Category Archives: MSM

Headlines of the day: The worm has turned at Fox


Yep. ol’ Loofah Man man is gone.

The two lead stories on the New York Times as we write, starting with this:

O’Reilly Out at Fox News as Harassment Claims Pile Up

  • Bill O’Reilly’s ouster brings an abrupt, embarrassing end to his two-decade reign as one of the most popular and influential commentators in television.
  • Advertisers fled his show and public protests flared after a Times investigation revealed payouts of $13 million to resolve claims against him of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior.

And the second:

How Trump could cause a 21st Century witch hunt


Way back when esnl was an undergrad majoring in anthropology, one of our professors relentlessly hammered in one point: People are territorial group animals just like chimpanzees, our closest primate cousins [the bonobo hadn’t be recognized yet as a separate species even closer to us than chimps].

We also know that violence breaks out among chimps when resources are scarce and groups come into conflict.

We’ve also learned that humans who see themselves and their groups under threat can respond in those same primal ways.

And history teaches us that demagogues with dark agendas can exploit those same instincts to enhance their own positions of power by targeting popular anger towards the weak and those readily distinguishable from our own groups.

Some of our first television memories, after we got one of the first sets in town when we were six years old, was of the Army/McCarthy hearings, when a right wing demagogue in the Senate who had built a career out of whipping up fear of communists finally past the point of no return.

And now, with Donald Trump in the Whoite House the stage may be set for another witch hunt, writes Peter Neal Peregrine, Professor of Anthropology and Museum Studies at Lawrence University in this essay for The Conversation, an open-source academic journal written in everyday English:

As an anthropologist, I know that all groups of people use informal practices of social control in day-to-day interactions. Controlling disruptive behavior is necessary for maintaining social order, but the forms of control vary.

How will President Donald Trump control behavior he finds disruptive?

The question came to me when Trump called the investigation of Russian interference in the election “a total witch hunt.” More on that later.

Ridicule and shunning

A common form of social control is ridicule. The disruptive person is ridiculed for his or her behavior, and ridicule is often enough to make the disruptive behavior stop.

Another common form of social control is shunning, or segregating a disruptive individual from society. With the individual pushed out of social interactions – by sitting in a timeout, for example – his or her behavior can no longer cause trouble.

Ridicule, shunning and other informal practices of social control usually work well to control disruptive behavior, and we see examples every day in the office, on the playground and even in the White House.

Controlling the critics

Donald Trump routinely uses ridicule and shunning to control what he sees as disruptive behavior. The most obvious examples are aimed at the press. For example, he refers to The New York Times as “failing” as a way of demeaning its employees. He infamously mocked a disabled reporter who critiqued him.

On the other side, the press has also used ridicule, calling the president incompetent, mentally ill and even making fun of the size of his hands.

Trump has shunned the press as well, pulling press credentials from news agencies that critique him. Press Secretary Sean Spicer used shunning against a group of reporters critical of the administration by blocking them from attending his daily briefing. And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson shook off the State Department press corps and headed off to Asia with just one reporter invited along.

Again, the practice cuts both ways. The media has also started asking themselves if they should shun Trump’s surrogates – such as Kellyanne Connway – in interviews or refuse to send staff reporters to the White House briefing room.

Accusations of witchcraft

Witches persecuted in Colonial era. Library of Congress.

But what happens when informal means of control don’t work?

Societies with weak or nonexistent judicial systems may control persistent disruptive behavior by accusing the disruptive person of being a witch.

In an anthropological sense, witches are people who cannot control their evil behavior – it is a part of their being. A witch’s very thoughts compel supernatural powers to cause social disruption. If a witch gets angry, jealous or envious, the supernatural may take action, whether the witch wants it to or not. In other words: Witches are disruptive by their very presence.

When people are threatened with an accusation of witchcraft, they will generally heed the warning to curb their behavior. Those who don’t are often those who are already marginalized. Their behavior – perhaps caused by mental disease or injury – is something they cannot easily control. By failing to prove they aren’t a “witch” – something that’s not easy to do – they give society a legitimate reason to get rid of them.

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Headlines of the day: Surrealism in TrumpAmerica™


Today a collection of headlines form the London Daily Mail, revealing the surreal nature of life under President Pussygrabber:

We begin with a cancelled celebration:

Philadelphia Cinco de Mayo parade organizers make ‘sad but responsible’ decision to cancel this year’s event due to immigration crackdown fears

  • El Carnaval de Puebla, Philadelphia’s largest Cinco de Mayo celebration, will not be held this year
  • It normally attracts as many as 15,000 people from as far away as Chicago
  • Organizers decided not to hold due to fears over federal immigration crackdown

Next up, cause for cabinet paranoia in Big Brother’s world:

White House has eyes and ears in cabinet agencies: ‘Special assistants’ sit near secretaries’ offices and report back to the West Wing

  •  The White House has installed 16 senior advisors at cabinet agencies
  •  The officials keep watch over agency activities and report back to the White House
  • EPA administrator Scott Pruitt has shut the advisor out of some staff meetings, the Washington Post reports
  • The Pentagon’s minder has been nicknamed ‘commisar’ 
  • The advisors report back to the White House, and are charged with ensuring loyalty to White House objectives

And a denial:

‘I have no information that supports those tweets’: FBI Director Comey knocks down Trump’s claim Obama tapped his phones at Trump Tower – but there IS a probe into collusion with Russia

  • FBI Director James Comey appeared before the House Intelligence Committee today to talk about Russian meddling in the presidential election
  • He stated during questioning that he does not have information corroborating President Trump’s claim that he had his phones tapped at Trump Tower 
  • Denies engaging in ‘McCarthyism’ 
  • Was also there to talk about Trump’s claim that Obama wiretapped him 
  • ‘There was no FISA warrant that I’m aware of to tap Trump Tower,’ the California Republican stated on Fox News Sunday 
  • Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House panel, accused Trump of leading Congress on a ‘wild goose chase’ in a competing interview on NBC 
  • Will Hurd, a Republican on the panel, said Sunday that he believes it’s time for Trump to apologize for the incredible assault on the former president

And some hysteria:

Trump says Democrats ‘made up’ story about his campaign’s Russia ties: ‘This story is FAKE NEWS and everyone knows it’

  • President unleashed a barrage of tweets as Congress prepares to hear testimony about  alleged conspiracy between his campaign and Russia
  • ‘The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign,’ he claimed
  • ‘This story is FAKE NEWS and everyone knows it’ 
  • Trump also tweeted that the ‘real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information’

Plus some disbelief:

The Chancellor of shade! Angela Merkel’s epic side-eye to President Trump over Obama wiretapping claims becomes online sensation

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel looked incredulous on Friday when President Trump claimed that former President Obama wiretapped them both 
  • Photos and video of Merkel’s side-eye have since gone viral 
  • One Instagram user made a meme about the look, writing ‘That moment when you realize you are now the leader of the Western World!’

Plus outright rejection:

Majority of young adults see Trump’s presidency as ‘illegitimate’ including close to three-quarters of African Americans according to new poll

  • A new poll found that 57 percent of Americans age 18 to 30 believe that Trump is an ‘illegitimate’ president
  • Among young adults of color,  74 percent of African Americans and 71 percent of Latinos/as believe Trump’s presidency is illegitimate 
  • A majority of those polled in all racial groups said that they believe Russia has compromising information on President Trump 
  • Just 22 percent of young adults approve of the job Trump is doing as president according to the GenForward poll
  • That number if far lower than the 37 percent approval rating President Trmp received in a Gallup poll also released on Monday  
  • The poll was conducted by the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago with The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research

And to close, calling a spade a spade:

Fareed Zakaria accuses President Trump of ‘bulls***ing’ his way to the White House after spending his ‘whole life bulls***ing’, in foul-mouthed rant on CNN

  • Fareed Zakaria got brutally honest on his opinion about the President: that he is a bulls***ter 
  • The CNN Host said that he thinks that the President is indifferent to true and false
  • He used the word s*** four times in the interview, causing Twitter to go wild

Oh, and here’s the video of Zakaria’s interview:

New York Times editor: Trump gives us a boost


Yep, in our Blood on the newsroom floor posts, we’ve tracked the slow death of American newspapers as subscribers abandon dead tree journalism for the wilds on the online world.

But print has been undergoing a revival, at least at the New York Times, where subscriptions for the digital and print versions are on the rise, and one man is responsible: President Pussygrabber.

Every time the execrable occupant of the White House tweets something nasty about the Gray Lady, subscriptions soar.

Here’s Times editor Dean Baquet talking about Trump, anonymous sources, and Agent Orange in an interview with CNN’s Brian Stelter:

Trump goes full Nixon, wages war on leaks


Folks — like esnl — who remember Richard Nixon’s interrupted presidency remember well that Tricky Dick was brought down leaks.

Or, rather, his thin-skinned, paranoid response to news slipping out the White House.

To stop the leaks, he and his henchmen created a special squad, including ex-CIA operatives and a former FBI agent and prosecutor, to stop the leaks.

Humorously, someone dubbed them the Plumbers Squad, and the name stuck. They wiretapped reporters and their suspected sources, including Nixon’s own National Security Advisor, then made the fatal mistake of busting into the Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate complex, where they were caught and subsequently tried and convicted, the first of many jail sentences that would reach all the way to top, sparing on Nixon himself, who was parted by the successor he appointed.

We can’t help but wonder if the current occupant of the White House isn’t headed down the same road, because he’s exhibiting an even more overt case of hostility toward the Fourth Estate.

Reuters summarizes recent developments:

President Donald Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin used his first senior staff meeting last month to tell his new aides he would not tolerate leaks to the news media, sources familiar with the matter said.

Current and former officials said that in a departure from past practice, access to a classified computer system at the White House has been tightened by political appointees to prevent professional staffers from seeing memos being prepared for the new president.

And at the Department of Homeland Security, some officials told Reuters they fear a witch hunt is under way for the leaker of a draft intelligence report which found little evidence that citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries covered by Trump’s now-suspended travel ban pose a threat to the United States.

Washington career civil servants say the clampdown appears designed to try to limit the flow of information inside and outside government and deter officials from talking to the media about topics that could result in negative stories.

We see trouble ahead, and not just for the press.

Chart of the day: Republicans’ repression urges


The results of a new survey offer of the authoritarian streak in Republican politics, with a near-majority calling from suppression of criticism of their elected corporate shills and nearly a third refusing to support another constitutional right, non-violent protest:

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Headline of the day: Trump’s Jonesing for chaos


From Der Spiegel, Germany’s leading news magazine, the headline over a profile of an American phenomenon:

Meet Donald Trump’s Propagandist

Right-wing radio host Alex Jones is America’s top conspiracy theorist. He has millions of listeners, but his most powerful one happens to be the president of the United States. DER SPIEGEL takes you inside his media empire in Austin.

If you haven’t heard of Alex Jones, you’ve been living a sheltered life.

He’s called a conspiracy theorist, a term that casts sincere conspiracy theorists in a bleak light. The world is full of conspiracies. Here in the U.S., we celebrate the fruits of one every Fourth of July.

But what Alex Jones believes in are crazy conspiracies.

As when he claims the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting wasn’t really the murder of 20 students, sic teachers and staff by a mentally ill man who shot his mother before heading for school, where he saved the last bullet for himself.

As the New York Daily News reported during the presidential campaign, when questioned about his theory, Jones doubled down:

Jones. . .reaffirmed his debunked conspiracy theories that Sandy Hook Elementary “was closed years before” the shooting; that CNN anchor Anderson Cooper reported on the shooting “using a green screen” and that “weird videos” revealed that grieving parents were in fact actors.

Here’s Jones at his best, in a bizarre anti-Hillary rant during the campaign, aired life on his online show, which is also carried by more than 80 radio stations in the U.S.:


A look at his audience

Alexa reports that Jones’s website is currently averaging about 8.7 unique visitors a month, though numbers were much higher as the presidential campaign ramped up, as shown in this Alexa graphic charting the rise of the website compared to other websites:

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A look at Quantcast’s analysis shows that his audience is heavily weighted toward older white males, especially those earning over $150,000 a year.

But what’s most interesting is the nature of his audience, specifically those with the strongest affinity for Jone’s screaming sense of menace.

They are solders and cops. . .folks trained in the art of shooting to kill:

blog-alex-jones-audience

A German reporter takes stock

And now for a look at how Jones appeared to the Der Spiegel reporter:

Alex Jones, 43, is the biggest conspiracy theorist in the United States. In the past, Jones had been labeled as a loony, marginal figure. But now, as he says, he is in regular contact with the president and feeds him his ideas. “Trump and I have talked several times since the election – about freedom and our common goal to destroy our enemies.”

The times have changed in America. Since November, loony, marginal figures have shifted closer to the mainstream, and in the days of alternative facts people with a bizarre worldview suddenly become influential media figures. There is no one this applies to more than Jones.

Jones offered Donald Trump his determined support during the election campaign — and now the president of the United States is his most powerful fan, giving him a direct line to the White House. “Your reputation is amazing,” Trump raved when he was a guest on Jones’ show during the campaign. “What you’re doing is epic. It’s George Washington level,” Jones said, returning the compliment.

It was already cause for dismay at the time that Trump was aligning himself with Alex Jones, a man who has said a lot of crazy things throughout his life. For example, he believes the government possesses weather weapons it can use to create artificial tornadoes. He’s convinced gay marriage is a conspiracy by a global secret society “to encourage the breakdown of the family” and “to get rid of God.”

We’ll leave you with this from the New York Daily News:

Trump told Jones he “won’t let him down” when he appeared on his show via Skype at the end of last year.

French and Dutch nationalists vie for the top


Two European politicians who share much in common with the racist, nationalist ideology of President Pussygrabber, most notably militant Islamophobia and an urge to cap immigration.

A wild-haired Dutchman holds the lead

Here’s how BBC News lead their 18 February story on the opening of Geert Wilders’s campaign for prime minister’s post in the Netherlands:

Dutch populist leader Geert Wilders has launched his election campaign by calling some Moroccans “scum”.

Mr Wilders tops opinion polls ahead of the 15 March parliamentary vote, but has seen his lead reduced in recent weeks.

He has vowed to ban Muslim immigration and shut mosques if he wins.

His latest comments come two months after he was convicted in a hate speech trial over his promise to reduce the number of Moroccans in the country.

Mr Wilders addressed his supporters on Saturday amid tight security in his party’s stronghold of Spijkenisse, an ethnically diverse area near Rotterdam.

Polls have him in the lead

Despite a campaign scandal involving the campaign security chief, still holds the lead, Bloomberg reports:

The Netherlands is holding the first of three major elections in Europe this year that will determine whether the populist surge that delivered the Brexit vote in the U.K. and helped Donald Trump into the White house will spread into the European Union’s core.

While some polls have suggested Wilders’s Freedom Party may be losing support, a regular survey published by Peil.nl on Sunday gave him a four-seat lead over Rutte’s Liberals for the second straight week. That raises the prospect of an anti-Islam party that wants to halt immigration and re-establish borders placing first in one of the EU’s six founding members, just as voters in another – France – make the anti-euro National Front favorite to go through to May’s presidential election runoff.

Almost all the established Dutch parties, including the Liberals and Labor, have excluded governing with Wilders, but that doesn’t stop them chasing his votes. Immigration to the Netherlands featured in a televised debate among party leaders on Sunday evening, with Labor and the opposition Christian Democrats both arguing for a halt to new arrivals.

So who is Geert Wilders?

The New York Times offers some background:

He wants to end immigration from Muslim countries, tax head scarves and ban the Quran. He is partly of Indonesian heritage, and dyes his hair bright blond. He is omnipresent on social media but lives as a political phantom under police protection, rarely campaigning in person and reportedly sleeping in a different location every night.

He has structured his party so that he is the only official, giving him the liberty to remain, above all things, in complete control, and a provocateur and an uncompromising verbal bomb thrower.

Geert Wilders, far-right icon, is one of Europe’s unusual politicians, not least because he comes from the Netherlands, one of Europe’s most socially liberal countries, with a centuries-long tradition of promoting religious tolerance and welcoming immigrants.

How he and his party fare in the March 15 elections could well signal how the far right will do in pivotal elections in France, Germany and possibly Italy later this year, and ultimately determine the future of the European Union. Mr. Wilders (pronounced VIL-ders) has promised to demand a “Nexit” referendum on whether the Netherlands should follow Britain’s example and leave the union.

“The Netherlands is kind of a bellwether, a lot of trends manifest themselves here first,” said Hans Anker, a Dutch political strategist who has worked both in the Netherlands and the United States.

“I wouldn’t rule out that Wilders could be prime minister,” he added. “This one is fundamentally unpredictable.”

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Headline of the day II: The TrumpPhenomenon™ II


From the Independent [the reference is to our earlier Headline of the day]:

Sean Spicer’s attempt to crackdown on White House leaks immediately leaked to press

  • Staff were ordered to hand over their phones to be checked and were told not to say anything to the media about it

Intolerance II: A censored potent white racism talk


You would think the University wouldn’t censor a talk by Tim Wise, an outspoken, articulate, well-informed critique of white racism and its deep cultural and institutional roots in American culture.

On 25 January, the University of California–Santa Barbara Multicultural Center hosted An Evening with Tim Wise, A White Anti-racist Advocate.

It’s a powerfully informative talk, a rant [in the best sense of the term] revealing the Trump campaign’s skillful use of racism to mobilize his voters.

And in making his points, Wise employs the occasional shit, a fuck or two, and what we suspect is one instance of asshole.

The words are used in the best rhetorical tradition, as potent emphases.

But where the words were only a brief silence remains in the version posted online by University of California Television today [24 February].

How stupid.

But that hypocritically ironic flaw aside, do watch a very memorable talk.

From University of California Television:

An Evening with Tim Wise: A White Anti-Racist Advocate

Program notes:

Author and anti-racist activist Tim Wise speaks about the importance of being a white ally to communities of color, and how we can all work together to create a healthier community on campuses and in the world beyond. Wise spoke as part of UCSB’s Resilient Love in a Time of Hate series.

Intolerance I: Who are America’s worst terrorists?


This is the first of two offerings on intolerance.

President Pussygrabbers seized the White House at the end of a campaign designed to rouse racist fears in a masterful act of misdirection, shifting blame for the very real pains of his grass roots base away from the real culprits — people like Trump himself — onto alien Others.

Always at play within his rhetorical was the portrayal of the Other as a violent criminal, a murderer and rapist in the case of folks from south of the border, or as a bombing-and-beheading non-Christian fanatic, in the case of the Muslim.

But who are the real terrorist fanatics in the United States?

[Hint: They don’t pray toward Mecca.]

A wide-ranging, multi-university study looks at the numbers, and the terrorists probably voted the Trump.

The study, Threats of violent Islamist and far-right extremism: What does the research say?, is published in The Conversation, an open source academic journal written in conversational English.

The authors are William Parkin, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Seattle University; Brent Klein, a doctoral student at the Michigan State University School of Criminal Justice; Jeff Gruenewald, Assistant Professor of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis; Joshua D. Freilich, Professor of Criminal Justice at City University of New York; and Steven Chermak, Professor of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University.

From The Conversation:

On a Tuesday morning in September 2001, the American experience with terrorism was fundamentally altered. Two thousand, nine hundred and ninety-six people were murdered in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Thousands more, including many first responders, lost their lives to health complications from working at or being near Ground Zero.

The 9/11 attacks were perpetrated by Islamist extremists, resulting in nearly 18 times more deaths than America’s second most devastating terrorist attack – the Oklahoma City bombing. More than any other terrorist event in U.S. history, 9/11 drives Americans’ perspectives on who and what ideologies are associated with violent extremism.

But focusing solely on Islamist extremism when investigating, researching and developing counterterrorism policies goes against what the numbers tell us. Far-right extremism also poses a significant threat to the lives and well-being of Americans. This risk is often ignored or underestimated because of the devastating impact of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

We have spent more than 10 years collecting and analyzing empirical data that show us how these ideologies vary in important ways that can inform policy decisions. Our conclusion is that a “one size fits all” approach to countering violent extremism may not be effective.

By the numbers

Historically, the U.S. has been home to adherents of many types of extremist ideologies. The two current most prominent threats are motivated by Islamist extremism and far-right extremism.

To help assess these threats, the Department of Homeland Security and recently the Department of Justice have funded the Extremist Crime Database to collect data on crimes committed by ideologically motivated extremists in the United States. The results of our analyses are published in peer-reviewed journals and on the website for the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism & Responses to Terrorism.

The ECDB includes data on ideologically motivated homicides committed by both Islamist extremists and far-right extremists going back more than 25 years.

blog-chart-1

Between 1990 and 2014, the ECDB has identified 38 homicide events motivated by Islamist extremism that killed 62 people. When you include 9/11, those numbers jump dramatically to 39 homicide events and 3,058 killed.

The database also identified 177 homicide events motivated by far-right extremism, with 245 killed. And when you include the Oklahoma City bombing, it rises to 178 homicide events and 413 killed.

Although our data for 2015 through 2017 are still being verified, we counted five homicide events perpetrated by Islamist extremists that resulted in the murders of 74 people. This includes the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, which killed 49 people. In the same time period, there were eight homicide events committed by far-right extremists that killed 27 people.

These data reveal that far-right extremists tend to be more active in committing homicides, yet Islamist extremists tend to be more deadly.

Our research has also identified violent Islamist extremist plots against 272 targets that were either foiled or failed between 2001 and 2014. We are in the process of compiling similar data on far-right plots. Although data collection is only about 50 percent complete, we have already identified 213 far-right targets from the same time period.

blog-chart-2

The locations of violent extremist activity also differ by ideology. Our data show that between 1990 and 2014, most Islamist extremist attacks occurred in the South (56.5 percent), and most far-right extremist attacks occurred in the West (34.7 percent). Both forms of violence were least likely to occur in the Midwest, with only three incidents committed by Islamist extremists (4.8 percent) and 33 events committed by far-right extremists (13.5 percent).

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A damning leak ignites another TrumpTantrum™


Two Associated Press stories reveal a classic case of abusive arrogance.

A leak reveals TrumpTeamTalks™ with Russian spooks

You really can’t fault Vladimir Putin if, as seems increasingly likely, he asked his former comrades in Russian foreign intelligence to see if they could find a friendlier ear in Washington.

After all, American presidents have used the CIA to gain friendlier ears in dozens of countries, with bloodshed often involved.

And no Russian politician could be unaware that Washington imposed the Russian political system in the wake of the fall of the U.S.S.R., itself a long-term goal of Washington.

The spark that ignited Trump’s tantrum, via the Associated Press:

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus asked top FBI officials to dispute media reports that Donald Trump’s campaign advisers were frequently in touch with Russian intelligence agents during the election, according to three White House officials who confirmed the unusual contact with law enforcement involved in a pending investigation.

The officials said that Priebus’ Feb. 15 request to FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe came as the White House sought to discredit a New York Times report about calls between Russian intelligence officials and people involved with Trump’s presidential run.

As of Friday, the FBI had not commented publicly on the veracity of the report and there was no indication it planned to, despite the White House’s request.

The White House officials would only discuss the matter on the condition of anonymity.

Then came the explosion. . .

And that second Associated Press story:

President Donald Trump escalated his criticism of the news media Friday, taking direct aim this time at the use of anonymous sources. Reporters “shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name,” he declared, just hours after members of his own staff held a press briefing and refused to allow their names to be used.

“A source says that Donald Trump is a horrible, horrible human being, let them say it to my face,” Trump told a large crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference. “Let there be no more sources.”

Members of Trump’s White House team regularly demand anonymity when talking to reporters.

Trump said he wasn’t against all media, just “the fake news media or press.”

“I’m against the people that make up stories and make up sources,” he said. “They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name.”

And who decides what’s fake?

The Fake-in-chief, of course!

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]:

blog-papers

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.

>snip<

“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: Kill the messenger


From the London Daily Mail:

Trump’s journalism police: President calls on the help of his fans by sending ‘accountability surveys’ which ask them to grade the press’ performance – and report cases of ‘unfairness’

  • The president sent out the survey just hours after he ranted against the press 
  • It included questions that had a similar tone to much of Trump’s earlier remarks 
  • ‘You are our last line of defense against the media’s hit jobs,’ a Trump letter read
  • Trump stepped up his attacks on the press while speaking at the White House

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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Headline of the day: Bad news for journalists


Some ominous news from The Hill:

Trump administration seen as more truthful than news media: poll

  • The Trump administration is more trusted than the news media among voters, according to a new Emerson College poll.
  • The administration is considered truthful by 49 percent of registered voters and untruthful by 48 percent.
  • But the news media is less trusted than the administration, with 53 percent calling it untruthful and just 39 percent finding it honest.

Chart of the day: The potent impacts of algorithms


Click on the image to enlarge.

Click on the image to enlarge.

From Code-Dependent: Pros and Cons of the Algorithm Age, a new report from the Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center and based on responses from “ technology experts, scholars, corporate practitioners and government leaders” who were asked this question: “Will the net overall effect of algorithms be positive for individuals and society or negative for individuals and society?.”

Algorithms are programs designed to identify and respond to inputs, and are the basis for all machine learning and so-called artificial intelligence. As Merriam-Webster notes, the word “was formed from algorism ‘the system of Arabic numerals,’ a word that goes back to Middle English and ultimately stems from the name of a 9th-century Persian mathematician, abu-Jafar Mohammed ibn-Musa al-Khuwarizmi, who did important work in the fields of algebra and numeric systems.”

Algorithms are ubiquitous in a wired world, used to track us and sell us on products and ideas, yet they themselves remain hidden from view as they harvest data about our likes and dislikes, habits, hobbies, driving patterns, and much, much more.

Here are some of the responses we think are particularly telling:

Chris Showell, an independent health informatics researcher based in Australia, said, “The organisation developing the algorithm has significant capacity to influence or moderate the behaviour of those who rely on the algorithm’s output. Two current examples: manipulation of the process displayed in online marketplaces, and use of ‘secret’ algorithms in evaluating social welfare recipients. There will be many others in years to come. It will be challenging for even well-educated users to understand how an algorithm might assess them, or manipulate their behaviour. Disadvantaged and poorly educated users are likely to be left completely unprotected.”

Writer James Hinton commented, “The fact the internet can, through algorithms, be used to almost read our minds, means those who have access to the algorithms and their databases have a vast opportunity to manipulate large population groups. The much-talked-about ‘experiment’ conducted by Facebook to determine if it could manipulate people emotionally through deliberate tampering with news feeds is but one example of both the power, and the lack of ethics, that can be displayed.”

An anonymous president of a consulting firm said, “LinkedIn tries to manipulate me to benefit from my contacts’ contacts and much more. If everyone is intentionally using or manipulating each other, is it acceptable? We need to see more-honest, trust-building innovations and fewer snarky corporate manipulative design tricks. Someone told me that someday only rich people will not have smartphones, suggesting that buying back the time in our day will soon become the key to quality lifestyles in our age of information overload. At what cost, and with what ‘best practices’ for the use of our recovered time per day? The overall question is whether good or bad behaviors will predominate globally.”

This consultant suggested: “Once people understand which algorithms manipulate them to build corporate revenues without benefiting users, they will be looking for more-honest algorithm systems that share the benefits as fairly as possible. When everyone globally is online, another 4 billion young and poor learners will be coming online. A system could go viral to win trillions in annual revenues based on micropayments due to sheer volume.

Example: The Facebook denumerator app removes the manipulative aspects of Facebook, allowing users to return to more typically social behavior.”

Several respondents expressed concerns about a particular industry – insurers. An anonymous respondent commented, “The increasing migration of health data into the realm of ‘big data’ has potential for the nightmare scenario of Gattaca writ real.”

An executive director for an open source software organization commented, “Most people will simply lose agency as they don’t understand how choices are being made for them.”

One respondent said, “Everything will be ‘custom’-tailored based on the groupthink of the algorithms; the destruction of free thought and critical thinking will ensure the best generation is totally subordinate to the ruling class.”

Another respondent wrote, “Current systems are designed to emphasize the collection, concentration and use of data and algorithms by relatively few large institutions that are not accountable to anyone, and/or if they are theoretically accountable are so hard to hold accountable that they are practically unaccountable to anyone. This concentration of data and knowledge creates a new form of surveillance and oppression (writ large). It is antithetical to and undermines the entire underlying fabric of the erstwhile social form enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and our current political-economic-legal system. Just because people don’t see it happening doesn’t mean that it’s not, or that it’s not undermining our social structures. It is. It will only get worse because there’s no ‘crisis’ to respond to, and hence, not only no motivation to change, but every reason to keep it going – especially by the powerful interests involved. We are heading for a nightmare.”

A scientific editor observed, “The system will win; people will lose. Call it ‘The Selfish Algorithm’; algorithms will naturally find and exploit our built-in behavioral compulsions for their own purposes. We’re not even consumers anymore. As if that wasn’t already degrading enough, it’s commonplace to observe that these days people are the product. The increasing use of ‘algorithms’ will only – very rapidly – accelerate that trend. Web 1.0 was actually pretty exciting. Web 2.0 provides more convenience for citizens who need to get a ride home, but at the same time – and it’s naive to think this is a coincidence – it’s also a monetized, corporatized, disempowering, cannibalizing harbinger of the End Times. (I exaggerate for effect. But not by much.)”

Fox censors Super Bowl ad featuring Trump’s wall


When it comes to television commercials, the one day that reigns supreme in the advertising world.

You might even call it the Super Bowl of the Madison Avenue set.

And, oh yeah, it’s the real Super Bowl, the one day of the year when television spots become the news, the objects of the most lavish and controversial efforts of the Mad Man.

There’s always controversy, but this year the furor was over what didn’t air.

The problem, you see, is that the annual pigskin extravaganza airs on Fox, which also happens to be the same company that owns Fox News, the Official Propaganda Network of the Trump-a-palooza™.

And Fox wasn’t about to allow anything that they thought might besmirch the alleged honor of Herr Pussygrabber.

So when 84 Lumber, a family owned chain, wanted to air an ad honoring America’s undocumented immigrants from South of the border, Fox decided they weren’t having it, at least as long as the ad contained images of Pussygrabber’s proudest erection-in-the-making,

From 84 Lumber, here’s the ad you didn’t see:

84 Lumber Super Bowl Commercial – The Journey Begins


Program notes:

The full, uncut 84 Lumber Super Bowl promotional film. See a mother and daughter’s symbolic migrant journey towards becoming legal American citizens. Contains content deemed too controversial for the original ad and banned from broadcast.

And here’s the ad Fox finally allowed, the one without that material “too controversial” :

So what’s most notable thing missing from the ad?

Maybe a wall?

And why wouldn’t Fox air the ad?

Well,  the network isn’t saying.

Banned from a an event celebrating the GOP

More on the story from the Washington Post:

Perhaps more than any other time in history, politics appear to be playing a larger role than ever in the Super Bowl. Bill O’Reilly interviewed President Trump in an interview that aired before the game; former president George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, did the coin toss; and some of the ads have tackled controversial social issues such as immigration.

One such ad was imagined by the family-owned company 84 Lumber, which decided to tackle the subject in its first Super Bowl ad. It wasn’t exactly how the company originally planned it, however.

In the ad’s initial iteration, a Mexican mother and daughter, who appear to be on their way to the United States, come across a depiction of an imposing border wall, reminiscent of the one Trump has touted will eventually divide the country from Mexico.

“Ignoring the border wall and the conversation around immigration that’s taking place in the media and at every kitchen table in America just didn’t seem right,” said Rob Shapiro, the chief client officer at Brunner, the agency that worked with 84 Lumber to come up with the ad. “If everyone else is trying to avoid controversy, isn’t that the time when brands should take a stand for what they believe in?”

But while 84 Lumber believed in its message, Fox, which aired Sunday’s game, thought it was a little too controversial.

“Fox would not let us air ‘the wall,’ ” Schapiro said. 

And another border wall makes the news

The Trump border wall wasn’t the only barrier making news this weekend.

Another border blocker was also in the news, this time a barrier much further to the south.

Ftom teleSUR English:

Bolivian President Evo Morales spoke out Thursday against a proposed wall by Argentina’s Mauricio Macri government alongside its shared northern border with Bolivia and Paraguay.

“We are countries of the Patria Grande (Latin America) and we cannot follow the North and its policies, building walls to divide us,” Morales tweeted on Thursday.

Earlier this week, right-wing Argentine congressman Alfredo Olmedo proposed legislation promoting the construction of a wall in an effort to curb immigration.

“I agree 100% with Trump,” Olmedo said, according to The Guardian.

“I know that border very well, and a wall is the solution. We have to build a wall.”

Olmedo was born and raised in Argentina’s northern Rosario de la Frontera province, which shares a border with both Bolivia and Paraguay.

Morales also criticized President Macri’s recent executive order on immigration. Last Monday, the right-wing head of state signed a decree amending the country’s immigration laws in order to speed up the deportation of foreigners who have committed crimes. The decree also prohibits the entry of foreign citizens into the South American country if they have prior criminal convictions.

“Discriminatory policies that condemn and criminalize migration are a shameful retreat to rights conquered by our peoples,” Morales tweeted on Friday morning, adding that the Bolivian government is urging the international community to take action.

Der Spiegel’s cover captures TrumpPsychosis™


The cover of the latest edition of Der Spiegel, Germany’s leading news magazine makes a statement:

blog-spegel

More from Deutsche Welle:

In this week’s editorial, “Der Spiegel” editor-in-chief Klaus Brinkbäumer dubbed the president “Nero Trump,” after the notoriously brutal ancient Roman emperor.

Trump’s action and pose depicted on the cover clearly invokes that of Islamist terrorist – and that was always its intention.

The cover’s illustrator, Edel Rodriguez, a Cuban political refugee in the US, told the “Washington Post” newspaper that he was prompted to channel his anger into the piece of art following Trump’s visa ban.

“It’s a beheading of democracy, a beheading of a sacred symbol,” Rodriguez said. “And clearly, lately, what’s associated with beheadings is ISIS, so there’s a comparison. Both sides are extremists, so I’m just making a comparison between them.”