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ren hoek

Media Criticism

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"It is difficult to make a convincing case for manipulation of the press when the victims proved so eager for the experience." 

-Thomas McCann, United Fruit Company

2019: Formerly titled The US is stumbling backwards into war.  This thread started originally as a criticism of how mainstream press sanitizes US interventionism.  But I think a thread where we critique corporate news and legacy press (or, if you like, independent/alternative news sites) for all its problems would be good.  Not in a 'fake news!' sense, but the real bias, distortions, political opportunism, and clique wagon-circling that goes on everyday.  I'm convinced- the news cycle will do even worse in 2020 than it did in 2016.  Let us commiserate in this thread on how bad at their jobs they are.

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Good article about how mainstream press sanitizes militarism, and generally portrays conflict as either benevolent reluctance or simple incompetence on the US's part.  

http://fair.org/home/syria-the-latest-case-of-us-stumbling-into-war/

Syria the Latest Case of US ‘Stumbling’ Into War

ADAM JOHNSON

A recent headline in The Atlantic (6/9/17) earnestly pondered if the US was “Getting Sucked Into More War in Syria.” “Even as Washington potentially stumbles into war…” was how the article’s discussion began.

One of the most common tropes in US media is that the US military always goes to war reluctantly—and, if there are negative consequences, like civilian deaths, it’s simply a matter of bumbling around without much plan or purpose.

This framing serves to flatter two sensibilities: one right and one vaguely left. It satisfies the right-wing nationalist idea that America only goes to war because it’s compelled to by forces outside of its own control; the reluctant warrior, the gentle giant who will only attack when provoked to do so. But it also plays to a nominally liberal, hipster notion that the US military is actually incompetent and boobish, and is generally bad at war-making.

This is expressed most clearly in the idea that the US is “drawn into” war despite its otherwise unwarlike intentions. “Will US Be Drawn Further Into Syrian Civil War?” asked Fox News (4/7/17). “How America Could Stumble Into War With Iran,” disclosed The Atlantic (2/9/17), “What It Would Take to Pull the US Into a War in Asia,” speculated Quartz (4/29/17). “Trump could easily get us sucked into Afghanistan again,” Slate predicted (5/11/17). The US is “stumbling into a wider war” in Syria, the New York Times editorial board (5/2/15) warned. “A Flexing Contest in Syria May Trap the US in an Endless Conflict,” Vice News(6/19/17) added.

“Sliding,” “stumbling,” ”sucked into,” “dragged into,” ”drawn into”: The US is always reluctantly—and without a plan—falling backward into bombing and occupying. The US didn’t enter the conflict in Syria in September 2014 deliberately; it was forced into it by outside actors. The US didn’t arm and fund anti-Assad rebels for four years to the tune of $1 billion a year as part of a broader strategy for the region; it did so as a result of some unknown geopolitical dark matter.

Note that “self-defense” here means shooting down a plane flying over another country because it’s trying to bomb forces that you’re supporting to try to overthrow that country’s government. (Reuters, 6/19/17)

Syria especially evokes the media’s “reluctantly sucked into war” narrative. Four times in the past month, the Trump administration has attacked pro-regime forces in Syria, and in all four instances they’ve claimed “self-defense.” All four times, media accepted this justification without question (e.g., Reuters, 6/19/17), despite not a single instance of “self-defense” attacks occurring under two-and-a-half years of the Obama administration fighting in Syria. (The one time Obama directly attacked Syrian government forces, the US claimed it was an accident.)

Why the sudden uptick in “self-defense”? Could it be because, as with the bombing of ISIS (and nearby civilians), Trump has given a green light to his generals to adopt an itchy trigger finger? Could it be Trump and Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who has adecades-long grudge against Iran, want to blow up Iranian drones and kill Iranian troops? No such questions are entertained, much less interrogated. The US’s entirely defensive posture in Syria is presented as fact and serves as the premise for discussion.

When US empire isn’t reluctant, it’s benevolent. “Initially motivated by humanitarian impulse,” Foreign Policy‘s Emile Simpson (6/21/17)  insisted, “the United States and its Western allies achieved regime change in Libya and attempted it in Syria, by backing rebels in each case.”

“At least in recent decades, American presidents who took military action have been driven by the desire to promote freedom and democracy,” the New York Times editorial board (2/7/17) swooned.

“Every American president since at least the 1970s,” Washington Post’s Philip Rucker (5/2/17) declared, “has used his office to champion human rights and democratic values around the world.” Interpreting US policymakers’ motives is permitted, so long as the conclusion is never critical.

In contrast, foreign policy actions by Russia are painted in diabolical and near-omnipotent terms. “Is Putin’s Master Plan Only Beginning?” worried Vanity Fair (12/28/16). “Putin’s Aim Is to Make This the Russian Century,” insists Time magazine (10/1/16).

Russia isn’t “drawn into” Crimea; it has a secret “Crimea takeover plot” (BBC, 3/9/15). Putin doesn’t “stumble into” Syria; he has a “Long-Term Strategy” there (Foreign Affairs, 3/15/16). Military adventurism by other countries is part of a well-planned agenda, while US intervention is at best reluctant, and at worst bumfuzzled—Barney Fife with 8,000 Abrams tanks and 19 aircraft carriers.

Even liberals talk about war in this agency-free manner. Jon Stewart was fond of saying, for example, that the Iraq war was a “mistake”—implying a degree of “aw shucks” mucking up, rather than a years-long plan by ideologues in the government to assert US hegemony in the Middle East.

War, of course, isn’t a “mistake.” Nor, unless your country is invaded, is it carried out against one’s will. The act of marshalling tens of thousands of troops, scores of ships, hundreds of aircraft, and coordinating the mechanisms of soft and covert power by State and CIA officials, are deliberate acts by conscious, very powerful actors.

Media shouldn’t make broad, conspiratorial assumptions as to what the bigger designs are. But neither are they under any obligation to buy into this mythology that US foreign policy is an improvised peace mission carried out by good-hearted bureaucrats, who only engage in war because they’re “sucked into” doing so.

https://twitter.com/adamjohnsonNYC/status/878006629802713089

Edited by ren hoek

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15 hours ago, SaintsInDome2006 said:

 

- Why post an article from June?

 

- This article is in all sincerity, terrible.

Read the pieces. Did the author? I doubt it. Those articles aren't saying the US is getting sucked into war, they're saying Trump is actively screwing up and making war more likely.

Just read any one of them, here's the piece by the Atlantic:

- The people who stumbled are the ones who make excuses for Trump. Reading that thing by Johnson you'd think Trump was this poor bystander who was just standing there. He's driving all this, so stop defending him.

It's actually pretty insightful.  The headline is the most important part of the article in today's 2-second newsbyte culture.  Just the other day people in the Russia thread quoted a fox news article as conveying one thing when the content of the article was much more neutral in tone.  Of course it matters.  It isn't an accident the US war machine is portrayed as a good natured, gentle giant while Putin is a diabolical genius who has usurped the presidency.  The Russian redscare clickbaiting is incredibly irresponsible and destructive.  People are eating it up.  

To say western press has covered war in an honest way is laughable.  It doesn't start with Trump either.  It's actually critical of Trump, because it's saying military occupation and bombings are strategic, cognizant decisions by his administration.  Not just "good guys" making errant but well intentioned mistakes.  

Can I ask who you voted for Saints?  I see you constantly turning everything into a Trump thread even though this has nothing to do with him.  Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump. Like honestly you say trump a lot.  I think you gather I'm an anarchist that didn't vote, although there are part of Trump's policies I consider a welcome departure from the status quo.  What choice did you make during the election season?  

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1 hour ago, The General said:

I would say we meander into armed conflicts on the other side of the globe.

I prefer "saunter"

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I'm sick of war. The only purpose it serves is to thin the herd, and make people in power money. Going into Syria would accomplish nothing, as would fighting North Korea.

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The only benefit I see to war is that war, sufficiently large enough in scale to pose an existential threat, can cause americans to align and recognize what makes our country great.  It can focus us on what american values are worth supporting and which are just nonsense.

But lots of people end up dying in these kinds of wars, and it'd be great if we could figure out a way to get that message across to folks without the need of fear of their lives.

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3 minutes ago, adonis said:

The only benefit I see to war is that war, sufficiently large enough in scale to pose an existential threat, can cause americans to align and recognize what makes our country great.  It can focus us on what american values are worth supporting and which are just nonsense.

But lots of people end up dying in these kinds of wars, and it'd be great if we could figure out a way to get that message across to folks without the need of fear of their lives.

Fair enough, but what constitutes an existential threat to the US today? Personally I feel that the chances are greater that we tear ourselves apart, rather than facing some type of external threat.

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35 minutes ago, Kal El said:

Fair enough, but what constitutes an existential threat to the US today? Personally I feel that the chances are greater that we tear ourselves apart, rather than facing some type of external threat.

I'd say any war that involves nuclear weapons being used from China or Russia...but beyond that, any multi-nation war where there are powerful countries on both sides who are atomic.

Regardless, I don't want to see anything like that happen...the devastation would be unimaginable.  

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2 hours ago, ren hoek said:
7 hours ago, msommer said:

Civil war !

/RiversCo

It's an art form really

Similar to how smearing feces on canvas is art.

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On 8/13/2017 at 4:26 AM, SameSongNDance said:

m

:excited:

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Here former cable host Krystal Ball [I know] lays out a lot of the bias already seen this early in the 2020 campaign.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6Ia02L1qQo

Also talks about her experience at MSNBC and how a certain political campaign threatened to cut off their access.  Ultimately, any commentary on that candidate by Ball had to be cleared by the president of the network first.  

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I enjoy Donna Brazil on the 5. She still wont own up to DNC shenanigans. But never denies it. 

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Thread from a local news guy that got manhandled and had his camera jacked by April D. Ryan's bodyguard.

WaPo Media Critic Calls Out CNN, April Ryan: Speak Up on Bodyguard Attack, or Lose Status as ‘First Amendment Champions’

By Reed RichardsonAug 22nd, 2019, 8:51 pm

Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple called out CNN and its contributor, April Ryan, for their notable silence about an incident earlier this month where her bodyguard allegedly assaulted a TV journalist trying to cover one of her speaking engagements: “Speak now or relinquish your standing as First Amendment champions.”

In a forceful column, Wemple called out the “professional hypocrisy” of both the network and one of its biggest on-air personalities for failing to explain, condemn, or apologize for the bodyguard roughly manhandling a member of the press and interfering with his reporting duties. The bodyguard, who Ryan has said she hired after getting death threats, has now been charged with assault, theft, and harassment.

“It’s one thing to hire a bodyguard to protect a freedom-of-press advocate from death threats,” Wemple noted. “It’s another thing when the bodyguard undermines freedom of press on behalf of the freedom-of-press advocate.”

He also noted that, when contacted to offer a public comment on the incident, both CNN and Ryan were anything but forthcoming to a fellow member of the press.

“Though Ryan is happy to light up CNN’s airwaves with outrage over the Trump administration’s heavy-handed actions vis-a-vis press access, what does she have to say when her own actions are in the mix?” he wrote. “She called and requested to speak off the record. No thanks.”

Likewise, Wemple reported that CNN’s PR team did not respond to his questions, much like the silence that the reported assaulted by Ryan’s bodyguard has gotten from both Ryan and the network.

“The strategy here is to ignore the situation in the hopes that it will blow over,” Wemple concluded. “Such an outcome shouldn’t be furnished to CNN and Ryan, given the level of professional hypocrisy at hand.”

“Speak now or relinquish your standing as First Amendment champions.”

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10 hours ago, ren hoek said:

Thread from a local news guy that got manhandled and had his camera jacked by April D. Ryan's bodyguard.

WaPo Media Critic Calls Out CNN, April Ryan: Speak Up on Bodyguard Attack, or Lose Status as ‘First Amendment Champions’

By Reed RichardsonAug 22nd, 2019, 8:51 pm

Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple called out CNN and its contributor, April Ryan, for their notable silence about an incident earlier this month where her bodyguard allegedly assaulted a TV journalist trying to cover one of her speaking engagements: “Speak now or relinquish your standing as First Amendment champions.”

In a forceful column, Wemple called out the “professional hypocrisy” of both the network and one of its biggest on-air personalities for failing to explain, condemn, or apologize for the bodyguard roughly manhandling a member of the press and interfering with his reporting duties. The bodyguard, who Ryan has said she hired after getting death threats, has now been charged with assault, theft, and harassment.

“It’s one thing to hire a bodyguard to protect a freedom-of-press advocate from death threats,” Wemple noted. “It’s another thing when the bodyguard undermines freedom of press on behalf of the freedom-of-press advocate.”

He also noted that, when contacted to offer a public comment on the incident, both CNN and Ryan were anything but forthcoming to a fellow member of the press.

“Though Ryan is happy to light up CNN’s airwaves with outrage over the Trump administration’s heavy-handed actions vis-a-vis press access, what does she have to say when her own actions are in the mix?” he wrote. “She called and requested to speak off the record. No thanks.”

Likewise, Wemple reported that CNN’s PR team did not respond to his questions, much like the silence that the reported assaulted by Ryan’s bodyguard has gotten from both Ryan and the network.

“The strategy here is to ignore the situation in the hopes that it will blow over,” Wemple concluded. “Such an outcome shouldn’t be furnished to CNN and Ryan, given the level of professional hypocrisy at hand.”

“Speak now or relinquish your standing as First Amendment champions.”

i think this is an interesting point, but I think this is a bit of a false equivalency to suggest that this one incident with Ryan is somehow on an equal footing with the ongoing actions of the President, not to mention the fact that the importance of the office of the president doing these things is far more consequential.

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5 hours ago, Long Ball Larry said:

i think this is an interesting point, but I think this is a bit of a false equivalency to suggest that this one incident with Ryan is somehow on an equal footing with the ongoing actions of the President, not to mention the fact that the importance of the office of the president doing these things is far more consequential.

Was that suggested somewhere?  I don't think they're equating the two. 

It's annoying in a way.  They're not wrong; in a country with a truly free press, Trump's rhetoric would be abhorrent.  It still is.  But it's annoying that TV mannequins like Jim Acosta, who parades himself around as an antiTrump reporter on CNN while the network cashes in on Trump, try to corner the market on our rightful empathy for the press.  It's such a sideshow.  These people wouldn't dream of challenging power.  

The most pressing threat to freedom of the press in the US, far and away and it isn't even close, is the Trump DOJ's prosecution of Julian Assange.  But they're pretty content just to watch him burn.  The hypocrisy and cynicism of it all is astounding.  But they know they'll never be subversive or courageous enough to actually expose the system like Wikileaks did, so they're safe.  

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22 minutes ago, ren hoek said:

Was that suggested somewhere?  I don't think they're equating the two. 

It's annoying in a way.  They're not wrong; in a country with a truly free press, Trump's rhetoric would be abhorrent.  It still is.  But it's annoying that TV mannequins like Jim Acosta, who parades himself around as an antiTrump reporter on CNN while the network cashes in on Trump, try to corner the market on our rightful empathy for the press.  It's such a sideshow.  These people wouldn't dream of challenging power.  

The most pressing threat to freedom of the press in the US, far and away and it isn't even close, is the Trump DOJ's prosecution of Julian Assange.  But they're pretty content just to watch him burn.  The hypocrisy and cynicism of it all is astounding.  But they know they'll never be subversive or courageous enough to actually expose the system like Wikileaks did, so they're safe.  

 

Quote

“Though Ryan is happy to light up CNN’s airwaves with outrage over the Trump administration’s heavy-handed actions vis-a-vis press access, what does she have to say when her own actions are in the mix?” he wrote.

 

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The impression I got from that was that Wemple felt Ryan was being hypocritical, not that her actions are on the same scale as the President's rhetoric.  

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CNN added to its deep roster of former FBI and CIA officials-turned-analysts Friday with the hiring of Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director fired for lack of candor during an investigation last year.

McCabe is the tenth ex-FBI, CIA or intelligence community official CNN has hired during the Trump administration, according to a Daily Caller News Foundation analysis. MSNBC has followed closely behind, having hired five former officials, including former CIA Director John Brennan.

CNN was widely mocked on Friday after announcing the McCabe hiring, largely because the network has criticized its competitors for hiring former Trump administration officials. But the personnel move is also part of a larger trend that has come under scrutiny from some media observers.

Jack Shafer, a media critic who writes for Politico, noted the potential pitfalls of networks like CNN and MSNBC having a stable of ex-spies and G-men as paid, on-air contributors.

“But the downside of outsourcing national security coverage to the TV spies is obvious,” Shafer wrote in a Feb. 5, 2018 article at Politico. “They aren’t in the business of breaking news or uncovering secrets. Their first loyalty — and this is no slam — is to the agency from which they hail.”

Glenn Greenwald, an editor at The Intercept who covers national security issues, echoed that sentiment during a Fox News interview in March.

“And not only did MSNBC and CNN use those people as their sources, they hired them as their news analyst. So if you turn on CNN or MSNBC, it was basically state TV. It was CIA TV,” he told Tucker Carlson March 26.

Greenwald and others have noted the lopsided analysis offered up by the former officials, especially on the topic of the Trump-Russia probe.

Most have hewed to their networks’ general viewpoint that Trump or his associates conspired with Russia. Others, like McCabe, Brennan, and former national intelligence director James Clapper, have all defended the investigation of the Trump campaign. They’ve maintained their defense even in the wake of the special counsel’s report, which debunked the theory that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia.

Here is a rundown of CNN and MSNBC’s most prominent analysts.

15 Former Spooks Who Work At CNN And MSNBC Now

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35 minutes ago, ren hoek said:

the special counsel’s report, which debunked the theory that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia

No it didn’t. Why do you keep repeating this lie? 

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24 minutes ago, timschochet said:

No it didn’t. Why do you keep repeating this lie? 

Because it's not?

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26 minutes ago, timschochet said:

It’s an excellent hire. I’ve heard McCabe; he’s a good analyst. And a patriot. 

Yes, they should definitely hire more security state officials.  Totally normal etiquette for a news organization.  

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Posted 19 minutes ago

   56 minutes ago,  ren hoek said:

the special counsel’s report, which debunked the theory that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia

58 minutes ago, timschochet said:

No it didn’t. Why do you keep repeating this lie? 

That was the exact phrase I stopped reading that garbage article as well. The Mueller report failed to compile enough evidence to prove conspiracy partially because some of Trumps stooges refused to answer and cooperate with the investigation and Trumps refusal to testify before the grand jury. Debunk, not even close.

Edited by lazyike
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1 hour ago, lazyike said:

Posted 19 minutes ago

   56 minutes ago,  ren hoek said:

the special counsel’s report, which debunked the theory that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia

That was the exact phrase I stopped reading that garbage article as well. The Mueller report failed to compile enough evidence to prove conspiracy partially because some of Trumps stooges refused to answer and cooperate with the investigation and Trumps refusal to testify before the grand jury. Debunk, not even close.

You, and everyone else that bought into this moronic conspiracy theory, got conned.  You were lied to by the intelligence community, politicians, and misled by news orgs that didn't have the integrity to properly question it. 

Now they've handed Trump a massive gift heading into 2020.  Instead of spending all that time and energy on the actual harmful policies of Trump's for ~3 years, they blew it on a spy thriller mystery.  They constructed a maximalist TrumpRussia narrative, made his real actions look petty by comparison, and are now trying to weasel their way out of it.  Like no one could have seen this coming.

This thing will be the centerpiece of Trump's 2020 campaign.  Wait til he starts dunking on the Democratic Party for overinvesting in this garbage for being conspiracy kooks.  They're gonna have a field day with this, count on it.  Just take the L and move on.  

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6 hours ago, ren hoek said:

You, and everyone else that bought into this moronic conspiracy theory, got conned.  You were lied to by the intelligence community, politicians, and misled by news orgs that didn't have the integrity to properly question it. 

Now they've handed Trump a massive gift heading into 2020.  Instead of spending all that time and energy on the actual harmful policies of Trump's for ~3 years, they blew it on a spy thriller mystery.  They constructed a maximalist TrumpRussia narrative, made his real actions look petty by comparison, and are now trying to weasel their way out of it.  Like no one could have seen this coming.

This thing will be the centerpiece of Trump's 2020 campaign.  Wait til he starts dunking on the Democratic Party for overinvesting in this garbage for being conspiracy kooks.  They're gonna have a field day with this, count on it.  Just take the L and move on.  

The conspiracy investigation is over, but when Donald Jr welcomed a meeting with Russians to discuss dirt they had on Hillary to possibly use to help win an election, try to lie about the content of the meeting by saying it was falsely about adoptions it would take a completely inept, corrupt Justice Department to ignore and not investigate.

The end.

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2 hours ago, lazyike said:

The conspiracy investigation is over, but when Donald Jr welcomed a meeting with Russians to discuss dirt they had on Hillary to possibly use to help win an election, try to lie about the content of the meeting by saying it was falsely about adoptions it would take a completely inept, corrupt Justice Department to ignore and not investigate.

The end.

Okay man.  It's clear Rob Goldstone was a total nobody with no connection at all to Russian govt, that when push came to shove Veselnitskaya/FusionGPS had no information to give, and the adoptions thing was factually truthful.  

I think that's a pretty silly reason to write off the problem of intelligence officials becoming news analysts, which used to be unthinkable in this country, but you do you

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11 hours ago, timschochet said:

No it didn’t. Why do you keep repeating this lie? 

Why would you expect this one to be unique?

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16 hours ago, ren hoek said:

Yes, they should definitely hire more security state officials.  Totally normal etiquette for a news organization.  

I agree that it is important that anyone consuming news be attuned to the source, and that the majority of people watching probably aren't thinking about the fact that what people on TV are saying have a variety of backgrounds and biases.  and I agree that we should always consider the loyalties of for government officials, particularly within the intelligence apparatus.

On the other hand, who would be better to comment on the inner workings of government and intelligence than someone who has actually experienced it?  And the majority of these people do have the balanced and nuanced approach to extremely complicated geopolitical situations, and are not the mindless propagandists that you might think they are.

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17 hours ago, ren hoek said:

The impression I got from that was that Wemple felt Ryan was being hypocritical, not that her actions are on the same scale as the President's rhetoric.  

maybe slightly, but it doesn't seem that outrageous to me.  Can I be angry about someone who has committed a hit and run even though I have gotten a speeding ticket?

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7 hours ago, ren hoek said:

Okay man.  It's clear Rob Goldstone was a total nobody with no connection at all to Russian govt, that when push came to shove Veselnitskaya/FusionGPS had no information to give, and the adoptions thing was factually truthful.  

I think that's a pretty silly reason to write off the problem of intelligence officials becoming news analysts, which used to be unthinkable in this country, but you do you

Yes Goldstone had no connections with the government but Russian lawyer  Natalia Veselnitskaya had connections to the Kremlin.

Edited by lazyike

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Please consider subscribing to Taibbi's wonderful Untitledgate //

https://taibbi.substack.com/p/the-new-york-times-is-no-longer-the/comments

The New York Times is no longer the paper of record

Editor Dean Baquet admits his newspaper has become a political organ

Aug 22 Subscriber's post

Americans have always loved to hate the New York Times, but the rancor always came tinged with admiration.

The paper’s stubborn resistance to change, stodginess, and our-farts-don’t-smell superiority were elements of its charm. The “Gray Lady” is where history’s worst mass-murderer would remain “Mr. Hitler,” where the robber-baron look is always welcome back in style (“The monocle returns as fashion accessory” is a Times classic), and Deep Throat could become a pop culture sensation in part because Times critic Vincent Canby panned it (''The film,” seethed Canby, “has less to do with the manifold pleasures of sex than with physical engineering”).

The paper’s style and grammar Nazis were monuments to Freud’s anal stage of development. They stayed frozen there for 150 years. The upper-class airs of the Times have never not been funny, e.g.:

A listing of highlights about the wedding of Cassandra Ilich and Shaun Reed, featured in the Vows column last Sunday, misstated the number of stones in her engagement ring. It has nine stones, not seven.

The paper’s worship of honorifics and leaden third-person prose came packaged in an ethical code that, love it or hate it, was a beacon for reporters. The Times was the white line in the middle of the road, a measuring stick.

Its reportorial style was timid to the point of morbidity. Writers were afraid to offer the smallest opinions. If a Times reporter wanted a point of view in a byline story, it had to be told through an “expert” or an “analyst.”

Former Deputy Editor Phillip Corbett in the early 2000s said objectivity was “not only a worthy goal, but probably our most important one: the goal that underpins most of our other ideals, like fairness and accuracy.”

The Times braintrust refused across decades to budge an inch off its stance. Editors were like druids guarding a thousand-year religion. When there were breakdowns, as in the case of cocaine-snarfing fabulist Jayson Blair, it shook the whole business. (The characteristically understated Times admission in that case was that the “accident” of Blair opened “credibility cracks” for journalism).

After decades of intransigence, the paper in the Bush years began to change. In 2004 Public Editor Daniel Okrent took on the issue of being too deferential to both sides of political issues in a piece called “It’s Good to Be Objective. It’s Better to Be Right.” Okrent’s example of over-balance was an obituary of Ronald Reagan that pointed out that AIDS research had gone up in his presidency. It had to. AIDS didn’t exist before Reagan.

Even the Times began to see the absurdity in this. The relentless emphasis on “X says a, but Y says b” as rule began to slacken.

The Times put ads on the front page in 2009, abandoned euphemistic language describing the War of Terror in 2014, and recognized the existence of the word “####” in 2016. Some of these changes may have been inspired by a loss of authority: in the digital age, the hard-fought distribution advantage of our biggest city’s biggest daily paper evaporated, and the “paper of record” suddenly had to compete with hundreds, if not thousands of other news organizations around the world for online eyeballs.

Between 2006 and the mid-2010s, New York Times overall revenue numbers saw sharp declines. It was forced to reduce the size of its news hole by about 5%, slash jobs, and close a printing operation in 2008, beginning a long slog back to commercial viability based on digital readership. There would be no more telling readers to suck it up if they didn’t like the Timesian attitude. Like other mortals, the Times had to beg for clicks.

In 2016, when Donald Trump became the Republican nominee, the paper made a dramatic change. The new concept was elucidated in an August 7, 2016 story by Jim Rutenberg, “Trump is testing the norms of objectivity.”

The column redefined objectivity as meaning not just true, but true to “history’s judgment.” Rutenberg added:

If you view a Trump presidency as something that’s potentially dangerous, then your reporting is going to reflect that. You would move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional. That’s uncomfortable and uncharted territory for every mainstream, nonopinion journalist I’ve ever known, and by normal standards, untenable.

But the question that everyone is grappling with is: Do normal standards apply? And if they don’t, what should take their place?

The column was understood as a corporate mission statement, especially when editor Dean Baquet told NPR that Rutenberg “nailed it.” When the paper dismissed public editor Liz Spayd, who’d acidly warned abandoning objectivity norms could mean turning the Times into “The New Republic gone daily,” the transformation to an “oppositional” Times was official.

How would the Times, which once treasured objectivity as its “most important” value, alter its approach? What would such changes look like?

We’re finding out.

In recent weeks, the Times and Baquet have given a public burial to the paper’s hoary objectivity standard. In keeping with its tradition of slapstick self-importance, the announcement was accidental and pretentious, coming via a leaked transcript of a would-be private employee meeting. Still, it was revelatory, or would have been, in any other era. In the age of Trump, reporters barely noticed. They should have.

Baquet, who seems to be a vacillating, nervous sort of personality, called for an urgent staff town hall meeting on Monday, August 11. From reports, it had the flavor of an ace pitcher leading a players-only confab after his team loses ten in a row.

The Times had had a tough week. In an unforced error of the sort that passes for a major intellectual controversy in journalism, editors used a page 1 headline, TRUMP URGES UNITY VS. RACISM, that readers and pundits alike said was too Trump-credulous. The paper was accused of giving our race-baiting tweeter-in-chief undeserved political points.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said the “cowardice” of Times “aided” white supremacy. Cory Booker said lives “literally” depended on the Times having better headlines. An online movement to cancel Times subscriptions rushed over Twitter.

When the paper changed the online version of the header to something more anodyne (“ASSAILING HATE BUT NOT GUNS”), Pro-Trumpers seethed. The Times, they said, had removed a factually accurate headline just to assuage pro-Democratic audiences. Kellyanne Conway barked the Times was apologizing for being “insufficiently rabid.” Trump campaign manager Matt Wolking said “Democrats prefer their false narrative over reality.”

Both criticisms were right. No matter what your feelings about Trump, a page 1 head after a racially-motivated mass shooting is not the place to imply on any level that Captain “Go Back” is a racial healer. It made the paper look like it was doing White House P.R.

On the other hand, removing a factually accurate headline in response to Twitter complaints told every conservative or independent reader the Times will swiftly red-pencil itself in response to a hashtag (#CancelNYT). This was not an option that had even been open to editors in the old days (you can’t have paper kids snatch back print headlines), even if they had been so inclined, which they never had been.

In the wake of the headline scandal, plus another in which Washington editor Jonathan Weisman ran a series of racially-insensitive tweets, Baquet felt a need to calm the troops.

This probably wasn’t a terrible idea, but someone recorded the “town hall,” which featured 75 minutes of Times staffers puking on each other in what they somehow thought was an atmosphere of confidence. The transcript of the therapy session was leaked it to Slate, fueling more headlines.

Baquet in the meeting spent most of his time talking about a headline controversy, and when and how much to use the word “racist” (a sequel to the controversy of 2016-2017 over the paper’s use of the word “lie”). He also made a series of stunning admissions. In a non-Trump era, these other comments would be fodder for a Judith Miller-sized journalistic scandal.

Baquet described how the paper became laser-focused on Trump’s history of racial rhetoric:

[We] went from being a story about whether the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia and obstruction of justice to being a more head-on story about the president’s character. 

Baquet placing the mission of a daily newspaper in terms of just one or two stories seemed odd. Still, only Baquet and a few other humans know what it’s like to captain a journalistic supertanker like the Times. Maybe that’s how it’s done? He went on:

We built our newsroom to cover one story, and we did it truly well. Now we have to regroup, and shift resources and emphasis to take on a different story. I’d love your help with that. 

Even if you wanted to marshal your editorial resources to attack one subject – I could see it for something like an election, a world war, 9/11 – investing in this way in Russiagate represented an extraordinary up-front judgment about that story’s importance. He continued:

Chapter 1 of the story of Donald Trump, not only for our newsroom but, frankly, for our readers, was: Did Donald Trump have untoward relationships with the Russians, and was there obstruction of justice? That was a really hard story… We won two Pulitzer Prizes covering that story. And I think we covered that story better than anybody else.

In the middle of telling staff the Times kicked ### on the Russia story, Baquet shifted to say:

The day Bob Mueller walked off that witness stand, two things happened. Our readers who want Donald Trump to go away suddenly thought, “Holy ####, Bob Mueller is not going to do it…” I think that the story changed… We’re a little tiny bit flat-footed. I mean, that’s what happens when a story looks a certain way for two years…

WTF!?!?!??

In classic Timesian manner, speaking in pretzel-sentences and referring to one’s own first-person mistakes as a distant second or third person concern that just sort of happened, Baquet said the paper was staggered by the realization that Special Counsel Robert Mueller was not going to “do it,” i.e. remove Trump from office. The paper, he said, was caught “a tiny bit flat-footed” by the disappointing ending.  

“A tiny bit flat-footed” is a Times euphemism on par with calling waterboarding “harsh questioning.” The only way a newspaper can get caught “flat-footed” by factual developments is if it’s been playing an expectations game with coverage, which should never happen, if you’re practicing safe sex and not overselling information.

Baquet admitted the Times did just that, crafting coverage to fit hopes of readers who “want Trump to go away.” Moreover the paper “built” its newsroom around “one story.” This enormous emphasis had the effect of further suckering readers into believing a) the story was massive in scope and importance, and that b) significant fallout had to be coming.  

When “the story changed,” the paper was forced to shift gears and throw its weight into a new story. Here is where Baquet’s comments got really bizarre:

I think that we’ve got to change. I mean, the vision for coverage for the next two years is what I talked about earlier: How do we cover a guy who makes these kinds of remarks? How do we cover the world’s reaction to him? How do we do that while continuing to cover his policies? How do we cover America, that’s become so divided by Donald Trump? How do we grapple with all the stuff you all are talking about? How do we write about race in a thoughtful way, something we haven’t done in a large way in a long time?

That, to me, is the vision for coverage. You all are going to have to help us shape that vision. But I think that’s what we’re going to have to do for the rest of the next two years.

Baquet is explicitly saying the Times moved to cover race “in a thoughtful way, something we haven’t done in a large way in a long time,” because the paper needed to “shift resources onto a different story.” The paper is now planning on focusing on race “for the next two years,” obviously meaning to the end of Trump’s first term (is the assumption that this all-consuming attention to racial issues will only be necessary until then?).

The Times could have elected to dig into race more at any time in its history and it would have been appropriate. In areas like criminal justice, housing, education, income disparity, political representation, and racial violence, there is more than enough territory for good reporters (of which there are many at the Times) to cover. They could even have started doing this in conjunction with an examination of Trump’s racial attitudes at the beginning of Trump’s term, or before his election, and it would have made sense.

But in this particular context, with the bizarre reference to a plan for focusing in this direction for the next “two years,” the editor of America’s paper of record is saying he’s building his newsroom around race because the paper’s first-choice topic, Russiagate, failed to “do it,” i.e. end Trump’s presidency. “Russiagate ran out of gas, so we’ll focus on race,” seems somehow to be the message. This is Jim Rutenberg’s “oppositional” approach reimagined to scale.

The Times was once squeamish about the appearance of political bias to the point where reporter Jodi Wilgoren, years ago, became the locus of controversy for saying John Kerry was a “social loner” without quoting a source. Now the paper is openly building coverage for readers who “want Trump to go away.”   

Forget for a moment the question of whether this is good or bad and just focus on what it means: a radical change for a once-rigid American institution, reversing an objectivity standard the paper spent 150-plus years building.

On one level, “objectivity” has always been an absurdity. Ex-public editor Okrent was right in 2004 when he wrote that bias and opinion are baked in to editorial decisions at every level, from the wording of headlines to where to place photos and how much space to give one topic over another. Bias in journalism can’t be escaped. I don’t know a reporter who really believes in it.

But there is such a thing as striving for objectivity, as a goal. This was a quality control mechanism for news organizations as much as anything else. When the Times foundered on a WMD or Jayson Blair fiasco in the in the past, readers forgave, because the mistakes at least happened in the context of trying to hit true north. But what’s left when you stop bothering with objectivity and you get things wrong as well? That’s where you’re at when you’ve poured two years of resources into a story that “changed” and left you “a tiny bit flat-footed.”

There are other approaches to reporting beyond the old Timesian objectivity standard. It would be perfectly legitimate, for instance, for the Times to re-brand itself as a firebrand blue-state political organ whose purpose is campaigning against Donald Trump.

But the new, post-Trump Times is not selling itself as a political rally-sheet like Iskra or an opinion bugle like The New Republic. It continues to be written in the style of the old, stodgy, pole-up-its rear Times, whose main selling point was exactly its careful measuring of import and its phobic avoidance of visible slant.

The new Times, in other words, markets itself in the style of objectivity, while delivering a product that contentwise runs in the exact other direction. It’s selling authority and subjectivity at the same time.

This formula could work, in the hands of people with the self-awareness and intellectual audacity to make it work, but that’s not this New York Times. The inevitable consequence of this group of people trying to retain a reputation for stuffy editorial rectitude while seeking a bold lead role in the campaign to break the Trumpian wheel is that the paper will fail at both.

It is headed for a reputation for being politicized and unreliable while simultaneously somehow still being a windy, pompous, self-important drag editorially. It’ll be: “This food is terrible – and such large portions!”

It’s hard to overstate what the decline of the Times means for American journalism. When the paper’s revenues began declining in the mid-2000s, it was symbolic of the irreversible overall fall of print news.

However the Times, like cable news channels and some other large outlets, has begun a commercial rebound in the last few years, with ascending revenues and a rapidly-expanding digital subscriber base. This rise, too, is symbolic of dramatic trends. It’s not an accident that this is coinciding with the arrival of Donald Trump on the political scene.

News companies that have to compete with millions of tweeters and thousands of bloggers have figured out the formula is playing aggressively to a demographic half rather than trying to hold the entire fractured audience. Fox was the first big corporation to run in that direction. In the Trump era, even the Times has surrendered the hill, meaning the last connection to the objectivity era is gone. Goodbye to the white line in the middle of the road. We’re all driving blind now.

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The premise of this article/threa is absurd.  This seems to be the jist:

1.  There is no liberal bias.  The 'real' bias is corporate bias.

2.  The US has no interest in spreading peace and democracy.

3.  The real purpose of war is American imperialism and to make money for our corporate war machine.

The truth is promoting peace, freedom, democracy, human rights, and stability are the main objectives of US intervention throughout the world.   That is not bias, that is in fact the ultimate objective of our people and our government. If we wanted to occupy and rule the world, we would.  Having some cynicism about government is healthy, but believing our elected officials are mainly motivated by some sort of desires for corporations to profit off of war is kooksville. 

Yes there is a strong liberal bias in the mainstream media, it is well established by people who honestly study it.  There is also a natural pro-American bias since our journalist are mostly American and have that perspective.  But there still is a healthy amount of skepticism in the media, especially when the Republicans hold the White House. 

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27 minutes ago, cubd8 said:

Brian Stelter thinks CNN coverage is not partisan.

He also is convinced that ratings play no part in his company’s coverage nor would a drop in ratings be seen as a problem.  Mkay Brian.

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3 minutes ago, unckeyherb said:

He also is convinced that ratings play no part in his company’s coverage nor would a drop in ratings be seen as a problem.  Mkay Brian.

I thought CNN had seen a drop in the ratings, but I'm assuming they believe that anti-Trump coverage (very similar to MSNBC) will help them over the next year.

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12 hours ago, cubd8 said:

I thought CNN had seen a drop in the ratings, but I'm assuming they believe that anti-Trump coverage (very similar to MSNBC) will help them over the next year.

I had not realized how badly their ratings have cratered.  They are having major problems.

Edited by jonessed

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Ha, today was pretty bad for Stelter.

For the past two years, he has said he has not questioned Trump's state of mind. He had always made vague references or had guests on his show go off so he could claim that he didn't say anything.

Well, today, he said we must be talking about it and then brought on two doctors. He didn't really ask any questions about Trump and the guy said that Trump has murdered more people than Hitler, etc. Stelter didn't reply or push back on the show, claiming later that there was technical issues and he didn't hear the response. It was only after he was attacked on social media that he addressed it.

Later in the show, his guests defended CNN hiring McCabe, who they hired a day after going after FOX for hiring Huckabee.

If this wasn't enough, he had April Ryan on to explain why she had a journalist kicked out of some speech she gave and that turned into her being a victim of threats. 

Very bad day for "Reliable Sources".

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35 minutes ago, jonessed said:

I had not realized how badly their ratings have cratered.  They are having major problems.

They made a decision to become another version of MSNBC. With the amount of anti-Trump networks out there already, they are probably being crowded out. 

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On 8/25/2019 at 7:53 AM, cubd8 said:

Brian Stelter thinks CNN coverage is not partisan.

He's a hack and CNN is a garbage network.

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