Category: media

The media vs. objectivity

Victor Davis Hanson:

In 2017, the liberal Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University found that 93 percent of CNN’s coverage of the Trump administration was negative. The center found similarly negative Trump coverage at other major news outlets.

The election year 2020 has only accelerated that asymmetrical bias — to the point that major newspapers and network and cable-news organizations are now fused with the Joe Biden campaign.

Sometimes stories are covered only in terms of political agendas. Take COVID-19.

The media assure us that the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic has been a disaster. But their conclusions are not supported by any evidence.

In the United States, the coronavirus death rate per million people is similar to, or lower than, most major European countries except Germany.

When the virus was at its worst, before the partisan campaign of this election year heated up, the governors in our four largest states had only compliments for the Trump administration.

Democrats Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gavin Newsom of California and Republicans Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida effusively praised the administration’s cooperation with their own frontline efforts.

The most recent conclusions of impartial heads of federal agencies responsible for coordinating national and state policies are about the same.

Dr. Deborah Birx (adviser to both the Obama and Trump administrations on responses to infectious diseases), Dr. Anthony Fauci (director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases), and Dr. Scott Gottlieb (former head of the Food and Drug Administration) have not faulted the Trump administration’s overall COVID-19 response. They attribute any shortcomings to initial global ignorance about the origins and nature of the epidemic, incompetence at the World Health Organization, or the initial inability of bureaucracies to produce easily available and reliable test kits.

Prominent progressive Trump critics such as House speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized the necessary Trump travel ban, yet Pelosi told people there was no reason to cancel planned travel to San Francisco’s Chinatown.

Democrats Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gavin Newsom of California and Republicans Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida effusively praised the administration’s cooperation with their own frontline efforts.

The most recent conclusions of impartial heads of federal agencies responsible for coordinating national and state policies are about the same.

Dr. Deborah Birx (adviser to both the Obama and Trump administrations on responses to infectious diseases), Dr. Anthony Fauci (director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases), and Dr. Scott Gottlieb (former head of the Food and Drug Administration) have not faulted the Trump administration’s overall COVID-19 response. They attribute any shortcomings to initial global ignorance about the origins and nature of the epidemic, incompetence at the World Health Organization, or the initial inability of bureaucracies to produce easily available and reliable test kits.

Prominent progressive Trump critics such as House speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized the necessary Trump travel ban, yet Pelosi told people there was no reason to cancel planned travel to San Francisco’s Chinatown.

However, the real warping of the news is not just a matter of slanting coverage, but deliberately not covering the news at all.

In the last two weeks, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has achieved the most stunning breakthroughs in Middle Eastern diplomacy in over half a century.

Countries once hostile to Israel, such as the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, now formally recognize it. Other Arab nations may follow. Ancient existential enemies Kosovo and Serbia also agreed to normalize their relationship with Israel by signing economic agreements.

Yet none of these historic events have drawn much media attention. All of them would have been canonized were they achievements of the Obama administration.

In 2017, the media suggested that Trump’s plans to get out of the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate accord, to confront Chinese mercantilism, to forge new alliances between Israel and moderate Arab regimes, to isolate an ascendant Iran, to close the southern border to illegal immigration, to jawbone NATO alliance members into honoring their defense-expenditure commitments, and to destroy ISIS and weaken Hezbollah were all impossible, counterproductive or sheer madness.

And now?

An embargoed and bankrupt Iran is teetering on the brink. Its international terrorist appendages, including Hezbollah, are broke.

China is increasingly being ostracized by much of the world.

The U.S. has cut its carbon emissions, often at a rate superior to those nations still adhering to the Paris climate accord targets.

Cross-border illegal immigration has been reduced, according to many metrics.

ISIS was bombed into near dissolution. Moderate regimes in the Middle East are ascendant; radical cliques like Hamas and al-Qaeda are not.

More NATO members are meeting their commitments. The alliance’s aggregate defense investments are way up.

Is any of that considered news? Not really.

Instead, every three or four days the public is fed a series of fantasy “bombshells” much like the daily hysterias of the Robert Mueller investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump team and Russia — a two-year, media-hyped dud.

In recent weeks the media warned us that Trump was dismantling the Post Office to disrupt mail-in balloting.

Trump, we are told, has decided never to concede his sure loss in November and might have to be forcibly removed, perhaps by the military.

We read that Trump defiled the memory of fallen American soldiers in cemeteries abroad. We are lectured that Trump supposedly never took COVID-19 seriously.

All of these stories were either demonstrably untrue, were supported only by anonymous sources, or were the sensationalism of authors hawking books.

Yet such concocted melodramas will continue each week up to Election Day, while fundamental geostrategic shifts abroad brought about by American diplomacy will by intent go unnoticed.

The news as we once understood it is dead.

It has been replaced by the un-news: a political narrative created by partisans who believe the noble ends of destroying Trump justify any biased means necessary — including destroying their own reputation and craft.

The news social media doesn’t want you to know

Fox News:

The Chinese government intentionally manufactured and released the COVID-19 virus that led to mass shutdowns and deaths across the world, a top virologist and whistleblower told Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Tuesday.

Carlson specifically asked Dr. Li-Meng Yan whether she believed the Chinese Communist Party released the virus “on purpose.” “Yes, of course, it’s intentionally,” she responded on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

Yan said more evidence would be released but pointed to her own high-ranking position at a World Health Organization reference lab as a reason to trust her allegation.

“I work[ed] in the WHO reference lab, which is the top coronavirus lab in the world, in the University of Hong Kong. And the thing is I get deeply into such investigation in secret from the early beginning of this outbreak. I had my intelligence because I also get my own unit network in China, involved [in] the hospital … also I work with the top corona[virus] virologist in the world,” she said.

“So, together with my experience, I can tell you, this is created in the lab … and also, it is spread to the world to make such damage.”

Yan’s comments conflicted with the opinion of Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and White House coronavirus adviser, who previously cast doubt on the idea the virus was artificially created. In May, he told National Geographic: “If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats, and what’s out there now is very, very strongly leaning toward this [virus] could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated — the way the mutations have naturally evolved.”

Other scientists have panned the idea that COVID-19 served as a sort of bioweapon or was released by a lab.

Fox News previously reported on Yan back in July, when she blew the whistle on China’s alleged attempts to suppress information about its handling of the virus. With a vast network of contacts in Chinese medical facilities, Yan attempted to gather more information about the virus as China blocked overseas experts from conducting research in the country.

Her revelations fueled ongoing complaints that the Chinese government failed to tell the world early on about the virus’ threat. Specifically, she believes the Chinese government ignored research that could have saved lives. The State Department did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

In response, her former employer, the University of Hong Kong, criticized her account. A press release noted “that the content of the said news report does not accord with the key facts as we understand them.”

“Specifically, Dr Yan never conducted any research on human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus at [the University of Hong Kong] during December 2019 and January 2020, her central assertion of the said interview.”

Yan, who said she was one of the first scientists in the world to study the novel coronavirus, fled China and currently fears retaliation. She was allegedly asked by her supervisor at the University/WHO reference lab, Dr. Leo Poon, in 2019 to look into the odd cluster of SARS-like cases coming out of mainland China at the end of December 2019.

What was social media’s reaction to this? Fox News again:

Facebook and other tech giants have engaged in a troubling pattern of censoring speech surrounding major issues in the coronavirus debate, Fox News host Tucker Carlson argued during his Wednesday night monologue.

Carlson’s comments came after Facebook slapped a warning label on video of his Tuesday interview with Chinese virologist Dr. Li-Meng Yan, who claimed to have evidence showing China “intentionally” released COVID-19 onto the general population.

“Within a few hours of her interview last night,” Carlson said, “a video of the segment reached 1.3 million people on Facebook.”

“And why wouldn’t it? The coronavirus pandemic has touched the life of every American. And justifiably, people want to know where it came from. But Facebook still doesn’t want you to know that. So Facebook suppressed the video, presumably on behalf of the Chinese government. Facebook executives made it harder for users to watch our segment. Those who found the video had to navigate a warning that the interview ‘repeats information about COVID-19 that independent fact-checkers say is false,” he added.

“Instagram, which Facebook also owns did the same thing. Twitter suspended Dr. Yan’s account entirely. It did not explain why. Nor did the tech companies explain how they would know more about disease transmission than an MD, PhD virologist like Dr. Li-Meng Yan. Instead, Facebook and Instagram linked to three so-called fact checks which supposedly proved Yan was lying.

“But if you clicked on the provided links, you’d noticed something odd. The fact checks were all published months ago, many months — in January, February, and March, and they had nothing whatsoever to do with what Dr. Li-Meng Yan said on our show… One of the fact checks attacks a completely unrelated claim, the virus was patented and that a vaccine was prepared and ready to go.

“What does that have to do with the interview we did last night? No one will tell us that. The truth is, and you know it if you’ve watched carefully, experts have been wrong frequently throughout this pandemic … They have changed their prescriptions many times.”

Carlson argued that the solution to experts being fallible was more speech. “The solution to this age-old problem, and we used to understand this intuitively is more informed voices in the conversation. That’s how you make wise decisions, that’s how you get to the truth. Diversity of view. Facebook doesn’t believe this,” he said.

“They believe in censorship. Censorship does not make us wiser. It does not make us better informed. If it did, we’d be speaking Russian right now, the Soviet Union would run the world. It would have worked. But instead the Soviet Union is extinct. It collapsed under the weight of its own absurdities — absurdities abetted by censorship. And that’s the most basic lesson of dictatorships, all of them. Anything built on lies falls apart over time.”

Carlson also defended Yan and her research. “COVID-19 is not from nature, she said. It was created in a lab in Wuhan, China. The Chinese government intentionally unleashed it on the world. Those are her claims. Are they true? We have no way of verifying them. We do know that Dr. Li-Meng Yan is not a quack,” Carlson said.

“She’s authored peer-reviewed papers on coronavirus transmission in both Nature Magazine and The Lancet. Those are two of the most respected publications in all of science. Her paper on the origin of COVID-19, which she has published online, is not frivolous. In it, she points to specific evidence for the claims that she makes. She identifies so-called cut sites which are frequently used in genomic engineering that would allow scientists to swap in sequences from other viruses to create what she described last night as a Frankenstein bioweapon.”

Whether or not the doctor is correct, Carlson certainly is. The solution to speech you disagree with has never been censorship. The solution to science you think is incorrect is more science. Liberals used to believe these sorts of things.

Kind of ironic for this to take place the week of Constitution Day, isn’t it?


Book ’em, Tubbs

Those who watched “Hawaii Five-O” (the original, as I did) and “Miami Vice” (as I recently did) will be amused at this:

Which shouldn’t be a surprise. These are the top two opens to TV shows in history.

And it’s pretty obvious that Reza Badiyi’s titles for Five-O were the inspiration for Vice, and when Five-0 was remade, that and Morton Stevens’ theme music could not be extensively remade.

And, well, two were hit singles.

It turns out the original Five-O music was more versatile than Stevens could have ever thought.


The sinking ship of journalism

Jacob Siegel:

On June 3, a week after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, New York Times employees took to Twitter en masse, claiming that the paper had “put Black staffers lives at risk” by publishing Sen. Tom Cotton’s call to use the military to suppress riots. That same day, Lee Fang, a reporter for the Intercept, tweeted a short video from a Bay Area protest that showed a young man named Max questioning the movement under whose banner he appeared to be marching.

“When I as a Black person look at the Black Lives Matter movement, I have questions,” Max said through a gray face mask. “Like I always question, why does a Black life matter only when a white man takes it.”

The full interview was 2 minutes and 6 seconds long. On June 6, with his job reportedly at risk for posting the video, Fang was forced to issue a public apology. The following day, a top editor at the Times responsible for publishing the Cotton op-ed resigned under companywide pressure.

What had Lee Fang done wrong? His colleague at the Intercept, Akela Lacy, accused him of “being racist,” of pushing “narratives about Black on Black crime after repeatedly being asked not to,” and of “using free speech to couch anti-Blackness.” Since June, more than 30,000 people have liked Lacy’s accusation against Fang on Twitter and over 5,000 have retweeted it, including a number of prominent left-wing journalists who endorsed the smear.

Fang arrived at the Intercept with impressive credentials. He’d made his name in progressive media as an investigative reporter focused on exposing corporate concentrations of power and showing how money buys political influence. But in the aftermath of Trump’s election, he expressed a number of opinions that made him a controversial figure within the Twitter left cohort: questioning the effectiveness of violence as a tactic to achieve social change, defending the principle that free speech extends to unpopular ideas, and criticizing identity politics and performative ideological militancy.

On May 31, a few days before posting the video that got him in trouble, Fang had tweeted: “Seeing so many manipulate the MLK quote that riots are the ‘language of the unheard.’ Read the actual speech. It’s a passionate argument against riots and in support of nonviolence at a time when much of the radical left despised MLK and embraced violence.” This, too, got him in trouble with fellow left-wing journalists whose objection rested on the strange claim that by defending Kingian nonviolence, Fang was somehow in league with the white supremacist forces responsible for murdering the civil rights leader.

The pluralist and democratic tradition on the left that Fang was identifying himself with put him at odds with the anti-majoritarian party line that progressive journalists have policed with growing intensity since Trump’s election, leading them to denounce Fang and others who hold similar views as “racists” and “crypto-fascists.” For these journalists, who now dominate the American media class, the “democratic majority” is a vehicle for the dangerous majoritarian mob lurking in the middle of the country plotting to oppress vulnerable minorities. The proper aim of politics, therefore, isn’t to try and convince the undecided—let alone the “deplorables” who disagree with them—but to wield the power of elite institutions to enforce right-think.

Yet the idea that a reporter could be tarred as a racist by his colleagues simply for quoting MLK and publishing an interview with a Black protester expressing an opinion that’s not at all uncommon in the Black community did not sit well with everyone. While dozens of high-profile journalists joined in publicly denouncing Fang, his fellow left heretics and hate-magnets Zaid Jilani, Matt Taibbi, and Michael Tracey were among the most prominent in coming to his defense.

“I worked at the Intercept for a while and my perception was that a lot of people who work there don’t think of crime as something that happens around them,” Jilani, who writes for Tablet, said. “They probably view invocations of crime as a political cudgel used to distract from things that they really care about, which is police reform. They care intensely and see it as a struggle between bad people, police, and good people, which are primarily Black people.” The Manichean struggle that Jilani describes would seem to leave no room for people like Max, whose commitment to police reform did not preclude his concern over the nonpolice related murders of two of his cousins in East Oakland.

“The reality,” said Jilani, “is that if you go to any high crime place in America, you’ll meet people who say exactly what that young man said to Lee. You’ll meet people who have the exact same concern, but they don’t view their role as just being part of a political narrative—as if they only exist to serve someone else’s political agenda.”

The secret motive driving people in the news business is the fear of standing alone. Most journalists look around to see what the journalists they imagine are important are doing, and they copy that. In today’s online journalism, the natural impulse to be part of the pack gets supercharged by social media algorithms that reward split-second conformity and, voila, you have big outlets independently pushing the same stories at the same time, with the same framing, all without any need for a larger conspiracy.

Over the past four years, the big names in journalism have shared a single overriding preoccupation: consolidating an emergent ruling-class social consensus that justifies itself in large part by the claim that Donald Trump’s presidency is an existential threat that makes every action by the White House a national emergency. The media both demonstrates and justifies its role in opposing this extraordinary threat by hyping one crisis of American democracy after another. Fascism is upon us! The Russians are taking over! The Russians are behind the white nationalists who are taking over! Kavanaugh! Ukraine! Impeachment! The Post Office!

None of these explosive revelations has managed to unseat the president or address the root sources of his support, but they’ve been great for business: A recent article in the Columbia Journalism Review showed that “news media have basically been running with 2016 campaign-level attention on Trump for four years straight now.” The strategy has provided a big boon to national media companies that had been near collapse even as local outlets continue collapsing.

The larger framing for the new social consensus is found in efforts like The New York Times’ 1619 Project that aim to replace the faltering, postwar patriotic mythology of America as the paragon of liberal democracy and individual rights with a new normative understanding of the country as a machine for identity-based systemic oppression. The project’s ostensible challenge to the establishment hasn’t prevented it from being endorsed by large corporations and entering the official curriculum of public schools and government bureaucracies.

What’s left is an image of the American media as a one-party system controlled by an unstable alliance of security state liberals and “woke” progressive identitarians. Militant progressives who denounce The New York Times and MSNBC for not being woke enough perform the angry id that pushes the media complex to be more extreme while reaffirming its fundamental premises. Occasionally, they go too far and have to be scolded for ruining the atmosphere by saying the quiet part out loud, like coming out in defense of looting; such instances of bad taste help to define the parameters of “good taste” within the media system.

Some of the bitterest attacks launched by the one-party media system are reserved for the few internal critics that dissent from the party line while remaining on “the left.” The small grouping of left-wing heretics exists more as a social affiliation or moral stance than a coherent political ideology. It includes people like Fang, Taibbi, Jilani, Tracey, Glenn Greenwald, Angela Nagle, Chris Arnade, and the hosts of the What’s Left and Red Scare podcasts. Despite their considerable differences, the outline of a broad, common sensibility is evident in the overlapping cluster of insults directed at these people. They are called racist, obviously, but they are also accused of being vulgar class reductionists, mere contrarians and provocateurs, transphobes, Strasserites, social conservatives, and closet reactionaries.

Tracey, Taibbi, Jilani, Fang, and others in their orbit all have political views that put them well to the left of the Biden-Harris ticket. Where they dissent is on core issues of the progressive media consensus like Russian collusion, the value of identity politics, and the legitimacy of rioting and political violence. To varying degrees, all four fit the mold of the elusive political creature known as the left populist (Bernie Sanders’ 2016 run, though not a perfect fit, was the closest thing to reach prime time in modern American politics). Left populism balances left-wing labor and economic policies with moderate, normie liberal social values and a strong aversion to the post-1960s temptation to treat political radicalism as an exercise in therapeutic self-expression for the upper middle class.

“I think a lot of this has to do with people within the press believing that Trump was such an extreme threat that they had to change the way they go about their business,” Taibbi said when we spoke by phone.

It’s telling that The New York Times didn’t write a correction to what happened in the anarchist zone in Seattle until two months after it started, and that it was a tech reporter who did it.

For Jilani, the Trump years have proved to be a reversal of his experience during his early days in progressive media during Obama’s second term. “When I started my career at Think Progress, I was much more left wing than the people I was working with,” he told me. “My colleagues generally felt like Bill Clinton was a really good president and Barack Obama was maybe a little bit squishy on some things, but overall a really good president. My feeling was that the Democratic Party was overall too driven by elites, too driven by donors, and wasn’t democratic enough.”

At the time, Jilani recalls, his political priorities were markedly different from those of his colleagues. “I used to write a lot about criminal justice over the years. I’ve reported a number of stories about police abuses, the drug war, and police militarization. And it’s funny, some people I worked with thought I was too radical and too out of the mainstream because I was so interested in those topics.”

These days, for heresies like disputing the claim that systemic racism is the main driver of police violence and rejecting fashionable proposals like police abolition, Jilani is regularly vilified as a racist and reactionary despite the fact that his views have stayed fairly consistent. “I think over the past few years, there’s been a kind of new groupthink developed on a number of topics among institutional progressives and a lot of people who are involved have the same zealousness as the convert to a new religion.”

On Substack, the independent publishing platform where Taibbi recently set up shop after leaving his longtime gig as a staff writer at Rolling Stone, he published an article on June 12 under the headline: “The American Press Is Destroying Itself.” The piece contained a strong defense of Fang’s journalism and decision to publish the video interview but went further than that. “It feels liberating to say after years of tiptoeing around the fact, but the American left has lost its mind,” Taibbi wrote. “It’s become a cowardly mob of upper-class social media addicts, Twitter Robespierres who move from discipline to discipline torching reputations and jobs with breathtaking casualness.”

Michael Tracey had been even less restrained. He went on the attack, tweeting a response to Lacy’s accusations of anti-Blackness, in which he called her “a giant fucking baby … coddled by colleagues who are petrified of offending you” and condemned Fang’s colleagues at the Intercept for failing to stick up for him. In response, the author Naomi Klein, also a writer for the Intercept, called Tracey a “fucking troll,” one of several insults directed at him on Twitter by left-wing luminaries. Tracey, whose temperament seems especially well-armored against the napalm tactics of online debate, responded to each insult in turn.

For a person under attack, of course it’s better to be defended than not. But for social pariahs and heretics there are special considerations. “There’s this thing that happens when these denunciations really get rolling,” Taibbi told me. “The aim is to create this ‘ick’ factor around the name. People will even say to you on social media, ‘you’re being a Michael Tracey,’ or, you know, ‘way to take sides with Bari Weiss on that one.’ It sounds like it’s not a big deal, but in this environment people find themselves not wanting to get the ‘ick’ on them, and they will keep at arm’s-length from those figures.”

Life outside the one-party media state can be lonely, but it also has rewards—like being able to actually do reporting on stories that the collective has decided to censor. Tracey has spent several years supporting himself as an independent journalist by fundraising online. For the past three months he’s been covering the fallout and damage from the looting and riots that have taken place in hundreds of cities across the country, an assignment that puts him at odds with the chorus of media figures who have minimized the severity of the destruction or justified it on ideological grounds.

Tracey and Taibbi were both early skeptics of claims about the Russiagate collusion myth. Taibbi’s reporting on the story, one of many acts in his career that burned bridges with fellow journalists, was informed by his own years in Moscow. In turn, it has clearly informed his view that the press is self-immolating. “I’m at a loss to explain why conducting surveillance of a presidential campaign is not an explosive story or as explosive a story as something like Watergate,” he said.

Taibbi thinks the press’s role in constructing the debunked Russia collusion narrative is now pulling back the curtain on how the news gets made. “It’s really instructive for people who don’t understand how the media works that you can have one set of circumstances and facts presented as the biggest outrage in the history of mankind, and 10 minutes later you could have exactly the same set of circumstances, but the politics will be a little different and it won’t even rate a page 15 mention.”

That basic pattern could describe at least a dozen different revelations that have come out about the probe into the Trump campaign: the brazen suppression of exonerating materials, the documents forged by FBI lawyers, the fact that the whole thing was based on a flimsy dossier presented as an intelligence product when it was actually a contracted political hit job.

“If this situation were reversed,” said Taibbi, “and the fact pattern had involved an incoming Democratic president and an outgoing Republican administration, the howling would still be going on. Personally, I’ve never voted Republican in my life and I would never vote for Donald Trump. But I still don’t understand why this story doesn’t resonate from a purely journalistic point of view.”

In fact, the standard of a purely journalistic point of view has changed, the result of profound economic and technological transformations that have empowered the ideologies best suited to the new political economy.

“I saw a poll recently showing that 85% of Americans think that people rioting and committing arson should be arrested,” Jilani told me toward the end of our conversation. “Yet it would be very hard to go through progressive media and find arguments against just illegal nihilistic violence taking place, like in Portland and Seattle. It’s telling that The New York Times didn’t correct the record on what happened in the anarchist zone in Seattle until two months after it started, and that it was a tech reporter who did it.”

Like the name implies, populists believe that the instincts driving the mass of American voters—mostly related to core material interests and the desire to get a fair shake—are a positive force, not a threat from which the country needs to be saved. The media establishment operates on a different axis. It is increasingly driven by top-down narrative constructions based on theories of identity and power. Considerable emphasis is put behind symbolic issues like the adoption of the ethnic designation “Latinx” that generate enthusiastic support from large corporations and elite institutions but are alien to the lives and sensibilities of ordinary Americans including the groups on whose behalf such measures are justified (according to a recent Pew poll, only a quarter of Latino respondents had heard of “Latinx” and out of those who had, 65% do not favor its use).

Spectacles like the ritual denunciation of left heretics can help enforce cohesion among journalists and within the larger educated professional class. They provide an effective deterrent for anyone tempted to notice the yawning gap that separates elite moral crusades from the priorities of ordinary Americans. The disinterest evinced by the media complex toward the violence and destruction carried out over the past three months that cannot be blamed directly on Trump or white supremacists is a striking early case of the collectivized decision-making process that now governs the larger American information space, in which a self-appointed elite decides which riots Americans will be told are mostly peaceful—and which ones they won’t be told about at all.

Presty the DJ for Sept. 9

Today in 1926, Radio Corporation of America — then owned by General Electric Co., Westinghouse, AT&T and United Fruit Co. (now known as Chiquita Brands International) — created the National Broadcasting Co. …

… which later returned to RCA’s parent, General Electric Co. (from whose name came the famous NBC chimes), and now is part of what used to be Universal Studios …

… and is part of Comcast cable TV.

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Sept. 9”

When a national newspaper does what a Milwaukee newspaper fails to do

James Freeman of the Wall Street Journal begins with the headline “Why Aren’t You Calling These Riots?”.

Today’s headline is one of the questions readers of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel have been asking the paper’s editors about recent violent events in Kenosha, Wis., and elsewhere. No doubt citizens nationwide have the same question for many politicians and members of the press corps who have lately been extremely creative in conjuring euphemisms for destruction and lawlessness.

The Milwaukee newspaper attempts to respond in an article entitled “Why we aren’t reporting on the records of the victims of the Kenosha protest shooting, and answers to other questions about our coverage.”

As for the specific question on why the paper is reluctant to use the word “riot,” the Journal Sentinel claims:

We are very careful about labeling events — especially using politically and historically loaded terms… It’s not our job to characterize events with the same words that political campaigns or others with agendas might use. Rather, we aim to accurately and fairly report what we see, in plain English, whether we’re describing peaceful marches and demonstrations or violent clashes …
As we’ve seen in cities around the country this summer, protest participants and the activities surrounding them often change throughout the day and night. Peaceful protests can happen all day long and then fires can be set or violence occurs late at night by people not associated with the protesters. Would it be fair or accurate to label all that happened that day a “riot” — especially in a headline summing things up? We don’t think so.

This column will go out on a limb and suggest that the demand for a plain-English account free of agendas was exactly what motivated the reader question in the first place.

Kenosha was back in the news on Thursday. But a visit from a high-profile politician may not have advanced the cause of plain English or done much to clarify the issues related to recent violence. Caitlin Oprysko reports for Politico:

Former Vice President Joe Biden appeared to joke on Thursday that if he spoke any longer about his plan to increase taxes on the wealthy “he’ll shoot me,” as he addressed a group of Kenosha, Wis., residents after the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
While explaining to locals in attendance at Grace Lutheran Church how he planned to pay for several of the initiatives aimed at combating racial inequality that he’d outlined moments earlier, Biden alluded to several people in the audience who appeared to stand up during his remarks or otherwise seemed antsy for the Democratic nominee to wrap up.

Fortunately there are some politicians who have been speaking with clarity. Noah Rothman writes in Commentary about the unsung work of mayors across the country this summer who decided not to excuse violent lawlessness. Among the examples noted by Mr. Rothman:

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock defined in clear terms the distinction between peaceful, productive protest and intolerable violence amid the very first signs of impending civil disorder. Those terms were repeatedly violated, and clashes between rioters and law enforcement in this notoriously progressive city have become a common occurrence. The local press has focused primarily on the police use of tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse violent crowds, citing activists who accused law enforcement of deploying non-lethal ordnance indiscreetly. But the city was and continues to be threatened by an organized menace.
“They had guns,” said Denver’s Public Safety Director Murphy Robinson following one late August spasm of violence. “They brought explosives, axes, machetes, and had one intent purpose, and that was to harm our officers.” Mayor Hancock has been similarly unequivocal. “We will not be using the words protest or march,” he averred. “This was a riot.” To this threat, the city responded by repealing COVID-related intake caps for local prisons, deploying hundreds of police, and dispersing potentially violent demonstrations. Police were assaulted and injured. Businesses were looted and vandalized. Residents were terrorized. But at no point did the city’s elected officials project anything other than intolerance for violence…

None of those aforementioned mayors include Milwaukee’s Tom Barrett or Madison’s Satya Rhodes-Conway. But you knew that.

How to woke yourself out of the playoffs

Jason Whitlock wrote this after the Bucks fell behind 2–0 in their NBA conference semifinal series against Miami:

The refs bailed out Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks Wednesday night.

Yep. You read that right. The refs saved the Greek Freak with the bogus touch foul that sent Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler to the line for the game-winning free throws with no time on the clock.

Miami 116, Milwaukee 114.

The 5th-seeded Heat now own a 2-0 advantage in their best-of-seven playoff series against the NBA’s best regular-season squad.

Lucky for Giannis and the Bucks everyone will spend [Thursday] talking about the sloppy officiating that first allowed Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton to knot the score at 114 with three gift-wrapped free throws and then four seconds later handed the game back to Miami.

Milwaukee fans will likely focus their animus toward referee Marc Davis, who made both sketchy foul calls. That’s fine. But all of Milwaukee should be talking about Jacob Blake’s role in Milwaukee’s terrible start to the second round of the playoffs.

The Bucks dug this hole the moment they diverted their attention away from basketball to fight for the life of a criminal suspect who doesn’t care all that much about his own life.

The Bucks are suffering from Post Traumatic Black Lives Matter Disorder. It’s the mental lapse that happens when a professional athlete realizes he’s allowed Twitter race-hustlers to dupe him into caring more about the life of a criminal suspect than the criminal suspect cares about his own life.

Twenty seconds of an edited cell phone video provoked the Bucks to shut down the NBA Bubble and other parts of the sports world. The shutdown accomplished nothing. Skipping work rarely does.

It was a well-intentioned publicity stunt orchestrated by people who believe in the power of publicity to end racism, cure cancer, spark world peace and stop police from shooting resisting criminal suspects.

The Bucks are mentally lethargic because they’ve spent the past four or five days coming to grips with the immaturity, recklessness and futility of their response to events in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Giannis, George Hill, Kyle Korver and the rest of the Bucks are the official public relations team for Jacob Blake, a man accused of serial sexual assault against a black woman. The Bucks knew nothing about Blake when they decided to go on strike moments before taking the court against the Orlando Magic. All the Bucks knew at the time is what the Twitter race-hustlers told them.

A white cop shot Jacob Blake while Blake was innocently trying to break up a fight. That was the original fairytale floating across the Twittersphere.

Now we know the rest of the story. Blake allegedly had a history of sexually abusing the black woman who called the police. He allegedly stole from her. He wrestled with the police. He admitted having a knife. With his kids in the car, he ignored the commands of police at gunpoint.

Blake behaved in an incredibly irresponsible manner. He behaved like a man who didn’t care whether he lived or died. Think about it. You’re somewhere the courts have ruled you should not be — at the residence of the alleged victim of your sexual assault. Your kids are in the car. You fight with the police. The police draw their guns and you attempt to get inside the car where your three children are.

You’re endangering your own life and the life of your three completely innocent children.

The social media mob and Black Lives Matter dictate that we only evaluate the behavior of white police officer’s in these situations. It’s illegal, immoral and racist to second-guess Jacob Blake’s behavior.

BLM seemingly believes Blake has no responsibility to protect the safety of his three kids, to protect his ability to provide for them. According to Bigots Love Marxism, it is the sole responsibility of the government and white police officers to make sure nothing bad happens to Blake, a suspect they’re trying to arrest for visiting a woman he allegedly sexually assaulted.

Bigots Love Marxism thinks black men are incapable of consistently making decisions to protect themselves and the welfare of their children. Blake responded to police like a man with a death wish and no regard for his children.

Did he deserve seven shots in the back? No.

Am I going to skip work and mourn Blake’s tragedy as if the government sanctioned the KKK to physically harm Martin Luther King, Michael Jordan, Patrick Mahomes or a sophomore at Morehouse College? Absolutely not.

The Bucks made fools of themselves. They chose the wrong hill to plant a flag. It’s easy to lie to yourself via social media. The algorithms, Russian bots and blue-check, bubble-approved sports journalists protect the influencers promoting BLM Derangement. It’s unlikely anyone will ask the Bucks if their Blake stunt shook their focus.

And if the question is asked, they’ll be allowed to pretend it was all worth it.

“The Bucks started a conversation. They raised awareness. They showed empathy.”

Inside the social media matrix, it’s better to slap a slogan on the back of your jersey, kneel during the national anthem or perform some other  symbolic gesture on behalf of a criminal suspect than it is to take action in support of a high school or college kid attempting to make a positive impact on society.

The Bucks are “ride or die” for Jacob Blake.

If they die in the second round of these playoffs and Giannis leaves for Golden State, Milwaukee made the ultimate sacrifice for someone unwilling to sacrifice his pride to protect his three sons.

Trust me, not everyone on the Bucks’ roster is foolish enough to believe justice for Jacob Blake is worth a 0-2 playoff deficit.

According to Wisconsin court records, Blake has been in court three times for not paying child support. The charges for which Kenosha County courts issued an arrest warrant include third-degree sexual assault — domestic abuse (maximum penalty 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine), criminal trespass to dwelling — domestic abuse, and disorderly conduct — domestic abuse. That is who people are defending.

To no one’s surprise, what pro athletes — and, for that matter, Gov. Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes — thought happened in Blake’s arrest is not what happened. But don’t believe me, read the state Department of Justice‘s investigation yourself. (The DOJ, by the way, is run by Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat.)

There would be some cosmic justice if the Bucks ended up losing this series. The Bucks’ owners are well-known Democrats. Fiserv Forum, built with $250 million in taxpayer dollars, was built in part to attract the 2020 Democratic National Convention, which of course wasn’t really held in Milwaukee due to the coronavirus pan(dem)ic. (Someone predicted that Milwaukee would take a bath over the convention. He was right for reasons that didn’t exist when he thus opined.)

Beyond the political issues (actually, not, given the Democratic governor’s shutdown of this state earlier this year), the Bucks clearly suffer when not playing at home. The NBA “bubble” has had the impact of completely negating home court advantage. It’s as if the NBA designed it to eliminate the Bucks’ chance of getting to the NBA FInals, let alone winning.


Tarzan of the Apes, whose ex is from Wisconsin

Michael Dirda of the Washington Post:

Back in 2012, the Library of America published special facsimile editions of two Edgar Rice Burroughs’s novels: “Tarzan of the Apes,” introduced by Thomas Mallon, and the nearly as famous planetary romance, “A Princess of Mars,” introduced by Junot Diaz. This year, Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. has begun to issue a uniform authorized edition of the entire Tarzan series, each volume featuring action-filled cover art by Joe Jusko. The company has also continued the “Carson of Venus” saga with a newly commissioned exploit by Matt Betts titled “The Edge of All Possible Worlds.” While Burroughs (1875-1950) churned out every kind of pulp adventure, including several books set in the hollow-earth realm of Pellucidar and a fast-moving lost-world trilogy assembled as “The Land That Time Forgot,” the first Tarzan novels, in particular, show how deeply his mythic storytelling can captivate the imagination.

The books do this, moreover, despite Burroughs’s sometimes stilted language, period stereotypes (dotty professor, “humorous” Black maid, cartoon Russian anarchist) and myriad improbabilities in their plotting. Racial attitudes and beliefs are typical of the time yet more nuanced than you might expect: Tarzan judges people, regardless of their skin color or ethnicity, solely by their character. Courage, fortitude and compassion — these are the qualities that matter.

Burroughs opens “Tarzan of the Apes” (1914) with an irresistible hook: “I had this story from one who had no business to tell it to me, or to any other.” The pages that follow describe how the infant son of the dead Lord and Lady Greystoke is reared by an anthropoid ape named Kala and learns to survive and flourish in the African jungle. One day, the grown Tarzan swings out of the trees to rescue a party of shipwrecked Westerners, thereby encountering Baltimorean Jane Porter and her suitor, the English aristocrat William Clayton, heir-apparent to the Greystoke title and estates. Many adventures follow but, with a daring that most writers would shrink from, Burroughs brings the novel to a climax in, of all places, Wisconsin.

There, Jane and Tarzan finally acknowledge their love for each other, even though Jane feels ­honor-bound to keep her promise to wed Clayton. Shortly after a tearful farewell, the brokenhearted ape-man learns that he is, in fact, the rightful Lord Greystoke. Just then, Clayton enters and cheekily asks, “How the devil did you ever get into that bally jungle?” The answer provides the novel’s throat-catching final lines:

“ ‘I was born there,’ said Tarzan, quietly. ‘My mother was an Ape, and of course she couldn’t tell me much about it. I never knew who my father was.’ ”

This act of renunciation drives home one of Burroughs’s main themes: That despite a brutish, not British, upbringing, Kala’s son possesses unassailable nobility and fineness of character. Note that this isn’t because of aristocratic blood, family background or race. Rather the novel presents Tarzan as Rousseau’s unspoiled child of nature, a literally noble savage free from the vices and corruption associated with advanced industrial society. However, the encounter with Jane Porter has seriously shaken his equanimity.

As “The Return of Tarzan” (1915) opens, the ape-man feels psychologically divided between the claims of “civilization” and the call of the wild. (This is a common literary theme of the era — think of Jack London’s sled dog Buck, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray.) What should a lord of the jungle do with his life?

First, Monsieur Jean C. Tarzan tries to adapt to Parisian high society — at least until a dastardly Russian named Nikolas Rokoff contrives to make it appear that Tarzan’s friendship with the Countess de Coude masks a full-fledged love affair. To save the lady’s honor, Tarzan again chooses self-sacrifice, resolving to die in a duel with her husband, the finest pistol shot in France. Miraculously, he survives and, for good measure, proves the countess’s innocence.

Next, the ape-man travels to Algeria to expose a traitor in the French Foreign Legion. By freeing a young Arab woman from slavery, he earns the undying gratitude of her father, a powerful desert sheikh. “All that is Kadour ben Saden’s is thine, my friend, even to his life.” Tarzan rapidly comes to admire the sheikh and his stern, dignified warriors, but resists the temptation to settle among them permanently.

After thwarting several murder attempts by Rokoff, our hero finally returns to his beloved African homeland. “Who would go back to the stifling, wicked cities of civilized man when the mighty reaches of the great jungle offered peace and liberty? Not he.” Before long Tarzan, by now a specialist in rescuing people from certain death, saves an African named Busuli, then joins his new friend’s people, the Waziri, among whom he finds contentment — for a while.

Even the most casual reader of “The Return of Tarzan” will notice its neatly orchestrated shifts, as its displaced protagonist “tries out” life among White Europeans, sunburnt Arabs and Black Waziri. But Tarzan’s journey of self-discovery isn’t over yet. While exploring the mysterious, half-ruined city of Opar, he is captured by its savage inhabitants, most of whom are virtually indistinguishable from H.G. Wells’s bestial Morlocks. Only Opar’s high priestess La preserves a fully human beauty and Tarzan the Irresistible naturally catches her eye.

Following a lucky escape from Opar, the weary-hearted lord of the jungle finally decides, in Walt Whitman’s phrase, to “turn and live with the animals. They are so placid and self-contained.” He rejoins the apes he grew up with and gradually begins to forget the heartache and complexity of being human. At which point Jane reappears – along with Clayton and Rokoff.

As this précis indicates, the Tarzan novels repeatedly extol glad animal spirits and natural instinct over western culture’s soul-deadening constraints and artificiality. This is a simplistic dichotomy, albeit useful for highly melodramatic storytelling. In his many, many adventures to come, the ape-man will sometimes appear as the urbane and proper Lord Greystoke, but whenever serious danger threatens, he will, in approved superhero fashion, quickly doff his bespoke suit and take to the trees as Tarzan the untamed, Tarzan the invincible.

I admit to not having read much of Tarzan; my exposure (that’s a pun that will become obvious in a bit) is from movies and TV:

Tarzan the TV series, reruns of which were on WGN-TV in Chicago before church (which means I may have never seen a complete episode), were brought to you by:

Recall I previously used the word “exposure.”

I had no idea of the Wisconsin connection, reported by the Wisconsin Historical Society:

“…she had been carried off her feet by the strength of the young giant when his great arms were about her in the distant African forest, and again today, in the Wisconsin woods…”

Who hasn’t seen the classic Tarzan movies? We all know that he was an orphaned English nobleman raised by jungle apes. But who knew that the original story ended in Wisconsin?

Tarzan of the Apes was published in New York in 1914. Near the end of the book, we learn that the heroine, Jane, had spent her earliest years on a farm in northern Wisconsin before venturing to Africa with her scientist father.

After Tarzan rescues her in the African jungle, Jane returns to America and receives marriage proposals from two suitors. In chapter 27 she goes to her childhood home in northern Wisconsin to ponder her dilemma.

While Jane is walking in the woods, a massive forest fire approaches. Just as she is about to be consumed by the flames, Tarzan miraculously appears, swinging limb to limb through Nicolet National Forest, to pluck her from the jaws of death.

It seems that he has spent the intervening months learning English and acquiring civilized habits. Obsessed by his love, Tarzan followed Jane across the Atlantic and tracked her to the Badger State. After saving her life, he learns that she has agreed to marry another, so he bows out to guarantee her happiness.

Author Edgar Rice Burroughs apparently never explained why he chose to set the novel’s climax in Wisconsin.

I found all this quite interesting even as a non-reader. The Weissmuller movies didn’t discard Jane as the books did. Jane was not part of the ’60s movies (that I remember) or the TV series; it took John Derek to bring back Jane in order to film his wife. The reviewer’s analysis would have gone right over the head of a young reader, though perhaps those themes would have stuck in their heads. Young readers probably need “unassailable nobility and fineness of character” in what they read today.


The call(s)

Sports Illustrated asked a number of prominent sports announcers for their opinions of the greatest sports calls announced by someone other than themselves.

The number one call is not surprising.

Followed by …

(I have heard six calls of Gibson’s home run, including Vin Scully on NBC, Jack Buck on CBS radio, Don Drysdale for the Dodgers, Bill King for the Athletics, and this Spanish radio call. There is no bad call of this moment.)

Al Michaels, of “Do you believe in miracles?” fame, said that just popped into his head as the moment took place. He said he has never preplanned a call because then it will sound canned. That included the Miracle on Ice because before the broadcast, Team USA’s presence in that game was so improbable that, Michaels wrote, he and analyst Ken Dryden just hoped the game would be close.

I have a strange mental exercise before big games. I always write out my opens so I get in what I want to without the, uh, you know, kind of verbal wandering that, um, can happen. On the opposite end of the broadcast, I sort of plan what I will say — not a clever catchphrase, but the mechanics of it — if the team I am covering loses, as in “(insert win here) beats (insert loser here) (insert score here); the (winners) go to state, and the (losers’) season ends at (number of) wins and (number of) losses.”

I have a psychological rationale I figured out some years ago. George S. Will once said that pessimists are the happiest people because either something happens and they were correct, or they are pleased to be proven wrong. I am not a fan of announcers who lose their, uh, stuff when the wrong team wins:

I got to do one of those kinds of games earlier this season — a girls basketball team that had gotten to the sectional level three previous seasons without getting to state. The sectional final was the last and best chance to get to state for the undefeated team.

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