Discover more from Words & Deeds
Bad Journalism Is Bad for Democracy
Trump’s Taunts Trigger Threats
A major television network chose to kick off a new era for its premier Sunday morning show on politics with an interview of the leading candidate for the Republican nomination for the 2024 presidential election.
Sounds like a ratings winner, right? And I’m sure the network’s debut of Kristin Welker as the host for Meet the Press had lots of people tuning in just to see if she could handle the pressure, which, I’m told, she did. What she didn’t do –likely because it would have caused a Trump temper tantrum– was put this story in a realistic context. Sure Trump lies… nothing about why he lies.
There are people in America influenced by this man who exist in a false reality, fed by misinformation on behalf of people with bad intentions. Too many of them believe violent solutions are necessary.
On Meet the Press, Donald Trump did what he always does, namely alternating between flooding the zone with a variety of untruths about the past and vague musings about the future.
Welker nodded her head, made attempts to keep him on topic, and appeared in a live segment adjacent to the taped interview to correct bits and pieces of the stream of misinformation that mostly flowed right by her out into the ether. Even a seasoned journalist’s powers are limited when it comes to nonsensical responses fired off at a rapid pace.
Capitol Police testified against Nancy Pelosi, and then burned all the evidence.
"after birth" abortions are a thing
The fact is that the interview was pre-taped and edited. So every lie broadcast by NBC was a conscious choice. As Rachel Maddow once said: “There’s a cost to us as a news organization of knowingly broadcasting untrue things.”
A more detailed “fact check” was available for curious views on a website. It was noted that the network also extended an invitation for President Joe Biden to appear on another episode of Meet the Press.
Scholars, experts, politicians, and historians could appear weekly for months, and the damage done via NBC’s marketing scheme would not be undone.
Sure, if you look at what happened out of context, a media outlet invited a well known individual to (sort of) answer questions. And I’m not saying that the former President of the US shouldn’t be allowed to speak on any platform.
I am saying that everyday reporting is all-too-often framed as though what’s being reported is a one-off occurrence.
False equivalencies abound in mainstream media and opinion. Somehow the offspring of the president being indicted on charges (that will no longer exist via a case before the Supreme Court next year) is the same (in terms of coverage) as a politician facing 91 felony charges in four different cases. The impending government shutdown is due to “Congress faltering” (NYT), not the demands of a small group of legislators seeking to impose their agenda on the American people.
President Biden is “too old,” say commentators, while former President Trump not remembering in a speech who he ran against in 2016 and saying we’re headed for World War TWO is no big deal.
I call this sort of malarkey journalistic malpractice undertaken with bad intentions.
Speaking of bad intentions, how about the reporter for ABC news who thought it was appropriate to yell a question (and share it on social media) about pardoning Hunter Biden at the President as he was leaving the church by the gravesites of his dead first wife (car accident) and Beau Biden (brain cancer).
Back off for a moment and look at the larger picture of politics and journalism. There is, for the most part, a failure to recognize that current events are not “normal.” The next presidential election is not about a small government Republican competing for votes with a social safety net Democrat.
There is a portion of the public who’ve been convinced that some form of destruction/violence is needed to protect their way of life. There are elected officials who say they are willing to let this happen, either because they see opportunity in chaos or because they fear being swept up by angry mobs.
Sen. Mitt Romney’s biography includes anecdotal evidence of the fear, with fellow lawmakers admitting their floor votes are determined by the need to protect themselves and their families from threats and violence. Consider that the 2012 GOP candidate for president is spending $2 million a year to protect himself and his family against followers of the 2024 GOP candidate for president.
Large parts of American journalism continue to operate as though the existential crises of our time don’t exist, whether it’s the climate change connection to the economy, the impact of widening economic inequality, or the actions of shock troops in a movement to end democracy as we know it.
Unthinkable things are being normalized, like book banning, considering women as breeding vessels, belief of an invasion in progress, and acceptance of a permanent underclass, largely determined by skin color. A half-century ago, all these things were so far out of the mainstream that even popular culture viewed them with revulsion. (Remember Superman telling school kids about racism being un-American?)
CNN’s Christiane Amanpour and The Guardian’s Margaret Sullivan are influential figures trying to communicate the seriousness of democracy itself being on the brink.
. ..“Whether you’re covering Donald Trump, whether you’re covering the climate crisis, whatever you’re covering — you absolutely have to be truthful, which does not mean unobjective. Objective means cover all sides. It does not mean come to the same judgment about all sides.”
Amanpour, now CNN’s chief international anchor, said that she believes there are a number of good journalists who hold US lawmakers’ feet to the fire. But she expressed concern that there is “way too much focus on the horse race in politics, as opposed to the policy and context.”
“I would say if I was a foreign correspondent … I would cover this in the same way that I would cover … threats to democracy in any other part of the world,” Amanpour said. “And I would make sure that you don’t just give a platform to those who survive on hate speech, to those who want to crash down the Constitution and democracy.”
Can the mainstream press rise to the challenge over the next year?
“When one of our two political parties has become so extremist and anti-democratic”, the old ways of reporting don’t cut it, wrote the journalist Dan Froomkin in his excellent list of suggestions culled from respected historians and observers.
In fact, such both-sides-equal reporting “actively misinforms the public about the stakes of the coming election”.
The stakes really are enormously high. It’s our job to make sure that those potential consequences – not the horse race, not Biden’s age, not a scam impeachment – are front and center for US citizens before they go to the polls.
What bothers me the most about this common mis-framing by reporters and news organizations is the unsaid part of the utterances of Trump and his ilk. The implication that violence or threats are needed is standard operating procedure for the MAGA crowd.
The Special Counsel in charge of the Justice Department’s case(s) against the former president asked for a narrow gag order on Friday.
A redacted copy of a government filing — released Friday, after an order from U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan — comes in connection with the election interference case, one of four criminal cases the former president is facing, two of which are federal.
“The defendant has an established practice of issuing inflammatory public statements targeted at individuals or institutions that present an obstacle or challenge to him,” the special counsel's office wrote.
The redacted portion of that filing is where the rubber meets the road, and likely includes evidence that could be used in further indictments.
If I was Jack Smith, I certainly would have mentioned the Russian website that published the names and addresses of the Georgia grand jurors who indicted Trump. The government can’t do anything about this site, and Trump aficionados are republishing these names on Trump's Truth Social.
These sorts of things would be a lot less likely to happen if a certain Dear Leader wasn’t posting angry rhetoric on social media 24/7.
Much of this ‘need for violence’ thinking should be attributed to various fundamentalist religious groups.
Frederick Clarkson, who watches extremist groups for a living, gave an overview describing just how serious these religious groups are in Salon, including Sean Feucht, a musician and evangelist, familiar to followers of our local Awaken Churches:
…Feucht and his movement consider the 50 state capitals to be demon-infested bastions of ungodly government. His tour has openly become a campaign to "unfriend" the nation. He wrote in an "Open Letter to Church Leaders" on April 23:
Unfriend? That seems a little harsh for some. Yet [New Testament author] James didn't seem to think so — "Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."
Feucht's effort to connect young people with what his movement considers William Penn's ancient vision for Pennsylvania is part of the wider, epochal campaign of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), a movement at the cutting edge of Pentecostal and Charismatic evangelicalism, which is now the second largest Christian faction in the world after the Roman Catholic Church and the largest growth sector in American and global Christianity.
This is a central story of our time, and one that has scarcely penetrated our national consciousness. Sean Feucht's ministry, for example, is overseen by NAR apostles — but media coverage does not reflect that context
Katherine Stewart attended the Las Vega gathering of ReAwaken America, the traveling circus of right wing fringe figures, second tier Trumpanistas, and hellfire evangelicals, and filed The Right-Wing Conspiracy-Fest Is More Openly Bloodthirsty Than Before at the New Republic. (It was her third visit with this troupe’s performances)
Mainly Las Vegas was about fear. The overriding message is that nowhere is safe. “They” will come after you in the churches, they’ll come after your kids in the schoolhouses, they’re out to destroy your health, and they won’t stop until they have robbed you of every penny and changed your gender against your will.
A booklet that was broadly distributed throughout the event was titled “Battlefield United States” and featured images of tanks and military aircraft attacking the Statue of Liberty on the cover. The subhead read, “PREPARE FOR EMP ‘GRID DOWN’ NUCLEAR ATTACK WHEN SUMMER IS NEAR. TIME IS SHORT. STOCKPILE SUPPLIES A.S.A.P.” A line at the bottom helpfully reminded readers that “coronavirus was planned ‘event 201’ global pandemic exercise.” The back cover added, “All human population to be RFID chipped *All firearms to be confiscated *All resistance to be eliminated.… TOTAL ENSLAVEMENT OF MANKIND.”
The thirst for blood, I realized, is just an index of this ever-growing, ever-morphing fear.
Monday News You Might Have Missed
McCarthy is launching impeachment specifically to obscure Trump’s attack on democracy, and possibly his felony convictions for it. He’s doing it to slide past voters the horror of Jan. 6, the same horror that compelled him to condemn Trump—just days before supplicating to him.
MAGA Republicans are making clear that a GOP in which dissenters literally fear for their lives—and vote accordingly—is now the only game in town. McCarthy will make impeachment happen, hide the leader’s crimes and help him back into power, or risk becoming one of the dissenters himself.
After reading the Romney story I thought of one of the quirky biographical tales McCarthy likes to tell. Once, as a young man, he won $5000 in a lottery jackpot. That’s a lot of cash, and back then he used it as seed money to open a deli. It’s ironic that today that $5,000 would pay for exactly 24 hours of the protection McCarthy will need if he crosses Donald Trump.
Greenwashing set Canada on fire by Cory Doctorow
The logging industry committed a triple crime. First, they stole our old-growth forests. Next, they (literally) planted a time-bomb across Ontario's north. Finally, they stole the idealism of people who genuinely cared about the environment. They taught a generation that resistance is futile, that anything you do to make a better future is a scam, and you're a sucker for falling for it. They planted nihilism with every tree.
That scam never ended. Today, we're sold carbon offsets, a modern Papal indulgence. We are told that if we pay the finance sector, they can absolve us for our climate sins. Carbon offsets are a scam, a market for lemons. The "offset" you buy might be a generated by a fake charity like the Nature Conservancy, who use well-intentioned donations to buy up wildlife reserves that *can't* be logged, which are then converted into carbon credits by promising not to log them.
The credit-card company that promises to plant trees every time you use your card? They combine false promises, deceptive advertising, and legal threats against critics to convince you that you're saving the planet by shopping.
The carbon offset world is *full* of scams. The carbon offset that made the thing you bought into a "net zero" product? It might be a forest that *already burned*:
The End of Roe Is Having a Chilling Effect on Pregnancy Via Politico Magazine
For young people, the maternal healthcare crisis is deeply personal. More than a third of young people and 22 percent of young women told us they have personally dealt with or know someone who has “faced constraints when trying to manage a pregnancy-related emergency.” And 23 percent of 18- to 39-year-old women say they have themselves or know someone else who has been unable to obtain an abortion in their state — a number almost three times higher than respondents in other age groups.
Perhaps most surprisingly however, these results are similar regardless of whether the respondents are living in states with abortion bans or states without restrictions on abortion access. The consistency between red and blue states suggests that the statistics on maternal mortality and the stories and struggles of women navigating the new normal on abortion access have penetrated the psyche of young people everywhere. The Dobbs decision, it seems, has fundamentally altered how people feel about having families and the calculus for getting pregnant.
Alexis McGill Johnson, CEO of Planned Parenthood, told me that the stories of women dying or facing near-death experiences because of abortion restrictions has struck fear in the hearts of young people, many of whom were already ambivalent about having children because of the costs and pressures that generation faces.