Café Journalism

Free Press, Disinformation, and John Oliver

October 15, 2021

On Sunday’s airing of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the show featured a segment on how Facebook and other social-media platforms are failing to address the rising threat of non-English disinformation. Here’s the inside scoop: For the past two months, members of Free Press Action’s staff worked with one of the producers of Last Week Tonight to help focus the show on this very issue!

With a reach of more than 4 million viewers, this Last Week Tonight segment was a milestone accomplishment in our efforts to raise awareness of this critical problem — one that disproportionately harms Black and Brown communities. None of this work would be possible without you and we’re eager to double down on our efforts to fight disinformation in all languages.

Back in late 2020, we began uncovering the depths of non-English disinformation on Facebook. We learned that less than one third of disinformation in Spanish is flagged on Facebook, compared to 70% of English-language content. Since then, we’ve launched the #YaBastaFacebook campaign with our partners to urge the platform to fully enforce its rules against non-English disinformation.

But this problem is hardly limited to Facebook and we haven’t seen enough meaningful action from the other platforms, either.

That’s why we are demanding that Nextdoor, Twitter, YouTube (and Facebook!) come clean about how they’re moderating non-English-language content.

Fight Back with Free Press Action

Disinformation doesn’t just divide us — it can have real life-and-death consequences, especially during the pandemic. And all of us are fed up.

Free Press Action has been leading the charge for accurate news and information from before the Trump era to today. Right now our team is preparing a sophisticated multi-pronged approach to effectively battle disinformation on multiple fronts in the weeks and months ahead — including getting Trump and his PAC kicked off Facebook for good.

Will you donate today to fund this fight? Every gift will be matched dollar for dollar up to $10,000 — but only through Oct. 31.

Please give today!

https://act.freepress.net/donate/don_disinfo_mrc?akid=19443.9807027.__euoo&amount=100&donation_type=single&prefill=1&rd=1&t=5

True investigative journalism.

October 14, 2021

Outrage Grows Over Jailing of Children as Tennessee University Cuts Ties With Judge Involved
NYTIMES

When It Costs $53,000 to Vote

Mr. Winter is a staff photographer on assignment in Opinion. Mr. Wegman is a member of the editorial board.

‘Earlier this year we asked Floridians whose voting rights had been denied because of a criminal conviction to sit for photographs, wearing a name tag that lists not their name but their outstanding debt — to the extent they can determine it. This number, which many people attempt to tackle in installments as low as $30 a month, represents how much it costs them to win back a fundamental constitutional right, and how little it costs the state to withhold that right and silence the voices of hundreds of thousands of its citizens. The number also echoes the inmate identification number that they were required to wear while behind bars — another mark of the loss of rights and freedoms that are not restored upon release.

This is the way it’s been in Florida for a century and a half, ever since the state’s Constitution was amended shortly after the Civil War to bar those convicted of a felony from voting. That ban, like similar ones in many other states, was the work of white politicians intent on keeping ballots, and thus political power, out of the hands of millions of Black people who had just been freed from slavery and made full citizens.

Even as other states began reversing their own bans in recent years, Florida remained a holdout — until 2018, when Floridians overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment restoring voting rights to nearly everyone with a criminal record, upon the completion of their sentence. (Those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense were excluded.)

Democratic and Republican voters alike approved the measure, which passed with nearly two-thirds support. Immediately, as many as 1.4 million people in the state became eligible to vote. It was the biggest expansion of voting rights in decades, anywhere in the country.

That should have been the end of it. But within a year, Florida’s Republican-led Legislature gutted the reform by passing a law defining a criminal sentence as complete only after the person sentenced has paid all legal financial obligations connected to it.

Even relatively small debts can be permanently disenfranchising for people who simply don’t bring in enough money to pay them off. General Peterson, 63, served a total of three and a half years on three convictions and believes he still owes around $1,100 in fees. He is retired and using his Social Security check to make monthly payments of $30 on the debt. “You want to help me pay it? That’d be fine with me,” he said.’


The vacuum created by the collapse of independent local news in America has given rise to ghost papers, partisan hackery, unverified rumors, and worse. Yet, new cohorts of news organizations are taking root to fill that void, often supported by philanthropy, public contributions, and new creative means of sustainability. At stake is the information that all citizens need to participate in democracy. S. Mitra Kalita, co-founder and CEO of URL Media, a network of Black-and Brown-owned media organizations sharing content, distribution, and revenues, and Stewart Vanderwilt, president and CEO of Colorado Public Radio, discuss the changing landscape of news gathering with Vivian Schiller, executive director of Aspen Digital at the Aspen Institute.

https://www.aspenideas.org/sessions/local-news-and-why-it-matters-to-democracy?utm_source=ActiveCampaign&utm_medium=email&utm_content=📰+Keeping+local+news+alive+matters++Here+s+why&utm_campaign=AIN+Newsletter+10+14+21


 

‘Civil’ Society

October 8, 2021

Kurt Thigpen was met with vitriol shortly after he became a school board member in Washoe County, Nevada. Credit: David Calvert, special to ProPublica

We’re Losing Our Humanity, and the Pandemic Is to Blame
“What the hell is happening? I feel like we are living on another planet. I don’t recognize anyone anymore.”

by Sarah Smith

Kurt Thigpen clenched his hands around the edge of the table because if he couldn’t feel the sharp edges digging into his palms, he would have to think about how hard his heart was beating. He was grateful that his mask hid his expression. He hoped that no one could see him sweat.

A woman approached the lectern in the center aisle, a thick American flag scarf looped around her neck.

“Do you realize the mask, the CDC said it’s only 2% effective?” she demanded. “You’re failing our children, you’re failing our country, you’re failing our students’ future ….”

Thigpen fixed his eyes on a spot in the back of the blue-and-green auditorium. He let the person speaking at the lectern fade. It will be over soon, he told himself.

“No, you’re not the boss of me, you work for us, I can’t breathe with it on —”

“Ma’am —”

“Don’t you dare cut my microphone —”

The crowd cheered. Thigpen focused on his breathing.

It will end soon, he told himself. It must. His sweat turned cold under his suit.

“The science isn’t there, take the kids outta the masks and let’s move on.”

When the eight-hour meeting finally ended, he would drive home and pull off the suit and rip off his shirt. He would only take care with his rainbow tie, resting it gently in the closet. It still hangs there today. He would close the door, lay down on his bed, and let himself cry.

The stories of cruel, seemingly irrational and sometimes-violent conflicts over coronavirus regulations have become lingering symptoms of the pandemic as it drags through its second year. Two men on a Mesa-to-Provo flight got into a cross-aisle fight after one refused to wear a mask. A Tennessee teenager asking his school board to impose a mask mandate in honor of his grandmother who died of COVID-19 got jeered by the crowd. A California parent angered by the requirement that his child wear a mask allegedly beat up a teacher so badly that the teacher had to go to the emergency room. An Arizona father showed up to an elementary school with zip ties, allegedly intending to make a “citizen’s arrest” over COVID-19 rules. A Missouri medical center has distributed panic buttons to about 400 employees after an increase in assaults on health care workers by people frustrated over coronavirus-induced visitation restrictions and long wait times.

“What the hell is happening?” said Rachel Patterson, who owns a hair salon in Huntsville, Alabama, and who has been screamed at, cussed out and walked out on for asking clients to don a mask. “Like, I feel like we are living on another planet. Like I don’t — I don’t recognize anyone anymore.”

Full piece: https://www.propublica.org/article/were-losing-our-humanity-and-the-pandemic-is-to-blame

Upworthy:

The National School Boards Association sent a letter to the Biden Administration stating that, “These heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.”

The threats have prompted U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to address the issue. In response, Garland directed federal authorities to meet with local law enforcement over the next month to discuss strategies for addressing the increase in “harassment, intimidation and threats of violence against school board members, teachers and workers” in public schools across the country.

Just about every American would agree that we should work to protect school board members from threats of violence. However, Fox News reporter Peter Doocy used Garland’s decision to crack down on violent threats as a way to rile up conservatives.

Just about every American would agree that we should work to protect school board members from threats of violence. However, Fox News reporter Peter Doocy used Garland’s decision to crack down on violent threats as a way to rile up conservatives.

He completely mischaracterized Garland’s directive in a question he asked White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday.

“Does the administration agree that parents upset about their kids’ curriculums could be considered domestic terrorists?” he asked.

“Let me unravel this a little bit,” Psaki answered, saying that Garland is “correct” to say that threats of violence against public servants “run counter to our nation’s core values.”

“Regardless of the reasoning,” she said, “threats and violence against public servants is illegal.”

FOX NEWS mandate from TV host Tucker Carlson [HuffPost]

Your response when you see children wearing masks as they play should be no different from your response when you see someone beat a kid in Walmart. Call the police immediately. Contact child protective services. Keep calling until someone arrives. What you’re looking at is abuse, it’s child abuse, and you’re morally obligated to attempt to prevent it.”

MOTHER JONES:

September/October issue

The Real Source of America’s Rising Rage

We are at war with ourselves, but not for the reasons you think.

by Kevin Drum

Americans sure are angry these days. Everyone says so, so it must be true.

But who or what are we angry at? Pandemic stresses aside, I’d bet you’re not especially angry at your family. Or your friends. Or your priest or your plumber or your postal carrier. Or even your boss.

Unless, of course, the conversation turns to politics. That’s when we start shouting at each other. We are way, way angrier about politics than we used to be, something confirmed by both common experience and formal research.

When did this all start? Here are a few data points to consider. From 1994 to 2000, according to the Pew Research Center, only 16 percent of Democrats held a “very unfavorable” view of Republicans, but then these feelings started to climb. Between 2000 and 2014 it rose to 38 percent and by 2021 it was about 52 percent. And the same is true in reverse for Republicans: The share who intensely dislike Democrats went from 17 percent to 43 percent to about 52 percent.

Likewise, in 1958 Gallup asked people if they’d prefer their daughter marry a Democrat or a Republican. Only 28 percent cared one way or the other. But when Lynn Vavreck, a political science professor at UCLA, asked a similar question a few years ago, 55 percent were opposed to the idea of their children marrying outside their party.

Or consider the right track/wrong track poll, every pundit’s favorite. Normallythis hovers around 40–50 percent of the country who think we’re on the right track, with variations depending on how the economy is doing. But shortly after recovering from the 2000 recession, this changed, plunging to 20–30 percent over the next decade and then staying there.

Finally, academic research confirms what these polls tell us. Last year a team of researchers published an international study that estimated what’s called “affective polarization,” or the way we feel about the opposite political party. In 1978, we rated people who belonged to our party 27 points higher than people who belonged to the other party. That stayed roughly the same for the next two decades, but then began to spike in the year 2000. By 2016 it had gone up to 46 points—by far the highest of any of the countries surveyed—and that’s beforeeverything that has enraged us for the last four years.

What’s the reason for this? There’s no shortage of speculation. Political scientists talk about the fragility of presidential systems. Sociologists explicate the culture wars. Historians note the widening divide between the parties after white Southerners abandoned the Democratic Party following the civil rights era. Reporters will regale you with stories about the impact of Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich.

Theory #1: Americans Have Gone Crazy With Conspiracy Theories

It’s probably illegal to talk about the American taste for conspiracy theorizing without quoting from Richard Hofstadter’s famous essay, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” It was written in 1964, but this passage (from the book version) about the typical conspiracy monger should ring a bell for the modern reader:

He does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised, in the manner of the working politician. Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, the quality needed is not a willingness to compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish. Nothing but complete victory will do.

Or how about this passage from Daniel Bell’s “The Dispossessed”? It was written in 1962:

The politics of the radical right is the politics of frustration—the sour impotence of those who find themselves unable to understand, let alone command, the complex mass society that is the polity today…Insofar as there is no real left to counterpoise to the right, the liberal has become the psychological target of that frustration.

In other words, the extreme right lives to own the libs. And it’s no coincidence that both Hofstadter and Bell wrote about this in the early ’60s: That was about the time that the John Birch Society was gaining notoriety and the Republican Party nominated Barry Goldwater for president. But as Hofstadter in particular makes clear, a fondness for conspiracy theories has pervaded American culture from the very beginning. Historian Bernard Bailyn upended revolutionary-era history and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1968 for his argument that belief in a worldwide British conspiracy against liberty “lay at the heart of the Revolutionary movement”—an argument given almost Trumpian form by Sam Adams, who proclaimed that the British empire literally wanted to enslave white Americans. Conspiracy theories that followed targeted the Bavarian Illuminati, the Masons, Catholics, East Coast bankers, a global Jewish cabal, and so on.

But because it helps illuminate what we face now, let’s unpack the very first big conspiracy theory of the modern right, which began within weeks of the end of World War II.

In 1945 FDR met with Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill at Yalta with the aim of gaining agreement about the formation of the United Nations and free elections in Europe. In this he succeeded: Stalin agreed to everything FDR proposed. When FDR returned home he gave a speech to Congress about the meeting, and it was generally well received. A month later he died.

Needless to say, Stalin failed to observe most of the agreements he had signed. He never had any intention of allowing “free and fair” elections in Eastern Europe, which he wanted as a buffer zone against any future military incursion from Western Europe. The United States did nothing about this, to the disgust of many conservatives. However, this was not due to any special gutlessness on the part of Harry Truman or anyone in the Army. It was because the Soviet army occupied Eastern Europe when hostilities ended and there was no way to dislodge it short of total war, something the American public had no appetite for.

And there things might have stood. Scholars could have argued for years about whether FDR was naive about Stalin, or whether there was more the US and its allies could have done to push Soviet troops out of Europe. Books would have been written and dissertations defended, but not much more. So far we have no conspiracy theory, just some normal partisan disagreement.

But then came 1948. Thomas Dewey lost the presidency to Harry Truman and Republicans lost control of the House. Soon thereafter the Soviet Union demonstrated an atomic bomb and communists overran China. It was at this point that a normal disagreement turned into a conspiracy theory. The extreme right began suggesting that FDR had deliberately turned over Eastern Europe to Stalin and that the US delegation at Yalta had been rife with Soviet spies. Almost immediately Joe McCarthy was warning that the entire US government was infiltrated by communists at the highest levels. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the architect of the Manhattan Project, was surely a communist. George Marshall, the hero of World War II, was part of “a conspiracy on a scale so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man.”

Like most good conspiracy theories, there was a kernel of truth here. Stalin really did take over Eastern Europe. Alger Hiss, part of the Yalta delegation, really did turn out to be a Soviet mole. Klaus Fuchs and others really did pass along atomic secrets to the Soviets. Never mind that Stalin couldn’t have been stopped; never mind that Hiss was a junior diplomat who played no role in the Yalta agreements; never mind that Fuchs may have passed along secrets the Soviets already knew. It was enough to power a widespread belief in McCarthy’s claim of the biggest conspiracy in all of human history.

There’s no polling data from back then, but belief in this conspiracy became a right-wing mainstay for years—arguably the wellspring of conservative conspiracy theories for decades. Notably, it caught on during a time of conservative loss and liberal ascendancy. This is a pattern we’ve seen over and over since World War II. The John Birch Society and the JFK assassination conspiracies gained ground after enormous Democratic congressional victories in 1958 and again in 1964. The full panoply of Clinton conspiracies blossomed after Democrats won united control of government in the 1992 election. Benghazi was a reaction to Barack Obama—not just a Democratic win, but the first Black man to be elected president. And today’s conspiracy theories about stealing the presidential election are a response to Joe Biden’s victory in 2020.

How widespread are these kinds of beliefs? And has their popularity changed over time? The evidence is sketchy but there’s polling data that provides clues. McCarthy’s conspiracy theories were practically a pandemic, consuming American attention for an entire decade. Belief in a cover-up of the JFK assassination has always hovered around 50 percent or higher. In the mid-aughts, a third of poll respondents strongly or somewhat believed that 9/11 was an inside job, very similar to the one-third of Americans who believe today that there was significant fraud in the 2020 election even though there’s no evidence to support this. And that famous one-third of Americans who are skeptical of the COVID-19 vaccine? In 1954 an identical third of Americans were skeptical of the polio vaccine that had just become available.

So how does QAnon, the great liberal hobgoblin of the past year, measure up? It may seem historically widespread for such an unhinged conspiracy theory, but it’s not: Polls suggest that actual QAnon followers are rare and that belief in QAnon hovers at less than 10 percent of the American public. It’s no more popular than other fringe fever swamp theories of the past.

It’s natural to believe that things happening today—to you—are worse than similar things lost in the haze of history, especially when social media keeps modern outrages so relentlessly in our faces. But often it just isn’t true. A mountain of evidence suggests that the American predilection for conspiracy theories is neither new nor growing. Joseph Uscinski and Joseph Parent, preeminent scholars of conspiracy theories, confirmed this with some original research based on letters to the editors of the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune between 1890 and 2010. Their conclusion: Belief in conspiracy theories has been stable since about 1960. Along with more recent polling, this suggests that the aggregate belief in conspiracy theories hasn’t changed a lot and therefore isn’t likely to provide us with much insight into why American political culture has corroded so badly during the 21st century.

Theory #2: It’s All About Social Media

How about social media? Has it had an effect? Of course it has. New media always has a political effect. Newspapers and pamphlets were the first purveyors of mass politics. The movie industry invented the attack ad. Radio was crucial to Hitler’s rise to power. TV brought the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War into our living rooms—along with lasting conflict over both. In the case of social media, however, we got more than just a new way of being told about the world. We got a medium controlled by ordinary people, the first one that truly gave us a close look at precisely who we all are.

And what is it we saw? Lots of people spreading rumors and lies that range from the merely dumb to the truly foul. And, particularly in the hands of extremists pushing an agenda, those lies spread fast. Republican activist Amy Kremer promoted a “Stop the Steal” Facebook page the day after the 2020 election. By the time it was shut down a day later, it already had 320,000 fans.

And how does it affect what we learn about politics? This obviously depends on how much political news we get from social media in the first place, which turns out to be surprisingly little—at least when it comes to actual articles or broadcast segments, not hot takes from your Uncle Bob. Pew Research found that among Republicans, only 10 percent said they like seeing lots of political posts. Nieman Labs, which has twice sampled news feeds from a small selection of Facebook users, found that their samples contained very little news at all and exactly zero “fake news”—i.e., bogus articles designed to look like real journalism. That doesn’t mean fake news doesn’t exist, but it does suggest that it’s less pervasive than most people think.

As for social media’s role in stoking political rage specifically, there’s no research that directly measures this. Studies using data compiled before 2016 suggested that social media didn’t cause political polarization and had little or no effect on the accuracy of political beliefs. However, in a more recent study, researchers provided evidence for something we all knew intuitively: Social media users are mostly locked inside “bubbles” of like-minded partisans. And there’s evidence—from Facebook itself—that the company’s various algorithms push people further into bubbles. A 2016 internal report states that “64% of all extremist group joins are due to our recommendation tools…Our recommendation systems grow the problem.” A large study recently published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that people were much more likely to share posts from news organizations or members of Congress that referred to their political out-group—i.e., the opposite party. And when it comes to Facebook at least, the company’s algorithms reflect or reward hyperpartisan outrage mostly from one side of the spectrum—a daily tally of Facebook’s top 10 engaged posts is always massively dominated by Fox News hosts and other far-right commentators.

Regardless, social media can’t be the main explanation for a trend that started 20 years ago. When you’re faced with trying to account for a sudden new eruption on the political scene like Donald Trump, it’s easy to think that the explanation must be something shiny and new, and social media is the obvious candidate. This is doubly true for someone whose meteoric rise was fueled by his deranged Twitter account. But the evidence simply doesn’t back that up. Trump may have taken advantage of rising political anger, but it wasn’t social media that created that anger. It was, as we’ll see, something older and more cold-blooded.

Theory #3: Things Really Have Gotten Worse

In some ways, this is the most obvious possibility. Maybe we’ve all gotten angrier as a natural reaction to things getting worse. Manufacturing jobs disappeared after we granted China permanent most-favored-nation status in 2001. Middle-­class incomes stagnated during most of the early 21st century. And if you’re a conservative, you’ve had to accept a steady liberalization of cultural norms, peaking in 2015 when the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was legal nationwide.

But to what extent have these changes actually affected public sentiment? Surprisingly little, it turns out.

Partly this is because, contrary to conventional wisdom, a lot of things have gotten better, not worse, over the past few decades. Income inequality has risen dramatically, but wages for nonmanagerial workers have nonetheless gone upby about $4 per hour since 2000. Prior to the pandemic, unemployment had fallen to historic lows. Crime rates had fallen by half since their peak in the 1990s. Poverty had declined.

All of these improvements are reflected in widely available surveys of public attitudes. Job satisfaction? It’s been stable for half a century. Satisfaction with personal finances? Also stable. And most importantly, general happiness about life has been stable too, with those saying they’re dissatisfied with their personal life ranging between 10 percent and 20 percent over the past 40 years. There’s simply very little evidence that the American public has become less happy about its concrete material condition.

But broad averages sometimes conceal strong feelings over specific issues. Republicans, for example, insist that the middle class is outraged over high taxes. However, this hardly squares with the fact that taxes have gone down steadily since the 1980s.

Could the increased anger be about job loss? Probably not: The number of people who don’t have a job but want one—the most accurate measure of true employment discouragement—has remained basically steady for decades.

How about unauthorized immigration? Fearmongering about it was certainly a cornerstone of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign but there’s little concrete evidence that it has been driving the long-term rise in political anger, in part because actual unauthorized immigration has been falling since 2007. Gallup polling confirms that aside from brief periods, the number of people who say that illegal immigration is a major issue has stayed pretty much constant for the past 20 years.

How about racism? It’s always been fundamental to American politics, all the more so following the Black Lives Matter protests of last year. But data from the General Social Survey, which has been conducted every two years since the early ’70s, shows that, without exception, racial bias among white respondents has either stayed the same or declined substantially over the past several decades. Crucially, Black respondents seem to agree. An especially interesting study published in 2011 asked people how strong they thought anti-Black racism was in each decade since 1950. Everyone agreed that racism was far worse in the 1950s than it is now. Black respondents were less optimistic than white respondents about the decline in racism, but on a scale of 1 to 10 they nonetheless rated the 1950s a 10 and the late 2000s a 6.

What do we know about more recent views of racism? One thing we know for sure is that both white and Black Americans have gotten more pessimistic about race relations since the Ferguson protests in 2014. But do they think that racism itself has gotten worse, especially following George Floyd’s murder and the racial justice protests of last year? Interpreting recent polling data is tricky, but my tentative read of the data is that it shows a welcome increase in the number of people who are aware of long-standing racist practices—especially in the criminal justice system—but not an increase in the number of people who think these practices have gotten worse.However, there’s one thing worth noting: Whether it’s in the 2011 study or more recent data, white respondents believe that anti-white bias has been steadily increasing. And the American National Election Studies, among other polls, have showed this belief in so-called reverse racism is overwhelmingly driven by white Republicans. This trend starts before 2000, but it’s growing and is an obvious candidate to explain rising white anger—as long as there’s something around to keep it front and center in the minds of white people.

So What’s Changed?

So far there are a few things we can say with some confidence:

Collectively, we are no more conspiracy-minded today than we have been in the past. Social media makes it harder to ignore this aspect of American society, and may have even accelerated it, but there’s little evidence that social media is the main driver.

What accounts for this? It’s here that our popular explanations run aground. It can’t be all about a rise in conspiracy theories, since they’ve been around for decades. It can’t be social media, since Facebook and Twitter have become popular in the political arena only over the past few years. It can’t be a decline in material comfort, since incomes and employment have steadily improved over the past couple of decades. It can’t really be social trends, since most of them have improved too. And most of the specific issues that might cause alarm—immigration, racism, and more—are unlikely candidates on their own. They may be highly polarizing, but in a concrete sense they haven’t gotten worse since 2000. In fact, they’ve mostly gotten better.

To find an answer, then, we need to look for things that (a) are politically salient and (b) have changed dramatically over the past two to three decades. The most obvious one is Fox News.

When it debuted in 1996, Fox News was an afterthought in Republican politics. But after switching to a more hardline conservatism in the late ’90s it quickly attracted viewership from more than a third of all Republicans by the early 2000s. And as anyone who’s watched Fox knows, its fundamental message is rage at what liberals are doing to our country. Over the years the specific message has changed with the times—from terrorism to open borders to Benghazi to Christian cake bakers to critical race theory—but it’s always about what liberal politicians are doing to cripple America, usually with a large dose of thinly veiled racism to give it emotional heft. If you listen to this on a daily basis, is it any wonder that your trust in government would plummet? And on the flip side, if you’re a progressive watching what conservatives are doing in response to Fox News, is it any wonder that your trust in government might plummet as well?

Fox News isn’t the only source of conservative animus toward government. The conservative media ecosystem includes talk radio, websites, email newsletters, and so forth. But all of these outlets had only a temporary effect in the early ’90s before fading out in the face of a booming economy. Only Fox News has had an enduring impact.

Why is Fox News so influential? Part of the answer probably lies in the fact that Fox News is cloaked in the trappings of news. Most conservatives who listen to talk radio shows understand that radio talkers are explicitly offering opinions and doing it with a large element of showmanship. But Fox News has well-dressed anchors and all the other accoutrements of a normal news outlet. So it’s no surprise that 65 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they trust Fox News—far more than any other news outlet. After all, why would a news outlet lie?

To an extent that many people still don’t recognize, Fox News is a grinding, daily cesspool of white grievance, mistrust of deep-state government, and a belief that liberals are literally trying to destroy the country out of sheer malice. Facebook and other social media outlets might have made this worse over the past few years—partly by acting as a sort of early warning system for new outrages bubbling up from the grassroots that Fox anchors can draw from—but Fox News remains the wellspring.

The Fox of 2021 is different even than the Fox of 2019…I had a commentator say to me, “Fox is a really different place than it was preelection.” This person has seen changes even in the last six months, in terms of how radical, how extreme the content is. I had a Fox staffer, as I was writing the last page of the paperback, say, “The Biden team has no idea what they’re up against.” Maybe in three years, we’ll say that Fox was immaterial to the Biden presidency. Maybe we’ll say that Fox barely made a dent. But it won’t be for lack of trying.

It is Fox News that has torched the American political system over the past two decades, and it is Fox News that we have to continue to fight.

The Real Source of America’s Rising Rage

Misinformation, Lies, Political Reporting…COVID

September 29, 2021

Press Watch mission statement: Political journalism needs a reset

by Dan Froomkin.

Let’s start with the overarching problem: Misinformation, disinformation and gaslighting have become rampant in our political discourse, turning citizens against each other, choking the legislative process, eroding confidence in elections, and, in the age of Covid, literally getting people killed. A striking number of voters are laboring under a series of delusions that make them incapable of rational decision-making. The country is still reeling from a violent attempted coup in the name of a Big Lie – a lie that has essentially become doctrine for one of our two major political parties.

Despite all this, our elite political media recognizes no need for a course change.

Journalists should treat a lie like a virus, for which they are the vaccine, not the spreader. The goal is to quickly fill the news space with the truth so that conspiracy theories have less place to grow.

There should be some, or else what’s the point of fact-based journalism? That means denying serial liars the opportunity to use the media – particularly live media — to spread their lies. That means whenever it’s crucial to quote a liar, warning readers and viewers of their track record. That means interrupting liars when they are repeating a lie. That means demanding retractions, publicly, prominently, and repeatedly. That means openly distinguishing between people who — totally independent of their political views — can be counted on to be acting in good faith and those who can be counted on to be acting in bad faith. Established liars should not be quoted as credible sources. (And they should certainly never be granted anonymity.)

Our very democracy is in danger. You can’t really cover politics and ignore that. It underlies everything.

https://presswatchers.org/2021/09/press-watch-mission-statement-political-journalism-needs-a-reset/amp/?__twitter_impression=true


Idaho Statesman

Idaho legislator urges people to get vaccinated after his mother dies from COVID-19

BY SALLY KRUTZIG

“I think there are people in our political realm who are essentially killing people with misinformation […] at what point was somebody convinced of a lie? Was it the fifth time it was repeated? Was it the 50th time? Was it the 500th time?” ⁦

https://www.idahostatesman.com/news/local/community/boise/article254599937.htm

#Idaho

 

Mr. Grant

August 30, 2021

“Despite a long and varied career, for many of us, the death of Asner on Sunday at age 91 reminded us of the loss of a fictional recreation that, perhaps for the first time in the mass media, reflected the complex reality of our profession.”

-Society of Professional Journalists, formerly Sigma Delta Chi, DePauw University

Why Lou Grant mattered (in memory of Ed Asner)

Lou Grant was shot through with light and dark humor, but underneath it portrayed the nuts-and-bolts process of “the daily miracle.” It acknowledged ethical issues such as plagiarism, checkbook journalism, entrapment of sources, staging news photos and conflicts of interest.  That in itself was unique among most mainstream depictions of journalism. Still, it didn’t take things too seriously: The opening credits tracked the newspaper ending up as the liner in a birdcage.

Between the sardonic observations, the show examined with unusual-for-the-time honesty such topics as nuclear proliferation, mental illness, prostitution, gay rights, domestic violence, capitals punishment, child abuse, rape, and chemical pollution.

[Bill Hirschman]

AXIOS:

Asner then starred for five years on “Lou Grant,” set at “The Trib.”

  • As Screen Actors Guild president, the liberal Asner was caught up in a controversy in 1982, during the Reagan years, when he spoke out against U.S. involvement with repressive governments in Latin America.
  • “Lou Grant” was canceled during the furor. CBS blamed ratings.

P.S. Betty White, 99, who played home-show hostess Sue Ann Nivens, is the lone surviving major cast member of “Mary Tyler Moore.”

[Ed Asner & Gavin MacLeon]

Ed, after his friend and actor Gavin MacLeon died in May:

My heart is broken. Gavin was my brother, my partner in crime (and food) and my comic conspirator,” wrote Asner. ” I will see you in a bit Gavin. Tell the gang I will see them in a bit. Betty! It’s just you and me now.”

[Mary Tyler Moore and Betty White on the Mary Tyler Moore Show.]

Edward Asner died on Sunday, August 29th.

Never missed it. ~dayle

Nuanced Optimism

August 20, 2021

While he sees the same structural pathologies afflicting our commercial news media systems today, he also points out meaningful progress in news coverage, especially in confronting historical atrocities.

The Nation.

VP: Speaking of alternatives to capitalism—we on the left are quick to critique corporate media, but less likely to discuss systemic alternatives. As you noted, there’s less actual journalism today and what’s left is increasingly degraded. Do you have any ideas for what a non-capitalist media system might look like?

NC: I got some ideas from reading your book, so I’m “bringing coals to Newcastle” by telling you what you wrote. But you discussed how the founders of the US Republic believed that the government ought to publicly subsidize the dissemination of diverse news media. In this light, the First Amendment should be understood as providing what’s called a “positive freedom”—not just “negative freedom.” It should create opportunities for free and independent media. Subsidizing news media was a primary function of the post office. The vast majority of post office traffic was composed of newspapers.

At 92, Chomsky is still leveling sharp critique and astute analysis. In our Zoom conversation, he seamlessly drew from that day’s New York Times to exemplify various points we were discussing. I was especially struck by his nuanced optimism—while he saw the same structural pathologies afflicting our commercial news media systems today, he also discerned meaningful progress in news coverage, especially in confronting historical atrocities that mainstream media accounts had ignored or misrepresented in the past. —Victor Pickard

Full piece:

https://www.thenation.com/article/politics/noam-chomsky-interview/

The Dissident, Cyber Warfare & Justice

July 30, 2021

#JusticeForJamal

THE DISSIDENT

Briarcliff Entertainment

“From the Academy Award-winning director of Icarus, Bryan Fogel, comes the untold story of the murder that shook the world.”

(You’ll want to see it…twice. #MustSee Bryan and his team, although debuting at Sundance to standing ovations and top 10 lists, could not find a distributor for eight months because, you know, Saudi Arabia. Please purchase the film and support the filmmakers, the distributor, Briarcliff, and Jamal. -Dayle)

Then, watch the podcast with Rich Roll and Bryan Fogel, particularly at the 1:20:00, ‘How cyber warfare has become a major threat…’

From the site: “Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Bryan Fogel joins Rich to discuss his new film ‘The Dissident’ a candid portrait of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the bone chilling events surrounding his murder.”

For more and how to take action:

https://thedissident.com

From the site: “As of 2021, dozens of journalists are currently detained in Saudi Arabia. Journalists, Jamal Khashoggi was one of you. Keep his legacy and story alive by sharing his work widely and exposing the truth about MBS and his regime.”

The Academy Awards this year?🦗’s.

 

“The constitution is not a suicide pact.”

July 27, 2021

“We can and must do more to regulate and support distribution of reliable news.”

CNN public editor: Why CNN’s audience deserves federally regulated news

by Ariana Pekary

Ariana Pekary is the CJR public editor for CNN. She was an award-winning public radio and MSNBC journalist for two decades. Now she focuses on the systemic flaws of commercial broadcast news. She can be contacted at publiceditors@cjr.org.

CNN, AS I’VE WRITTEN BEFORE, has amplified disinformation, relies on panel discussions that increase polarization, and has neglected voices of moderation for the sake of ratings. But is there some way to mitigate such problems, which are so common in cable news? Martha Minow, a professor at Harvard Law School, argues that the Constitution requires efforts to protect the free press––including regulation. 

In Saving the News, Minow describes the merits of “deep and extensive government involvement in funding, shaping, and regulating media.” Some may balk at the notion of federal intervention in the news. But Minow chronicles how the government has granted newspapers low postal rates, invested in research that created the internet, established licensing protocols for broadcasters, and regulated telephone lines and features of digital platforms––involving itself in essential elements of the nation’s media infrastructure.

“If the ecosystem fails to provide necessary information to citizens,” she told me, “then democracy dies—and the Constitution is not a suicide pact.” 

Minow argues that the First Amendment implies the existence of a functional press, so the government has an obligation to enact reforms and regulations to protect it. Many consider the industry to be a public utility, and therefore subject to regulation. And, as Minow explains in Saving the News, “Regulation of a necessary good or service also helps guard against coercion that works by exploiting people’s dependence, but it still permits private owners to operate for profit.” 

The now-defunct Fairness Doctrine, which mandated journalistic balance by requiring broadcasters to air multiple viewpoints, is one example of successful oversight, Minow said. Supreme Court justices wrote in 1969 that it was a “protection for ‘the right of the viewers and listeners, not the right of the broadcasters.’ ” Public interest, Minow notes, is a vital characteristic of government intervention. Accordingly, we may deduce that the public has authority over an outlet like CNN to protect the audience.

The United States has a long, if forgotten, history of funding the news media.

In The Death and Life of American Journalism, Robert McChesney and John Nichols––cofounders of Free Press, a media reform group––calculated that “the level of government subsidy given to the American press in the 1840s was the equivalent of $30 billion in 2010 dollars.” But federal funding of public media amounted to just $465 million in 2020––an extraordinarily low amount compared with other countries.

Subsidizing public media, Minow told me, would “provide crucial competition and can stimulate for-profits to win viewers by doing better.” Sesame Street, for example, did not exist before broadcasters knew that the format would be popular. Now it’s competitive and profitable. We could use other public-private partnerships, similar to the current collaboration with ProPublica, to create new informative TV programs, she says, calling it a “public option” for journalism.

Other possibilities include tax incentives; for instance, if CNN adopted a certain set of ethical standards (see the Society of Professional Journalists’ as an example), then it could receive tax benefits for implementing procedures in the public interest. Minow said the government could also encourage measures to label news programming, to more clearly “distinguish news, analysis, and opinion.”

As a democratic nation, we may have lost sight of the need for an informed electorate. Commercial outlets dominate our media environment. But in Saving the News, Minow reminds us of our constitutional obligations. We can and must do more to regulate and support distribution of reliable news. CNN’s audience deserves it. All American audiences do.

The Society of Professional Journalists is the former Sigma Delta Chi, founded at DePauw University.

Hyperobjects and the challenges ahead. #MustRead

July 8, 2021

I wrote a long essay about a pervasive feeling I have about the future. I do not think we are ready for the complex, existential challenges ahead. -Charlie Warzel

We are not ready.

On the climate crisis and other hyperobjects.

These days, I find increasingly myself caught between the worry that I’m being overly alarmist and the fear that I am stating the obvious.

I felt this most strongly in October 2020. Covid cases were surging; the presidential election was near; the far-right areas of the internet I kept an eye on were vibrating with a dark potential energy. All summer, I watched anxiously as people posted videos online of furious Americans taking to the streets. I listened in on walkie-talkie apps as so-called militia groups attempted to recruit and deploy members. News reports said sales of guns and ammo were surging.

I was seized by a deep, persistent dread that these anecdotal instances of civil conflict were a prelude to something bigger. I interviewed scholars who’ve studied revolutions and shared my fears.

Sept. 30th, 2020:

“Reading this exchange…it’s honestly very surprising to me the extent to which we haven’t seen more Kenosha like events already…”

I struggled — and ultimately failed — to put any of this into words at the time. I didn’t know how to convey these anecdotal stories into something that went beyond projecting my anxieties onto the world via the pages of the New York Times. I felt I lacked the language to proportionally describe my concern. I was legitimately worried about large-scale, sustained violent civil conflict across the United States but, if I’m being honest, I was afraid I’d come off as the extremely online, overly alarmist guy.

And yet, if you did occupy the same spaces as I did in October 2020, the specter of civil conflict would have felt just so incredibly obvious as to almost not be worth mentioning. The world was shut down, everyone was trapped inside and online, and more and more people were beginning to detach from reality. Everyone was miserable and scared and angry. Just look around!

This moment offers a window into the way that traditional conceptions and practices of journalism can break down in extraordinary times. I consider not writing this piece back in October a failure. I wrote plenty of columns around and tangential to this subject, yes. But my job is to look at the world through the lens of information and technology and to describe how those elements shape our culture and our politics. I saw something and I didn’t say all of what I thought, in part, because I couldn’t figure out how to talk about it proportionally. I was also pretty fucking scared: of being wrong, but also of being right.

Was I wrong or right? …Yes? There has not been a series of extended, mass casualty conflicts so far — no Civil War 2. But I also urge you watch this video reconstructing January 6th in full and tell me that my sleepless nights in October were a gross overreaction.

Even now, I struggle to find the adequate word to describe the moment. It makes sense: our 21st century existence is characterized by the repeated confrontation with sprawling, complex, even existential problems without straightforward or easily achievable solutions.

Theorist Timothy Morton calls the larger issues undergirding these problems “hyperobjects,” a concept so all-encompassing that it resists specific description. You could make a case that the current state of political polarization and our reality crisis falls into this category. Same for democratic backsliding and the concurrent rise of authoritarian regimes. We understand the contours of the problem, can even articulate and tweet frantically about them, yet we constantly underestimate the likelihood of their consequences. It feels unthinkable that, say, the American political system as we’ve known it will actually crumble.

Climate change is a perfect example of a hyperobject. The change in degrees of warming feels so small and yet the scale of the destruction is so massive that it’s difficult to comprehend in full. Cause and effect is simple and clear at the macro level: the planet is warming, and weather gets more unpredictable. But on the micro level of weather patterns and events and social/political upheaval, individual cause and effect can feel a bit slippery. If you are a news reporter (as opposed to a meteorologist or scientist) the peer reviewed climate science might feel impenetrable. It’s easiest to adopt a cover-your-ass position of: It’s probably climate change but I don’t know if this particular weather event is climate change.

Hyperobjects scramble all our brains, especially journalists. Journalists don’t want to be wrong. They want to react proportionally to current events and to realistically frame future ones. Too often, these desires mean that they do not explicitly say what their reporting suggest. They just insinuate it. But insinuation is not always legible.

I understand these fears and I feel them myself, professionally and personally. I think anyone who says they don’t feel them is probably lying. In fact, these fears, in the right proportion, make for what we traditionally consider a “good journalist.”

After all, many of the best journalists understand how to balance and factor uncertainty into their work. I don’t want journalists to jump to lazy conclusions. I think a deeper embrace of nuance and uncertainty is necessary not just in reporting, but in all elements of mass media.

That embrace sounds good in theory but it’s much harder in practice. How do you talk about an impending, probable-but-not-certain emergency the *right way*? Can you even do that? Can you get people ready for an uncertain, perhaps unspeakably grim future? Is anyone ready?

These questions have re-entered my brain again as I’ve scrolled the news the last few weeks. In late May and early June, there were a rash of reports about Republican efforts to restrict voting rights and halt Democrats’ expansion efforts. There was lots of warranted handwringing about the ways that Republican state legislatures are poised to consolidate power at the local level that could threaten the legitimacy of future presidential elections. Congress was unable to agree to even investigate January 6th, prompting the New Yorker to run the headline, “American Democracy Isn’t Dead Yet, but It’s Getting There.”

The overwhelming message of these pieces was that the America was running out of time on its claim of having even a remotely functioning political system. Even more worrying was the tone, which seemed to suggest it might not feel bad right now, but it’s far worse than you think. “My current level of concern is exploring countries to move to after 2024,” one political scientist told Vox in late May. Cool, cool. My personal doom indicator was a Reuters/Ipsos poll from May, as in two months ago, which found that 53% of Republicans believe Trump is the “true president.”

There are so many dire elements in the forecast for our political future. It seems like a truly formidable challenge for a country to overcome.

Which is why one piece of reporting from this past month felt like a true gut punch. In the Times, Ben Smith wrote a media column about Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, who remains a prolific source for political reporters in Washington, D.C. “Mr. Carlson’s comfortable place inside Washington media, many of the reporters who cover him say, has taken the edge off some of the coverage. It has also served as a kind of insurance policy, they say, protecting him from the marginalization that ended the Fox career of his predecessor, Glenn Beck,” Smith wrote. “‘If you open yourself up as a resource to mainstream media reporters, you don’t even have to ask them to go soft on you,’” a journalist told Smith in the piece.

I’ve reported on the far-right. I understand that the reporting process frequently brings you into contact with loathsome individuals and that, at times, these people can be quite helpful, because cynical political grifters love to turn on each other and gossip and vent just like everyone else. I’ve broken some stories, stories I’m proud of, off tips from true cretins — so take my pearl clutching with whatever grains of salt you wish.

Still, Smith’s column haunted me. You can argue Carlson is who he has always been, or that his Trump era project of (barely) laundering white nationalist talking points into mainstream political discourse is disingenuous, pandering to viewers for whom he has utter contempt. I don’t care. What I do care about is a political press that has a seemingly neutral or symbiotic relationship with a guy who beams this rhetoric into three million homes a night:

[Tucker Carlson soundbite; will not post. -dayle]

It’s worth noting that some of those same articles I read back in the fall, warning of democratic backsliding, single out Carlson as one of the animators of a dark grievance culture that threatens our social/political fabric. “The strongest factors are racial animosity, fear of becoming a white minority and the growth of white identity,” Virginia Gray, a political scientist at the University of North Carolina told the Times’ Tom Edsall, singling out a Carlson monologue from April.

It’s hard for me to square the Carlson source coziness with the host’s increasingly dangerous replacement theory and anti-vaxx rhetoric. The disconnect between the threat Carlson poses and the political media’s shrugging proximity to him fills me with a deep dread for my industry — and a very real concern that it will not be able to rise to the challenge of our moment (a shaky democratic foundation, increasingly fewer points of shared reality, a climate emergency, to name a few).

I’m not trying to dog reporters working in a shitty, gutted media ecosystem that mostly runs off algorithmic attention and online advertising that most people hate. There is no shortage of vital, journalism going on. But, structurally, there are still glaring problems with some traditional outdated journalistic norms and practices: management that still struggles to understand complex internet dynamics, a commitment to journalistic impartiality that does not work in an era where one political party has largely abandoned democracy and, in some cases, reality.

Over the last half decade, I watched political journalists and editors tie themselves in knots arguing over whether to call Trump a racist or whether the Republican party was really becoming anti-democratic or whether Trump’s election denial was a “coup.” In each instance there’s a side arguing that the other needs to calm down, that things are not as bad as they appear. I used to think these people had a lack of imagination.

Now, I see it as a strong normalcy bias. Writer Jonathan Katz calls this an ‘unthinkability’ that “pervades conversations about so many things in our moment.” Basically: we humans are good at repressing terrifying realities that feel unthinkable and steering them back into more acceptable bounds of conversation.

Climate coverage offers the clearest picture of this ‘unthinkability’ dynamic. In a clip from June 7th, CBS meteorologist Jeff Berardelli describes a heat wave stifling the east coast and the exceptional levels of draught in the West. His tone is urgent and the maps he’s gesturing to on the screen are alarming. He doesn’t mince words. “This is a climate emergency,” he tells one of the morning show anchors. It’s the kind of grim statement that you might imagine would evoke a bit of stunned silence.

Instead, the anchor smiles broadly and shakes his head in faux disbelief. “It’s very hot! I feel parched just talking about it!” he says in perfect, playful news cadence. Berardelli and the others on set offer up a classic morning show chuckle. Isn’t that something else! Banter! Onto the next segment.

[CBS warning of extreme heat soundbite.]

This is a particularly egregious example of a conventional form of media (in this case, the lighthearted morning show segment) that is woefully inadequate for the subject matter (the existential heating of the planet that will render large swaths of it hostile to human life in the near future).

In her excellent newsletter Heated, Emily Atkin has written about the systemic failureof the media to inform readers/viewers as to why it is so goddamn hot this summer. She cites the work of Colorado journalist Chase Woodruff, who surveyed recent reporting on the state’s recent heat wave and found that out of “149 local news stories written about the unprecedented hot temperatures…only 6 of those stories mentioned climate change.” The others, Atkin notes, “covered it as if it were an act of God.”

This behavior isn’t new. Back in 2018, Atkin wrote a story on the media’s failure to connect the dots on climate change. NPR’s science editor told her that “You don’t just want to be throwing around, ‘This is due to climate change, that is due to climate change.’” The editor required reporters to speak to a climate scientist before being allowed to attribute extreme temperatures to climate change. It’s an instance, Atkin argues, of “over-abundance of journalistic caution” — primarily attributable to fear. Fear of backlash from denialists, politicians, or other journalists — maybe even fear of being right.

In my mind, there’s an incredibly important distinction between embracing complexity and uncertainty in the world and what those Colorado publications, following the lead of so many others, did by not mentioning climate change — because, well, weather is complex and we don’t want to get yelled at so who’s to say?!! The problem isn’t legitimate nuance. It’s when decision makers in the media space use the existence of uncertainty as an excuse not to say what needs to be said.

Sometimes, though, mistakes aren’t nefarious. A missed or botched narrative is caused by a little bit of everything. A lot of the retroactive criticism around coronavirus coverage pre-March 2020 was that big media outlets downplayed pandemic fears because they relied heavily on credible expert sources who themselves were inclined not to be alarmists. Some in the media were doing their job just as intended and unwittingly providing false comfort. Others were providing false comfort because they didn’t want to be outliers. And another group mostly ignored the threat because platform or other media incentives directed their focus away from an unknown respiratory illness in China.

These scenarios are the product of living with and reporting on hyperobjects. The big picture — we’re losing our grip on what’s real; our political system is fraying and unsustainable; the planet is burning — is pretty clear and obvious. But many of the particulars (Is that specific hurricane climate change? Is this bill/piece of misinformation/person a threat to the democracy?) become skirmishes in the culture war.

I don’t particularly know what to do about any of this. One problem when facing down a hyperobject-sized crisis is that it overwhelms. In a recent piece, Sarah Miller articulated what it feels like to stare down existential dread on the subject of climate change. She argues that, after a certain point, traditional methods, like writing, feel futile:

“Let’s give the article…the absolute biggest benefit of the doubt and imagine that people read it and said, “Wow this is exactly how I feel, thanks for putting it into words.” What then? What would happen then? Would people be “more aware” about climate change? It’s 109 degrees in Portland right now. It’s been over 130 degrees in Baghdad several times. What kind of awareness quotient are we looking for? What more about climate change does anyone need to know? What else is there to say?  

Miller’s questions ask us to consider and reconsider what our roles are right now. Yes, we have our jobs and the way we’ve been trained or conditioned or rewarded to do them and that’s all very fine and good. But what about now? Does that training hold up in remarkable, existential-feeling moments like the one we are in? Are these jobs, the way we’ve been taught to do them, important now? How do we prepare people for the uncertain, grim contours of the future? Can we do that?

I think these are the questions journalists have to be asking ourselves at every moment right now. But not just journalists. Hyperobject-sized problems impact everyone. That’s why they’re hyperobjects. And I don’t think any of us are ready. The pandemic showed us how difficult it is, at a societal level, to grasp complex ideas like, say exponential growth. And there are examples everywhere of our human inability to think longterm or pay big costs upfront to avoid catastrophe later (See: this haunting interview about the Miami condo collapse).

But not being ready isn’t quite the same as being doomed to a foregone conclusion. There’s the way we’ve done things and the way we need to do things now. How do we make up the difference between those two notions? We must be probabalistic in our predictions and understanding when they fall short. We need all need to learn to work and think on different levels, holding steadfastly to what is not up for debate, and not dividing ourselves needlessly over what is.

As good as that might sound, I feel foolish writing it. I’m not all that certain any human being can hold such conflicting notions in their head all the time. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying.

Living with hyperobjects is hard. I don’t think we’re ready for any of what is to come. I feel alarmist saying this. But it also feels incredibly obvious.

The media is complicit.

June 5, 2021

As an institution, the media no longer reflects, it shapes. NYTimes columnist Ezra Klein recently spoke with President Barack Obama about how the United States transitioned from “Yes We Can to MAGA.” Thoughtful questions and deeply reflective answers. Here I extrapolate President Obama’s comments about the media and his worried concerns about how the narrative is shaped through social media and far-right ‘news’ sources. -dayle

Full interview:

“What you just identified, in part because of the media infrastructure I described, and the siloing of media, in part because of, then, the Trump presidency and the way both sides went to their respective fortresses, absolutely. I think it’s real. I think it’s worse.

The decline of other mediating institutions that provided us a sense of place and who we are, whether it was the church, or union, or neighborhood, those used to be part of a multiple set of building blocks to how we thought about ourselves.

It spills over into everyday life and even small issues, what previously were not considered even political issues.

But some of it is a media infrastructure that persuaded a large portion of that base that they had something to fear and fed on that fear and resentment, that politics of fear resentment, in a way that, ironically, ended up being a straitjacket for the Republican officials themselves. And some of them got gobbled up by the monster that had been created and suddenly found themselves retiring. And they couldn’t function, because they weren’t angry or resentful enough for the base they had stoked.

It taught somebody like a Mitch McConnell that there is no downside for misstating facts, making stuff up, engaging in out and out obstruction, reversing positions that you held just a few minutes ago. Because now, it’s politically expedient to do so. That never reached the public in a way where the public could make a judgment about who’s acting responsibly and who isn’t.

And that, I think, was not driven by the politics of the moment. I mean, I think that the media was complicit in creating that dynamic in a way that is difficult. Because as we discovered during the Trump administration, if an administration is just misstating facts all the time, it starts looking like, gosh, the media’s anti-Trump. And this becomes more evidence of a left wing conspiracy, and liberal elites trying to gang up on the guy.

Ezra:  I will say, in the media, one of our central biases is towards exciting candidates. You were an exciting candidate in 2008, but later on, that’s also something that Donald Trump activates.

President Obama: In a different way. You have a big set piece at the White House Correspondents Dinner, where “The Washington Post” invites Donald Trump after a year of birtherism to sit at their table.

But even in a broader sense, exciting candidates are usually, one, they shape perceptions of parties. But two, on the right, they tend to be quite extreme. They definitely tend to be in both directions, either more liberal or more conservative. But part of the dynamic, I think, you’re talking about — and then the media is pressured by social media, where —

You look out there, and you look around, like who’s up there on Facebook and on Reddit. And conflict sells.

But I have to tell you that there’s a difference between the issue of excitement, charisma, versus rewarding people for saying the most outrageous things.

So I don’t agree that that’s the only way that you can get people to read newspapers or click on a site. It requires more imagination and maybe more effort. And it requires some restraint to not feed the outrage, inflammatory approach to politics. And I think that folks didn’t do it.

And look, as I note towards the end of the book, the birther thing, which was just a taste of things to come, started in the right wing media ecosystem. But a whole bunch of mainstream folks, who later got very exercised about Donald Trump, they booked him all the time. Because he boosted ratings. But that wasn’t something that was compelled.

It was convenient for them to do. Because it was a lot easier to book Donald Trump to let him claim that I wasn’t born in this country than it was to how do I actually create an interesting story that people will want to watch about income inequality. That’s a harder thing to come up with.

My entire politics is premised on the fact that we are these tiny organisms on this little speck floating in the middle of space. The analogy I always used to use when we were going through tough political times, and I’d try to cheer my staff up, then I’d tell them a statistic that John Holdren, my science advisor, told me, which was that there are more stars in the known universe than there are grains of sand on the planet Earth.

I guess, that my politics has always been premised on the notion that the differences we have on this planet are real. They’re profound, and they cause enormous tragedy as well as joy. But we’re just a bunch of humans with doubts and confusion

We do the best we can. And the best thing we can do is treat each other better, because we’re all we got. And I would hope that the knowledge that there were aliens out there would solidify people’s sense that what we have in common is a little more important.

Three books, a book I just read, “The Overstory” by Richard Powers, it’s about trees and the relationship of humans to trees. And it’s not something I would have immediately thought of, but a friend gave it to me. And I started reading it, and it changed how I thought about the earth. And it changed how I see things, and that’s always, for me, a mark of a book worth reading.

“Memorial Drive” by Natasha Trethewey, it’s a memoir, just a tragic story. Her mother’s former husband, or her former stepfather, murders her mother. And it’s a meditation on race, and class, and grief, uplifting surprisingly, at the end of it but just wrenching.

And then this one is easier to remember. I actually caught up on some past readings of Mark Twain. There’s something about Twain that I wanted to revisit, because he speaks a little bit of — he’s that most essential of American writers. And there’s his satiric eye and his actual outrage that sometimes gets buried under the comedy I thought was useful to revisit.”

Mark Twain considered his best book to be one he spent 12 years writing. Excellent.

-dayle

Amazon:

Very few people know that Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) wrote a major work on Joan of Arc. Still fewer know that he considered it not only his most important but also his best work. He spent twelve years in research and many months in France doing archival work and then made several attempts until he felt he finally had the story he wanted to tell. He reached his conclusion about Joan’s unique place in history only after studying in detail accounts written by both sides, the French and the English. Because of Mark Twain’s antipathy to institutional religion, one might expect an anti-Catholic bias toward Joan or at least toward the bishops and theologians who condemned her. Instead one finds a remarkably accurate biography of the life and mission of Joan of Arc told by one of this country’s greatest storytellers. The very fact that Mark Twain wrote this book and wrote it the way he did is a powerful testimony to the attractive power of the Catholic Church’s saints. This is a book that really will inform and inspire. 

Mindful, Selfless, and Compassionate

Harvard Business Review

Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Summary.   

The Dalai Lama shares his observations on leadership and describes how our “strong focus on material development and accumulating wealth has led us to neglect our basic human need for kindness and care.” He offers leaders three recommendations. First, to be mindful: “When we’re under the sway of anger or attachment, we’re limited in our ability to take a full and realistic view of the situation.” Also, to be selfless: “Once you have a genuine sense of concern for others, there’s no room for cheating, bullying, or exploitation; instead you can be honest, truthful, and transparent in your conduct.” And finally, to be compassionate: “When the mind is compassionate, it is calm and we’re able to use our sense of reason practically, realistically, and with determination.”

by the Dalai Lama with Rasmus Hougaard

What can leaders do?

Be mindful

Cultivate peace of mind. As human beings, we have a remarkable intelligence that allows us to analyze and plan for the future. We have language that enables us to communicate what we have understood to others. Since destructive emotions like anger and attachment cloud our ability to use our intelligence clearly, we need to tackle them.

Fear and anxiety easily give way to anger and violence. The opposite of fear is trust, which, related to warmheartedness, boosts our self-confidence. Compassion also reduces fear, reflecting as it does a concern for others’ well-being. This, not money and power, is what really attracts friends. When we’re under the sway of anger or attachment, we’re limited in our ability to take a full and realistic view of the situation. When the mind is compassionate, it is calm and we’re able to use our sense of reason practically, realistically, and with determination.

Be selfless

We are naturally driven by self-interest; it’s necessary to survive. But we need wise self-interest that is generous and cooperative, taking others’ interests into account. Cooperation comes from friendship, friendship comes from trust, and trust comes from kindheartedness. Once you have a genuine sense of concern for others, there’s no room for cheating, bullying, or exploitation; instead, you can be honest, truthful, and transparent in your conduct.

Be compassionate

The ultimate source of a happy life is warmheartedness. Even animals display some sense of compassion. When it comes to human beings, compassion can be combined with intelligence. Through the application of reason, compassion can be extended to all 7 billion human beings. Destructive emotions are related to ignorance, while compassion is a constructive emotion related to intelligence. Consequently, it can be taught and learned.

Buddhist tradition describes three styles of compassionate leadership: the trailblazer, who leads from the front, takes risks, and sets an example; the ferryman, who accompanies those in his care and shapes the ups and downs of the crossing; and the shepherd, who sees every one of his flock into safety before himself. Three styles, three approaches, but what they have in common is an all-encompassing concern for the welfare of those they lead.”

Full piece:

https://hbr.org/2019/02/the-dalai-lama-on-why-leaders-should-be-mindful-selfless-and-compassionate?utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=hbr&utm_source=twitter&tpcc=orgsocial_edit

Tulsa 100

May 29, 2021

Black Main Street.

On Being:

The conversation between both of these writers is one that starts in the artistry of their work and includes questions about the imagination, and power, and about what constitutes liberative transformation. And the scope of history they focus on is wide: “These threats we live subject to… are the grotesque and perverse ends to which a nation founded in shame has gone in order to avoid atoning for its crimes.” 

The conversation between both of these writers is one that starts in the artistry of their work and includes questions about the imagination, and power, and about what constitutes liberative transformation. And the scope of history they focus on is wide: “These threats we live subject to… are the grotesque and perverse ends to which a nation founded in shame has gone in order to avoid atoning for its crimes.” -Pádraig Ó Tuama

Tracy K. Smith and Michael Kleber-Diggs — ‘History is upon us… its hand against our back.’

It wasn’t until I saw an episode from The Watchmen that I learned of the 1921 Tulsa Massacre. A dysfunctional childhood took me to 16 schools in nine years, and not one teacher, not one, taught this history. -dayle

https://www.tulsa2021.org

For events in Tulsa, Oklahoma beginning on May 31st follow the link for more information and to join virtually.

Greenwood.

The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission will leverage the rich history surrounding the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre by facilitating actions, activities, and events that commemorate and educate all citizens.

“The projects of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission will educate Oklahomans and Americans about the Race Massacre and its impact on the state and Nation; remember its victims and survivors; and create an environment conducive to fostering sustainable entrepreneurship and heritage tourism within the Greenwood District specifically, and North Tulsa generally.”

“Black Wall Street 100: An American City Grapples with its Historical Racial Trauma, endorsed by the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission and the 400 Years of African American History Commission, furthers the educational mission of both bodies. The book offers updates on developments in Tulsa generally and in Tulsa’s Greenwood District specifically since the publication of Hannibal B. Johnson’s, Black Wall Street: From Riot to Renaissance in Tulsa’s Historic Greenwood District.

Black Wall Street 100 is a window into what distinguishes the Tulsa of today from the Tulsa of a century ago. Before peering through that porthole, we must first reflect on Tulsa’s Historic Greenwood District in all its splendor and squalor, from the prodigious entrepreneurial spirit that pervaded it to the carnage that characterized the 1921 massacre to the post-massacre rebound and rebuilding that raised the District to new heights to the mid-twentieth-century decline that proved to be a second near-fatal blow to the current recalibration and rebranding of a resurgent, but differently configured, community.

Tulsa’s trajectory may be instructive for other communities similarly seeking to address their own histories of racial trauma. Conversely, Tulsa may benefit from learning more about the paths taken by other communities. Through sharing and synergy, we stand a better chance of doing the work necessary to spur healing and move farther toward the reconciliation of which we so often speak.” [Amazon]

What’s past is prologue.

-William Shakespeare

Jennifer Rose

May 19, 2021

“When we feed into conspiracies (whether real or fake), we reinforce the idea of external authority, while diminishing our own.”

🌎

April 22, 2021

“In a very real way, the shift from a pagan earth-based spirituality to the patriarchal Christian notion of man’s right to dominate nature was a causal factor contributing to what would one day become our environmental crisis.”

-Marianne Williamson

F O R   E A R T H   D A Y

Award winning film at the 2021 Sun Valley Film Festival. NatGeo  photographer Brian Skerry discovers a profound whale culture filming the series over three years in 24 aqueous locations across the planet. Astonishingly beautiful and tender. Streaming on Disney+. #EarthDay2021

Executive Producer James Cameron: “It’s so important for people to understand and illuminate how these creatures think, how they feel, what their emotion is like, what their society is like, because we won’t protect what we don’t love.” [Deadline]

‘The Eurocentric view of property ownership requires to see land as disconnected from us, separating from the source of life. The Indigenous view, kcyie, recognizes our obligation to care for the land as we would care for our human relatives.’

-Fr. Richard Rohr

Climate Journalist Eric Holthaus:

“A Green New Deal is inevitable – if we keep on fighting for it.
This is a terrifying moment because it is so important, and the people who realize that – people on the front lines of climate violence around the world – are being told to wait.

The anger in these words I’m writing now is because I know that what needs to happen isn’t hard at all once we get enough people demanding it.

The best thing of all is there’s a shared vision of a world where every living thing matters. Building upon hundreds of years of wisdom, struggle, and science, we know that a flourishing human civilization is no longer possible without it being rooted in ecology and reverence for the interconnection and interdependence of us all on each other.

And, as it turns out, that vision of a better world is really really popular.

We have everything we need to make this happen. Don’t let anyone tell you that you need to wait any longer for a livable planet.”

Vaccines, Journalism’s Implicit Bias & Good News

April 18, 2021

Madison, Wisconsin

Posted on twitter, Sunday, April 18th:

Marty Makary MD, MPH
‘The Israeli and UK experience show that once the population is 2-3 wks out after 50% of adults are vaccinated (something the U.S. hit this wknd), then you get strong suppression of the infection.’ @MartyMakary
Comment:
Vinay Prasad MD MPH
‘Very good news.’ @VPrasadMDMPH
 
“…science is a process that never ends.”
 
“…find a voice to help you through the weeds, or walk away.”
 
“…we have this implicit bias in journalism toward what’s new and not what’s true.”Important segment this week from On The Media about the J&J pause, science, and how it’s reported. It speaks to media literacy, as well as to the sensationalism of the news. -dayle

https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/otm/segments/breaking-news-consumers-handbook-vaccine-edition

Community Radio

March 5, 2021

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.

Here we are heralding the month of March already and marking a full year of living under a global pandemic and integrating new behaviors in response to it. I found myself thinking about “the Ides of March” and the ominous undertones that permeate that phrase from Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar to a host of calamitous events from history that seem to strengthen a collective unease. Collective unease is something we can relate to in new ways of late. My hope is that we don’t succumb to the strain of what we are living through, but rather that we emerge in this early springtime with renewed sense of purpose.

There is so much complexity before us as we amplify community life on the airwaves. Our organizations strain under the weight of increasing polarization, misinformation, and distrust. That’s why I am reminded of the words of Martin Luther King Jr. in the quote above. In the face of complexity and strain it helps to remember the basics – only light drives out darkness, only love drives out hate. And hopefully, the darkest hour is right before the dawn.

May the Ides of March be smooth sailing for you and may the season we are emerging from show us new ways to serve our communities and take care of each other. Let’s dive in deep to creative endeavors that provide inspiration for reimagining the world we love and the home we all share – our wildly diverse blue and green, spinning and wobbling planet. We have the power of amplification – let’s put it to good use.


Sally Kane, Chief Executive Officer
National Federation of Community Broadcasters

#CommunityRadio

Journalism’s New Paradigm

March 4, 2021

“Did you know 86% of people consider themselves to be spiritual?”

-Fetzer Institute

Government Reporters

February 1, 2021

“We’re going to rebrand you—no longer political reporters, you are government reporters; an important distinction—frees you to cover what’s happening in Washington in context of whether it’s serving the people well, rather than which party is winning.”

‘…incremental news coming out of Washington makes no sense to readers unless they are familiar with the larger narrative—we can’t assume they are. We can’t assume they understand basic civics or they appreciate the difference b/t verifiable facts & baseless lies.’

P R E S S  W A T C H

An intervention for political journalism.

by Dan Froomkin

The newly announced resignation of Washington Post executive editor Marty Baron, the abrupt stepping-down of Los Angeles Times executive editor Norman Pearlstine in December, and the highly anticipated departure of New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet combine to create an epic moment of reckoning for these highly influential news organizations.

A new generation of leaders is coming! And they have a lot of urgent repair work ahead of them. That includes abandoning the failed, anachronistic notions of objectivity under which they have operated for so long, recognizing and rejecting establishment whiteness, and finding dramatically more effective ways to create an informed electorate.

Nowhere are those challenges more critical than when it comes to reporting about politics and government. So as my way of helping out, I’ve written a speech for the next boss to give to their political staffs. It goes like this:

It’s so nice to be here. I’m looking forward to working with all of you amazing reporters and editors. You’ve all shown you’re capable of incredible work, and I respect you enormously.

But at the same time, my arrival here is an inflection point.

It’s impossible to look out on the current state of political discourse in this country and think that we are succeeding in our core mission of creating an informed electorate.

It’s impossible to look out at the looming and in some cases existential challenges facing our republic and our globe – among them the pandemic, climate change, income inequality, racial injustice, the rise of disinformation and ethnic nationalism – and think that it’s OK for us to just keep doing what we’ve been doing.

So let me tell you a bit about what we need to do differently.

First of all, we’re going to rebrand you. Effective today, you are no longer political reporters (and editors); you are government reporters (and editors). That’s an important distinction, because it frees you to cover what is happening in Washington in the context of whether it is serving the people well, rather than which party is winning.

Historically, we have allowed our political journalism to be framed by the two parties. That has always created huge distortions, but never like it does today. Two-party framing limits us to covering what the leaders of those two sides consider in their interests. And, because it is appropriately not our job to take sides in partisan politics, we have felt an obligation to treat them both more or less equally.

Both parties are corrupted by money, which has badly perverted the debate for a long time. But one party, you have certainly noticed, has over the last decade or two descended into a froth of racism, grievance and reality-denial. Asking you to triangulate between today’s Democrats and today’s Republicans is effectively asking you to lobotomize yourself. I’m against that.

Defining our job as “not taking sides between the two parties” has also empowered bad-faith critics to accuse us of bias when we are simply calling out the truth. We will not take sides with one political party or the other, ever. But we will proudly, enthusiastically, take the side of wide-ranging, fact-based debate.

While we shouldn’t pretend we know the answers, we should just stop pretending we don’t know what the problems are. Indeed, your main job now is to publicly identify those problems, consider diverse views respectfully, ask hard questions of people on every side, demand evidence, explore intent, and write up what you’ve learned. Who is proposing intelligent solutions? Who is blocking them? And why?

And rather than obsess on bipartisanship, we should recognize that the solutions we need – and, indeed, the American common ground — sometimes lie outside the current Democratic-Republican axis, rather than at its middle, which opens up a world of interesting political-journalism avenues.

Political journalism as we have practiced it also too often emphasizes strategy over substance. It focuses on minor, incremental changes rather than the distance from the desirable – or necessary — goal. It obfuscates, rather than clarifies, the actual problems and the potential solutions.

Who’s winning today’s messaging wars is a story that may get you a lot of tweets, but in the greater scheme of things it means nothing. It adds no value. It’s a distraction from what matters to the public. It also distracts you from more important work.

Tiresomely chronicling who’s up and who’s down actually ends up normalizing the status quo. I ask you to consider taking — as a baseline — the view that there is urgent need for dramatic, powerful action from Washington, not just when it comes to the pandemic and the economic collapse, but regarding climate change and pollution, racial inequities, the broken immigration system, affordable health care, collapsing infrastructure, toxic monopolies, and more.

Then you get to help set the national agenda, based on what your reporting leads you to conclude that the people want, need, and deserve.

Learning from our Mistakes

Let’s also consider the biggest mistakes we have made over the last two decades, and learn from them.

The most important lesson of the Bush/Cheney years is that we should never assume government officials are telling us the truth, especially when it comes to matters involving war and national security. This is hardly an original lesson, and yet nonetheless it bears repeating. We should be particularly skeptical if they claim that secrecy precludes them from showing us concrete, persuasive evidence. The government routinely uses secrecy to protect itself, not the people.

One major lesson from the Obama years is: Don’t become complacent just because the president appears to know what he’s doing. The White House is a bubble, no matter its occupant. Power not only corrupts, it distorts, it distances, it detaches. The president and his staff must be constantly questioned, challenged, and exposed to reality outside the bubble. Critics must be heard. Transparency must be enforced.  The press is uniquely capable of making that happen.

The big lesson from the 2016 election was not that we were out of touch with real people. It was that we had ignored – and, indeed, contributed to – a massive, viral outbreak of know-nothingism whose co-morbidities included white supremacy, white grievance, disinformation spread through the media and social media, mental illness, and, yes, some legitimate disillusionment about an uncaring and unresponsive government by the elites. We in the media helped by offering a divisive megalomaniac free and often unfiltered attention, by normalizing the radical extremism of the modern-day Republican Party, and by blowing Democratic failings wildly out of proportion to create false equivalence.

Faced – indeed shocked – by Trump’s victory, we should have risen to the challenge and jumped to an emergency footing. We should have gone not back to work as usual, but to war – a war not against Trump but against lies, incipient authoritarianism, and white supremacy.  We should have corrected misinformation and advocated for the truth as emphatically and effectively as Fox News and the rest of the right-wing propaganda ecosystem armed its audience with misinformation.

So yeah, let’s not make those mistakes again.

Luckily, the enthusiasm and skills that brought you into the news business in the first place are exactly what’s needed right now. My goal is not to squelch you, it is to encourage you to use your exceptional abilities to observe, analyze, and communicate to help the public understand the news and put it in context.

Sometimes, that will just entail remembering – maybe even just remembering the other stories you yourself have written. Much of the incremental news coming out of Washington these days makes no sense to readers unless they are familiar with the larger narrative. And we can’t assume they are. We can’t assume they understand basic civics. We can’t even assume they appreciate the difference between verifiable facts and baseless lies.

Habits developed in an era of loyal readers and limited space no longer apply – not when people land on our stories from who-knows-where and we can offer background and verification, through our writing and through supplementary links. What has been the unstated subtext of so many of our stories – that politics bends to the powerful, that bigotry blights so many American lives, that climate catastrophe is imminent – needs to be clear and obvious going forward. It needs to be in the headline.

Here’s how we’re going to start: I want each of you to write a “beat note,” in which you describe at a high level what you see happening on your beat, what major questions you’re trying to answer, who the key players are, who seems to be operating in good faith and bad faith, what pressures they are under, and what you think the biggest challenges are ahead. Then we’ll publish them. We’ll link to them from your “author” pages so people will know where you’re coming from. We’ll encourage your editors, your colleagues, the readers — and an economically and racially diverse advisory board I’m putting together – to interrogate those memos. We’ll encourage you to engage in conversation about those memos. And you’ll revise and update them going forward.

On Whiteness

So let’s talk about economic and racial diversity.

I look out at our profession, and I don’t see much of it.

Over time, that has to change. And it will change – but not overnight.

What we need to do, in the meantime, is recognize the effects of that: namely, that we have for a long time now operated in an atmosphere of establishment whiteness, where whiteness and white values are considered the norm.

This has corrupted what the previous generation of leaders considered “objective” journalism. Even if you value being “detached” or “above it all” – which, for the record, I do not — you are neither of those things if you haven’t recognized, not to mention rejected, white privilege and presumptions.

We in this business write and report, by default, from a position of whiteness. Our sources are too often white and male. Our presumed readers – the ones we worry about not offending – are white, male, affluent, and centrist (as if centrism were still a thing.)

We too often think of whiteness as neutral. What we have all witnessed so vividly in the last four years is what nonwhite people have experienced for decades: that it is not. Whiteness can no longer be invisible in this newsroom. It must be acknowledged, studied and questioned. Non-white voices must be raised up and valued.

In the meantime, here’s what you can start doing differently in your daily work right now: Visualize an audience that is diverse – politically, racially, socioeconomically, demographically, geographically, and by gender. Make a project of diversifying your sources. Question your blind spots. Recognize racism and call it out. Solicit criticism from people you respect.

Instead of trying to triangulate based on what you think you should be writing, or what your editors expect from you, or what you might get dinged for on Twitter, root everything you do in basic moral, journalistic principles, like fair play, civil liberty, free speech, truth in government, and a humane society. You might call that moral clarity.”

And a Few Other Things

From now on, I’m the bad cop when it comes to dishy sources who want to talk to you anonymously. When you tell your sources “my boss won’t let me quote you unless you speak to me on the record,” that’s me.

Granting anonymity is a two-way contract and should only come in return for delivering accurate information of great value to the public. In its ideal form, it protects sources who tell secrets and would otherwise face retribution from the bosses who don’t want the public to know the truth.

But publishing what anonymous sources say is essentially vouching for their credibility, because readers have no way of judging it on their own. It also means the sources can avoid accountability of any kind for what they said, including if they lied.

So new rules:

  • No anonymous sourcing unless you and your editor agree that the information is vital to an important story, otherwise unattainable, and you are either satisfied of your source’s altruistic motives or prepared to describe their more venal ones to your readers.
  • Warn them that if they lie to you, you will out them.

I’m also abolishing the fact-checking department. Or rather, I’m turning everyone into a fact-checker. Fact-checks shouldn’t be segregated. If a lie is important, that’s a news story. If an entire political party is engaged in gaslighting, that’s a news story.

Even more importantly, we should pursue consequences for lying, because right now there are none beyond a “fact check” that nobody reads. That means interrupting known liars when they are repeating a known lie. That means demanding retractions, publicly and repeatedly. That means denying serial liars the opportunity to use the media – particularly live media — to spread their lies. That means whenever you quote a serial liar, even if they are not provably lying at the time, you warn readers that they lie a lot. That means openly distinguishing in your reporting between people who, regardless of their political views, can be counted on to be acting in good faith from those who can be counted on to be acting in bad faith.

This is crucial to our mission and our economic survival. In a world with no consequences for lying, fact-based journalism has little value.

So in summary, I am not telling you what to think. I am asking you to think for yourselves. I’m asking you to interrogate some of your presumptions, to be certain – but then tell the truth as you see it.

https://presswatchers.org/2021/01/what-the-next-generation-of-editors-need-to-tell-their-political-reporters/

Accountability from media, too.

January 16, 2021

MSNBC public editor: Accountability for everyone except MSNBC itself

by Maria Bustillos

Columbia Journalism Review

“Watching MSNBC in the hours since Wednesday’s mob attack on the Capitol has been dizzying.

The enormity of this history-rattling event was impossible to spin, downplay, or trivialize, even for cable news. And so the network’s coverage summarily imploded, splintering in real time, losing the glossy veneer of corporate imperturbability as its hosts veered wildly between prim expressions of astonishment, ostrich-like attempts at “business as usual,” and passionate demands for Trump’s immediate ouster.

Calls for “accountability” have come from nearly every talking head: congressmen, academics, retired generals, and the hosts themselves. In MSNBC parlance, “accountability” is a dignified-sounding word with no exact meaning. But IRL the word means facing consequences for your decisions and actions.

Real accountability, for MSNBC, means a clear and distinct demand for each of its hosts to come clean about his or her own complicity in building and enabling the increasingly violent and extremist Republican Party that led, inexorably, to the ruinous Trump administration. Joe Scarborough, for example, who on Thursday called for the president to be arrested, was not so long ago a frequent guest at Mar-a-Lago, and a staunch ally of Trump the candidate in 2016, as CNN reported at the time:

Scarborough has spoken about Trump in increasingly glowing terms, praising him as “a masterful politician” and defending him against his political opponents and media critics. The Washington Post has noted that Trump has received “a tremendous degree of warmth from the [Scarborough] show,” and [said] that his appearances on the show, in person and over the phone, often feel like “a cozy social club.”

What would “accountability” look like for Scarborough and his cohost, Mika Brzezinski? What would it look like for Nicolle Wallace, whose work on behalf of George W. Bush in the Florida recount—a key moment in the degradation of the Republican Party—led to a high-profile job in Washington?

True to form, Chuck Todd brought the most openly cynical and dim-witted take to the party. On Meet the Press Thursday, he spoke with Andrea Mitchell and Katy Tur about the possible motivations of Elaine Chao, Trump’s transportation secretary, who had announced her resignation. “I’m sort of torn on the effectiveness,” he began.

But let’s put yourself… I’m going to try to put myself in her shoes. And maybe you don’t have enough people to do the Twenty-fifth Amendment.… And you want to stand up, and do something, and say something.… But at the end of the day, is it still better symbolically to publicly rebuke him, even if it’s in the last thirteen days, even if it does look like you’re trying to launder yourself a bit, so that maybe you’ll be invited to a better law firm or a better cocktail party, but the rebuke may be still necessary anyway?

I have nothing whatsoever to add to that.”

The new 4th Estate?

January 12, 2021

The 4th Estate refers to a Free Press in the United States, or the ‘4th Branch of Government.’ This morning the AXIOS online news organization, for-profit media, reference corporate America as the new ‘4th Estate’:

‘How CEO’s became the 4th Branch of Government’

America needs law and order — but not the kind President Trump has in mind. That’s the message being sent by a broad coalition of CEOs who are silencing Trump and punishing his acolytes in Congress, Axios’ Felix Salmon writes.

  • Why it matters: CEOs managed to act as a faster and more effective check on the power of the president than Congress could. They have money, they have power, and they have more of the public’s trust than politicians do. And they’re using all of it to try to preserve America’s system of governance.

A new political force is emerging — one based on centrist principles of predictability, stability, small-c conservatism and, yes, the rule of law.

  • “You cannot call for violence,” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said yesterday in an interview with Reuters Next, explaining why she de-platformed Trump. “[T]he risk to our democracy was too big. We felt that we had to take the unprecedented step of an indefinite ban, and I’m glad that we did.” [FACEBOOK CONTINUES TO BE COMPLICIT. TEXTBOOK DEFINITION OF GASLIGHTING. Facebook is a sponsor of AXIOS. -dayle]

Between the lines: American capitalism is based on a foundation of legal contracts, all of which ultimately rely on the strength and stability of the government.

  • When a sitting president threatens that stability by inciting an insurrectionist mob that storms the legislature, corporate America will do everything in its power to restrain him.

Driving the news: Tech giants including Facebook, Google, Amazon and Twitter have worked in concert to quiet Trump and the far right. Other corporations are pulling political funding from all legislators who supported overturning the result of November’s free and fair election.

  • All of this has happened before the House can even schedule an impeachment vote.

The backstory: Axios first told you about CEOs as America’s new politicians in 2019, when they increasingly were responding to pressure.

  • Then corporate leaders mobilized last spring on coronavirus response, last summer over racial justice, and now they are joining ranks on climate change.

What’s next: After dipping toes in for the past year and a half, CEOs are now all-in.

  • They’re in a whole new league of activism — with no going back.

Remember, GOP leaders, today, announcing their agreement for impeachment are also reacting to corporate media saying their funding, donations, are suspended. It’s money, it’s power, it’s greed—those are their motivations. Always. -dayle

The virus of lies.

We have to describe things as they are. What really happened on that terrible day? “The president of the United States incited a mob to sack the Capitol to lynch the vice president — his vice president.” -Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic

Center for Action & Contemplation:

‘If our framing story tells us that we are in life-and-death competition with each other, then we will have little reason to seek reconciliation and collaboration and nonviolent resolutions to our conflicts.’

NPR:

‘How do I help people that have, unbeknownst to them, become radicalized in their thought? Unless we help them break the deception, we cannot operate with 30% of the country holding the extreme views that they do.’

CJR/Columbia Journalism Review:

‘In 2016, DT got so much free media airtime—more than $2(B) according to the the NYTimes—that he could run a national presidential campaign with a fraction of the ad budget of his competitors; amplifying him has not merely been a Fox News problem.’ ⁦

Tim Snyder:

‘The lie outlasts the liar. The idea that Germany lost the First World War in 1918 because of a Jewish “stab in the back” was 15 years old when Hitler came to power. How will DT’s myth of victimhood function in American life 15 years from now? And to whose benefit?’

For-profit media has made millions…billions?…from Donald Trump. Mainstream media, the fringes of cable news, all, all, gave DT platforms for disinformation and incited his rhetoric. No Doubt. This could, indeed, have made room for corporate America’s position as the 4th Estate [AXIOS].

I remember, what Don Lemon, CNN, and what so many pundits on news media said in 2015: “People want to see Donald Trump. You want to watch him,” Don Lemon told CNN viewers the day after Trump announced his candidacy. “At least there’s someone interesting in the race.”

NYTimes:

‘At Fox, one former staffer said, the main criterion for choosing a story is whether it will inflame the audience: “The single phrase they said over and over was ‘This is going to outrage the viewers!’ You inflame the viewers so that no one will turn away.”’

CJR/Columbia Journalist Review

From journalist Maria Bustillos:

Media, too Must be held Accountable. [ALL MEDIA]

‘Real accountability, for MSNBC, means a clear and distinct demand for each of its hosts to come clean about his or her own complicity in building and enabling the increasingly violent and extremist Republican Party that led, inexorably, to the ruinous Trump administration. Joe Scarborough, for example, who on Thursday called for the president to be arrested, was not so long ago a frequent guest at Mar-a-Lago, and a staunch ally of Trump the candidate in 2016, as CNN reported at the time:

Scarborough has spoken about Trump in increasingly glowing terms, praising him as “a masterful politician” and defending him against his political opponents and media critics. The Washington Post has noted that Trump has received “a tremendous degree of warmth from the [Scarborough] show,” and [said] that his appearances on the show, in person and over the phone, often feel like “a cozy social club.”

True to form, Chuck Todd brought the most openly cynical and dim-witted take to the party. On Meet the Press Thursday, he spoke with Andrea Mitchell and Katy Tur about the possible motivations of Elaine Chao, Trump’s transportation secretary, who had announced her resignation. “I’m sort of torn on the effectiveness,” he began.

But let’s put yourself… I’m going to try to put myself in her shoes. And maybe you don’t have enough people to do the Twenty-fifth Amendment.… And you want to stand up, and do something, and say something.… But at the end of the day, is it still better symbolically to publicly rebuke him, even if it’s in the last thirteen days, even if it does look like you’re trying to launder yourself a bit, so that maybe you’ll be invited to a better law firm or a better cocktail party, but the rebuke may be still necessary anyway?

I have nothing whatsoever to add to that.’

 

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