Good Morning Sky Dancers!
What a difference a week makes! The headlines today actually contain more news and analysis than melodrama and craziness. Perhaps it’s time to turn some focus to the news outlets and the way their approach to the last four years actually created a good deal of the havoc. A good first place to start is Fox News which basically turned into a propaganda arm of a deranged and out of control President by repeating and reinforcing every deranged lie and conspiracy theory out of his pouty little potty mouth.
This is from Mother Jones and Kevin Drum: “What Can We Do About Fox News?”.
However, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’ll say again that all the attention being given to social media is basically a distraction. Sure, the insurrectionists used social media to help organize things, but people have organized protests in Washington DC before with little trouble. Nor was social media necessary to inflame to mob. The 2009 tea party movement did just fine without much in the way of social media.
The source of all this was, as usual, Fox News and the mainstream right-wing media empire. It wasn’t social media that convinced 70 percent of Republicans that the election was stolen. It was Fox News. It wasn’t social media that relentlessly took seriously all the moronic lawsuits filed by Donald Trump’s team of idiot lawyers. It was Fox News. It’s not social media that has any serious appeal outside the folks who are already conspiracy theorists. It’s Fox News.
But of course there’s nothing we can do about Fox News, is there? And they all dress so nicely, too. They can’t really want to overturn the peaceful transfer of power after an election, can they?
I have no idea what they really want to do. Maybe it’s all a game, maybe it’s just a way to make money, or maybe they really do want to overturn an election. But it doesn’t matter. Regardless of their intentions, they’re the ones responsible for this insurrection. And we aren’t completely helpless to stop them, either.
The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan writes this Op-Ed : “Fox News is a hazard to our democracy. It’s time to take the fight to the Murdochs. Here’s how.”
Last week, two key members of Fox News’s decision desk abruptly departed the network. One was laid off, the other has retired, and some insiders are calling it a “purge.”
Apparently, at a network that specializes in spreading lies, there was a price to pay for getting it right. (“Fox News isn’t a newsgathering organization,” surmised press critic Eric Boehlert, arguing in response to the purge that its White House credentials should be revoked.)
In recent days, Fox has taken a sharp turn toward a more extreme approach as it confronts a post-Trump ratings dip — the result of some of its furthest-right viewers moving to outlets such as Newsmax and One America News and some middle-of-the-roaders apparently finding CNN or MSNBC more to their liking.
With profit as the one true religion at Fox, something had to change. Eighty-nine-year-old Rupert Murdoch, according to a number of reports, has stepped in to call the shots directly. Most notably, the network has decided to add an hour of opinion programming to its prime-time offerings. The 7 p.m. hour will no longer be nominally news but straight-up outrage production.
Why? Because that’s where the ratings are.
And in a move that should be shocking but isn’t, one of those who will rotate through the tryouts for that coveted spot will be Maria Bartiromo, whose Trump sycophancy during the campaign may well have been unparalleled. She was among those (including Lou Dobbs and Jeanine Pirro) recently forced under threat of a lawsuit to air a video that debunked repeated false claims on her show that corrupt voting software had given millions of Trump votes to Biden.
At the same time, Sean Hannity, who likes to blast Biden as “cognitively struggling,” and Tucker Carlson, who tries to sow doubt about the prevalence of white supremacy, have become even more outlandish as they try to gin up anti-Biden rage within their audiences.
Even James Murdoch, while not naming names, blasted the harm that his family’s media empire has done. “The sacking of the Capitol is proof positive that what we thought was dangerous is indeed very much so,” he told the Financial Times. “Those outlets that propagate lies to their audience have unleashed insidious and uncontrollable forces that will be with us for years.”
There’s plenty of blame to spread around when it comes Trump’s media coverage and the minute by minute blasting of lies, conspiracy theories, and displays of id. Here’s one from New York Daily News and Pete Vernon: “Giving up the ‘Golden Goose’ how the Trump presidency shaped the media and what’s to come.”
The Trump era, marked by vitriolic attacks on the media and the failure to stand up for press freedoms abroad, did, however, harbor a cynical silver lining when it came to news organizations’ bottom lines. In 2016, then CBS executive chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves said of Trump’s candidacy, “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” By admitting the quiet part out loud, the since-disgraced media mogul hit on a truth about the 45th president: whether Americans loved him or loathed him, they couldn’t turn away.
With Trump now ensconced at Mar-a-Lago, stripped of the Twitter account which served as his method for instigating so much madness, the political press is left to confront a as-yet-unanswerable question: What happens when the shiny objects of politics are no longer gilded in Trumpian ratings gold?
Journalists acknowledge Trump’s frequent claims that he was great for their business, unlike so many of his other boasts, were not lies. Newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post saw subscriptions surge, while cable news ratings skyrocketed. The Times and Post reportedly tripled their digital subscriber base over the past four years. CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC all notched record audiences in 2020.
Trump was “a controversy factory” in office, says Times chief White House correspondent Peter Baker. “Controversy sells and attracts readers, no question about it. We would get hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people to tune into a story just because he said or did something outrageous.”
Under Joe Biden, the news, of course, is no less important. Biden has taken office in the midst of a raging pandemic, an economic crisis, a period of racial reckoning, and an impending impeachment trial of his predecessor. While it is unclear if the American public will continue to follow developments from Washington with the same intensity they did over the past four years, journalists are hoping that the audience remains tuned in.
Yes, folks in the media, you certainly do need to do better.
Since the Capitol siege of Jan. 6, federal and local officials have been scrambling to fortify Washington and its institutions against the threat of white supremacy and violence, but one national institution remains painfully vulnerable: the mainstream media.
The breaches to our Fourth Estate came long before Jan. 6, of course. From the moment Trump entered the 2016 race, endless oxygen was given to his racism and lies. White supremacists were deemed worthy of profiles noting their haircuts and wardrobes or allowed NPR airtime to rank the intelligence of the races. The breaches continued as ex-Trump officials were allowed to profit from distorting the truth to the American people, through TV analyst spots, book deals and Harvard fellowships.
Our media ushered all this through the door, under the aegis of “balance” and “presenting both sides” — as if racism and white supremacy were theoretical ideas to be debated, not life-threatening forces to be defeated. Never would I have imagined that I would say Biden’s stance on white supremacy is more progressive than the media’s. But here we are.
From the start, many non-White journalists grasped the threat that recognizing and calling out white supremacy was a life-or-death matter. And many paid a price for it. Black on-air commentators were literally laughed at by White counterparts for sounding the alarm. Journalist Jemele Hill was reprimanded by ESPN after calling Trump a white supremacist.
It took White blood being spilled, and elite lawmakers being threatened, for other sectors to confront the need to forcefully guard against extremism. In the wake of the Capitol insurrection, which left five dead, corporations pulled support from GOP politicians who supported the assault. Several Capitol officials resigned. Twitter kicked Trump off its platform, and Apple and Google removed Parler, which has increasingly become a haven for extremism, from their app stores.
But the media still seems unwilling or unable to reform itself. There have been no major efforts as an industry to systematically examine the role we played in America’s journey to the brink.
Then there is the entire debate around the role of social media as platform or publisher?
The Trump problem hardly caught Twitter by surprise. In 2019, Jack Dorsey did a round of podcast interviews and press appearances, hoping to boost “conversational health”—and, surely, Twitter’s stock price—with yet more public conversation. The podcast host Joe Rogan asked Dorsey whether he’d considered getting rid of Donald Trump, one of the most influential and least healthy conversationalists on the platform. Dorsey demurred, arguing that the words of a President are inherently newsworthy. “We should see how our leaders think and how they act,” he said. “That informs voting, that informs the conversation.” In the end, Twitter banned Trump, ostensibly, for two tweets posted on January 8th. The first, in which he referred to the seventy-five million Americans who had voted for him as “patriots,” was hardly one of the most incendiary things he’d ever posted. (It wouldn’t even make the top fifty.) The next tweet read, in its entirety, “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.” This was, ironically, one of the tiny minority of Trump’s tweets that really was unambiguously newsworthy. Twitter argued that “President Trump’s statement that he will not be attending the Inauguration is being received by a number of his supporters as further confirmation that the election was not legitimate”; to my eyes, on the contrary, it looked like the closest Trump will ever come to a concession. If you take Twitter’s reasoning at face value, then the most generous way to interpret the ban is that the company made the right decision for the wrong reasons. Perhaps the real reasons for the ban were simpler—that Trump is now a lame duck who can no longer punish Twitter with the levers of the federal government; that the siege of the Capitol was simply one bad press cycle too many; that the company is worried about violence in the near future, and is trying to avoid ending up with even more blood on its hands. If Twitter is being coy about its real motivations, or if the thinking leading to this monumental decision was really as muddled as the official explanation suggests, then there is little cause to think that its future decisions will be much more coherent.
“I doubt I would be here if it weren’t for social media, to be honest with you,” Donald Trump said in 2017. He may have been wrong; after all, he uttered those words on Fox Business, a TV network that will surely continue to have him on as a guest long after he leaves the White House, and even if he loses every one of his social-media accounts. Perhaps Trump could have become President without social media. There were plenty of other factors militating in his favor—a racist backlash to the first Black president, the abandonment of the working class by both parties, and on and on. Still: Trump wanted to be President in 1988, and in 2000, and he couldn’t get close. In 2012, just as social media was starting to eclipse traditional media, Trump was a big enough factor in the Republican race that Mitt Romney went to the Trump Hotel in Las Vegas to publicly accept his endorsement. Only in 2016, when the ascent of social media was all but complete, did Trump’s dream become a reality. Maybe this was just a coincidence. There is, tragically, no way to run the experiment in reverse.
We’ve been seeing normal pressers the last few days with Biden’s White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki that are a breath of fresh air compared to days of trying to watch Sean Spicer or Sarah Huckabee Sanders or Kayleigh McEnany McEnany out there on TV giving whining interviews about every one hating on Trump. Huckabee Sanders is trying to run for Governor of Arkansas. We’ll see how that goes. We’ll also see how this new coverage goes. I bet they bothersider Psaki by the end of the month.
I’m going to leave you with this from The Atlantic: “TV Captured Trump by Looking Away”. This is by Sophie Gilbert. She argues with the eye of some one who looks at culture.
Television during the Trump era faced a paradox: The 45th president was obsessed with TV, was saved by TV (The Apprentice resurrected him as a public figure in one of the lowest periods of his career), was influenced by TV, and seemed made to be analyzed by it. But early on, creators appeared befuddled by the project of portraying someone whose self-satirical physicality and distorted psyche defied pastiche. It didn’t help that so many viewers were, like me, exhausted by the antics of the real-life Trump and emotionally numbed by cortisol spikes of outrage.
And yet, Trump exerted a centripetal force on pop culture. Broad swaths of works that weren’t about him at all seemed newly crucial in understanding his ascent, even as the stakes for shows that tried to deal with him directly as a subject grew impossibly high. What became clear while taking stock of TV over the past four years is that the shows and artists that most clearly and urgently responded to him did so by looking past his theatrics as an individual, and focusing instead on the elements—recurrent throughout American history—that led to his rise.
There are some disturbing things that still needs some focus. Trump basically represented elements that have been recurrent through American History as Gilbert states. The blatant racism, xenophobia, and misogyny were obvious to nearly all of us. However, the media coverage did not originally and still may not fully study the mistakes made when we called your basic White Christian Nationalists present throughout the KKK movement and the American Nazi Party just sympathetic old white dudes misplaced by the economy.
It’s the same way that the Capitol Hill Insurrectionists got so far into the Building. No one thought all theses white police, ex-military, and Karens were truly capable of anything. Trump was the catalyst and the symbol but the underlying currents must be reported in a different way. Also, while holding Biden to account, the media should not go out of its way to prove it’s unbiased by unnecessarily going after any one in the Biden Administration. I’m seeing that now and not only in Fox News. Of course, the New York Times appears to be going right down that road. The Trump administration deserved the microscope. A lot of what Biden will do is likely yawn worthy in its return to normalcy.
I have to say that it’s nice to read more news that just something about the daily Trump crazies, meltdowns, and weirdness.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
With all the bullshit lately about fucking Bernie Sanders…and since the one person who could stand up to tRump has/was left to drop out (Kamala)…to where we are seriously looking at a old white guy (Biden)…to wit, do we honestly think the elections are actually “secured” anymore (Putin)…
I feel that when tRump is re-elected, we here can tell all those news media assholes, BernieBros, Biden Shills, Tom Perez and the rest of the damn fools…
Hey! You listen to me, wacko.
See this fist?
I’m about ready to use…
of yours as a punching bag.
Now sit down and shut up!
Mole’s right, Peggy.
I am sick of listenin’
to your bitchin’.
The next time you feel a fit
comin’ on, go outside and bitch.
Bitch at the air.
Bitch at the trees.
But don’t bitch at us!
Gotta love John Waters Desperate Living!
No shit…but in all seriousness, if tRump is re-elected, the USA will turn into a Mortville:
(Once you get past the roaches, you’ll see what I mean.)
Since this post is a total downer, let’s take a look at who died this year.
Now the video does not include, Sue Lyon Dies: ‘Lolita’ Star Was 73
She was 14 when Kubrick cast her as Lolita back in 1962. She was two years older than my mom.
More, “Gone but not forgotten…”
Cokie Roberts, Toni Morrison. Gloria Vanderbilt.Getty Images/AP
Just a few tweets to round this thread up:
All I can say to this next tweet is…If only:
Oh yeah, this tweet reminds me:
Check it out, Nixon got something right:
This has been a difficult year, I miss my mama like crazy. Just wanted to get through all the sad depressing rehash of who we lost this year. Some I have left out on purpose. Can y’all guess who?
This is an open thread.
After I wrote this post, news of the latest anti-Semitic attack/hate crime in NYC:
After seeing a few minutes of the MSNBC interview with Barr yesterday…I had to turn the shit off.
Did you see this crap:
Check out some of the responses on that thread.
I believe my expression had to be something like that mountain lion…
Wouldn’t you know it, later last night…
If this impeachment trial in the Senate goes by like we know #MoscowMitch will handle it… I am so fearful of what could end up happening…
Someone is actually selling this design online… (lucashgm on redbubble)
The photo above was taken in Atlanta.
Now a few non-tRump things:
Didn’t something like this happen the last time a Saudi national murdered some dissident… after Khashoggi, women got the right to drive? Yes? (Actually, it was given to them a couple of months before he was killed.) I’m just making a connection.
That asshole. Fucking disgusting.
Let’s end this on a positive note.
This is an open thread.
This morning I’m having flashbacks to 2006. Democrats had just retaken the House and Nancy Pelosi became the first woman Speaker. But even before she took the gavel, she announced that “impeachment is off the table.” Never mind that Bush and Cheney had lied us into an endless war.
The New York Times, November 8, 2006: Pelosi: Bush Impeachment `Off the Table.’
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi promised Wednesday that when her party takes over, the new majority will not attempt to remove President Bush from office, despite earlier pledges to the contrary from others in the caucus.
“I have said it before and I will say it again: Impeachment is off the table,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said during a news conference.
She said the GOP, which frequently excluded Democrats from conference committee hearings and often blocked attempts to introduce amendments, would not suffer similar treatment.
“Democrats pledge civility and bipartisanship in the conduct of the work here and we pledge partnerships with Congress and the Republicans in Congress, and the president — not partisanship.”
She also extended an olive branch to Bush on the war in Iraq, saying she plans to work with him on a new plan but will not support the current strategy and supports beginning redeployment of troops by the end of the year.
Pelosi also said she supports the idea of a bipartisan summit on the war.
Now Pelosi is once again Speaker of the House and she’s doing a repeat performance with an even worse “president.” Until recently, I thought her arguments about “getting the facts” by holding hearings before rushing into impeachment made sense.
But the situation with Trump become an emergency. He is stonewalling any and all efforts to question witnesses in Congressional Committees. He is using mob tactics to force a foreign country into helping him get reelected. We can’t wait for the 2020 election to get rid of him, especially because there’s no guarantee that he won’t successfully win by cheating.
Please check out this piece by Tom Scocca at Slate: Someone Should Do Something.
After seeing the events of the past few days, in the light of the events of the days before those, in relation to the events that took place in the weeks, months, and years before that, I am strongly considering writing something that would address the question of whether Nancy Pelosi is bad at her job. If I did, I would argue that the House of Representatives, under Pelosi’s leadership, has come to function as a necessary complement to the corruption and incompetence of President Donald Trump—that a lawless presidency can only achieve its fullest, ripest degree of lawlessness with the aid of a feckless opposition party, which the Democrats are eager to provide.
My editor thinks that I should write this article. I understand that in a week when one of the president’s most dedicated flunkies went before Congress to openly sneer at the idea that he should answer questions, making a show of obstructing what was supposed to be an investigation into obstruction of justice—a week now ending with reports, confirmed by the president’s jabbering ghoul of a lawyer on television, that the president tried to force a foreign country to act against the Democrats’ leading presidential candidate—there is good reason to feel that something needs to be written. It is certainly the sort of situation that someone could write about: the opposition party sitting on its hands and issuing vague statements of dismay while the entire constitutional order is revealed to be no match for the willingness of a president and his enablers to break the law.
At some point, in the future, it will probably be necessary to publish an article pointing out the terrifying mismatch between the ever-increasing speed with which our political system is falling apart and the slow trudge toward November 2020, when the Democratic Party hopes that voters will do what current elected Democratic officials will not do and take action to remove our visibly degenerating president from office. If someone did write an article like that, they could point out that by allowing Trump to remain in office unchallenged until the election, Pelosi and the Democratic leadership are saying that, although they hope the voters decide Trump is disqualified from office, they themselves do not think he has done anything wrong enough to merit his removal. If he had, they would do something, and they have not.
Scocca continues in this vein for several more paragraphs, ending with this conclusion:
Everyone in our democracy—citizens and officials alike, voters and writers, marchers and starers-at-screens—has a role to play, or to consider playing. If I were going to write about this, I would say that it might be time to plan on doing something.
Meanwhile, Jerry Nadler is supposedly thinking about maybe holding Corey Lewandowski in contempt for his disgraceful “testimony” several days ago.
We’re screwed, folks.
Yesterday it became clear that the New York Times is likely to do to Joe Biden what they did to Hillary Clinton and other media outlets will follow suit. Trump actually tweeted a video that featured NYT reporters arguing that Trump’s and Giuliani’s charges about Biden are legitimate.
And Trump (and the media, especially the NYT) will do the same thing to any Democratic candidate who ends up running against him.
We can see the future right now. It’s 2016 all over again.
Look at what happened to Kamala Harris at a forum on LGBT issues. Tommy Christopher at Mediaite: WATCH: ‘Biased’ LGBTQ Forum Question for Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren Goes Viral, Not in a Good Way.
On Friday, Democratic candidates participated in an LGBTQ forum in Iowa, moderated in part by Cedar Rapids Gazette columnist Lyz Lenz. Her first question to Senator Harris was about a case in which, as attorney general of California, she defended the state corrections department against a lawsuit seeking gender reassignment surgery for a transgender woman inmate named Michelle-Lael Norsworthy.
“During your time as attorney general in California, you did send a brief seeking to deny gender-affirmation surgery for trans inmates,” Lenz said, adding “You stated that at the time you were just enforcing the existing law.:
“But with this history, the question is, how can trans people trust you will advocate for them, and not just enforce discriminatory laws?” Lenz asked.
Harris responded by noting the support she has received from LGBTQ organizations in her home state, and said “When that case came up, it was because as attorney general, I had clients, and one of them was the California Department of Corrections, and it was their policy. When I learned about what they were doing, behind the scenes, I got them to change the policy.”
And here is how Lenz treat a nearly identical question to Elizabeth Warren:
But when Lenz brought up an arguably more damaging stance on the same issue with Elizabeth Warren, it wasn’t framed as a matter of trust, or even as something for which Warren should answer.
“In 2012, you wrote that you did not support gender-affirming surgery for trans inmates,” Lenz said — to a “Yeah” from Warren — then added “In January of this year, you reversed your opinion and said you had changed on this issue.”
But instead of asking Warren how she could be trusted on an issue that she just got right on (checks notes) 8 months ago, Lenz said Warren’s change “is great,” then asked “So you just said we have to get everybody on board, how do we even do that?”
“So, the way I think about this, and America, equal means equal,” Warren said, but did not address her prior comments in the remainder of her answer.
I guarantee you that if Warren is the nominee, she too will get the Hillary Clinton treatment from the media while Trump mocks her “Pocahantas” on an hourly basis.
Here is what the U.S. media should be doing about Trump.
Lenore Taylor at The Guardian: As a foreign reporter visiting the US I was stunned by Trump’s press conference.
…watching a full presidential Trump press conference while visiting the US this week I realised how much the reporting of Trump necessarily edits and parses his words, to force it into sequential paragraphs or impose meaning where it is difficult to detect.
The press conference I tuned into by chance from my New York hotel room was held in Otay Mesa, California, and concerned a renovated section of the wall on the Mexican border.
I joined as the president was explaining at length how powerful the concrete was. Very powerful, it turns out. It was unlike any wall ever built, incorporating the most advanced “concrete technology”. It was so exceptional that would-be wall-builders from three unnamed countries had visited to learn from it.
There were inner tubes in the wall that were also filled with concrete, poured in via funnels, and also “rebars” so the wall would withstand anyone attempting to cut through it with a blowtorch.
The wall went very deep and could not be burrowed under. Prototypes had been tested by 20 “world-class mountain climbers – That’s all they do, they love to climb mountains”, who had been unable to scale it.
It was also “wired, so that we will know if somebody is trying to break through”, although one of the attending officials declined a presidential invitation to discuss this wiring further, saying, “Sir, there could be some merit in not discussing it”, which the president said was a “very good answer”.
The wall was “amazing”, “world class”, “virtually impenetrable” and also “a good, strong rust colour” that could later be painted. It was designed to absorb heat, so it was “hot enough to fry an egg on”. There were no eggs to hand, but the president did sign his name on it and spoke for so long the TV feed eventually cut away, promising to return if news was ever made.
He did, at one point, concede that would-be immigrants, unable to scale, burrow, blow torch or risk being burned, could always walk around the incomplete structure, but that would require them walking a long way. This seemed to me to be an important point, but the monologue quickly returned to the concrete.
In writing about this not-especially-important or unusual press conference I’ve run into what US reporters must encounter every day. I’ve edited skittering, half-finished sentences to present them in some kind of consequential order and repeated remarks that made little sense.
But instead of focusing on Trump’s obvious ignorance, incompetence, and actual psychopathy and dementia, the media with focus on tearing down whichever Democrat wins the nomination. If it’s a black woman it will be even worse.
Finally, here’s the latest on the Ukraine scandal.
The Washington Post: How Trump and Giuliani pressured Ukraine to investigate the president’s rivals.
Three Republicans call for impeachment.
Tom Nichols at The Atlantic: If This Isn’t Impeachable, Nothing Is.
George Conway III and Neal Kaytal at The Washington Post: Trump has done plenty to warrant impeachment. But the Ukraine allegations are over the top.
Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread below. Have a nice weekend Sky Dancers!!