Category Archives: So Called Liberal Media

America First

Look, I have seen the Miracle on Ice game 457 times. I own three books about it, I own the game on DVD, I have met the majority of the team in person and Jim Craig put his arm around me and Mark Wells kissed my hand, and I almost died of joy the day I met Herb Brooks and he signed a box of Cheerios for me.

My point is, if you want someone to bag on Russia I am generally your girl.

But I feel like we’re missing something here: 

Michael Hayden, speaking on MSNBC’s Morning Joe podcast, chalked up peoples’ fear over Jade Helm 15 to “Russian bots and the American alt-right media [that] convinced many Texans [Jade Helm] was an Obama plan to round up political dissidents.”

This was all over my various social media feeds all weekend and the commentary was all SEE RUSSIA ATTACKED US and A FOREIGN POWER INTERFERED and WE NEED NATIONAL SECURITY ON THIS NOW when the part that I saw said this:

Weeks before the exercise began, Abbott wrote a letter to the State Guard asking them to keep an eye on the operation so “Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed.” In the letter, Abbott added that he had “the utmost respect for the deep patriotism of the brave men and women who put their lives on the line to fight for and defend our freedom.”

Can we please, while we are getting mad at Russia and making cartoons of Trump servicing Putin in various repulsive ways, spare a thought for our homegrown ratfuckers, who are doing and continue to do immeasurable damage way, way offline?

I just … I get it, okay? The ins and outs of the Mueller investigation, the revelations that yes, Jared Kushner and Don Jr. are as dumb and venal as we thought they were, that Trump is mobbed up and always has been … I get that all of this is horrifying. Colluding with Russia is horrifying, and the idea of Russia stirring shit up because Putin wanted to be a chaos-causing shitlord is definitely something we should be concerned about.

But I guess I just can’t get as concerned about Russia as I can about Sinclair Broadcasting, you know? When we talk about who drove the most votes, what informs the nice ladies of the Midwest who attend the megachurch, we’re back to talk radio and cable news and the easy, lazy narratives that get fed into the Republican puke funnel and extruded all over the editorial pages of our august publications.

We’re back to idiots like Abbott, who is not even smart enough to know how dumb he is, stirring shit to appeal to the Limbaugh crowd, and we’re back to Limbaugh and his lesser lights, who moved votes the GOP’s racist way long before Mark Zuckerberg got the idea to rate college girls based on hotness.

We’re back to political reporting that treats politics like a joke, we’re back to how it was just horrible that that nice lady Sarah Huckabee Sanders got made fun of, we’re back to “both sides” and “very fine people.” I think this stuff tweaks me more than anything Russia could do at this point because unlike tracing whatever shit comes out of Wikileaks at least “the American alt-right media” is something we have a prayer of fighting back against.

Let’s work on America’s assholes first.

A.

Enquiring Minds Flip On The Fixer

If Fox News is state television for the Trump era, the National Enquirer is the state newspaper. That’s right, a sleazy supermarket tabloid is the Trumper’s Pravda. Trump is often called a reality teevee president* it is equally accurate to call him a tabloid president*.

Long before reality teevee became a thing, Trumpy was a tabloid tycoon. When Enquiring Minds go after one of the Insult Comedian’s former lackeys, that’s some serious shit. It’s the Fixer’s turn on the checkout aisle:

Much like articles in the  old Soviet press, *what* Pecker’s publication says is less important than the headlines.  Its stories are usually lies about secrets and lies. The import is that Trump’s inner circle expects Cohen to flip like a pancake now that he’s on Team Mueller’s flattop grill.  I  would share some lies about secrets and lies but the story isn’t online yet and I’m not shelling out money for Pecker’s putrid publication. It’s okay: hardcore Trumpers (hereinafter the 20%) would rather look at the pictures anyway. Why read when your hero is functionally illiterate?

The notion that Michael Cohen would make like Sopranos capo Big Pussy and rat the boss out is not exactly shocking.  It reminds me of a line Sam Spade threw at the Fat Man’s gunsel Wilmer in The Maltese Falcon: “The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter.”

Gaudy patter is the Fixer’s speciality.

Since my Life Imitates The Sopranos pictures are so popular, here are side-by-side stoolies:

The guy with the pinky ring looks more like a law school graduate than the nitwit with the cell phone. So it goes.

Since Cohen is big in the taxi business, I’ve been meaning to post this pre-Uber Tull tune. There’s no time like the present:

 

Run, Hamsters, Run

How many times do you have to see this before it becomes too embarrassing to fall for it one more time?

Do you have to be reminded about ACORN?

About Shirley Sherrod?

About Howard Dean?

About John Kerry?

About Van Jones?

About Paul Wellstone’s funeral, or Coretta Scott King’s?

About Planned Parenthood, NPR, and probably six dozen other wheels onto which you jumped and ran in the past 15 years?

Over and over and over they do this and every time, every single time, you react the same way.

Please, Mr. Republican, don’t hurt me. I’m very sorry for doing exactly what you said I did, even though that’s not what I did at all. I’ll be good next time. I promise. 

The cowardice is disgusting. Especially in this case since the entire WHCD blowfest is meant to be about the value of journalism and standing up for First Amendment rights. Those rights apparently extend to wearing a dress and being nice to government functionaries like we’re all in a big game of Candyland together and none of this matters a whit.

The wheel goes round and round and the hamsters keep running. Jill Carroll. Graeme Frost. That Milo creature and his ten-a-penny fascisti and whatever professor they’re pissed at this week. I don’t understand the value in being conned, obviously and completely, when it’s clear to every one of your readers and listeners and viewers that you are being conned and you don’t care because someone was impolite at a party.

Nothing can knock you off the wheel. Not a war based on lies, and the exposure of those lies. Not endless proof that none of the critics or tea people who hate you are motivated entirely by bad faith and pure, uncut racist hate. Not the past two decades of slow destruction you so flippantly blame on “both sides” of “the political divide.”

Over and over they prove to you that you shouldn’t give their criticisms the time of day, much less let them keep you up at night, and still you grovel.

If there’s a shining light here, it’s how few people pay attention to you anymore. I know I should be sad or something, because blah blah blah Guardians of Democracy. There are instances of genuine persecution of journalists in this country and in many others. There is a crying need for strong voices defending freedom of the press, especially against a president whose campaign put you in cages and screamed obscenities in your faces. There is a need for people to stand up and fight back.

You’re not doing that. You’re just running in circles, hoping nobody notices you’re going nowhere.

A.

Today We’re Gonna Find Out

Today is the day, guys:

Today’s the day Fox News has to prove itself to Chuck Todd. Today. Not any point in the past 30 years. Not during the Clinton murder-stravaganza, not during the “does Barack Obama do terrorist fist jabs” era, not at any time during the “are all liberals traitors who want to suck bin Laden off” 2000s, not during the Swift Boat Veterans for Bullshit, not when Sarah Palin brought sexy back, not at any of those points.

(Not on, say, a random Tuesday, either, when Jesse Watters was being racist or Bill O’Reilly was making lists of things that bugged him or Neil Cavuto was doing whatever that bloated sack of haggis leavings did.)

Now.

Now Chuck Todd needs proof that they’re a legitimate news organization. This derpy bastard.

This is a professional newspersonage, who gets paid SO MUCH GODDAMN MONEY to pretend to an innocence about news and politics that would shame an ingenue.

You went to parties with these people. You shook hands and slapped backs and made nice and you acted like these were your colleagues and in some cases your buds. You didn’t want to say they were bad because that would make you bad, and they are, and you are, and they’ve always been and so have you and no amount of cover you gave them changed things for either of you.

NOW you come out and say this is the test? Now this is the moment?

The goddamn house has burned down, arson investigators are sifting through the ashes, the insurance company’s already sued somebody, and Chuck Todd is swanning around fanning his face, asking does anybody else smell smoke.

For chrissakes, the fire department’s been and gone, Chuck. Home is a scorched and reeking hole in the ground. You watched it happen. Now you think you see a spark?

A.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Shoot Out The Lights

Deux Fois du Noir by Yves Tanguy

We resume our regularly scheduled programming after my Wag The Dog Incoherently post. Somebody’s gotta be normal in these abnormal times.

It’s been an interesting week in New Orleans. A 4,200 gallon oil spill isn’t huge by oil industry standards but it’s stinky enough that residents are raising a stink about it. A good thing: minor oil spills are way of life on the Big Muddy, which could be re-nicknamed the Big Oily or Big Greasy. Either way it’s not good. It’s actually diesel fuel. Vin Diesel was unavailable for comment…

The big local story this week was the sale of Gambit Weekly to the Advocate. Because of savvy management by owners Margot and Clancy DuBos, Gambit is one of the few alt-weeklies that has thrived in the internet era. The deal includes retention of Gambit’s crack editorial team including my friend Kevin Allman as editor. (In the interests of full disclosure, Clancy is also a friend.) Kevin helped bring the publication into online era, which made it an attractive proposition to the Advocate. One reason for the staff retention is that Advocate publisher Dan Shea was purged by the Picayune and has some empathy for other journalists. Imagine that. Besides, the Gambit staff is as talented as all get out. As far as I’m concerned, this is good news as it will allow Gambit to survive in a tough environment for alt-weeklies. Here’s hoping that the Advocate people will keep their word about letting Gambit be Gambit. So far, the signs are good.

This week’s theme song is the title track of one of the greatest break-up albums of all-time. It’s eerie to hear Linda Thompson sing sad songs written by her soon-to-be ex-husband. Shoot Out The Lights has developed into one of the signature songs of Richard Thompson’s live set. We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the original and a swell cover by Los Lobos.

Now we’ve shot out the lights, let’s take a shot at jumping to the break.

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History Is Made At The Gray Lady

It’s presidential* projection time.  I never thought I’d see this word in a headline at the Failing New York Times:

I thought slimeball was one word. Since Trump *is* one, I guess he knows how to spell it.

Newspapers Finally Fighting Back Against Newspaper Owners

It’s about goddamn time: 

Here in Colorado, Alden has embarked on a cynical strategy of constantly reducing the amount and quality of its offerings, while steadily increasing its subscription rates. In doing so, the hedge fund managers — often tellingly referred to as “vulture capitalists” — have hidden behind a narrative that adequately staffed newsrooms and newspapers can no longer survive in the digital marketplace. Try to square that with a recent lawsuit filed by one of Digital First Media’s minority shareholders that claims Alden has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars of its newspaper profits into shaky investments completely unrelated to the business of gathering news.

For 30 years this has been the case. Sure, Craigslist didn’t help, but all Craigslist and the Internet did was remove the ability of newspapers’ owners to steal without COMPLETELY gutting the place. Now they can’t stop stealing and/or gambling, but the safety net that was travel, automotive and classified advertising is gone.

This year began with The Post recovering from more bloodshed as it packed up to leave its namesake city, its journalists clinging to the hope that a newly launched initiative to charge for online content would improve its fortunes.

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it at increasing volumes until SOMEBODY FUCKING BELIEVES ME: No amount of income will fix a fundamentally broken structure. It will only prop it up for a time. Without independence and investment this is gonna keep happening SO STOP GODDAMN FALLING FOR IT, YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE PROFESSIONAL SKEPTICS, IT’S EMBARRASSING.

We get it that things change. We get it that our feelings are raw and no doubt color our judgment. But we’ve been quiet too long.

No shit.

I’m sorry, I should be cheering this, except that I’ve been writing about it since 2003 and living it since 1994 and it would be nice if the dozen people who figured this out years ago didn’t keep getting called hysterical in meetings.

The smart money is that in a few years The Denver Post will be rotting bones. And a major city in an important political region will find itself without a newspaper.

It’s time for those Coloradans who care most about their civic future to get involved and see to it that Denver gets the newsroom it deserves.

Like, how, though? Paying for news and pumping more money into these hedge-funded pits? That’s the only suggestion  I’ve seen recently that applies to ordinary people, most of who just want a fuckin’ paper on their porch and/or a website that doesn’t heave up its breakfast all over your browser.

I have suggestions if you want them. Support your local independent news outlet. Find out who’s making real news in your community and support that, pay for that, back that. Employee buyouts, another good option for profitable shops, will work only with bankers willing to lend the kind of money it would take. That would also require people who considering they are journalists are really fucking risk averse to take risks not just with their lives but with their families’ and that’s a hard row to hoe if you don’t love this in your bones.

Everybody says they do, but not everybody does. A lot of people will watch their colleagues walk out the door and not do shit because kids, mortgage, etc, and fear is a powerful motivator. It kept people silent for years when there were enough of them to stop it. Now there aren’t enough of them left.

Sometimes the entire Resistance fits in a Yugo and I honestly don’t know if there’s any gas left in the tank.

A.

No Money for Journalism

There never is any.

I’m getting to the point where I’m thinking anybody working for a non-indy, non-worker-owned news outlet is just getting goddamn taken.

A.

They Can’t Help Themselves

In the spirit of the week after Holy Week, I thought I’d write about the disgusting attacks on the Parkland kids by adults. The attacks keep backfiring, leading to apologies from Frank Stallone, Laura Ingraham, and others. Ingraham famously apologized  in the “spirit of Holy Week.” Does that mean she wouldn’t apologize for sliming David Hogg on another week? All Ingraham and her lorons care about is saving advertisers and her shitty show.

Attacking teenagers, tweens, and even younger chirren is not a good look for grown ass adults, but it’s not uncommon on the right. Fox News is a repository (suppository?) of attacks on younger Americans. (It’s particularly  weird for those of us who experienced the young conservatives of the 1980’s who saw Reagan as their political grandpa and became tribal Republicans.)  And it’s not just in the more out of sorrow than anger”kids today” manner, it’s out-and-out hostility:

In the month and a half since the shooting in Parkland, FL, Ingraham herself has said the Parkland students should not be given “special consideration” on gun policy; told her viewers that the March 14 student walkout wasn’t some sort of “organic outpouring of youthful rage,” but rather “nothing but a left-wing, anti-Trump diatribe”; and complained that anti-abortion protesters didn’t get the same attention. Two of Fox’s other primetime hosts, Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson, both dismissed the students as pawns being manipulated by gun control advocates. Carlson went a step further, calling the students “self-righteous kids” who “weren’t helping at all” and comparing them to Mao’s Red Guards. The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway, who is also a Fox News contributor, dismissed the students as just “children, not founts of wisdom,” and Fox & Friends Weekend host Pete Hegseth responded to the student-organized March For Our Lives by angrily commenting, “Spare me if I don’t want to hear the sanctimoniousness of a 17-year-old.” Fox’s sustained and hostile attacks on students in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting fit right into the network’s years-long pattern of insulting and belittling students and children.

Wingnuts have only one mode: attack mode. They do it when it won’t work and when it will backfire with anyone *outside* the bubbly right-wing echo chamber. Carlson, Hannity, Ingraham, and their ilk don’t understand how they sound to average Americans because they seem to only talk to people who agree with them. They certainly only care about those people. It’s why they can’t help themselves.

The 24-hour (minute? second?) news cycle and social media can be wonderful things. They can also be dangerous when used by people with no impulse control who don’t seem to realize that what they say and/or tweet is public and archivable. It’s getting harder and harder to trash talk people behind their backs because slurs live forever on the interweb. Impulse control is out of fashion because of the Current Occupant who was born in a bubble and basks in the glow of the bubbly right-wing echo chamber. The Insult Comedian sets the tone for his acolytes, which is why it’s ugly out there and getting uglier every day.

Remember when we had a president who thought before speaking and didn’t trash everyone who disagreed with him? It wasn’t that long ago. It can happen here again.

When I say that the wingnuts and gun nuts can’t help themselves, I’m not excusing their malakatude and verbal diarrhea. It’s a feeble attempt to explain why they do the things they do.  Attacking the Parkland kids is not going to work. It would be better for the flying monkeys of the far right to say something like, “I’m sorry they’ve been traumatized but I disagree with them.” How hard is that? Too hard for them, apparently. Since they live inside the bubbly right-wing echo chamber, they can’t help themselves.

Now Activist Kids are Killing Journalism

STOP IT KIDS:

What a tool.

Let me list, in order, the things that are killing trust in “our profession:”

  1. A 24-hour propaganda network streamed into every doctor’s office in the Midwest telling people that the news is fake and journalists are evil and biased and vaguely terroristic somehow.
  2. One of two major political parties spending the past four decades attacking the free press every time some reporter somewhere pointed out that they were full of shit.
  3. The other political party pretending numbers 1 and 2 didn’t exist, and whining ineffectively about message discipline.
  4. The press pretending numbers 1-3 didn’t exist.
  5. Rapacious corporate ownership that has stripped local communities of their unique voices, from cutting small newspapers down to glorified shoppers to replacing radio news with syndicated hate.
  6. Hedge fund managers loading up big city papers with debt, paying millions to executives and consultants who just happened to be their buds, giving them free reign to do whatever stupid shit they wanted while laying off every reporter who had the misfortune to be spotted actually working.
  7. An entire cottage industry of turns-out-mostly-perverts who parlayed average sourcing and borderline-adequate writing into some kind of legendary “insider” status, plus everyone who lined up to party with said inside perverts, plus everyone who invited them to speak at their colleges.
  8. Politico, Axios, whatever “ideas festival” is asking people to show up on stage with Steve Bannon, and earnest profiles questioning what Nazis want.
  9. Epic whining and defensiveness every time someone — and Isidor Stone forbid it is a young person — happens to mention 1-8 and correctly point out that all of it is crap.

These are the top nine things destroying journalism. A student journo talking about the need to speak truth to power and call bullshit on bullshit is number 697 if you accept that it’s a problem at all, which I for one do not.

There have forever been all kinds of journalism, even before these dastardly internets: Activist publications, advocacy journals, specialty and satire and yes, partisan media. The existence of none of these was a problem so long as they weren’t the only game in town, and if you think the only game in town twas ever self-professed objectivity William Randolph Hearst has a nice war with Spain he’d like to sell you.

Schmuck.

A.

All About That Platform

This, about Netflix:

reminded me of the entire OMG FACEBOOK STOLE OUR JOURNALISM AND WON’T PAY US clusterfuck which directly followed the OMG BLOGGERS STOLE OUR JOURNALISM AND WON’T PAY US clusterfuck, which followed the very very old OMG CRAIGSLIST STOLE OUR CLASSIFIED ADS AND WON’T PAY US clusterfuck.

Journalism entitlement clusterfucks interest me because they’re a prime example of the unasked question. Instead of yelling about why they “give away” their content to “other publishers” for free, they should be asking, “why do people prefer to encounter our content on another platform?”

It’s not just that Facebook is free. It’s the ease of use, the addictive nature, the ability to share and discuss and talk back. Facebook doesn’t drop 56 ad trackers on your computer and then crash every browser you own. If you sign into Facebook it doesn’t reject your login six times and then ask you to re-register and then start a free trial and then enter your billing information and then double-charge you and then send your receipt to the wrong e-mail address and then ask you to reset your password and then tell you you already used that password in the past five years and if you’d like to chat with a customer service rep here’s a popup window you have no way to close.

Not that I’m describing in any way a real newspaper. That rhymes with Schmibune.

(This is, by the way, not a defense of Facebook. It’s a defense of websites working like they should.)

If newspapers, which do not understand the business of newspapers, understood the business of online news they’d make something easy, reliable, valuable, and integrate micro-purchases in-app and curate a comments section that isn’t a trash fire of elderly InfoWars veterans throwing hamburger wrappers at each other.

The newspapers that have managed online subscriptions and web content well — NYT, the Post — have done that. It’s your local Gannett/Lee Newspapers chain paper that hasn’t, and that’s where most people feel the lack. It’s also from whence the most epic journalistic whining about Facebook and Twitter come.

More time and attention spent examining the aspects of alternative platforms that users (customers) enjoy and emulating those things would pay off in ways shitting all over social media never will.

A.

Ferro, Tronc, Journalism and Money

This guy is a boring, gross asshole who is getting paid MILLIONS OF DOLLARS while laying off journalists, please talk to me some more about how I don’t value news: 

Both women say they were drawn to these late night meetings by the promise of financial reward—further investment and connections for Minshew; a potential partnership and possibly even a lucrative job for Kappler. After these encounters, both described being frightened and taken by surprise, as well as fearing that their business ventures were in jeopardy.

Minshew and Kappler, who are now speaking about their experiences on the record for the first time, encountered Ferro through his work as an investor and dealmaker. But his sphere of influence and power increased over the past couple of years after he became the non-executive chairman and largest shareholder of Tronc, the publishing powerhouse that includes iconic titles like the Chicago Tribune, the New York Daily News, and the Baltimore Sun.

On Monday, Ferro announced that he was retiring from the board of directors of Tronc, and that CEO Justin Dearborn would succeed him as chairman. Ferro will still be paid $5 million-per-year by Tronc through Dec. 31, 2020, to serve as a consultant.

Consultant on what, exactly? What on earth could possibly be the value he provides? For years we’ve been told our newspapers are transforming into more nimble, digital-first enterprises focused on the internet because all us terrible dastardly readers didn’t want to pay for news anymore, and all it’s ever seemed to mean is cutting days, cutting staff, cutting the physical size of the paper down to a pamphlet and propping up a website that heaves with pop-ups.

This is the Chicago Tribune’s front page today, without Ad Blocker running.

Where is the news? What am I supposed to look at? Where is the name of the goddamn paper? Why did my browser just empty both barrels into itself?

When Ad Blocker does run, the little SIGN UP TODAY! pop-up is still there, the menus are still tiny and I don’t see how laying off a bunch of reporters fixes this problem. In fact, the more reporters that get laid off, the dumber this shit seems to become. Subscribing doesn’t get me an ad-free experience. It just gets me access to the articles if I can find them under all the sponcon and automotive pimping going on.

If this is the indispensable knowledge for which Ferro’s employees were expected to endure his sad, middle-aged advances, it sucks.

Whenever there’s a round of layoffs, as there was last week, journalists jump on Twitter to sanctimoniously lecture everybody about how if we all paid for news none of this would be happening. WHICH ISN’T THE GODDAMN CASE. We could all pay for news tomorrow at the rates people subscribed to print in the 1940s and anuses like Ferro would still siphon it all off to snort blow off a hooker’s tits.

It’s easier to yell at imaginary readers online than it is to yell at your bosses to adequately value what you do for a living over their own venal, sexually harassative interests. But the boards who hire disgusting pigs like Ferro for their supposedly irreplaceable genius and pay them like they’re worth anything more than a wooden nickel and a punt in the junk need to hear that there are people in the industry starting to see through this bullshit.

In the end corporate ownership and hedge fund-backed chain management have done damage to journalism the internet could only dream of doing, taking money away from the things it could pay for to throw at “consultants” who are just trying to bang the interns.

A.

Who’s Not Extremely Online

Let’s keep having hearings about Facebook and Twitter as if those are what motivated 79-year-olds in Michigan and Indiana to vote for Trump: 

As was true in previous Pew Research Center surveys of social media use, there are substantial differences in social media use by age. Some 88% of 18- to 29-year-olds indicate that they use any form of social media. That share falls to 78% among those ages 30 to 49, to 64% among those ages 50 to 64 and to 37% among Americans 65 and older.

Despite the best efforts of publishing companies to completely bow down to social media, what primarily gets shared on social media is … traditional media content. And what’s blaring in the waiting room of every podiatrist in the Midwest is Fox News or MSNBC. We vastly overestimate the influence Facebook has on the older folks who tend to vote Trumpish.

Leaving Trump aside though, you know what I see in this data? Customers. Unreached customers for some enterprising news organization to solicit, whose money is green and who would loyally read or listen to something that served their interests. There’s no need for traditional media outlets to flail blindly at every app that lifts its skirt when there are always people out there who aren’t on it. Go find them, sell to them, and you’ll be set up for life.

A.

A Question of Emphasis

This is honestly the only thing that needs to be said about the ongoing self-fucking chicken that is the NYT opinion section:

They could write about anything. Like, get paid to start conversations about literally anything on this earth, conversations that would then be backed up with action by people with the capacity to enact change. Can you even imagine? Think about that.

It would be like if I could write in this space that all Americans should knock off wearing sleeveless turtlenecks and immediately YouTube would fill with people burning their sleeveless turtlenecks in the trash. The UN would introduce a resolution declaring that if it’s cold enough for a turtleneck it’s too cold for bare shoulders. Lawmakers would pass legislation fining people for making themselves look like sausages. My personal word would save us all from this fashion abomination for all time.

I’m joking, but think about that kind of reach, that kind of power. David Brooks and Bret Stephens and this Bari Weiss person and all the other Mousketools in that office have that.

And they choose to write about people on the Internet, being mean to them.

It’s not even that they’re wrong, although they are. It’s that they’re small, on the largest stage there is for a newspaper journalist. Give them the chance to write the world, give them journalism’s largest piece of real estate, and they describe … themselves.

Like, say what you want about Nick Kristof and I’ll say plenty but he does at least pay attention to people with less power than he has, and try to tell their stories even if he never completely manages to get out of his own way. Say what you want about most of the NYT but most of their journalists are actually trying to tell us about other people’s lives and then along come these assclowns making their workplace a punchline.

That they’re wrong, and they’re bad, and they’re overpaid and dishonest, those things are bad enough. The real crime they commit against their trade is their news judgment, their sincere belief that there is nothing larger than them happening right now in the world. That more than the subject of any correction should be a fireable offense.

A.

David Brooks Thinks Twitter Invented Politics, Or Something

Who’s to blame for the fall of democracy? It won’t surprise you that Brooks thinks it’s millennials on the Twitters: 

Italy is now a poster child for the three big trends that are undermining democracies around the world:

First, the erasure of the informal norms of behavior.

Norms aren’t laws, which is the problem when somebody — Trump, Bush before him, Lee Atwater before them — figures that out and don’t give a fuck no more.

Second, the loss of faith in the democratic system. As Yascha Mounk writes in his book “The People vs. Democracy,” faith in democratic regimes is declining with every new generation. Seventy-one percent of Europeans and North Americans born in the 1930s think it’s essential to live in a democracy, but only 29 percent of people born in the 1980s think that. In the U.S., nearly a quarter of millennials think democracy is a bad way to run a country. Nearly half would like a strongman leader. One in six Americans of all ages support military rule.

It’s almost like 60 years of Republican howling that government blows, amplified by the likes of Brooks and his fellow Very Serious People, had some effect on those who grew up listening to it.

Also, a system of government is only good insofar as it benefits the people under it, so maybe the problem isn’t so much Kids Today not reading Plato as it is Kids Today being broke as hell.

Third, the deterioration of debate caused by social media. At the dawn of the internet, people hoped free communication would lead to an epoch of peace, understanding and democratic communication. Instead, we’re seeing polarization, alternative information universes and the rise of autocracy.

One of my favorite ongoing Things is discussion of polarization that completely ignores Fox News. Look, the majority of Americans do not sit on Twitter all day yelling at their relatives. They watch Fox clips in their podiatrist’s office and yell at their relatives in person, via the voting booth.

Polarization was not invented by Facebook. It was created by Republican operatives and funders who found it effective and lucrative, and spent eight years screaming about anti-American traitors who loved terrorists, and then another eight screaming about the president being born in Kenya.

Back when there was no social media, in the glory days of Internet 1.0, you had all of cable news debating whether Bill Clinton and Hillary murdered Vince Foster and HEY WE’RE JUST RAISING QUESTIONS, so yeah, it’s Snapchat that’s the problem here.

But don’t forget, BOTH SIDES:

The underlying message is clear. As Mounk has argued, the populist wave is still rising. The younger generations are more radical, on left and right. The rising political tendencies combine lavish spending from the left with racially charged immigrant restrictions from the right.

“Lavish spending” aka teaching children to read and curing diseases, versus banning all Muslim immigrants and deporting people who’ve lived here for 60 of their 61 years on this earth, those are the same! Polarization! Millennials! It’s dumbfuck bingo!

This is among the laziest of Brooks’s outings recently. If you want an equal opposite of Trump’s Muslim ban you need to make the case that liberals want completely open borders, and cherrypick some Reddit anarchists to support that contention. Fully funding the operations of public schools is not the example you go with.

I don’t see how he can lament the death of democracy when he’s so fucking confused to begin with about what it even is.

A.

Zero-Sum

That Michael Lewis piece starts badly and gets worse: 

Back when he was president, Barack Obama told me that only two people treated any interaction with him as a zero-sum game. One was Vladimir Putin, the other congressional Republicans. Both behaved as if there was no such thing as a win-win situation: Any gain for Obama was a loss for them, and any gain for them must also entail a loss for Obama. The moment that the Russian president or congressional Republicans saw he wanted something, they went to work trying to keep him from getting it — even if it was something they might otherwise have approved of.

Approaching any aspect of life as a zero-sum game has obvious practical costs: Deals that leave some people better off without making anyone else worse off suddenly don’t get done, because making some people better off now, by definition, makes other people worse off. It also comes with some psychological side effects. It cripples your imagination. It blinds and deafens you, as you sort of know what your adversary is going to do or say before they do or say it. Or, rather, you know how you are going to make sense of it: uncharitably.

The zero-sum approach in politics has since spread, as it tends to do wherever it takes hold. It has infected congressional Democrats and parts of the news media, and is seeping into everyday political discourse.

Really? WHERE? HOW has it affected Congressional Democrats similarly? How has it just crept in and taken over their minds, like poison gas in a vent? SHOW ME, motherfucker, how both sides are the same.

I know it’s fashionable to pretend that everybody bears some blame for the currently gridlocked Congress, but until you can give me an example of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi passing legislation just to fuck with Republicans, sponsoring bills like the We Have No National Language Act and the Actually Let’s Expand Medicaid Nationwide Act and the Rename All the Reagan Buildings After McGovern act, you won’t convince me Congressional Ds are on the zero-sum train.

I mean, they have no power. None. They haven’t had any really since the 2010 midterms and they sure as hell have even less now. So how have they been “infected” by this mindset? Show your work or don’t show up at all.

I see no sign that Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi want to protect Dreamers just to piss Paul Ryan off, or preserve Obamacare because it makes McConnell squirm. Congressional Dems did not block Trump’s Supreme Court nominee simply because they could, meanwhile Merrick Garland of noble name is sitting on a couch someplace. Shit, Congressional Dems confirmed far more of Trump’s nominees than their base is really comfortable with so if there’s a zero sum game it’s not between Dems and Republicans, it’s between Dems and their own fucking voters.

They are occasionally corrupt and often deeply stupid but they do actually have policy goals involving helping people, which is more than I can say for their opposition, which shut down the government rather than confront the operational reality of immigration.

This is a throwaway paragraph, the kind of nut graf boilerplate you put into a story to kind of paint the walls blue so everyone knows they’re looking at the sky, and that’s exactly why it’s so damaging. The lazy shorthand is all anybody hears and so all anybody hears is that both sides are at fault. They’ve been infected. It’s seeped into them.

A.

Oh, NOW It’s Trump’s Party

This is an honest-to-tits headline in the Washington Post, labeled “analysis.”

This is the week that the GOP truly became the party of Trump

Silly me. I thought a party became someone’s party when it NOMINATES HIM AND ELECTS HIM PRESIDENT.

I guess Republicans got a pass for 12 months to figure their shit out.

This was the week when the Republican Party finally went all in with President Trump. What once seemed unlikely is now reality. The Republican establishment — there are a few dissenting voices, of course — has succumbed to the power of the presidency, and this president in particular.

Let me ask this, at the end of this first paragraph. What precisely was the Republican “establishment” (meaning who, but let’s do that later) doing prior to This Magical Week? I mean, all they were doing was voting in lockstep with everything Trump wanted. Was that somehow not succumbing to the power of the presidency?

For shit’s sake, this Congress approved Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, and girlfriend is — let’s put this nicely, I’m sure she’s lovely — a pretty hideous dumbass. If that wasn’t succumbing to the power of the presidency …

There was the enthusiasm Republicans in the House chamber displayed when Trump delivered his State of the Union address Tuesday. There was the all-in-the-family chitchat when a conversational and relaxed Trump spoke at the Republican retreat in West Virginia on Thursday.

THERE WAS A WHOLE PRIMARY TRUMP WON AND A CONVENTION HE HELD AND AN ELECTION HE WON, TOO.

Dating back to the 2016 campaign, Trump presided over a divided, even hostile, Republican establishment. Ryan’s awkward relationship with Trump during the presidential campaign came to symbolize the plight of a party captured in a hostile takeover by a candidate operating outside the boundaries.

Ryan did not have an “awkward” relationship with Trump. Ryan had an opportunistic relationship with Trump that has largely benefitted Ryan and the donors he courts.

The party did not have a “plight.” They had a choice. They made one. Trump spent his entire primary campaign shit-talking the other GOP nominees. It was the only pleasant thing about his campaign. He clowned on them nonstop. Self-interest is not some kind of moral quandry.

This is well-compensated, widely read political analysis without which we are told Democracy Dies in Darkness and the author does not seem to understand that his job is to see through the bullshit maneuvering, not describe it like it’s the weather.

For those in the leadership, there seemed to be no good place to land.

On the side of America, one imagines, was a pretty solid spot, but the party picked the intersection of fascist and Juggalo and hasn’t moved an inch.

The turnaround in the relationship came from two directions.

The first was pressure from the outside. Party leaders began to recognize that rank-and-file Republicans wanted the GOP to be the party of Trump rather than for leaders to keep their distance from the president.

Since 1968 this has been true. Sixty-five million people tried to warn you.

The other major turning point came from the inside, with the passage of the tax cut in late December. Finally, the president had a big legislative achievement, thanks to congressional Republicans. The victory party Trump staged at the White House became an extravagant love fest. The president heaped praise on all the members of Congress who engineered the bill’s passage. In turn, they lavishly praised the beaming president.

So they’re a bunch of transactional pricks with no values beyond enriching themselves. That’s what you’re telling us? You’re gonna get to that soon, right?

The Nunes memo moves the relationship to a different place. Its release puts much of the Republican leadership fully behind the president in his efforts to discredit the Russia investigation led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and possibly remove more officials at the top of the FBI.

IT’S ALMOST LIKE THEY’RE MOTIVATED BY SOMETHING OTHER THAN HONESTY, INTEGRITY AND RESPECT FOR AMERICAN DEMOCRACY. I mean oh, my God, this is a party that impeached Bill Clinton over an employee beejer, a party that smeared the legacy and lives of multiple war heroes, a party that fully embraced stealing a Supreme Court seat from a sitting president because that president was black. A party that enshrined a culture of lawless surveillance and illegal war that will be handed down to every executive from George W. Bush until the end of fucking time.

And we’re just now noting that they’re kind of not in favor of the whole “check and balance” thing?

The fact that the memo’s release came with the imprimatur of the House speaker and many other leading Republicans only adds weight to what has become a Trump-led effort to muddy the eventual conclusions of the investigation. With public opinion among Republicans likely to follow, Mueller’s goal to deliver a report that will be seen as legitimate has become materially more difficult.

Mueller’s goal is not to deliver a report that is seen as legitimate. Mueller’s goal is to follow the law. If the report is not “seen as” legitimate, that has absolutely no bearing on anything but that the GOP is a death cult bent on disavowing anything that makes them feel icky no matter how real it is. Mueller, I’m sure, thanks God every night his job is just to jail lawbreakers and not to convince Republicans of reality.

Now, a political “analyst” might want to take a different position.

Still, GOP dissenters remain among a distinct minority, largely the handful of Republican elected officials who long ago broke from the president, along with the “Never Trump” cadre loyal to the old GOP but estranged from the party of Trump.

For the Republican Party, this has been an extraordinary transformation in a remarkably short time.

Or nah.

A.

Pivot to JOURNALISM YOU IGNORANT NUGGETS

YA DON’T FUCKIN SAY: 

Thursday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told the New York Times that the social network will revamp its news feed to emphasize “meaningful interaction” between friends and family. As a result, the news feed will significantly decrease the number of posts you’ll see from news outlets such as Motherboard.

Good.

This move has been long-rumored, and has been looked at by many in the industry as an incoming algorithmic apocalypse that will have far-reaching impacts on the bottom lines and ultimate survival of outlets whose readers find them through Facebook.

Which wouldn’t have been the case if they had FUCKING LISTENED to everybody saying this was temporary, this was crap, but no. We all had to drop everything and pray to the Great Zuckerberg and master his optimizations and study his algorithm and tailor our work to suit his platform, so that he could just yank it out from under us which is what HAPPENS when you rely on something that isn’t yours.

I mean Jesus H. Blue Ribbon Christ. Some third party company whose only interest is making money is not ever gonna save you. They might pay you for a little while, and not much, but they’re interested in their own thing, not yours. They were never gonna do your jobs for you. They were never gonna act out of the goodness of their hearts and be what you needed which was a goddamn reason to exist.

The only thing that has ever worked for journalism is journalism. That’s it.

A GOOD question to ask as a result of all this would be why people preferred to read news on a platform that wasn’t yours. Maybe it was because Facebook for a long time didn’t have a hundred pop-up ads EVEN IF YOU SUBSCRIBED or auto-play video or a funnel to feed your content into and extrude it all over what should be the calm experience of reading the news about a world that is on fire. It would be a good thing to find out what your customers wanted out of Facebook that you didn’t give them.

That’s if you were actually concerned about them, though. Maybe you could pivot to that.

A.

Headline Of The Day: The Power of the Butt

I’ve been feuding with the Times-Picayune/NOLA.com since the great purge of 2012. I doubt that they’ve noticed but I’ve enjoyed deriding them as the Zombie-Picayune since they “moved their focus to digital” and began “robustly” firing people left and right.

This year there was a Christmas miracle as the Zombie-Picayune published a front page that I can get behind:

That’s right, Saints Cornerback Marshon Lattimore intercepted a pass thrown by Matt Ryan of the hated Falcons with his butt. It’s been described as a “butterception” and a “butt pick” among other things. The consensus has settled on butt pick, which the former Ohio State Buckeye doesn’t like but the internet hath spoken and butt pick it is.

The butt pick helped clinch (clench?) the Saints win over the Dirty Birds. The team has snapped three years of monotonous mediocrity, and looks like a “contender and not a bum.” I like to work in an On The Waterfront reference wherever possible. I’m not sure if “Jesus (Breesus?) is on the docks,” but New Orleanians are hoping for another Super Bowl appearance. Who am I kidding? We want to win it all, y’all.

The great butt pick of 2017 reminded me of a classic Dana Carvey bit on SNL:

That’s Carvey as the late, great George Michael who went on and on about his awesome ass and the power of the butt.

The last word goes to my late countryman George Michael and the video that inspired Carvey’s bootylicious reverie:

Fake News Happens Because of YOU, Kids!

Learn to diagram sentences properly because SLJKFL’SKJDFDL;KFSJARGLEBLARGE: 

The ancestral lineage of fake news is easy to trace. It winds back through the birther movement and Benghazi, as a tool for weakening political opponents. It filtered through Sarah Palin, who never said she could see Russia from her house, and Al Gore, who never said he invented the internet — myths that hardened into seeming truths due to repeated retelling. It has silly origins, as networks begged us to believe that reality TV was real. It had sinister origins, as W. begged us to believe that weapons of mass destruction existed in Iraq.

Okay, so at least we’re admitting this predates Trump and Russia, and that someone profits from political division. Don’t love the “both sides” business, but Sarah did get a raw deal on that one considering how much stupid shit she ACTUALLY said.

We are at this point in the column the optimist who jumped off a building. So far, so good.

Yet the origin of fake news, as it applies to modern times, is not important. What’s important is the acceptance of fake news. How did we go from a nation of skeptics to a nation of carp, blindly slurping up every bit of rot that wafted to the bottom of the lagoon?

There might be no better place to start searching for answers than in the English classrooms of our public schools, which in the latter half of the 20th century bought into the idea of descriptive linguistics, or the notion that rules were overrated.

There’s the crash.

Let’s not talk about Rupert Murdoch’s money or the benefits to the wealthy that result. Let’s talk about what public school kids learn in English class!

Language evolves, the thinking went, so instead of fighting it, why not roll with it?

This gave teachers permission, of sorts, to avoid the hard work of beating proper English into the skulls of balky kids.

Diagramming sentences became passé, and the finer points of the language were lost as students were basically allowed to make it up as they went along.

I’m … not sure you can go from the passing of the diagrammed sentence in public school to W’s weapons of mass destruction bullshit, given that W and almost every TV personality who reported on him in any significant way was a private school kid.

In some ways I understand where this dude is going but knowledge of dangling modifiers and incorrectly placed prepositions can’t replace a finely tuned bullshit detector.

Yet in English classes, the resulting lack of intellectual discipline and critical thinking has startling similarities to the sloppy thought that has elevated fake news from a strategic political endeavor to a big-box store of wholesale lunacy. “Efforting” might not be a real word, but it doesn’t matter because everyone will know what it means; Hillary might not have actually had a disloyal campaign aide killed, but it doesn’t matter because everyone knows that’s the way the Clintons operate.

Oh for God’s sake. These aren’t abstractions. People don’t believe “fake news” because language is evolving. They believe “fake news” because regressive segregationist propaganda tools harnessed the recognizable language and conventions of objective journalism in order to turn the electorate against Democrats and moderate Republicans, whip up fears about black crime and immigration, and aim reasonable concerns about violence — that would otherwise be directed at the NRA — at the owner of your neighborhood falafel stand.

The real mystery isn’t why people believe fake news. It’s why we reserve our greatest contempt for the buyers of bullshit and not the sellers. Your dumb second cousin Pete thinks Hillary invented AIDS and that’s not okay for Pete, but when we’re done critiquing Pete’s grammar can we maybe talk about who got paid to make Pete believe what he believes?

Those English teachers who come under so much criticism here? They’re teaching to GOP-mandated tests and filling out assessment forms while their budgets are being slashed and they’re buying their own paper and fundraising for chairs and the next town over just shot down a tax increase of half a percent to pay for heating the building because a charter-funded ad campaign told them teaching kids to read shouldn’t cost more than a large Diet Coke at McDonald’s.

Why don’t you diagram that.

Via Forward Falcon.

A.