A voice of summer and fall

Today would have been the 100th birthday of a sports announcer you may not have heard of recently, but could be heard all over your TV — Lindsey Nelson, as chronicled by David J. Halberstam:

Beginning in the 1950s, Nelson graced play-by-play television and radio microphones nationally and locally for four decades. He is one of only four men to receive the Pro Football Hall of Fame‘s Rozelle and Baseball Hall’s Ford Frick Awards, (Curt Gowdy, Jack Buck and Dick Enberg).

In New York, Lindsey will always be remembered as one of the three initial voices of the Mets. In the rest of the country, Nelson was known for his football broadcasts. He did tons on network television and radio, and was used often by NBC and CBS on both the NFL and college football.

From 1962-78, 17 Mets seasons, Nelson was joined on both radio and television by Bob Murphy and Ralph Kiner. They were a beloved threesome. Nelson said, “We never had a cross word.” The Mets broadcasts were structured and predictable. Kiner clutched his cigar, Murphy his cigarette and Nelson his inanimate object, generally a pencil. Each called their innings with a seductive charm.

During their early overlapping years in the Yankees booth, Red Barber pontificated, Mel Allen emoted happily, Phil Rizzuto brought a neighborly warmth and Joe Garagiola blamed the Yankees demise on “termites in the bat rack.” Nelson said, “We didn’t have to be funny. Our jokes were down on the field.” The Mets were notorious for futility until the late 60s.

The Mets trio out-survived eight managers from Casey Stengel who rings a bell with everyone to baseball’s Joe Frazier who rings a bell with no one.

While Nelson was excellent on radio, his strength was television. Lindsey said, “On television, you simply write cutlines for the pictures. On radio, you paint the whole canvas with words, pace and information.”

On television, the Mets were an immediate hit. When Lindsey learned that the Mets were planning to carry 120 of their 162 games on the tube their first year, Nelson took advantage of the growing number of color television sets. He started wearing garish and lurid sports jackets that he bought off the rack. It drew attention away from the staid air crew at Yankee Stadium. You’d mention Nelson and many would say, ‘Oh, the guy with those loud jackets.’

When Lindsey was honored with the Frick Award, the Hall’s spokesperson Bill Guilfoile aptly said of the jackets, “They clashed with his soft southern drawl.”

Nelson said that the two New York baseball teams “were a clash of competing cultures. The Yankees represented dignified efficiency and the Mets represented futility but were unwilling to recognize and admit it.”

When Nelson was a Mets announcer, NBC-TV’s World Series coverage always included an announcer from the participating teams. And so when the Mets inexplicably won the 1969 World Series and got to the 1973 World Series …

Like other human beings, Nelson dealt with family issues. His older daughter, Sharon, was born retarded. His beloved wife Mickie died suddenly while on vacation in Spain. His longtime Mets statistician Art Friedman said, “Lindsey couldn’t handle booze. He had been on the wagon for twenty years. But when Mickie died, he was off the wagon for a while. One drink and he was out”

Nelson was very private. Kiner said, “As friendly as we were, I never felt I really knew him.”

After the 1978 season, Nelson left the Mets unexpectedly and joined the Giants broadcasts where he followed legendary announcers like Russ Hodges, Lon Simmons and Al Michaels. After three short seasons in San Francisco, he told a writer, “I have been a stranger in a strange land.” He was gone. It was the last baseball he did.

Longtime Notre Dame fans remember the years when live college football on network television was limited. So on Saturday nights, Fighting Irish games were shown in a recorded, condensed version of one hour. Lindsey voiced them and is often heard saying, “As we pick up the action later in the quarter…”

Nelson passed at age 76 in 1995, after suffering for years from Parkinson’s. Like many other early network television sportscasters, Lindsey was a member of Tom Brokaw’s Greatest Generation. He grew up during the depression and served the country in the European theater during World War II in a correspondent’s and communication role. He was always fascinated by the military. In his seasons doing the Mets, he was known to often have a military related book with him on airplanes and bus trips.

In one of the great coincidences in sports broadcasting history, Nelson and legendary announcer Jack Buck were both injured in the Battle of the Bulge.

Nelson was born and reared in Columbia, Tennessee and was hardly a child of the privileged. His dad was a traveling salesperson and Lindsey’s mom was in his words, “the greatest influence on me.”

As a student at the University of Tennessee, he “devoted every waking moment to thoughts of the Vol fortunes on the gridiron.” He tutored athletes in freshman English, spotted for the radio announcer and was a stringer for newspapers. In other words, he got hands-on experience early.

When the Vols advanced to the 1940 Rose Bowl, Nelson, a student at the time, traveled to Pasadena and served as a spotter for NBC Radio’s Bill Stern. Ted Husing and Stern were then America’s top two sports announcers. In his early years on-air, Nelson considered himself a protégé of Stern. Their play-by-play styles were somewhat similar. Both were upbeat, called games enthusiastically and did so with a sense of urgency.

Nelson was chosen to be a spotter for the former football game between the reigning NFL champion and the College All-Stars at Soldier Field in Chicago. He was going to be paid $5, back in the days when $5 was pretty good money. So he rode the bus from Tennessee to Chicago, where upon arrival at the All-Stars camp he found out that the broadcast had been canceled because NBC decided to carry a speech by Vice President Henry Wallace. So Nelson was in Chicago with all of 50 cents. His choices with 50 cents were lodging or food, so he bought a copy of the Chicago Tribune “because it was the thickest paper in town,” found a spot in Grant Park that night, laid ou the paper on the grass and slept there that night, bought breakfast the next morning and then hitchhiked to Tennessee. The fact I once slept on the floor of a hotel room covering a state baseball championship pales in comparison to that.

After the war, Lindsey returned to Knoxville where he broadcast minor league baseball and University of Tennessee football games. In 1950, for that matter, Nelson met Vin Scully who was in Knoxville to cover the Alabama-Tennessee game for CBS Radio. Scully had begun doing the Dodgers the summer before. Lindsey was also an announcer for the Liberty Network which recreated baseball games. In one thirty-day span, he recreated 62 games. It’s nice to be young!

A big break came in the early 50s, when he was hired by Tom Gallery who was the first ever administrative director of NBC Sports. In a hybrid role, Lindsey did lots of supervisory work for Gallery, called college football games and beginning in 1957 teamed with Leo Durocher on NBC’s Game of the Week. He also was the play-by-play announcer for the network’s NBA broadcasts.

Nelson went through mostly ups in his career and a few downs. On network TV, he did Cotton Bowls year after year, the Rose Bowl and two World Series when the Mets qualified, in 1969 and ‘73.

Here is a down:

In his wonderfully written autobiography, Hello Everybody, I’m Lindsey Nelson, he writes “Networks have a unique way of dealing with situations in which they have people that they have decided for some reason or other not to use. The weapon is silence. You just don’t hear from anybody.”

Bob Costas labeled Nelson, “a cheerful chronicler.” One of Nelson’s later assignment was doing the NFL on CBS Radio. Lindsey would always paint an environment of infectious enthusiasm. Fans got a sense that he’d rather be nowhere else other than the ballpark. I can recall a game he did from old Candlestick when the Niners were dominating the NFL. Lindsey: “Wherever you went around San Francisco this morning, the subject of conversation was this 49ers team. Whether it was the hostess turning over the tables at a restaurant, the cab driver or the doorman, they all wanted to talk about Joe Montana and today’s big game.”

He never changed. Early in his career as he was just beginning to surface on the national scene, Variety wrote, “Lindsey Nelson has been touted for many years as one of the tip-top grid casters. Precise, methodical and efficient, he may not have the color of Bill Stern, the heartiness of Mel Allen, the analytic powers of Red Barber or the glamour of Ted Husing, but as an information purveyor who’s right on top of the play, he’s almost prescient, the peer of any and the superior of many.”

As time evolved, Nelson developed his own friendly personality on-air and was loved by many throughout the country.

The baseball stadium at the University of Tennessee is named in Lindsey Nelson’s honor.

Packer fans of, uh, long experience are familiar with Nelson’s work:

 

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What the media doesn’t want you to know about the media

John Stossel:

“I’m not going to let them bully me out of reporting,” said Tim Pool after recording an Antifa protest where angry activists cursed at him. There might have been violence, but Antifa’s “de-escalation team” protected him, he says.

That surprised me. “Antifa has a de-escalation team?” I ask Pool in my latest internet video.

“They have people who try and make sure nobody from their side starts it—because cameras are rolling,” he answered.

Pool is part of the new media that now cover stories the mainstream media often miss.

I’ve become part of that new media, too. I still work at Fox, but now most of my video views (117 million plus) come from short videos I post on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Pool considers himself a man of the left. He supported Bernie Sanders and once worked for Vice. But now he often finds himself criticizing his fellow leftists.

“This really strange faction of people on the left are saying ridiculous things,” he says. “They’re helping Donald Trump.”

Trump probably does gain support when people watch street protests turn violent.

“Look at this protest in Portland,” recounts Pool. “A Bernie Sanders supporter showed up with an American flag—to protest fascists. What did Antifa do? Crack him over the head with a club.”

Pool won new followers with his coverage of the Washington, D.C., conflict between a Native American protestor and Covington, Kentucky, high school teens wearing Trump hats, including one who looked like he was smirking.

“All these big news outlets, even The Washington Post, CNN, they immediately made the assumption ‘He must be a racist sneering at this Native American man’,” says Pool. “I didn’t make that assumption…. I just see a guy banging a drum and a kid with a weird look on his face.”

Pool and Reason‘s Robby Soave were the rare journalists who bothered to examine more of the videos.

“The initial narrative that we heard from the activists was that this kid got in this man’s face…. It’s actually the other way around,” Pool said. “No one else watched the video.”

No one? Major news outlets said the student was racist without ever examining the full video?

“Here’s what happens,” Pool explains. “One left-wing journalist says, ‘Look at this racist!’ His buddy sees it and says, ‘Wow, look at this racist.’ And that’s a big ol’ circular game of telephone where no one actually does any fact-checking. Then The New York TimesWashington Post, CNN all publish the same fake story.”

Although Pool made those big-name outlets look like irresponsible amateurs, he doesn’t have a journalism degree. In fact, he didn’t even finish high school. He dropped out of school and just started videotaping what interested him, funding his videos with ads and donations from viewers.

“I want to know why things are happening. Some people don’t trust the media. I don’t know who to believe. Why don’t I just go there and see for myself?”

That’s brought him more than a million internet subscribers.

It’s also made him an advocate for free speech.

“When I was growing up, it was the religious conservatives that had the moral panic about music and swear words. But today the moral panic is coming from the left. Today, the left shows up with torches and burns free speech signs.”

I’m glad there are young journalists like Pool, who still value open debate.

Actually, we have lots of new media options today.

Joe Rogan’s podcast covers viewpoints from all sides. He has won a huge audience.

Dave Rubin reports on YouTube from a classical liberal perspective.

Naomi Brockwell covers how tech is changing the world.

On the right, Ben Shapiro, Steven Crowder, and Candace Owens irreverently critique my New York City neighbors’ sacred cows.

On the left, Sam Harris has attracted a big podcast following by discussing all kinds of ideas, and Jimmy Dore takes a principled left-wing stand.

I don’t agree with all those new media people. I very much disagree with some of them. But I’m glad they are out there, giving us more choice.

I guess the multiple Steves fit in this category. This blog is separate from my day job as editor of one of the nation’s finest weekly newspapers. Then there’s sports broadcasting Steve (though there is some overlap).

The difference is that I have a journalism degree, which taught me various journalism skills (asking the five Ws and one H and the inverted-pyramid) and knowledge such as libel and slander law. There’s only so much you learn in school, though, and my working at a weekly newspaper for three years in college taught me real-world journalism. Journalism is like most lines of work in that you get better at it by doing it.

On the one hand, most of those listed by Stossel don’t have that real-world experience, which might make their work suspect. (Change that to “will make their work suspect” to those in the media.) On the other hand, in the information market obviously they’re filling niches that the mainstream media isn’t filling. If the mainstream media were more serious about their work, they might ask why that is and do something about it.

 

Postgame schadenfreude, Bahstan Edition

The Milwaukee Bucks lost game one of their NBA Eastern Conference semifinal.

And that was the highlight for both the Boston Celtics and their former player-turned-commentator Paul Pierce.

First, the Celtics, reported by the Boston Globe:

The Celtics’ locker room was as quiet and sullen as it had been all year. Players dressed quietly at their stalls, or soaked their sore legs in ice buckets, or scrolled through their phones.

But none of the players talked to each other. They didn’t mention Giannis Antetokounmpo. They didn’t think about their missed opportunities. They didn’t talk about what comes next.

About seven months ago, they’d started on a journey that they believed would lead them to the NBA Finals. And if some bounces went their way and some young players continued to rise, maybe they would even win it.

No one envisioned an end like this, with the Bucks crushing them so thoroughly in Game 5 of the conference semifinals, 116-91, on Wednesday night that the Milwaukee fans were able to spend the better part of the fourth quarter reveling and partying while the most important players on both teams just watched from the bench.

Mustangs and Chargers and Corvettes! Oh my!

One of the two Car Chase Wonderland YouTube channels recently posted tributes to movies with car chases featuring Ford Mustangs …

… and Dodge Charger …

… both of which were featured in the greatest car chase of all time:

My exhaustive coverage of Corvettes on this blog has included the lamentation of the lack of great movies and TV shows that feature Corvettes as central to the setting.

Someone then reminded me of this movie:

It turns out Car Chase Wonderland also has footage of other Corvette chases …

… though the extent to which any of these Corvettes are central to the movie, except for the abominable “Corvette Summer,” is debatable.

The self-appointed censors

First, a commercial: Some of the readers of this blog get blog links from Facebook. Some get blog links from Twitter. Some get it via email. Some have it bookmarked on their favorite browser.

Why should you sign up for email delivery? Because that way you won’t have to run the risk of not being able to read it in what some claim is a purge of conservatives from social media.

First, Robby Soave:

Last week, the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, a non-profit journalism and research organization, published a list of 500 unreliable new websites. But the list, which included many conservative news and think tank websites, was itself unreliable, and Poynter has since retracted it.

“Soon after we published, we received complaints from those on the list and readers who objected to the inclusion of certain sites, and the exclusion of others,” explained Poynter editor Barbara Allen in a statement. “We began an audit to test the accuracy and veracity of the list, and while we feel that many of the sites did have a track record of publishing unreliable information, our review found weaknesses in the methodology. We detected inconsistencies between the findings of the original databases that were the sources for the list and our own rendering of the final report.”

How exactly the list found its way onto the Poynter website in the first place is a bit of a mystery. Poynter confirmed that its author, Barrett Golding, is a freelancer rather than an employee, but did not answer other questions about the process of greenlighting this project.

Golding’s LinkedIn account lists him as a freelance podcast producer for the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC did not respond to my questions about whether other SPLC staff had any influence or involvement over the list. Golding did not immediately respond to my request for comment, either. According to his Twitter feed, he works with the SPLC’s “Teaching Tolerance” project. He was formerly a research fellow at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute and a producer for NPR.

It’s worth trying to understand these connections because Poynter’s retracted list of news sites list was shoddy and overly broad in a manner reminiscent of the SPLC’s own work on tracking hate groups. As I explained in a recent piece for Reason detailing the group’s personnel issues, the SPLC tallies hate groups in a manner that suggests hate is always rising, even if it’s not:

According to the SPLC’s hate map, there were more than 1,000 hate groups in the U.S. in 2018—nearly twice as many as existed in 2000. The number has increased every year since 2014.

The map is littered with dots that provide more information on each specific group, and this is where the SPLC gives away the game. Consider a random state—Oklahoma, for example, is home to nine distinct hate groups, by the SPLC’s count. Five of them, though, are black nationalist groups: the Nation of Islam, Israel United in Christ, etc. The SPLC counts each chapter of these groups separately, so the Nation of Islam counts as two separate hate groups within Oklahoma (its various chapters in other states are also tallied separately). The map makes no attempt to contextualize all of this—no information is given on the relative size or influence of each group.

Additionally, the SPLC takes a very broad view of what constitutes hate: It considers the Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal group that defends religious liberty, as an extremist organization. It claims that American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray is a white nationalist.

The Poynter list made similar errors. It included InfoWars (a literal conspiracy site) but also conservative new websites like The Washington Examiner, National Review, and The Washington Free Beacon. These sites get things wrong from to time, but so do mainstream and left-of-center news sources. (Indeed, this entire episode is a prominent example of a mainstream source making a mistake.) But those publications are not misleading in the same sense that Alex Jones is misleading.

Poynter has done some good work in the past. Moving forward, it should be more careful about outsourcing its fact-checking to people who work for the SPLC.

Dan O’Donnell posted this last week:

Wisconsin Conservative Union, a popular Facebook group for conservatives in the state, was apparently taken offline during Facebook’s targeting of offensive personalities and fan pages Thursday.

“I was surprised by this,” said Wisconsin Conservative Union administrator Bob Dohnal, who said on The Dan O’Donnell Show that a friend called him Thursday night to let him know that his page had vanished. “It’s about 2,000 of the conservative leaders around this state. Nobody is talking about revolution or anything like that. It’s just been a place where everybody can exchange ideas and talk about candidacies and stuff.”

Dohnal added that he never received any warnings about any of the group’s posts or any notice that it had violated Facebook standards. He isn’t even sure if the group has been suspended or permanently removed from Facebook. He merely logged on and found it was gone.

On Thursday, Facebook permanently banned a number of fringe right-wing figures, including Alex Jones, Laura Loomer, and Paul Nehlen in addition to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Dohnal doesn’t know why (or even if) his group was lumped in with and removed alongside them.

“There’s never been anything [posted] against gays or anyone of any race or sex or anything like that,” he said. “If there were, I would take them off right away.”

As of the publication of this article, Dohnal was trying to contact Facebook to determine why Wisconsin Conservative Union was pulled.

As of Wednesday, however, the site is back on Facebook.

What about Twitter? Michael Van Der Galien reports:

Last weekend, conservatives discovered that both Twitter and Facebook had launched a grand purge of nationalist-populist (as they prefer to call themselves) users. Alex Jones, Milo, Paul Joseph Watson, Tommy Robinson, and Laura Loomer were all targeted, albeit not all by the same social media at the same time. The bans and suspensions inspired Human Events editor Raheem Kassam to predict that there were more waves to come:

This prediction is right on the money: Monday night, several other rightwing accounts were banned. Among them a parody account of Alexandra Occasio-Cortez, Jewish conservative @OfficeOfMike, and even the @MAGAphobia account whose admin was Jack Posobiec (the same Jack Posobiec mentioned by Kassam in his tweet about who’d be targeted next).

In its explanation of the ban on the AOC parody account, Twitter pretended that it wasn’t made clear in the user’s name and bio that it was indeed parody. However, that’s not true at all:

Conservative Millennial writer Courtney Holland adds:

As former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani rightfully puts it, these purges are nothing less than censorship.

It’s clear: liberal Silicon Valley has picked a side with regards to the upcoming 2020 elections. All those who dare disagree are at risk of losing their accounts and therefore their audience.

This issue is, to use a word I hate, problematic. To no one’s surprise, Facebook is trying to have this both ways, as Jane Coaston reports:

For years, social media giants tried to avoid the question altogether, recognizing that under American law, digital platforms have unique protections that guard against lawsuits aimed at the content posted on those platforms. But users complained about extremism and misinformation weaponized on Facebook and elsewhere, putting Facebook, Twitter, and other tech companies under immense pressure to increase moderation and close the accounts of bad actors — the same way a publisher might reject an article or a writer.

In doing so, they’ve gotten sucked into the political fray they wanted to avoid. Conservatives, pointing out that Facebook and Twitter are self-described platforms, are arguing that banning some users while permitting others based on a “vague and malleable” rubric is infringing on free expression on sites that they view as more like a town square where all voices should be heard. …

Infowars is a publisher. Alex Jones, who has been the publisher and director of Infowars since its launch in 1999, can publish what he wants on it. If I pitched Alex Jones on an article for Infowars, he would be under no obligation whatsoever to publish it.

Amazon Kindle is a platform, which means Amazon provides the means by which to create or engage with content, but it doesn’t create most of the content itself — or do a lot of policing of it. If I wanted to read Mein Kampf on my Amazon Kindle, Amazon would be unable to stop me from doing so.

An even better example of a platform might be a company like Verizon or T-Mobile, which provides software and the network for you to make phone calls or send texts, but doesn’t censor your phone calls or texts even if you’re arranging to commit a crime.

But for Facebook, and all similar social media sites, this seemingly dense legal question is deeply important — for how it treats figures like Jones and Farrakhan, and even how Facebook arbitrates speech at all.

If Facebook is a platform, it then has legal protections that make it almost impossible to sue over content hosted on the site. That’s because of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects websites like Facebook from being sued for what users say or do on those sites.

Passed in 1996, the act reads in part, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

Back in 2006, the act protected the website MySpace when it was sued after a teen met an adult male on the site who then sexually assaulted her. The court found that the teen’s claims that MySpace failed to protect her would imply MySpace was liable for content posted on the site — claims that butted up against Section 230.

But if Facebook is a publisher, then it can exercise editorial control over its content — and for Facebook, its content is your posts, photos, and videos. That would give Facebook carte blanche to monitor, edit, and even delete content (and users) it considered offensive or unwelcome according to its terms of service — which, to be clear, the company already does — but would make it vulnerable to same types of lawsuits as media companies are more generally.

If the New York Times or the Washington Post published a violent screed aimed at me or published blatantly false information about me, I could hypothetically sue the New York Times for doing so (and some people have).

So instead, Facebook has tried to thread an almost impossible needle: performing the same content moderation tasks as a media company might, while arguing that it isn’t a media company at all.

Facebook is trying to have its cake and eat it too

At times, Facebook has argued that it’s a platform, but at other times — like in court — that it’s a publisher.

In public-facing venues, Facebook refers to itself as a platform or just a “tech company,” not a publisher. Take this Senate committee hearing from April 2018, for example, where Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg argues that while Facebook is responsible for the content people place on the platform, it’s not a “media company” or a publisher that creates content.

But in court, Facebook’s own attorneys have argued the opposite. In court proceedings stemming from a lawsuit filed by an app developer in 2018, a Facebook attorney argued that because Facebook was a publisher, it could work like a newspaper — and thus have the ability to determine what to publish and what not to. “The publisher discretion is a free speech right irrespective of what technological means is used. A newspaper has a publisher function whether they are doing it on their website, in a printed copy or through the news alerts.”

And even the language Zuckerberg has used about Facebook when appearing before Congress, as he did last spring, shows that he thinks of the service as a publisher — while his company simultaneously argues that it’s not.

In his opening statement to committee members, Zuckerberg said, “We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.” And then he added, “I agree we are responsible for the content” on Facebook, while noting again that Facebook doesn’t produce content itself.

Why the line between platform and publisher matters

Facebook is far from alone in attempting to walk an almost impossible line between responding to users’ demands for moderation and editing while attempting to avoid the legal responsibilities of being a publisher.

Take Tumblr’s recent ban on nudity, Twitter’s continued back-and-forth on suspending and banning extremist users, Facebook’s recent efforts to curtail misleading ads that may have contributed to misinformation surrounding the 2016 presidential campaign: All of these moderating efforts are attempts to get out ahead of users who are dismayed by a constant cavalcade of bad actors and bots that make these sites less enjoyable to use (and less profitable for ad companies that post on these platforms, and thus, for the platforms).

And with the threat of impending regulations arising from European courts where American digital media protections don’t exist, Facebook is keener than ever to stay within the good graces of American users — and politicians.

So companies like Facebook, YouTube, and Tumblr are trying to be more, as Zuckerberg put it, “responsible.” But that’s landed them in a supercharged political environment, drawing the ire of the figures they’ve deemed dangerous and many others. For companies like Facebook, they’re damned if they do moderate content — both legally and politically — and damned if they don’t. …

Facebook wants to enjoy the benefits of being a content publisher — major moderation and editing powers along with the power to ban users for whatever reasons it wants — while also accessing the legal freedoms that come with being a platform under American law. And right now, Facebook is basically a publisher that keeps arguing that it isn’t.

That muddy legal territory has people worried that the social media giant will fail on both accounts — that it won’t handle material on its site as responsibly as a media outlet might, but will also stop providing an online “town square” where controversial voices can be heard.Since Facebook is now apparently reviewing the actions of users even when they’re not on Facebook, some are arguing that the stated terms of service that should dictate what’s permitted on Facebook and Instagram don’t do so in reality. That’s why organizations focused on digital civil liberties are just as concerned about Facebook’s decisions as some on the right.

Jillian York, a Electronic Freedom Foundation director, said in a statement, “Given the concentrated power that a handful of social media platforms wield, those companies owe their users a clear explanation of their rules, clear notice to users when they violate those rules, and an opportunity to appeal decisions.”

In April 2018, Facebook launched the “Facebook Here Together” campaign, stating that Facebook would “do more to keep you safe” from privacy violations and seemingly from bad content.

But that’s the role of a publisher — one that Facebook has argued time and time again that it doesn’t have. And that’s a big, big problem for the world’s most powerful social media company.

Yael Ossowski points out an unintended consequence:

Banning fringe voices from social media networks may be popular among tech and political elites, but it will only further embolden the people with truly dangerous ideas.

The fresh wave of censorship is being led by the reaction to the actions of the deranged terrorist, motivated by very bad ideas, who opened fire on peaceful worshippers at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March, killing 51 people and leaving 41 injured.

He livestreamed the entire rampage, peppering his deadly killing spree with commentary and phrases found on seedy online chat rooms and websites.

Political leaders in western nations want global regulations on the social media platforms used by the shooter, which you or I use everyday to communicate with our friends and family.

In the rush to prevent another attack, however, we should be warned against any crackdown on social media and Internet freedom. These are the tools of dictatorships and autocracies, not freedom-loving democracies.

But penalizing social media companies and its users for a tragic shooting that took place in real life abrogates responsibility for the individual alleged of this attack, and seeks to curb our entire internet freedom because of one bad actor.

What’s more, trying to play whack-a-mole with bad ideas on the internet in the form of bans or criminal liability will only embolden the seediest of platforms while putting unreasonable expectations on the major platforms. And that leads us to miss the point about this tragedy.

Social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter already employ tens of thousands of moderators around the world to flag and remove content like this, and users share in that responsibility. It will be up to these platforms to address concerns of the global community, and I have no doubt their response will be reasonable.

But on the other hand, this tragedy occurs in the context in which Big Tech is already being vilified for swinging elections, censoring speech of conservatives, and not reacting quickly enough to political demands on which content should be permissible or not.

As such, we are set to hear anti-social media proposals that have very little to do with what happened on that tragic day in Christchurch in idyllic New Zealand.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants the G20 to discuss global penalties for social media firms that allow questionable content. Democrats like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, among many congressional Republicans, want to use antitrust regulations to break up Facebook.

A recent national poll found that 71 percent of Democratic voters want more regulation of Big Tech companies.

In the wake of a tragedy, we should not succumb to the wishes of the terrorist who perpetuated these attacks. Overreacting and overextending the power of our institutions to further censor and limit online speech would be met with glee by the killer and those who share his worldview. Reactionary policies to shut these voices out so they cannot read or listen to alternative views will only embolden them and make the internet a seedier place.

Many individuals and companies are now fully reliant on social media platforms for connecting with friends, attracting customers or expressing their free speech. They are overwhelmingly a force for good.

Yes, internet subcultures exist. Most of them, by definition, are frequented by very small numbers of people who are marginalized. But clamping down on social media will only radicalize this minority in greater numbers, and maybe lead to more blowback.

Cooler heads must prevail. Social media does more good than harm, and we cannot use the actions of a fraction of a minority to upend the experience for billions of users.

We can use these tools to condemn and prevent extremist ideas and behavior rather than the force of law or outright bans of controversial figures who make convenient targets.

Dead shows walking

Andrew Ferguson wrote about last weekend’s White House Correspondents Dinner before the dinner:

Ron Chernow, the best-selling biographer and historian, has agreed to deliver the after-dinner speech at this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, to be held Saturday night at the Washington Hilton. If we were to list the potential victims of our present era of post-humor comedy, his name would be near the top.

The WHCD is the event the Washington press corps throws every year to celebrate the Washington press corps. (If we don’t do it, it won’t get done.) It is best understood as a provincial trade meeting—a few hundred people in the same line of work crowd together in the poorly ventilated ballroom of a second-tier hotel to hand one another awards over plates of undercooked chicken. What separates the correspondents’ dinner from, say, the annual awards dinner of the Greater Tri-County Regional Conference of Waste Removal Technicians is that, sometime in the 1990s, people from outside the trade began to take an interest in the event.

That prompted Warren Henry to write of Ferguson:

He diagnoses polarization as late-night’s cause of death: “Jokes that nearly everyone understands as jokes require shared assumptions, even a broad reservoir of lightheartedness and goodwill, and we no longer share those in our fractured republic. Humor has been privatized.” This theory rings partly true, but Ferguson already captured the better explanation: “nobody seems to be trying.” This is what television writers say while admitting their shows have become unwatchable.

At Mel magazine, one network late-night writer tells author Miles Klee: “[E]very single person in late night knows it’s a dumb factory of lazy ideas… [The host] makes fun of it, the head writers make fun of it, the staff writers watch the tapings and just lament it all. But the alternative is taking a risk, and network TV just isn’t about that.”

Sadly, the television writers (and Klee) suggest two solutions to the awfulness of late-night shows that would only make them worse.

First, writers suggest the shows are not sufficiently leftist. The aforementioned scribe told Klee “the late night writers’ rooms are all extremely homogeneous groups of cynical, miserable white comedy dudes who figure out the ‘formula’ for the show early on and then never really work harder than they need to. Which makes sense, because the other big thing is that the people who make the actual decisions on these shows are all older, white dudes who are out of touch (but don’t think they are) and are never thinking in terms of comedy or upending power or doing anything interesting with the format…”

Similarly, a mid-level TV writer opined: “They think [joking about] ‘covfefe’ is brave… These are people whose version of ‘liberal’ just means not being white trash. And not calling their coworkers gay slurs.” Klee suggests the shows cannot compete with “the scabrously funny, unbroadcastable sh– people tweet about the president 24/7.”

In reality, leftists on Twitter are grossly unrepresentative, even of Democrats. The only group arguably more out of touch than the progressive white dudes running late-night television are their lefty writers. Late-night appeals to a slice of Boomer “Resistance” types. Dialing the noise up to 11 would only make the appeal of these shows more selective.

Furthermore, actual funny people understand limits force them to be more creative, and being funny is the point of comedy. Consider Jerry Seinfeld, explaining why he does not swear or do sex jokes: “A person who can defend themselves with a gun is just not very interesting. But a person who defends themselves through aikido or tai chi? Very interesting.”

Or Donald Glover, talking about his FX show: “The No. 1 thing we kept coming back to is that it needs to be funny first and foremost. I never wanted this sh– to be important. I never wanted this show to be about diversity; all that sh– is wack to me. There’s a lot of clapter going on.”

Puritantial social justice mobs are almost never funny—except as a target for comedy. And mocking them is more transgressive than typical late-night fare.

The second solution writers suggest is imitating John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” on HBO. Oliver is less banal than the competition and tries to “compartmentalize” Trump talk in the opening minutes of his program. But he has the same problems Ferguson identifies, and the ratings to prove it. (Klee claims “[y]ou get real information there,” as if that is praise of a comedy show.)

Ironically, few have critiqued late-night better than Michelle Wolf, who got “comedy” canceled at the WHCD. In an episode of her now-defunct Netflix show, she parodied the genre to devastating effect: “Well, I just finished the monologue, I addressed all the news this week, and now I’m at a desk. So you know what that means, it’s Segment Time! That’s right, this is the time of the show where we do a viral segment, and since this is a comedy show in 2018, you know one thing for sure—this comedy segment’s gonna be sincere and angry. And you can also tell that it will be funny, because I’m sitting down, there will be graphics, and facts, and. So pencils out, Wolf Pack! The comedy lesson starts right now.”

Wolf’s conclusion was just as sharp: “Writing jokes is hard. It’s really hard. You know what’s easier? An earnest plea. So I’m gonna throw my pen down on the desk, and I’m gonna shake my head in crestfallen bewilderment. I’m gonna look you in the eye, and I’m gonna tell you that Trump! Is! Bad! The news! Is! Bad! Which means that I, a comedian, have to do you, the news’s, job. Not because I want to, not because it makes me feel important, or gives me a false sense that I’m making a change, but because they’re out there doing their horse-and-pony show.”

Unfortunately, Wolf learned this only by making all of these mistakes at the WHCD.

Polarization contributes to the death of late-night comedy, but mostly because it is another rationalization for those unwilling to make any effort to appeal to people who are not exactly like them. Laziness is the central characteristic of the age of infotainment. Conflating news and entertainment means less effort goes into reporting.

It has turned cable news shows into boring simulacra of sports shows, and sports shows into boring simulacra of political debate. Programs like “The Daily Show” used to parody news shows. Now they have mated with what they parodied, to predictable, boring, lazy results.

There is, of course, no substitute for Johnny Carson:

Why? Here’s one answer:

David Letterman was funny on NBC. He was less funny, and decreasingly funny, on CBS. I have occasionally watched Conan O’Brien …

and Jimmy Fallon …

… and that’s it.

 

On World “Press” “Freedom” Day

The Wisconsin Newspaper Association announces:

As World Press Freedom Day approaches on Friday, May 3, news organizations around the world are encouraged to join in the “Defend Journalism” campaign.

The campaign is intended to stand up for free, independent and quality journalism. Special editorial coverage dedicated to the campaign will be amplified by UNESCO.

This year’s theme for World Press Freedom Day is “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation.” Organizations are encouraged to promote the key messages:

  • Facts, not falsehoods should inform citizens’ decisions during elections.
  • Technology innovations should be used to help achieve peaceful elections.
  • Transparency and the right to information protect the integrity of elections.
  • Journalists should be able to work without fear of attacks.
  • Internet shutdown compromise democracy.
  • An open and accessible internet for all.
  • Fair and independent reporting can counter incitement and hate.
  • Informed citizens that think critically can contribute to peaceful elections.
  • Media contributes to peaceful, just and inclusive societies.

More from World News Publishing Focus:

News organisations across the globe are encouraged to participate in the “Defend Journalism” campaign surrounding #WorldPressFreedomDay to stand up for free, independent and quality journalism, and to dedicate special editorial coverage in the build-up to May 3. UNESCO will amplify their content, as they have done with media partners in previous years.

UNESCO is providing news organisations with materials such as banners for print, digital, and social media in the six official UN languages to build momentum around #WorldPressFreedomDay.

The global conference for the Day will take place in Addis Ababa, jointly organised by UNESCO, the Government of Ethiopia and the African Union Commission.

This year, the annual World Press Freedom Prize will be awarded to the two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, imprisoned in Myanmar.

First: UNESCO, for those unaware, is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The U.S. and Israel left UNESCO earlier this year over UNESCO’s organizational bias against Israel, which is only our longest-standing ally in the Middle East. But that’s not the only problem with UNESCO, as Time Magazine reports:

The Trump administration’s statement cited “mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO” as reasons for the decision. Those rationales echo arguments made by the administration of president Ronald Reagan in December 1983, when the U.S. previously announced a decision to pull out of UNESCO: “UNESCO has extraneously politicized virtually every subject it deals with. It has exhibited hostility toward a free society, especially a free market and a free press, and it has demonstrated unrestrained budgetary expansion.” …

When 37 nations created UNESCO as a human rights organization promoting education, science and cultural causes in November 1945, “it was essentially a western entity, dominated by western funding,” says political scientist Jerry Pubantz, co-author of To Create a New World? American Presidents and the United Nations and co-editor of The Encyclopedia of the United Nations. School systems in Europe were undergoing “denazification” and, as part of that process, the U.S. wanted to be sure that they taught World War II accurately. UNESCO was a way to influence those curricula. Likewise, during the Cold War, American officials imagined UNESCO as an advocate for free speech in an era of communist propaganda.

But, as more members joined the group — about 160 members by July 1983 — U.S. policy makers grew worried their voices would be drowned out. The newest members were “largely the decolonized new independent states of Africa and Asia” who “tended to be less supportive of American policies, and more supportive of the Soviet bloc’s position,” says Pubantz.

In addition, some U.S. officials soured on the group because, despite the new members, they felt the U.S. was left footing a disproportionate amount of the bill for UNESCO’s work. Or Jeane Kirkpatrick, who represented the U.S. at the U.N. put it, “The countries which have the votes don’t pay the bill, and those who pay the bill don’t have the votes,” as TIME reported in a Jan. 9, 1984, article.

That feature, “Waving Goodbye to UNESCO,” summed up specific events that contributed to the decision to pull out of UNESCO:

The voters who elected Reagan may have influenced the decision, too. Russell L. Riley, a presidential historian at the University of Virginia, adds that the rationale behind leaving UNESCO jibed with the Reagan administration’s overall economic agenda: “It was an easy way to save a little money and could prove to Americans that we [U.S. government officials] were being fiscally responsible.”

Increasing government control over the media and press freedom are oxymorons, and UNESCO’s involvement should make everyone suspect of …

This is the second time in nine months that the media felt the need to rally around and promote itself. The first was due to the orange-haired meanie in the White House, for whom they should be thanking God — or would if they were religious, though they are not — for Trump’s making their work as easy as humanly possible. In the same way that dissent has become patriotic again now that an R and not a D is in the White House, harsh reporting upon said Oval Office occupant and his party is back in style, as it was not between 2009 and 2016.

Some of the aforementioned “key” messages should be noncontroversial. (Point three was lost on the Obama White House, and appears to be lost on this state’s Evers administration, which bars the MacIver Institute from access because MacIver has the wrong ideology.) Point four, about journalists’ working without fear of attacks (I thought the only thing we had to fear was fear itself), seems more motivated by those mean words of Donald Trump than people like Lyra McKee, who was killed in Northern Ireland by “dissident republicans.” Every time a journalist whines about mean Trump, that journalist demonstrates a lack of backbone (which I suppose reads less harsh than “cowardice”) when journalists elsewhere in the world are reporting at risk to their own lives.

What about Annapolis? Read here.

That part about “diverse sources” is ironic given that much of the news media’s current problems have to do with a lack of “diverse” sources — that is, intellectually and ideologically diverse, sources beyond the liberal institutional/governmental status quo. Arguably diversity is less of a media problem than reporters’ inability to relate to their own readers.

People will jump, and should, all over the part about “just and inclusive societies.” Our job as journalists is to report, not foment societal change, and those in for the latter reason are in journalism for the wrong reasons. Reporting might start societal change, but (1) remember that “change” and ‘progress” are not synonyms and change can be positive or negative, and (2) it is incredibly arrogant for journalists to assume they know where society should change.

Then there’s this, from Ryan Foley:

On Sunday’s edition of her weekly syndicated show Full Measure, host Sharyl Attkisson discussed the results of a poll conducted by Scott Rasmussen that reflects very negatively on media credibility. During an on-screen interview with Attkisson, the pollster highlighted the most shocking result of the poll: “78 percent of voters say that…what reporters do with political news is promote their agenda. They think they use incidents as props for their agenda rather than seeking to accurately record what happened” while “only 14 percent think that a journalist is actually reporting what happened.” Rasmussen continued: “if a reporter found out something that would hurt their favorite candidate, only 36 percent of voters think that they would report that.” Rasmussen summed up the results of the poll by declaring that voters see journalists as a “political activist, not as a source of information.” 

One reason why Republicans and conservatives should support press freedom, including open government records, is in this state, during Act 10 and Recallarama, when, thanks to the fact that election petition signatures are public records (specifically the recall effort against Gov. Scott Walker), we got to find out the people who (1) get government paychecks, (2) are candidates for office, or (3) are in the news media who signed the petitions. That is the public’s right to know.

There will never be support for press freedom from politicians. There is no question in my mind that all the Democrats jumping on the media bandwagon are hoping they will be treated with the same light touch that the media used on Obama, before him Bill Clinton, and after him Hillary Clinton. (Which has a lot to do with mean orange-hair man now in the Oval Office, but you can tell that to neither Democrats nor journalists.) Reporters worth their salt revel in being hated by politicians of any or no party. Then again, reporters worth their salt don’t hold parties celebrating themselves.

Something else you may not see acknowledged today is that the First Amendment does not belong merely to the press. (And the news media includes more than however the media defines itself, with the intent of squelching out alternative voices. The marketplace of ideas should decide which news media outlets are legitimate and which are not based on the quality of their work.) Like this state’s Open Meetings and Open Records laws, our First Amendment rights apply to every American, not just to the news media. It would be nice if the news media acknowledged that fact, as well as our other constitutional rights.

 

The cowards in my line of work

Noah Rothman:

The United States is now “problematic.” Although this conclusion might refer to a variety of suboptimal conditions, the international journalistic advocacy organization Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières) applied it to the way in which Americans treat members of the Fourth Estate. In this year’s index of press freedoms, the United States has fallen to 48 out of 180 nations when it comes to freedom of the press.

“Never before have US journalists been subjected to so many death threats or turned so often to private security firms for protection,” RSF’s press releaseread. American reporters operate in a “hostile climate” that owes much to the president’s anti-media antagonism. “President Donald J. Trump’s presidency has fostered further decline in journalists’ right to report,” America’s ignominious profile read. Reporters are subject to arrest or even “physical assault” just for doing their jobs. By way of examples to support this conclusion, however, RSF relies primarily on the murder of four journalists at the Capital Gazette in Maryland last year. “The gunman had repeatedly expressed his hatred for the paper on social networks before ultimately acting on his words,” the organization revealed.

This mass murder was an atrocity, but to imply that it was a product of a general hatred of reporters percolating in the political atmosphere is a gross injustice. The attacker nursed a grudge against this particular paper—not journalists as a professional class—for six years following the 2011 publication of an article involving a criminal-harassment case against him. An earlier RFS study on America’s dangerous climate for reporters noted that two other reporters also died while on the job, but they were killed when they were hit by a falling tree while covering a storm in North Carolina. For this, America ranked along with Syria, Afghanistan, and Mexico as among the most dangerous places in the world to be a reporter. If journalists honestly believed conditions in America are equal to those that prevail in two war zones and a state teetering on the brink of implosion, journalists have far bigger problems than a “climate of fear.”

So, what of the nations that now outrank the United States? According to RFS, you’re freer practicing journalism in places like Jamaica, Surinam, Ghana, Namibia, South Africa, Ghana, Cyprus, Papua New Guinea, Botswana, and Tonga than you are in America. But a cursory glance at these countries profiles puts the lie to this assertion. Namibia’s intelligence apparatus is busy criminalizing independent reporting while the state patronizes and prioritizes government media. In late 2017, the Samoan parliament passed a law giving its prime minister license to “attack journalists who dared to criticize members of his government.” In the bifurcated island nation of Cyprus, a haven for criminality and money laundering, the state places restrictions on the capacity to report historic facts and use geographic names it deems inconvenient. “[S]elf-censorship is on the rise and many media outlets are regarded as Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s mouthpieces,” read RSF’s dispatch from Papua New Guinea. And all of Botswana’s major television, radio, and print media are owned by the state and controlled by the government. These are today’s havens of journalistic freedom?

As is so often the case with non-profit listicles like these, no one reads beyond the headline. The perception that America under Trump has become a stultified wasteland of oppression and ignorance confirms the pernicious biases of too many reporters, many of whom already see their mission in world-historic terms. But it takes a special lack of journalistic curiosity to accept RFS’s premise at face value, which is what so many reportorial institutions did. In that sense, the threat to the institution of journalism is real and growing, but it’s not coming from Donald Trump. Journalism’s enemy is hubris, and the threat is growing by the day.

The greatest analysis of Trump of all time

Lexington of The Economist:

The first time Lexington thought of Donald Trump at WrestleMania [last] week was when, to the fading strains of “America the Beautiful”, a helicopter flyover churned the night sky over the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. Was the president about to make a surprise reappearance at the annual WWE sports-entertainment extravaganza to which he owes so much of his political method? The second time, well into the seven-hour grapplefest, was as the veteran star-wrestler “Triple H” was ripping out his grudge-rival’s nose-rings with a pair of pliers.

That was not only a reflection on how Mr Trump treats his cabinet. Paul Levesque, as Triple H was originally known, these days spends most of his time as a senior executive in the billion-dollar WWE business, having married into the McMahon clan that owns it. In reality-bending WWE style, he first married and divorced Stephanie McMahon, daughter of WWE founder Vince, fictitiously. This was part of a story-line in which she and her brother Shane, both WWE executives who appear in WWE productions as villainous executives and wrestlers, tried to steal their parents’ business. Triple H then actually married and had three children with her.

Those developments are now part of his wrestling character. As Triple H was mock-torturing his rival Batista this week, a WWE commentator—broadcasting live to 180 countries and one of America’s biggest television audiences—said mock-fearfully: “That’s my boss…” This disorienting mix of business, dynasty and entertainment—scrambling performance and reality, ham interests and financial ones—is the defining characteristic of professional wrestling and of its chief emulator, the president.

Mr Trump is another sometime WWE performer with close ties to the McMahons. A longtime fixture at WrestleMania, he launched a semi-scripted assault on Vince McMahon at the 2007 version. Having been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, he returned the favour by appointing Vince’s wife Linda to his cabinet, as head of the Small Business Administration. She will soon leave it to run a pro-Trump SuperPAC. Yet such personal links do not begin to do justice to Mr Trump’s stylistic debt to spoof wrestling.

To appreciate that, consider why it has proved so alluring. It is not because fans think the fights are real, exactly. Testifying before the New Jersey Senate in 1989—when the McMahons were trying to evade regulations on competitive sport—Mrs McMahon admitted they were fake. After this unprecedented flouting of “kayfabe”, as wrestlers call their scripted reality, some said the industry was finished. That it has instead grown hugely is chiefly owing to the power of escapism. The 80,000 wwe fans at the MetLife, typically young men with defiant slogans such as “I’m not dead yet muthafucker!” on their T-shirts, are the heroes of their own imaginations. Many carried chunky replicas of WWE (fake) championship belts. “It’s like Santa Claus, not real, but that’s not the point,” said Jason, a banker from Manhattan with a $300 belt over his shoulder.

WWE has also found new ways, in its scripting and use of digital media, to buttress the fantasy. Most important, it constantly shifts between different registers of make-believe, from real to credible to absurd. Thus, for example, its use of executives as characters. Similarly, its stars appear in and out of character on social media. In a pre-WrestleMania rant Ronda Rousey, a former mixed martial arts champion, slammed WWE as “not real” and vowed henceforth to do “whatever the hell I want”. Such tricks create sufficient doubt about what is real for WWE fans to keep living their dream.

A blurring of the age-old distinction between “faces and heels” also supports this shift towards realism: Triple H, once a heel, is now considered a good guy. So does the frenetic way WWE scriptwriters distract their audience with new talking-points: while it was legal for Triple H to take a sledge hammer to Batista, did it make sense, given his (actual) torn pectoral muscle, tactically?

Mr Trump’s success lies in applying WWE principles where the line between performance and reality is even finer. In “The Apprentice” he played a successful businessman. In politics he saw that the contest of ideas its participants claimed to be engaged in was really a partisan slugfest almost as contrived and absurd as the WWE. He therefore offered a more ghoulishly watchable version of what voters were already getting. Why choose Jeb Bush trying to be a pantomime bad-ass when you could have the real thing?

The president also employs the WWE’s new stagecraft. Mixing family, business and politics infuriates sticklers for the law, but makes his fans think he is somehow more real—or “authentic”—than his rivals. He is also a master of shifting between degrees of make-believe. “I’m not supposed to say this,” he interjects into his speeches, “but what the hell?” And then there are his constantly distracting micro-dramas, breathlessly echoed by a commentariat every bit as emotionally invested in the drama as the press gallery at WrestleMania, which often erupted into spontaneous gasps or applause. How much of Mr Trump’s behaviour is concocted is debatable; private Trump is also pretty pantomime. But that uncertainly merely adds, WWE style, to the reality-tumbling effect.

Mr Trump’s ham performance has been endangered by its own success—represented by two years of unified Republican government. A WWEperformer without an adversary would be a pitiful spectacle. It is therefore testament to the president’s genius that he was able to fill the void, not with policies, obviously, but rather a parade of new enemies: immigrant children, black football players, the late John McCain. Yet with the Democrats soon to choose a new champion, his performance may be about to get easier.

His opponents should be advised by this. The WWE’s popularity suggests their main hope, that voters will tire of Mr Trump’s grim clowning, may be wishful. More specifically, they should recognise that no professional politician can beat him in a grudge match. They would do better, where possible, to ignore him.

You may say that pro wrestling is fake. It is. Real sports do not have storylines and predetermined outcomes. And yet Sports Illustrated covers pro wrestling.

 

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