Category Archives: Media

To stop vile tweets: Trump staff’s media bubble


When the arrogant bombast of TrumpTweets™ threateneed to derail Agent Orange’s presidential campaign, his staff came up with a solution: Only expose him to media that stroked his ego.

From Salon:

President Donald Trump’s incessant tweeting has had a lot of undesirable consequences — from creating potential geopolitical crises with China and North Korea and praising a Russian dictator to possibly violating Twitter’s rules for abusive behavior. With that in mind, former Trump campaign workers have advice for current Trump staffers on controlling his Twitter tantrums: Do everything you can to avoid negative press.

“If candidate Trump was upset about unfair coverage, it was productive to show him that he was getting fair coverage from outlets that were persuadable,” Sam Nunberg, his former communications director, told Politico. “The same media that our base digests and prefers is going to be the base for his support. I would assume the president would like see positive and preferential treatment from those outlets and that would help the operation overall.”

Politico reported that campaign staffers made efforts to promote Trump’s good side following disparaging tweets. In one example, the staff convinced conservative media outlets to cover Trump’s meeting with Gold Star Mothers of Florida after his disastrous Twitter diatribes against the father of a Muslim U.S. solider who died in Iraq. Politico also described how staffers undertook similar efforts during Trump’s incessant tweeting about former Miss Universe Alicia Machado.

The aides curbed their boss’ temper by sending out a barrage of positive tweets promoting favorable coverage from “media amplifiers like Fox News hosts and conservative columnists” so that Trump wouldn’t feel the narrative in the news was too skewed against him.

Now that he’s finally in the White House, he’s been forced to confront the reality, one his staff had blunted through careful manipulation.

Now, with a White House staff drawn from Breitbart, Trump has new handlers, and they seem to be actively encouraging the trait staffers workers hard to suppress in order to win the the Oval Office.

Chart of the day: Generational media divides


For someone involved in journalism for half a century, the latest findings on American media habits prove especially disturbing.

From the Pew Research Center [click on the image to enlarge]:

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What’s particularly worrisome is that local newspapers are the conduits to give national and international news a local focus.

Throughout much of our time working for community papers, we would look at national developments and show how they impacted local individuals, organizations, and governments.

National level papers, by definition, deal largely in abstractions,  descrying broad patterns that point to trends, while local papers deal with particulars, revealing how those generalizations would impact folks you know.

The death of the nation’s community, either through closure, merger, or takeover by corporations interested more in profit that in furthering the goals of democracy, has severed much of journalism from its roots and left us with a population more susceptible to manipulations by politicians skilled in manipulating emotion to accomplish the ends of their financial sponsors.

Trump: Press is “enemy of the American people”


And it’s making international headlines.

It came in the guise of a tweet:

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International news media took note, as in the case of the Japan Times:

Donald Trump ratcheted up his attacks on the media Friday, describing the press as “the enemy of the American people!” in a tweet.

Shortly after landing at his holiday home in Mar-a-Lago, Florida — where he is spending a third consecutive weekend — the president lashed out in 140 characters.

“The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!” Trump wrote.

Trump had tweeted an earlier post which targeted the New York Times, CNN, NBC “and many more” media — and ended with the exclamation “SICK!” But he swiftly deleted that missive before reposting the definitive version — adding two more “enemies” to his blacklist.

Many U.S. presidents have criticized the press, but Trump’s language has more closely echoed criticism leveled by authoritarian leaders around the world.

And BBC News:

At a different time, in another country, it was effectively a death sentence.

Being branded an “enemy of the people” by the likes of Stalin or Mao brought at best suspicion and stigma, at worst hard labour or death.

Now the chilling phrase – which is at least as old as Emperor Nero, who was called “hostis publicus”, enemy of the public, by the Senate in AD 68 – is making something of a comeback.

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“Charming that our uneducated President manages to channel the words of Stalin and fails to hear the historical resonance of this phrase,” tweeted Mitchell Orenstein, a professor of Russian and East European studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

Carl Bernstein, a reporter who helped to bring down Richard Nixon with his reporting on the Watergate scandal, tweeted: “The most dangerous ‘enemy of the people’ is presidential lying — always. Attacks on press by Donald Trump more treacherous than Nixon’s.”

Mr Trump is not the first US president to have an antagonistic relationship with the media — Nixon is known to have privately referred to the press as “the enemy” — but his latest broadside, with all its attendant historical echoes, is unprecedented.

As a journalist for more than decades, we find Trump’s declaration to be gravely ominous.

For the Fourth Estate, trouble lies ahead.

Headline of the day: Say adieu to public television


Along with art and humanities programs. . .

From the New York Times:

Trump Budget Hit List Has Programs Long in G.O.P. Sights

  • The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, AmeriCorps and the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities could all be eliminated under President Trump.
  • Most of the programs cost under $500 million annually, a pittance for a government that is projected to spend about $4 trillion this year.

Alt-reality: Paper is Trumped by Alec Baldwin


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Sometimes, when a story seems too good to be true, it really is true.

Consider the case of the hapless newspaper editors who were fooled by their own mistake, an alt-reality, as it were.

From BBC News:

Actor Alec Baldwin’s impression on Saturday Night Live of Donald Trump tricked a national newspaper into thinking he was the real thing.

El Nacional in the Dominican Republic has now apologised for accidentally publishing a still of Alec Baldwin, captioned as the US president, next to Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu.

The image accompanied an article about Israeli settlements.

The paper has said sorry to readers and “anyone affected”.

The picture was sent to the newspaper along with information about Saturday Night Live, the long-running US satirical programme.

No-one spotted the mistake, says El Nacional.

The correction proved to be a masterpiece, the result of a frantic image search that almost makes for a bulletproof alibi,as well as a testament to Baldwin’s impersonation chops:

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The billionaire who gave Trump millions, Bannon


And so much more.

Two journalists look at Robert Mercer, a late-arriving big money donor to the Trump campaign, a billionaire who had bankrolled Ted “The Grand Inquisitor” Cruz before the convention, then came to Trump’s rescue just as things were falling apart, contributing both millions in cash and a cast of personnel, including Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway.

Mercer, who made his pile running a hedge fund, holds nightmarish beliefs and considerable cunning. And he’s succeeded in creating a powerful, covert institution designed to create a dystopian world, run by the best crew money can by.

In this report from The Real News Network, reporters Thomas Hedges of the Center for Study of Responsive Law, where his beat is the role of money in politics, and Carrie Levine, who covers the same beat for the Center for Public Integrity, take a close look at Mercer and his agenda:

The Bizarre Far-Right Billionaire Behind Bannon and Trump’s Presidency


From the transcript:

THOMAS HEDGES: The fuel behind Mercer’s influence are the absurd sums of money he approves at the investment company he runs, Renaissance Technologies, based on Long Island. Its famed Medallion Fund is one of the most successful hedge funds in investing history. Averaging 72% returns before fees, over more than 20 years. A statistic that baffles analysts, and outranks the profitability of other competing funds, like the ones George Soros and Warren Buffet run.

In 2015, Mercer had single-handedly catapulted Cruz to the front of the Republican field. Throwing more than $13 million into a super PAC he created for the now failed candidate. But with the Trump campaign faltering, and struggling for support, there’s a second chance for the Mercers to make a big bet.

The Trump campaign is well aware of this, in fact, sources within Mercer’s super PAC would later tell Bloomberg News that shortly after Cruz drops out of the race, Ivanka Trump and her wealthy developer husband Jared Kushner, approach the Mercers, asking if they’d be willing to shift their support behind Trump. The answer is an eventual, but resounding yes.

In the months leading up to Trump’s presidential win, the Mercers would prove a formidable force. Beginning after the disastrous Republican Convention in July, they would furnish the Trump campaign with millions of dollars, and new leadership, but they would also furnish it with something more — a vast network of non-profits, strategists, media companies, research institutions and super PACs that they themselves funded and largely controlled.

CARRIE LEVINE: I think what you’ve seen is a lot of these organizations in this network come out to play a role in the 2016 elections.

HEDGES: With the Mercer family in the picture, the post-convention shake-up starts to make sense. Take Steve Bannon. He and Robert Mercer have been close for years, and Mercer is a top investor at Breitbart News, where Bannon was Chief Editor.

Kellyanne Conway also comes out of this network. Before becoming co-manager of Trump’s campaign, she headed up operations for Robert Mercer’s super PAC when it was still supporting Ted Cruz. And as for Deputy Campaign Manager, David Bossie, he was president of Citizens United, an organization Mercer has heavily funded since at least 2010.

Cambridge Analytica, the mysterious data-mining firm that received grudging praise after predicting the race’s outcome more accurately than any other polling company, is also heavily funded by Robert Mercer, and was employed by the Cruz campaign before Mercer switched over to Trump. In fact, the Mercers’ political infrastructure is so entrenched, that Rebecca Mercer herself sits on the 16-person executive committee of Trump’s transition team.

Mercer’s foray into the White House may seem to have been born partly out of luck, especially with Trump, instead of Cruz, as a stalking horse. But his rise to power was systematic, and it was years in the making.

The web of connections Mercer’s built over the last decade is vast and complex. It includes efforts to dismantle tax law, and weaken the IRS.

It’s about funding quack scientists and conspiracy theorists, who blame the government for, among other things, playing a role in the San Bernardino Massacre. Or of colluding with the United Nations, and using climate change as an excuse to implement environmental laws meant to depopulate America’s Midwest. It’s about pouring money into the neo-conservative John Bolton super PAC, which props up candidates who ascribe to Bolton’s hawkish foreign policy.

But one of Mercer’s earliest activist ventures was financing a slew of fringe documentary projects that have helped raise the profiles of people like Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman and most notably, the director of those films, Steve Bannon.

Bannon, who was previously a naval officer and Goldman Sachs investment banker, made his first documentary in 2004 about Ronald Reagan. It retold his biography, using washed out black and white archival footage of the Hollywood actor. Painting him as a brave protector of Western democracy from the threat of Communism.

Charts of the day: How we get, act on online news


Two charts from How Americans Encounter, Recall and Act Upon Digital News, a new report from the Pew Research Center.

The first chart reveals how we get to online news sources:

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And the second chart shows which of those avenues are more likely to lead us to act, and on which topics:

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