phiffer.org

Dan Phiffer Dan Phiffer builds websites, makes art, and teaches in NYC

We will fight you and you will lose

Here are my responses to Donald Trump’s media accountability survey, which I’ve taken at face value. Yes, the questions are extremely one-sided, but they do allow for “other” responses.

Just to be clear, I certainly don’t advocate for participating in the survey. The research methodology here is dubious, to say the least. I hope I haven’t contributed to legitimizing it as anything but the propaganda that it is.

  1. Do you believe that the mainstream media has reported unfairly on our movement?
    Using the word “movement” here diminishes the Office of the President, implies that you regard your power as extra-constitutional.
  2. Do you trust MSNBC to report fairly on Trump’s presidency?
    It is telling that MSNBC comes first on the list, that you regard the network as the biggest threat to your legitimacy.
  3. Do you trust CNN to report fairly on Trump’s presidency?
    Your outsize reaction to CNN’s reporting on the leaked memo has given it greater weight. You must realize the significance of a Carl Bernstein byline on it.
  4. Do you trust Fox News to report fairly on Trump’s presidency?
    I was surprised with the moral clarity and sharpness of critique in Shepard Smith’s reaction to yesterday’s press conference.
  5. On which issues does the mainstream media do the worst job of representing Republicans? (Select as many that apply.)
    (no “other” option available)
  6. Which television source do you primarily get your news from?
    (no “other” option available)
  7. Do you use a source not listed above?
    It’s so weird that you think TV news is the most relevant arm of the 4th estate. I guess it’s a generational thing.
  8. Which online source do you use the most?
    I financially support the New York Times, Democracy Now, and a handful of podcasts, but your question belies ignorance of the online media ecosystem. Any given “online” source could be your biggest threat (hint: all media are now “online,” it’s a useless category). Today maybe it’s BuzzFeed, tomorrow it will be someone else.
  9. Do you trust the mainstream media to tell the truth about the Republican Party’s positions and actions?
    You have demonstrated a disregard for “the truth,” but I think your question is about whether more sources will go the way of Gerard Baker (editor of the WSJ), and fall into line with regime-approved framing of events. If that happens, I don’t see how the country will survive your Presidency.
  10. Do you believe that the mainstream media does not do their due diligence fact-checking before publishing stories on the Trump administration?
    Many mainstream media sources are plagued by “the view from nowhere” where extreme views become legitimized by impartiality.
  11. Do you believe that the media unfairly reported on President Trump’s executive order temporarily restricting people entering our country from nations compromised by radical Islamic terrorism?
    I liked how Sarah Jeong characterized your EO on Twitter: “the Muslim ban is unconstitutional, illegal, a bad idea, and immoral. And those are different things.”
  12. Were you aware that a poll was released revealing that a majority of Americans actually supported President Trump’s temporary restriction executive order?
    Yes, I read about the poll, and it was disappointing. This is why we don’t put human rights up to a vote, why they are protected in the Constitution.
    Edit: there is a slight majority against the Muslim ban:

    National polls using random telephone samples have found support for the proposal ranging from 42 to 47 percent with slight majorities opposed (51 to 55 percent); Trump has cited Web and automated polls that show support cresting in the mid-50s, though those polls rely on less rigorous samples of the public.

  13. Do you believe that political correctness has created biased news coverage on both illegal immigration and radical Islamic terrorism?
    Any time you hear someone complaining about “political correctness,” it’s really a demand that their bigotry should be tolerated.
  14. Do you believe that contrary to what the media says, raising taxes does not create jobs?
    This is such a tortured question, how did you arrive at this phrasing? Plus it’s meaningless without saying who is being taxed, and under what circumstances. I advocate for more progressive taxation as a means to address wealth and income inequality.
  15. Do you believe that people of faith have been unfairly characterized by the media?
    I do wonder how long it will be until Atheism isn’t a political liability in the USA.
  16. Do you believe that the media wrongly attributes gun violence to Second Amendment rights?
    I don’t think the Second Amendment protects individual gun ownership, but your question is about the media. I wish the media would give more attention to the connection between increased gun ownership and suicide and accidental deaths.
  17. Do you believe that the media has been far too quick to spread false stories about our movement?
    Again with that divisive language: “our movement”? My fear is that “your movement” is about White Supremacy and racial violence. Your overly-defensive response to yesterday’s question about anti-Semitic threats is just the latest in a series of instances that make me extremely wary of your intentions.
  18. Do you believe that the media uses slurs rather than facts to attack conservative stances on issues like border control, religious liberties, and ObamaCare?
    You seem to think that disagreement and fact-checking is an insult. This is an authoritarian argument, that your position is above criticism.
  19. Do you believe that the media purposely tries to divide Republicans against each other in order to help elect Democrats?
    You were the outsider candidate, by definition you were going to be divisive to the GOP. But I do wonder if the media were too careful not to seem partisan in the last election, that they didn’t take you seriously (and literally) enough.
  20. Do you believe that the media creates false feuds within our Party in order to make us seem divided?
    You must feel extremely isolated right now. I think it’s because everyone within your party is considering whether they’re willing to go to jail for a political figure they never fully supported.
  21. Do you believe that the mainstream media has been too eager to jump to conclusions about rumored stories?
    Sure, anonymous sourcing weakens a story, but NINE anonymous sources forces a resignation. The key issue with the Flynn story is that he didn’t seem to realize his calls were being monitored. It’s a story about incompetence and that kind of sloppiness is what will get you impeached.
  22. Do you believe that if Republicans were obstructing Obama like Democrats are doing to President Trump, the mainstream media would attack Republicans?
    The premise of this one is so laughable, Mitch McConnell’s “top priority” was to limit Obama to one term. The strategy worked, but you don’t get to claim it didn’t happen. You cannot argue away the real political cost of obstructionism, and Democrats will have to answer to it as well.
    Edit: obviously Obama wasn’t limited to one term, but his agenda was severely checked by the GOP’s constant stonewalling.
  23. Do you agree with the President’s decision to break with tradition by giving lesser known reporters and bloggers the chance to ask the White House Press Secretary questions?
    You buried the most important question! You must have been embarrassed when “Betanyahu” saw how you conducted the joint press conference. The White House press briefing has become a self-parody of a cowardly dictator unable and unwilling to respond to difficult questions.
  24. Do you agree with President Trump’s media strategy to cut through the media’s noise and deliver our message straight to the people?
    To be fair, Obama set you up for this one. He set a precedent of media evasiveness that enables you to avoid accountability with impunity.
  25. Do you believe that our Party should spend more time and resources holding the mainstream media accountable?
    You are threatening the freedom of the press. We will fight you and you will lose.

Doug Henwood vs. Adam Davidsonlbo-news.com

Last January Doug Henwood, one of my favorite lefty blogger-radio people, wrote a nasty response to Adam Davidson’s New York Times Magazine article on Wall Street:

For a while, I’ve been thinking about writing a piece on how NPR is more toxic than Fox News. Fox preaches to the choir. NPR, though, confuses and misinforms people who might otherwise know better. Its “liberal” reputation makes palatable a deeply orthodox message for a demographic that could be open to a more critical message.

The full critique will take some time. But a nice warm-up opportunity has just presented itself: a truly wretched piece of apologetic hackery by Adam Davidson, co-founder of NPR’s Planet Money economics reporting team, that appears in today’s New York Times magazine.

So I was excited to see that Davidson recently appeared on Henwood’s radio show, Behind the News:

Adam Davidson, host of NPR’s Planet Money and columnist for the New York Times Magazine, on finance, innovation, bourgeois ideology, journalism, and being mean on the Internet.

The discussion starts out with a lot of Henwood talking uninterrupted, and coming off a bit defensive, but then they get into an interesting big picture discussion about the nature of ideology in popular media. The blog post Henwood mentions in the introduction on Scott Walker’s victory in Wisconsin (and its follow-up) is also worthwhile.

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David Simon on Stand your grounddavidsimon.com

From a blog post by David Simon on how the news media is focusing too much on Trayvon vs. Zimmerman, in terms of character, and missing the larger story about what Stand your ground legislation really means:

And now, quietly, by dint of both cash infusions from the gun lobby to legislators and scant attention from a hollowed-out press corps, this cautious standard is gone in twenty states. Now, anyone—regardless of their role, training or ultimate purpose—can bring a gun to an argument and take a life. And then, if they can manufacture enough of a threat to their person, they can justify the act. Maybe witnesses will be present to contradict their version of events; maybe not. Maybe there will be physical evidence to invalidate their claims; maybe not. But now, the baseline for responsibility lies not with the shooter, but with the state.

Guns don’t kill people, people do—this is the mantra that for generations has defined the prevailing ethos of the firearms lobby. But now, the argument has moved on: Guns don’t kill and neither do people; now, folks are just killed. Shit happens is the new credo for this quiet, epic revolution in our country–one that has already led to many more homicides that defy prosecution in the affected states.

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The Guardian on The World Tomorrowwww.guardian.co.uk

Julian Assange kicked off his television show on Russia Today interviewing Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. The Guardian doesn’t pull any punches:

There is a long dishonourable tradition of western intellectuals who have been duped by Moscow. The list includes Bernard Shaw, the Webbs, HG Wells and André Gide. So Assange—whether for idealistic reasons, or simply out of necessity, given his legal bills and fight against extradition to Sweden—isn’t the first. But The World Tomorrow confirms he is no fearless revolutionary. Instead he is a useful idiot.

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On information diversity

Doug Henwood, who I’ve seen speak a few times recently and host of the excellent radio show Behind the News:

For a while, I’ve been thinking about writing a piece on how NPR is more toxic than Fox News. Fox preaches to the choir. NPR, though, confuses and misinforms people who might otherwise know better. Its “liberal” reputation makes palatable a deeply orthodox message for a demographic that could be open to a more critical message.

Doug’s post is not so much about NPR, but a response to Adam Davidson who is co-host of the show Planet Money. Davidson’s recent piece in the New York Times Magazine argues for the benefits of American-style finance.

Davidson apparently hasn’t read up on the comparative international mobility stats (e.g., this). He writes: “One of the most striking facts of life in countries without a modern financial system is the near total absence of upward mobility.” In fact, the U.S. has a middling-to-poor standing on mobility in the international league tables. A country like Germany, where consumer finance is relatively underdeveloped, is more mobile than the U.S. The Nordic social democracies show the most mobility of all. Oh, and student debt, now breaking the trillion dollar mark? Nothing to worry about, says Davidson: it’s “largely changed America for the better.” Actually, the rising price of higher ed is making it harder all the time for the working class to go to college. Watching millions graduate with five figures of debt into a miserable job market doesn’t evoke a better America. College should be free.

First, I agree that college should be free, and with most of Doug’s other complaints. But here I would like to write a little about NPR, since I agree that it’s misunderstood as a fundamentally progressive news source. Like the New York Times, there is plenty of good (progressive) journalism coming out of a largely pro-corporate framework. NPR gets far more of its funding from corporate underwriting than from the US government (although its largest source is individual contributions). Having a bias is okay, and corporate partiality might reflect an American public that still has faith in corporate brands, despite the many reasons for concern. NPR, like any news source, will likely reinforce its listeners’ existing beliefs.

There are very good shows on NPR and ones that I can’t stand. For an example of good coverage of globalized labor, take the recent episode of This American Life, Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory. If you haven’t heard it already, stop reading this and give it a listen. It’s compelling and heartbreaking as a story, and also includes a useful follow-up segment with further analysis.

This episode is one of many “explainers” that This American Life is so good at, one of which led to the creation of Planet Money itself. But this is just one story that’s complemented by other sources, such as links from John Gruber and Edward Burtynsky’s photography of Chinese factories. None of these sources can be expected to tell the complete story, like the parable about the blind men and the elephant.

Perhaps the lesson here is that it’s incumbent on the modern citizen to diversify one’s own sources of information. Relying exclusively on NPR will lead to the same kind of stilted worldview you’d expect from someone who only watches Fox News. This is what the Internet is great at! I try to get the most out of a variety of blogs, podcasts, and aggregators, trying to cultivate sources that might lead to further discoveries. Some of these leave me frustrated and disappointed from time to time (e.g., Left Right & Center’s non-coverage of the NDAA). I grab links from Twitter and Facebook, I skim and skip and unsubscribe ruthlessly, and I try not to allow myself to get overwhelmed.

In case you’re curious, here are my blog and podcast subscriptions, in OPML format:

You should be able to import these into Google Reader, iTunes, or whichever other tools you prefer. I’d love to hear what your favorite sources are.

SOPA-supporting media companies don’t cover SOPAmediamatters.org

Legislation that would break the Internet is absent from television news:

As the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) makes its way through Congress, most major television news outlets — MSNBC, Fox News, ABC, CBS, and NBC — have ignored the bill during their evening broadcasts. One network, CNN, devoted a single evening segment to it.

To their credit, the online arms of most of these news outlets have posted regular articles about the fight over the legislation, but their primetime TV broadcasts remain mostly silent.

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Forbes goes trollingwww.forbes.com

Following up on the link-bait article “If I Was a Poor Black Kid”, Kashmir Hill — a staff writer from Forbescontemplates the conflict of interest in their contributor payment model:

Forbes has a stable of 850+ writers who are “contributors” — they get a little special tag on their pages that says, “The opinions expressed are those of the writer.” Forbes pays these folks for the unique visitors and repeat visitors they attract.

She poses a rhetorical question:

Does having a payment model that rewards controversy encourage writers to bait readers with offensive material?

Yes, I believe that is the problem. She offers a surprising “market-based” solution:

So what keeps people from trolling? When your name and face are attached to what you write, you start to develop what our CPO Lewis D’Vorkin loves to call “a personal brand.” I think of it as voice, authenticity, and reputation. As writers’ bylines become bigger and our photos become more prominent, this comes to matter more. After a certain amount of race- and gender-baiting, you establish a “troll” brand and that brand may become so toxic that you become irrelevant. And that is the worst fate for any writer (and every troll): to be ignored.

Personal brands and larger byline photos? No, sorry, this is basic editorial irresponsibility. As much as they’d like us to believe otherwise, the brand here is Forbes. Some commenters are applauding the piece for its “transparency,” but it’s a useless kind of transparency. Nobody is seriously going to start evaluating each and every author under the masthead, having now been informed of the publication’s tiered contributor model.

The solution is simple: fire the trolls, and fix the broken revenue model that rewards trolling.

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See also: Cord Jefferson’s response in GOOD

Deep link: MIA vs. NYTwww.metafilter.com

An unflattering NY Times Magazine article on M.I.A. leads to a retaliatory tweeting of the journalist’s phone number (her response). Not quite the Streisand Effect, but similar. The retaliation might lend credibility to the claims in the article while increasing its visibility. A summary of the 8,000 word article is also available.

One revelation from the article was that having “Born Free” banned on YouTube was probably intentional — M.I.A.’s upcoming tour will be themed around censorship.

The article goes to great lengths picking apart M.I.A.’s outspoken politics, dismissing her ideas on Sri Lanka and other geo-political topics as naïve and ultimately self-serving. I appreciated this comment from MetaFilter user A Terrible Llama:

When it’s Madonna and it’s 1986, who cares, because she’s trotting out virgin/whore dichotomy or wearing cone-shaped bras and people are in a tither — fine. But when an artist is funneling additional attention into a complicated and easily misunderstood political situation they can be contributing to a kind of simplistic viewpoint that gets people killed.

Link (via)