Update from the Ring of Fire
The Washington Post recently conducted interviews with several White House staffers where they admitted that Sean Hannity “basically has a desk” at the White House, and that he and the President speak on the phone quite frequently. Among the things they discuss are what the President should tweet out to the public, meaning that Sean Hannity is helping the President draft his horrid, juvenile tweets. Fox News is calling the shots in America today, as Ring of Fire’s Farron Cousins explains.
Just saved a bookmark to my news category on my browser.
“So what is the Reuters answer? To oppose the administration? To appease it? To boycott its briefings? To use our platform to rally support for the media? All these ideas are out there, and they may be right for some news operations, but they don’t make sense for Reuters. We already know what to do because we do it every day, and we do it all over the world.
… To state the obvious, Reuters is a global news organization that reports independently and fairly in more than 100 countries, including many in which the media is unwelcome and frequently under attack. I am perpetually proud of our work in places such as Turkey, the Philippines, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Thailand, China, Zimbabwe, and Russia, nations in which we sometimes encounter some combination of censorship, legal prosecution, visa denials, and even physical threats to our journalists. We respond to all of these by doing our best to protect our journalists, by recommitting ourselves to reporting fairly and honestly, by doggedly gathering hard-to-get information – and by remaining impartial. We write very rarely about ourselves and our troubles and very often about the issues that will make a difference in the businesses and lives of our readers and viewers.
We don’t know yet how sharp the Trump administration’s attacks will be over time or to what extent those attacks will be accompanied by legal restrictions on our news-gathering. But we do know that we must follow the same rules that govern our work anywhere, namely: … ” Editor-in-chief Steve Adler.
Good on Reuters!
To the rest of the media I shout “Do yer jobs folksI” … and I suspect Edward R. Murrow would endorse the letter.
This year looks to be momentous in so many ways. For the first time in our history we are not going to be led by a politician thought trusted to be statesmanlike, ideologue or party puppet. The current choice was made by the majority of voters in this country – be they not statesmanlike, ideologues or party puppets – but merely voters who woke up, got mad, voted and went back to their diversions. This uninformed block of voters, with an almost visceral anger and regardless of the dissent of the majority of American voters, bought the snake oil promises of a welfare capitalist, making him the First CEO of the United States of America.
It is my view that this new president has a cabinet of capitalist cronies who bring mostly business-driven theories about “government-as-a-business” as opposed to genuine experience in managing bureaucracies that are inherent in a system of governance. This new president is about to engage our country into Hasbro Land for games of Monopoly and Risk on a national and international scale.
The new president is not a Republican ideologue.
As I said earlier, he is in fact a snake-oil self-promoter, narcissistic and overconfident in his self-perception as a successful mega-marketing capitalist who thinks he knows how to treat the country as his latest Tower and its citizens as his exploited and non-unionized minions and/or victims.
His party also has its own ideological dreams that seem now even closer to reality than that of the 2004 Bush re-election.
We get to watch, protest, make noise … whatever
… because we won’t be in the game. We just get to keep score and mutter.
It won’t be our game. Furthermore, it won’t be the game of the the gullibles who assumed his campaign rhetoric was all promise, all substance and unselfish intent. They are they who proceeded to seriously endanger our complicated means of working toward a more perfect Union, our multi-cultural means of working to establish Justice, to insure Domestic Tranquility, to provide for the Common Defense, to promote the General Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.
In my view that is what the minority of the voters – but a majority of voters in enough electoral college states – did for the rest of us …
and did not do so with any civic wisdom.
In hindsight it has become obvious that my own vote for candidate Clinton (which was based mostly on my notion of competency and not the identity of her political party) was not a mistaken vote in terms of who the alternatives were (and I don’t believe in withholding a vote for competency in the name of point-making.)
However, I almost feel that the one jug of lemonade in all this is the shakeup of our politics-and-business-as-usual defined by the influence of money on our civic moments. If the Democratic Party steps up to plate with enough aggressive advocacy of the good stuff (about which we only heard cheap talk and promises) as a result of being humiliated by the process of elections, then a multi-party dialogue becomes a more attractive alternative to the current two-dominant parties-supported-by-the-same-money system.
Speaking of George Bush’s 2004 re-election which was driven primarily by manipulated American Christians on the Uninformed Right of Civic-mindedness, that loss now seems ironic in that one of the jokes making the rounds is that Dubya is supposedly relieved that he is no longer the most unpopular president and has been replaced by a man whose current approval rating before he takes office is only 40%.
You know, I was raised in a small rural community in Idaho among most folks who almost worshiped Franklin Roosevelt – primarily as they talked about the Great Depression and demonstrated an almost universal reverence for him. I don’t recall anyone during my childhood or teenage years who had anything bad to say about FDR, given the ultimate recovery from the Great Depression – stimulated of course by the needs of World War II.
Roosevelt in those years became a national hero, a steady hand on the tiller as we negotiated that precarious journey across national and global troubled waters. Many disagreed with him about national isolation from global affairs and foreign wars but as events unfolded we got behind him.
His political enemies were not so much the Republican Party as much as the large-scale business moguls going back to those unregulated capitalists whose greed ultimately led to the stock market crash and depression. Roosevelt went after them, not as criminals, but as unchecked greedy capitalists who had ignorantly assumed that what was good for business was overwhelmingly good for the entire population. It was a population which at that time had little if any protections regarding health coverage, minimum wages and pension programs and limited government commitment to Domestic Tranquility. Yet, they insisted then – as do their heirs now – that unregulated pursuit of wealth based on greed and driven by lobbying money (against which individual citizens cannot compete) will make America great again and validate the so-called American Dream.
Speaking of wet dreams and capitalist notions …
THE CORPORATION is a must-see documentary for anyone concerned about the enormous influence of multinational corporations on just about every facet of our existence. Sweatshops, child labor, environmental destruction, product marketing to children, the limiting of people’s access to information, and the privatization of the most fundamental resources — and even the most basic building blocks of life itself — are discussed in great detail, as are how brands are marketed to children and the sometimes shocking history of many corporations’ relentless pursuit of profit and “the bottom line.”
Though clearly on the side of those who see corporations as monstrous entities destroying the planet, The Corporation does present the viewpoints of those who disagree with the central premises of the documentary. It also is not all doom and gloom; people from all over the planet concerned about the effects of corporations on their communities and resources talk of their successes in standing up to powerful multibillion-dollar interests. – Brian Costello, Film Critic, Common Sense Media
Since its release in 2003, The Corporation remains as relevant (if not more so) today as when it was first released.
Speaking of long-time Republican disinformation …
Trickle-down economics is not a legitimate free-market or economic ideal that leads to domestic tranquility. It is purely, factually and emotionally propaganda – a big fat lie – and always has been. The most honest of our successful capitalists have said so themselves, regardless of the Republican ideological nonsense about trickle-down that became prominent during the Reagan administration.
Yet I digress. My point in bringing up Roosevelt and Reverence for the presidency along with how our victorious survival of World War II created another American Hero for us to reverence: Dwight D. Eisenhower (the nation’s “grandfather” in the 50’s). If we toss in the impact of television first and foremost as entertainment and secondly as the broadcast alternative to radio news, we might better understand how it is that broadcast television was driven more by the need to entertain than the need to inform. One way to entertain was to make the American President more of a celebrity and sacred saint than we should have.
In making the Celebrity President the protagonist of an on-going series of dramatic stories, the news we watched drifted away from publishing news for the sake of informing the public across a spectrum of issues. We let ourselves become focused on the manufactured drama of political maneuvers and rhetorical discourse.
In retrospect, led by the needs for corporate broadcasters to generate revenue across their broadcast spectrum, news became then driven by advertising. News topics had to be interesting to hold those diminishing attention spans of viewers. The apex might have been the televised debate and campaigns of candidates Kennedy and Nixon in 1960. After that it was all downhill as we saw a greater reliance on rhetorical words and images during the subsequent election campaign between Johnson and Goldwater.
After that election, the genie was out of the bottle permanently with no way to put it back. The genie facilitated a long downhill slide into manipulation, sound bites, diminished substance and ultimately the rise of fake news.
We turned our president and our governing bodies essentially into reality shows that absolutely had to entertain more than inform.
Such is the current state of our news media which incidentally provided over 5 billion dollars in free advertising to our new incumbent during the campaign. Why? Because substance be damned. His antics became our antics, his lies became our lies, his tweets became the state of our civic intelligence.
Recovering some sort of sanity in reporting reality rather than sensationalized or propagandized news is a hefty challenge.
Our new incumbent has already trivialized the Office of President. His decisions and their consequences will not be trivialized, make no mistake. But the office will sink to the undignified level of its incumbent personality (who is already a paragon of trivial thinking).
He has not the statesman’s personality of any of his predecessors. Nor does he demonstrate the dignity and desire for integrity in his behavior. He is in fact a run-of-the-mill but newly-promoted CEO of the most powerful economic enterprise on the planet. He has won the ultimate edition of The Apprentice, nothing more and many things less.
The news media has its work cut out for itself.
We could be propagandized, advertised and self-promoted down to second-rate global significance.
We could become even meaner than the trigger-happy global bullies we already are and who have worsened the recent decades of promoting American economic values globally at the point of a gun.
We could in fact see a not-so-funny version of Back to the Future 2 with a real-live version of Biff Tannen presiding over a gigantic tower built on the backs of the same voters who bought the snake oil.
I have pretty much given up on the attention span and critical thinking abilities of these kinds of voters who ballot against their own best interest. I still believe in educated understanding of how our governments function and how elected representatives are chosen. The “educated” part is the problem and certainly not part of the solution.
The news media has its work cut out.
Entertainment be damned, our broadcasters absolutely must step up to the plate and become truly anchors of The Fourth Estate.
Oscar Wilde wrote:
In old days men had the rack. Now they have the Press. That is an improvement certainly. But still it is very bad, and wrong, and demoralizing. Somebody — was it Burke? — called journalism the fourth estate. That was true at the time no doubt. But at the present moment it is the only estate. It has eaten up the other three. The Lords Temporal say nothing, the Lords Spiritual have nothing to say, and the House of Commons has nothing to say and says it. We are dominated by Journalism.
In United States English, the phrase “fourth estate” is contrasted with the “fourth branch of government”, a term that originated because no direct equivalents to the estates of the realm exist in the United States. The “fourth estate” is used to emphasize the independence of the press, while the “fourth branch” suggests that the press is not independent of the government. – Wikipedia
There are prescriptions for curing this serious malady. One was laid out in the career of a respected journalist who famously spoke out during the Fake News Era of Joe McCarthy. A collage of the thoughts of Edward R. Murrow, a journalist who knew his business and discussed why broadcast integrity matters:
We hardly need to be reminded that we are living in an age of confusion — a lot of us have traded in our beliefs for bitterness and cynicism or for a heavy package of despair, or even a quivering portion of hysteria.
Opinions can be picked up cheap in the market place while such commodities as courage and fortitude and faith are in alarmingly short supply. There is a mental fear, which provokes others of us to see the images of witches in a neighbor’s yard and stampedes us to burn down this house.
And there is a creeping fear of doubt, doubt of what we have been taught, of the validity of so many things we had long since taken for granted to be durable and unchanging. It has become more difficult than ever to distinguish black from white, good from evil, right from wrong.
We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law.
We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.
During the daily peak viewing periods, television in the main insulates us from the realities of the world in which we live. If this state of affairs continues, we may alter an advertising slogan to read: LOOK NOW AND PAY LATER. For surely we shall pay for using this most powerful instrument of communication to insulate the citizenry from the hard and demanding realities which must be faced if we are to survive. I mean the word survive literally.
One of the basic troubles with radio and television news is that both instruments have grown up as an incompatible combination of show business, advertising and news. Each of the three is a rather bizarre and demanding profession. And when you get all three under one roof, the dust never settles. The top management of the networks with a few notable exceptions, has been trained in advertising, research, sales or show business. But by the nature of the corporate structure, they also make the final and crucial decisions having to do with news and public affairs. Frequently they have neither the time nor the competence to do this.
I have said, and I believe, that potentially we have in this country a free enterprise system of radio and television which is superior to any other. But to achieve its promise, it must be both free and enterprising. There is no suggestion here that networks or individual stations should operate as philanthropies. But I can find nothing in the Bill of Rights or in the Communications Act which says that they must increase their net profits each year, lest the Republic collapse.
I am frightened by the imbalance, the constant striving to reach the largest possible audience for everything; by the absence of a sustained study of the state of the nation.
Do not be deluded into believing that the titular heads of the networks control what appears on their networks. They all have better taste. All are responsible to stockholders, and in my experience all are honorable men. But they must schedule what they can sell in the public market. The sponsor of an hour’s television program is not buying merely the six minutes devoted to commercial message. He is determining, within broad limits, the sum total of the impact of the entire hour. If he always, invariably, reaches for the largest possible audience, then this process of insulation, of escape from reality, will continue to be massively financed, and its apologist will continue to make winsome speeches about giving the public what it wants, or “letting the public decide.”
If we go on as we are, we are protecting the mind of the American public from any real contact with the menacing world that squeezes in upon us. We are engaged in a great experiment to discover whether a free public opinion can devise and direct methods of managing the affairs of the nation. We may fail. But we are handicapping ourselves needlessly.
We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men — not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular. This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy’s methods to keep silent, or for those who approve.
We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. – Edward R. Murrow
I will end with my most frequently expressed quotation:
We proved the lie, were served up with a gagging portion of our own vintage distillation of apocalyptic horseshit
— all the narcissistic swill about indomitable spirit, invincibility, courage and nobility of purpose
— and demonstrated once and for all to those who looked on with interest a fact long suspected:
that this nation, through a self-administered indoctrination of spurious righteousness, larded with the false rewards of superfluous luxury, had at last achieved the most tractable, malleable — let’s face it, spineless — people to walk the face of the earth.
Oliver Lange, Defiance – The Journals, 1971
Barring a large enough scandal, barring a resignation in disgrace, barring an impeachment – all of which are legitimate possibilities, I anticipate four years of Monopoly and Risk.
Fake news is information that is clearly and demonstrably fabricated and that has been packaged and distributed to appear as legitimate news. Article discusses the following in particular:
Fake News Purveyor … Fake News Creator … Hyperpartisan … Websites, Facebook Pages, and Social Media Accounts … Misleading Information … Clickbait … Satire … Propaganda …Conspiracy Theory … Mistakes In Reporting …
According to a new Pew Research report, 64 percent of Americans — including a majority in both political parties — said that fake news has caused “a great deal” of confusion about the basic facts of current events.
According to the study, the fake news problem is a bipartisan one: “Republicans and Democrats are about equally likely to say that these stories leave Americans deeply confused about current events”:
While fake news became an issue during the highly charged 2016 presidential election campaign, Republicans and Democrats are about equally likely to say that these stories leave Americans deeply confused about current events. About six-in-ten Republicans say completely made-up news causes a great deal of confusion (57%), and about the same portion of Democrats say the same (64%). And although independents outpace Republicans (69% say fake news causes a great deal of confusion), they are on par with Democrats. This perception is also mostly consistent across education, race, gender and age, though there is some difference by income.
Here’s yet another Politico story that just doesn’t deliver what the clickbaity headline suggests: “Democrats open to replacing Obamacare.” And the subtitle: “A surprising number of lawmakers in the minority say they’d play ball if the changes aren’t too far-reaching.” And then you read what those Democrats are actually saying:
I’ve long held a view that when a political candidate hires a campaign consultant of the Frank Luntz spin doctor ilk – that candidate has robbed his/her potential constituency of a relationship of trust.
Such an act places a manipulative gate-keeper smack dab between the citizen and the elected representative. If we accept that sort of arrangement with our candidates the common denominator of civic intelligence is dramatically lowered.
No spin doctor can deny that. These folks do not raise civic intellectual awareness in this country any more than the do purveyors of American Idol, Survivor or Heroes who merely want you to watch and buy.
I appreciate internet sites like mediamatters.org that help the curious cope with a radical partisan stampede tactic.
I believe that so long as there are any ideologically driven information predators communicating with voters, organizations like Media Matters and Fact Check are necessary.
In 2004 the pain and frustration for me was not limited to the Kerry loss. Much more than that was the sense that the election – if not stolen – was still severely impacted by information manipulation and outright lying.
I perceived that the majority of those who voted were misled. Non-voters remained off the beaten path because political tacticians wanted them out of sight and out of mind – voluntarily self-suppressed. We were not even left with the consolation that a definite majority of the American voters had spoken; that the will – wise or unwise – of the majority of American citizens had been expressed.
Civically and spiritually, I counsel that we do not let someone else -in any context – tell us once again what to think and how to vote. I counsel that we make an effort to perceive the lies and half-truths proclaimed in campaigns.
I counsel an activist – even formally organized – civic campaign to put limits on purchased political ads, sound-bite advertising and contests decided by whoever has the most money available to flood the media with shallow inflammatory nonsense.
I’ve already made my arguments for and against the candidates of my choice. Repeating any of that is not appropriate to the theme of this opinion. As we move forward, I intend to advocate more and more for genuine civic wisdom and participation in this country.
“Change” can be a spin-doctor word use to get out the vote. I hope real change means a return to the idea that America is essentially one big town hall.
I’d like to see a circumstance where voters are renewed, re-aroused and willing to insure that never again will a bamboozle trump (pun intended) the truth.
I’d like to see political apathy become as unacceptable as sexual harassment, domestic violence, child abuse, identity theft and belching in church.
I want to move past Tuesday satisfied that this time voter apathy, ignorance and gullibility has not once again harmed this state and this nation to a much greater degree than another terrorist attack.
And just like that, the latest Clinton email controversy evaporated on Sunday. FBI Director James Comey announced that recently discovered emails that “appear[ed] to be pertinent” to the bureau’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server turned out to not be significant enough to alter the bureau’s decision in July that nothing Clinton had done constituted criminal wrongdoing.
For those who have closely followed the email saga for the last 18 months, the FBI’s findings probably weren’t surprising; there’s never been any compelling evidence that Clinton did anything to warrant the type of five-alarm mega-scandal coverage we’ve seen from the media. (See here and here for detailed analysis supporting that conclusion.)
Mockers insisting that Obama’s tears aren’t real nor valid and that all he deserves is contempt because of political value judgments … no matter that his intent is to save lives.
Such is nothing more than Junior High behavior at its filthiest.
“See that thing you’re feeling right now? That pain in your chest,” Noah said after airing the clip of Obama on his show Wednesday night. “That comes from watching someone weep on national television, because he knows that society can do better than to file the shooting of children under ‘shit happens.’ That feeling is how you know that you are human.”
“Are you f**king kidding me? Shedding tears when you think of murdered children is not really believable? You know what, there is something here that’s not really believable: the fact that the rest of us have to share the title of human being with you.”