Category Archives: So Called Liberal Media

Have We Considered Banning Bullshit?

This kind of “differing corporate culture” nonsense always makes my eyeballs itch: 

Rick Santelli, the veteran CNBC correspondent, recently got into an on-air spat with one of his longtime colleagues. Whether he will be given leeway to spar in similar fashion with new co-workers elsewhere in the company is something executives at NBCUniversal ought to work quickly to decide.

During an early-December panel on the business-news network’s “Squawk Box,” Santelli began to yell at Andrew Ross Sorkin, who pressed him on comments he had made about coronavirus restrictions at restaurants. Sorkin pushed his colleague to exercise greater caution about suggesting viewers should be able to crowd into restaurants the way they do into retail outlets.

“Who is this? Who is this?” asked Santelli, even though Sorkin has been a co-host of the program for almost a decade. As Sorkin prodded Santelli to reconsider what he said, the correspondent went into an on-air huff. “I disagree. I disagree! I disagree!” said Santelli, his voice rising with the issuance of each short sentence. “You can have your thoughts and I can have mine. I disagree.”

The piece goes on to describe the “culture clash” between people who are loud but mostly harmless and occasionally say a true thing, and people like Santelli and Bartiromo who are saying things that are not true and are actively hurting people. It is not a “culture clash” when one part of a news division says hey, maybe it will hurt our credibility to have science-deniers on TV all day every day jerking Trump off. That’s not, like, a problem with the decorations at the office party.

What if, instead of having a policy encoded in the HR manual, you just … didn’t hire dishonest political actors and/or, when the mostly normal people you hired turned Tea Party-feral on live television, you disciplined or fired them?

CRAZY TALK. I’m aware. Okay, let’s not make it about people and their sincerely held beliefs that COVID cannot travel inside a restaurant. How about just having a policy of individuals, whatever their private Facebook posts may say, not spouting dishonest shit on the air? Could we get behind that? How about our news policy should be that if you are demonstrably full of crap, if you are saying things that are not true, that can be debunked by a half-competent barn cat on shrooms, we don’t, you know, do that no more?

I KNOW, okay, there would be nothing to broadcast, this is why 24-hour cable news channels should be nuked from orbit or at least banned from the waiting rooms of dentist’s offices and airports. But this is the kind of that that, once it’s implemented at this high a level, filters down to your local fishwrap and becomes a cudgel to beat on anyone who speaks up about anything, regardless of substance.

Because that’s the thing. These aren’t regulated militias of relatively equal strength meeting for choreographed skirmishes on neutral ground. What someone is saying matters just as much as how loud and often they’re saying it. Are they being loud and obnoxious and combative in service, to, you know, the actual truth and the keeping of people alive? Or are they shouting things like BUY BEAR STEARNS when the company is about to go tits-up in a fashion that makes the Titanic look well-maintained?

Keeping that dude and his ten-a-penny imitators in the cocaine-piles to which they’ve become accustomed is not a problem with a “clash” of attitudes, it’s a problem with tolerating punditry being wrong all the time with zero consequences for said pundits, within the “corporate culture” or without.

Instead of making this about tactics and decibel levels and whether someone “glared” at the camera perhaps these fine news organizations should be examining if any of the information they’re giving to their audiences is remotely true or not. That would be a good place to start.

A.

ps. It is not okay for an entire network to be full of shit, broadcasting said shit 24 hours a day on the public airwaves, and for us all to shrug like “oh, that’s just Fox, you can’t expect a leper colony to not have any lepers.” It is not okay to just write off an entire propaganda network and let it exist so long as it doesn’t spread. Look around. It has spread some.

This Didn’t Have to Happen

I talked to Lyz Lenz this week about what really happened to newspapers: 

Lyz: For so long, I made “subscribe to your local newspaper” a part of my efforts. And it’s why I took the job that I was fired from. But every once in a while, I hear from people who say, “I would love to subscribe to my local newspaper, but it’s run by literal, like, white supremacist apologists.” And you know what, good point!

Allison: I used to subscribe to both the Tribune and the Sun-Times when I was reporting, because I basically felt like I had to. And nine times out of 10, neither one of those papers would be at my doorstep before 9:00am, and we’re a commuter town. And this is not sustainable.

So you know, don’t call me up and tell me I don’t value journalism. In my nonexistent spare time, I raise money for journalism. But these newspapers literally didn’t do their jobs. If I go to a bagel shop and it poisons me, I will not go there again. And that bagel shop can put up all the signs that it wants about how you owe me your business because I’m local, but you gave me salmonella.

I thought it might be helpful, since a couple of folks skidded into the DMs to slap their resumes on my table, to point out that over at this here blog we’ve been on this beat a while: 

I laughed along with the rest of them, but: I know good people at Tribune Publishing. Friends, and ex-friends, people I know to be decent whatever assholes they happen to presently work near. I know lots and lots of good journos, and they deserve better than to watch the place they put their hands and their minds and their blood and their days turn into a national fucking joke.

I mean: 

For rich companies’ rich employees like Chuck Todd to rage on Twitter about the devaluing of the press, well, Chuckles and all his friends could pool their pocket change and buy six small city or suburban papers, staff them, and get them on people’s goddamn porches every day. THAT would be valuing the press.

OH HAI THERE 2014:

I’m about done reading endless editorials about how this time, today, this go-round the newspaper is ALL ABOUT the Internet. It’s not like last time, with the paywall. Or the time before that, with the hyperlocal. Or the time before that, with the glitter logo and the shaky iPhone video of that one house fire/car wreck/pet show. This time, the newspaper is taking the Internet seriously and is really, truly gonna do something new.

The blathering is exhausting. These CEOs and MEs who loudly declare that they are “digital first” are the industry equivalent of that one friend you have who will not shut up about how someday he’s gonna go to Japan or join a gym or write that novel.

He never does dick, of course. Every time you’re over at his house he’s high and watching Honey Boo Boo, but damn if he doesn’t want to tell you his very detailed intentions at every fucking dinner party.

HI 2009: 

As the panelists talked about innovation, about making your own site what you want local news to be, someone behind me kept shouting out, “Who pays you while you do it? Who pays the rent?” and it’s not that some of the blithe “You just have to work for the love of the story and wait tables if you have to in the meantime until somebody hires you” didn’t come off as romanticizing the poverty-stricken artist’s life as one somehow more noble than any other. But what I think the panelists were trying to say was something we say around here all the time: If you want things to stop sucking you have to go make them not suck. You can’t wait until somebody just hands you a giant platter of not-suck and tells you it’s all yours.

Like, look. This stuff is hard. I’m not claiming to have all the answers. I am claiming to know some bullshit when I see it, and I have to believe that has some value in the world or I’ve spent the past 20 years doing nothing and teaching a shitload of other people to do nothing too.

THERE’S SO MUCH BULLSHIT. For the past four years we’ve been having some kind of extra-dumb crisis about teaching people to recognize FAKE NEWS and fourteen university panels despair of the Kids Today as if all of the fact-free-itude promoted and bankrolled by GOP-adjacent assets just sort of happened. Like a weather system swept in. (Like the Kids Today are the ones voting for fascism, anyway.) Nobody talks about the money behind these efforts, and the philathropically miniscule amounts behind actual journalism in places that need it.

A couple of people commenting on the interview were also like SO WHAT DO WE DO and, well, we let a lot of terrible corporations die, and then the people who care about this stuff have to rebuild it, from scratch, probably while doing other stuff. That sucks, too:

All of this is so hard but, as those of you who’ve been reading here a while know, the only thing harder than doing the hard thing is spending the rest of your life explaining why you didn’t.

A.

Quibi Never Should Have Been Born

Look at these fucking idiots:

The Quibi experience has been decidedly less than fresh thanks to numerous hurdles built into the service: first and foremost, the mobile-only limitation, which precluded viewing on a bigger screen and also the ability to text, scroll, or multi-task while watching the content pitched to our fractured attention spans. Quibi’s mobile-only imposition especially hampered the service as many Americans quarantined at home with the option of larger screens and ever-growing streaming services – Netflix and Hulu, obviously, as well as Disney+, Apple TV+ and the new HBO Max – to fill them.

Quibi’s business model assumed an endless appetite for entertainment until we die, but its mandates, short-form, mobile-only, paid subscription, subsumed the all-important choice from consumers used to frenetic, constantly refreshing and expanding amusement on demand and on phones with YouTube and TikTok, for free. “We’re in a world where the viewer expects to have control over the what, the when, the where, the how they’re going to watch content, and Quibi has taken a lot of that away from them,” said Goodman.

I said most of this on Twitter last night, but: Jesus tits, it’s a TEXTBOOK example of doing everything but saving journalism to save journalism. Quibi had all kinds of legit news content with actual journalists, some of whom seemed to better understand what they were about than others, and it never seemed like anything more than a 2010s update of a 1990s “what if the news had an MTV soundtrack, that’ll pull in the youngs” strategy. What a waste. What a goddamn load.

ONE POINT SEVEN BILLION DOLLARS. I just cannot.

This is the kind of shit that makes me ragey when it comes to all our thousands of “future of journalism” panels and blue-ribbon commissions and studies and digital paradigms. You could have used all this money to buy out and run independently 1,000 community papers.

If you had put HALF, even, of this cash into independent student media you’d have raised a GENERATION of journalists. You would change the fucking WORLD. But no, blow it on some consultant’s wet dream that you named like a drink with squid ink in it.

Do you know how many stories it would cost, MAYBE, 10K to break? Do you know how many communities need papers that could be run soup to nuts for $500K a year TOPS? And look at these fucking clowns. Suck my dick.

I get that the long game isn’t FUN. I get that lots of this stuff isn’t as sexy as celebrity anchors delivering “quick bites.” I get that “let’s do the same boring shit the news has always done only this time let’s act like it matters because the past four years have proven pretty definitively that it does” won’t get you into a lot of VC pitch meetings.

But one of the reasons nonprofit journalism fundraising sucks so fucking much is that all the goddamn money gets hoovered up by idiot ideas like these and if you ask for any to, like, cover the news, they look at you like you’re an alien.

Hello, I would like ONE POINT SEVEN FIVE BILLION DOLLARS to pay reporters you’ve never heard of to cover stories you’ll never know about. All that will happen if you give me that money is that you won’t wind up embarrassed by shutting down your shitsack project after 10 minutes. My e-mail’s right up there. You can reach out anytime.

Like it’ll just make people’s lives better and maybe save democracy, so I can see how it won’t tug your tool just right. What if I come up with a logo that’s also on fire and a name like a brand of kitchen implement? Quibi. If you have to spend most of your time explaining what your name means, you probably don’t have a good name, TRONC.

I would ALMOST be ok with this kind of waste (bitches gotta eat) if it didn’t exist alongside endless thinkpieces about how no one values journalism. There is a DIRECT correlation between these high-visibility failures and the reluctance of anyone to invest in real efforts.

People see shit like this implode and think well, obviously nothing can work ever, because they don’t read below the toplines and all they see is a well-funded effort with a bunch of high-profile backers fall on its fucking keys.

So how can you dumb bunnies in the sticks make anything work if these brain geniuses can’t? Well, for starters, and to return to the start of this rant, we generally name our papers things like “news of your town” and not “random group of letters that who knows what it could be.”

Anyway, it’s Giving Tuesday, support actual nonprofit shops that give their money to the journalists and the journalism, not to somebody’s brother-in-law to come up with fucking Quibi. UGH. You have, at a minimum, a paper in your town that’s likely starved for subscriptions but if it’s some cookie-cutter rag owned by a hedge fund, you can always use your spare twenties to light campfires.

At least then you’d be warm and have something to roast marshmallows over.

A.

Took Four Years But The Times Got Here

The GOP is the problem: 

With his dark gospel, the president has enthralled the Republican base, rendering other party leaders too afraid to stand up to him. But to stand with Mr. Trump requires a constant betrayal of one’s own integrity and values. This goes beyond the usual policy flip-flops — what happened to fiscal hawks anyway? — and political hypocrisy, though there have been plenty of both. Witness the scramble to fill a Supreme Court seat just weeks before Election Day by many of the same Senate Republicans who denied President Barack Obama his high court pick in 2016, claiming it would be wrong to fill a vacancy eight months out from that election.

Emphasis mine, because … The thing is, LITERALLY EVERYBODY TRIED TO TELL YOU THIS, 20 YEARS AGO. That we were heading exactly here. That this party was being propped up by feral critters prowling and growling underneath the banquet tables and eventually they’d slip their chains and start mauling the buffet.

The GOP wasn’t so much “enthralled” by Trump as the money guys looked at their spreadsheets and said eh, how bad could it possibly be? They gambled that if they let this happen the damage wouldn’t be obvious.

It worked out great for them last time, after all: 

It’s not only liberals who have noticed that Bush’s most committed followers are caught up in the fact-filtering force field of a personality cult. In January, Paul Craig Roberts, assistant secretary of the treasury during the Reagan administration and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal’s far-right editorial page, published a damning column in the progressive Z Magazine about fascist tendencies in the conservative movement. “In the ranks of the new conservatives, however, I see and experience much hate. It comes to me in violently worded, ignorant and irrational emails from self-professed conservatives who literally worship George Bush,” he wrote. “Even Christians have fallen into idolatry. There appears to be a large number of Americans who are prepared to kill anyone for George Bush Like Brownshirts, the new conservatives take personally any criticism of their leader and his policies. To be a critic is to be an enemy.”

Sound familiar? Jesus H. Christ in a chicken basket, do you GET IT NOW? Now that enough people are dead? Do you get what all us damn dirty hippies were trying to tell you? This was a long time coming and I take no pleasure in being able to say a hell of a lot of us saw it coming by a couple country miles. It’s why we didn’t want these people — nor anyone, really, but if you give arm one moron you arm ’em all — to have warrantless surveillance capabilities.

But that guy danced with Ellen and paints funny pictures of dogs now, so it’s all good.

Back to the performative innocence of the Times:

For all their talk about revering the Constitution, Republicans have stood by, slack-jawed, in the face of the president’s assault on checks and balances.

Um, they’ve actively assisted him, just as they assisted his GOPredecessor, who for those of you who didn’t have to live through this bullshit as adults was basically WHAT IF NIXON BUT SPIN IT OUT TO THE ENTIRE GOVERNMENT OF LAWS IDEA. The grand old men of the once-glorious Republican Party actively fought for Bush and Cheney’s right to detain people without charges, without warrants, without recourse. They actively fought for RETEROACTIVE IMMUNITY for telecom companies, come on. Plus that whole “weapons of mass destruction” thing, which is still killing people to this day.

The only difference between what they did and what Trump is doing is that they bothered to make excuses for it.

Trump’s attitudes towards women and minorities are crude and crass, but his attitudes towards governing are right in line with three decades of Republicans telling us they would run government like a business, in which the CEO just yells something and everyone has to hop to. How many senators and governors of this party have promised to just magically say the right words and everyone will behave? Here in Illinois we’ve had two of these guys and they’ve both noped out of the job the minute it became clear they’d have to work with people instead of screaming at them to obey.

And GOP intransigence during the Obama years only worsened the problem, because when you shut down all legislation you leave open the only door there is, and the president’s gonna use it, come on. Nobody, I don’t care how saintly, gives up power they don’t have to give up, so don’t throw B. Barry Bamz’s executive orders in my face. He kept trying while these tea people’s constituents were burning him in effigy.

Mr. Trump’s corrosive influence on his party would fill a book. It hasin factfilled several, as well as a slew of articles, social media posts and op-eds, written by conservatives both heartbroken and incensed over what has become of their party.

But many of these disillusioned Republicans also acknowledge that their team has been descending into white grievance, revanchism and know-nothing populism for decades.

DOES IT ONLY COUNT WHEN REPUBLICANS SAY IT? Because I remember quite a few people mentioning this as far back as 2001. I remember a whole lot of Democrats and HILLARY YOUR MOM CLINTON saying this during the 2016 campaign while our national punditry worried she was too smart and capable for the job.

Here’s Michelle Goldberg again, writing in 2003: 

The conference was packed with events devoted to denouncing the perfidious left. There were panels titled “Modern Feminism: The Bilking of the Taxpayer,” “Real Stories of Real Liberal Bias on Real College Campuses,” “NAACP, the Congressional Black Caucus and other Professional Victims” and “Myths, Lies & Terror: The Growing Threat Of Radical Environmentalism.” Dan Flynn, author of “Why the Left Hates America,” was on hand to sign his book. Ann Coulter, there to push her own book, was greeted with a thunderous standing ovation, after which she ripped into the “treason lobby” — the Democratic Party — whose platform “consists in breaking every one of the 10 commandments.”

But back then, we were starting a war that would be over in a couple of weeks, and everything was going great, and only pansy idiot fifth-columnists were worried about the racism and lawlessness embedded in that war’s cheerleaders. Only hysterical pussies were listening to the genocidal turns talk radio was taking and saying hey, this is going to inspire violence. Only conspiracy theorists thought our elections weren’t safe.

Maybe next time it won’t take 225,000 dead Americans for the Times to notice who’s been right about this all along.

HAHAHAHA even I’m not that naive.

A.

It’s Always Gonna Be Democrats’ Fault

Tomasky, proving that nothing has changed since 2002 for his simple ass: 

Trumpworld sees these things differently. Mike Pence articulated the view in the vice-presidential debate. “We’re about freedom and respecting the freedom of the American people,” Mr. Pence said. The topic at hand was the Sept. 26 super-spreader event in the Rose Garden to introduce Amy Coney Barrett as the president’s nominee for the Supreme Court and how the administration can expect Americans to follow safety guidelines that it has often ignored.

Kamala Harris countered that lying to the American people about the severity of the virus hardly counts as “respect.”

It was a pretty good riposte, but she fixed on the wrong word. She could have delivered a far more devastating response if she’d focused on the right word, one that the Democrats have not employed over the past several months.

For fuck’s sake. Sure, the problem here is that Team D just hasn’t used the right WORDS. If only they would play OFFENSE. If only they knew how to TALK, Republicans wouldn’t be forced to have a 24-hour propaganda network funnel every piece of puke from some incel’s basement onto the Twitter feeds of every reporter in America.

If only they’d SAY what was needed, we could have the intellectual debate Michael Tomasky, whose all-time hits include “the second Iraq war will be amazingly stupid great,” would like to have. Said intellectual debate being the real problem here, and not that the GOP is intent on KILLING PEOPLE.

Like imagine, in 2020, as the Republican Party dismantles voting rights from coast to coast, saying that this could all be prevented by a Democrat appealing to John Stuart Mill.

No, really:

Now, conservatives revere Mill. But today, in the age of the pandemic, Mill and other conservative heroes like John Locke would be aghast at the way the American right wing bandies about the word “freedom.”

Sure, that’s what would freak them out about the Grand Old Party of today, and not the ascension of an assheaded sentient cheeto who can’t string a sentence together if you spotted him a noun, a verb and two adjectives. You might also regale them with tales of “Freedom Fries,” a story I’m sure you’ve forgotten, Mikey, given that it happened during the days when Republicans had honor and dignity and the courage of their convictions and were in no way prone to spouting jingoistic garbage to appeal to the rubes.

I am so tired of telling Nancy Pelosi to fight harder and saying absolutely nothing to Mitch McConnell at all. Diane Feinstein sucks, okay, screw her, but let’s not pretend she’s done a fraction of the damage to the country in the past four years that Lindsey Graham has. Eyes on the goddamn ball. Every single day it’s WHY WON’T BIDEN BE PRESIDENT BEFORE HE’S EVEN PRESIDENT and come the hell on, here:

[…] the broad left in America has let all this go unchallenged for decades, to the point that today’s right wing — and it is important to call it that and not conservative, which it is not — can defend spreading disease, potentially killing other people, as freedom. It is madness.

The “broad left” in America has been drowned out by TV screamers in every podiatrist’s waiting room in the Midwest saying that liberals want to kill babies, take your money, give it to welfare queens, and reverse-racism the police. To come up with this kind of “if only the language were different” nonsense requires pretending that the media disparity between the left and the right doesn’t exist, or that there is a vibrant left media at all.

One thing Democrats in general aren’t very good at is defending their positions on the level of philosophical principle.

WHAT GODDAMN PLANET ARE YOU ON RIGHT NOW, WHAT ROLLING STONE DRUGS HAVE YOU SNORTED, THAT IS ALL DEMOCRATS ARE GOOD AT. They’re good at talking for HOURS about the philosophical underpinnings of this or that percent being necessary persuant to the above requirement that we all stuff our heads up our asses and means-test what we find there.

What they’re NOT good at, or weren’t until we decided to run the crabbiest old man in the universe, is fucking kneecapping the other guy and laughing while he whines.

I am so sick of this argument. I am so tired of the blame being shifted onto the party that DID NONE OF THIS, for not stopping it from happening, while the party of WE DON’T HAVE TO SCIENCE YOU CAN’T MAKE US gets to skate away with its pocket full of cash. I am so tired of nitpicking every D speech for something “they” can find to “use” against us when the past 20 years have proven definitively that if there’s nothing there Murdoch’s creatures will just make something up.

Why won’t Biden speak about this, why won’t Democrats make the debate about that, why won’t anyone do anything well WHY DON’T YOU ASK YOUR  CABLE NEWS FRIENDS WHY TRUMP’S EVERY TWEET GETS A ‘BREAKING’ CHYRON WHILE BIDEN ONLY BREAKS NEWS WHEN SOMEONE WANTS TO BITCH ABOUT THE FOOD IN HIS PRESS ROOM. Ask them if they’d cover the campaigns fairly if Democrats used the word “freedom” as John Stuart Mill would have them do.

I’m sorry I’m yelling so much but this is how it’s going to be for the next four years if we’re lucky enough to get a Biden Administration. It’s going to be nonstop blame for every single move Democrats make to put out the fires, and any mention of Trump having lit the kindling the GOP lovingly laid out for him going all the way back to Ronald Reagan, or Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan’s TRUCKS FULL OF GASOLINE PARKED OUT BACK, will be derided as somehow living in the past.

Say this: Freedom means the freedom not to get infected by the idiot who refuses to mask up.

That is all they have been saying. That is all Democratic governors have been saying, and meanwhile their Republican state legislatures are suing to keep getting people sick and kill them. Maybe we could focus some on that, and a little less on why Democrats so stubbornly refuse to invoke the great philosophers of yore.

Schmuck.

A.

Trump’s Illness Isn’t an Illness

Look, even if this shit was effective (and it’s not) it would still be hot garbage:

Trump is not a bad president because he can’t walk very fast or needs to use two hands to drink water or occasionally slurs his words. He’s a bad president because he’s appointed bad people to every job in the land and is spouting white supremacist nonsense every single day. If he was doing it from a body that looked like Arnold’s in his prime it wouldn’t make it any less horrifying.

(I get it, guys, he’s said the same things about Biden. Fine, fuck him. But for what it’s worth I’ve heard the most ableist shit about Biden from leftists during the primary, not from the GOP.)

This kind of crap tells people that a person can’t do the job if they can’t walk fast enough. If they can’t stand for long periods of time, or need assistance with eating or drinking. FDR didn’t need any help winning World War II from a wheelchair, and I’d take him in a heartbeat over what we have now. George Washington presidented while having the flu and a tumor in his leg plus whatever gnarly-ass stuff his teeth were doing, and he did well enough. Maybe someday we’ll have a president who uses a cane or a chair or something else and as long as they’re not retweeting deepfake wingnut conspiracies on the can nobody should care one bit how they get around.

I don’t want the president who does in fact need a golf cart to get from here or there to be prevented from having one because we’re more focused, literally, on the journey than the destination.

Which is what this kind of stuff gets in the way of. We rail against political coverage as fashion criticism all the time, that’s nothing new, the criticizing of who wore more flag pins or whatever we think will rile up the rubes. This is more insidious. Because there’s no physical standard (it’s not like being a firefighter and having to run up 10 flights of stairs) all we have to go on is our image of the past holders of the office and the stuff we project.

Right now we’re projecting hella bullshit and we need to stop.

A.

Local Journalism

Whenever someone’s shrieking about SAVE LOCAL JOURNALISM I think of things like this, wherein apparently nobody could Google anything [loud annoying autoplay live feed at link because no journalist has ever considered UX in any way at all]: 

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A peaceful protest against human trafficking in Grand Rapids brought a frequently forgotten criminal business to the forefront.

Wherever there are people, there is the potential for human trafficking, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The department says thousands of cases are reported every year, though many cases go unnoticed.

It’s a cause that compelled the folks along Monroe Avenue to make a stand.

“I’m really impressed with all the people out here,” said Kim Mol of Hudsonville. “They are for save the children!”

This is, of course, that horrible Q bullshit, and the protesters aren’t exactly trying to hide it. They’re counting on exactly this kind of credulous coverage because who, I ask you, could be against awareness of child trafficking? Who the hell doesn’t want to save the children?

(Awareness campaigns generally make me itch, unless it’s something we’re truly not aware of. Buying a $700 backpack or whatever doesn’t actually cure cancer and if you’re not aware that cancer exists you’re living in a dream world. Coronavirus being a real thing could use some awareness, but that’s nothing compared to a bunch of maskless honkies screaming on the street about a nationwide conspiracy of pedophiles.)

I’m not trying to pick on this one reporter. I am saying that we have what are basically keyboard macros masquerading as news stories happening. Protesters “clash” with police. “Police-involved shooting,” that’s one I scream about whenever I see it. Something “raises questions” or “ignites a firestorm of controversy.” Politicians “trade barbs” or “exchange accusations.”

We have all these ways of backing into a story by telling you it’s the same as every other story and none of it means anything. It’s not an exaggeration to say that our inability to give up on the way we’ve always written and talked about everything, our overarching laziness, is how we got where we are.

Watching ten minutes of morning local news (as I sometimes do when trapped in a place of business that hates its customers and wants them to be miserable) is a really, really good way to figure out how people vote Republican. Let’s keep poking this one station, shall we: 

PLYMOUTH, Pa. — Black and white American flag lawn signs dot properties all over Plymouth.

If you look closely, you’ll see the signs support fire, ambulance, and police.

Harmless fun! Raises money for a local volunteer firefighting company! Literally began as a response to Black Lives Matter and is an expression of belligerent hostility co-opted by well-meaning people who just want to support their cousin who’s a cop! There are layers and layers to this and none of those layers lend themselves to the kind of story you have to do in 30 seconds between videos of pets up for adoption.

Here’s some MORE credulous coverage of crazy shit: 

Trump also said the harsh restrictions put in place for the pandemic were politically driven by the Democrats.

“They don’t want Donald Trump at the Mohegan Sun Arena with 20,000 people there,” said Frank Scavo, a long time Republican. “So they just collapse it down and say okay 25 percent, no more than 250.”

Nowhere, in the story, NOWHERE, is it mentioned that this is IMPOSSIBLE and NOT TRUE and what the fucking fuck generally. That is bugfuck crazy nutso time. That is BONKERS. On its face.

Whenever I hear about how we need to root out deliberate misinformation and Russian bot Facebook/Twitter campaigns I think about how much low-level bullshit there is in the local news we’re meant to lionize. Thinking uncritically about SAVE LOCAL NEWS means support this the same way you’d give to your local nonprofit shop, and that makes less sense than those QAnon idiots up there.

A.

We’re Gonna Get a Really Bitchin’ Book Out of This

Just STOP:

God, political journalism is so stupid right now. Between grownass people yelling SCOOOOOOOOOP at the beginning of all their tweets like goddamn children, like anyone cares, like if it’s really that big a revelation it’ll speak for itself, and now this nonsense courtesy of HBO and its wee Hannibal Lecters who think their role is to describe the foam in which they deliberately flip, it’s no wonder people are mad and scared and susceptible to ridiculousness on the internet.

Ten minutes of morning news and you understand in a visceral way why people vote Republican, much less this crap. What are you telling us that’s NEW, beyond “president opens mouth hole, vomits nonsense,” which to be honest ain’t a scoop anywheres but up your own ass. How are you HELPING here?

The replies to this are full of “but what are we supposed to do, this is our job, to point a camera at a thing and nod thoughtfully” and it would just be pathetically hilarious if people weren’t dying. Is it even possible to rethink what you’re doing, or are you just a parrot that yawps “not our role!” anytime anyone asks you to do a job?

Is there EVEN a way to do journalism without sitting in a chair in front of someone standing at a microphone lying to you? You went to an Ivy for 400 years to do that?

And the GLEE. That’s the thing that gets me. It’s the excited WHEEE CHAOS tone of all these stupid clips, like how great it is that you scooped the world on how the president is a monster idiot asshole who has killed 165,000 people plus. I’m not gonna tell you not to make your bones on the backs of their deaths but can you not STRUT while you do it, you fuckin’ peacocks?

No career is worth someone’s grandmother dying alone while her family watches on FaceTime, good Christ, have the sensitivity God gave a carrot. Keep the sociopathic shit in your group chat where it belongs and nobody will judge you.

A.

Enough Money

AMAZING: 

He said he was optimistic because readers have become accustomed to paying for online content, noting the sports fans who subscribe to The Athletic. He added that vendors like Pico, Stripe and MailChimp have made it easier for media companies to outsource business functions. In addition, he said, the thinning of newspaper sports sections, the dissolution of ESPN the Magazine and layoffs at Sports Illustrated may have created a vacuum.

Defector staff members said they did not expect the kind of growth coveted by the venture capitalists who have increasingly dominated online journalism. Rather, they said, they hoped to be able to pay themselves competitive salaries while developing a sustainable media business that produces content they are interested in.

What if you could pay your bills and yourselves and that was like, okay? What if you weren’t tying yourself into knots to appease some bullshit trust-fund asshole who wants you to show an 18 percent margin or you’re all fired? What if you just, like, did the job you said you were gonna do and it was cool?

I mean goddamn. I am not trying to be a sarcastic bitch, but my entree into journalism was at a nonprofit, where if we had literally 10 cents more in the bank than we needed it was Christmas fuckin’ morning. It wasn’t, say, a COMFORTABLE way to live, I’m pretty sure I still have anxiety about money based on those three years alone, but we made it work and published what we needed to publish.

I cannot fathom where most of legacy journalism is right now, with money out the ass for investors and profit margins that would make Walmart blush, furloughing reporters while the world is on fire. How can you, with a straight face, tell people there’s no money to pay them when you’re paying your last sexually harassative exec $15 million to get himself gone?

Why did this industry allow that kind of thing to make sense for so long?

God, I’m glad to see people just fucking going for it. Even the tone of this story is different than it would have been five years ago. There’s less skepticism, less gratuitous bitchery about “wowee, a new model” and maybe things have just finally gotten bad enough everywhere that people are noticing this is an insane way to live.

I wish so many good papers and good reporters hadn’t had to die broke while we figured this out.

A.

Not Everything Sucks

God, I love it when fascist amateurs fall on their keys like this: 

Unions for city police officers, firefighters and corrections officers have sued New York City to stop the disclosure of most of these and other disciplinary records. The unions objected to the release of any cases other than “proven and final disciplinary matters.” That would exclude the vast majority of complaints against officers.

“We are defending privacy, integrity and the unsullied reputations of thousands of hard-working public safety employees,” a union spokesman said on the filing of the lawsuit.

On Wednesday, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order, blocking the city, including the CCRB, from releasing disciplinary records. Judge Katherine Polk Failla also barred the New York Civil Liberties Union from disclosing data it had obtained. ProPublica has not been a party to the case and is not subject to the order by Failla, who has scheduled a hearing for next month.

I will DIE LAUGHING. They didn’t name ProPublica in the suit. They forgot to forbid the NEWS ORGANIZATION from publishing that which they did not want the public to know. They were like GOTCHA NOW NY ACLU, NO FREEDOMS FOR YOU and meanwhile PP was over here just whistling as they worked.

HERF ERF ERF I WONDER IF WE SHOULD ASK THE PEOPLE WHO PUBLISH STUFF NOT TO PUBLISH OR JUST KEEP BITCHING OUT THE CITY.

One of the things I really miss about journalism is how much critical information gets out because people are really fucking stupid. I remember when a local police department started redacting the reports they gave us, and they did it by making copies of the reports for themselves, then using a Sharpie to mark over the originals and SHOWING US THE ORIGINALS. To which you could hold the light, or turn them over, and read everything they didn’t want you to see right through the paper. I thought my city editor was going to hyperventilate to death with hilarity.

Sometimes great journalism comes from skill and sometimes it’s courage (yours or a source’s) but a lot of the time it’s that government and law enforcement are run by absolute clowns who trip over their own giant shoes while falling out of their tiny, honking cars.

A.

Young People Need MONEY

I know, I know it’s Douthat, but for fuck’s sake: 

The scholar Peter Turchin of the University of Connecticut, whose work on the cycles of American history may have predicted this year’s unrest, has a phrase that describes part of this dynamic: the “overproduction of elites.” In the context of college admissions that means exactly what it sounds like: We’ve had a surplus of smart young Americans pursuing admission to a narrow list of elite colleges whose enrollment doesn’t expand with population, even as foreign students increasingly compete for the same stagnant share of slots.

Then, having run this gantlet, our meritocrats graduate into a big-city ecosystem where the price of adult goods like schools and housing has been bid up dramatically, while important cultural industries — especially academia and journalism — supply fewer jobs even in good economic times. And they live half in these crowded, over-competitive worlds and half on the internet, which has extended the competition for status almost infinitely and weakened some of the normal ways that local prestige might compensate for disappointing income.

YOU WORK FOR THE NEW YORK FUCKING TIMES. By your own measure, you are the problem. If there was proof there isn’t a meritocracy at all, it’s your complete entire existence.

The problem isn’t that college students graduate and go live in the big exciting sinful city instead of in Beaver County, Iowa, where they could get a house for nothing. For what it’s worth plenty of young people do that, and Douthat is welcome to quit his lofty sinecure in the biggest city in the country and move to some virtuous community where housing is cheap and plentiful and everyone is married with children by 35.

I’m sure the local college would be thrilled to have him teach there, and he could scold 21-year-olds in person for wanting to live someplace where they could get a job. “The Internet” is not to blame for people wanting to live in cities. A powerful need to EAT is. That the city job doesn’t provide that isn’t the fault of tall buildings and small apartments.

For instance, it was the frequent boast of Obama-era liberalism that it had restored certain bourgeois virtues — delayed childbearing, stable marriages — without requiring anything so anachronistic as Christianity or courtship rituals. But if your bourgeois order is built on a cycle of competition and reward, and the competition gets fiercer while the rewards diminish, then instead of young people hooking up safely on the way to a lucrative job and a dual-income marriage with 2.1 kids, you’ll get young people set adrift, unable to pair off, postponing marriage permanently while they wait for a stability that never comes.

CHRIST, what an asshole. Not everybody views marriage and children as a reward. Christianity and courtship rituals have fuckall to do with getting paid. Which is what everybody really needs to be happy. This isn’t some kind of crisis of FEELINGS we’re having. It’s that everybody’s fucking BROKE.

Young people have, quite rightly, noted that it fucking blows to have kids when you’re poor. It blows to be house-poor, car-poor, poor in general. It’s awful. And so they have taken the steps they were told to take to prevent poverty, and they’re still taking those steps. This isn’t hard. What is hard, apparently, is reading comprehension:

Which brings us to the subject invoked in this column’s title — the increasing appeal, to these unhappy young people and to their parents and educators as well, of an emergent ideology that accuses many of them of embodying white privilege, and of being “fragile,” in the words of the now-famous anti-racism consultant Robin DiAngelo, if they object or disagree.

That is not remotely what DiAngelo’s book is about. It is about the freakout that occurs whenever someone says, “hey, that was a racist thing you did,” the immediate need to scream I’M NOT A RACIST as if you’ve been called a poopyhead on the playground. It’s not about how allyship is the new Christianity, which I think is what he’s blithering on about here:

Part of this ideology’s appeal is clearly about meaning and morality: The new anti-racism has a confessional, religious energy that the secular meritocracy has always lacked.

Plenty of Christianity has always been anti-racist if you’re not a fuckwit. NOT BEING A RACIST PIECE OF SHIT is not an attempt to feel better about oneself. That’s pretty much exactly the opposite of what it’s about, as the kind of self-examination to see if you’ve done any racism lately usually leads to feeling pretty much like garbage, but again, that’s not the point.

The point is making other people’s LIVES better. I know nothing can get inside Douthat’s sweatervest anymore but out here in the actual city, people are trying to, you know, NOT GET KILLED OR EVICTED OR DIE OF A PREVENTABLE PANDEMIC. This doesn’t mean they’re eager to declare themselves anti-racist soyboys or whatever he’s on about here.

Honestly, I’ve read this column three times and all I can think is that everyone at the NYT should be banned from writing about elite education for six weeks. Find a new beat or STFU.

A.

‘Aggravated Battery’

Of course he’s white, you knew that from the convention of referring to him as something other than a THUG or a TERRORIST: 

A judge has released the man accused of opening fire and shooting a protester. Police say Steven Baca is the man seen on video opening fire at last Monday’s protest regarding a statue of conquistador Juan De Oñate, sending one man to the hospital. Much of the District Attorney’s case was centered around 10 primary witness videos, one of which shows the moments leading up to Baca firing his gun.

While Baca is most known for firing shots, he is not currently facing any charges for it. Baca is facing aggravated battery and two battery charges for allegedly assaulting three female protestors.

Police initially charged Baca for the shooting, but the District Attorney dropped that charge pending further investigation. Baca’s attorneys have argued he fired his gun in self-defense because he was being hit with a skateboard.

In court, Monday, the District Attorney’s office argued that Baca was only at the protest to start trouble. However, with no criminal history and the state not yet finding any of the women Baca is accused of hurting, Judge Charles Brown released him on his own recognizance.

The story is an incoherent-ass mess — police don’t file charges, DAs do, and what does “most known for firing shots” mean, and there are other typos in the parts I haven’t quoted, but …

This guy brought a gun to a protest expecting there would be someone there he could shoot. He showed up at a place where people were protesting, with a gun, to make what point who the hell even knows, to defend the honor of dead conquistador, with firearms. What the FUCK.

There is one intention for something like this and it’s to intimidate people from protesting. From taking down statues. From creating in the world the images of it they feel should be represented. You don’t show up to that with a gun to protect yourself from being possibly hit with a skateboard, come on.

I know it’s tiring to point out how few consequences right-wing white men face for actions like this. Those Bundy assholes, everyone who ever attacked an abortion clinic, who get referred to in the press as acting in some kind of heroic insurrection against an oppressive government. I don’t know if this is a hangover from the Revolutionary War or what, but we keep treating these dinguses like they’re Paul Revere and it’s poisonous.

I went looking for this piece after McArdle opened her mouth hole about something stupid again last week, because it’s one of the most aggressive examples of “my oppression justifies everything, yours is all made up” I’ve ever read in addition to being dumber than a two-day-old tofurkey: 

Using the political system to stomp on radicalized fringes does not seem to be very effective in getting them to eschew violence.  In fact, it seems to be a very good way of getting more violence.  Possibly because those fringes have often turned to violence precisely because they feel that the political process has been closed off to them.

Now contrast that compassion and generosity — extended, in the above case, to the murderer of a doctor — to what is generally said among the I’m No Conservative But crowd about the Black Lives Matter protests today.

I wonder if anyone thinks maybe, just maybe, the political process has been closed off to them?

Nah.

They gotta just be doing it for fun.

It’s not like they’re white, after all.

A.

Fox Gonna Fox

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA:

They really, really don’t have to “follow the ethical norms.” This is the goddamn problem. We’ve been over here having a journalism seminar, a well-catered affair with skirts on the tables and nice labeled name tags, and they’ve been having a dogfight.

I am not DEFENDING the dogfight, mind, but let us please in the year of our lord 2020 surrender the idea that anyone HAS to do anything to preserve, like, manners when it comes to their business. Journalists have been bitching for years that Facebook and Google don’t want to HELP THEM, as if that’s Facebook and Google’s job or something. Why won’t Apple invent a thing to give individual newspapers all the monies? Why won’t anyone act in our best interests but us?

Because they don’t HAVE TO, JESUS TITS. Fox is not required to do anything other than what helps Fox, and right now what helps Fox is to make shit up because after 40 years of implications the audience needs MOAR mental crack. And Fox is not there for journalism, it’s there to gin up rage and fear and make money. I can’t believe people are dumb enough to expect anything else.

Like how does it benefit genuine news orgs to pretend that Fox has to adhere to some rules? They’re not going to, so we keep having this pantomime of “ooh, it’s so transgressive,” and then everybody goes back to the buffet.

A.

You Don’t Understand, or You Do, And in Either Case We’re All Dead

The Journal Sentinel’s editorial board: 

But it’s not the court’s fault that the governor and top lawmakers can’t work together for the common good. Nor is it the court’s job to set public health policy in Wisconsin. That’s the job of the governor and Legislature. So do your jobs, Gov. Tony Evers, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Adopt clear rules for the state moving forward. Do so now, so the novel coronavirus is contained.

The governor issued rules and Republicans and the State Supreme Court blew them up. Yelling at them all to do their jobs assumes everyone didn’t. For decades Republicans have been detonating government without any kind of plan for what happens afterwards, and the answer is always this kind of scolding bullshit about how everyone needs to compromise, as if everyone is trying to, equally hard, and just needs a nudge.

Look, this isn’t a case where you can split the baby (AND THE FUCKING POINT OF THAT STORY IS THAT SOME COMPROMISES CAN’T BE MADE JESUS CHEESY FRIES CHRIST). The governor did something within his power to do, and Republicans didn’t like it and blew it up. Everybody technically DID do their jobs here. I don’t see how it’s always the Democrats’ fault when poop-flinging GOP monkeys fail to stop flinging poop and start playing the violin.

There’s no middle ground there. You’re either performing Vivaldi or you’re covered in shit.

Once and for all the marbles in the land, can anyone name me a single case of Republican acquiescence to a policy they don’t like? Can anyone name me a time in recent memory when the GOP was like, well, we’re not fond of that, but we’ll deal with it because you won an election. Democrats are out here bending over backwards and under and THROUGH in order to give Republicans something, anything, and Republicans are using their contorted bodies as roadblocks to prevent those of us without our heads up our asses from going anywhere.

Democrats voted for Republican judges and Republican tax cuts and Republican limits on abortion and Republican limits on spending and Republican limits on food stamps and Republicans’ staggeringly unlimited WARS. Democrats voted for the impeachment OF THEIR OWN GODDAMN PRESIDENT.

Democrats voted over and over and over to compromise, and we’re still hearing that “nobody” is doing their job, that “nobody” wants to compromise, that “nobody” can find any solutions.

Democrats have found solutions. They’ve found good ones and half-a-loaf ones and they’ve reduced them to a quarter of a loaf to try to get Republicans to vote for them, every time, they are like out here begging please, please compromise with us. And Republicans won’t, and the only reason you don’t see that, as a professional Knower and Explainer of Civic Life to Citizens, is that you don’t want to see it, and whichever one it is, it’s killing people.

We hear day after day after day about DEMOCRACY DYING IN DARKNESS as if there’s a fundamental difference between a dead newspaper and one that cedes its institutional voice to a fucking parrot that just flaps and screams BOTH SIDES BOTH SIDES regardless of what kind of seed’s in its bowl. This isn’t me being a Democrat, here. This is me looking at the way things are going, at what went down, and saying this isn’t true, it isn’t correct. It’s not just politically slanted or biased or influenced, it’s flat-out factually WRONG.

You all follow me on a bunch of platforms, I’m not exactly opposed to telling Democrats what to do (call me, guys), but in this case it’s like:

EXT. A WARM SUNNY DAY, NOT TOO HUMID, OF WHICH IN WISCONSIN THERE ARE PRECISELY SIX AND THEY MUST NOT BE WASTED. OUTDOORS, BESIDE A LAVISH INGROUND POOL.

POOL IS FILLED WITH DEMOCRATS IN VARIOUS DONKEY-THEMED SUITS AND TRUNKS, SWIMMING, SPLASHING, HAVING A GOOD TIME BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT YOU DO IN A SWIMMING POOL.

REPUBLICANS, STANDING AROUND PERIMETER: Water is communist. This is a giveaway. We’re not getting in.

DEMOCRATS: Guys, do you need more room? We can move over. Axelrod, get that inflatable duck out of the way.

REPUBLICANS: Nope. Not swimming today. Not doing it.

DEMOCRATS: But it’s so nice here. You’ll feel better after you cool off. Here, you can share our lounges and beer, too. Is the water too cold? Jimmy, is there any way to warm up the water? Look, we know Billy was being inappropriate, and we’ve told him he can’t come back if he can’t keep his hands off the lifeguards. Here’s a 20-page anti-lifeguard-harassment policy we wrote. Brad, hand out the binders. We even ordered you guys extra hot dogs!

REPUBLICANS: You’re all stupid and we’re not doing this.

JOURNAL SENTINEL EDITORIAL BOARD: *marches in wearing matching purple objectivity visors* EVERYBODY GET IN THE POOL!

REPUBLICANS: We will not get in the pool until they accede to our demands. This is tyranny.

DEMOCRATS: *looking around* Um, we’re already in the pool, and they won’t tell us what they want, so here’s what we offered them, and uh, they still won’t get in, so I’m not sure what we’re supposed to do here …

JS EDITORIAL BOARD: *pulls out bullhorn* THE PROBLEM WITH POOLS IS THAT NO ONE WILL SWIM IN THEM, EVERYONE NEEDS TO GET IN.

DEMOCRATS: Oh for fuck’s sake.

EXEUNT.

Swimming pools aren’t the problem. You could at least be honest, and tell Republicans they have to stick their toes in the water, and pretend to have a good time, it’s a party.

A.

They Broke The Only Thing That Can Save Us

Every time I see somebody online whinging that there’s no leadership from Democrats, I want to scream, because: how would you even know? Trump’s briefings are carried live. Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi could come out with a fifty-point plan OH WAIT THEY FUCKING DID THAT LIKE NINE TIMES AND NOBODY FUCKIN NOTICED.

I don’t know what to do with everyone not understanding this. Dem leaders aren’t assignment editors either, and until ours get a motherfucking clue and some sense of responsibility for the fact that their decisions are killing us Joey B. Shark could personally cure every coronavirus on earth and NPR would have a debate about whether continued human survival was an unseemly political stunt.

This is par for the course. The game is beyond rigged at this point. We have one system to save us, and they broke it, and we can’t use it to get rid of them, because they’ve made sure we can’t, but there’s no other way to do this.

We have a system that we have to use to fix the system that we can’t fix without a functioning system. Even during the Iraq War I didn’t feel this helpless, and fucking nobody was listening to anyone back then.

Like let’s game this out. Let’s say REAL DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP buys, like, an hour of TV time, like Obama did when he finally ended things in 2008. Let’s say we HAVE to listen for 60 minutes to the entirety of the Democratic plan.

Ten seconds after that’s done, Trump will tweet ARGLE BLARGLE FAIL WEAK and it’ll be the usual “Democrats laid out a plan for the country and Trump flung poo so really, both sides are at fault here, where is the LEADERSHIP” and we won’t get anywhere. I don’t … I mean, you fucking tell me, here. I am so tired of being told what to do to change when people are DOING THAT EVERY FUCKING DAY AND IT DOESN’T SEEM TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE BECAUSE THESE WASHINGTON ASSHOLES WANT TO TALK ABOUT WHAT HITS AND WHAT DOESN’T AS IF THEY DON’T DECIDE THAT.

And the thing is, this is why the past 40 years of talk radio and Fox News are important, why all us crazy liberals were screaming that “we report, you jerk off decide” was dangerous even though it sounded so innocuous, why what happened in Wisconsin in 2011 was catastrophic, why voter suppression is the issue of our time, because: this is all we have. We have the media we have, we have the system we have, and I don’t see how we can use something this broken to fix itself.

The ONLY way out of this is to vote in such overwhelming numbers in November as to make the GOP politically irrelevant at every level and even THEN we’ll have the Sunday shows on every airport TV going WHY DON’T DEMOCRATS HAVE ANY IMPACT ON THE FORUM I CONTROL, SO WEIRD.

What’s the way out of THAT? Christ, I’m tired.

A.

They Aren’t Assignment Editors

I mean, we can keep getting mad at Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz, that’s fine, but we should be mad at the person who keeps booking them for “news” shows: 

Like Drs. Drew and Oz before him, Phil McGraw was on TV, it seems, largely because he’s an articulate, charismatic and well-known TV personality. But none of that amounts to expertise on this particular topic. In fact, in recent TV appearances to discuss the pandemic, fellow celebrity doctors Drew Pinsky and Mehmet Oz have offered commentary based on a loose or seemingly wobbly understanding of the crisis — arguably doing more to undermine public understanding than enhance it.

This has been going on for years, of course, and it’s infuriating, but in life-and-death situations it throws into sharp relief the chasm between actual experts and whoever’s at the top of the call sheet.

Just because somebody always picks up the phone doesn’t mean he knows what he’s talking about, but you need somebody to pick up the phone. Instead of working on Dr. Oz or Dr. Phil we need to work on the people making the decisions to put them out there. They’re the ones who need to change their ways. The idiots we have always had with us; we just once upon a time didn’t used to put them on TV.

A.

To Those Who Wanted a Disaster

In 2007, two years after Katrina’s waters receded, I went to New Orleans with a group of you all, at Scout’s behest, to gut a house and contribute, in however small a way, to the rebuilding of the city.

As we drove from the airport I asked about the signs, spray-painted on the front of houses and buildings. The FEMA X denoting that a structure had been checked. It had been two years since the storm. When would they come down?

Now I look around my neighborhood, at the signs in the windows made by children I used to see every day on the walk to school: STAY SAFE! THANK YOU DELIVERY DRIVERS! WE CAN DO THIS. WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER.

Kick papered our front door with origami flowers last week.

I wonder how long we’ll leave ours up.

20200405_130551

People have always used disasters for their own ends. It’s such a well-known phenomenon it has a name, it’s a field of study, but even so, every time, the monstrousness of it takes my breath away: Let us hope for a neighborhood, a city, a nation, a way of life to be wiped from the earth so that we may start over in the way that WE believe it should be done.

We, almost always being white, rich, over-educated, privileged, and sure that despite all of colonial history this time civilizing the alien continent will surely work.

Katrina was a good thing, it let us kick out the poors and build some charter schools and bypass all the usual bureaucratic infighting about finances and government and just make things right. CLEAN UP THE CITY, is a thing we scream like we’re in a Batman comic, as if we can amputate in one swing of the cleaver. It sounds so easy, and so we wish, for something big enough to force all the changes at once.

Well, it’s here now.

The schools are shut down. The streets are silent. The stadiums echo. We walk six feet away from each other, videoconference, talk about what must be done instead of what could or should be.

Millions of people are unemployed. Millions. Thousands more are dying in hospital hallways while newspaper pundits I won’t validate with a link write from their mansions about how this will teach us all to be more self-sufficient, a full dinner plate reminding him of the value of suffering.

Bust some unions, probably. Cut some taxes. That seems to be how it goes. Certainly no one in charge has any ideas about rebuilding that might stir us to collective action; we have been socially distancing for decades.

I am so angry at everyone who wanted this, and is doing nothing, now it’s here.

The animating feature of the 2016 election was performative spite, we have known this since the day after, when it was declared that America elected an amoral madman to teach liberals a lesson. You had to have your moment of telling us fuck you, of saying to every feminist woman, every non-white person, anyone whose identity you were forced to consider for 20 seconds, hahahahaha owned. You had to “take your country back,” you had to “make America great again,” you had to feel like you were important, like you mattered still. You had to shake your foam finger at an immigrant, a poor woman needing birth control, you just had to WIN.

You just wanted to smash something. Well, you smashed something. Look around you. Look at the signs on the doors. Look at the fear in the eyes of everyone you care about and know that THIS IS WHAT IT MEANS TO DO WHAT YOU SAID YOU WERE GOING TO DO.

My daughter, white and middle class and non-disabled, neurotypical as far as we know, does her homework at our dining room table. I guide her through writing exercises designed by her teacher, sign her up for Zoom meetings for PE and Spanish and art. Her father arranges videoconferences with her friends; they do craft projects together, each in front of their own small screens.

She sleeps soundly. She takes it in stride that she doesn’t go ice skating anymore, that we can’t go to the zoo, that we shout across the alley instead of running over to play. She doesn’t worry about the world; though any mention of sickness for her father or me — a sniffle, a twinge of back pain — elicits immediate attention.

We do a lot of craft projects. We plan a large garden. We watch a lot of movies.

Late Friday night the governor declared that school would stay closed, that kindergarten was, effectively, over. I haven’t told her yet. I will, tonight. I expect her blithe acceptance and need to wait until I can meet it with the same.

This is not a Katrina. Her building stands, albeit empty, the windows unbroken. She can walk past it and around it. There is crime scene tape, around the playground equipment, but at least here no one has died.

Her summer camp will be cancelled next, I think, no swimming lessons or songs or getting up each morning eager to get on the bus and have fun. The college students I mentor, they may not go back until spring and I worry about their futures much more than my own. Businesses declare they’re staying open, then close. Every day we cut another piece of ourselves away.

We are lucky. The roof over our head will hold. Groceries come to the door. But no one who was cheering on a clean slate a year, two years, five years ago has proposed what on God’s green earth we should do with this one, now we seem to have it.

We’re putting pictures of rainbows in the windows. Thank you, nurses and doctors. Thank you, firefighters. Maybe, years from now, they’ll still be there, faded, reminding us of whatever lesson we decide by then we’ve learned.

A.

Every Genocide Needs a Soundtrack

A few years back I got irrationally obsessed with reading books about the Rwandan genocide including this excellent, harrowing one, and one thing that stuck with me from it was the role talk radio played in stoking violence and encouraging people to turn on their neighbors.

This is a transcript from one of those stations, assuring its listeners that no matter what they see and hear on other channels, THIS is the real story:

.. When talking, we should be aware that we are talking to other people, and to intelligent people. Because what will cause harm to the Rwandans, what will harm the politics of this country is that a person thinks that he is the only one who can play politics, he thinks that he is the only one who can speak, he thinks that he is the only one who holds the truth, that members of other political parties are not intelligent, that they are stupid, that they do not understand, that he should con them because he has the opportunity to talk, that he should say whatever he wants… Here, on RTLM, on your independent radio, we will hOt stand that. You will tell lies people, and we will tell them the truth.”

Does that sound familiar to you? It should: 

  • In a fearmongering, over-the-top opening monologue, Fox Business host Trish Regan claimed coronavirus is “yet another attempt to impeach the president” as “the chorus of hate being leveled at the president is nearing a crescendo.”

  • Fox Business host Lou Dobbs reported that coronavirus “has now infected 113,000 people … in 111 countries and territories around the world” and, in nearly the same breath, claimed that “the national left-wing media [are] playing up fears of the coronavirus.”

  • On Lou Dobbs TonightSiegel dismissed the World Health Organization as “overly political” and “incompetent,” arguing that coronavirus is being politicized to attack Trump.

We’re not yet at the stage where Fox is advocating that Trump nuke Wuhan but their listeners are already there and have been for a week or so. We’ve been talking since mid-2016 about how this stuff doesn’t start with the ovens. It starts with people whispering that there’s a secret only the worthy know, and Rush and his imitators have been saying that shit since the moment they went on the air.

A sane country would have shut down any broadcast knowingly disseminating false information in the name of public safety. This whole country is a crowded theater and they’re screaming fire.

BUH BUH BUH says you, a person who thinks reality is a simulation, BUH WHO DECIDES WHAT IS FALSE? Isn’t this always the pretext governments use to shut down dissent, that it’s unsafe? Well, this isn’t “dissent.” What Fox is doing is not opining on how the president should handle the crisis. They’re saying there IS NO CRISIS and then telling people to go out and make the nonexistent crisis worse.

There aren’t any equivalents to this. This isn’t a free speech issue. This isn’t an issue of civil rights. Before you throw internet conspiracies on the left in my face, consider the difference between six people on a blog saying “something seems dodgy here” and a NATIONAL BROADCAST NETWORK THAT’S ON EVERY TV IN THE AIRPORT, from which everyone takes their cues including THE PRESIDENT.

GO TO A RESTAURANT THE GUBMINT CAN’T CONTROL YOU, says the government, and had we the Republican party of even 20 years ago, much less the glory days, we’d have at least one or two people on ACTUAL BOTH SIDES saying look, this is insane, but no, the entire Senate and GOP House contingent has to take their cues from these people. Mike DeWine is a cock, okay, but I give him credit for acting like he’s in charge of people’s safety, unlike most of his colleagues. Look at this fucking prick. Great job, Kansas Republicans.

Lots and lots of people are going to get sick and die in the coming weeks. Fox News is encouraging this, if not actually making it happen. Once it does, and/or there’s violence or looting or reasonable responses like, say, a bunch of people getting really pissed and throwing things, then it will be time for law and order and suppressing the unruly masses, none of which, conveniently, will be white.

But god forbid someone suggest you forgo green beer and Buffalo Wild Wings and stop pouring hate into your ears like poison. I’ve read way too much about how this ends.

A.

Bickering

I know, it’s Politico, I’m better off reading the inside of the wrapper of the “health” food bar I just ate for information on how stuff works:

Bickering. Or, as we call it in the world where we don’t pretend to be dumber than we are for hate-clicks, FIGURING OUT THE BEST WAY TO DO THIS. These solipsistic fucksticks know this, they know that what they call “bickering” is actually WORK in the sense that ideally politicians would bitch each other out and then compromise and get down to work but it’s hard to compromise when one side is like “but make the tests free tho” and the other side is all “THE PLAGUE IS GOOD AND WE SHOULD EAT IT ON TOAST.”

I don’t know why I expect the discourse about actual real things to be better than the stuff about elections. Smart people who should know better are posting things like, “Why won’t the Democrats propose paid sick leave and cheap/free health care” as if that’s not THE GODDAMN PARTY PLATFORM, basically. Democratic politicians have been proposing that for years and if you don’t HEAR about it maybe the problem isn’t the words they’re making with their mouth-holes. Maybe the problem is they can’t get coverage for anything that isn’t the T-word.

Again, forever, let’s spend all our time crabbing at the only people with a plan and hashtagging #WhereIsTheHouse, Nancy Pelosi’s at your mom’s, okay. And she’s busy.

Fucking hell, no matter what they do this is the message: Republicans are bad, Democrats are bad and also dumb about how they’re being bad, the two sides “bicker,” let’s infantilize grown adults and make everybody throw their hands up and say “who can change anything.”

Fucking schmucks.

A.

Stooooooooooop

I WENT TO THIS PANEL IN 2009 AND IT SUCKED THEN TOO.

There is a coordinated campaign to get people to distrust the press, it is being run by one political party for that party’s supporters’ express financial benefit through one major cable news network, this has been true for 30 years, but surely if we explain ourselves just ONE MORE TIME, people will love us again!

Jesus H. Christ with a side of sweet potato fries, I’m exhausted. For 30-plus years, Fox News has been blaring from every airport gate in every city in this country and a few overseas that every other news source is liberally biased and only THEY report and we decide. Only THEY are unbiased. Only THEY will tell you the truth. And you know what, for the critical 35 or so percent of the country that the GOP needs to stay in gerrymandered and destructive power, it’s fucking WORKED.

In the face of that assault, we have the journalism establishment, dithering at 8-foot tables about how maybe readers just don’t understand, maybe they just independently came to these conclusions:

media trust graph

What happened between 1989 and 1996, remind me, I forget, was it this?

Or this? 

But sure, let’s keep talking about this stuff like it’s the weather, like it just HAPPENED.

Maybe if we sincerely correct people angry at us, with the best of intentions, and show them how pure our hearts are OH FOR THE LOVE OF FUCK. I’m not excusing anyone ELSE’S malpractice (looking at you, CNN). I’m certainly not letting corporate consolidation and frantic flailing at every single industry trend in an effort to keep making enough money to hide the sexual harassment lawsuit payouts off the hook.

What I take issue with is the idea that there’s some kind of genuine ignorance, some kind of benign disconnect that can be remedied by yet another explanation of who we are why what we do matters.

We’re having a lot of dumb conversations with the Institute for Being Stuck Up Our Own Asses about What The Future Holds and Our Existential Threat and until we deal with the literal Fox in our henhouse those overall numbers of how many people loathe us are not going to get better or change.

We have spent eons justifying our existence. We have spent EPOCHS explaining why we do what we do. And not for nothing but we have spent 30 years being friendly with people who hate us. We have spent 30 years pretending they’re just joking, pretending their inflated sales numbers mean we have to pay attention to what they say, and in response we got “Rope, Tree, Journalist” and “peanuts for the animals” and “fake news.”

WHILE we were doing this we set generational brand loyalty on fire by systematically divesting from communities we’d covered for decades, where trust had been built and at least if people thought we were fuckers we were their fuckers, you know?

So now we come at them with the idea that somehow they don’t understand? They understand just fine. One “news” organization is coming at them from every television in every waiting room in every tire shop in the country, coming at them telling them things are life and death and WE ARE ALL THAT IS STANDING BETWEEN YOU AND DESTRUCTION. One network is relentlessly pushing itself in their faces with, where not outright fascism, authoritarian visions of the world around them which are basically heroin.

And in response we’re gonna plead poverty, beg them to subscribe, and EXPLAIN OURSELVES?

No. No way.

To its credit, the journalism summit referenced in the tweet that set me off down this YOU HAVE TO BE FUCKING KIDDING ME path did include people doing the very hard work of building something from scratch to address potential news consumers who nobody has ever given a single fuck about, which is why this is the only way forward.

That’s a start. The whole other part of this includes a series of very well-catered events (since that’s apparently where most of our Big Thinking About Journalism happens) detailing once and for all who is Journalism’s Friend. And how to respond to the people who aren’t, who have never been, and how it doesn’t matter if they’re nice to you at parties, if they go on the air the next day and call you biased liars.

Also, knock this the fucking fuck off:

Jesus.

A.