Morning Ed: Media {2017.05.07}

How Donald Trump is making fake news fake, and using the media to increase mistrust of the media.

Jack Shafer and Tucker Doherty explain how the media bubble is getting worse. Some have pointed to the decline of local media, which is true enough (buy your local paper!), though centralization, conglomeration, and economies of scale are without question going to lead to a more hierarchical society, which will be in turns meritocratic and full of self-confirming bias along multiple metrics (not just whichever ones are convenient for you).

When it comes to Dan Rather, just say no. While we’re at it, stop citing Ben Rhodes (of the Iran Deal) as a trustworthy source on anything.

Former Leaguer Barrett Brown got arrested again.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but bless you Deadspin for giving us an update on Yakov Smirnoff. “What a Country!” was an underrated sitcom (one that could be amazing, or terrible, if done again today).

Michael Brendan Dougherty would like to apologize for writing on the Internet, because people who do that are ruining everything.

Buzzfeed implored the French media to handle the Wikileaks differently than we did over here. There is a pretty strong argument that illicitly obtained material should have a higher threshold of relevance (and at least potentially fact-checking) to be reported, but at the same time a complete embargo is untenable and ultimately undesirable. The trick, as always, is determining what is and isn’t relevant.

Does the media slant coverage of gender and Muslim countries?


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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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38 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Media {2017.05.07}

  1. Politico/Fake War on Media:

    One of my theories about the lasting effects of the 2016 election is that distrust and hatred of the “Mainstream Media” is going to become a thing on the left just like it is a thing on the right. You can see this in a vanguard action with the commentariat at LGM and also in newer internet publications like the former Gawker empire and possibly even at less purposefully in your face publications like Slate which has gotten more explicitly left and less Slate-pitchy neo-liberal.

    LGM’s readership has a vast distrust of New York Times because they continue to higher right-wingers for their op-ed page even though Krugman or Blow are much more popular. They dislike MSNBC for toying with the idea of giving Hugh Hewitt a show even though Maddow/Hayes and other left-leaning shows are MSNBC’s most popular. CNN is not seen as a journalist/newsoutfit but a bunch of people who just want “access” and invitation to hobnob at The Aspen Ideas Festival or TED Talk Parties or Davos, etc.

    I wonder if this part generational. My mom is no Republican and hates Trump but she loves Maureen Dowd and David Brooks whereas LGM hates Dowd and Brooks. My mom can say “Did you read the latest Dowd column? She really tears into the Republicans” and I can guarantee that LGM will be attacking the same column for being a pro-Republican hack piece. I always find this strange. Obviously both can’t be right. A lot of young people are more influenced by the In Your Face editorial style that was originated by Gawker and you now see even at right-wing internet media joints like the Free Beacon and the Federalist.

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    • You seem to be pointing to something that worries me with your reference to the In Your Face style. Is it really the case that you aren’t credible, you aren’t authentic, unless you are screaming?

      That’s a setup for being jerked around, let alone ruining the tranquility of my morning cup of tea.

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      • @greginak

        I don’t think the In Your Face style necessarily makes someone more authentic politically and I concur that older people can fall for it as well. Plenty of liberals still like Paul Krugman and Charles Blow and they are rather mild-mannered.

        Gawker and related sites probably developed the In Your Face voice because it helped them stand out in an already crowded field. Rolling Stone probably did the same thing when they were an upstart in the 1960s.

        But there are a lot of liberals out there who think the Times had it in for HRC and has a pathological hatred of the Clintons. Though there are plenty of righties who think that the Times is just a liberal mouthpiece.

        But the hatred I think goes deeper than that. There are a lot of people on the left who dislike that the Times keeps a target demographic of upper-middle class professionals/bourgeois people. You see this in various hate-reads of the Real Estate section, the wedding announcements, etc. There is a lot of anger at these sections for covering expensive properties (confession: I am bougie enough that I like looking at the nice properties. I also suspect that there are a lot of upper-middle class people who rage at the real estate section because they feel guilty about their own gentrification and nice apartments.)

        But I think there might be different ways in which partisans see the media and how the media sees themselves. I suspect that a lot of partisans (both sides) want the media to be cynical outsiders and truth-tellers who are willing to be socially isolated for the sake of truth-telling. A lot of media types might just see it as there way to join the professional class.

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        • Rush and old loudmouths like Morton Downey Jr perfected the in your face style as right wing political messaging in the 80’s.

          The NYT got enormous benefit from being the “paper of record” for the political establishment and the country. Welp, that has downsides also. One being that people forgot it’s a local paper which is going to cater to local interests. They want to be one part Time or Newsweek and the other part Sheboygan Daily Press. That doesn’t work that well in many ways. But they are a primo job and a leader so suck it up.

          Some of the criticisms of the NYT are just mirrors of the those of the MSM. Namely, unless they agree with me they are biased. There are good criticisms of the MSM but a good bit of it, is just “disagreement = bias.”

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    • I don’t think it’s young people who fall for the in your face style as equaling authenticity. Plenty of middle age and old folks get suckered by that. How many times have i heard people over 40 say Trump is authentic and real because of his vulgarity or uncensored ( or clueless) speaking style. The answer: many times. Certainly “real” politicians who are thoughtful or measured must be dissembling if the speak calmly or choose their words.

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    • LGM’s readership has a vast distrust of New York Times because they continue to higher right-wingers for their op-ed page even though Krugman or Blow are much more popular.

      No, they have a vast distrust of the Times because of its disgraceful handling of the Comey letter, emails, and the Clinton campaign in general. The nitwittery of its opinion pages is a secondary issue.

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        • I’m not sure.

          A lot of folks who are well to the left of me would point to the general media approval of capitalism as a rightward bias in and of itself. But setting that aside….

          I think the bias is more towards a form of centrism that has many features the left finds noxious (extreme BSDI-ism, enthusiasm for austerity, and a willingness to stump for any sort of military intervention no matter how half-baked) than a rightward bias. There’s also the obsession with horse-races and “savviness” that mentions below.

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        • Speaking as a leftie, I think the national media (as in the Sunday talk shows, the major newspapers, etc.) has a center-left social bias, a center-right economic bias, and a general bias for upper middle class dom and above, whether it’s coming from a BLM protestor in Baltimore or a Trump supporter in rural Wisconsin.

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      • As Greg said, I think it existed long before this election.

        FWIW I generally think that the media’s breathless coverage of the e-mail non-scandal and Comey’s letter was an embarrassment and the media is to into horserace style rather than deep reporting about whether it is good or moral to strip away healthcare from millions.

        I cringed when the media described the House vote as a “win” for Trump. Why is it a win? We haven’t seen what the Senate is going to do. We aren’t debating the morality of healthcare. I think the Culty of Savvy is basically correct.

        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jay-rosen/karl-rove-and-the-cult-of_b_60411.html

        Savviness! Deep down, that’s what reporters want to believe in and actually do believe in — their own savviness and the savviness of certain others (including master operators like Karl Rove.) In politics, they believe, it’s better to be savvy than it is to be honest or correct on the facts. It’s better to be savvy than it is to be just, good, fair, decent, strictly lawful, civilized, sincere or humane.

        Savviness is what journalists admire in others. Savvy is what they themselves dearly wish to be. (And to be unsavvy is far worse than being wrong.) Savviness — that quality of being shrewd, practical, well-informed, perceptive, ironic, “with it,” and unsentimental in all things political — is, in a sense, their professional religion. They make a cult of it. And it was this cult that Karl Rove understood and exploited for political gain.

        What is the truest mark of savviness? Winning, of course! Everyone knows that the press admires an unprincipled winner. (Of a piece with its fixation on the horse race.) Josh Green, a reporter for the Atlantic Monthly who actually took the time to understand Rove’s career, totaled up his winnings in a 2004 article (“Karl Rove in a Corner”) that I highly recommend.

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  2. Regarding the terrible treatment of women in Lesotho & the Solomon Islands – can someone give me a reliable heuristic on which arguments thsee days can be dismissed as “whataboutism” and which cannot?

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    • I don’t know that I have a great answer, but your question ties in nicely with Dougherty’s piece where he says

      In an age in which print journalism reigned supreme, no one would have known about, heard of, or been troubled by this juvenile brain fart unless one of its authors ran for the U.S. Senate decades later.

      I rather feel like most of everything these days is “whataboutism”. Which, of course, makes the important stuff seem like it, too, is “whataboutism”.

      In an eerie parallel, the Macron campaign appears to be claiming that it injected false documents into the phishing attempts by — whomever.

      So, the answer seems to be: Don’t argue with the truth, pollute all sources. Hype everything until nobody cares about anything.

      Everything is terrible, but don’t worry. SNAFU.

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  3. I feel for Barrett. Hopefully he’ll keep writing about his experience. His is a good example of how easy it is for a mildly determined LEO or DA to ruin a person.

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  4. If we crosslink Buzzfeed article with the Rhodes article we get:

    In the US, many reporters had great difficulty resisting the lure of the uncurated dump from the Clinton campaign. I watched on Twitter as they spent a lot of time digging up emails about themselves and colleagues, and chuckling and snarking over it. There were just six weeks left before a consequential election in the US, but they couldn’t take their eyes off all this candy, Most of the stuff was mundane. There were a few items of public interest — vastly outweighed by the juicy, juicy gossip. A lot of this gossip made its way to major newspapers, even their front pages.

    “All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus,” he said. “Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”

    Put not your trust in presses.

    I wish there was better news (so to speak); but the press is sick and I’m not sure we know the cure.

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    • About the only quibble I have with this is I think it’s not so much age and experience as it’s knowledge and intention. There are plenty of old, experienced hands who have neither.

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      • I don’t think the Rhode’s main point is that youth is the problem in itself; its that the sea-change has largely gone unnoticed and that absent the old hands – good and bad though they certainly are – its that much easier to play his game.

        I think it would be a serious misread to write this off as a simple sort of millennial screed.

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