Presidents sworn in during crises are popular at first. But unforeseen events can soon change that.
A president elected at a time of deep national crisis generally has an advantage over one elected when things are going fairly well. Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn in shortly after the Great Depression reached its nadir. Harry Truman became president in the final, bloodiest phase of World War II. Richard Nixon inherited Vietnam and domestic turmoil from Lyndon B. Johnson. Barack Obama entered the White House in the depths of the global financial crisis.
All four had their ups and downs, but all were re-elected. If you take over at a dark time — especially if it’s just before the dawn — the chances are you’ll be able to play “Happy Days Are Here Again” when you run for a second term.
In a similar way, Joe Biden took the oath of office last Wednesday as the third and biggest wave of the Covid-19 pandemic appeared to be nearing its crest, a year after the Chinese government belatedly acknowledged the seriousness of the disaster that had begun in Wuhan. Like many new administrations since Roosevelt’s in 1933, the Biden administration now seeks to impress us with a hundred days of hyperactivity, beginning with 17 executive actions on Inauguration Day. Coming soon: a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill.
In truth, the vaccination program already underway, combined with the naturally acquired immunity of people previously infected with the virus, would probably get the U.S. close to herd immunity by the summer, even if Joe Biden spent the next six months just riding his Peloton. And the economy would roar back to something like normal service as the pandemic ended even if Republicans had retained control of the Senate and blocked further fiscal support.
In short, Joe Biden, who starts out with a 68% approval rating, according to Gallup, ought to be even more popular by Memorial Day — not just twice as popular as Trump was throughout his term, but up there with the most popular presidents since polling began: Truman on VJ Day, John F. Kennedy in his first 100 days, George H.W. Bush after the Gulf War, George W. Bush after 9/11 — the exclusive 80%-plus Approval Club.
I suspect it won’t happen. Why? According to legend, the British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan once replied to a journalist who had asked what his biggest problem was: “Events, dear boy, events.” (The phrase Macmillan really used, according to the historian David Dilks, was “the opposition of events.”) The Donald Rumsfeld equivalent was “stuff happens” — stuff like the chaos into which Iraq descended in 2003, dragging his boss’s popularity down with it.
Sometimes events are beyond a new president’s control. Sometimes they are unforced errors of his own making. But presidents don’t simply make history. Often, history comes at them fast.
So enthusiastic are most journalists about the new administration that much coverage of last week’s inauguration recalled late Soviet Pravda. Indeed, I have never been more persuaded by the historian Harold James’s mischievous suggestion last year that the U.S. has entered its “late Soviet”phase. (The young Oxford philosopher Jacob Reynolds nailed it.) Example:
Reporter: Will [Biden] keep Donald Trump’s Air Force One color scheme change?
Biden Press Secretary Jen Psaki: This is such a good question!
In the hope that it won’t get me banned from Twitter and Facebook for sedition, I am going to suggest some of the events that could plausibly blow the Biden administration off course in the coming months.
First, a few past examples. No sooner had Truman achieved victory over Japan than the U.S. was gripped by a wave of strikes by everyone from oil workers to elevator operators, as the unions seized the opportunity of peacetime to flex their muscles. Workers at General Motors downed tools for three months. “The Congress are balking, labor has gone crazy and management isn’t far from insane in selfishness,” Truman complained to his mother. Speaking at a Gridiron Club dinner in December 1945, Truman half-joked that William Tecumseh Sherman had been wrong: “I’m telling you I find peace is hell.”
Not long after turning the White House into Camelot with one of the great inaugural addresses, Kennedy was persuaded by the director of central intelligence, Allen Dulles, to launch Operation Zapata, an attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro in Cuba. The venture ended in abject failure at the Bay of Pigs on April 20. “We really blew this one,” fumed Kennedy. “How could that crowd at CIA and the Pentagon be this wrong?” The administration had been “revealed as if no more than a continuation of the Eisenhower-Dulles Past,” lamented Kennedy’s court historian, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. “We not only look like imperialists, we look like ineffectual imperialists, which is worse; and we look like stupid, ineffectual imperialists, which is worst of all.”
Having succeeded to the presidency following Kennedy’s assassination, Johnson soon embarked on an escalation of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. The authorization Johnson sought from Congress after the Gulf of Tonkin “incident” in August 1964 — to take “all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression” — was a crucial step down the path that would destroy his presidency.
Exaggerating the evidence that the Navy destroyer Maddox had come under attack, Johnson seized the opportunity to outflank his Republican rival Barry Goldwater. “I’ll tell you what I want,” he snapped at a breakfast with congressional leaders. “I not only want those patrol boats that attacked the Maddox destroyed, I want everything at that harbor destroyed; I want the whole works destroyed. I want to give them a real dose.”
Escalation in Vietnam was one the greatest unforced errors in American history. It might not have happened if Kennedy had lived. Conversely, think how different history might have been if Ronald Reagan had not survived the assassination attempt by John Hinckley Jr., which occurred just over two months after Reagan’s inauguration. Events, dear boy.
Often the first year of an administration is marred by turf wars and infighting. In Bill Clinton’s case, there was a turbulent contest for influence between those, such as the Democratic strategist Paul Begala, who had been close to Clinton on the campaign trail the previous year, and those, such as the former Republican David Gergen, who were brought in to provide some administrative experience midway through the first year in office.
The great unforced error of Clinton’s first year, vividly described by Bob Woodward in “The Agenda,” was the decision to let First Lady Hillary Clinton drive health-care reform, which she proceeded to do — into a brick wall of congressional opposition. Barack Obama arguably made a similar mistake in his first term when he opted to prioritize health-care reform instead of focusing exclusively on economic recovery.
Joe Biden has one advantage over all his predecessors: No one has come to the highest office in the land with more experience than the man who was first elected to the Senate in 1972, at the age of 29. Re-elected six times to represent Delaware, Biden also served two terms as vice president.
It therefore seems reasonable to assume that he will know to avoid at least some of these pitfalls — especially as he must be keenly aware of how historically slim his party’s control of Congress is. Naive analogies between Biden and Roosevelt or Johnson overlook the stark reality that the Democrats had 59 Senate seats and 313 House seats in 1933, and 68 Senate seats and 295 House seats in 1965 — compared with just 50 Senate seats and 222 House seats today.
Given these narrow majorities, and after an inaugural address that featured the words “unity” or “uniting” no fewer than 11 times, you may be looking forward to a glad, confident morning of bipartisan cooperation. I am sorry to disappoint you, but that’s not going to happen, either. Not only do the Republican Senate and House minority leaders, Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy, almost certainly intend to rerun the successful Obama-era strategy of opposing every move the Democratic administration makes. Team Biden has also lost no time in providing them with ammunition.
Some of Biden’s executive actions on Day 1 were unobjectionable, but the fact that six out of 17 were essentially measures to liberalize the immigration system was telling, as were the remarks on that subject made last week by Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Announcing a plan to give all illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship seems like one easy way to reunite an opposition party that Donald Trump seemed to have divided irreparably by his reckless rabble-rousing just two weeks ago.
Two steps in the same direction are the “woke” executive orders announced last Wednesday. The one “On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government” tells all federal institutions and agencies “affirmatively [to] advance equity, civil rights, racial justice, and equal opportunity … [by] embedding fairness in decision-making processes.” The other, “On Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation,” will (according to some conservative commentary) require federally funded schools to allow transgender athletes who were born male but identify as female to compete in women’s sports and for women’s scholarships.
For the people who hate Trumpism and wokeism in equal measure, last Wednesday was pure whiplash.
These are not so much forced errors as conscious choices born of the Biden administration’s central policy dilemma. The fiscal and monetary policies favored by its economics team — deficits and quantitative easing as far as the eye can see — will widen the country’s already wide inequalities by cranking up further the prices of real estate and financial assets. Conveniently for Biden, the left wing of the Democratic Party cares more about identity politics than working-class living standards, so they will be fed a steady diet of green new dealing, critical race theory and transgender rights. Welcome to the ESG administration, where environmental and social virtue-signaling will provide a smokescreen for the inexorable growth of shareholder value.
That Republicans will oppose all this is a predictable “gray rhino,”something Team Biden must see coming. The same applies to another impending Harold Macmillan event, namely the deterioration of the public-health crisis in the coming weeks as new strains of SARS-CoV-2 spread across the U.S. The B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in England late last year, has already been found in 12 states. It is between 50% and 70% more infectious as earlier strains of the virus. On Friday, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested it may also be more deadly.
Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, and a member of the Biden transition team, spoke last week of “a perfect storm,” telling Bloomberg: “When this B.1.1.7 takes off, it’s going to be hell. That’s what they’re walking into right now. I hope I’m wrong. God, I hope I’m wrong.”
Biden’s public health team will be scanning anxiously the data from the U.K. and from Israel, where races are currently underway between high-speed vaccination programs and the rapidly spreading new strain of the virus. They will be watching even more nervously the news from South Africa, where another new strain has been re-infecting people who had previously had Covid.
According to a sobering report published on Jan. 18 by the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases: “People who have recovered from SARS-CoV-2 infection are usually protected from being infected a second time … because they develop neutralizing antibodies that remain in their blood for at least 5-6 months … These antibodies bind to specific parts of the spike protein that have mutated in the new variant (K417N and E484K). We now know that these mutations have allowed the virus to become resistant to antibody neutralization. The blood samples from half the people we tested showed that all neutralizing activity was lost.”
It is too early to tell just how bad this news is. What is clear, however, is that SARS-CoV-2 is evolving in ways that threaten our current strategy of vaccination, and that it will continue to do so for as long as the southern hemisphere countries lag behind the developed northern countries in the quantity and quality of vaccines available.
One president, Trump, has already caught Covid-19. Even under normal circumstances, Joe Biden’s health would be a concern. At 78, he is older than Ronald Reagan was at the end of his presidency. The most recent Social Security Actuarial Life Table (for 2017) states that a man Biden’s age has a 4.8% probability of dying within a year. Around two-fifths of his contemporaries are dead already. Now add Covid into the mix. Thus far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 59% of U.S. deaths from the pandemic have been of people older than 74.
Events, dear boy, events. What happens when you announce your plan to relax immigration restrictions and give illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship? The answer is that the flow of would-be migrants increases. The number of detentions on the Arizona-Mexico border was already rising last fall. A “caravan” of 9,000 Hondurans is currently making its way northward through Guatemala.
What happens when you come to power after a wave of protest in support of Black Lives Matters that was marred by violence, vandalism and looting, and when at least some members of your party expressed sympathy with slogans such as “Defund the Police”? The answer is that you inherit a wave of violent crime that has seen homicide numbers jump by more than 50% in six major cities: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, Portland and Seattle.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, what happens when, despite your obvious contempt for your predecessor, you largely adopt the single most important part of his foreign policy? For all his manifest defects of character, Trump was right to change the direction of U.S. policy toward China — to abandon the fantasy that integration into the global economy was going to liberalize the Chinese Communist Party, and to mount a multifaceted challenge to Xi Jinping’s bid for world power.
On this issue, the Biden administration intends to continue where Trump left off. Incoming secretary of state Antony Blinken told senators at his confirmation hearing last week, “There is no doubt that [China] poses the most significant challenge of any nation-state in the world to the United States.”
Asked if he agreed with his predecessor Mike Pompeo that China was committing genocide against its Uighur population, Blinken replied: “That would be my judgment as well. I think we’re very much in agreement.” Was he open to imposing trade sanctions in connection with that genocidal policy? Yes. Did he support the move by Pompeo to relax restrictions on official dealings with Taiwan? “I want to see that process through to conclusion if it hasn’t been completed,” replied Blinken.
Even more remarkable was the article published by Kurt Campbell in Foreign Affairs on the eve of the announcement that he would be the “Asia czar” on the National Security Council. “The United States needs to make a conscious effort to deter Chinese adventurism,” wrote Campbell and his co-author, Rush Doshi, who is also contending for an NSC job:
This means investing in long-range conventional cruise and ballistic missiles, unmanned carrier-based strike aircraft and underwater vehicles, guided-missile submarines, and high-speed strike weapons. … [The U.S.] also needs to work with other states to disperse U.S. forces across Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean … [and] to reshore sensitive industries and pursue a “managed decoupling” from China. … Washington will have to work with others to … collectively design penalties if China decides to take steps that threaten the larger order.
The first Cold War was not the stable equilibrium of mutually assured destruction it now appears with the benefit of hindsight. It was one damned crisis after another, with the worst over Korea in 1950, Berlin in 1961 and Cuba in 1962. Something similar will be true of Cold War II. Even when Chinese-American relations were good — back in the days of “win-win” economic interdependence — there were crises.
On April 1, 2001, when George W. Bush was just 10 weeks into his presidency, a U.S. Navy signals intelligence aircraft collided with a Chinese fighter jet about 70 miles off the island of Hainan, where the American spy-plane was forced to land. The 24 crew members were detained for 10 days, during which they were interrogated. The Chinese fighter pilot was killed in the collision.
Twenty years ago, both sides had strong incentives to defuse the crisis, and American expressions of “sorrow,” interpreted by Beijing as “sorry,” sufficed. But would the same be true today in the event of a comparable collision in the air or at sea? I think not. In 2001, the Chinese economy was 13% the size of the American in current dollar terms, compared with 75% today. And unlike Cold War I, which was fundamentally a transatlantic conflict, with Europe as its major battleground and the Caribbean as a sideshow, Cold War II is transpacific, with East Asia as the major battleground.
At some point in the Biden presidency, I expect, there will be a crisis over Taiwan, North Korea or the South China Sea. And that will be the main event — the moment when we discover if the strange pageant we saw last week was morning in Joe Biden’s America, or the twilight of the late-Soviet United States.
The Hollywood left has been trying to cancel Donald J. Trump ever since he announced his bid for the presidency. Not content to let him retire from office in peace his union, one of screenland’s most important, had undertaken an effort to expel him, charging him with violating the union’s Constitution.
Mr. Trump responded Thursday with a charge of his own, calling the union “useless” to its members and saying of the expulsion effort, “Who Cares!”
“I write to you today regarding the so-called Disciplinary Committee hearing aimed at revoking my union membership. Who cares!” Trump wrote in a signed letter to union President Gabrielle Carteris — who played Andrea Zuckerman on “Beverly Hills, 90210” for a decade, various news outlets reported.
A more than 30-year member of SAG-AFTRA, a group whose predecessor organization was once headed by Ronald Reagan, Mr. Trump apparently has little concern his body of work will be affected.
“While I’m not familiar with your work,” he said in a letter to Carteris, the former president asserted his continuing pride in his “work on movies such as Home Alone 2, Zoolander and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps; and television shows including The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Saturday Night Live, and of course, one of the most successful shows in television history, The Apprentice – to name just a few!”
Mr. Trump then twisted the knife by giving bad reviews to SAG-AFTRA’s “dismal record as a union.”
“Your organization has done little for its members, and nothing for me – besides collecting dues and promoting dangerous un-American policies and ideas – as evident by your massive unemployment rates and lawsuits from celebrated actors, who even recorded a video asking, ‘Why isn’t the union fighting for me?’” he wrote. “As such, this letter is to inform you of my immediate resignation from SAG-AFTRA. You have done nothing for me.”
In January Carteris said Mr. Trump had “attacked the values that this union holds most sacred – democracy, truth, respect for our fellow Americans of all races and faiths, and the sanctity of the free press” following the conclusion by the union’s national board that he had violated union rules by fomenting a riot on Capitol Hill on January 6, an incident for which he was also impeached for a second time without the benefit of due process.
Some actors, commentators, and film writers have gone so far as to suggest Mr. Trump’s appearance in such films as Home Alone 2 – which amounts to a cameo lasting mere minutes – be edited out of any future showings of movies in which he participated.
Author: Dr. Miklos K. Radvanyi
On January 15, 2020, a man of Chinese descent and a U.S. resident in his 30’s, arrived in Seattle from Wuhan. When asked about his contacts in China, he clearly lied to the authorities, as the Chinese Communist Party did to the rest of the world about COVID-19 cases throughout the People’s Republic of China. This deliberate act of President Xi and his despotic party unleashed global suffering and devastation across the globe. Explore the historical constructs and political climate affecting recovery from the Novel Coronavirus, both worldwide and in the United States of America.
By giving comfort to China's evil regime, the New York Times is showing its true colors.
The New York Times has a long, sordid history of being in bed with brutal authoritarian regimes. From Walter Duranty praising the goodness of the Soviet Union to the Times’ gentle treatment of Adolf Hitler, the paper of record is always on board with tyranny. The current generation of gatekeepers at the Gray Lady is no exception. In a shocking and sickening article this week, author Li Yuan celebrates Chinese “freedom.”
The article beams about how China has gotten its society back to normal after unleashing a deadly plague on the planet and lying about it. They eat in restaurants, they go to movies, and they are free from fear. They have the freedom to move around, the Times proclaims, assuring us this is the “most basic form of freedom.” Really? Do the 1 million Uighurs currently in concentration camps have “freedom of movement”? They must have been unavailable for comment, as they aren’t mentioned once in this advertisement for the Chinese Communist Party.
It would be one thing if the New York Times were dedicated to offering space for a wide range of opinions, even borderline evil ones such as this absurd article offers. But this is the same newspaper that took down a piece by Sen. Tom Cotton because it suggested using the National Guard to protect cities being burned and looted by leftist radicals. That opinion was a bridge too far, but shilling for a regime that does not allow free speech and forces sterilization is just asking questions.
Freedom from fear. My God. Is this what America has become? Are we ready to take the advice of our nation’s most powerful newspaper and throw away our right to speech, religion, democracy, and family in the sad search for some impossible form of perfect safety? The behavior of many Americans during the lockdowns suggests that some are. The rest of us, those who love liberty, must fight back.
It’s not just the New York Times; take a look at this gem from The Economist.
A “more Chinese-style global industry”? What does that mean? Slave labor? It’s efficient, it lowers prices, and the slaves might well be kept free from disease so they live long productive lives doing exactly what their government tells them to do. This is a warning. Those in power in the media, so wedded to big tech and multinational corporations, seem just fine with a world in which you have no freedom and they use your labor to make billions in the name of safety and freedom from fear.
This is America, God dammit, and the New York Times can go to hell. These people have lectured us for four years about Donald Trump supposedly trampling the norms of American democracy, and now they turn around and tell us we should be more like China? This is much more than a culture war at this point. This is a fight for the very soul of the greatest nation on earth — which, even though the Times doesn’t know it, is the United States, not the People’s Republic of China.
Useful idiocy is reaching new heights. China’s hooks are so deeply embedded in our media that it can’t even call out slavery and concentration camps. Meanwhile, in China, printing even a gentle gibe at Xi Jinping can get you killed. Is that the glorious new form of freedom that our betters want for us? Does the New York Times want the government to tell them what to publish? I honestly don’t know the answer to that at this point.
Let us be clear, the Chinese Communist Party is an evil, repressive, and murderous regime. It is not the future of freedom. It is not setting an example that free people should or will follow. And we won’t. Unlike in China, Americans have 400 million guns, and if our government tries to take the New Times’ advice and crush our freedoms, they will hear them roar. This is a time for choosing. This is a time to stand up and say that our rights come from God, not the government or the New York Times. Stand up, America, before it is too late.
Silicon Valley's allies are filling up the Biden administration. A big payoff is sure to follow.
Silicon Valley played an integral role in propelling Joe Biden to the White House. He raked in uncounted millions from liberal tech billionaires such as Netflix’s Reed Hastings, LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman, and Apple heiress Laurene Powell Jobs; their employees shelled out $5 million more.
As Biden takes office, the techies want what they paid for. Reuters reports that executives at top firms like Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are gunning for jobs at the Departments of Defense, State, Justice, and Commerce and also eyeing influential posts at the Federal Trade Commission and beyond.
They want two things: lucrative federal contracts and less scrutiny than they’ve gotten over the past four years, as President Donald Trump has made their bias against conservatives front-page news. The Department of Justice’s antitrust inquiry into big tech has already garnered bipartisan backing, including from a group of state attorneys general who have filed their own suit.
A Biden administration could make all of that go away. And it could ignore altogether these firms’ obsequious dealings with Communist China.
That explains the rush to fill seats: It’s unlikely that the techies moving into the Biden administration will check their business relationships at the door. Each hire is another pressure point for Silicon Valley’s most powerful to exploit.
This is hardly a problem unique to Democrats—you just hear about it less when they’re in the White House. This sort of revolving door was considered outrageous in the George W. Bush administration, when Democrats and the media harped relentlessly on Dick Cheney’s ties to Halliburton and charged that he was in the pocket of Big Oil. They raised the same ruckus when Trump appointed Exxon chief Rex Tillerson as his first secretary of state.
These unseemly connections aren’t new for Democrats. Google employees averaged a meeting a week with that Obama White House, influencing a president who “routinely pushed policy that pleased the tech-savvy.”
Now think what happens with those same lobbyists running the show. After rolling out transition teams free of connections to big tech, Team Biden added several Facebook executives over the Thanksgiving holiday. The transition team “has already stacked its agency review teams with more tech executives than tech critics,” Reuters notes, including “several officials from Big Tech companies, which emerged as top donors to the campaign.”ADVERTISING
Their influence doesn’t stop there. Biden on Tuesday named as an economic adviser Joelle Gamble, who last worked as an investor under eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, funneling funding to outfits run by other Biden appointees. Others may soon follow, like Mark Zuckerberg’s philanthropy chief and former Kamala Harris aide Mike Troncoso.
For just one example of how a problematic connection, consider WestExec, the consultancy cofounded by secretary of state nominee Tony Blinken. The firm helped Google win contracts from the Defense Department and advised Google cofounder Eric Schmidt’s philanthropy. Now, Reuters says, Schmidt is making recommendations for personnel in the Biden Defense Department, a textbook example of business relationships shaping government policy.
That’s just the start of the coming horse trading, hidden behind the Obama-era pretext that the White House is merely cultivating a relationship with the smartest people. But if personnel is policy, the Biden White House will be doing everything it can to comfort Silicon Valley’s most comfortable.
It’s not Trump supporters who are living in a fantasyland, but members of the corporate media who sense their power and influence waning.
With the end of Donald Trump’s presidency fast approaching, we’ve seen a surge of columns and posts asserting that Republicans and Trump supporters have lost touch with reality. After four years of marinating in “falsehoods” and “disinformation”—a term that really just means “information I don’t like”—Trump’s backers are all turned around, we’re told. They believe much that isn’t so.
David Brooks of The New York Times explains that these poor saps, most of whom, he says, are uneducated, uncredentialed people who don’t live in prosperous cities, have retreated to conspiracy theories to explain their misfortune and unhappiness. “People in this precarious state are going to demand stories that will both explain their distrust back to them and also enclose them within a safe community of believers,” he writes. Trump, QAnon, and Alex Jones “rose up to give them those stories and provide that community.”
Over at The New Yorker, editor David Remnick ponders the grave costs of Trump’s “assault on the press and the truth,” asking how many COVID-19 victims “died because they chose to believe the President’s dismissive accounts of the disease rather than what public-health officials were telling the press? Half of Republican voters believe Trump’s charge that the 2020 election was ‘rigged.’ What will be the lasting effects on American democracy of that disinformation campaign?”
These are just representative samples, but across the mainstream commentariat the gist is all the same: if you support Trump, you’re likely a poor person who believes conspiracy theories and is dangerously disconnected from reality, partly because you resent successful people like Messrs. Brooks and Remnick. You live in a fantasyland because it assuages your feelings of inferiority, which are mostly justified. You’re paranoid because you’re powerless, and the alternate reality you’ve constructed for yourself gives you a sense of power and agency in a confusing, unsettled world.
But here’s the thing. Everything these media elites say about Trump supporters can more properly be said about media elites themselves. Who really has been living in a fantasyland these last four years? Is it the ordinary Americans—including a lot of educated, white-collar professionals—who voted for a president they felt would shake up the sclerotic status quo in Washington, or a press corps that perpetuated an actual conspiracy about Trump-Russia collusion for years?
It was Remnick’s New Yorker, after all, that published a serious-seeming essay in September 2018 that claimed Facebook had been weaponized by “Russian agents who wanted to sow political chaos and help Trump win” in the 2016 election—an effort, the author said, that had an “astonishing impact.” Never mind the preposterousness of claiming that a couple hundred thousand dollars in Facebook advertising had an “astonishing impact” on the outcome of the 2016 election, there has never been a shred of evidence that “Russian interference” changed or altered even a single vote in 2016.
A New Yorker staff writer named Evan Osnos wrote that article. Osnos won the National Book Award in 2014 and in 2015 was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He’s won many other prizes and worked all over the world, and, just before the election, published a flattering book about former Vice President Joe Biden. Osnos is the sort of fellow Brooks has in mind when he talks about “professional members” of the “epistemic regime”—the people who know what’s real and tell us so, a job for which they are richly rewarded.
What else has this supposedly enlightened member of the epistemic elite told us? In June, he compared Trump’s White House, which had a temporary fence around it after Black Lives Matter protests turned into riots, to the Zhongnanhai, the seat of China’s communist government in Beijing, where “people are more accustomed than Americans are to the notion of leaders who live and work secluded from the public.”
Earlier that month, Osnos dashed off a post that described—falsely, as it turned out—protests in Lafayette Square on June 1 as “peaceful.” We all know, even if the media refused to report it, that the protesters were not at all peaceful, and in fact were hurling “bricks, frozen water bottles and caustic liquids” at police.
This isn’t really about Osnos, his hackery notwithstanding, but about his professional class—a class that fervently believes much that isn’t so. Despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, members of Osnos’ class still believe that Trump got substantial help from Russia in 2016. They believe, still, that Trump is a dangerous authoritarian who might just destroy the republic. They believe, still, that the only reason tens of millions of Americans would support Trump is that they are racists or rubes, or both.
Osnos and Remnick and the rest of our media elites believe these things for the same reason Brooks thinks Trump supporters are conspiracy theory-addled suckers: they are becoming irrelevant, they are losing power and influence, their status as members of the epistemic regime is uncertain—indeed, their entire regime seems to be collapsing, and they know it.
It’s not too much to say, quoting Brooks, that “people in this precarious state are going to demand stories that will both explain their distrust back to them and also enclose them within a safe community of believers.”
So we will continue to see stories and commentary from the epistemic regime that soothe men like Brooks, Remnick, and Osnos, assuring them all is well, that credulous, mendacious Trump supporters have been put in their place, and that after a harrowing four years, all is once again as it should be.
Generations before Facebook or Twitter, Tocqueville warned that censoring the press would endanger the survival of freedom and democracy in America.
With the recent suppression of a New York Post story damaging to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, many Americans have finally had enough of the one-sided censorious behavior of tech giants. Less than three weeks before one the most contentious and fraught elections in American history, Facebook and Twitter users were alarmed when it became clear they were prevented from sharing the Post’s article detailing the sordid dealings of Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.
Both citizens and lawmakers justifiably fear the enormous influence wielded by entities like Facebook, Google, and Twitter; the rise of an unchecked tech-tyranny where one side of the political aisle has its views promoted while the other side has its views punished. Nearly two centuries ago, the author of one of the most penetrating insights on American life shared similar fears of what would happen should a free press remain free in name only.
Traveling across America in the 1830s, young French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville saw a nation filled with both promise and peril. Amidst boundless opportunities, an economically vibrant workforce, and an ever-increasing equalization of conditions, the potential for tyranny lurked underneath an otherwise promising future. Tocqueville feared some of the forces at work in the young republic could lead to despotism.
To prevent this future, Tocqueville sung the praises of two essential safeguards: a free press connected with freedom of association. Armed with these two weapons, Tocqueville argues the United States can help prevent a tyranny of the majority as well as the chilling and repressive effects of a nascent soft despotism. Yet, of the two, Tocqueville’s principal solution for America is a free press.
Unfortunately, as Tocqueville noted — and we’ve now witnessed — the free press he prescribes functions as a double-edged sword. To be sure, the press and modern media can help cultivate liberty. It can do a marvelous job of keeping the people informed of politics, sustaining their activity in local government, and helping to make their voices heard. In doing so, it can help train the populace in the necessary exercise of freedom. Liberty, after all, is like a muscle: if it is not used regularly it will atrophy.
On the contrary, an unhealthy, ill-functioning press can create problems rather than prevent them. If the press or powerful media organs can influence such a vast number of people at once; if there isn’t enough volume granted to dissenting voices; if the levers of media and press control are too tightly concentrated, a deadly homogenization of the American mind may occur.
When this happens, the former sovereignty of the people is transformed into something both helplessly docile and malevolent — worse, something deadly to liberty. These were the stakes back during the time of Andrew Jackson. Today, the situation is all the more dire.
In “Democracy in America,” Tocqueville writes Americans should strive to be continually “making liberty emerge from within the democratic society in which God makes us live.” One of the most effective avenues to pursuing this is to give some degree of local administrative power to bodies of private citizens such as would be found in newspapers, periodicals, or pamphlets — and today’s social media platforms.
A free press made up of numerous varied newspapers fulfilled this role in 19th-century America. In the 21st century, websites and social media should — hypothetically — join traditional print publications to prevent the dangers of the tyranny of the majority. When operating fairly and nobly, they provide a way for every voice to be heard.
Of course, a free press and media aren’t just useful vehicles for spreading ideas or forming associations, but for ensuring that new associations can connect their ideas over large distances. Furthermore, in a free nation, the press can and should help to disperse power — not concentrate it within itself. The answer to ideas some citizens disagree with is not to stifle, curtail, or limit such speech, it is to encourage more of it.
Beyond this, protecting freedom of the press is vitally important because it can often serve as an individual’s best or only means of appeal. Tocqueville writes:
A citizen who is oppressed has therefore only one means of defending himself; it is to address himself to the whole nation, and if it is deaf to him, to humanity; he has only one means to do it, it is the press. Thus liberty of the press is infinitely more precious among democratic nations than among all others; it alone cures most of the evils that equality can produce. Equality isolates and weakens men; but the press places beside each one of them a very powerful weapon, which the weakest and most isolated can use.
As Tocqueville observes in “Democracy in America,” opening and running an American newspaper in the 19th century was both relatively inexpensive and unregulated. As such, this meant a truly free press was an accessible weapon available to the common man to beat back the tyranny of the majority and the homogenization of the mind.
Thousands of newspapers operating throughout the country and representing various individuals, associations, and interests, was both a way of protecting divergent opinions as well as checking against the rise of despotic or tyrannical forces. In the current climate of Big Tech censorship, men and women of all political stripes should be asking themselves if this can be said of America any longer.
A healthy and truly free press is one of the mechanisms that can help prevent the public from being manipulated into having one set of “approved” opinions. Freedom of the press, says Tocqueville, does not just hold important influence over the success or failure of political parties, it makes its power felt “over all of the opinions of men”; not only that, it modifies both the laws and the mores of a society.
Indeed, if laws can affect the mores of a society, and the mores of society can affect the laws, something that can simultaneously change both is a weapon capable of either awe-inspiring good or tremendous evil. Tocqueville argues a free press has the power to do just that.
What happens if this power is used to stifle speech rather than spread it? The result, unfortunately, is not good for any polity featuring democratic institutions. As University of Oklahoma professor Donald J. Maletz puts it: “Tocqueville associates democracy with freedom of the press as a matter of principle.” As one goes, so goes the other. Forebodingly, Tocqueville calls the issue of how to handle a free press “the greatest problem of modern societies.”
Due to its non-institutional nature, a free press is unique in its role in helping prevent tyranny because it exists apart from the governmental arena. Separations of power and varied institutions are not enough to prevent tyranny if all interests involved are the same — you need associations or organizations outside of government as well.
Ultimately, the freedom of the press may well be the final bulwark of liberty against a rising tide of corruption. By Tocqueville’s reasoning, once the press ceases to be free, it’s hard for any society wishing to regain freedom for its citizens to do so, as the best avenues for opposition will be closed. Because of this reality, those who love liberty and value an open society must guard against any censorship of the press.
Tocqueville acknowledges in “Democracy in America” that an unfettered press can create problems, and is only so virtuous because it prevents more problems than it creates. Even so, Tocqueville goes on to powerfully proclaim one cannot be “moderate” in support of a free press. For Tocqueville, there’s no sustainable or workable “middle ground” when it comes to press censorship.
To “reap the inestimable advantages” brought by the freedom of the press, society must learn how to handle its potential pitfalls. This much is clear, however: liberty starts to evaporate the moment powerful entities within society start to censor its press or suppress the work of reporters and writers.
As historian Thomas G. West points out, James Madison saw free speech as a natural, retained right, not a privilege created by the government. West puts it in clear terms:
There is an absolute right to freedom of speech, just as there is an absolute or inalienable right to liberty in general. … For the founders, speech is simply a part of the overall natural right to liberty, which it is the main job of government to secure.
Indeed, the 1780 Massachusetts Declaration of Rights went so far as to say: “The liberty of the press is essential to the security of freedom in a state: it ought not, therefore to be restrained.”
In her analysis of “Democracy in America,” the University of Notre Dame’s Catherine Zuckert believes Tocqueville saw freedom of speech as an “essential part of liberal democracy.” She’s right. Tocqueville warned stifling press freedom, even a little, will lead to a chilling silence, and society will find itself “under the feet of a despot.”
The publication of Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” shows the power of a free press during turbulent times. Paine’s pamphlet, which sold around 100,000 copies in 1776, is called by historian Grant S. Wood “the most incendiary and popular pamphlet of the entire revolutionary era.” It is an exemplary case of a political tract in layman’s language that shaped the future of a continent — all made possible by the press.
Freedom of the press, when combined with associations, acts as an incentivization to participate and be active in politics. For Tocqueville, the relationship between newspapers and free associations is symbiotic and correlative: “newspapers make associations, and associations make newspapers.”
Properly functioning and free, the press can encourage debate instead of hindering it. It can foster statesmanship instead of leading to the rise of despots. The exchange of ideas and the proliferation of the best new civic and societal notions can be a chief tool in preserving the essential balance between liberty and virtue in America.
While the left’s current stranglehold on corporate media is formidable, Tocqueville would at least be partially hopeful that the rise of conservative voices on the internet, new media, and outlets like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter will at put up a fight to uphold liberty — that is, as long as they aren’t silenced in turn by the very platforms that are supposed to aid in the spread of ideas.
The “press” may look a lot different than in 1831, but it remains pivotal in the struggle to preserve freedom. Until enough Americans unite their voices and demand that tech giants like Facebook and Twitter stop their oppressive censorship of the very press and media outlets essential to the health of our republic, things will only get worse, and Tocqueville’s worst nightmares will inch closer to becoming reality.
Reporters love to play “Gotcha” with politicians. It’s in their DNA. A story about a politician caught doing something that conflicts with his or her platform is editorial gold. Sometimes.
What’s good for the goose isn’t always good for the gander. A conservative “family values” Republican caught in an affair or a self-described “pro-life” politician who is rumored to have paid for a girlfriend’s abortion becomes national news with remarkable speed. And it’s not just the politico involved who must deal with it. It becomes an issue in other races when fellow Republican candidates and officeholders are asked about it, as they invariably are.
The same is not true for Democrats. Exhibit A is the extramarital dalliance of the very married former U.S. senator and Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards.
Edwards not only had an affair with a campaign aide but fathered a child out of wedlock. The rumors about all this were rampant—and relevant, considering how he made the strength of his marriage to his dying wife Elizabeth a centerpiece of his personal narrative. Yet no mainstream media outlet would go near the story until it broke in the National Enquirer and everyone had to cover it.
Admittedly, those running on the GOP platform who make themselves vulnerable to such charges generally deserve what they get. What’s odd—or at least worthy of comment—is how hard it is to call out Democrats who are caught committing economic hypocrisy.
Democrats who campaign on a platform urging more social spending and trumpeting their concern for the poor, but whose tax returns show they gave little to charity, have never had to deal with a media firestorm over the issue.
One good example of an economic hypocrite is businessman Tom Steyer, who made billions investing in oil and natural gas. He ran for president on an anti-oil and gas platform that heavily promoted renewable energy (after he’d made his money and was spending it freely) so he could prevent anyone from doing what he’d done in the future. If that sounds to you an awful lot like “Do As I Say, Not As I Do” you’re not wrong.
Steyer’s not the only Democrat with this problem. Candace Valenzuela, a Democrat running in Texas’ open 24th Congressional District, has attracted national interest because she’d be the first Afro-Latina in Congress if she wins. She’s made attacks on corporations and “corporate social interests” a central theme of her campaign, evading discussion of how she personally profited from the oil and gas industry thanks to the job her husband once held at a subsidiary of Caterpillar, one of the country’s largest manufacturing concerns.
Valenzuela’s positions on the environment and American energy production are to the left of even the Green New Deal. She’s on record opposing American fossil fuel production and calling for a stop to all oil and gas permitting. Not good for Texas, not good for Caterpillar, but good for her because the economic benefits she reaped from the oil and natural gas industry are already in the bank.
Valenzuela’s not the only Democrat whose positions are at odds with their personal economic narrative.
Arizona’s Tom O’Halleran, running for reelection in the state’s First Congressional District, likes to tout his work getting federal funding to clean up polluted uranium mines on land belonging to the Navajo Nation. Yet his family has bought, sold, and still owns thousands of shares in different mining companies, one of which abandoned more than 75 uranium mines on that same land. Is O’Halleran seeking tax dollars to clean up his own mess? One could argue he is.
Then there’s Rep. Gil Cisneros, who has for years been invested in and profited from “Big Pharma” but is running for reelection calling for lower prices for prescription drugs. And there’s a whole bunch of Democrats in the campaign finance reform and corporate social responsibility crowd who’ve broken their pledge to refuse corporate PAC dollars.
Somehow none of that rises to the level of interest in the hypocrisy shown when a “family-values” congressional Republican is accused of an affair with a staffer. And, when a similar case involving now-former California Democratic congresswoman Katie Hill came to light, it was a race to see who could find the best excuse for her behavior and the most effective way to shift blame (and the story) onto someone else.
As a matter of policy, economic hypocrisy is just as big an issue as those that arise in matters of personal conduct. It’s obvious to the people, at least when they know about it. It should be just as obvious to the press.
Michael Cohen seems to believe his former boss threw him under the bus. If he did, it was only because the man called Donald J. Trump’s one-time “fixer” was standing in front of it at the time. Now, disgraced, disbarred, and in need of money, he’s written a book and is trying to get even.
Good luck with that. The public may be eating up what the major media is hyping in some detail but everything Cohen has to say, no matter how vile, won’t have much of an effect on the upcoming election. Neither will anything the other salacious books say about him – and that includes the books written by his niece, by a former confidant of the first lady, and by former members of his administration. As far as his conduct in business and in office is concerned, the president is bulletproof.
The country knows Trump and the voters have made up their minds. They either love him or hate him, with not much space in between. Some consider him the savior of a nation rapidly descending into permanent decline. Others see him as the cause of the decline. Either way, one more book about what a bad guy he is and who and why people might have gotten paid off and whatever else Cohen mentions in his book won’t move the needle.
Character counts, not just for the president but for the people who cover and criticize him in the public square. Cohen’s skirts aren’t exactly clean, which raises plenty of issues about whether anything he has to say now can be trusted. After all, he’s currently confined to his home while serving out a three-year sentence for tax evasion, violating campaign finance rules, and lying to Congress.
Cohen may have his regrets but most of them probably have more to do with getting caught than with any genuine pangs of conscience. Maybe he’s a transformed person but that doesn’t explain why he stayed in his employ for so long if Trump was so evil as to merit being called, among other things a “cult leader” and a “mob boss”.
Rather than take Cohen and the other “tell-allists” at their word we ought to be at least considering their motivations even if we don’t go into as much detail as the investigations of the president have. These former associates have, alongside the anonymous sources and so-called whistleblowers who’ve helped populate the pages of the daily paper with powerful allegations of political and presidential misconduct throughout the entire Trump administration, imperiled not just a presidency but the nation and the constitutional process.
Are these attacks coordinated? Probably. It takes more imagination than most people have to believe the way they all dovetail together to the benefit of the Democrats – especially to Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden – is mere coincidence. Most people believed Hillary Clinton when she blamed a “vast, right-wing conspiracy” for the problems her husband experienced while in office. Is it therefore that much of a stretch to believe a similar but ideologically opposite group are at work now?
We’re in uncharted territory: lockdowns, social anarchy and violence, virtual campaigning, and a heap of known unknowns.
We’re in uncharted territory: lockdowns, social anarchy and violence, virtual campaigning, and a heap of known unknowns.
The nation has never seen an election like this. A mysterious virus from China has terrified the country, killed perhaps 180,000 Americans, and is now weaponized as a political asset to neuter the president. Half the country is still in de facto quarantine. Governments — national, state, and local — for the first time have induced an artificial but severe recession.
The country is convulsed by riots, looting, and urban violence, but with the novelty that many governors and mayors have either turned a blind eye to the anarchy or contextualized it as a legitimate reaction to social injustice.
Joe Biden has been incommunicado for nearly four months, so much so that the Democratic Party believes that his vice-presidential running mate may well be the next president much sooner than later. And the media seek to shield Biden from himself by aborting normal journalistic scrutiny — on the unspoken surety that he is not cogitatively able to conduct a normal campaign and, indeed, in one unguarded moment of confusion and bewilderment, might well sink the entire 2020 progressive agenda.
The result is a virtual candidate, with virtual issues, and a virtual campaign. How then can we adjudicate what issues will matter?
1) The Lockdown. More or less, Americans followed the March–June lockdowns that seemed at least for a while to slow the viral spread. Of course, “flattening the curve” to prevent hospital overcrowding soon insidiously morphed into the impossible task of stopping the virus by shutting down the economy and quarantining the population. I suppose the theory was “we had to destroy the health of a society to ensure it was healthy.”
We know from Sweden and the gradual diminution in cases in the hardest hit states of the U.S. Northeast that the virus has a say in such policies. It seems determined to have an initial spike followed by a lull and yet another lesser spike, before it finds it harder to infect more vulnerable victims, as antibodies and T-cells increasingly ensure either growing de facto immunity or asymptotic infection, all while herd immunity rises and the virus plays itself.
We will soon, perhaps in a year or so, learn of the real tally of forced quarantines — the substance abuse, child abuse, retrogression in millions of young students denied K–12 learning and supervision, missed health diagnostics and preventative care, and delayed or cancelled surgeries. And the tab will likely be far higher than the coronavirus death count and the post-viral fatigue and morbidity of stricken but recovering patients. In other words, there were never blue/red choices or Democratic/Republican ones, but only bad and worse and all in between.
Fairly or not, the lockdown as a political issue is now crystalized as back-to-school/not-back-to-school for millions of the nation’s students, the vast majority of whom are either going to be immune — or asymptomatic if infected. To the degree Trump makes the moral argument that in such a lose/lose scenarios we have far more to forfeit by keeping kids home than at school, and that we can protect vulnerable teachers through reassignments from classroom teaching, he will win the issue.
Biden’s insistence that schools remain closed is likely a losing issue, because voters know that locked-in families are increasingly not viable —economically, physically, and psychologically, and in a way that outweighs even their fear of the virus. As a grandfather of a special-needs child, I can attest that the months without skilled teaching and classroom stimulation have been disastrous — they’ve now wiped away much of the stunning progress achieved in the past year by skilled and emphatic classroom teachers.
2) COVID. Like any other natural or manmade disaster — from 9/11 to Katrina to the 2008 financial crisis — the sitting president gets praised or blamed depending on whether the catastrophe is seen as waning or waxing, even if it is well beyond a president’s ability to either worsen or mitigate any such disaster.
COVID up until now is a he said/she said, dead-ender, as data can be adduced that the U.S. did better than the UK or Spain but worse than Germany, or should have/should have not issued the travel ban, quarantines, or earlier/later or not at all. The point is not the past status of the virus, but that the trajectory from October 1 to November 3 — Election Day — will become political. If the second spike deflates, the virus seems to decline, and people instinctually regain confidence, with news of impending vaccines and far better treatments, then Trump will benefit from that reality. If we see a third spike at this time — say, one that falls heavily on teachers who returned to work in some states — then Biden will claim “I told you so.”
3) The Economy. Even Biden cannot argue that the pre-viral economy was inert when he knows it was booming by any historical marker. Its weakness — huge deficits — is neutralized as an issue because Biden and Harris, to meet their fantasy agendas, would borrow far more than even Trump has. Polls understandably continue to suggest more voter confidence in Trump than in Biden on economic issues. Whether the economy — rather than the lockdown and virus — is the news will hinge on whether it continues to recover or suffers a sudden debt/financial/liquidity crisis.
4) The Violence and Social Anarchy. The wreckage of the inner core of our major cities should be Trump’s greatest issue, given that even blue-city mayors and the network and cable news industry cannot censor all the sickening and nihilistic violence. The Left and its appeasers own the violence. Initially, they proudly enabled the demonstrations in hopes of weaponizing the outrage over the death of George Floyd into another “Charlottesville” writ against Trump.All Our Opinion in Your Inbox
The meme that Trump’s “stormtroopers” want to take over cities is now a stale joke, given that Antifa seems eager to roast Portland police personnel in their barricaded precinct, while looters in the million-dollar mile of Chicago greedily target Gucci and Nikes as “reparations” justice.
If Trump frames the issue that he is the only sane impediment between all that and civilization, he will be helped enormously. Biden’s recourse seems to be to stay quiet about the violence and to outsource support for the demonstrators to Harris, while he now and again nods to law and order and claims he wants to defund the police without defunding the police. In a larger sense, Biden seems fixated on past May-June inert issues that often drove down Trump’s polls, but seems baffled that the real challenges are August-October issues that are quite different, fluid, and breaking in Trump’s direction.
5) The Strange Case of the Biden VP. In Democratic terms, Harris was the only viable pick once Biden explicitly limited his running-mate selection to a woman and implicitly to a black woman. The other younger, more woke candidates were unvetted — and for good reason given their now exposed pasts. The only other candidate with stature is Susan Rice, who has never been elected to anything; but, more important, seems incapable of telling the truth, and she tends to alienate everyone with whom she deals.
But Harris has problems of her own that explain why she exited the Democratic primaries early with nonexistent support. She is rude, often ill-prepared, demagogic, and seems to think her role as VP is threefold: a) Trotskyization of her recent hard-left social persona that failed so miserably in the primaries; b) a wink and nod “centrist” rebirth, by carefully referencing her career as a California prosecutor (when in fact she was a vindictive DA), and c) privately reassuring leftists, donors, Sandernistas, and the Antifa/BLM crowd that if they elect Biden now, they will be very soon be electing Harris, who will revert to her hard-core leftist essence, since she will not have to face voters as she did in 2019. In sum, her appointment prompted short-term giddiness; but in retrospect, her long-term negatives will start becoming an issue.
6) Socialism. The new old Joe Biden is not really a socialist convert. He is a naïve Menshevik who has no idea of the nature of those who are telling him what to say and do. So far, he has mixed the message that he is impaired and personally fearful of the coronavirus — understandable given his age and health — with his usual platitudinous phrases (“first, second, . . .”; “come on, man”) and calls for patriotic obeyance to the quarantine. Throughout, he avoids telling America what he is for and what he is against— and whether the agendas of Bernie Sanders, AOC, Kamala Harris, and Elizabeth Warren are his own.
Whether before or during the debates, Biden will have to answer yes or no to fracking, reparations, government confiscations of semi-automatic guns (even the U.S. government cannot buy “back” what one never “owned”), Medicare for all, the end of border-wall construction, decoupling with China, free health care for illegal aliens, a wealth tax, a 40 percent-plus income-tax rate on higher incomes, and getting back into the Iran deal and the Paris climate accord. The strangest thing about this strange Biden campaign is that we all know what the hard Left was for in the primaries, we all know that Biden and Harris have embraced that losing message, and yet we known that no one will simply say, New Green Deal? Hell, Yes! Reparations? Of course! Open borders? Why Not?
Never have such contortionist candidates disowned the very issues that they bragged would usher them to victory, while reinventing themselves as something they are not — with the surety that they’d revert to what they are if they were elected.
7) Tweeting versus Mental Confusion. The proverbial swing voter in the ten or so states is the key to the election. Without much sweat, Trump will fire up his base and the old Perot/Reagan Democrat/Tea Party voters who previously hid in 2008 and 2012 or voted Obama. He may well capture 10–15 percent of the black vote and 40 percent of the Latino vote. But he could still lose, given lots of new variables, like mass mail-in voting and third-party vote harvesting like the kind that destroyed California’s quite accomplished congressional incumbents and candidates in 2018.
Conventional wisdom reminds us that Trump needs to win a majority of independent suburbanites in these key purple states. The issue is simple: Do they fear getting only a recorded message when calling 9/11, an Antifa punk showing up at their corner park, a BLM looter across the street from their Costco, or another no-bail, turnstile, parolee carjacking — more than they are turned off by Trump’s tweeting, his epithets, and his shouting about “fake news”?
What bothers these pivotal voters most: Trump on the rampage whining about how biased reporters spin fake news, or ten seconds of dead silence as Biden looks in vain for his wife, or a toady reporter, to steer him back to his prompt and his place in the script? In contrast, Trump’s most able cabinet members and advisors—Barr, Pompeo, and the recently arrived Scott Atlas—are increasingly appearing in high-profile, visible roles, and proving invaluable to the campaign
8) Known Unknowns. In the next eight days, all sorts of breaking news can change the pulse of the election. Will other Gulf Arab states join the UAE in recognizing Israel? Will Russia intervene in Belarus? Will China provoke an incident with Hong Kong or Taiwan or unleash its pit bull North Korea to embarrass Trump? Will the health of the septuagenarians Biden and Trump stay constant? Will John Durham flip a wannabe fixer like Eric Clinesmith to snare the principles in the veritable coup to destroy Trump? Will Kamala Harris go full Antifa/BLM? Will a mysterious tape, recording, intercept of a long dormant scandal appear in Access Hollywood/George W. Bush DUI style? Will Biden or Trump go full Howard Dean/I have a scream and shout “YAAAAHH!” to wreck his campaign? We all know some sort of attempted October surprise is coming, we just don’t know its magnitude and effect.
9) The Virtual Election. No one knows either how we can elect a president through virtual campaigning, virtual conventions, and perhaps virtual debates and virtual voting by mail. We suspect that Joe Biden’s cognitive challenges are the stimulus for the left-wing effort to cite the virus as grounds for changing the rules. But even when rules change, they don’t always change as the changers anticipated.
10) Sleeper Cells. In 2016, money didn’t matter. Hillary Clinton vastly outraised and outspent Trump in nearly every state. Polls of the Electoral College were way off. Voters do lie to pollsters because they don’t want their names on electronic lists, or they decline to say out loud what they like about Trump, or they’re just amused by the idea of screwing up left-wing analyses.
Worse in 2016 were the silly quoted odds that Clinton would win — often reaching absurd disparities such as a 4–1, 5–1, or 10–1 sure thing. In 2016, “organization” didn’t matter. Robbie Mook was declared a genius and proved a fool; Trump’s campaign was said to be foolish run by a bigger fool Steven Bannon, plagued by government subversion and serial firings and hirings — and yet it proved far more sophisticated in its analytics and strategies. Do record gun sales, crashing ratings for the woke NBA, weird outlier polls, voters’ own belief that Trump will win or that their neighbors will vote him in, etc. mean anything? Is right now August 2016, when the polls just can’t be wrong — again?
In sum, the more Trump talks about his empathy for the suburbanite and inner-city dweller, both deprived of their civil rights to safety and security by deliberately lax, blue-state law enforcement, the more he expresses his bewilderment but undeniable compassion for Biden’s tragic, steady cognitive decline, and the more he seems too busy to tweet about much other than the landmark Israel–UAE deal, an impending COVID vaccine and therapy breakthroughs, unexpected economic uptick indicators, and his efforts to save the nation’s children from the disaster of two lost two school years, all the more likely swing voters will break in his favor.
And all the more likely he will confound the learned-nothing/forgotten-nothing polls.
In 2020, there is no element of life too small or too trivial to not get outraged over. It’s time for us to be the change we want to see in the universe.
Finally, NASA is doing something important: Taking a closer look at the nicknames for cosmic objects.
In a real and not satiric press release announcing the move, Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Science Mission Directorate, said, “Our goal is that all names are aligned with our values of diversity and inclusion, and we’ll proactively work with the scientific community to help ensure that. Science is for everyone, and every facet of our work needs to reflect that value.”
This comes a little too late. It is 2020, after all. It also focuses on things like the Eskimo Nebula and the Siamese Twin Galaxy, and doesn’t take into account all celestial bodies. The sad fact is that it’s time to cancel all the planets in the solar system, starting with Uranus.
Discovered in 1781, the seventh stone from the sun was named for the Greek god of the sky. Although all the other planets except for Earth are named for Greek gods, this is especially troubling as the god of the sky is the sun, unless you have a misbegotten belief in a geocentric universe. Even then, though, no way Uranus would get the crown.
It’s a cold, desolate planet with harsh winds and foul-smelling clouds (obviously). Its environment is most likely too harsh to support any life, at least life as we know it. Its 27 moons are named for characters from the works of William Shakespeare and Alexander Pope, two white dudes. Its atmosphere is leaking out into space. As far as planets go, it’s the least capable of taking a joke. Uranus is no god of the sky.
Those reasons are not themselves sufficient, however, in explaining why Uranus is offensive. No, the real reason Uranus is offensive is the same as why the names for allthe planets are offensive. Naming the planets after Greek gods just reinforces patriarchy on a cosmic level. How can NASA truly achieve its goal of inclusivity if it doesn’t acknowledge this?
Starting with the one closest to the sun, we have Mercury, the messenger of the gods. He was also the god of financial gain (read: greed), and we don’t need a giant Gordon Gekko orbiting the sun. Canceled.
Then there’s Venus, goddess of love and beauty, who is just a tool of the patriarchy. Buh-bye.
Up next, it’s Mars, the god of war. War is bad, okay? Gone. Well, how about Jupiter, the king of the gods? Kings are also bad. Sayonara.
Saturn is named for the god of agriculture. Saturn’s reign was marked by peace and benevolence, but his girlfriend was called Mother Destruction, so he’s out.
We’ve already covered Uranus, so next on the chopping block is Neptune, the god of water. Water is good and Neptune was one of four gods that one could sacrifice a bull to, but bulls also produce methane (think of the polar bears!), and too much water causes problems, so Neptune is canceled.
What about Earth? Our planet is not named after a god or even a mortal — so far, so good. The word Earth, however, is derived from Old English and thus represents a tacit endorsement of colonialism. It’s time to ditch that one, too.
Some may object to renaming all the planets because it’s unnecessary and ridiculous. Well, those people should probably be canceled, too.
In 2020, there is no element of life, or lifeless planets, too small or too trivial to not get outraged over. It’s time for us to stop being the change we want to see in the world and start being the change we want to see in the universe. To not do so would be to not go too far enough!
It always amazes me just how stupid reporters are. Maybe stupid isn’t the right word, ignorant is more like it. How do people who claim to be the arbiters of what is news not follow the news? Seems like knowing what you’re talking about would be an important component of journalism, especially since journalism considers itself “the first draft of history.” But for too many of these left-wing teleprompter readers and Democratic Party stenographers, history just started yesterday.
MSNBC anchor Katy Tur is known not for her depth of knowledge on important issues, but her basic ignorance of things that happened in her lifetime is disturbing. In a debate in 2017 with a Republican congressman (because why wouldn’t a “news” anchor debate a Republican?), she exposed how unaware she was of something that happened in 2012 – when then-President Barack Obama told then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to tell Vladimir Putin he’d have “more flexibility” after the election. It was news to Tur, whose excuse was, “To be fair, I didn’t touch politics in 2012. I almost exclusively covered fires and shootings in NYC area.” Apparently New York City doesn’t have cable news or newspapers.
But all the ignorance of things that happened before today isn’t limited to television personalities. Colby Itkowitz, who covers national politics for the Washington Post, showed just how oblivious a reporter could be and still hold a job. Saturday, after President Trump signed executive orders related to tax policy and coronavirus relief, Colby tweeted, “Let’s ponder the most played out question of the last four years, but can you imagine if Obama had broken up a congressional stalemate over funding by simply signing an executive order and saying it was so? (jinx @pbump).”
This is particularly stupid for a number of reasons. First, in tagging her co-worker Phillip Bump, she showed she was quite proud of beating him to this declaration, that this sort of talk is common around the Post. Second, President Obama changed large sections of Obamacare with the stroke of his magic pen well within her lifetime. Third, if history didn’t start until Trump was elected, you’d at least think a reporter covering national politics for a major newspaper would be aware of the legal challenges to the DACA program, especially since the Supreme Court just ruled on it in June.
All of these escaped Itkowitz’s notice, somehow. When her ignorance was made apparent to her, she did what all good “journalists” would do – deleted the tweet and pretended it never happened.
Lest you think it’s just the younger media types who are ignorant of history, the senior citizen-set appears to have a memory rivaling Joe Biden’s as well.
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote a column titled “No Wrist Corsages, Please,” Saturday about how it’s been since 1984 that Democrats had a man and a woman on their presidential ticket. “It’s hard to fathom, but it has been 36 years since a man and a woman ran together on a Democratic Party ticket, writes @MaureenDowd,” the Times tweeted about a column Down had written proclaiming the same.
I understand why liberals would want to forget the 2016 election, and why everyone would like to forget Hillary Clinton, but you’d think someone in the multi-person editorial process that takes place before anything gets published by the Times would have a memory of it. (Not to mention ignoring the 2008 Republican “mixed-gender ticket.) You’d be wrong. The correction, “An earlier version of this column incorrectly stated the history of the Democratic ticket. It has been 36 years since a man chose a woman to run as his vice-president on the Democratic ticket, not 36 years since a man and a woman ran together on a Democratic Party ticket,” is one for the record books.
These are but three examples of ignorance of recent history from people working in a profession noted for the smugness of its practitioners.
Sadly, journalism is important. Unfortunately, we aren’t getting any. We’re getting self-righteous lectures from arrogant know-nothings who, whenever possible, ignore their mistakes, which uniformly go in one direction – against Republicans. Is it any wonder that 86 percent of the public in a recent survey said they find either “a great deal” (49 percent) or “a fair amount” (37 percent) of bias in media? They used to at least pretend to be honest.
Of course, when you operate in an ever-shrinking bubble of likeminded colleagues, you don’t even notice the problem. A new study found“Beltway journalism ‘may be even more insular than previously thought,’” which the authors say raises “‘additional concerns about vulnerability to groupthink and blind spots.’”
If there’s no one in your circle who knows any better, you’ll never think you’re wrong and not know when you’ve crossed a line. If everyone you know is polishing their resume in the hope of getting a job in a Biden administration, you’d better update yours too. If Joe loses, you can fill that hole in your heart with the awards you’ll be showered with for your biased, incorrect reporting. And you don’t have to worry about being haunted by thoughts of betraying the ideals of your profession since history starts all over again tomorrow.
The pressure to reopen schools is on everywhere now that New York is doing it. This means something else big: Their hard opposition to school reopenings is politically devastating for Democrats.
Prominent Democrat politicians have started making huge concessions on reopening schools. Back in May, Democrats pounced after President Trump supported reopening. Despite the data finding precisely the opposite, it quickly became the Democrat-media complex line that opening schools this fall would be preposterously dangerous to children and teachers.
In July, when New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a plan to put the city’s 1.1 million school kids back in schools half the week and “online learning” the rest of the week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo picked a public fight with him, saying, “If anybody sat here today and told you that they could reopen the school in September, that would be reckless and negligent of that person.”
Then on Friday, Cuomo cleared schools to open this fall, just a few weeks after making uncertain noises about the prospect as teachers unions breathed down his neck. That same day, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s minority leader, joined the Democrat messaging reversal:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tucked the posture shift into a Saturday response to Trump’s latest executive orders, saying “these announcements do…nothing to reopen schools,” as if Democrats have been all along supporting school reopenings instead of the opposite. Just a few weeks ago, Pelosi was on TV bashing Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for encouraging school reopenings, saying, falsely, “Going back to school presents the biggest risk for the spread of the coronavirus. They ignore science and they ignore governance in order to make this happen.”
What gives? For one thing, New York’s richest people have fled during the lockdowns. If their kids’ tony public schools don’t offer personal instruction or look likely to maintain the chaos of rolling lockdown brownouts, those wealthy people have better choices. They can stay in their vacation houses or newly bought mansions in states that aren’t locked down. They can hire pod teachers or private schools.
And the longer they stay outside New York City and start to make friends and get used to a new place, the less likely they are to ever return. Cuomo is well aware of this.
“I literally talk to people all day long who are now in their Hamptons house who also lived here, or in their Hudson Valley house, or in their Connecticut weekend house, and I say, ‘You got to come back! We’ll go to dinner! I’ll buy you a drink! Come over, I’ll cook!’” Cuomo revealed in a recent news conference. “They’re not coming back right now. And you know what else they’re thinking? ‘If I stay there, I’ll pay a lower income tax,’ because they don’t pay the New York City surcharge.”
Reopening means swimming against their anti-Trump base and teachers union donors’ full-court press to amp school funding and slash teacher duties. That means the below-surface financial and political pressure Cuomo, Pelosi, and Schumer are under to make this kind of a reversal must be huge. It’s likely coming from not only internal polling but also early information about just how many people have left New York and New York City, as well as interpersonal intelligence from their influential social circles.
This means three things. First, the pressure to reopen schools is on everywhere now that New York is doing it. Second, Democrats’ hard opposition to school reopenings has been politically devastating. Third, all the push polls and media scaremongering promoting the idea that most parents shouldn’t and wouldn’t send their kids back to school have failed.
One of the most significant reasons it failed is that parents’ experience with online pandemic schooling was a horror show. Another is that private schools have clearly outpaced public schools’ response to coronavirus. That’s both in offering quality online instruction when forced to close, and in seeking to remain open as much and as safely as possible, all while teachers unions have been staging embarrassing tantrums over people on public payroll actually having to do their jobs to get paid, even though epidemiologists have noted “there is no recorded case worldwide of a teacher catching the coronavirus from a pupil.”
Public schools have been so clearly shown up by private schools during the coronavirus panic that state and local officials have begun to target them specifically, and have carefully included them in all onerous government burdens on school reopenings, to reduce their embarrassment and bring private schools down to the public school level as much as possible.
The most prominent recent example is in Maryland, where a local bureaucrat in one of the nation’s richest counties specifically banned private schools from safely teaching children in person, and is now battling with the state’s Republican governor over the edict. In North Carolina, many private schools are offering safe, face-to-face, five-day instruction, while most public schools are not.
Part of this is just that government bureaucrats hate individuals making their own decisions based on their own circumstances (a major reason for mask mandates, by the way). But also they’re scared because the coronavirus panic is expanding the massive fault lines inside public schooling. And public schools are a feeder system for Democrat support.
Before coronavirus hit, a near-majority of parents already thought a private school would be better for their kids than public school. People really are not happy with public education. Mostly they do it because they think it’s cheap.
But politicians’ handling of coronavirus has shown that public education is actually very expensive. The instability, the mismanagement, the lying, the public manipulation, all of it has tipped many people’s latent dissatisfaction with public schooling into open dissatisfaction. It’s a catalyst. Now many more people have decided to get their kids out of there, either by homeschooling, moving school districts, forming “pandemic pods,” or finally trying a private school.
Like all the rich people leaving locked-down locales, parents removing kids from locked-down public schools have scared public officials. If just 10 percent of public-school kids homeschool or join a private school for two years, that is a watershed moment for the social undercurrent of animosity towards public schools. That is especially true in the government funding era we’re entering, in which government debt and health and pension promises are set to gobble up education dollars faster than ever, a dynamic that was already ruinous before it was accelerated further by the coronavirus.
This is dangerous to Democrats’ political dominance because the education system tilts voters their way through cultural Marxism, and because public education is a huge source of Democrat campaign volunteers and funds. Now Democrats have detached people from their conveyor belt. The consequences will be huge.
Reopening public schools the way Democrats are doing is not going to stave off this tsunami, either. New York City’s “reopening,” for example, includes several days per week of distasteful online instruction, as well as a rule that a school will close for two weeks any time two inmates test positive for COVID. That’s a recipe for endless school brownouts that will drive parents and kids nuts. Humans simply can’t live under this manufactured instability, by the pen and phone of whatever self-appointed petty little dictators feel like changing today.
Democrats are trying to have it both ways. They’ve learned that parents are not going to put up with putting school indefinitely on hold when everything from swimming to climbing stairs is more dangerous to children. But they also want to maintain the fiction that coronavirus is an emergency situation that requires tossing trillions of dollars in deficit funding out of helicopters, keeping people cooped up and restive as an election nears, and purposefully choking the nation’s best economy since before Barack Obama got his hands on it.
Democrats are their own worst enemy. The problem is, the rest of us are so often their collateral damage.
U.S. newspapers collected millions from Beijing to publish propaganda
The New York Times quietly deleted hundreds of advertorials that the Chinese Communist Party paid to publish on its website.
A Times spokeswoman told the Washington Free Beacon that the move is a reflection of a decision to stop accepting ads from state-run media. “We made the decision at the beginning of this year to stop accepting branded content ads from state run media, which includes China Daily,” she said.
The Times‘s decision to end its partnership with China Daily is part of a society-wide reckoning about the cozy relationships between the Chinese government and American institutions, from the NBA to Harvard University. While the paper is responsible for some of the most gut-wrenching stories about Chinese government oppression, it has also run more than 200 propaganda articles in the last decade, some of which sugar-coated China’s human rights abuses. One 2019 video ad, for example, promoted Xinjiang tourism by depicting the oppressed Uyghur people as content under Chinese rule.
China Daily, an official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, has been purchasing advertorial spaces in the pages of mainstream U.S. media outlets for the last decade, using the space to disseminate Chinese propaganda to millions of unassuming Americans. In return, U.S. newspapers such as the Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal received millions of dollars.
Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.), a member of Congress’s China Task Force who has spearheaded efforts to rein in the distribution of Chinese propaganda, applauded the Times for terminating its relationship with China Daily.
“The New York Times has done excellent, detailed reporting on the ongoing Communist Party atrocities in Xinjiang and around the world,” the congressman said. “That reporting has finally had an effect—at the New York Times—and it no longer supports covering up the CCP’s barbarity. I hope the other outlets follow suit and start putting American values over Communist bribes.”
After the Free Beacon found that China Daily failed to follow federal disclosure requirements about its relationship with U.S. media outlets, Banks and 34 other Congressional Republicans demanded a Justice Department probe into the outlet. Following the demand, China Daily submitted a revised disclosure of its U.S. activities since 2016, revealing previously undisclosed details about its ties with U.S. media organs.
The new disclosure revealed that the Post and the Journal each received more than $100,000 per month to run print versions of Chinese propaganda articles. The Times received $50,000 in 2018 to place the propaganda on its website, presumably a small fraction of the revenue it made selling print space to China Daily. The new disclosures also showed that China Daily paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Houston Chronicle, and other large regional newspapers to print copies of the China Daily for local distribution.
A Post spokesman told the Free Beacon that the outlet has not published any China Daily advertorials since 2019 but did not clarify whether the Post formally terminated its relationship with the propaganda outlet.
Yaqiu Wang, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, urged other U.S. media outlets to follow the Times‘s example and end their relationships with Chinese state media. “If you care about the truth, then don’t participate in the Chinese government’s machinery of propaganda, censorship and repression,” she said.
Two recent pieces in Vox and the New York Times say outright what many of us have long understood is an implicit belief among our elite media: that the media are motivated — and should be motivated — by ideology, not objectivity.
Of course, the ethics guidelines and mission statements of leading outlets have yet to acknowledge this reality, and many still read like paeans to the old gods.
“Our fundamental purpose,” the New York Times cautions its reporters, “is to protect the impartiality and neutrality [of our] reporting.” The Washington Post insists on strict “fairness” and that it “shall not be the ally of any special interest.” We are “unbiased, impartial, and balanced,” declares the Associated Press. “Non-ideological objectivity” is what the Los Angeles Times assures readers it maintains. “Professional impartiality . . . without our opinions,” is the standard declared by National Public Radio.
But if you look at what journalists actually say about each other and their racket behind closed doors, at the champagne-soaked galas where they hand each other prizes, you’re hard-pressed to find an acknowledgment that impartiality or balance are even virtues at all.
The most insider-y of these onanistic lovefests is the annual Mirror Awards, hosted by the prestigious Newhouse School of Public Communications and focused on reporters who cover the journalism industry itself.
One of this year’s nominees for “Best Story on the Future of Journalism,” the Pacific Standard’s Brent Cunningham, perhaps captures the new media zeitgeist most starkly in an article spotlighting reporters who hold the “belief that journalism’s highest calling [is] not some feckless notion of ‘objectivity,’ but rather to . . . expose the many ways the powerful exploit the powerless” and “f*** ’em . . . with the facts.” Indeed.
Reporter Jon Marcus was nominated for a piece in Harvard’s Nieman Reports about reporters who withhold certain facts — say, the name of a mass shooter — in a move that’s come to be called “strategic silence.” While Marcus says it’s a “fraught and complex debate” that “media organizations are struggling with,” he rehearses an Olympian leap of logic from a left-wing activist at Media Matters, who argues that reporters should apply this strategic silence to the leader of the free world, too: The idea is that they should refrain from reporting statements by President Trump that they determine are not “inherently newsworthy” or that they classify as “misinformation.” Say what you will about the man — he probably shouldn’t be covered like a gunman.
Forget about laying out the facts, or airing competing viewpoints, or writing “the first draft of history.” Americans are far too thickheaded for that. Marcus cites another sage who observes that “assuming media literacy . . . may be optimistic.” Yet another one of his sources bemoans journalists who assume that if you merely “throw facts at someone . . . that’s going to change their minds.”
The other nominees for the 2020 Mirrors (19 in all, across six categories) hardly need the encouragement to selectively slant their reportage. The list includes a host of liberal media darlings singing straight from the progressive hymnbook. In the eyes of the Newhouse School, apparently no conservative writers came up with any worthy media criticism in the last year.
Elsewhere The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, a writer whose leftism is more knee-jerk than a can-can dancer’s, was nominated for an essay called “Trump TV,” which explains that, gee whiz, Fox News tends to support the president. Move over, Bob Woodward.
The Mayer love gets meta, too. Nominated for “Best Profile” is a piece by Molly Langmuir that appeared in the glossy magazine Elle, titled “What’s Next for New Yorker Reporter Jane Mayer?” Here is what the awards committee regards as an exemplar of “hold[ing] a mirror to their own industry for the public’s benefit”: “In person, Mayer, who is petite with brown shoulder-length hair she usually wears down, the tips slightly flipped up, displays a confidence that has no visible fault lines. She also has a tendency toward self-deprecation. And while her mind often seems to whir with seamless elegance, this appears to fuel in her not impatience but curiosity.”
And here’s a detail that didn’t make it in alongside the flipped tips: Mayer was recently excoriated by critics across the ideological spectrum for a baseless and uncorroborated hit piece she co-wrote, the central claims of which were later disavowed by “several dozen” sources contacted by the New York Times.
In an Orwellian flourish, Langmuir explains that to Mayer, the “furor from both the left and right” over the piece was a consequence of her and co-author Ronan Farrow’s own “attempts at carefulness.” Mayer told Langmuir that she had focused on the “‘accountability portion, trying to be fair,’” you see. Plus, Mayer’s certainty on the unsubstantiated accusation she did get into print was “informed by [another] incident Mayer learned about, the one she didn’t get into print.” Got that? The reporting rejected by every other mainstream outlet except The New Yorker was backed up by reporting rejected by every mainstream outlet — including The New Yorker.
If Mayer was at all chastened by the denunciation of her work by her peers, it’s hard to tell. In her most recent piece, “Ivanka Trump and Charles Koch Fuel a Cancel-Culture Clash at Wichita State,” she returned to one of her pet obsessions. Riffing on original reporting in the Wichita Eagle, Mayer deceptively claimed that Koch Industries “threatened to withdraw its financial support for the university” after Ivanka Trump was disinvited from giving a commencement speech. But the source article makes clear that neither Koch Industries nor Charles Koch threatened any such thing. A company spokesperson said explicitly that the company was not pulling funding and in fact stressed its commitment to “academic freedom.”
Maybe Elle ought to hold off on the puff profiles, and Mirror on the awards, until Mayer can master faithfully representing all the facts she finds reported in regional newspapers?
And that isn’t even the biggest coffee-spitter Mirror Awards nominee. That honor would go to David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun, saluted for his opinion piece applauding MSNBC host and serial prevaricator Brian Williams. “At this moment when journalism and a free flow of reliable information are under continual attack from the Trump administration and its many media allies,” Zurawik proclaimed, “our democracy is made stronger by having Williams . . . at the end of each weeknight to offer perspective on the political and cultural warfare” in our “nation’s civic life.”
But that’s tame stuff compared to the outright agitprop of the nomination for a multipart series jointly published by the Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation, “The Media Are Complacent While the World Burns,” which argued that the press doesn’t spend enough time talking about climate change. Right, and the New York Post ought to devote more ink to a plucky ballclub from the South Bronx called the Yankees. A recent report found that in 2019 the top five U.S. newspapers combined ran between 400 and 800 articles per month that mentioned climate issues. The top seven TV news outlets (ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, NBC, PBS) combined covered climate issues between 200 and 400 times a month.
For the authors of that series, Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope, the sheer volume of this reporting isn’t good enough if it doesn’t send readers to the ramparts. “Instead of sleepwalking us toward disaster,” they insist, “the US news media need to remember their Paul Revere responsibilities — to awaken, inform, and rouse the people to action.”
Let me suggest a different historical analog for Hertsgaard and Pope. It was a former newspaper editor, Vladimir Lenin, who once wrote, “A newspaper is what we most of all need . . . [in] the pressing task of the moment. . . . Never has the need been felt so acutely as today for reinforcing dispersed agitation . . . that can only be conducted with the aid of a periodical press. . . . A newspaper is not only a collective propagandist and a collective agitator, it is also a collective organizer.” That’s why, to turn the sleepwalkers into the fully woke, Lenin created the infamous Department of Agitation and Propaganda, or “agitprop” for short.
For all that they say the quiet parts out loud, most journalists still want to have it both ways. They want the satisfaction of slanting coverage to suit their ideological commitments but without giving up the authoritative veneer of neutral objectivity. This duplicity helps explain why surveys from leading media groups like Pew Research show a fast-growing majority of Americans no longer trust the news.
The Mirror Awards, at least, seem to have sensed which way the winds are blowing and are sailing in that direction. They’ve moved away from their promise that the prizes should “recognize reliable reporters who criticize the media and put their own views aside [to] be transparent and objective” and toward the consensus that the problem is “the media’s reliance on objectivity and what some see as false equivalency,” as Newhouse professor Joel Kaplan puts it.
Objectivity is for suckers. A reporter’s own subjective assessment is what counts, and the public is depending on the media to tell them what to think and how to vote.14
Fine. But treat readers like grownups. Polemic masquerading as unbiased reporting demeans everyone involved, making liars out of the press and treating the public like idiots. So why not end every article with a shirttail stating plainly the reporter’s point of view? The author of this piece is a committed progressive and would like [insert desired political result] to come from the issues raised here.
The Newhouse School could even give the first New York Times or Washington Post reporter to adopt the practice an award for bravery.