bad journalism

Another Memo to the Huffington Post

A doll's work never ends. July (c.), with Kiko Kyanauma (r.) and friend, in Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor episode 9, 'They Met One Day, unexpectedly ...'.

MEMORANDUM

To: Huffington Post, Michelle Persad (Fashion Editor)

re: Please stop objectifying women

This is not an occasion on which I get to say, “You might have noticed”, because, in all sincerity, why would you?

Still, it is to some degree worth mentioning that a particular frustration with the Huffington Post compels me to give your organization some shit, because, quite frankly, I just don’t get HuffPo’s obsession with bulwarking misogyny.

The Duchess Effect is real. And this year, it was stronger than ever―probably because the Duchess of Cambridge’s style keeps getting better.

Between her red carpet gowns, dashing coats and whimsical hats, we were gushing over her sartorial choices for basically 12 months straight.

(Persad)

(more…)

Advertisements

The Huffington Disgrace

"Serena Williams' Sheer Dress Is A Grand Slam". Headline for Huffington Post article by Jamie Feldman, 16 December 2015.

MEMORANDUM

To: Jamie Feldman, Huffington Post

re: ¿Thank you for your contribution?

It is hard to know where to begin, so let me please start with a question: Are you joking?

No, really, are you pitching for a Christmas card from MRAs?

All hail Serena Williams, Sports Illustrated’s first female “Sportsperson of the Year” since 1983 and the sexiest woman alive―if her latest red carpet look is any indication, that is.

(Feldman)

No, really. Please tell me this is a joke.

Why are you taking part in gendertyping? Why are you reinforcing stereotypes about women’s apperances?

(more…)

Just Some Dude Asking a Question

Detail of the Huffington Post front page, 15 December 2015.

MEMORANDUM

To: Huffington Post, Jamie Feldman (Associate Style Editor)

re: Stylish sexism

In the first place: Why do I care?

The Huffington Post sidebar is, of course, notorious; I can discover all manner of fascinating insights about how you think of your readers, because, you know, some of us just so want to know about Martha Stewart’s sex life, or what slits were too high for comfort. Something about cherries, and something about sex toys; yeah, that was the sort of moment I would never experience without the Huffington Post.

It is not so much a question of why I care about the notoriously obnoxious lack of decent character shown by the HuffPo sidebar; it is, after all, merely software.

But the question persists why I care what Kate Middleton wore yesterday. Nor was this merely in the sidebar; someone chose to put the article about the Duchess of Cambridge being an “outfit repeater” on the front page of the Huffington Post.

'Outfit Repeater': For some reason, Huffington Post thought this article was a good idea.Royals: They’re just like us―when it comes to recycling outfits, that is.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge took her new haircut out to a holiday party at the London’s Anna Freud center Monday, a charity she has visited before as part of her ongoing work for children’s mental health.

Dressed for the holidays, Kate opted for an all-red Alexander McQueen outfit that she has worn not once but twice before

Perhaps Jamie Feldman, associate style editor for HuffPo, might explain if this is one of those moments in which I am suppsoed to squee! uncontrollably.

Maybe weep?

Fall to my knees in prayer? How about just shake my head sadly?

“Outfit Repeater”? Really? Yeah, okay, I can shake my head sadly at that.

(more…)

FOX News and Fear

Megyn Kelly of FOX News, left; career traitor and moron Morten Storm, right.  (Credit: FOX News via Salon.com)

It is a prediction both grim and petty. FOX News calls in a career gangbanger to predict terrorism:

Not that Fox News is committed to providing fuel for elderly white people’s nightmares or anything, but on “The Kelly File” last night, host [Megyn] Kelly spoke to a former al Qaeda terrorist who said that a terror attack on United States soil is immanent — likely within the next two weeks.

“The people who are on the run at the moment from ISIS in Europe are very desperate, and they know their time’s up, and they will need to do as much damage as possible,” ex-terrorist and CIA double-agent Morten Storm told Kelly.

“I believe that copycats in America will do their best to do what their brothers have done in Europe,” he added. “I believe that within the next two weeks, we will have an attack.”

“In these people’s mind,” Kelly said, “America is the real trophy.”

(Kaufman)

Note the essential lack of any useful detail. Here’s the thing: Certes, an attack in the next two weeks is possible; this is an easy suggestion to make when your job is fearmongering.

But what is the standard? To the one, we might look ahead eight days to Thanksgiving, acknowledge a long weekend, and pray―if one is inclined to prayer―for Chicago, where the Labor Day weekend saw nine dead and forty-six wounded, Independence Day weekend racked up another nine bodies and fifty-three wounded, and the Memorial day weekend counted twelve dead and forty-four injured. We certainly have reason to wonder what misery the Windy City will find while giving thanks. By Storm’s standard, if even one of the shooters decides to claim Daa’ish affiliation he is right and FOX News gets another feather in their cap.

To the other, we might consider Chicago and the basic idea of regular, terrifying violence. True, it’s not specifically relevant to Storm’s prediction, but the question demands: If we are so worried that Daa’ish can strike even one American in the homeland, why are we not coordinating a massive societal response to the terror and death of more traditional American violence?

Or is that the point? That guns and pride and murder are traditional American values?

Statistically speaking, in my lifetime, the people who are most dangerous to me are white Christian males.

Nor am I unique, or even unusual.

Nor do we treat Christians as so many Americans would have us treat Muslims.

And, you know, what the hell is the deal, here? How does being a career moron and traitor qualify Morton Storm as a terror expert? And what about his FOX News analysis isn’t lowering the bar for expertise?

Two weeks? This better be a hell of a spectacle.

____________________

Image note: FOX News host Megyn Kelly, left; career traitor and terrorist washout Morten Storm, right. (Image: FOX News via Salon)

Kaufman, Scott Eric. “Be very, very afraid: Megyn Kelly talks to former terrorist who predicts attack on US soil within two weeks”. Salon. 18 November 2015.

Baked Lettuce, and the Decline of Western Civilization

This is a human weakness.Who cares if the internet is really mad at Nigella Watson?  Detail of Huffington Post sidebar, 17 November 2015.

In the first place, I loathe badly-written headlines, and Huffington Post specializes in that.

There is also the pedantic fact that “the Internet” doesn’t get angry at anyone. Naturally, we get what they mean, but still, it’s a really, really dumb headline, and HuffPo ought to be embarrassed; its editors would probably do the site―and the rest of humanity―some good by filing their resignations.

Additionally, we might offer the following consideration:

People really feel strongly about putting lettuce in the oven.

The Internet wept as they watched Nigella Lawson bake some lettuce leaves and subsequently add insult to injury by placing a fried egg on top.

The chef made her version of a Caesar salad on her BBC show “Simply Nigella” and it did not go over easy with fans. Her recipe consisted of lettuce baked in the oven with anchovies and garlic, all topped with the aforementioned egg. This strays from the traditional formula, which involves fresh lettuce, croutons and a white dressing.

Outraged viewers took to Twitter, decrying Nigella for her offensive, senseless actions.

Speaking of being embarrassed, we can only wonder if writing about people wringing their hands and losing their minds because Nigella put lettuce in the oven is what Samantha Guff had in mind when she undertook her editorial fellowship at Huffington Post. Much like being relegated to penning articles about plot holes in Star Wars, we might wonder if Ms. Guff finds herself enduring those excruciating moments in which she wonders if her parents were right, and she should have skipped journalism for something more useful.

To the other, I was dumb enough to click the lettuce link, and it doesn’t help to suggest I did so fully expecting to write a blog post about it. (No, really, one need not be a scholar to recognize wasted journalism from afar; promoted content is a particular sensitivity of mine, and the Hufffington Post sidebar is particularly odious. Something about dead fish in a barrel goes here.)

Look, bad journalism is one thing. And, yes, HuffPo’s need to suggest godawful content is the sort of thing Arianna owes her readers fiercely for. The age of the internet has brought us tremendous informational resources; unfortunately, our market priorities demand we squander them. Seriously, as much as I might pick on Sophie Bartholomew, Anisa Subedar, Marion Edney, and Danny Beckwith for being hilariously useless human beings, I also acknowledge it’s a thin pretense for wasting my own time. So, you know, let’s blame Samantha. And she, in turn, can point to her editors. And they, in turn, can tell Arianna what a wonderful person she is, and how her shit doesn’t stink. Honestly, who looks at a potentially infinite idea and sets up a business model to waste as much of it as humanly possible?

____________________

Guff, Samantha. “Internet Is Mad At Nigella Lawson For Putting Lettuce In The Oven”. The Huffington Post. 17 November 2015.

The Daa’ish Dildo Episode

"Isis flag spotted at gay pride parade": Real chyron from CNN, 27 June 2015, suggesting a Daa'ish protester was demonstrating at London's gay pride celebration.  The flag is an obvious parody, with drawings of sex toys in place of the sigil and script.

“The flag, I cannot stress this enough, was clearly covered with images of dildos and butt plugs. And was waving at a London gay pride rally.”

Max Fisher

This is CNN.

And, yes, this one takes some explaining, which noble endeavor Max Fisher undertook for Vox.

On Saturday, during coverage of a gay rights rally, CNN ran a segment with an alarming message. According to the chyron on the bottom of the screen, “ISIS FLAG SPOTTED AT GAY PRIDE PARADE.”

The supposed ISIS flag was in fact a parody, bearing outlined images of dildos and butt plugs in place of Arabic script.

Right.

(more…)

My Own Incoherent Distress

Michelle Obama addresses the graduating class at King College Prep High School in Chicago on Tuesday, 10 June 2015. (Photo: Christian K Lee/Associated Press)

“That’s a burden that President Obama and I proudly carry every single day in the White House, because we know that everything we do and say can either confirm the myths about folks like us―or it can change those myths.”

Michelle Obama

This is not, technically speaking, fair.

Then again, such is life. Michelle Obama stood before the graduating class of King College Prep High school in Chicago, yesterday, and delivered remarks that some have taken as a suggestion that the First Lady has officially entered the fight:

At a time of roiling debate over the issues of race and opportunity, punctuated by the events of Ferguson, Mo.; Staten Island; and Baltimore, the nation’s first African-American first lady has added her voice. It is not a new message for her, but one that has taken on special resonance and one delivered with bracing candor in recent speeches. Along the way, Mrs. Obama has opened a window into her own life, not just in Chicago but also in the White House.

By her telling, even living at the world’s most prominent address has not erased the sting of racial misunderstanding. In recent weeks, Mrs. Obama has talked of “insults and slights” directed at her husband and caricatures that have pained her. It all “used to really get to me,” she said, adding that she “had a lot of sleepless nights” until learning to ignore it. But she said she realized that she and her husband had a responsibility to rewrite the narrative for African-Americans.

“That’s a burden that President Obama and I proudly carry every single day in the White House,” she told the graduating seniors of King College Prep High School on Tuesday, “because we know that everything we do and say can either confirm the myths about folks like us―or it can change those myths.”

(Baker)

Some of us might be pessimistic. After all, what signs have we that President Obama and the First Lady have changed any perceptions about dark skin? Indeed, if we measure by the headlines, we might suggest they have somehow managed to exacerbate race relations.

Then again, that would be a misperception, and this is the important part.

(more…)

A Note on Fact Checking, Equivocation, and the American Press

House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo)

“Sometimes a lawmaker will wander on the floor of the House or Senate and begin speaking without any notes. That’s a big mistake, especially for someone like Sessions — who is chairman of the House Rules Committee and was speaking about the federal budget.”

Glenn Kessler

The American political discourse is a strange brew of curious and even counterintuitive histories. There are the politicians, as a general classification, and if everything that can be said about them has been, it still isn’t enough. Voters are viciously demanding, and often contradictory unto themselves, both generally as a classification and particularly as individuals. The press is a business proposition―not the Fourth Estate―that has discovered better profits pretending that all things are equal.

Perhaps we might recall John Kerry’s run for president in 2004. The former U.S. Senator and current Secretary of State encountered a familiar problem along the way, a group of right-wing scandalmongers that had dogged him with their complaints for decades. He did what he always did, what people in Massachusetts were accustomed to, which was try to ignore them.

In the end, that didn’t work, because the press didn’t just treat the Swiftboat controversy as a shiny object, but as a shiny new thing. The American mainstream press is a business proposition, not the Fourth Estate. Due diligence in American journalism is simply enough explained: If somebody says something about somebody else, ask that other person. If there is a history defining the original claim as false, that is not of any useful concern to the press.

For Kerry, the fix was essentially in. Addressing the fake scandal was to stoop; ignoring the fake scandal was bad politics. That these people were lying and always had been was not of any useful concern to the press, despite the dishonesty being apparent from the outset.

In the end, Kerry was vindicated when a Newsweek reporter tracked down the third person who received medals for his actions on the day in question, and even the official paperwork showed Larry Thurlow to be a liar. The press’ response? To complain about John Kerry.

Voters? Hell, most can’t even be bothered to read the state voters’ guides. They need the press to tell them what’s in it, except most years the press doesn’t bother, either.

The response over the years has become a specialized cottage industry within journalism: fact checking. And it needs to be a specialty, because, well, you know, even by allegedly respectable standards, facts have nothing to do with being a reporter.α

In the 2012 cycle, reporter Matt Appuzzo deliberately tanked a fact check, an act of journalistic activism the Associated Press defended as appropriate. And in a certain sense, one can argue it really was: The fact check would have been unkind to one candidate, which is a problem for a press in which equivocation is a professional standard, so poor Matt Apuzzo had no choice but to invoke irrelevant history in order to throw Romney a bone.

All of which leads us up to a consideration of “why lawmakers should not speak without notes”:

A 'pinnocchio', as awarded by Glenn Kessler, fact-checker for The Washington Post.Sometimes a lawmaker will wander on the floor of the House or Senate and begin speaking without any notes. That’s a big mistake, especially for someone like Sessions — who is chairman of the House Rules Committee and was speaking about the federal budget.

Kessler and the WaPo team awarded “four pinnocchios”, and advised that, “Senior lawmakers should not be uttering nonsense math on the House floor”. But this analysis falsely adheres to the notion of “all things being equal”, when in fact they are not.

(more…)

The Conservative Way (Tuckomatic Mix)

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 7 - Tucker Carlson, a conservative pundit, at the office of the new website, the Daily Caller, on January 6, 2010, in Washington, DC.  The site, at which Carlson is editor-in-chief, has been branded as a "conservative Huffington Post". (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

All hail FOX News.

Unless your name is Mickey Kaus.

The blogger Mickey Kaus has quit his job at The Daily Caller after the conservative site’s editor-in-chief, Tucker Carlson, pulled a critical column about Fox News from the site, Kaus told the On Media blog on Tuesday.

Mickey Kaus (via KausFiles)“It’s pretty simple,” Kaus said in an interview, “I wrote a piece attacking Fox for not being the opposition on immigration and amnesty — for filling up the airwaves with reports on ISIS and terrorism, and not fulfilling their responsibility of being the opposition on amnesty and immigration…. I posted it at 6:30 in the morning. When I got up, Tucker had taken it down. He said, ‘We can’t trash Fox on the site. I work there.'”

Carlson, who co-founded The Daily Caller in 2010, is a conservative contributor to Fox News and the host of its weekend edition of “Fox & Friends.”

Kaus says when he told Carlson he needed to be able to write about Fox, Carlson told him it was a hard-and-fast rule, and non-negotiable.

“He said it was a rule, and he wouldn’t be able to change that rule. So I told him I quit,” Kaus explained. “I just don’t see how you can put out a publication with that kind of giant no-go area. It’s not like we’re owned by Joe’s Muffler Shop, so we just can’t write about Joe’s Muffler shop.”

(Byers)

It would not be fair to wonder specifically why Kaus, a self-described neoliberal, would want to work for a conservative propagandist like Carlson, who once used a platform on msnbc to denounce San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome as a Nazi for showing compassion to undocumented immigrants. Yes, really, Carlson called Newsome a Nazi for not going after minorities. But neither can we demand that our public discourse be wholly segregated; in this case, it just didn’t work out, because whatever Kaus’ priorities are, Carlson is focused on marketing the conservative brand.

Then again, who knows what to think of Kaus’ implication that he would be happy to tank coverage of his employer.

Maybe that was his common ground with a shill like Carlson.

____________________

Byers, Dylan. “Mickey Kaus quits Daily Caller after Tucker Carlson pulls critical Fox News column”. Politico. 17 March 2015.

The Latest #GOP47 Absurdity

U.S. Senate letterhead, from "An Open Letter to the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran", authored by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), and released 9 March 2015, in an attempt to scuttle P5+1 negotiations and foster war with Iran.

As the #GOP47 themselves run out of excuses for their attempt to sink P5+1 negotiations in hopes of fostering a war with Iran, the conservative press will, naturally, attempt to step up to fill the silence.

Deroy Murdock of National Review burnishes his conservative credentials―as if contributing to FOX News and declaring his patriotic pride in torture wasn’t enough―trying to provide an astoundingly immature defense for the #GOP47:

National ReviewBefore U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and 46 of his GOP colleagues are frog-marched to the gallows and hanged for treason, one vital point of confusion must be cleared up. Say what you will about the Republicans’ open letter “to the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” The Cotton/GOP letter regarding Tehran’s atom-bomb talks with Obama was not sent to the ayatollahs. Had Cotton & Co. actually delivered their communiqué to Iran’s mullahs — perhaps via a Swiss diplomatic pouch or something even more cloak and dagger — their critics would be on less swampy ground in calling them “traitors,” as the New York Daily News screamed.

Either through befuddlement or deceit, many of the Republicans’ detractors have echoed this gross inaccuracy.

This is a unique defense, to be certain, at least among professionals. Resorting to the, “Well, the #GOP47 didn’t actually do anything”, is the kind of useless pedantry we can get from internet discussion boards and news site comment threads.

But yes, that is Deroy Murdock’s defense of the #GOP47: The #GOP47 didn’t actually ‘send’ the letter.

(more…)