Category: media

The damned-if-you-do damned-if-you-don’t end of your career

Best Classic Bands reports on one of brass rock’s pioneers:

Blood, Sweat & Tears, known for such hits as “Spinning Wheel,” “And When I Die” and “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy,” are the subject of a new documentary, What the Hell Happened to Blood, Sweat & Tears? The film is described as “the incredible never-before-told story about a top rock band that was unknowingly embroiled in a political rat’s nest involving the U.S. State Department, the Nixon White House and a controversial concert tour of Yugoslavia, Romania and Poland, countries that were behind what was then known as the Iron Curtain.”

When they returned from the June-July 1970 tour and visit, the band itself was caught in the crossfire from both the right and the left and the group suffered as a result. Suddenly, they were no longer hip and cool and lost support from fans, the media, concert bookers and the recording industry. As a result, they found themselves in the crosshairs of a polarized America–as divided then as it is now–and became an early victim of cancel culture. The feature-length film will be released theatrically in New York and Los Angeles on March 24, 2023, before expanding across North America and Canada via Abramorama.

In 1969, the band played the legendary Woodstock Festival and in 1970 won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year for its self-titled, second LP, besting The Beatles’ Abbey Road and Crosby, Stills and Nash’s debut, among others.

Weeks after returning from the Iron Curtain tour, Blood, Sweat & Tears played New York’s Madison Square Garden. Outside the venue, the leftist radical Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies (Youth International Party) led a protest against what they called “Blood, Sweat & Bullshit,” accusing them of being tools of the CIA, and urging people to boycott the band’s records and concerts.

Written, produced and directed by award-winning filmmaker John Scheinfeld (The U.S. vs. John LennonChasing TraneWho Is Harry Nilsson…?) and produced by Dave Harding (Herb Alpert Is…), the film was created with the full cooperation of Blood, Sweat & Tears. The documentary features never-before-seen film and photos of the band, as well as present-day interviews with then-Columbia Records president Clive Davis and five of the nine band members: lead singer David Clayton-Thomas, sax player and musical arranger Fred Lipsius, bass player Jim Fielder, drummer Bobby Colomby, and guitarist Steve Katz, who says, “We were blackmailed.”

“It has been fascinating for me to relive these incidents of some 50 years ago,” said Colomby, “through the footage, documentation and, incredibly, the live performance tapes John and his team discovered through some very deep and tireless digging. I believe the music we made then holds up today.”

The truth-is-stranger-than fiction film blends political intrigue, social commentary and a mystery involving one of the biggest rock bands of the late ’60s and early ’70s.

Director John Scheinfeld adds, “Uncovering the details of the extraordinary story took us far and wide, and we were amazed by the unexpected twists and turns of the tale. We hope people will be as struck as we were by the political parallels and counterpoints between then and now.”

What the Hell Happened to Blood, Sweat & Tears? features 53 minutes of never-before-seen footage shot during the Iron Curtain tour and never-before-seen footage of the opening song of BS&T’s set at Woodstock.


Least surprising news of the day

Elizabeth Nolan Brown watched Donald Trump’s CNN town hall so you didn’t have to:

Was there any way last night’s televised town hall with former President Donald Trump wasn’t going to turn into one long, free advertisement for his 2024 campaign? Trump lied about the 2020 election and about classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago, told the female journalist interviewing him that she was “nasty,” and insulted the woman he was just found liable for sexually abusing (“what kind of a woman meets somebody and brings them up and within minutes you’re playing hanky-panky in a dressing room?”) while insisting he’s never met her. But he did it with his characteristic humor, bravado, and showmanship, a say-anything shtick that many Americans—even those who may not agree with all of his policies or personal decisions—find appealing. And he was given the opportunity to do all this uninterrupted by opposing candidates.

This was CNN giving Trump a chance to put on a nice one-man show—and if that’s what the network wants do to, so be it. But one imagines that’s not actually what folks at CNN wanted to do. It just goes to show how little the media have learned about Trump since he burst into the political arena in 2015.

The media, a four-letter word

Becket Adams:

On the last Saturday in April, before a rapt crowd of cheering journalists and B-list celebrities, President Biden declared the American press an indispensable institution, necessary to the very survival of the republic.

Or answer them. My own object lesson at the state level was sitting in on Gov. Tony Evers’ COVID-era press conferences, to which non-daily media was first not invited until one of those non-daily media complained. The next tough question you hear asked of Evers from the Madison or Milwaukee media will be the first.


One reason Republicans lose

Jim Geraghty points to something endemic to Republicans, not just their presidential candidates:

Last week, Florida governor Ron DeSantis completed an overseas trade tour of Japan, South Korea, Israel, and the United Kingdom that was totally focused on increasing Florida’s exports to those countries, and purely coincidentally provided him some B-roll footage for future presidential-campaign commercials touting his relevant foreign-policy experience.

During a press conference in Israel, DeSantis had this exchange:

REPORTER: Would you like to comment on a report on NBC News that you are going to run, announce running next month?

DESANTIS: Was that sourced to anonymous sources? Let me guess, surprise, surprise. It would be nice to just do one article where you’re naming the people, instead of just doing the gossip.

We get it, Republican presidential candidates. You hate most or all of the mainstream media and think they ask stupid questions. The perceived high point of Newt Gingrich’s 2012 bid was when he slammed debate moderator Wolf Blitzer of CNN. Much of former president Donald Trump’s whole antagonistic, blustering, combative persona was built around “much of our news media is indeed the enemy of the people.” And as governor, DeSantis has had plenty of feisty interactions with both the state and national press.

And at the risk of picking on that reporter in Israel, it’s obvious DeSantis was not going to just blurt out, in the middle of a foreign trip, “Oh, yes, I’m going to formally announce my bid on May 22nd. You should get up early that day.”

But DeSantis is running second in the polls; he wrote a book about how what he’s done in Florida is a blueprint for the rest of the country; and Never Back Down, an independent Super PAC, is already running ads on his behalf and organizing support for him in key states. Everybody and their brother knows that DeSantis is either going to run for president, or he’s going to shock and disappoint a lot of people by choosing to not run at the last minute. When everybody knows you’re going to run for president, you’re going to get questions about when you’re going to formally announce your campaign! Those kinds of questions will stop when the prospective candidate makes it official. Then the reporters can move on to asking when the candidate will drop out of the race. (I kid, I kid.)

Can you run an effective campaign by only talking to a handful of preferred outlets? A few days ago, Politico laid out DeSantis’s close relationship with the Florida Standard, “an online conservative news outlet that instantly gained unprecedented access to DeSantis when it launched last summer”:

DeSantis has agreed to only a few interviews in the past year, usually with Fox News or established right-wing outlets. He’s made a show of turning down requests from places like “The View.” But the week the Florida Standard went live in August, Witt rolled out a 22-minute sit-down with DeSantis, a coincidence that suggested to many the outlet had ties to DeSantis supporters. In the interview, Witt openly praised DeSantis and allowed him to make multiple unchallenged claims about his record. Later, when DeSantis’ administration rejected an AP African American Studies course on the grounds that it was “woke indoctrination,” it was the Florida Standard that scored the first copy of the syllabus. National outlets like the New York Times and NBC cited the publication’s scoop in their articles.

Republican candidates, their campaigns, and many GOP presidential-primary voters are united in their contempt for those who ask questions during press conferences and debate moderators. But that attitude raises the question of what these groups want the news media to do during a Republican presidential primary. Do Republican primary voters have any questions they’d like to see their potential nominee asked? Do they just want to run this primary on autopilot, sitting back and watching a series of speeches and scripted applause lines, with no questions or off-the-cuff answers?

Or do some Republicans just want to skip the primary process entirely? A few days ago, Kari Lake — who still insists she won the 2022 Arizona gubernatorial election — declared, “This primary is over. It’s time to rally around Donald Trump. We must focus our energy on exposing that fool Joe Biden, registering voters, and funding ballot chasing operations in swing states. We should not be wasting time and money fighting ourselves.” Our old friend John Fund observed, “This is from the woman who didn’t trust the polls when she ran in 2022.”

Trump says he won’t participate in at least one of the debates, although this might be his usual drama-generating tactics.

A lot of people on the right justifiably slam President Biden for rarely doing interviews and holding press conferences. If Republicans think Biden should come out and subject himself to questions that he might not like, why is it not important for Republican officials and presidential candidates to do the same?

As I intermittently disclose, I really like South Carolina senator and potential GOP presidential option Tim Scott. But even the most charismatic and likeable figures can have bad days and fumble in the face of direct questions that pin them down on thorny issues.

In mid April, Scott had an exchange with CBS News political correspondent Caitlin Huey-Burns about abortion that was less than ideal:

Scott: There’s no question that we’re gonna have a lot of folks talk about legislation from a federal perspective, but what I’ve heard so far, and what I’ve seen in the Senate, aren’t proposals, but those from the left trying to figure out how to continue their campaign towards late-term abortions, even allowing abortions based on the gender of the child or the race of the child or the disabilities of the child.

Huey-Burns: As a president, if you were president, would you advocate for federal limits?

Scott: Yeah, so once again, I — once again, I’m 100 percent pro-life, and I do believe –

Huey-Burns: So, yes?

Scott: That’s — that’s not what I said. I do believe that we should have a robust conversation about what’s happening in the, on a very important topic there’s no doubt that when I’m sitting in a banking hearing having a conversation about financial issues, and you have the Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen talking about young poor African American women having abortions to increase their labor force participation rate. I was stunned into silence.

Some pro-lifers — not all — will sense a contradiction between declaring yourself “100 percent pro-life” and then punting on the question of whether there should be federal legislation restricting or banning abortions.

The following day, Scott was in New Hampshire, and offered another less-than-fully clear answer on a similar question:

Questioner: Would you support a federal ban on abortions?

Scott: I would simply say that the fact of the matter is, when you look at the issue of abortion, one of the challenges that we have we continue to go to the most restrictive conversations without broadening the scope. Taking a look at the fact that I’m 100 pro-life. I never walk away from that. But the truth of the matter is that when you look at the issues on abortion, I start with the very important conversation I had in a banking hearing, when I was sitting in my office and listening to Janet Yellen, the Secretary of the Treasury, talk about increasing the labor force participation rate for African-American women who are in poverty, by having abortions. I think we’re just having the wrong conversation. I ran down to the banking hearing to see if I heard her right. Are you actually saying that a mom like mine should have an abortion, so that we increase the labor force participation rate? That just seems ridiculous to me. And so, I’m going to continue to have a serious conversation about the issues that affect the American people. I won’t start by pointing out the absolute hypocrisy of the Left on the most one of the more important issues.

We can all agree that it’s rather ghoulish for Janet Yellen to argue that abortion should remain legal because Roe v. Wade “helped lead to increased labor force participation.” But that anecdote doesn’t really answer the question of whether a President Tim Scott would sign federal legislation restricting or banning abortion nationwide if Congress sent it to his desk in the Oval Office. If the answer is “yes,” say yes. If the answer is, “no,” say no. And if the answer is, “I’m not sure, I’m still thinking about it,” let the electorate know that, too.

The presidency is not an easy job, and a candidate doesn’t get prepared for the challenges of running the executive branch and being commander in chief by doing softball interviews.

Do the people who work for campaigns, and those who most ardently support a particular candidate, think the purpose of the people covering the campaign is to make the candidate look good? Because if that’s the expectation, everybody’s always going to be disappointed. If candidates, campaigns, and their fan bases envision every publication and channel covering the candidate as gushingly as Breitbart covers Trump, or MSNBC covers Biden, they’re envisioning a political system with no independent press, just different varieties of spokesmen and salesmen.

Can reporters cover Republicans campaigns unfairly? Absolutely and indisputably. DeSantis’s foreign trip got mostly critical coverage, reminiscent of the harsh coverage of Mitt Romney’s 2012 foreign trip. But that trip including an infamous incident: Romney was completing his visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw, Poland, as reporters shrieked, “WHAT ABOUT YOUR GAFFES? DO YOU FEEL THAT YOUR GAFFES HAVE OVERSHADOWED YOUR FOREIGN TRIP?

Let’s put aside that this is occurring just outside a national memorial tomb, the equivalent of shouting questions as a candidate is departing a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. Do you think that Romney thought his gaffes had overshadowed his foreign trip? Even in the astronomically unlikely scenario where he did think that, do you think he would ever say so to the reporters there?

There’s a middle ground between softballs and variations of, “Why do you suck so much?”

Notoriously bad campaign journalism stirs the ire of Republican primary voters, which makes press-bashing popular on the GOP campaign trail. But this also serves candidates’ purposes by delegitimizing any press coverage they don’t like, or any questions they would prefer not to answer. You, as a presidential-primary voter, shouldn’t just fall in love with some candidate. You should want to kick the tires and see how they do when they get asked tough questions — particularly when almost every presidential candidate just assumes they’ll have a cooperative Congress once they step into the Oval Office.

And if those who want to be commander in chief find interacting with the press too irritating and inconvenient, and if vast swaths of the candidates’ supporters find the expectation that a candidate interact with the press unreasonable . . . what is the point of this process?

Republicans and conservatives sound like whiny soyboy millennials every time they complain about the news media. i have to believe that Republican voters’ antipathy toward the media lost them the governor’s race because they voted for Tim Michels, who was a disaster in front of a microphone, instead of Rebecca Kleefisch, who as a former TV reporter was quite comfortable in front of the media and in front of crowds.

Ronald Reagan had no problem handling reporters, whether that was because of his comfort with cameras as a former actor or selective deafness when a question was shouted at him. Gpv. Scott Walker was obviously media-trained; I think his heart rate actually dropped when talking to reporters. Wisconsin’s newest Republican Congressman, Derrick Van Orden, has no problem with reporters from what I’ve witnessed either.

Yes, reporters are reflexively anti-Republican and anti-conservative. Yes, reporters ask stupid questions. Yes, reporters are the kind of people that normal people avoid like the plague. Anyone who wants to get elected has to deal with them. Whining abut unfairness accomplishes nothing. To quote Barry Goldwater, grow up, conservatives.


Contrary opinions not wanted

David Blaska formerly worked for the competitor of what now is Madison’s only daily newspaper:

We love opinion! The more sharper-edged the better! Sand for our oyster! Whets our blade. We subscribe to Buckley’s National Review AND The Nation (John Nichols’ day job) for their varied opinions. We read Ross Douthat AND Maureen Dowd in the New York Times. Look in on Tucker Carlson at Fox AND Joy Reid at MSNBC until (like Popeye the Sailor Man) we can’t stands it no more (usually about 10 minutes in)!

But local print opinion appears as endangered as someone with dirt on Hillary Clinton. Went looking for the editorial page at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel before reality slapped us upside the head with a wet, rolled-up newspaper They don’t have one! The once-great Journal Sentinel — itself a merged newspaper — began cutting back five years ago when it became one of 250 titles in the Gannett archipelago, we learned only today.

The great (and sorely missed) National Lampoon once issued a tabloid-sized news sheet it called the “Dacron Republican-Democrat.” “A cult classic of puerile genius,” it parodied the mergers of so many city dailies and the resultant attenuation of their editorial voices. A far cry from the early days of the Republic when Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson squared off in their own partisan sheets.

A big reason, we suspect, is that cash-strapped local news outlets fear alienating fickle readers in today’s uncompromising War of the Worlds political environment. Readers and viewers are choosing their own news silos, opinions from like-minded echo chambers. …

As a reporter and low-level editor, Blaska did his part to drive down the circulation of The Capital Times, one of the last remaining afternoon dailies until it went weekly and virtual 15 years ago on 04-26-08. We staffers rued the day when founder William T. Evjue relinquished the Sunday edition and, during merger negotiations in 1948, demanded that the Wisconsin State Journal take the morning slot. Both had been afternoon papers, with the CT leading the circulation war. Both competing newspapers were peppered with display ads for something called “television.”

The Capital Times still serves as the bullhorn of the progressive wing of the Democrat(ic) party. (Never a discouraging word about our Woke Madison school board. Everything is just hunky dory!) Editors Evjue, then Miles McMillin, demanded their opinionated and partisan columns start on page one. The WI State Journal was once reliably Republican. Even supported Joe McCarthy’s crusade against Communism. No more.

Blaska’s Bottom Line — Today, the last daily in the Emerald City of the Woke endorses abortion champion Janet Protasiewicz for supreme court, soft-on-crime Mandela Barnes for U.S. senator, and critical race theorists for school board. (And they say Fox News caters to its audience!) Any-who, that’s my opinion. If you do not agree, write yer own damned blogge, you pinko Commie!

The State Journal’s response might be that (1) it’s reflecting its readership, which is not how editorial pages are supposed to work, or (2) it runs nationally syndicated conservative columnists and letters to the editor from conservatives. But rare is the occasion when a national columnist cares about Madison or even Wisconsin politics, which gets to Blaska’s point.

This is a job that I would have killed to have once upon a time. (As for now, well, why wouldn’t I listen to an offer, especially if it was part-time?) One thing Blaska doesn’t point out is that independent of the no-intellectual-diversity opinion policy way too many newspaper opinion pages are toadies for the powers that be, and that certainly is the case with the State Journal. The State Journal has been too busy cheerleading for Madison to notice the crime rate affecting more people, to care about the negative effects of spiraling home prices (as in why would anyone move to the city when you pay far too much), or to suggest major reform is needed for what used to be some of the best schools in the state (when I was a student) but are now sinking toward Milwaukee quality. An op-ed columnist worth his or her paycheck would write authority-defying things, but not at the State Journal, and truth be told not at many newspapers.

This, by the way, does not require lockstep agreement with the GOP. A conservative Wisconsin columnist should, for instance, ask how conservative voters keep picking such losing candidates as Tim Michels and Dan Kelly, how Ron Johnson won when Michels did not, whether alleged RINOs (for instance Robin Vos) really are, how urban voters disenfranchise rural voters, the real goal of redistricting reform (subtracting the letter R), and whether conservatives should engage in the culture wars or stay in their own echo chambers (for instance, eschewing other news outlets for Fox News). Those three topics (which are probably multiple columns) took me as much time to think up as they took me to type.

A conservative columnist who correctly used facts, logic and reason instead of feelings would generate a lot of attention, and in today’s world a lot of negative attention, with canceled subscriptions, boycotts and threats thereof, and other harrumphs of outrage. (The solution to subscription cancellation is simple: Refuse — you paid for it, you get it until your subscription expires, and what you do with it is up to you.)

Real problems and not-really-problems

Jim Geraghty:

John Blake at CNN wants you to get really upset about the use of “digital blackface,” which he describes as white people sharing images or gifs of members of minority groups on social media.

There are also people who want you to get really upset with John Blake and CNN for proposing such an idea. …

But while some people want you to spend valuable time and neurons contemplating whether it is moral for white people to share images and gifs of minority groups on social media, the world keeps turning; real news keeps occurring; real life-and-death situations keep developing, starting, and resolving themselves.

Ukraine is the world’s biggest news story that somehow only pops up above the noise of the news cycle once every two weeks or so. Russian dictator Vladimir Putin is now saying he intends to move some of Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus, which has been used as a staging ground for Russian forces invading Ukraine:

Moscow will complete the construction of a special storage facility for tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus by the beginning of July, Putin told state broadcaster Russia 1.

He said Moscow had already transferred an Iskander short-range missile system, a device which can be fitted with nuclear or conventional warheads, to Belarus.

During the interview, Putin said Russia had helped Belarus convert 10 aircraft to make them capable of carrying tactical nuclear warheads and would start training pilots to fly the re-configured planes early next month.

(Read more background on the Russian arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons here.)

The Biden administration doesn’t seem particularly worried, and perhaps this is just more of the nuclear saber-rattling we’ve seen from Putin, on and off, since the invasion began. Yesterday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on CBS News’ Face the Nation that, “We have not seen any indication that he’s made good on this pledge or moved any nuclear weapons around. We’ve, in fact, seen no indication that he has any intention to use nuclear weapons period inside Ukraine.”

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty is not vague about moving nuclear weapons to other countries. “Under Article I of the NPT, nuclear-weapon states pledge not to transfer nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices to any recipient or in any way assist, encourage or induce any non-nuclear-weapon state in the manufacture or acquisition of a nuclear weapon.” Russia signed the treaty, and now it sounds like Putin intends to ignore it.

Putin’s Russia has been a troublemaker for a long time — “our number one geopolitical foe” as Mitt Romney put it in 2012, to the laughter and scoffing of most of America’s Democrats, including the Obama administration. It is effectively a rogue state — or “state of concern,” to use the late Madeline Albright’s preferred term. About eleven months ago, I wrote, “Whatever happens next, the Russia we knew, or thought we knew, throughout much of the post–Cold War period is now long gone. What remains is something closer to a territorially giant North Korea with a much larger nuclear arsenal — paranoid, irrational, illogical, unpredictable, with serious questions of whether the leadership is getting accurately briefed on any issue.”

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and KGB were arguably the world’s preeminent supporters of international terrorism, offering training and arms to just about any band of miscreants who opposed the U.S. and its allies. There’s some evidence that the German Red Army Faction, a far-left terrorist group in West Germany that sowed terror in that country in the Seventies and Eighties, was supported by a young KGB officer stationed in Dresden … by the name of Vladimir Putin.

The West is in this mess in large part because a wide variety of Western leaders underestimated the danger of Putin, year after year, decade after decade. Barack Obama dismissed Putin and Russia in 2016: “The Russians can’t change us or significantly weaken us. They are a smaller country, they are a weaker country, their economy doesn’t produce anything that anybody wants to buy except oil and gas and arms. They don’t innovate.”

The thing is, lots of places want to buy oil and gas and arms. And as we’ve seen for the past year, that “weaker” Russia can still generate chaos on the world stage.

Late last week, while thinking about the potential ban of TikTok, I noted that social media is effectively an attention economy. (Arguably, all forms of media are an attention economy.) It runs on your willingness to pay attention to things. Institutions and platforms that cannot get you to pay attention are doomed, at least financially. (This morning brings news that the 68-year-old liberal publication The Texas Observer is closing its doors for good.)

On a lot of social-media platforms, normal or healthy human behavior does not get you very much attention. Abnormal, unhealthy behavior gets you a great deal of attention. Young women drinking milkshakes out of toilets is the sort of thing that turns a lot of heads — and stomachs — in the world of TikTok.

TikTok, and perhaps social media as a whole, have created an entire incentive structure to spotlight the most abnormal behavior people can imagine, particularly among young people. If you do the things you’re supposed to do in life — love your family, be a good friend, work hard, play by the rules, help others when they need it — the TikTok algorithm just isn’t that interested. Maybe once in a while, your social-media algorithms will serve up something heartwarming, like those two toddlers who were so overjoyed to see to each other on the sidewalk. But by and large, your social-media feed is there to tell you, “This stinks, that stinks, look at this freak, look at what this weirdo is doing, aren’t human beings just the worst, we’re all doomed, the world is going to heck in a handbasket.” No wonder people think social media causes depression.

Now, look, it’s your life, and you’re free to pick whatever entertainment and news sources you like. (And hey, thanks for reading this newsletter.) A few years back, Tom Nichols was quite irked to learn some people enjoy watching other people play video games. My sense was and is that there isn’t that much difference between paying to watch people play electronic versions of stuff and paying to watch a CGI-filled movie, and that the world is always going to have people who choose to spend their disposable income and free time in ways you find dumb, wasteful, boring, or inane. If they’re not harming others or themselves, let them be.

But your attention is a valuable thing. Your time and attentiveness are finite, and each thing you read or watch is a choice. You might even think of it as a resource to be invested. Those social-media algorithms are designed to steer you in a particular direction. Contemplate whether you want to go down the path that the algorithms prefer.

The 2023 Sykes

Charlie Sykes:

You might say that this set off Jeff Goldstein:

Let me get this out of the way upfront: I’m no fan of The Bulwark or any of its writers. I find them to be lazy, opportunistic, profiteering Never Trumpers who have strayed so far from conservatism that they now profess to save it by actively supporting progressive Democrats. They are the print equivalent of Adam Kinzinger: their takes are contrived, and the tears they pretend to shed for the country are as fake as Joe Biden’s teeth.

So. Now that you know my biases, allow me to justify them. In today’s “Morning Shots,” Charlie Sykes, a one-time conservative radio host and now editor-in-chief of The Bulwark, dropped a piece entitled “Trump Picks an Enemy: Us.” In it, he claims Trump “sides with Russia” — which in Bulwark-speak means he doesn’t believe in a hot war with a nuclear power, nor does he believe Russia is our country’s greatest threat — arguing that the former President’s real enemy is the American people. To promote this idea, Sykes cites a Tweet from Ron Filipowski, another former Republican broken by Trump, that seeks to turn Trump’s critique of a massive, politicized, un-elected administrative state and a military-industrial complex overtaken by leftist ideologues, into an attack on Americans themselves — as if the average American citizen owes fidelity and allegiance to bureaucrats and the Defense Department, to General Milley or Ukrainian pensioners.

What Sykes and Filipowski are using as setup for this narrative that Trump (yet again) is some sort of Russian agent, is a Trump video in which he lays out his priorities as a candidate for President: fixing what’s broken here at home, as he sees it, rather than wasting resources on eastern European battlefields, where American tax dollars are going to arm and support often literal Nazi soldiers. Notes Trump, “The State Department, the Defense bureaucracy, the Intelligence Services, and all of the rest, need to be completely overhauled and re-constituted to fire the Deep Staters, and put America first.”

Trump’s supposed outrageous new message, then, is the same as his supposed outrageous old message: American resources should be spent on Americans in order to better the lives of American citizens living in the United States of America.

That this is controversial in supposed “conservative” circles is puzzling; even should you not agree with Trump’s America First agenda, it’s certainly not villainous, treasonous, or crazy. Because Trump doesn’t consider Russia the kind of threat those so heavily invested in Ukraine seem to doesn’t mean Trump “sides with Russia” anymore than his having never declared war on the CCP means he “sides with China”. He simply has different priorities, and those priorities are, in the view of at least 75 million Americans who voted for him in 2020, the proper ones. Whether or not he is the one to lead us going forward in addressing these priorities is a different question, one generally determined through a primary process, though as Sykes signals in his piece, any GOP candidate who doesn’t support heavy US involvement in Ukraine’s border war with Russia can expect the same kind of criticism Trump gets. Hell, I’m convinced these people would campaign for AOC if she promised to marshal troops and blow some shit up in Europe.

— Which just goes to show that Never Trumpism was never merely about Trump. It was — and is — driven by anger at an upset of the status quo, and the temerity of some unpolished outsider to challenge a bureaucracy that for so long has done the real work of setting US policy. The autopilot was interrupted, which threw into question the trajectory of the ship of state. Trump isn’t picking every day American citizens as enemies; he’s naming people like Sykes as the enemy, political insiders who provide cover for an adventurist foreign policy, NGO globalism, and credentialed elites who stand athwart history yelling “stop!” to the phalynx of filthies who presume to take back some say in how they’re governed. So when Sykes and his ideological brethren, be it Bill Kristol, or Adam Kinzinger, or some other stale retread of Bushism, tells you that Trump has named you as his enemy, the answer you should give, to borrow from Gordie Lachance, is “No, Ace. Just you.”

The fact is, Trump is absolutely correct about the enemy being within. And it is much bigger than the permanent political class, military adventurism, and an increasingly overreaching bureaucratic state. The great irony here is that, while Sykes and the Never Trump brigade try to tether Trump to Russia, it is the very Cultural Marxism the Soviet Union exported that is responsible for the internal problems we face in the US and much of the contemporary west, and to which pundits like Sykes surrender when they aren’t embracing it like it’s a John McCain blowup doll with tassels on its tits.

The US is suffering from the mainstreaming of Cultural Marxism, which has made the long march through our institutions and is now policed by a progressive power structure living happily alongside the desires of the Uniparty. Such a political ideology is a form or authoritarian collectivism brought about by a carefully manufactured — then viciously enforced — “cultural revolution.” As Mao did in China, our domestic left ideologues and the elite globalists of the Uniparty hope to do something similar here, though largely without the epaulets and outward violence. This is, after all, the west, and western sensibilities must be taken into account as part of any plan to re-make American society. Still, from our media to our woke corporations to our schools and academies, Cultural Marxism has taken root in those places where a particular narrative can be set, reinforced, taught, and defended. Once the ideology is in place, the specifics of the narrative can then be crafted. Tweaked for an American audience, the left’s narrative in the west is a combination of the beatification of “tolerance” and an iteration of removing the Four Olds, the latter of which is how Mao crafted his revolution. Individual liberty; a strong nuclear family; a propositional, color blind citizenry; and science as ordinarily understood, are all under attack from the Cultural Marxists, who seek to redefine reality to fit the parameters of their ideological push to remake Man. Gender is fluid, a mere construct; race is dispositive of victimhood and oppression, an essential trait from which the content of your character cannot escape.

Cultural Marxism is invested in intersectionality and identity politics, each of which breeds suspicion and resentment of others and creates unhealthy hierarchies while laying the predicate for unequal treatment and “equity” programs introduced by — or protected through — government. It is by way of such a reorganizing of society that the various collectives lay waste to individual liberty, creating of those who dissent from the identity politics narrative of their assigned groups, heretics, Uncle Toms, sufferers of false consciousness, even Russian stooges… Such outliers can be then freely dismissed. They are haters. Bigots. Un-virtuous. And it is an intellectual imperative of the left that being intolerant of intolerance be somehow made a coherent argument — and a cornerstone for acceptable speech.

We see, from the left — and this is precisely why it is no “blessing of liberty” to allow fetishists to push the sexualization of children — a move for kids to create “chosen families”; to cast off their repressive parents for a group of like-minded people who will “love them unconditionally” once they separate from the traditional family structure. This is presented as acceptance. As love. And yet it operates exactly as does a cult, or do groomers — and it paves the way for a breakdown of the nuclear family: Using media, schools, and social stigma around “intolerance,” Cultural Marxism introduces and amplifies identity politics, enticing children to try on various identities until they find one they feel fits (however temporarily). This is done in the absence of the parents and often with the “advocacy” of teachers or social media influencers, and with the protection of leftist media.

Because of its collectivist bent, a politics that embraces Cultural Marxism cannot live peaceably with our Constitution and its directives. It rejects individualism. It rejects the animating idea behind natural rights, reclaiming for man what belongs to Nature or Nature’s God. It requires control over all spheres of influence, including speech, social behavior, pedagogy, even science and medicine. It is a poison whose purpose is to kill off the Enlightenment paradigm and return us to a rule by elites, to the granting of privilege rather than protection of rights. Communism gave us Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Castro — who somehow took a supposedly “egalitarian” philosophy and manifested from it gulags and killing fields authored by self-appointed revolutionaries. The only equality was shared among the dead. Every corpse was equal when buried in a mass grave.

And so, to bring this back around, it is precisely here at home — against the enemies of our country as founded, who reside here inside it — that we must first and most ruthlessly fight, both in the marketplace of ideas, and with the policies we implement. This includes using government power for conservative ends. On some level, Trump understands this — and those who voted for him in the past agree with his diagnosis. President Eisenhower warned us of this internal threat. And yet Never Trumpers seldom claim the American General was a compromised traitor interested only in attacking Americans.

When Trump says Russia is not the greatest threat to America — that in very important respects America itself is its own worst enemy — he is saying outloud what many people silently realize: that our country cannot and will not last so long as it continues surrendering to an alien ideology that everywhere has invaded, insinuated, and calcified, while simultaneously presuming to fight battles on behalf of others whom we’re compelled by our ruling elite to subsidize. He is attacking ideas that have tantalized and overtaken some Americans, and which threaten to enthral more. The poison extends to the way we’re taught to think about language, making it part of our epistemology, part of the very way we come to believe, which as time goes on further entrenches kernel assumptions we must perforce root out. We must begin 30 years ago, in fact.

The stakes for the country are very real, and they extend well beyond the cynical foreign policy hawkishness of unserious neocons and their petty taunts. Our border is open, threatening our safety and sovereignty. Our children are being stolen from us, sometimes literally (through opioid deaths or sex trafficking), sometimes through unrelenting propaganda and the unscrupulous advances of unsavory actors. Reality itself is under withering attack. Racial division and preference is ascendant. And the forces of flaccid “conservatism” provide cover for all of it, either through inaction, an appeal to limited government that refuses to correct for extant government excess that only ever goes left, or through active support of things like drag queen story hour. And they do so to appear more nuanced than the monstrosity they see in Trump, and in the dirty rubes he dragged along with him into their once jauntily-appointed suites of contented losing.

They’ve always been perfectly willing to lose more slowly. And all it takes to buy them off is the occasional use of missiles in some far off land.

That’s a rather cheap price for a soul.

One of the signs that Trump needs to go away is that he basically prevents substantive discussions of anything because of Trump-worshippers and Trump-haters. The reality is that, as I’ve argued here for a dozen years, both (or all) sides can be wrong — for instance:

  • Believing that Russia under Putin and China are not this country’s adversaries and are trying to supplant the U.S. in the world.
  • Getting this country involved in foreign conflicts (see the Clinton administration) that have nothing to do with this country’s security. (Whether the Ukraine War does is worthy of argument.)
  • Denying that bureaucrats at the federal and state level (and below for that matter) are attempting to force changes to our lifestyles (the Natural Gas Stove Wars being the most recent example — the 20th century Sykes would have jumped all over that).
  • Irrational hatred of Republican Party leaders, including, for instance, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, because you don’t want to understand how the political process works.

News about my line of work

Liberal Patriot:

People are aware of America’s infamous political polarization and the seepage of strange partisan and ideological outlooks into every aspect of modern life. Perhaps less well understood, the increase in seemingly irresolvable partisan conflicts also coincides with a total collapse in public trust of objective news reporting among most Americans and a steep increase in the number of Americans checking out from national news altogether.

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and YouGov released a fascinating study last year examining news consumption and media habits across the world based on interviews with 93,000 people in 46 markets on 6 continents. This impressive study provides a wealth of comparative data across different national contexts and political environments.

Two findings from the 2000+ sample of citizens in the United States really stand out:

Only 26 percent of Americans express general trust in the news—tied for the lowest level of trust in the world along with the citizens of Slovakia. The survey asked respondents whether they agree or disagree with the following statement: “I think you can trust most news most of the time.” As the report authors note (and as seen in the charts below):

Trust in the news has fallen in almost half the countries in our survey, and risen in just seven, partly reversing the gains made at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic. On average, around four in ten of our total sample (42 percent) say they trust most news most of the time. Finland remains the country with the highest levels of overall trust (69 percent), while news trust in the USA has fallen by a further three percentage points and remains the lowest (26 percent) in our survey.

Likewise, Americans’ trust in the news that people use themselves, rather than more generally, only hits 41 percent—not exactly a ringing endorsement.

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More than 4 in 10 Americans say they limit ne consumption or avoid it altogether. The Reuters Institute report authors call this behavior “selective news avoidance” and find that it has more than doubled in politically divided countries such as Brazil and the U.K. since 2017. In America, 42 percent of citizens say they limit or actively avoid consuming any news—a 4-point increase over the same 5 year period.

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Notably, as seen in the graphic above, across all markets included in the survey the primary reason given by people for avoidance is that there is too much in the news about politics and COVID-19, cited by 43 percent of news avoiders globally. Other reasons for avoidance include people saying the news has a negative effect on their mood (36 percent) or that they are just plain worn out by the news (29 percent). Around 3 in 10 avoiders globally also refuse to consume the news because they believe it is untrustworthy or biased while just under 1 in 5 say it either leads to arguments they’d rather avoid or that there’s nothing they can do with the information in the news.

Combined, these findings show that America is nearly alone in the world in terms of the unwillingness of its citizens to either trust or rely on the news within any kind of consensus framework. Americans simply can’t agree on what is happening in their own country, let alone settle on a few common objective facts for evaluating what’s important and what should be done about pressing economic and national security challenges.

Americans increasingly inhabit their own news bubbles—or don’t take in any news whatsoever—even as more and more people pipe off online and on social media with firm opinions about every development in life. Consequently, citizens know less about what is going on in the country overall and tend to only trust other people—journalists, politicians, or other citizens—who think and believe as they do. People have lots of divergent opinions about matters but no common facts to reference to defend these positions. Citizens also lack a few trustworthy media outlets and civil platforms for political debate to help air and resolve these differences without turning Americans against one another.

This self-selection in news consumption and avoidance of news altogether isn’t a recipe for long-term success for the American project.

Unfortunately, restoring trust in news is probably as difficult as restoring trust in government. But our media and political elites need to take these projects seriously and be far more conscious about what they say, how they say it, and where they say it. They need to be more tolerant of dissenting views, speak to people across media bubbles, and dive deeper into various explanations for what is going on with the economy, public health, or national security.

Trust between citizens, and trust in major media and governmental institutions, can only be rebuilt if everyone first agrees to four conditions: (1) Report and accept basic facts; (2) Be honest with people; (3) Acknowledge personal mistakes and good ideas coming from others; and (4) Stop freaking out over every minor political difference.

This is as surprising as discovering that water is wet. Too much of the news media blindly parrots whatever the government (any level of government) says and fails to be even skeptical of government claims. That became blatantly obvious during COVID, when the lab-leak theory was denigrated as racist (tell the Energy Department that), and the media failed to report that the COVID “vaccines” are really more like flu shots (you may still get COVID but you may not get as sick) than vaccines that prevent anything. According to the government experts anyone who didn’t get the COVID shot should be dead or permanently disabled, and that claim was as seriously evaluated as the side-effects of COVID shots.

Political “coverage,” if that’s what you want to call it, is even worse, with horse-race “reporting” (how is Biden doing today?) instead of, again, any kind of attempt to evaluate whether we’re being told anything close to the truth. (Except where Trump is concerned.)


This must be a fun place to work

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