MSM struggles to cover Trump because IOKIYAR

12 Jan 2017 12:40 am
Posted by: Donna

Here’s a tale of two tweets:

For the record, I like and agree with both of these journalists. Both statements are correct: The MSM is flummoxed by trump and the same MSM would be instantly un-flummoxed by a Democrat one tenth as corrupt and disgusting as he is.

As a refresher or for the uninitiated, IOKIYAR stands for “It’s okay if you are Republican”. It’s a close cousin to Both Siderism and, like it, is a dominant driver of how the media cover partisan politics. It’s such a prevalent ethos in the industry that even many good reporters become defensive and deny they’re doing it when you point it out to them.

And while this past election should have made it blindingly obvious to anyone – after two years of Trump being treated as an amusing curiosity and Clinton as a criminal who simply hadn’t been caught red handed yet – I still regularly encounter media people who refuse to acknowledge how their industry treats GOP politicians with utmost solicitude while scorching Democrats for minor or imaginary mistakes, often magnifying into enormous “scandals”, as we saw with Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

You can argue that the Clinton-Trump contest was singular because both candidates are highly controversial public figures but I can point to many, many examples involving other Democrats and Republicans to refute that. One that comes immediately to mind is the Vice Presidential debate where Mike Pence, who is (what is now) a standard-issue conservative Republican, lied glibly through the entire thing and was declared the winner by pundits over Democrat Tim Kaine for being so calm and skillful at the lying. IOKIYAR!

One jaw-dropping irony of IOKIYAR coverage is that when there are allegations of wrongdoing by a Republican, as with the shocking trove of compromising information intelligence agents believe Russia has about the incoming President, is that rigorous norms of scrutiny and evidence come roaring back with alacrity. “Clouds of suspicion” are no longer an acceptable excuse to run with a story, as they were with the Clinton Foundation or the infamous email server.

In a brief interview in the Times newsroom on Tuesday evening, Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The Times, said the paper would not publish the document because the allegations were “totally unsubstantiated.”

“We, like others, investigated the allegations and haven’t corroborated them, and we felt we’re not in the business of publishing things we can’t stand by,” Mr. Baquet said.

Recall that the Times had no problem using the execrable “Clinton Cash” as source material for negative, misleading coverage of Hillary Clinton.

I don’t believe this disparity in coverage is driven by malice and I can sympathize with the media being fearful of Republicans, who can be some nasty and vindictive people. But this trepidation toward the GOP is too often accompanied by a needless and ferocious level of hostility toward Democrats, I guess in the interest of appearing fair or maybe to get on the bully’s good side? I don’t know.

It’s rare that answers lie somewhere in the middle but, in this rare case, I’d say a decent one does exist between the poles of how Republicans and Democrats are covered. Until the glorious day wherein that happy middle is determined, I humbly suggest the following to reporters and pundits at a loss for how to cover Trump: Pretend he’s a Democrat and act accordingly. Seriously, treat him the way you treated Jimmy Carter, both Clintons, Al Gore, and Barack Obama. With Trump, the contempt will actually be warranted.

Ducey acting like a moderate in his State of the State

10 Jan 2017 12:39 am
Posted by: Donna

The AZ Legislature opened its session Monday and Governor Doug Ducey delivered his State of the State address (transcript here). I wasn’t at the speech but people who were there were tweeting how it was getting more applause from Democrats. It’s easy to see why, as Ducey called for increased funding to education, child protection, and drug treatment and diversion.

And not only that, despite mentioning “family” or “families” numerous times, Ducey had nothing for Cathi Herrod and her Family Values crowd, not even a dog whistle about “sanctity of life” or anything. I mean, it’s not like he’s George McGovern all of a sudden or anything. There was much of the usual GOP boilerplate about low taxes and smaller government in the speech. But I’m not the only one who saw it as Ducey going in a moderate direction, at least rhetorically. Stay tuned.

My guess is Ducey may be (wisely) predicting the Trump presidency will be an unpopular disaster, one that could bring down his own chances for reelection in 2018, and is positioning himself as “reasonable” in advance of it. Again, stay tuned.

Rep Kelly Townsend is awful

28 Dec 2016 11:54 pm
Posted by: Donna

A lot of us have been engaging in a kind of gallows humor about 2016, which was a disaster electorally for Democrats (and the world) and seems to have ripped through iconic celebrities like the Black Plague through Europe. Dejected political junkies and fans of this year’s deceased celebrities have been wont to anthropomorphize the year, with things like “That’s enough 2016!” “Go fuck yourself 2016!” appearing regularly on social media.

This has drawn out the usual tiresome pedants eager to lecture about actuarial statistics (we get it guys!) but here’s someone who appears to be quite stoked over the celeb deaths: one Rep. Kelly Townsend (R) of the far East Valley of Greater Phoenix (who did take this post down but, alas, the internet is forever):

Kelly Townsend

Wow. Townsend really is treating 2016 like a real person. One who should be admired and cherished for, uh, killing beloved artists. I hope nobody tells her that substance abuse is not only not new, but that medical interventions are probably allowing people who struggle with it to live longer. It might kill her buzz!

Also, I may have some bad news for Rep. Townsend about the incoming President and his possible drug abuse. I mean, it’s just a rumor, but that’s all she needed, in addition to her moral judgment, to cheer the passing of David Bowie, Prince, and Carrie Fisher, isn’t it?

It’s worse than normalizing Nazis, it’s making them look cool

13 Dec 2016 02:51 pm
Posted by: Donna

I don’t plan to post much before the new year because I’m still processing the debacle to our country but I am on social media a lot (it’s my time suck I don’t judge yours!) and a pair of Tweets I did the other night got a lot of hits, so:

They drew some great responses, like the Fight Club one above. Others brought up Walter White, the anti-hero protagonist in Breaking Bad, a complex character who was a quite a dick through much of the series but is beloved by many of the show’s fans nonetheless. The tweets were in reference to this NYT profile of the so-called “Alt Right”, AKA Nazis, in America, which came under a lot of criticism for what people felt was a too humanizing treatment of the subjects. The reporters made it clear that the people they interviewed held bigoted views but also (in my, and others’, estimation), presented the subjects as ordinary people with families and hobbies who held views that just happen to exist along the wide spectrum of possible political stances.

The Times’ Public Editor Liz Spayd has defended the use of euphemisms like “alt right” or “populist” to describe the Nazis President-Elect Trump has surrounded himself with and a manner of coverage that leaves it to the reader to draw moral conclusions. Spayd scoffs at the notion that this is “normalizing” them. She may be right. It might be worse, as in opening up a Don Draper/Tyler Durden/Walter White problem.

A writer may think her nuanced portrayal of the articulate, well-dressed Nazi with the cherubic kiddies is also exposing him as a racist cretin but she can’t know it will be understood that way by all its readers. Think about someone who has been secretly sympathizing with Nazis for years but hasn’t expressed it fearing social sanctions. Do you think soft-focus portrayals like the one in Times or this one in LA Times make that person (and remember, they already agree with the Nazi views espoused by the interviewees) more or less likely to step out of the closet and go to full-throated support? Especially when that dude they saw in the news article is making it look really cool.

MSM needs Trump to have “successes” so you’ll forget how badly they failed

06 Dec 2016 11:51 pm
Posted by: Donna

141029_cover-novdecWelp. They had their assignment.

From ShareBlue comes this disturbing report about how Trump’s bogus Carrier deal was push-polled by Politico into “popularity”.

A headline at Politico reads “Poll: Trump’s Carrier deal is wildly popular,” and, while only seven words long, that headline contains multiple serious errors of omission and inaccuracy — the most egregious of which is the implication that the poll has anything to do with the actual Carrier deal. The question asked of respondents was both factually inaccurate and incomplete:

As you may know, Carrier, the air-conditioning company, decided to keep roughly 1,000 manufacturing jobs in the state of Indiana rather than moving them to Mexico after forming an agreement with President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence. Does this decision by Carrier give you a more or less favorable view of President-elect Donald Trump?

As a matter of fact, only 800 of the jobs at the Indianapolis plant were ever slated to go to Mexico, not “roughly 1,000.” The other 300 or so jobs being included in the count were jobs that were to remain in Indianapolis either way.

And the Politico/Morning Consult poll commits an even more glaring lie of omission by failing to point out that Carrier is still shipping 1,300 jobs across the border, which will result in the closure of an entire plant in Huntington, Indiana.

Reporter Tommy Christopher notes in that piece that polls like these are how narratives are constructed and it’s really becoming apparent that influential people in the MSM intend to spin Trump’s “government by gimmickry” into solid PR wins with voters. This is in stark contrast to how they usually covered President Obama’s actual successes (like the increase of millions of people with health care coverage and jobs).

The explanation that makes the most sense for this behavior by the political press is they know they whiffed this election but (many of them) just can’t bear to admit it. Out of a misguided adherence to “balance” Donald Trump’s many, many abhorrent attributes went underappreciated by the public while Clinton’s nothingburger “email scandal” was “[blown] all out of proportion”:

Conversely, the fact that there actually weren’t very many negative angles to pursue against Clinton ended up blowing the email story out of proportion. If you have journalists assigned to cover Clinton, they need to do some kind of stories. And they’re going to want to do some tough stories. So if the only topic to do tough stories about is emails, you’re doing to get a lot of stories about emails. And a natural implication that people are going to draw is that Clinton’s email server is a crucially important story.

The truth, however, is that the email saga was profoundly unimportant. Federal IT at the time would have required her to carry two separate BlackBerrys, one for her personal email and one for her work email. That’s what an ordinary State Department employee would have had to do, but Clinton was the boss, so she chose to exempt herself from the rule and just use one email account. It was a little selfish (a perfect boss would have played by the rules while insisting on finding a department-wide solution to the problem) but not especially important. Most of all, it wasn’t criminal, and it didn’t endanger national security.

Alas, the rest is history. Speaking of history, parallels between how the election of 2000 between George W. Bush and Al Gore was covered and 2016 are obvious: Then, as now, the political press relentlessly savaged the Democratic candidate (Gore) over minor flaws and falsely painted him as an inveterate liar while building up his incompetent silver spoon Republican opponent (Bush) as a down-home, straight-shooting guy. (Bob Somerby scrupulously cataloged the whole disgusting thing and put it all online for free, if you’re interested.)

Remembering that 2000 election, and the first years of the Bush II era that followed, is stomach-churning. What the press is doing now by giving Trump “wins” on the Carrier deal and similar stunts gives me a bad feeling about what they’ll do if there’s a major terrorist attack on us. When we were attacked on September 11, 2001, it was as though an instant hivemind overtook the MSM, where it was simply inconceivable that President George W. Bush could be anything but a hero who was uniting a traumatized nation and rooting out evildoers and shut up hippies. And now it occurs to me that this was more about these pundits convincing themselves they hadn’t fucked up the 2000 election. They hadn’t helped to install the wrong guy by acting like a bunch of Heathers. Oh no. Why else did it take years (and Michael Moore’s movie) for any real scrutiny of exactly WTF the Bush admin was doing prior to the attack to reach the broad public?

Mark my words, if there’s a terror attack on us shortly after Trump assumes the Presidency, the Beltway press will move quickly to lionize him and push the public toward accepting whatever he wants to do in response to it. They will do it, again, mainly to save their own faces. Don’t let them!

Colin Jost and the problem with bloodless opposition to “identity politics”

27 Nov 2016 04:52 pm
Posted by: Donna

On the Weekend Update portion of the November 19 SNL broadcast Colin Jost made a joke a lot of viewers of the show found offensive.

The dating app Tinder announced a new feature this week with gives users 37 different gender identity options.

It’s called “why Democrats lost the election”.

I rolled my eyes at the joke but I charitably figured he wasn’t just chiding Democrats for being too inclusive of out groups (which is terrible of him). I wanted to believe he was also talking about people voting Republican out of spite over things like this. It’s akin to losing one’s shit over hearing “para español, oprima el numero dos” when calling the cable company. It’s ridiculous.

But it turns out – at least according to his defense of the joke – Jost wasn’t kidding and his remark was directed at Dems, whom he believes lost the election due to an over-reliance on “identity politics”.

For some reason, Jost remained steadfast and decided to *gasp* explain the joke. Not only that, he also tweeted a link to an instantly notorious New York Times op-ed by Columbia professor Mark Lilla called “The End of Identity Liberalism,” which accused identity politics of perverting liberalism and destroying its electoral viability.

Lilla’s breathtakingly bad essay, which Jost claimed in a tweet “expanded on this idea” (referring to his joke), has been rebutted and debunked by far more talented people than I, so I let them do that at the links I provided.

What I noticed right away about Lilla’s piece is how he – like many of those whom Darren Hutchenson calls “post-identity commentators” that we’ve been hearing a lot from topic post-election – leans heavily on the theoretical and carefully avoids describing concretely what it looks like in practice going forward to move beyond “identity politics” in such a way that Democrats win elections again.

We need a post-identity liberalism, and it should draw from the past successes of pre-identity liberalism. Such a liberalism would concentrate on widening its base by appealing to Americans as Americans and emphasizing the issues that affect a vast majority of them. It would speak to the nation as a nation of citizens who are in this together and must help one another. As for narrower issues that are highly charged symbolically and can drive potential allies away, especially those touching on sexuality and religion, such a liberalism would work quietly, sensitively and with a proper sense of scale. (To paraphrase Bernie Sanders, America is sick and tired of hearing about liberals’ damn bathrooms.)

But, as you can see, Lilla does leave clues to where we should be headed, which Colin Jost seems to have picked up readily. Jost did not back down on his argument that Tinder, a private company that runs a dating service, contributed to the loss of the election (in the Electoral College, it should be noted, not the popular vote) by offering its subscribers the completely voluntary capacity to select the gender identification that fits them.

Of course, it’s likely Jost doesn’t blame Tinder so much as he blames transgender activists for pushing for the acknowledgment of gender categories that make Rust Belters (supposedly) feel ooky. Perhaps he feels people who don’t fit into binary gender classifications should just consider going back in the closet for the sake of elections. If so, then this is a real thing that Colin Jost proposes real people should do that will hurt many of them, and worse, reinforce the idea that it’s okay to hurt them. You can try to separate identity politics, or a desired lack of them, from the people those identities are attached to all you want, but you can’t. It’s their lives you’re talking about.

Get the fake news out of the real news too!

16 Nov 2016 12:16 am
Posted by: Donna

In the sad and confusing days following the election of Donald Trump (gag) to President, I noticed a narrative was emerging among MSM pundits about how abysmally ill-informed the electorate seemed to be. It goes like this: The rise of social media has created partisan echo chambers where people pass around fake stories and algorithms promote these fake stories and this creates a sealed bubble into which no outside information penetrates! Naturally, this phenomena occurs…wait for it…on both sides!

This story has found favor with everyone from Chris Hayes to John Oliver and I’m not saying it’s off base. I just find it remarkable how quickly it took off after the election. You’d almost think the MSM were looking for a way to absolve themselves of their own role in fostering massive public ignorance by what they chose to cover (emails! emails! emails!) and not (you know, minor things like Russia and the FBI meddling in our elections, in addition to what Trump stood for and was capable of).

But here is an example of the kind of fake news they’re talking about:

denzel fake news

This fake story, from a bogus “news” site was liked and re-posted multiple times. This kind of thing is undeniably a problem, but it has been around forever, far pre-dating the internet. I agree social media with its algorithms has greatly multiplied the crap but there’s never been a shortage of ersatz celebrity tabloid gossip and conspiracy theories going around, including about politicians. The right wingers peddling conspiracies about the Clintons in the 90s found an eager audience for them well before most people were on the internet. And I was handed mimeographed copies of the famous Proctor and Gamble Satanism myth many times in the 80s. Fox News has been around since 1996! Fake news isn’t new.

So I’m suspicious about this sudden interest in “fake news” (seriously, where was it before the election?) especially considering there has yet to be a reckoning for this:

ap tweet

Note how many times that false statement was retweeted. And the venerable Associated Press refused to take it down for weeks, despite multiple demands from fact-checkers to do so. The Clinton Foundation story itself was fed to the AP via right wing pressure group Judicial Watch, which per Media Matters, “has a history of conning media into covering bogus Clinton-related stories, leading outlets to ignore new evidence and even undermine their own reporting in the process”. When the story first broke, at least one local Phoenix news station reported it straight off of AP’s tweet and never corrected or retracted it to my knowledge.

AP wasn’t the only respectable news institution peddling fake news during the election. Clinton Cash, a pile of codswallop concocted by the Government Accountability Institute, was the basis of Washington Post and New York Times reporting on Clinton “scandals”.

And while Hillary Clinton’s vaunted email “scandal” – the end result of the Benghazi fishing expedition – certainly got a lot of play from the respectable news divisions, it turned out to be mostly bullshit to anyone who gave it a real examination. Was there a kernal of truth to it? Yes. Was over 600 days of breathless coverage of it, while giving little attention to multiple other far more pressing issues, acting the interest of an informed electorate? No.

Hillary Clinton was the target of multiple negative hit pieces, both from fake and legitimate new sites. A Gallup word cloud from their polling gives clues to which ones stuck:

hillary word cloud

It’s certainly possible the people responding to those Gallup tracking polls were getting their info (little to none of which appeared to be specific policy proposals of Secretary Clinton’s) from NewzAnimalz.com or whatever, but it’s just as likely they were getting it from CNN or ABC or even PBS or the New York Times.

Again, fake news is a problem and Facebook apparently caving to conservatives in refusing to crack down on it is an important story. Also, people reacting to the election by signing up and donating to news organizations with a reputation for excellence is a very positive development.

But merely being judicious about one’s media consumption, and sticking with legit sources, is not a dependable antidote to being misinformed if those trusted mainstream news outlets continue to taint themselves with bogus sources and dishonest narratives motivated by a misguided adherence to “balance”. Clean your own houses, MSM people. You’re a way bigger problem than fake news sites and Facebook’s algorithms are.