Category: Journalism (Page 1 of 2)

Fox News pundits have got to be feeling embarrassed now

No less than 2 days after Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Fox News’s leading prime time hosts, and some guests repeating White House spin on the firing of FBI Director James Comey, Donald Trump stepped in to scuttle their (and his own) narrative.

On May 10, the day after Comey was fired, Joe Concha joined Tucker Carlson to bemoan the media’s coverage of Comey being fired in the midst of an investigation Trump desperately wants to go away. Concha repeated Trump’s claim that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein recommended Comey be fired.

“You have a Deputy Attorney General, just appointed two weeks ago, 94-6 vote, so he’s not seen as a partisan, recommending that Comey be gone,” Concha said.

That echoes statements from the Trump administration attributing the firing to Rosenstein’s purported recommendation that Comey be fired. The letter signed by Trump says, “I have received the attached letters from the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General of the United States recommending your dismissal as the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” The statement from the White House press office says, “President Trump acted based on the clear
recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”

On May 11, however, Trump admitted that he himself made the decision to fire Comey. In an interview with NBC News, Trump said,

He [Rosenstein] made a recommendation, he’s highly respected, very good guy, very smart guy. The Democrats like him, the Republicans like him. He made a recommendation. But regardless of [the] recommendation, I was going to fire Comey. Knowing there was no good time do it!

He also said he was thinking about the Russia investigation when he decided to fire Comey:

And in fact when I decided to just do it I said to myself, I said, “You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.”

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“Fake news,” Cernovich, and how the Trumpist right denies reality

Alt-right blogger Mike Cernovich was featured on 60 Minutes for a segment on how bullshit and fake news spreads around the public discourse.

CBS’s Scott Pelley cited one story Cernovich published himself at his website Danger & Play titled, “Hillary Clinton has Parkinson’s Disease, Physician Confirms.” The only source of information cited was Ted Noel, an anesthesiologist who later recorded a video. That means diagnosis of Parkinson’s is not even his area of expertise in the first place–and he didn’t examine Clinton, either.

If people could be diagnosed from news reports and videos, then Donald Trump and Barry Goldwater would be clinically-diagnosed narcissists.

Cernovich stood by his story, though he offered no evidence beyond his own hate of Clinton.

I don’t take anything Hillary Clinton is going to say at all as true. I’m not going to take her on her word. The media says we’re not going to take Donald Trump on his word. And that’s why we are in these different universes.

Yet, even if one were to distrust Clinton, distrusting her can’t prove she has Parkinson’s.

But let us move to a bigger point: Cernovich tried to equate his own website with actual news outlets that employ people to look into issues, ask questions, investigate, and confirm news before they report it. He equated himself with CNN and the Washington Post.

The truth is you’ve talked to a person who sincerely believes true, you must also admit that there have been many stories reported by major outlets like The New York Times, the Washington Post, and Rolling Stone, that were false. … People get it wrong, so why then come guns blazing at me, and not guns blazing at everybody?Why isn’t this segment going to say, how did the New York Times get conned? How did the Washington Post believe that Russia had hacked the power grid?

The story he’s talking about with regard to the power grid is one the Post published on December 31, 2016 about how Russians may have hacked a computer at an electric utility.

A code associated with the Russian hacking operation dubbed Grizzly Steppe by the Obama administration has been detected within the system of a Vermont utility, according to U.S. officials.

The original article overstated what happened, and the Post corrected it and added an editor’s note:

An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid. Authorities say there is no indication of that so far. The computer at Burlington Electric that was hacked was not attached to the grid.

AOL:

So did the Russians attack a laptop at a public utility, even if it wasn’t connected to the electric grid?

It’s possible, but not certain.

The malware found was certainly Russian made and related to the malware used to infiltrate the DNC. But that does not mean that it was used by Russians.

So the Washington Post reported a story based on information from credible sources and then corrected the part that was wrong within 24 hours of its publication.

Has Cernovich retracted or offered any kind of additional note to his blog post from August 12, 2016? No, it’s 227 days later, and he still says he believes it.

Mitch Blatt in The National Interest on North Korea

Bombs + Dollars editor Mitchell Blatt was published in The National Interest‘s website on U.S.-China relations with regard to North Korea.

Although he put Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s comments in context, noting that they don’t necessarily mean a vast change in policy, he did say that certain actions the U.S. has already taken, like the deployment of THAAD, and any possible change in policy to be more aggressive, are not acts of provocation but rather responses to growing North Korean provocations.

“But if the Trump administration does up the ante, it will be because proposals to engage in toothless talks with North Korea—like that made this week by Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi—have utterly failed, and China hasn’t done its part to try to reign in its rogue frenemy,” he wrote. “Juxtaposed against its vitriolic response to the South Korean deployment of Terminal High Area Altitude Defense, China’s impassive response to multiple North Korean nuclear tests, always predicated on the same “firm opposition” talking point, which makes it look like China hasn’t been taking the threat of a nuclear North seriously.”

He pointed out that China hasn’t been faithfully enforcing some of the sanctions they agreed to against North Korea.

In summary, “As long as North Korea is an out-of-control threat, South Korea will need to take tough actions. China is reaping what it sowed from years of complacency.”

The whole article can be read here: Why China Must Confront North Korea.

The UK’s MoneyWeek also quoted Blatt’s article:

On the contrary, “China has largely itself to blame” if the US now pursues a more militaristic agenda towards North Korea, says Mitchell Blatt in the American magazine The National Interest. Beijing has spent years “turning a blind eye to sanctions violators and keeping the dangerous North Korean regime alive and its leaders well fed”, so it is not surprising that Washington now thinks “enough is enough”. China has also reneged on promises to limit imports of North Korean coal. Overall, “if China wants to avoid instability, then China must take an active role and take responsibility”.

Blatt also has an article about South Korea-China relations coming out in The Korea Times on Tuesday.

Trump supporters revive Nazi era smear of press

As Donald Trump has crashed in the polls following terrible debate performances and revelations about possible sexual assault, he has made his attacks on the press even more aggressively than before. Now he is calling the press part of a global conspiracy along with bankers and Hillary Clinton that is “rigging” the election.

His supporters make angry chants at reporters. It’s part of a strategy he has long honed. Trump points out the press at rallies and criticizes them. He calls them the “dishonest press” and calls individual journalists “bimbos” and “sleazes.”

Trump’s angry supporters have picked up the charges in their own way, invoking a Nazi-era slur. Trump supporters on Twitter are tweeting “#Lugenpresse.” According to the Economist, “Lügenpresse (‘liars’ press’), a loaded term once used by the Nazis, is a common chant at [Alternative for Germany] party rallies.”

The word has gained traction in Europe by right-wing critics of refugee policy. It won 2015 “non-word of the year.”

Reuters:

“Luegenpresse”, first used in Germany by critics of the free press during World War One, earned the dubious “Unwort des Jahres” (Non-Word of the Year) honor in the eyes of a panel of experts out of 730 terms submitted by 1,250 contributors.

“‘Luegenpresse’ is a word contaminated by the Nazis,” said Nina Janich, a professor at the Technical University Darmstadt and head of the six-member jury that selects such terms each year from the submissions.

Some tweets by Trump supporters on Twitter:

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The crazy levels of false equivalency Clinton opponents will go to

Clinton is just as much a liar and unfit to be president as Donald Trump. At least that’s what many conservative critics of Clinton are saying.

It’s a bunch of false equivalency.

Take James O’Keefe, a conservative activist who secretly records videos (that he often edits out of context). He claims to have recorded a video of a low level Florida Democratic field worker (or, in O’Keefe’s words, a “Clinton staffer”) speculating on how he could get away with committing sexual assault.

“I think the bar of acceptable conduct in this campaign is pretty low. To be fired I would have to grab Emma’s ass twice and she would have to complain about it, I would have to sexually harass someone,” the field worker, Wylie Mao, said, according to Politico’s summary of O’Keefe’s video.

O’Keefe issued a statement making his motive for the video clear: “Let’s get this straight. Trump’s ‘grab them by the’ [self-censored pause] generated wall-to-wall TV coverage and generated the narrative that this is his true character and how he acts with women. Therefore, because of the precedent set by the mainstream media, I expect wall-to-wall-coverage of this Hillary staffer bragging about the ease that you can commit sexual harassment inside Hillary’s campaign and not get fired.”

Seriously, how stupid do they think we are?
Does O’Keefe really think that a Field Organizer for the Florida Democratic Party, who has worker for them for 3 whole months (according to his LinkedIn page) (allegedly) making inappropriate comments about sexual assault = the Republican nominee for president bragging about sexual assault?

Ignore for a moment the fact that Mao’s comments weren’t as bad as Trump’s (he didn’t say that he committed sexual assault, as Trump did say). Who the hell is Wylie Mao? Does O’Keefe have any videos of Hillary Clinton bragging about having committed sexual assault?

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Is the media really ignoring Louisiana? No.

There’s a narrative in the media that the media is ignoring the flooding in Louisiana.

The public editor of the New York Times wrote the Times didn’t give it enough coverage. Mike Scott of the Louisiana-based Times-Picayune wrote on August 16 that the Times had only published its first story two days after the rains began.

But is it really true that the Louisiana flooding has been ignored? It’s a major news story, and yet days after the Times published its rebuke of itself, the narrative that Louisiana has been or is being ignored continues to spread down the media stream to columnists and bloggers. If the city of New York were destroyed in a hypothetical super storm, wouldn’t the media cover it?

We actually have precedents we can look at. We don’t need to wonder about hypotheticals. Just months ago in June floods in West Virginia killed 25 people. The floods in Louisiana killed 13. The number of houses that were damaged is reportedly very high–the governor puts it at 40,000. But there are natural disasters that killed more while also causing much, if not as much, damage. (By comparison, West Virginia’s governor said “thousands” of homes were damaged, but CNN reported the significantly lower total of 1,200. It may be too soon to know the property damage in dollars for either.)

Two more large-scale floods: those that killed 21 in Utah in 2015 after Hurricane Linda and the 2010 floods that killed 21 in Tennessee and 10 more in Kentucky and Mississippi while causing over $2 billion in damage.

A theory can be tested: If a dozen or more people were killed in say, Nashville, Tenn. or Hildale, Utah, would the media pay more attention to it than they are doing to the Louisiana floods?

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Moral ambiguity and coffee in London, with Laura Canning

I didn’t plan or expect to meet Laura this time when I was in London, infact I didn’t plan my second trip to London within a week 17250363anyway. Considering what is happening in the political circles in UK (and broadly, Europe) planning seemed to me an exercise in futility.  So when I met her in the holga-ish Cafe Nero in Buckingham Palace road after two whole days of covering the coronation of the new UK PM, I was distinctly under-dressed as a classic political correspondent with shabby army green t-shirt, jacket, scarf and jeans, increasingly aware of the uncomfortable dark moist growing patch near my armpit. Thankfully I had deospray in my laptop bag, as the person who greeted me with a copy of her first published novel was in a proper burgundy dress, smelling fresh and soinding Oirish; capable of giving a seven hour Sun-dried man enough complex for the rest of the day. We proceeded, appropriately in my opinion, to talk about her novel and lead character Lisa (a working class, domestically abused, societally neglected early teen, on her way to drugs, larceny, prostitution and “freedom”), on a day Britain had her second Conservative female Prime Minister.

Her debut novel “Taste the Bright Lights” (which I read in the next twenty four hours on my way back to Nottingham) is contemporary urban drama, tracing fourteen year old Lisa “growing up” in Northern Ireland. Imagine Chetan Bhagat’s early writing, meeting “This is England”, just more gritty, grimy, and grainy…a jarring experience, like watching a slow quaint mutiny unfolding, being shot in sepia lens. It shares occasional debut novel characteristics, like overuse of certain typical urban colloquial words, and it’s not an easy read, and not only because of the sheer powerful narrative force, but because of the moral ambiguity that reigns within.

It is in spirit of that moral ambiguity, I asked Laura these questions for Bombs and Dollars, published below unaltered and unabridged.


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A demagouge’s disdain for a free press paves the way for tyranny

The media is holding Donald Trump accountable, but his angry response to scrutiny, highlights troubling aspects of the man who wants to be president. His attacks on the institution of the press shows a man who doesn’t like being held accountable, and he has rallied many of his followers to support him without regard to the facts.

The latest controversy, which bring forth the implications, concerns donations to veterans charities Trump bragged about having made. Four months after Trump claimed to have donated $1 million himself, Trump finally did so on May 23, after facing scrutiny from the press. On May 21, the Washington Post published an investigation that quoted campaign manager Corey Lewandowski as saying Trump had raised $4.5 million, about $1.5 million less than the more than $6 million Trump claimed to have raised. On the day of the fundraiser, however, Trump said that they had “cracked” $6 million and (in third-person), “Donald Trump gave $1 million.”

Press Scrutiny Caused Trump to Donate

Thus Donald Trump didn’t actually give $1 million until after the press held him to account (and found him to be lacking). It was an important story for the public to know about, as Trump had made a big deal about his fundraising. After having decided to skip the January 28, Fox News debate, Trump decided to hold a fundraiser during the debate, so as to claim he had a reason for skipping the debate besides his previously-stated dislike for moderator Megyn Kelly.

As the record shows, Trump had already announced he was considering boycotting the debate on January 24, and he had cited Megyn Kelly as the reason:

Later, Trump used the fundraiser as a pretense for skipping the debate. (One could ask why Trump hadn’t held fundraisers before and during other time slots.) Since the Post has gotten Trump to (belatedly) live up to one of his promises, it should be commended for doing a public service. As the “Fourth Estate,” the press is supposed to function as a watchdog on power. Without a healthy press scrutinizing politicians, politicians could get away with anything.

A War on Watchdogs

However, Trump doesn’t want scrutiny, and his supporters don’t want to see their hero challenged. At a press conference, Trump personally attacked reporters, calling one “a sleaze” and another “a real beauty.” He said the reporters were all “unbelievably dishonest.”

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Black Lives Matter activist sex trafficking story makes Facebook trending stories

Two days after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg met with conservative media leaders concerned about allegations that Facebook skews its news against conservatives, a negative story about Black Lives Matter is in the top three trending spots on Facebook.
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Charles Wade, a black activist involved in Black Lives Matter, was arrested and charged with trafficking a 17-year-old girl for sex, as The Washington Times reported. Among the allegations against Facebook was that the website often promoted favorable stories about Black Lives Matter through editorial decisions. Zuckerberg himself has been personally outspoken in defense of the #BlackLivesMatter message.

Could this be a response by Facebook to show they are taking conservative concerns to heart? Or is it evidence that Facebook wasn’t biased against conservatives in the first place?
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The choice of news outlets Facebook linked to as their top two sources included one journalistic outlet that featured original reporting, The Washington Times, at #2, but the top ranked result was for DeneenBorelli.com, a conservative opinion blogger who merely copied and pasted from a Fox News report and then added a tweet by Wade defending himself.

Clearly Fox News should have had been the featured link, as it was the actual source of both the news and the two paragraphs of the text that Borelli copied and pasted in blockquote. But it could be that Facebook was convinced that “conservative news” means opinion. I argued in my original post on the matter than some conservative websites featured in the allegations–including Breitbart and Red State–are focused on adding comment or opinion to news articles and not on reporting.
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The conservative witch hunt against Facebook and the truth about liberal bias

Earlier this month U.S. Senator John Thune sent a letter to Facebook demanding the company answer questions about the procedures behind its news aggregation. What is a U.S. Senator doing demanding information, which he considers “just a matter of transparency and honesty,” from a private-sector company?

This all goes back to an anonymous source in an article from Gizmodo on May 9 who claimed conservative news was suppressed on Facebook’s trending news items list. Facebook sends huge numbers of readers to news outlets and blogs. Last year, it was reported that Facebook had surpassed Google as the #1 source of referral traffic for websites tracked by analytics firm Parse.ly and accounted for close to 40 percent of referral traffic. With much smaller traffic numbers than any of the big outlets CEO Mark Zuckerberg invited to meet with him recently, Bombs and Dollars still knows the import of Facebook, as we get a large share of our traffic from users sharing our articles on Facebook. Conservatives have long believed the mainstream media is biased in favor of liberalism, so it isn’t surprising that many would be outraged about the report.

But before even getting to the veracity of the allegations, consider for a moment if it was true that Facebook slanted its news aggregation in favor of liberal outlets, what would the proper response be? What should the government do about it? What could the government do about it? Facebook is a corporation operating in the free-market system. Why should the government or anyone else have control over how it decides to publish content? If the media in general is biased—and certain outlets transparently are, like MSNBC and Fox News, and indeed all the conservative outlets invited to meet with Zuckerberg—then should they be investigated for slanting their news?

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