at the law.
Does anyone believe for one goddamn second that if Hillary Clinton was president and John Posesta and Jen Palmieri were bragging about breaking the law, the New York Times would bury that in paragraph 21 and headline some irrelevant volunteer?
This is how democracy dies: Not with a bang but with the lede bured in paragraph 21.
Sunday August 16, 2020
How Two 1922 Newspapers Headlined the Same Syndicated Article about Hitler, and the Lesson It Holds for Today's Media
Here are two versions of the same Universal Services syndicated article about a rising star in Weimar Germany that appeared on the same day, Dec. 15, 1922, in The Bulletin of Pomona, Calif. (left) and The San Francisco Examiner (right). I believe they're among the first mentions of Adolf Hitler in a U.S. newspaper.
A good lesson in headline writing that today's newspapers should note. The Bulletin makes Hitler's accusation the headline while the Examiner opts for the mere fact that he accuses—and who he's accusing. I feel like the latter should almost always be used. The former grants way too much power to the accuser. If you're powerful enough to command media attention, you can accuse anyone of anything and the media helps disseminate that accusation. As today's media keeps doing. (I've been railing against this forever and ever.) The drawback to my suggestion is that you'll wind up using the same headline, or nearly the same headline, over and over again (“Trump Attacks Democrats”), but maybe that's good. The repetition indicates that this thing keeps happening. It'll remind everyone that all this guy does is accuse and attack. And it might encourage, I don't know, fewer lies in the accusations, since the lies won't make the headlines.
Other differences/thoughts on the articles:
- The Bulletin put its story on pg. 1, beneath huge headlines about moonshiners battling “The Dry Squad,” as well as (more relevantly) the “Franco-German debt squabble.” The Examiner stuck the story back on pg. 6.
- The Examiner credits the author. More on him here.
- The accusation is also straight out of the longstanding GOP playbook. Even today, especially today, any U.S. policy that leans vaguely left, Republicans will cry “Marxism” and “Socialism.” And many media outlets will make that the headline.
- Hitler made good on his promise in the final graf. More, actually. A century? We won't forget him as long as human beings record and read history.