Browsing the archives for the News Media category.


Are Our News Media Learning?

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News Media, Trump Maladministration

A righteously frustrated Colbert King writes,

The vaudeville show that’s running at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue didn’t book itself into the White House. Nearly 63 million Americans sent that burlesque comedy with headliner Donald Trump to Washington. That 66 million other voters thought otherwise is beside the point. Trump didn’t anoint himself president. Millions put him in office.

What does that tell us about the country?

I would ask, what does that tell us about U.S. elections and how people make voting decisions? Many mistakes were made last election by both parties; little went according to plan. But I think a lot of the blame has to go to news media and how elections are covered.

The single biggest source of information most voters go by is cable and television news. The chart is from Pew Research Center, from February 2016.

Notice that only 2 percent of people get information from national newspapers; 1 percent actually check out the candidates’ websites.

If you check out the article, you see that older people in particular lean on cable and television news, whereas younger people lean more heavily on notoriously unreliable social media. Among millennials, 6 percent name “late night comedy” as a source, way ahead of any sort of newspaper, local or national.

But going back to cable and television news, what exactly did people learn about the candidates last year from those sources?

Recently Warren Olney wrote in the Los Angeles Times that Trump owed his election victory to the current head of CNN Worldwide, Jeff Zucker.

Zucker helped create “The Apprentice” as a vehicle for Trump when he was head of NBC Entertainment, Olney wrote. And “As president and chief executive of CNN 10 years later, Zucker became the giver who kept on giving.”

Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan has described his contribution this way: “It was Zucker who gave Trump astonishing amounts of free exposure in the Republican presidential primary on the cable network, continually blasting out his speeches and rallies — often unfiltered and without critical fact-checking.”

During the election season, I saw entire Trump rallies carried live by CNN, interrupted only for mandatory commercials. Not only was there no critical fact-checking, there was no serious effort to provide context for viewers. Never raised, let alone answered, was the question: Why should a developer with a shaky reputation and no relevant experience be seriously considered for the most powerful job in the world?

It wasn’t just CNN, of course. I was never to frustrated with television news as I was on March 15, 2016, when three cable networks ignored a speech being given by Bernie Sanders in favor of covering Trump’s empty podium. Ryan Grim wrote at the time,

Fox News, CNN and MSNBC all declined to carry Sanders’ speech, instead offering punditry about the evening, with the chyrons promising, “AWAITING TRUMP” and “STANDING BY FOR TRUMP.”

Hillary Clinton last week got similarly dissed by the networks in favor of Trump.

Earlier Tuesday, The Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone reported that the media have collectively given Trump some $2 billion worth of free air time. 

Thanks to Trump’s ability to drive ratings and generate controversy, as well as his unmatched accessibility — notably by phone — TV networks have covered the candidate nonstop since he entered the race last summer. Numerous rallies and press conferences have been aired live, while sexist and bigoted remarks typically result in a flurry of TV interviews. After canceling a rally Friday night, Trump dominated cable news by calling into CNN, MSNBC and Fox News for a total of 48 minutes in under an hour.

“Trump’s ability to drive ratings” is key here. He was entertaining. People tuned in to see what he was up to.

Colbert King is wondering why so many Americans couldn’t see his flaws:

Trump the candidate showed himself to be an ignorant, undisciplined, ranting bully who exaggerated and lied without shame. A man who wore a tough-guy masculinity but was actually a coward, who picked on women, demeaned minorities and was thoroughly lacking in human decency. …

… Trump’s ties and affinities to Russia were no secret, either.

Two months before Election Day, reports appeared in The Post, including in this column, that there was strong evidence that Trump’s businesses had received significant funding from Russian investors — thus adding to a growing sense that the Russians may have had their hooks in him and his associates.

Plus, there were the stories about how Trump stiffed his vendors, about how Trump apparently cheated on his taxes, about Trump’s old ties to the New York mob, about his “Trump University” being nothing but a scam, about his many business failures, etc.

But was any of that on cable or television news? The Washington Post and New York Times were both doing a dandy job of digging up the dirt on Trump’s past. But if you don’t read those newspapers — and clearly, most voters don’t — would you have known about those stories? Would you have even been dimly aware those stories were even out there somewhere? I don’t think so. The only dirt on Trump that gained any traction on cable or television news, as I remember, was the “grab ’em by the pussy” remark.

One of the things that must be done, before we go through another presidential election campaign, is to put pressure on television and cable news to present the candidates responsibly and honestly. We need massive media reform. We’ve needed massive media reform since the 1980s, at least. Some of us have been complaining about that for years. The Democrats, at least, ought to be pushing that agenda, because they’re the ones most hurt by the way politics is covered. But they don’t.

Social media, alas, is a cesspool of misinformation, and I’m not sure there’s much that can be done about that. Being able to ban or block fake news sites would help, but there’s a reluctance to do that for fear of shutting off legitimate news.

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They Doth Not Protest Enough, Methinks

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News Media

Last night after I was done writing I learned that someone had leaked documents to The Intercept showing that the NSA knew about a Russian attempt to hack election officials and an election software company before the November 2016 election.

I found a discussion of this on social media, and apparently knowledgeable people in it said that what The Intercept published didn’t indicate that the Russians had succeeded in changing election results. What I’ve said all along: Whatever the Russians might have done, even if they hadn’t done it Hillary Clinton probably would have lost, anyway.

But this morning I fully expected to find media erupting in news about What Did the NSA Know, and When Did They Know It? Instead, it’s mostly subdued news stories about the NSA leaker.

If I were a suspicious sort of person, I would find this odd.

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Roger Ailes, 1940-2017

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News Media

We weep and we mourn. But, truth be told, not a whole lot.

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First Ailes, Now O’Reilly? Maybe.

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News Media

In his most recent column, Michael Gerson slams Fox News.

If the accusations of dozens of women over two decades are correct — and it is hard to dismiss the women, as the accused have done, as unbalanced, dishonest or disgruntled — then Fox News is the focus of hypocrisy in the modern world. While preaching traditional values, it has operated, according to former Fox anchor Andrea Tantaros, “like a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency and misogyny.”

A recent New York Times story detailing $13 million in payouts to women accusing O’Reilly of harassment depicts a corporate atmosphere of predation and enablement. Stories on Ailes present a similar (and even worse) picture of women treated as sex objects and employment benefits.

Gerson’s column could almost have been written by a leftie feminist, except for one slightly paternalistic line, “Can a news organization deal adequately with women’s issues when you would never allow your own daughter to work there?” But I forgive Gerson, because he recognizes the essential problem.

The ethos of a newspaper, cable network or website influences the final product. At The Post — reflecting its investigative self-image — the new motto is “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” At Fox, this ethos has involved, according to the New Yorker’s Margaret Talbot, “the fetishization of hot female news presenters.” And this, it seems, has doubled as a kind of conveyor belt for bright new faces. Can it really be a coincidence that feminism is often dismissed on Fox News as so much political correctness?

Of course it’s not a coincidence. Nor is it a coincidence that more than 30 advertisers recently withdrew their advertising dollars from O’Reilly’s show.

Erik Wemple of WaPo points out that O’Reilly is known for dismissing his detractors with insightful insults, such as “pinhead” and “far-left loon,” but he’s been mostly silent lately. Now that Ailes is out, will Fox News continue to shell out millions of dollars to keep its big star online?

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False Flags About False Flags?

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News Media, Russia

WaPo has a story up about evidence of a possible Russian attempt to hack the power grid.

A code associated with the Russian hacking operation dubbed Grizzly Steppe by the Obama administration has been detected within the system of a Vermont utility, according to U.S. officials.

While the Russians did not actively use the code to disrupt operations, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a security matter, the discovery underscores the vulnerabilities of the nation’s electrical grid. And it raises fears in the U.S. government that Russian government hackers are actively trying to penetrate the grid to carry out potential attacks. …

…Burlington Electric said in a statement that the company detected a malware code used in the Grizzly Steppe operation in a laptop that was not connected to the organization’s grid systems. The firm said it took immediate action to isolate the laptop and alert federal authorities.

Besides the fact that I’m beginning to think I should be worried about my Kaspersky (a Russian company) security software — this story is a bit ambiguous; this might or might not turn out to be a big deal. But hacking of the electrical grid is a major deal, so it is something to be taken seriously. There will be more investigations.

This story also is being reported by Reuters, the Associated Press and the Guardian, although they are attributing most of their information to the Washington Post. These are news outlets with some standards about sources. Again, maybe it’ll turn out to be nothing, but I wouldn’t dismiss it out of hand.

However, others do. Today there was much hooting in social media about false flags. Sample:

Latest False Flag scapegoating, Russia hacking Vermont says MSNBC and Faux News?? Lol Lol. After all Vermont is a high value target. Feel the Bern. Lol. SERIOUSLY?? Anyone Remember the Movie, The Russians are Coming (a cold war era comedy)

Well, yeah, and there really were Russians, although nice ones. Hey, did you ever see the trailer for that movie? It’s a hoot.

Classic. Anyway, at the bottom of the WaPo story is a disclaimer, saying:

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid. Authorities say there is no indication of that so far. The computer at Burlington Electric that was hacked was not attached to the grid.

Someone associated with Alex Jones called the WaPo story a false report. The Daily Caller put out a story headlined “Washington Post Publishes False News Story About Russians Hacking Electrical Grid” by a reporter named Alex Pfeiffer, who looks like he might be almost old enough to shave.

A story published by The Washington Post Friday claims Russia hacked the electrical grid in Vermont. This caused hysteria on social media but has been denied by a spokesman for a Vermont utility company.

The “denial” was that the hacked computer was not attached to the grid, as WaPo corrected. The Vermont utility company did not deny that a hacking code was found on one of their computers. But apparent journalism school dropout Pfeiffer continued to ridicule the WaPo story, playing up “panic among journalists.”

The thing is, that any foreign government might be attempting to hack the electrical grid, even if they haven’t succeeded, really is a big, scary serious thing. Even Pfeiffer might appreciate that if he ever finds himself in the middle of a major, prolonged blackout.

My larger point is that there’s such a thing as being too skeptical for one’s own good. I really hate that it’s now “cool” to dismiss everything in the news as just more manipulation.

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Trump Versus the Media

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Bad Hair, News Media

Trump seems to be trying to intimidate the press. While this New York Post story appears mostly to have been generated by Matt Drudge’s fantasies, the Politico version of what happened when Trump met with 25 media executives yesterday — to discuss a “media reset” — was weird enough.

Trump turned to NBC News President Deborah Turness at one point, the source said, and told her the network won’t run a nice picture of him, instead choosing “this picture of me,” as he made a face with a double chin. Turness replied that they had a “very nice” picture of him on their website at the moment. …

… Trump also singled out CNN, the source said, without elaborating on what the president-elect said about the network. A CNN spokeswoman wrote in an email that the network would not comment on an off-the-record meeting.

The Washington Post, which I understand was not represented at the meeting, was less kind.

But if the media elite attended in hopes of improving relations with the forthcoming Trump administration, that wasn’t quite in the cards. The president-elect specifically called out reporting by CNN and NBC that he deemed unfair, according to four people who attended the meeting, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because the meeting was off the record.

Instead of striking a harmonious tone to build rapport following the election, Trump was combative, participants said. In a calm and deliberate voice, he told the group sitting around a conference table that they had failed to provide their viewers with fair and accurate coverage, and told them they failed to understand him or his appeal to millions of Americans.

But he made no mention of the enormous amount of airtime that the networks, especially on cable, devoted to his campaign. A number of analyses have noted that Trump’s presidential effort was boosted by the news media’s fascination with him.

In a sign of another battle with the media to come, Trump also shrugged off the need for a constant press pool covering him, the people said, though he did not delve into specifics. Trump has repeatedly shirked his pool, upending a long-standing tradition of the president and president-elect.

WaPo currently is featuring an article saying that the Trump Foundation confessed to the IRS it had violated rules on “self dealing.”

Trump had a meeting scheduled with the New York Times, then cancelled it in a series of whiny tweets, but apparently kept the appointment.

But the New York Times had already published a story about how Trump and other billionaires are laying the groundwork for “an unprecedented legal assault on the media.”

 

Whatever Trump’s feelings about the media, New York Times v. Sullivan will surely survive his presidency. The case is revered, and in the last several years, the Supreme Court has moved to expand, not contract, the reach of the First Amendment. And states have taken steps, too: To prevent people from using the courts, and the discovery process, to silence or retaliate against their critics, 28 states and the District of Columbia have enacted anti-Slapp laws — the acronym stands for “strategic lawsuit against public participation.” It’s possible, however, that Trump could appoint judges who would find a way around the usual press protections. More immediately, he could ask his Justice Department to prosecute journalists who report leaks from his administration. (President Obama’s Justice Department investigated reporters, but didn’t charge them.) It’s also possible that the press will be a meeker watchdog because of subtler changes that are harder to track. As the head of the executive branch, the president exerts a great deal of control over access to information. Federal agencies have power to shape the state of the union; they also describe it for us by producing reams of facts and statistics, which in turn shape our assessment of our elected leaders. Trump could hire people who cancel funding for government reports or research that doesn’t serve his interests, or who suppress findings the administration doesn’t like.

The new president will be a man who constantly accuses the media of getting things wrong but routinely misrepresents and twists facts himself. “Their single goal will be to burnish their reputation,” Tim O’Brien predicts of the Trump administration. There are signs, too, of new efforts to harness the law to the cause of cowing the press. Trump’s choice for chief adviser, Stephen Bannon, ran the alt-right Breitbart News Network before joining Trump’s campaign last summer. Breitbart announced last week that it was “preparing a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against a major media company” for calling Breitbart a “ ‘white nationalist’ website.” Even if Breitbart is bluffing, the threat will discourage other news outlets from using that term to describe it, and that will in turn help Breitbart and Bannon seem more acceptable to the mainstream. Trump was right about one thing: You don’t have to win every case to advance in the larger legal war.

Because of the proliferation of alternative news sources, the mainstream press doesn’t have the power to make or break a president as in the old days (think Lyndon Johnson, if you’re old enough to remember the news coverage he got). But they could surely pile a world of hurt on an administration if they were pissed off enough, and not cowed into compliance. We’ll see what happens.

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The New Iron Curtain

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Democratic Party, News Media

Joan Walsh complains that it isn’t true Clinton didn’t have policy ideas that would have helped working women. “Clinton proposed steep tax hikes for the rich, to pay for things like paid family leave and tuition-free college, a precisely redistributionist approach,” Walsh wrote.

I know she did. But I’m the sort of politics nerd who actually goes to candidates’ websites and reads them. I can assure you that hardly any voters in Missouri heard anything about Clinton’s paid family leave and other proposals.

Clinton could have run television ads here talking about what she wanted to do for working people. Instead, she ran ads letting us know that Donald Trump ties are made in China. I saw that one multiple times.

It might have helped if the debates had been a little more focused on issues instead of gotchas, but as I wrote a couple of days ago, Clinton doesn’t know how to frame arguments in language that a red stater could understand. The kind of shorthand or boilerplate language Democrats in blue states use with each other is alien in these here parts. So when Clinton in the debates talked about investing in the middle class, I knew what she meant. But that’s a meaningless phrase to red state folks. They have no grounding in what that might actually mean, because such things are never talked about here.

I don’t know how much more I can emphasize that if you live in a red state, and you are not the sort of person who enjoys reading newspapers from around the world through the Internet, you don’t hear liberal/progressive perspectives on anything. You will not have heard them since the Lyndon Johnson Administration, frankly, meaning that if you haven’t yet achieved Geezerhood you may not know there ever were liberal/progressive arguments for anything. All you know is that “libtards” like raising taxes, just because, and like big government programs, just because.

And, again, if you were watching this election from a red state or district, and all you knew about Hillary Clinton was what you saw on the television and in social media, you wouldn’t have liked her, either, regardless of how racist or sexist you might or might not have been.

I don’t know that all the small-town newspapers and red state television and radio stations are owned by wingnuts, but I suspect most of them learned a long time ago to be cautious about how they handle political news. As their marketing areas got redder and redder, too anti-conservative a message, or even coverage that too vigorously questioned the Right’s hegemony, could have cost them their business.

That leaves us with the national television news, which is mostly worthless. I know a lot of people blame the loss of the Fairness Doctrine for this, but IMO what really killed it were decisions made, many years ago, to consolidate news and entertainment programming. News departments used to be entirely separate from entertainment and were run by senior news people who were serious about, you know, news. Now news departments are considered part of entertainment and are managed by the same people who thought spinning the Geico Cavemen into a sitcom was a great idea.

See also Allan Chernoff, Blame the Rise of Trump on the Failure of Network News.

So if there’s one thing I wish I could get across to the Democrats in the Beltway, it’s that they’re going to have to make an extraordinary effort to break through the iron curtain of disinformation in red states. A couple of rallies and some meh campaign ads won’t cut it. They need to begin a barrage of progressive policy arguments in these states. They should drop pamphlets from airplanes, if that’s what it takes. And they need to begin it now, before the next election campaigns begin.

Walsh ends by issuing some snarky “apologies,” ending with “I apologize for thinking that the country was ready to elect a woman president.” Well, they might be ready to elect a woman president; they just weren’t ready to elect Hillary Clinton.

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Facepalm Time for Fox News

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Bad Hair, News Media

This is High Derp, even by Fox standards. Remember this part of last night’s debate?

HOLT: Mr. Trump, a lot of these are judgment questions. You had supported the war in Iraq before the invasion. What makes your…

TRUMP: I did not support the war in Iraq.

HOLT: In 2002…

TRUMP: That is a mainstream media nonsense put out by her, because she — frankly, I think the best person in her campaign is mainstream media.

HOLT: My question is, since you supported it…

TRUMP: Just — would you like to hear…

HOLT: … why is your — why is your judgment…

TRUMP: Wait a minute. I was against the war in Iraq. Just so you put it out.

HOLT: The record shows otherwise, but why — why was…

TRUMP: The record does not show that.

HOLT: Why was — is your judgment any…

TRUMP: The record shows that I’m right. When I did an interview with Howard Stern, very lightly, first time anyone’s asked me that, I said, very lightly, I don’t know, maybe, who knows? Essentially. I then did an interview with Neil Cavuto. We talked about the economy is more important. I then spoke to Sean Hannity, which everybody refuses to call Sean Hannity. I had numerous conversations with Sean Hannity at Fox. And Sean Hannity said — and he called me the other day — and I spoke to him about it — he said you were totally against the war, because he was for the war.

HOLT: Why is your judgment better than…

TRUMP: And when he — excuse me. And that was before the war started. Sean Hannity said very strongly to me and other people — he’s willing to say it, but nobody wants to call him. I was against the war. He said, you used to have fights with me, because Sean was in favor of the war.

And I understand that side, also, not very much, because we should have never been there. But nobody called Sean Hannity. And then they did an article in a major magazine, shortly after the war started. I think in ’04. But they did an article which had me totally against the war in Iraq.

And one of your compatriots said, you know, whether it was before or right after, Trump was definitely — because if you read this article, there’s no doubt. But if somebody — and I’ll ask the press — if somebody would call up Sean Hannity, this was before the war started. He and I used to have arguments about the war. I said, it’s a terrible and a stupid thing. It’s going to destabilize the Middle East. And that’s exactly what it’s done. It’s been a disaster.

HOLT: My reference was to what you had said in 2002, and my question was…

TRUMP: No, no. You didn’t hear what I said.

HOLT: Why is your judgment — why is your judgment any different than Mrs. Clinton’s judgment?

TRUMP: Well, I have much better judgment than she does. There’s no question about that. I also have a much better temperament than she has, you know?

(LAUGHTER)

I have a much better — she spent — let me tell you — she spent hundreds of millions of dollars on an advertising — you know, they get Madison Avenue into a room, they put names — oh, temperament, let’s go after — I think my strongest asset, maybe by far, is my temperament. I have a winning temperament. I know how to win. She does not have a…

HOLT: Secretary Clinton?

TRUMP: Wait. The AFL-CIO the other day, behind the blue screen, I don’t know who you were talking to, Secretary Clinton, but you were totally out of control. I said, there’s a person with a temperament that’s got a problem.

HOLT: Secretary Clinton?

CLINTON: Whew, OK.

(LAUGHTER)

Good times. Anyway, are we all clear that Lester Holt said that Trump supported the invasion in 2002? So now Fox News is all GOTCHA LESTER HOLT because it found a news clip in which Trump expressed opposition to the war.

But the clip is from 2003.

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Everybody Hates Matt Lauer

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News Media

I need to preface this by saying that I did not watch last night’s Commander in Chief forum. I’m only going by the reviews. But it appears moderator Matt Lauer bombed, big time. And it’s not just bloggers and liberal websites saying so.

James Poniewozik, The New York Times:

The NBC presidential forum on Wednesday night in Manhattan brought together the candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump to try to determine who has the strength, preparation and presence of mind to lead during a time of crisis.

It sure wasn’t Matt Lauer.

In an event aboard the decommissioned aircraft carrier Intrepid, the “Today” host was lost at sea. Seemingly unprepared on military and foreign policy specifics, he performed like a soldier sent on a mission without ammunition, beginning with a disorganized offensive, ending in a humiliating retreat.

The gist of everyone’s criticism of his Hillary Clinton interview is that he spent too much time on the damn emails — no revelations came from this — and then stopped her from providing substantive answers to other questions.

Callum Borchers, The Washington Post:

Roughly a third of his questioning dealt with the emails — a matter certainly connected to national security, but also a staple issue of this year’s campaign-trail reporting. It suggested, as the rest of the forum confirmed, that Mr. Lauer was steadiest handling issues familiar to anyone with a passing knowledge of the morning politics headlines.

That emphasis left relatively little time for the forum’s foreign-policy and military subjects. Mr. Lauer and the audience asked about complex topics — the Middle East, terrorism, veterans’ affairs — and Mr. Lauer pressed for simple answers. “As briefly as you can,” he injected when an audience member asked how Mrs. Clinton would decide whether to deploy troops against the Islamic State.

There’s a difference between an interviewer who has questions and one who has knowledge, and Mr. Lauer illustrated it. He seemed to be plowing through a checklist, not listening in the moment in a way that led to productive follow-ups. Short on time, he repeatedly interrupted Mrs. Clinton in a way he didn’t with Mr. Trump. (“Let me finish,” she protested at one point.)

Trump, on the other hand, got softballs:

When a prominent figure representing the United States on an international stage sat down with Matt Lauer recently, the NBC host asked tough questions probing his false statements.

The prominent figure was Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte. On Wednesday night, a far different Lauer sat down with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.  …

… That interview was the apotheosis of this presidential campaign’s forced marriage of entertainment and news. The host of NBC’s morning show interviewed the former star of its reality show “The Apprentice,” and the whole thing played out as farce.

Like Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Trump has had a few controversies related to the military. You might recall him feuding with a Gold Star family, or mocking Senator John McCain for being captured in Vietnam, or likening his prep-school attendance to military experience.

Mr. Lauer evidently didn’t recall any of that. He kicked off by asking Mr. Trump what in his life had prepared him to be president, the kind of whiffle ball job-interview question you ask the boss’s nephew you know you have to hire anyway.

Frank Rich, New York magazine:

Much ridicule, all deserved, has been aimed at Lauer’s laughably empty reservoir of facts, particularly when questioning the fact-free Trump. (“Questioning” may be an overstatement in this context; Lauer didn’t question Trump so much as feed him anodyne cues to spew any hooey he wanted.) The most widely panned example of the moderator’s failure is particularly galling: Clinton herself said in the forum’s opening round that Trump was initially in favor of the Iraq War, having said so on Howard Stern’s radio show in 2002. But Lauer didn’t even listen to her. When Trump said just minutes later that he had been against the war from the start — and cited a 2004 Esquire article as proof — Lauer not only failed to challenge the conflict between what he said and the truth cited by Clinton but seemed oblivious to the fact that the Iraq War began in 2003. And let’s not forget that interlude when Trump was claiming that Vladimir Putin is a superior leader to Barack Obama — an outrageous argument that Lauer never challenged. To prove his point, Trump cited “polls” that give Putin an 82 percent approval rating. What polls? Lauer didn’t ask. I dare say Trump could have cited Chinese polls from the 1960s that gave Mao a 100 percent approval rating, and this moderator would have just nodded and moved on to the next topic on his crib sheet.

Of course, these comments were genteel and measured compared to some on the leftie blogs. But you get the picture.

A few were more forgiving:

Charles Pierce, Esquire:

If you assume, as I do, that simply telling El Caudillo del Mar-A-Lago that he is a lying sack of hair who knows less about most major issues than a rhino knows about differential calculus would be frowned upon at the upper echelons of NBC, then there wasn’t much for poor Lauer to do. The man denies he said what he clearly said. He denies he did what he clearly did. He claims to know more about any subject about which he clearly knows nothing. He is the hero of his own epic in which he’s already won because…winning! How do bring someone to a reckoning when he’s already triumphant in his own mind?

Journalism’s great enemy is not untruth. It’s futility.

Donald Trump was appalling last night. He was exposed, again, as someone from whom you wouldn’t buy an apple, let alone a foreign policy. He didn’t know that we already have military courts. He didn’t know that you can’t just go “get the oil.” (Someone should ask the Kurds what they think about this.) He lied, again, about his previous positions regarding the military operations in Iraq and Libya. He defended an old tweet of his about how, if we’re going to have women and men in the military, then the occasional sexual assault is part of the price we should be expected to pay. He pronounced himself impressed by Vladimir Putin’s poll numbers in Russia.

Think about that for a moment.

Hm. Well, if we’re saying here that the media upper echelons will not allow grilling of Donald Trump out of some misguided sense of propriety, then that’s one thing. But then, why even bother? Why have news media at all? Let’s just cut the crap and let the candidates run their own puff pieces and advertising.

Update: See also William Saletan, “NBC’s Commander in Chief Forum Was an Authoritarian Farce.”

More: Jonathan Chait, “Matt Lauer’s Pathetic Interview of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump Is the Scariest Thing I’ve Seen in This Campaign

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Ailes Is Out

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News Media

Roger Ailes resigned from Fox News. But Rupert Murdoch will be stepping into Ailes’s job, unfortunately, so don’t expect anything to change.

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