news media

The Yellowhammer Punch Line (Hellbait Mix)

[#wellduh]

Kayla Moore, wife of U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore told a campaign rally, "Fake news will tell you that we don't care for Jew .... One of our attorneys is a Jew!" in Midland City, Alabama, 12 December 2017. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)What, really, is anyone to do with a lede like we get from Mandy Mayfield for the Washington Examiner?

The Jewish attorney who Roy Moore’s wife touted employing in an attempt to fight off claims of anti-Semitism is actually a longtime friend and supporter of Senator-elect Doug Jones, who defeated Moore last month.

When we shrug and say, “Of course he did!” what, really, does that mean?

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Something Going On (Asymetrically Intriguing)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton laughs before speaking to supporters at the Human Rights Campaign Breakfast in Washington, October 3, 2015. (Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

This is the thing: While it is easy enough to get lost in the spectacular noise and bluster, the breathtaking incoherence and disbelief, something does seem to have happened. Jonathan Chait dove in last month, noting, “The most important substantive problem facing political journalists of this era is asymmetrical polarization”. And to a certain degree, Chait is vital, here, because of something else he wrote, all of several days before:

I had not taken seriously the possibility that Donald Trump could win the presidency until I saw Matt Lauer host an hour-long interview with the two major-party candidates. Lauer’s performance was not merely a failure, it was horrifying and shocking. The shock, for me, was the realization that most Americans inhabit a very different news environment than professional journalists. I not only consume a lot of news, since it’s my job, I also tend to focus on elite print-news sources. Most voters, and all the more so undecided voters, subsist on a news diet supplied by the likes of Matt Lauer. And the reality transmitted to them from Lauer matches the reality of the polls, which is a world in which Clinton and Trump are equivalently flawed.

Nor need one be any manner of confessed media elitist; outside the circles where people perpetually complain about the media, news consumers are more than a little puzzled―indeed, some or maybe even many are alarmed―about what they are witnessing.

Part of the problem, of course, is asymmetrical polarization; Chait considered the question―

Political journalism evolved during an era of loose parties, both of which hugged the center, and now faces an era in which one of those parties has veered sharply away from the center. Today’s Republican Party now resides within its own empirical alternative universe, almost entirely sealed off from any source of data, expertise, or information that might throw its ideological prior values into question. Donald Trump’s candidacy is the ne plus ultra of this trend, an outlier horrifying even to a great many conservatives who have been largely comfortable with their party’s direction until now. How can the news media appropriately cover Trump and his clearly flawed opponent without creating an indecipherable din of equivalent-sounding criticism, where one candidate’s evasive use of a private email server looms larger than the other’s promise to commit war crimes?

Liz Spayd, the New York Times’ new public editor, dismisses the problem out of hand in a column that is a logical train wreck. Spayd specifically addresses a column by Paul Krugman that lambastes two news investigations into the Clinton Foundation, one of which appeared in the Times. Both reports dug deep and found nothing improper, but instead of either walking away from the dry holes or writing an exculpatory story, dressed them up with innuendo. These stories supply a prime example of the larger critique often grouped under the heading of “false equivalence”―journalists treating dissimilar situations as similar, in an attempt to balance out their conclusions. Spayd dismisses false equivalence as liberal whining, without in any way engaging with its analysis.

―in the wake of a New York Times dispute between public editor Liz Spayd and columnist Paul Krugman.

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Something About “Her”

Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign even at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, Nevada. 25 August 2016. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

This is fair … er … ah … well, you know―

See, it shouldn’t be that hard to cover Donald in a way that feels fair. Simply apply the three immutable tenets of Hillary reporting:

1. Always assume bad character and attribute malicious motives.

2. Completely overlook and invisibilize supporters.

3. Focus relentlessly on negatives — and portray positives as negatives.

―except that it’s about her.

(Right? Isn’t that how it goes?)

At any rate, Peter Daou’s open letter to the media is worth a read.

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The Carly Fiorina Show (Another Day, Another Lie)

Carly Fiorina, former chairman and chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard Co., pauses while speaking during the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015. The talent show that is a presidential campaign began in earnest saturday as more than 1,200 Republican activists, who probably will vote in Iowa's caucuses, packed into a historic Des Moines theater to see and hear from a parade of their party's prospective entries. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

“Just so we’re clear, Fiorina lied, then she defended the lie, then she repeated the lie, and then she grudgingly conceded that the ‘fact-checkers are correct’. But she still sees herself as a victim of a media ‘attack’.”

Steve Benen

Here’s the tricky part: “This is what the liberal media always does; it attacks the messenger trying to avoid the message.”

This can be taken two ways:

“It attacks the messenger [who is] trying to avoid the message” ― While it would, in fact, be the more accurate interpretation according to the facts, we can rest assured this is not Ms. Fiorina’s meaning, lest she be complaining that messengers seeking to avoid the message might be subject to scrutiny for the attempt.

“It attacks the messenger [while] trying to avoid the message” ― This is more likely what Ms. Fiorina meant, except it’s dysfunctional. To wit: The media “attacks” [calls out] the “messenger” [bearing false witness] while trying to avoid [propagating] the [false] message.

In other words, it seems Ms. Fiorina thinks she’s only being treated fairly if the news media carries water for her presidential campaign.

Then again, what is a serial liar supposed to say?

Carly Fiorina’s alleged presidential merit is her business acumen. Her demonstrable political demeanor, however, is straightforward dishonesty.

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Image note: Carly Fiorina, former chairman and chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard Co., pauses while speaking during the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015. (Detail of photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Benen, Steve. “Fiorina finally admits she flubbed her facts”. msnbc. 2 November 2015.

Part of the Problem

The most popular items on Huffington Post, ca. 2 September 2014.To the one, it is very easy to pick on the Huffington Post; to the other, well, yeah, never mind. The question is what the historians and anthropologists will write about this period of human communication. Naturally, we jest; the real question is whether or not the journal article can be published in under sixty characters.

What? Really? Show of hands: Who thinks Twitter will last that long?

Alright, then. Follow-up: How long before 140 is too long?

Uh-huh. See how that works?

Still, the great testament of Huffington Post and other online news sites will be the consumerist outlook; news and information, once considered vital to civic function, are now merely mass-produced trinkets, the inconvenient content one must necessarily tease consumers with in order to facilitate the commercial transactions that are a news organization’s real reasons for existing.

True, it sounds grim. But look at what people are reading.

A Serious Question … Unfortunately

Rumors Of Extramarital Affair End Campaign Of Presidential Candidate Who Didn't Know China Has Nuclear WeaponsShould we find any significance in the proposition that American comedy outlets have a better grasp of current events than our regular news media?

Or, as The Onion put it in a headline:

Rumors Of Extramarital Affair End Campaign Of Presidential Candidate Who Didn’t Know China Has Nuclear Weapons