Category Archives: Athenae

Get Out of the Office

Conventional wisdom:


Yeah. And. So. What? I swear, between Trump’s press conference shitshow last week and the high dudgeon over Trump’s spokesman saying maybe we won’t even GIVE you nice desks in the White House anymore, American journalism is having the biggest freakouts over the stupidest things.

Three-decade assault on the press, co-opting entire news networks to debate for days exactly how much they suck? YAWN. Move my mug of very special pens? AUX ARMES, AUX BARRICADES!

Of COURSE Trump beating on the press will make Trump’s voters happy. They voted for him because they wanted him to do stuff like that. They wanted him to make big, dumb, loud fart noises in the direction of everything that bugs them. But I don’t understand why the press should worry if Trump’s voters hate them.

They’re not running for office. They don’t get elected. Their jobs are not determined by anyone but them. It’s not a fucking beauty contest. If they know they are in the right — and they are, most of them, except those Breitbart tools — then Trump can hoot and holler and move their desks into the Potomac and the only thing that matters at the end of the day is if as much information as possible got to as many people as possible.

That’s it. That’s the job. And if you tell me you need a comfy chair to do it in, or a daily petting from a press secretary, I will direct you to half a hundred hungry people who will gladly shove your ass to the curb so that they can do the job from wherever they have to do it to get it done. Trump’s voters aren’t happy with you? His press secretary’s being mean? Well, why don’t you raise a big bitchfest on Twitter about it! That will surely not make you look dumb in any way.



What You’re Called

I don’t have a nickname. I mean, I have things not my formal name that people call me, ranging from “hey, when am I gonna get that thing you said you’d get me” to “Mama,” but I don’t have a shortened version of my name. Maybe because my parents didn’t give me one, so I grew up using my full name always, and s0 when I was old enough to notice, I didn’t want one.

Mr. A, when we were dating, called me “Allie” once. Once. I told him I didn’t like it, and he stopped.

That’s what I always come back to whenever the OMG POLITICAL CORRECTNESS IS RUINING MY ABILITY TO USE THE WORLD debate starts up again. (Don’t throw the Campus Wymyn’s Center in my face. There are like six of those people, and unlike half of Congress they hurt nobody.) It’s about determining what you want to be called. We ask it a hundred times a day: What’s your name? We abide by what we’re told.

If I don’t want to be called something, and I tell you that, why do you continue to say it? If I say, I prefer you address me as X, why do you say Y? To save yourself the embarrassment of learning? Is your saving face worth more than my name?

To bully? To be mean? I keep reading these stories in which middle class white women who voted for Trump talk about how all the race talk they’ve been hearing makes them uncomfortable and discomfort is the WORST SIN OF ALL TIME and why can’t people just put up and shut up again, now, forever.

Do they not understand how rude they’re being, not calling someone by their name? They’d correct you if you called them Miss and they were married. But correct them that you’re African-American instead of black, Asian instead of Oriental, and suddenly you’re trampling their right to whatever … and I know it’s tiresome taking that argument apart but these are the same types of women who raised you and me to never be rude. Could it possibly be persuasive to talk in terms of politeness? Is that something we might still all understand?

It’s rude not to call someone by their name.

What is your name? Did you choose it? Could you choose it? Has anyone ever tried to call you anything else?


Friday Ferretblogging: Shelter Edition

I have a few Fridays off coming up, and I’m spending the mornings at the ferret shelter, so you know what that means? YOU GET SOME STUFFIES:




Can we please get together some kind of summit for journalists that is just WHAT ARE WORDS and HOW DO WE FUNCTION THEM?

Things that could have been said instead of “overcoming,” in no particular order:

Breaking (most accurate would be “in an attempt to break”).

Circumventing (still garbage, but factual).


Challenging (milquetoasty enough for mainstream pubs which hate definitive language).



Attempting to violate.




‘in the end the age was handed/the sort of shit that it demanded’

The first wounded American from the Italian front arrived yesterday by the steamship Giuseppe Verdi of the Transatlantica Line with probably more scars than any other man in or out of uniform, who defied the shrapnel of the Central Powers.

His wounds might have been much less if he had not been constructed by nature on generous proportions, being more than six feet tall and of ample beam.

He is Ernest M. Hemingway, before the war a reporter for the Kansas City Star, and hailing from Oak Park, Ill.  The surgical chart of his battered person shows 227 marks indicating where bits of a peculiar kind of Austrian shrapnel, about as thick as a .22 caliber bullet and an inch long, like small cuts from a length of wire, smote him.  Some of these bits have been extracted after a dozen or more operations and young Hemingway hopes finally to get them all out, but he still retains a hundred or more.

— The New York Sun, January 22, 1919

What you have to understand about Ernest Hemingway is that the work is the point. The drinking and the shooting and the girls, the big-game hunter persona, the Cult of Hemingway that insists being a loud braggy mess is a creative process, all that gets in the way. Strip it out. Take the myth apart. Stop confusing the person with the fan club. Stop confusing the writer with the person.

Go back to the work.

While the bombardment was knocking the trench to pieces at Fossalta, he lay very flat and sweated and prayed oh jesus christ get me out of here. Dear jesus please get me out. Christ please please please christ. If you’ll only keep me from getting killed I’ll do anything you say. I believe in you and I’ll tell every one in the world that you are the only one that matters. Please please dear jesus. The shelling moved further up the line. We went to work on the trench and in the morning the sun came up and the day was hot and muggy and cheerful and quiet. The next night back at Mestre he did not tell the girl he went upstairs with at the Villa Rossa about Jesus. And he never told anybody.

Ernest Hemingway would be the first person to punch all these losers who think they’re Ernest Hemingway because they got in a fistfight or treat women badly. He got up every single morning and he worked. He wrote every day. He wrote for hours. When his back hurt too badly for him to sit down at a desk, he put his typewriter on top of the dresser so he could write standing up. Most of the poser neckbeards who compare themselves to Hemingway shit themselves when their local bar runs out of craft moonshine.

There’s a part of A Moveable Feast where Hemingway is working in a Paris café. A fanboy comes in, sits down, starts talking to Hemingway about how hard it is being a writer, about how he has this terrible writer’s block and he believes in himself as a writer but he can’t actually, you know, write anything.

And after about 15 minutes of listening to this guy whinge about the great book we all know he’s not going to write, Hemingway finally tells him to go to hell. “You shouldn’t write if you can’t write. What do you have to cry about it for? Go home. Get a job. Hang yourself. Only don’t talk about it. You could never write.”

He hated bullshit. He hated his own bullshit the most.

I get so enraged about this because this is something I know a little bit about. I was taught to hate Hemingway the way most of us are, by having The Old Man and the Sea forced on me in high school. And I learned to love Hemingway by finding a cheap copy of The Sun Also Rises in a used-book store in college and reading about rootlessness and recklessness at a time when such things seemed very real. I devoured everything he wrote. The brilliant early journalism, the short stories, the brutal bad novels of his later years when, hobbled by the electric shock treatment intended to treat his depression, he could no longer trust his memory.

He went to war as a teenager. He volunteered for it. The U.S. wasn’t even in World War I when Hemingway left his home and friends and family and everything he’d ever known and offered to drive canteen trucks and deliver mail and chocolate to the front.

He already wanted to be a writer. He wrote terrible poetry and very good journalism for his high school paper and later for the Kansas City Star. He wanted to travel. There are these photographs of him, before the war, when he looks like any other kid his age, desperate to get out into the world and take a big bite out of it.

There are these photographs of him after the war. After the world bit back. After 227 pieces of shrapnel tore through his body. He carried that metal until he died. He spent the rest of his life in physical pain.

You’d never know it from the story he created about himself, the swashbuckling, the show-off adventuring, would you? You’d never know it if you only know his story and not his stories.

So for a man like Donald Trump to act like Ernest Hemingway would have done anything but punch him in the face, would have done anything but told him to fuck off and shut up and never write anything again, for a man like Donald Trump to compare himself to Ernest Hemingway or say that anyone would have done so, let’s just say it’s profoundly unlikely.

One of Hemingway’s poems, however, does seem uniquely suited to our present political situation:

The age demanded that we sing
And cut away our tongue.
The age demanded that we flow
And hammered in the bung.
The age demanded that we dance
And jammed us into iron pants.
And in the end the age was handed
The sort of shit that it demanded.


What Are You Looking At?

I cannot tell you how exhausted I am of the Democratic Party pretending there’s only one race that matters: 

Still, the party’s expectations about Clinton demonstrated just how bad parties are at analyzing what they need to fix to win. Next year, while it is not what they boast about, Democrats are expecting mistakes by Trump — the most unpopular incoming president in decades — to create opportunities for them. Their debate about winning a new majority is not about a savior from red America, or even a change in policy. It is about better organizing, and how to win back voters who were Democrats until the party was branded as neoliberal and pro-trade.


Democrats can’t just organize at the national level and run for president and lose every House and Senate seat and every state house and expect those losses not to eventually bite them in the ass at the national level too. Let the blue states become seething roiling pits of anti-everything sentiment, from Scott Walker’s rageaholic anti-education Wisconsin to Bruce Rauner’s union-bashing Illinois, and those feelings reach a critical mass.

If every voice from every leader is an authoritarian Republican one, how do you expect them to listen to what Democrats are saying? Where are they supposed to read your 5-point plan? Twitter?

When we look at the future, what are we looking at? National numbers on Trump’s unpopularity? If that shit mattered John Kerry would be opening his presidential library and Hillary would be having Bill measure the Oval for new curtains. State numbers are all that matters, and maybe this more than anything: How far down the Republican rabbit hole have the state legislature and the house races gone?

If those have all been won by tea-freak bigots, I don’t care what it did in the last election, that’s not a blue state.

What are we expecting otherwise? “Well, on a local level I approve of drug testing for welfare and repealing worker protections and gutting public schools and bashing professors and throwing the entire economy into a tailspin so I can regulate where transgender people pee, but nationally? I’m all for fairness, sharing, kindness, gay people, single mothers and the idea of a representative democracy!”

Forget a 50-State Strategy. We need a 50-State Legislature Strategy.


‘the access game becomes a net negative’

SHIT YES this on what editors & producers & reporters can do to cover Trump: 

Assume almost no access to Trump and the people around him who have power, or imagine that the access game becomes a net negative. Now what? You still have to find out what’s going on, but the “access” portal is closed. This seems to me a better starting point, even as you fight for real access, defend the daily briefing, and demand timely responses to Freedom of Information requests.

Outside-in means you start on the rim and work towards the center, rather than the reverse. Domestically, it involves mining sources in the agencies and civil service rather than the people perceived as “players.” (As is commonly done in investigative journalism.) With foreign policy it means more is likely to come from other governments than from the U.S.

During the Trump campaign who had better access: The reporters in the media pen, or those who got tickets and moved with the rest of the crowd? Were the news organizations on the blacklist really at a disadvantage?

I say this every time a mighty whinge goes up from the press corps over who moved whose chair where or who had to print some adulatory crap in order to preserve a spot on some bullshit list somewhere: STOP ACTING LIKE THESE THING AREN’T CHOICES. If you’re there to brag about where you rank, you can behave like that.

If you’re there to serve your readers you might be better off putting down the crack pipe and going out and covering things from the perspective of people who are AFFECTED by Trump’s policies. Mayhap with a fraction of the compassion you show for his economically insecure racist prick base.

Pretend you can’t get in, even if you can. And even if you can, maybe DON’T, because that’s not where the stories are anyway.


They’re Shooting the Wounded & You Say ‘Taking Aim’

This was completely predictable, plenty of people predicted it, and now you want sympathy: 

Some supporters of President-elect Donald J. Trump have also taken up the call. As reporters were walking out of a Trump rally this month in Orlando, Fla., a man heckled them with shouts of “Fake news!”

Until now, that term had been widely understood to refer to fabricated news accounts that are meant to spread virally online. But conservative cable and radio personalities, top Republicans and even Mr. Trump himself, incredulous about suggestions that fake stories may have helped swing the election, have appropriated the term and turned it against any news they see as hostile to their agenda.

In defining “fake news” so broadly and seeking to dilute its meaning, they are capitalizing on the declining credibility of all purveyors of information, one product of the country’s increasing political polarization. And conservatives, seeing an opening to undermine the mainstream media, a longtime foe, are more than happy to dig the hole deeper.

WELL NO FUCKING SHIT. I’m sorry, mom, I really am, but I believe in the right words for the job and the right words right now are NO FUCKING SHIT, YOU DUMB MOTHERFUCKERS.

For 20 fucking years, or however long Rush and his mini-me’s have been bloviating on the air and accruing listeners, people (mostly liberals but also some people who just don’t like getting screamed at before breakfast) have been saying this is bad, this is creating a culture of distrust for the truth and a willingness to disregard the facts. For 20, 30 years, even some journalists have been saying stop letting people on your air get away with slagging your own employees, it’s gross and also dangerous for them.

Those people, who were concerned about stopping this when it could be stopped, who watched talk radio poison the wells of every small town in America and warned that this would go nowhere good? Those people were ignored, shunted to the side, told they were hysterical and that they couldn’t take a joke.

Meanwhile the conservative talkers, the ones saying national newspapers and magazines were unreliable at best and instruments of the devil at worst, those people got their own columns and profiles and lovingly crafted thinkpieces about their “issues” and “concerns.”

And NOW you assholes see a problem. NOW you want us all to subscribe and post little testimonials to your brilliance, like my $2 a month goes anywhere but your owner’s pocket, like subscription revenue has EVER paid for journalism.

NOW you want us to deplore the cheapening of the public discourse, the speed at which information spreads. Now. After two, three decades of screaming from every screen in existence. After we’re all so beaten down by this that a literal white supremacist doesn’t surprise us. NOW it’s a national emergency.

It couldn’t be because this is all happening on the internet, and is beginning to cut into your bottom line, could it? That couldn’t be why you’re finally willing to take this milquetoastiest of stands.

The right’s labeling of “fake news” evokes one of the most successful efforts by conservatives to reorient how Americans think about news media objectivity: the move by Fox News to brand its conservative-slanted coverage as “fair and balanced.”


Many conservatives are pushing back at the outrage over fake news because they believe that liberals, unwilling to accept Mr. Trump’s victory, are attributing his triumph to nefarious external factors.

“The left refuses to admit that the fundamental problem isn’t the Russians or Jim Comey or ‘fake news’ or the Electoral College,” said Laura Ingraham, the author and radio host. “‘Fake news’ is just another fake excuse for their failed agenda.”

Others see a larger effort to slander the basic journalistic function of fact-checking.

Others. See.

I can’t imagine where conservatives got the idea that the news was manipulable.


‘All your life you wait, and then it finally comes, and are you ready?’

All our stories this time of year are about light and that’s on purpose, because it gets dark at 3 p.m., because it’s cold and getting colder. My eyelashes froze together walking to the train the other morning, and I’ve already lost a pair of gloves. We’re burning every candle we have, we burn the fire morning noon and night, but the cold burns too.

So we tell stories. A baby born in poverty, his parents very nearly at the end of their wits, desperate enough to lay him down in a stable. Burning an hour’s fuel for a week, while defeat and death howled around the walls. Solstice, stillness, a millisecond’s turn toward warmth again. Ascendance, overcoming, breaking through the hard crust of the world when everything is black and gray.

A week ago I sat at the bedside of someone I loved, listening to a respirator hiss. I read from All The Light We Cannot See, because there was nothing else to do. I re-read familiar books at this time of year, and they’re all stories of what happens when even hope is exhausted. When all you have is momentum. When, even falling, there is enough left in you to fall forward.

I’m so tired. I know you are, too.

I’ve been saying it since Nov. 9 and I mean it: It’s our job now to save as many as we can. That’s all we’ve got. But that’s all we’ve ever had. The poor family with their baby in the horse’s stall, they weren’t thinking about eternal life, about remaking the world in the image of God. They wanted their baby to live. These stories come from a time when more children died in the winter than survived, when you had 10 children and raised six. No one is ever thinking about glory.

So be it resolved that if we are merry this year — and I don’t grant we are — it’s not an act of reckless abandon or naive optimism but of deliberate falling forward, of momentum enough to land in front of where we started. Save who’s in front of you, next year. Save as much as you can. Don’t worry that you’re not doing enough or that the job’s too big. Reach out as much as you can. Ask for help, if you can’t.

It’s only in hindsight that we turn the darkness into a story, into what came before the light. It’s only afterward, when we can put it in order, that we see the blackness as temporary.

In the midst of it, when we don’t know the light is coming, how do we act?


Donald Trump Caged Your Reporters

I am not a fan of Mike Allen. Ever since he and his partner in hackery called for a “do-over” for George W. Bush for Katrina, he’s occupied a special place on my shit list. I say that up front so that we know where we’re starting when we talk about Allen. We’re starting with somebody who thinks hundreds of dead people are just some, like, signifier or rhetorical device or something.

That’s where we started, Mike Allen and me.

Here’s where we’re at right now:

He put you in a pen, Mike.

He put you in a pen and he put up a sign, at every single rally and every single event. PLEASE DISTURB. He told people to yell at you, to call you a liar, to call you scum. He told people to do worse. He did it with a smile and a chuckle and he did it on purpose.

He mocked a reporter with a disability. He did a demeaning little impression. Here it is, in case you missed it:

(Do you have any kind of disability, Mike?

Do you know anyone who does? Do you love anyone who does?

I hope those people don’t see that photo of you bellying up to Trump’s bar.)

His followers called female reporters bitches and sluts and said they should be raped to death. People who attended his rallies and cheered sent Nazi propaganda cartoons to Jewish (and non-Jewish) reporters, sent articles about death camps, sent pictures of Hitler, and laughed when anyone fought back.

Oh, not at YOU, I know. Not you personally. Nobody did that to you. Trump would never do that to you. His followers might, but then again they might not. It’s hard for them to get into the green rooms.

He just did it to people who work for you. People who work with you. People whose job it was to cover politics and whose livelihoods depended on doing their jobs well and whose lives depended on doing them safely. People who probably make a lot less money than you. People who have fewer powerful friends. People who have more to lose.

People who work harder before breakfast on their laziest days than you will ever work again in your life. People whose work pays your bills and gets you in the door to the kinds of swank parties where the president-elect shows up.

Those are the people Donald Trump PUT IN A FUCKING CAGE.

You owe them your loyalty and your respect. You owe them, at the very least, the loyalty and respect required to decline a party invitation or refrain from publicizing your attendance. I’m not saying you have to tell him to suck your balls, though that would be nice. Like I said, you and I started from pretty far down. I’m not expecting you to be a hero.

I’d like to think you could be a mammal.

A man, if we caught you on a good day.

Maybe this was just a bad one.

Maybe we could give you a do-over.



‘Fix the Mess’

This is an example of what I talk about when I talk about the bias toward passivity and the status quo: 

President-elect Donald Trump is stocking the upper echelons of his administration with more than the usual share of business titans like himself, betting the success of his presidency on the idea that a clash of cultures is needed to fix the mess in Washington and bring order to international affairs.

First of all, there is no “mess” in Washington. Nobody knocked a paint pot over. No one upended a giant tub of Legos all over everything and then stepped on the dog. Mess implies an accident. There’s no “mess.”

There is unparalleled obstruction and cowardice on the part of one major party, which is REFUSING TO HOLD HEARINGS ON A NOMINEE FOR THE SUPREME COURT RIGHT NOW TODAY.

There is in Washington a number of very powerful actors on behalf of very powerful forces determined to gut public education, destroy what’s left of public sector unions, and scourge the image of a First Family so middle of the road their turkey pardon dad jokes make news.

There is in Washington a group of people who have trashed the system for nearly 20 years at least, insisting on 60 votes in the Senate to pass the most routine legislation, coddling and encouraging extremist views in opposition to horrible things like giving people health insurance and ending unpopular wars.

Washington isn’t a “mess.” It’s a crime scene.

Terms like this, like “partisan gridlock,” like “political infighting,” allow writers and readers to avoid responsibility for determining who took action and what consequences followed. They let everybody off the hook — mostly Republicans who are and have for eight years been the aggressors, but Democrats as well, for being victims.

Throwaway phrases, shorthand like “the mess in Washington” allow people to shrug, shake their heads, not even BOTHER MAN because it’s all so, like, worthless. They keep people angry because they keep people powerless, and they keep people powerless because they keep people hopeless.

And paired with “order in international affairs,” like when, pray tell, have we ever had “order” in international affairs? What would that even look like? This idea that in some hazy, half-forgotten past Reagan and Gorbachev got together and played chess and then the Berlin Wall fell down and everything was fine is, shall we say, reductive. At best.

We can’t do anything about anything until we can talk about it honestly and I don’t think this kind of thing helps at all.


Trump Really Dragged Down the Republican Party

This is what was happening when Obama got elected. The first time: 

After Obama won the presidency in defiance of these racial headwinds, traffic to the white-supremacist website Stormfront increased sixfold. Before the election, in August, just before the Democratic National Convention, the FBI uncovered an assassination plot hatched by white supremacists in Denver. Mainstream conservative publications floated the notion that Obama’s memoir was too “stylish and penetrating” to have been written by the candidate, and found a plausible ghostwriter in the radical (and white) former Weatherman Bill Ayers. A Republican women’s club in California dispensed “Obama Bucks” featuring slices of watermelon, ribs, and fried chicken. At the Values Voter Summit that year, conventioneers hawked “Obama Waffles,” a waffle mix whose box featured a bug-eyed caricature of the candidate. Fake hip-hop lyrics were scrawled on the side (“Barry’s Bling Bling Waffle Ring”) and on the top, the same caricature was granted a turban and tagged with the instructions “Point box toward Mecca for tastier waffles.” The display was denounced by the summit’s sponsor, the Family Research Council. One would be forgiven for meeting this denunciation with guffaws: The council’s president, Tony Perkins, had once addressed the white-supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens with a Confederate flag draped behind him. By 2015, Perkins had deemed the debate over Obama’s birth certificate “legitimate” and was saying that it “makes sense” to conclude that Obama was actually a Muslim.

So let’s have no more discussion about how this year’s RNC was terrible and this year’s GOP campaign was terrible in ways never before seen or anticipated, and that these things were newly unhinged. The hinges rusted off this shit years ago.


The Bias Toward the Status Quo

Following up on Sunday’s post, things can’t be on fire because they can’t be on fire, guys:

And again, understandable. Everyone is tired all the time, but you take certain jobs, you don’t get to be tired without asking your editor to swap in somebody who can still see a foot in front of them.

There is no law that says everything HAS to be okay, and not making room for it to be horrible is what causes us to deny all kinds of shit going wrong. Because if we see it, we have to feel something, and if we feel something we have to do something, and if we do something we can’t just take a nap and I want to nap all the time. I would never tell people it’s wrong to want to nap.

I just don’t think you get to nap right now.

If you cannot wrap your head around the idea of the world actually ending (because in the best of times, it’s ending, somewhere, for someone) then get out of the damn chair.


It Hurts to Take the Story Apart. Do It Anyway.

There’s a story we’ve been telling ourselves for a long time now, about how democracy works, about how it has to work in order for us all to get up in the morning. It involves how campaigns operate, how elections take place, how power is handed from one person to another and what is done with that power and to whom.

The story’s called America. It’s a few years old now. Maybe you’ve heard it: We are free, and we choose who leads us, and we have chance after chance to make things better. We’re in charge, you and me, for good and ill and sometimes both together.

It’s always been partly fiction. In our finest hours it’s always been a little frayed. But we’ve been able to tell ourselves the story while it’s still more knit than mend.

Can we do that right now?

The Russian state took an interest in our elections and tried to influence them. To what extent, with what effect, and for what purpose, those in power know and aren’t saying.

And over the past couple of days during discussion of that, and discussion of the popular vote imbalance, and discussion of voter suppression in formerly swing states, I’ve been hearing lots of variations on IT’S TOO HARD AND OMG MEEN. That political blowback would be intense for anyone who said hey, hold on, let’s figure this shit out. That we don’t have time between now and the inauguration (I guess there are too many Christmas parties?) and can’t we just put our heads down and power through this?

The vast majority of the GOP, of course, is hedging its bets as they have been since the primaries ended. Maybe this will all die down and they can get back to gutting the social safety net which is what they’re really here for. Maybe Donald Trump will just fuck up normally, like Dan Quayle or something, accidentally hit on a few prime ministers’ wives, do some blow in the Oval, and leave the hard work to them. That was their overarching rationale for endorsing his skeezy ass and they are desperately clinging to it.

It’s gross, of course, like a 15-year-old who still wants to bring his blankie to school, but we always underestimate how attached people are to their security objects.

But Obama and the Democrats? The purported grownups in the GOP in Congress and statehouses who either actively avoided mentioning Trump or flat-out said he was garbage? Those people? I don’t want to hear from THEM how difficult it is to take the story of America apart and put it back together again.

I don’t want to hear about concerns that they’d be perceived as helping Hillary, or that TV commentators would say things in that deep concerned voice they affect, or that frogs would yell shit online. THOSE AREN’T REAL CONSEQUENCES for people who are elected to do a job.

They aren’t elected to serve just to rename official state animals and pass continuing resolutions to hold up how much everything sucks right now. They are elected to fix what is broken even if that something is EVERYTHING.

Things have been breaking down for a while now. Redistricting to weight state legislatures overwhelmingly against Democrats and third parties, ballot initiatives designed to turn out opponents of one candidate or another, tax caps and institutional neglect and voting restrictions, and all of it leading to a campaign in which one candidate won the popular vote by 2.6 million and the other candidate — a racist sex predator — is president.

Things have been breaking down and politicians have been desperately pretending they are okay because, frankly, taking all this apart is hard. It takes time. It takes study and most of all it takes attention we don’t have because the decent public servants are trying to keep their constituents out of hock to the mob.

Which is a deliberate thing also, in case we didn’t have enough to deal with. I get ragey when modern American voters are described as being distracted by TV and video games; the club of the most of us is distracted by the trivial need to EAT, and I can’t imagine the calls district offices get asking for help with the few social programs we have left.

Still. Still and all. There have to be things big enough that we make room for them. The question of foreign interference in an election has got to be one of those things.

Winter breaks can be cancelled. Everybody can work late. We can stop talking about Twitter and we can take out a yellow legal pad and a box of black pens and a box of red pens and we can figure out how to investigate this and, if necessary, prosecute it. It’s not false and it’s not trivial and it’s certainly not too much for us.

We’ve built bigger than this. We can tear this down. We can take this story apart and figure out which parts are true and which are false.

Sack up, hos. Get to work.


The Bias Isn’t Just Toward the Negative

Everybody’s sharing this and I think it gets close to something: 

The real bias of the press is not that it’s liberal. Its bias is a decided preference for the negative. As scholar Michael Robinson noted, the news media seem to have taken some motherly advice and turned it upside down. “If you don’t have anything bad to say about someone, don’t say anything at all.”[3] A New York Times columnist recently asserted that “the internet is distorting our collective grasp on the truth.”[4] There’s a degree of accuracy in that claim but the problem goes beyond the internet and the talk shows. The mainstream press highlights what’s wrong with politics without also telling us what’s right.

The thing is, though, if you accept that, then negative stories are naturally going to accrue about whoever is in power to the favor of those who are not, and I have not seen actual data on that at all. For example a comparison between the number of “negative” stories about a single Bush administration initiative and those about a single Obama administration one during the same phase of the initiative in the same amount of time.

It would be nigh on impossible to make that direct of a comparison, too, given how other factors influence political coverage (wars, natural disasters, etc).

My general sense that — despite the assertion that overall coverage was negative before it was biased — Republican presidents and candidates get the benefit of the doubt and Democratic ones have to prove themselves is only backed up by having lived through four terms of both and OH YEAH BY EVERYTHING ELSE IN THIS REPORT:

Week after week, Trump got more press attention than did Clinton. Overall, Trump received 15 percent more coverage than she did. Trump also had more opportunities to define Clinton than she had to define him. When a candidate was seen in the news talking about Clinton, the voice was typically Trump’s and not hers. Yet when the talk was about Trump, he was again more likely to be the voice behind the message.

Moreover, bias is toward the EASY, not just the negative:

Journalists’ fondness for polls is no great mystery. Polls are a snap to report and provide a constant source of fresh material. Their influence on election news goes beyond the stories that describe the latest poll results. Poll results increasingly frame the content of other stories, as journalists use them to explain shifts in candidate strategy or the impact of the latest development. When the FBI director announced nine days out from the election that a new batch of Clinton emails had been found, the major story line was the likely impact of the revelation on Clinton’s standing in the polls, which was followed in subsequent days by reports of new polls showing that her support was slipping.

Bias is also toward things that are already accepted as truth. As much as we like to pretend journalists are attracted to the new and different, they’re really not. They are attracted to the new WITHIN THE PARAMETERS OF WHAT THEY ALREADY THINK THEY KNOW.

Therefore, Clinton being “historically unpopular” meant her candidacy could be unpopular in new and exciting ways, but could never be truly popular. It was a self-reinforcing thought loop. Clinton is scandal-prone and here’s a new scandal which makes her scandal-prone!

This isn’t bias, even toward the “negative.” (What exactly would positive coverage of Trump look like, by the way? Even people who voted for him acknowledge he’s an asshole. It’s the core of his appeal.) This is laziness and institutional cowardice and a refusal to reconsider and test every fact in a story even if those facts have appeared before without challenge.

This is accepting the journalistic shorthand that says Republicans are strong and Democrats are weak, Clinton is scandal-prone and Trump is novel (Jesus Christ, Joe McCarthy is suing from hell for copyright infringement), and a hundred thousand other assertions that are just as wrong because we’ve all read them over and over and it’s a keyboard macro at this point.

You don’t deal with that, political bias hardly matters.

From the study:

It’s a version of politics that rewards a particular brand of politics. When everything and everybody is portrayed as deeply flawed, there’s no sense making distinctions on that score, which works to the advantage of those who are more deeply flawed. Civility and sound proposals are no longer the stuff of headlines, which instead give voice to those who are skilled in the art of destruction. The car wreck that was the 2016 election had many drivers. Journalists were not alone in the car, but their fingerprints were all over the wheel.



Liz Spayd Isn’t Helping

Shit’s sake, this nonsense again: 

Carlson said that the tweets sent the message that “we tried to keep this guy from getting elected, but did anyways.”

“That suggests they don’t understand the mission of a newspaper, which is to bring you the news, not to affect the outcome of a political race,” Carlson concluded.

The Fox News host asked why the reporters had not been disciplined.

“Where are the editors here?” he asked. “I mean, if my — you know, If I was the New York Times and my editors were tweeting crap like that, I would say you stop that right now or I’m firing you. Why don’t they do that?”

“I don’t know,” Spayd replied. “I don’t know that any of those people should be fired, but I do think that when people go over the line like that, and I think some of those are over the line, that there ought to be some kind of a consequence for that.”

Let’s be clear. Every single thing that happens in a news organization happens in service of an agenda. What stories are covered, for how long, by whom. Where they’re run: A1 for this and the back of the back of the back section for that. How large the headlines, how prestigious the bylines, who gets to do what and go where … that’s all part of setting the parameters of the national conversation.

The national conversation that just took place was a loud fart noise followed by Heil Hitler, and people — including reporters, because they know better — have honestly said so, and that pisses off the Fox News rage-monkeys who GOSH DARN WHAT A COINCIDENCE have an agenda of their own.

And instead of telling those rage-monkeys to go fling their shit at someone who cares, here comes Liz Spayd to shit-talk the New York Times while cashing its checks.

Reporters at the New York Times risk their lives covering the news. They risk their lives in ways large and small every single day. And the New York Times takes money earned by the work of people who are brave and good and true, and uses that money to pay Liz Spayd to go on Fox News and say shit like this:

“I mean, everybody has got to have their personal political views. We all do. But they ought to be personal. And if you sign up to be a journalist, then that’s what you ought to be,” Spayd added.

What exactly should the NYT’s reporters have done? I suppose, in order to satisfy Spayd, they should have just shut up in the face of relentless assaults on their colleagues and their mission. They should have talked about the political news of the day with the anthropological detachment appropriate for contemplating one’s own demise, as one might examine a distant supernova exploding billions of years in the past. I suppose the NYT’s reporters should just have said my, how curious that an entire national movement that wants us dead is ascendant and please, Jeeves, bring me my tea so that I might consider dispassionately the way in which Donald Trump’s mouthbreathing army of chucklefucks screamed obscenities in the faces of my colleagues and called for their execution in camps. I suppose they ought to have tweeted about Hillary’s e-mails some more. It’s not like anything is at stake here.

Heaven forfend we act like there’s a crisis when there is in fact a crisis. Trump’s campaign put reporters in a cage, and that they went into it willingly makes the bars no less real. And day after day after day the man who is now President-Elect of the United States of America encouraged thousands of people to turn on those reporters and yell and threaten and harass and attack. This campaign, this “movement,” they put something they hated in a cage and they beat on the bars and they threw things and they hit it with sticks and they talked all day long about killing it, raping it, putting it down.

This is after, after mind you, two solid decades of the establishment press sucking up to the Right in all its alt- and non-alt forms. Reporters and editors and executive producers had gone out of their way for 20 years to make it clear they were willing to take anything the GOP dished out, and for that they were loathed and spit on and kicked in the face.

And after all that, after “let’s open up the libel laws” and “lugenpresse” and “there’s something happening, Katy,” a couple of reporters had the nerve to use bloody language to say the states are bleeding. A couple of people had the nerve to give a shit and act like it.

So here comes Liz Spayd to run them down, on a network that hates them already, for an audience ready to call for her head before she opens her mouth. Here comes Liz Spayd to agree that yes, bad bad bad reporters, forgetting to pretend not to care.



Big Media Doesn’t Have to Know Flyover Country

If I read one more thinkpiece about how reporters/liberal think-tankers/big-money activists need to leave the NY/DC nest and come out and eat fried chicken with the rubes I will lose my mind.

Guys, there’s no reason to squander money setting your HQs up in southeastern Wisconsin, however cheap the rent is. 

There’s no reason to fly your reporters to Columbus and Kalamazoo.

You don’t have to go back to school for an anthropology degree so you can write boring-ass longform wanks about the ways of the hicks who are strange to us all.

You just have to pay, and listen to, and care about, the journalists and activists and human services workers who are ALREADY HERE, who know which kringle shop is the best one, and can tell you all about the local politics and how the watch factory closed and who that hurt and why. 

Read, and listen, to the voices in the Rust Belt, just as you should read and listen to people all over the world whose experience is other than yours. The irony is that people with the most education and worldly experience are often the most provincial, bragging, instead of being embarrassed, that “they have never been west of the Mississippi” or that they “always get Iowa and Ohio confused.”

So what’s the takeaway here? Why not work toward a “local writing” movement akin to the local foods one? Make it a priority to give money, or clicks, to writers who live in the region they are writing about. This is as much a plea to big media as it is to its readers.

Maybe we could have a “local media Saturday” akin to “small business Saturday,” and encourage people to subscribe or donate. Editors should hire writers living in the Midwest to write stories about their region, instead of flying in journalists from elsewhere. Meanwhile, readers could do the flying in, taking a trip to Detroit or southern Indiana, spending time getting to know the region and its vibrant, dynamic communities, contributing to the local economy as they do.


In the weeks since the election I keep reading “heartwarming” stories about people subscribing to the Times and the Post. That’s nice. Friends of mine work at those places and compared to the septic tank explosion that is CNN, the two big papers are fabulously deserving of your money and attention.

However, they are a) not in need of extra cash and b) not publicly guaranteeing that your six bucks a month or whatever is gonna directly pay David Farenthold to fuck Donald Trump up.

Whereas, if you send your media money to a local shop you can be sure it’s not going to pay to load the company up with debt and needless acquisitions of TV stations and sports teams and shit.

Here are some Midwest suggestions (add your own in the comments):

Belt, without which I really don’t think I would have survived this election.

The Chicago Reader, which regularly takes on stories the downtown dailies can’t/won’t touch, which needs petition support.

City Bureau.

Big Media, Big Liberal Policy, Big Thought-Leading doesn’t have to come get to know flyover country.

They just have to Google flyover country’s reporters and send them some goddamn checks. Hire the effective locals on contract or — gasp! — staff. Listen to what they say.

And once and for all stop acting like coming up through the farm system of exurban & neighborhood organizations is inferior to a graduate degree. Months and years on the ground in a place you know beats a fancy CV every time.


No One’s Coming

One more time, because I keep saying this, because nobody’s hearing it:

People who should KNOW BETTER keep asking when the noble heroes who surely, SURELY must lurk among the GOP will rise up and restrain the madman they nominated for president, reassert Genuine Strong Daddy Party authority, and return us to the glory days of polite racism and understated economic violence.

And … I get it, okay? This is in fact the GOP’s mess. They chained this feral critter in their basement and fed it rotten meat and lies about Islamo-fascism for 15 years, beat it occasionally, and now they’ve let it out of its cage and it’s mauling the wedding guests. We shouldn’t have to tranq it for them. They should clean this up. Guess what? THEY’RE NOT GOING TO.

These are people, okay? Human beings. Maybe you’ve met some of them in your travels. They like cold beer and warm beds and chocolate covered pretzels. They ain’t complicated. They tend to act in ways that will benefit them.

They sucked up to George W. Bush when he was a powerful War President and they ran away from him when his numbers tanked, because those were the actions that resulted in them either holding onto the power they had or increasing that power. These same jackholes spent eight years demonizing a pretty harmless middle-of-the-road upper manager for the crime of trying to give people health insurance, because that kind of behavior made them look sexy to the people who voted in the midterms.

Those that didn’t look to their base? That said maybe we could work with Obama, or not be gratuitously nasty to women and poor people, or at least try to read the Constitution now and again and confirm a judge once in a while? They wound up NOT HERE ANYMORE, because the Tea Party primaried them out of existence and replaced them with the likes of Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. (Who, lest we forget, make Donald Trump look like Winston Churchill, albeit after his six afternoon highballs.)

So what was the lesson there? Hold onto whatever you’ve got, however you have to, and during this past election that’s exactly what they did. They endorsed and un-endorsed and re-endorsed depending on the pussy-grab of the day, and they suffered exactly no consequences for their dithering. Why would they abandon that dithering now, take a stand for which they could be attacked, and … potentially save the Republic? What is in it for them?

All the aforementioned is not, by the way, a knock on the GOP or the creatures that inhabit it. It’s not good or bad so much as it’s average. You and I both do stuff because we’ll be rewarded for it. This is basic human shit, and I’m not annoyed at the GOP’s fascists and fools for being exactly what they need to be.

I AM righteously cheesed off I have to keep explaining basic human shit to people who want fairy tales so they can let themselves off the hook. Nobody within the GOP is going to stand up and tell Trump to get fucked. Our elite institutions are busy finding new euphemisms for “white power” lest they seem too brave or something. There is no way around doing this ourselves, every one. It’s annoying. Like I said, this is their mess.

But it’s our country.


At Some Point Don’t You Want to Be About Something?

The cowardice on display here is truly amazing:

Jesus TITS. If enough people are talking about a thing, that means they deserve a story about a thing, even if that thing doesn’t exist, isn’t remotely what they’re talking about, is mostly or entirely bullshit, or is otherwise something any good editor should kill with a kitchen knife. This is garbage: 

Seems worthwhile to look into allegations that have currency over readers, voters- and present the facts as we find them.


Starters: What’s this “currency” certain “allegations” have? How is the amount determined? Is it in the number of unhinged subreddit posts? Frequency of calls to the editor? Editor’s spouse bringing it up at the dinner table? Posts on the paper’s Facebook page accusing it of COVERING ALL THIS UP?

What is the worth of that currency? Who is in charge of counting it? How is it insured? Given the sources for this trash fire of a story, should we really be abandoning the gold standard here?

Why do certain allegations garner “currency” and others do not? If “lots of people being pissed about something” is the going rate independent of any other consideration, I must have missed all those stories about the very legitimate gripes Americans have against illegal spying, the never-ending war on terror and the presence of literal Nazis in the White House. Those things are, in addition to having hella currency, actually real.

This is all just so stupid and sad. Journalists are going to sit around at conferences for the next year talking about what they could have done differently in this election, come to the sad but inevitable conclusion that NOTHING, lament that kids don’t read anymore and all anyone cares about are Kardashians, and cower in fear of Breitbart. They’ll wax nostalgic for some imaginary time, maybe during the Murrow or Cronkite era, when they could have done real shit, taken real stands, effected real change.

And it will just goddamn escape them that their chance is right fucking now today, that they don’t have to be beholden to whatever wingnut newsletter cause is filling up their inbox, that they do in fact have choices and can choose to be grownups.

God, nothing bothers me more than self-imposed helplessness. Do you know how many people don’t have the CHOICE to be helpless? Especially here, especially now, with deportations and international hissyfits and everybody arming up for the coming apocalypse? Like how dare reporters whine about how awkward it is to just suggest that maybe we not do stories about things that are crap?

You don’t even have to get into political bias to get here. All you need is cowardice and a healthy dose of stupidity.

Via John McQuaid.


Abandon All Hope of Trump’s Improvement

Peggy Noonan still thinks someone is coming to save her: 

The press does not believe, not for a second, and Democrats do not believe, not for a second, that Mr. Trump will be able to change the habits of a lifetime. They are relying on it.

Mr. Trump shocked them by winning. He should shock them now with rectitude.

HE’S NOT GOING TO DO THAT. God, everyone with a functioning keyboard told you a hundred thousand times he was like this, and HE told you he was like this, and you said over and over that maybe he wasn’t going to be like this, and you’re still counting on salvation from above?

Grow the fuck up, Pegs, there is no Easter Bunny. I know it hurts your head to think filthy hippies might have a point here, but the pivot’s not coming.

I keep reading these stories: 

What happens next to the American republic will depend on whether Trump chooses to abide by, or can be restrained within, legal and bureaucratic limits—or whether his fellow partisans, seeking their own immediate political objectives, instead empower and enable him.

Yeah, this is in doubt. Whether the Republican establishment is going to restrain Trump.

The same Republican establishment that threw everything it had at him during the primaries and barely mussed his stupid muppet fur.

The same Republican establishment that spent the general election dithering and hedging and trying to figure out how to kiss HALF of Trump’s ass, in case this whole thing went south or in case it didn’t.

The same Republican establishment that was so enamored of small-d democratic principles that it shut down the government in protest of giving people health care? That spent eight years screaming about seekrit Muslims and gay marriage and refusing to confirm a goddamn Supreme Court nominee?

That’s the institution you’re thinking is going to grow a pair? That’s what you’re counting on? You might as well be praying to the Tooth Fairy. It would be just as effective and slightly less embarrassing.

Just stop it.

Nobody’s coming to save us from Trump.

Not the politicians who are trying to figure out how to cooperate with him while still yelling at him enough to make money. Not the news hairdos already running stories about what the Trump family Thanksgiving looked like. Not the electoral college or Jill Stein’s recount or Hillary contesting the results of the election.

Certainly not the Republican party which faced so few consequences for nominating a SERIAL SEX PREDATOR that they won the entire White House and larger majorities in Congress.

Why should they save the country from Trump? Why are we asking them to do what is not in their interest?

I said it right after the election and I’ll keep saying it: All we do now is save as many as we can. Keep giving me your suggestions for how we do that because that’s all that’s important now.

Nobody’s coming to save us. Certainly not from the GOP side of the aisle.