Monday Reads: World Press Freedom Day

Ker-Xavier Roussel Reading the Newspaper, 1893, Private Collection Édouard Vuillard

Happy World Press Freedom Day Sky Dancers!

A Free Press is enshrined in our Constitution here in the United States. It’s always been a hallmark of open, democratic societies.  So, how is the press doing in this day of increasing right-wing authoritarianism?

Here’s the 2020 World Press Freedom Index from Reporters without Borders.  Notice who is missing from the top ten? Notice where most of the world’s oldest Democracies land.  One of our NATO allies is one of the most frequent jailers of journalists.

A Press–independent of government oppression and manipulation–is a cornerstone of a democratic society.  EuroNews reports the concerns the UN has for a media free of government interference..

The world of journalism faces “drastic losses”, the UN has warned, as it highlights the importance of ‘information as a public good’ on World Press Freedom day.

The intergovernmental organisation says the current coronavirus crisis has forced closures and job cuts within the industry, while other media outlets are facing “political capture”.

The result is more “creeping news deserts” in countries where journalists are unable to get accurate information out to the public.

You may read country descriptions based on the Press Freedom Index on the challenges faced by journalists.

Elaine de Kooning, self portrait, 1946

We may be going back towards normalcy with the White House recognizing the role of a free press today. You may remember that we spent the last four years hearing how the press was the enemy of the people unless it presented stories that flattered and backed-up the delusional rantings of the previous guy.  It is also high time the Saudis pay for killing one of our journalists.  This is just one of the atrocities the previous guy ignored.

Will Biden stand up to the Saudis for the Prince’s murder of Jamal Khashoggi?   This is from NBC.

The Biden administration earlier this year released a U.S. intelligence report implicating the crown prince in the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi but spared him any direct punishment. The prince denies any involvement.

Burns, Peter; Old Man Reading a Newspaper; 

There is perhaps no greater difference in our press than the split between the media  using traditional journalism and the lie pushing, agenda based narrative for something other than reality just for ratings, outrage, and political gain.  Our right-wing propaganda outlets have influenced nearly all of our institutions recently. They do not provide checks and balances to corruption but enable it.  No one is the clear these days. Even the U.S. Supreme Court Justices–a majority group of religious zealots with know records of hostility to democracy–are eager to cash in.   This is from Bloomberg: “Supreme Court’s Ethics Problems Are Bigger Than Coney Barrett. As conflicts of interest accumulate, the justices need to embrace more stringent standards of conduct.”  

We have impeached judges before.  Is this the decade of taking out the trash dumped in our justice system?  Perhaps we could at least develop and enforce standards of ethical behavior for judges?

A lot of hand-wringing has accompanied Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s $2 million book deal (including from those of us who wish we had a $2 million book deal). While there’s always reason to worry when big piles of money land on the court, and Coney Barrett has wasted little time monetizing her new job, some larger points are getting lost in all of this.

After all, Coney Barrett isn’t the first justice to reel in a big book deal. Justice Sonia Sotomayor collected an advance of more than $3 million for her memoir, and Justice Clarence Thomas got $1.5 million for his. Justice Neil Gorsuch was paid $225,000 for a book about the Constitution. Here’s the rub: Federal ethics guidelines mandate that justices can’t accept more than about $30,000 annually in outside pay. However, book income — which can reliably bring in much larger sums than the relatively modest pay justices receive for teaching gigs — is exempt from the guidelines.

When these deals arise, concerns are often voiced about justices being compromised by pocketing money from publishers who might have free speech and other issues affecting them before the court. But books are only a small part of a bigger problem: The Supreme Court’s conflicts of interest and financial disclosure rules remain ragged and outdated.

Unlike every other member of state and federal judiciaries, the court’s nine justices aren’t subject to an ethical code of conduct. That mirrors the latitude given the presidency, which also isn’t beholden to most guidelines circumscribing financial and professional practices of people in lower-ranking government jobs. Former President Donald Trump’s tenure, marked by flagrant financial conflicts of interest, is a reminder of how ineffective self-regulating ethics are when someone isn’t really interested in self-regulation.

Woman with a newspaper, Richard Diebenkorn

The danger of right-wing propaganda to our Democracy has been an ongoing issue in the last several centuries. It has always skirted the First Amendment in terms of substance and motivation. We depend on an educated populace to search out the truth among many sources.  The role it has played in putting public health issues into the realm of political cosplay is beyond the pale.  Derek Thomas writes this for The Atlantic: “Millions Are Saying No to the Vaccines. What Are They Thinking?  Feelings about the vaccine are intertwined with feelings about the pandemic.”  It’s also intertwined with politics and right-wing news media falsehoods.

What are they thinking, these vaccine-hesitant, vaccine-resistant, and COVID-apathetic? I wanted to know. So I posted an invitation on Twitter for anybody who wasn’t planning to get vaccinated to email me and explain why. In the past few days, I spoke or corresponded with more than a dozen such people. I told them that I was staunchly pro-vaccine, but this wouldn’t be a takedown piece. I wanted to produce an ethnography of a position I didn’t really understand.

The people I spoke with were all under 50. A few of them self-identified as Republican, and none of them claimed the modern Democratic Party as their political home. Most said they weren’t against all vaccines; they were just a “no” on this vaccine. They were COVID-19 no-vaxxers, not overall anti-vaxxers.

Many people I spoke with said they trusted their immune system to protect them. “Nobody ever looks at it from the perspective of a guy who’s like me,” Bradley Baca, a 39-year-old truck driver in Colorado, told me. “As an essential worker, my life was never going to change in the pandemic, and I knew I was going to get COVID no matter what. Now I think I’ve got the antibodies, so why would I take a risk on the vaccine?”

Some had already recovered from COVID-19 and considered the vaccine unnecessary. “In December 2020 I tested positive and experienced many symptoms,” said Derek Perrin, a 31-year-old service technician in Connecticut. “Since I have already survived one recorded bout with this virus, I see no reason to take a vaccine that has only been approved for emergency use. I trust my immune system more than this current experiment.”

Others were worried that the vaccines might have long-term side effects. “As a Black American descendant of slavery, I am bottom caste, in terms of finances,” Georgette Russell, a 40-year-old resident of New Jersey, told me. “The fact that there is no way to sue the government or the pharmaceutical company if I have any adverse reactions is highly problematic to me.”

Many people said they had read up on the risk of COVID-19 to people under 50 and felt that the pandemic didn’t pose a particularly grave threat. “The chances of me dying from a car accident are higher than my dying of COVID,” said Michael Searle, a 36-year-old who owns a consulting firm in Austin, Texas. “But it’s not like I don’t get in my car.”

And many others said that perceived liberal overreach had pushed them to the right. “Before March 2020, I was a solid progressive Democrat,” Jenin Younes, a 37-year-old attorney, said. “I am so disturbed by the Democrats’ failure to recognize the importance of civil liberties. I’ll vote for anyone who takes a strong stand for civil liberties and doesn’t permit the erosion of our fundamental rights that we are seeing now.” Baca, the Colorado truck driver, also told me he didn’t vote much before the pandemic, but the perception of liberal overreach had a strong politicizing effect. “When COVID hit, I saw rights being taken away. So in 2020, I voted for the first time in my life, and I voted all the way Republican down the ballot.”

974 Expressionist Oil Painting Woman Reading Newspaper

We’re fucked at this rate.  And, here’s FiveThirtyEight explaining where we see the big divides in American Voters.

In many ways, the 2020 election was basically like every recent American presidential election: The Republican candidate won the white vote (54 percent to 44 percent, per CES), and the Democratic candidate won the overwhelming majority of the Black (90 percent to 8 percent), Asian American (66 percent to 31 percent) and Hispanic (64 percent to 33 percent) vote. Like in 2016, there was a huge difference among non-Hispanic white voters by education, as those with at least a four-year college degree favored Biden (55 percent to 42 percent), while those without degrees (63 to 35) favored Trump. (There wasn’t a huge education split among voters of color.)1

Other surveys tell the same general story: Trump won white voters overall by a margin in the double digits and won whites without four-year degrees by even more; Trump lost among whites with at least a four-year college degree, lost by a big margin with Asian American and Latino voters and lost by an enormous margin among African Americans.

So the main reason that Trump nearly won a second term was not his increased support among Latinos, who are only about 10 percent of American voters and are a group he lost by more than 20 points. Trump’s main strength was his huge advantage among non-Hispanic white voters without college degrees, who are about 45 percent of American voters. His second biggest bloc of support was among non-Hispanic white Americans with degrees, who are about 30 percent of all voters. According to the CES, over 80 percent of Trump’s voters were non-Hispanic white voters, with or without a college degree. In contrast, around 70 percent of nonwhite voters supported Biden, and they made up close to 40 percent of his supporters. So it is very much still the case that the Republicans are an overwhelmingly white party and that the Democratic coalition is much more racially diverse.

Here’s the President of Orleans Republican Women to prove a point: President of Women’s Republican Club of New Orleans Touts Biblical Positives of Slavery.   That scream you hear from way down on the Mississipi River is mine.  Yeah, for small, local,  independent media like The Big Easy Magazine!

The story began when Chalmette State Representative Raymond Garofalo proposed a bill where-in he wanted to ban “critical race theory” from being taught, a complex subject that conservatives have been using as a talking point recently to score political points. He said that he, in fact, wanted to “teach the good, the bad, and the ugly” about slavery. To which Hilferty replied, “There’s nothing good about slavery” to laughter.

Garofalo corrected himself, saying that, “You’re right. I didn’t mean to imply that. I don’t believe that, and I know that’s the case. But I’m using the term, ‘the good, bad, and ugly as a generic way of saying that you can teach any facts, factually based on anything.”

Both Hilferty and Garofalo have spoken directly to the media about the incident. Garofalo has tried to clarify his words, explain the terminology “good, bad, and ugly” was meant “generically,” and Hilferty claimed he was, “…talking about the good in slavery.”

Whether Garofalo meant that there were good aspects to slavery or whether he was speaking “generically,” Huckaby repeatedly came to his defense, and to the defense of slavery itself. The above was not her only post related to slavery and Garofalo. She also wrote in another post, “Slavery goes all they [sic] way back to biblical times, and if you’ve read your Bible, you would know that many of the slaves loved their masters, and their masters loved them, and took very good care of them, and their families.”

In addition, she indicated that, “Stephanie (Hilferty) has been indoctrinated by leftis [sic] marxisum [sic] education.”

So, hmm, I’m a communist troll in her eyes.  So bet it!  At this point, I’ll take any moniker that doesn’t include what she’s all about.

Anyway, you’ll have a good week!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


7 Comments on “Monday Reads: World Press Freedom Day”

  1. dakinikat says:

  2. NW Luna says:

    Unlike every other member of state and federal judiciaries, the court’s nine justices aren’t subject to an ethical code of conduct.

  3. NW Luna says:

    And guess which journalists are in the most danger:

    Opinion: Women journalists face escalating violence online.

    Around the globe, female journalists are attacked online more frequently and severely than their male colleagues. A recent global survey of journalists found that three out of four female respondents had experienced online violence. Now, to mark World Press Freedom Day, UNESCO and the International Center for Journalists have released a new report showing the alarming scale and impacts of these attacks, which have increased exponentially over the past decade.

    This violence is sometimes called “virtual,” but the damage from this global scourge is very real. Digital misogyny and networked gaslighting intersect with racism, religious bigotry, homophobia, transphobia and other forms of discrimination to threaten female journalists brutally and disproportionately. Threats of sexual violence and murder are frequent and sometimes extend to the families of reporters, including their children. These trends are bound up with the rise of viral disinformation, digital conspiracy networks and political extremism.

  4. dakinikat says:

    So if there is Biden plan for this I will never say anything bad about him again

    • NW Luna says:

      A POTUS who pays attention to infrastructure that affects the common people? Nice to see.