Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

on willful blindness

May 8, 2017

The rise in popularity of Senator Bernie Sanders on the left in the United States at the same time Venezuela collapses after the socialist rule of Chavez and Maduro raises the question of why abject failure in one country does not lead to learning in another. The willful blindness of the press in the United States, as helpfully illustrated in this column, goes a long way to explaining it.

on credibility

December 9, 2016

The post-election examination of the state of society in the United States is going strong a month after the election itself. The role of the national media, established press outlets, and new media continues to get a lot of attention, especially in the context of claims about the rise of “fake news” and its affects on the decisions of voters.

The claims about “fake news” center on engagement with articles and websites, often through social media such as Facebook and Twitter. The most serious charge is that the Russian government initiated a concerted effort to spread misleading information in order to 1) sway the election to Donald Trump, 2) undermine American confidence in its political processes and institutions, or 3) both.

The Washington Post made a substantial contribution to the claim in an article by Craig Timberg. Ironically enough, the Post article itself was quickly criticized for demonstrating the very characteristics of the sort of “fake news” that it was supposedly intended to expose. The situation added to a wider concern about the reputation of the media.

It was widely perceived during the campaign that the established press organizations had abandoned their perceived role as neutral providers of news in favor of promoting Hillary Clinton, or at least defeating Donald Trump. Much campaign coverage had begun to be transparently designed to avoid hurting Clinton’s campaign and to maximize damage to Trump’s. For a substantial portion of the population, this only served to undermine confidence in the truth of reporting. In other words, the reduction in credibility led to many people wondering if the reporting of the established media outlets was to that extent “fake news.”

With that perception of the media in place, it’s difficult to condemn other for the practice of purveying fake news. It will be interesting to see over the next several months whether an effort to reestablish a perception of credibility and fairness will be on the agenda for the national media.

Every one of the three major candidates in this election (Trump, Clinton, and Sanders) was hounded by fake or exaggerated news stories. Trump was accused of being a secret Russian agent. Clinton’s email scandal was blown out of all reasonable proportion. And Bernie Sanders was hounded by malicious and unrepresentative stereotypes about “BernieBros.” Yet none of these stories were from fringe blogs and conspiracy sites. They were all produced by the mainstream press, which gave this nonsense primacy over stories about climate change, nuclear proliferation, Syria, health care, poverty, and every other conceivable issue of consequence.

Concerns about fake news are justified. But instead of begging our Silicon Valley overlords to crack down on the free sharing of information, we might start by building a mainstream press that has credibility of its own.

Nathan J. Robinson

on presidential media access

November 30, 2016

The reaction of the press to the campaign and election of Donald Trump is still one of the most culturally prominent issues of the season. The diversification of programming available is one reason for that distinctions among people in the society are becoming more apparent. The polarization between political views in the country may well have been strengthened by the decision of much of the press to take sides with the Progressive policy advocates; in the absence of widely disseminated information that all parties could accept as a starting place for discussion, lack of understanding and distrust deepened.

One important way this has played out is in the reporting on the transition to the Trump administration. Because of social media and the internet, more and more people can quickly and easily compare the way the press reports on Trump with how they reported on Obama, and the contrast is striking, which further weakens their reliability. The reaction to Trump’s YouTube address on his transition and on Thanksgiving is an example, where his use of social media is reported as a problem in contrast to it being strategic when Obama used it.

Between 2007 and 2016, much of the press considered this a story of evolving technology and communication. But what used to be an interesting challenge that had media “scrambling to stay in the game” against an innovative, young president is now a grave threat. Somewhere in between is probably the correct assessment, and swinging between admiration and fear depending on the president doesn’t create better coverage or earn more trust from readers.

Mary Katherine Ham

Quote of the day

November 28, 2016

I’ve never watched the Kelly File, or any of her news shows (though I’ve seen plenty of clips that get passed around), so I can’t say I’m particularly familiar with Megyn Kelly’s thought nor her approach to hosting a news show. She has gotten a lot of attention lately for a variety of reasons during the campaign, Fox News drama, and her new book, and it certainly hasn’t been uniform across either side of the political spectrum, which I’ve found interesting, which is why this profile of her caught my eye. It ends with special attention to her place in the modern women’s movement.

Megyn Kelly is exactly the kind of woman that a legitimate women’s movement would celebrate—which is why the feminist movement never will.

Carrie Lukas

Quote of the day

November 26, 2016

The national political press has declined even more precipitously than the political class, and the president-elect was elevated despite the animosity of both, a signal achievement whose significance those who have been vanquished show no signs of grasping.

Conrad Black

Quote of the day

November 23, 2016

[Y]oung people have not yet experienced multiple situations in which the media scares the public over nothing. To them, the fear of Trump is real because the Internet and the media says it is real. To people my age, we have seen one fake media scare after another. We don’t believe in fake scares the same way that that young people do because we’ve been through it so many times.

Scott Adams

Quote of the day

November 22, 2016

And the failure to make the gospel of Hillary into the actual book of America points to the one good thing about Trump’s victory: a willingness among ordinary people to blaspheme against saints, to reject phony saviors, and to sniff at the new secular religion of hollow progressiveness. The liberal political and media establishment offered the little people a supposedly flawless, Francis-like figure of uncommon goodness, and the little people called bullshit on it. That is epic and beautiful, even if nothing else in recent weeks has been.

Brendan O’Neill

on smugness and condescension

November 19, 2016

It doesn’t seem to me that there has been a lot of progress among the established news outlet since the 2016 Presidential campaign ended. The basic tenor still seems to be that if they continue to preach their point of view that everyone will rally around.

Will Rahn of CBS addressed this in a commentary right after the election, “The unbearable smugness of the press.” It reads like an honest assessment and plea for a change. I don’t see many signs of it happening yet.

I don’t see any sense of a change among ordinary progressives, either. Empathy and communication don’t seem to be on the rise yet. I wonder if it will make a difference in the next few years.

on Trump and racism

November 18, 2016

It’s taken as a given on the political left that Trump is a racist, that his campaign was premised on appealing to white supremacy, and thus anyone voting for him, supporting him, or not opposing him vociferously enough is racist. His victory in the 2016 Presidential election has led to an outpouring of vitriol along this line, along with histrionic claims of emotional suffering inflicted upon students, children, etc., by the realization that half of the nation is blatantly racist.

Scott Alexander, who describes himself as working in the area of mental health, has written a devastating essay dismantling this narrative. Mr. Alexander is not a supporter of Mr. Trump by any stretch of the imagination, yet because of his understanding of this particular aspect of human behavior he’s quite adamant about setting the record straight on the issue.

It does matter to people’s well-being what they are constantly told about themselves and others and their relationship to the world. That the political left is willing to accept causing harm to people by repeating falsehoods because they want political power should worry anyone, especially political liberals of good will.

on the 2016 Presidential election in the USA

November 16, 2016

I don’t think the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency is quite as consequential as we are being led to believe. Most of the Sturm und Drang reflected in news reporting over the past week or so seems to me oriented toward maintaining interest. No judgement there, that’s just the way those companies do business, and it’s their business to do. That’s how they make money. Whether or not it makes life better for their customers is being debated in the wake of the campaign. I suspect governance from Washington, D.C., will muddle along in 2017-18 as it has for the past several years.

That being said, how people are responding to the election of Donald Trump says a lot about the condition of the society. It’s intriguing to me the number of responses that were in the vein of “I didn’t realize how horrible the country is.” Granted, that type of response is coming from people not only against Trump but for Hillary. My wrestling with the decay in the character of the country occurred in the summer when he clinched the GOP nomination and she clinched the DEM nomination, and I wondered how it was that the two major parties managed to nominate candidates with historically high unfavorable ratings. Regrettably, the Libertarians also nominated one of the worst possible representatives of their governing philosophy:


But I digress.

Donald Trump isn’t particularly conservative in his policy preferences, if his past statements are a guide, nor is he particularly Christian, again, if his past statements and lifestyle are anything to go by, yet he gained enthusiastic support from conservatives and many Christians, who rode along with the wave of people who want a drastic change from the political status quo. That’s among the problems Hillary faced, but she’s not particularly Progressive, if her past behavior and policies are a good guide, and that’s the only major group on the Left that was genuinely enthusiastic about voting. The Obama coalition did not transfer to her, and the rank and file democrats who couldn’t push themselves far enough left to embrace Bernie Sanders don’t seem to have found a compelling reason to get excited about electing her. The Christians on her side of the political divide seem to be deeply committed to the Progressive vision for governing the country, but I don’t know how energized they were, or if their energy bolstered others in the way the energy for Trump seems to have done.

So conservatives and Christians on the Right have found themselves aligned with someone like Donald Trump, and progressives and Christians on the Left found themselves aligned with someone like Hillary Clinton. That to me is the point at which there should have been some soul-searching about what it says about our society that in our quest for political control and power, the process we’ve created produced this contest.

But are we really surprised? Should we be surprised that a society steeped in the type of song lyrics, television shows, and movies that dominate pop culture would find a Donald Trump palatable? Should we be surprised that a society that regularly makes allowances for powerful people to avoid consequences for illegality would find a Hillary Clinton palatable? The Trump campaign may have attracted a following among the bigoted fringes of social media, but the Clinton campaign relied on identity politics that makes it inevitable for individuals to segregate and identify by racial and gender categories, which creates clear targets for bigots, and may generate more.

The Humpty Dumpty of the American experiment seems to me to be off the wall, and I’m not hopeful it can be put together again because the character and vision for what it should be is no longer agreed upon, at least as far as I can tell. That’s not a result of this election, or any other over the past 20 years, at least in my opinion. These elections are symptoms of a society that has made choices of what it’s willing to do and be, and those choices have made us a disparate people without a corresponding idea of a common meeting place to pursue divergent ways of life peacefully together. That’s what seems worth attention in these next few weeks and months, rather than where President-Elect Trump is having dinner and the minutia around the transition.