Archives for category: Fourth Estate

Reading today’s press and watching the news and news talk shows is very much like “going to church”: there is never any doubt about how to feel about anything said, for what we hear is never just the facts, the stories. Always there is a moral or attitude attached. The preachers take special pains always to communicate this clearly, for otherwise the flock shall stray.

img_5132What I’m saying is, the press’s function is almost identical to the Church’s in days of yore, and it is inhabited largely by the same kind of people, though surely not identical in substantive moral content.

Today’s Church worships the American State as understood by the two major denominations: the Center-Left — which has been compromised by having fallen under full sway of the ambitious and cultic Progressive Left — and the rebellious Protestant sects — I mean, the Center-Right — with Fox being the still-dominant force.

To understand this era’s politico-culture war think in terms of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, a bloody and inglorious affair, despite so much earnestness all around.

fingerpointingIt makes me yearn for the wall of separation between news and state. Though we do not have an Established News, we do very much have Establishment News, with newspeople circulating to and from the State in regular four-year cycles.

And that Establishment really, really hates the rising Dissenting Sects, who have taken Fox’s lukewarm Protestantism to Anabaptist extremes.

Historically, the Reformation led to the Enlightenment and modernity as we know it. One would hope that something of that nature is building up again, and that out of the current crisis of legitimacy and sectarian strife a new order will emerge.

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A. Sean Hannity is almost impossible for me to watch. His form of ideological “entertainment” is not only not my cup of tea, I often find it despicable. He seems to be iffy on principles — inconstant, anyway — and his support for Donald Trump was hard to take.

B. Media Matters lied and completely mischaracterized Hannity’s handling of the Roy Moore allegations. And pressured a coffee maker company to pull its ads from his show.

C. Media Matters — why would you want me to sympathize with Sean Hannity?

D. How is Media Matters not worse than what they say about Hannity?

E. If you approved of Media Matters’ action regarding Hannity and still do after you learn (you could listen to the interview, yourself, if you cared) that Media Matters was engaging in outrageous deception, how are you not worthy of boycott, too?

F. Do you see where this partisan bubble enforcement is a bad idea? Now? Or do you think complete culture war is a great thing, and should be embrace?

G. Just how far would you be willing to go?

H. A lot of Sean Hannity’s fans and defenders (I’m now the latter if still not the former) own guns.

I. You. It comes down to your standards. What will it be?

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This is the modern world: teen male suicides spiked to almost 15 per 100,000 in 2015, but the headline and point of the article is to focus on teen female suicides, which have also risen . . . but to a mere 5.1 per.

This is the truth, men and boys: you are expendable. The general tenor of the culture expresses concern far more for girls than for boys, women more men, and in this case the difference of concern can be expressed as a mathematical ratio.

And let us not pretend that we are witnessing some sort of outlier, here. This sort of unequal concern, by sex, is visible in courts as well as headlines, in taxpayer-funded programs as well as colleges, in legislation as well as lifeboats.

Nevertheless, I suppose we can quibble to whom, precisely, we should impute this specific case of unequal interest:

  • to the female author of the piece,
  • to the editors of the site (it was picked up elsewhere, too, verbatim),
  • to their expectation of reader preference, or
  • to the readers themselves.

But experience allows me to make a generalization: this fits with the actual (rather than professed) aim of feminism, which is to promote women over men and girls over boys. Feminism has not been about sexual equality. It is a particularist, not a universalist ideology.

If this still astounds you, consider: doctrines of equality do not get named by merely one of the two things said to be equal.

Do not think, however, that I am especially incensed about this radical sexual inegalitarianism in favor of what used to be called “the fairer sex.” The preference is not new. It is biological, really, and boils down to the economy of scarce eggs and abundant sperm. I am subject to the bias myself.

But it does give us a cause for several distinct reactions:

  1. To doubt patriarchy theory;
  2. To conclude that feminism is a form of sexism; and
  3. To chortle.

Popular modern moral crusades (such as feminism) are risible, and their pretensions to lofty idealism cannot be believed by honest inquirers.

Young men: learn to laugh. Your enemies are many, but they are indeed ridiculous.

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CNN’s article was ably mocked this weekend by Sargon of Akkad, who noted that the gist of the piece (which he said drove him “nuts”) gives some cause to acknowledge the claims of Men’s Rights activists.

This answer to the title question first appeared on Quora.

Because people are, for the most part, ill-educated and unthoughtful.

Is that aggressive enough? Sorry. Let me be more specific.

The idea that there are not diminishing returns to government, that kludge cannot be a problem for law, that hormesis does not apply — this sort of nincompoopery is actually promoted by politicians, who gain prestige by enacting laws and “standing out” . . . and gain reëlection funds from special interests for feeding into the legislative pile-on. (Big businesses and government employee unions really like kludge.)

Further, journalists and other media personnel play a game of hysteria-mongering and messianic politics, to make themselves feel more powerful, meaningful. So they continually feed the absurdity.

Finally, citizens fall for all this nonsense because they do not have many incentives for rational appraisal, seeing as they cannot directly effect change and thereby learn from mistakes. So they tend to rely upon dogma and virtue-signaling, instead.

Tribalism fuels this too, and everyone plays the fool. This is a bipartisan folly. There are several sectors of American society that are routinely betrayed by the parties to which they are most loyal. I’m thinking especially of African-Americans by the Democrats, and evangelical social conservatives by the Republicans.

These two groups find themselves trapped by partisanship, and thus can stand in for the nation as a whole. They routinely play the role of Chump. They are milked by their leaders, shamelessly.

Maybe we should laugh. Crying, whining, and voting don’t do any good, anyway.

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N.B. John Stuart Mill, in his great and under-consulted Considerations on Representative Government, argued that “Instead of the function of governing, for which it is radically unfit, the proper office of a representative assembly is to watch and control the government; to throw the light of publicity on its acts; to compel a full exposition and justification of all of them which any one considers questionable; to censure them if found condemnable, and, if the men who compose the government abuse their trust, or fulfill it in a manner which conflicts with the deliberate sense of the nation, to expel them from office, and either expressly or virtually appoint their successors.” We might notice, here, that creating new laws is not the body’s most “proper office.” A representative body should never limit itself to creating new laws, and never pride itself chiefly on that task.

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Interesting. The National Review excoriates American media avoidance of an obvious truth, the Islamic roots of today’s terrorism. Or, more exactly, last year’s Pulse nightclub shooting. In “Why can’t people face the fact that the killer was an Islamic extremist?,” the august conservative magazine’s editorial intern Tiana Lowe makes a clear case:

One year ago yesterday, Omar Mateen went into a gay nightclub in Orlando and murdered 49 people. While on the phone with a 911 operator, Mateen made his motive clear: “Yo, the air strike that killed Abu [Waheeb] a few weeks ago – that’s what triggered it. They should have not bombed and killed Abu [Waheeb].”

There we have it. A radicalized jihadist self-identified as “Mujahideen” and an “Islamic soldier,” American born and raised, committed the deadliest mass shooting in American history, directly targeting the LGBTQ+ community in the name of a murdered Islamic State militant.

After briefly relating the results of official investigations, which disproved convenient “homophobia” explanation, Lowe goes on to identify a pattern of media avoidance, fantasy and prevarification on the subject. “With only an ‘Islamophobic’ narrative remaining after those pesky facts, the media have decided to pay tribute to the barbaric murder of 49 infidels with a ‘senseless violence’ narrative.”

“Pulse gunman’s motive: Plenty of theories, but few answers,” read an Orlando Sentinel headline.

The Washington Post referred to the night 49 people “died” as having been “upended by gun violence.”

The New York Times equated the terrorist attack with “a year of racism,” with the insinuation that Donald Trump spearheaded the latter.

It didn’t matter that Mateen intentionally targeted the Pulse Nightclub as an attack on liberal values; his true crime was gun violence. An uptick of fear of Wahhabism and non-Westernized Islam is not a product of observation and inference; it’s irrational, a blanket Islamophobia.

The truth is just an inconvenient narrative.

While nothing in Tiana Lowe’s argument strikes me as obviously untrue, as near as I can make out, she veers off the truth by doing what she accuses others of doing.

That is, while arguing that others miss the primary and plainly true story, our author herself misses the primary and plainly true story: the terrorist terrorized as retaliation against a bombing strike by the United States military and allied forces.

What we make of this may surely be debated. But cannot we agree that, by not emphasizing or interrogating at any length the act identified by the terrorist himself as the inspiration for his retaliatory strike — instead identifying his behavior as merely an example of “Islamic extremism” — a crucial element of terrorism has been elided?

Note what, precisely, is missing. This fact: The United States is at war. Innocent civilians routinely pay the price, in their very lives, in the cause of that war.

And not just “over there” — here too.

Ignoring this aspect of the conflict surely dissuades us from consideration of the concept of blowback, and insulates our military adventures from criticism on the grounds of unintended consequences.

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The Major Media, Desperate, Will Now Apparently Stoop to Anything in Its Social War Against Outside-the-Beltway Americans

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This could be the most important video you will watch this week:

Why would the Wall Street Journal send three journalists to do a hit piece on a popular YouTube comedian, basically tearing out of context his jokes so that he looks (to gullible Journal readers) like an “anti-semite.”

pewdiepieOn the face of it, doing a “scoop” on “PewDiePie” is an absurd bit of overkill. But Sargon of Akkad (Carl Benjamin) explains how this relates to the great issue of our time: the decline of major-media journalism, the rise of decentralized Internet alternatives, and, with it, the rise of populist politics.

One of the reasons I have not freaked out over the election of Donald Trump has been that I have had some inkling of his social and historical function. To excoriate Trump over and over is to side with the establishment and its social war with the majority of Americans. Mainstream media journalism has become worse than a joke. It has become the broad institutional equivalent of a lying tyrant.

The establishment — consisting of the media, the institutions of “higher learning,” and the permanently employed bureaucracies of the federal and state governments (the latter employed with cushier salaries, benefits and pensions than the average American worker) — has effectively marginalized those parts of the population that it has not bought off (with government subsidies), rewarded directly (by feeding them into the academic-bureaucratic and military-industrial complexes), or duped (with propaganda designed to feed self-righteous tribalism).

Thus it has been that a liar was chosen by the marginalized to play tyrant in the overthrowing of the establishment. It is an historical pattern: you ape your enemy to defeat the enemy. (I do not condone this; I merely note this.) And I, for one, will be glad to see the media establishment finally fall. The extent of their pernicious grip on American institutions can hardly be over-stated. The benefit for us could be enormous. The possibility of a freer future may open up.

Certainly, with the major media as hegemon, no real hope for social transformation can come.

The major media outlets are largely (in America, Fox excepting) insider-progressive. And, to unbuild the corporatist tyrannies that Progressivism and its allied movements (socialism, social democracy, Fabianism, fascism) have placed upon the West, the major media must first be put in their place.

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There is a huge gap between “demonizing the media” and sanctifying it, idolizing it.

While Trump may be “demonizing” his targets in his hilarious recent confrontations, Kasparov is definitely giving our current major media outlets too much credit by having them stand for “the free press.”

Where does he go wrong? Where to start? Well, here: Kasparov’s statement that a free press “can never be the enemy of a free people” is absurd. Any person or any institution can turn to work against the public interest. We all know this.

Except, apparently, for partisans . . . when criticizing those they disagree with.

While I heartily agree that we, the American people, need a free press more than we need a childish autocrat, I wonder where Kasparov stands on Thomas Jefferson’s famous statement to the effect that “a government without newspapers” would be worse than “newspapers without government.” He said this while being no friend of the dominant press of his day.

Remember, Jefferson criticized “the media” of his time, and for good reason — the Federalist papers in 1800 even went so far as to declare him the Antichrist, as someone who would confiscate all Bibles. But that did not mean that he also attacked the free press . . . instead, he defended it, and not just now-and-then, but constitutionally.

And remember, Jefferson did squeak in to turn the tide against his predecessors’ policies. In this one way, 2016-2017 looks more than a little like 1800-1801.

Regardless, let us settle this definitively: why does criticizing the media not amount to opposing a free press?

Answer: Because criticizing “the media” is just short-hand for criticizing some media outlets — some journalists and their organizations. Perhaps what is usually meant is the dominant media. Usually what is under attack is just the partisan media — of the other party.

This is all so obvious that one wonders how Kasparov and the many people who repeat the same argumentative gambit can carry their heads with anything other than shame. Your guys are not the whole of the free press. To attack the one is not to attack the other.

What he has done is lump together disparate things, and then condemn his enemy for doing something that his enemy did not do. Trump did not say, nor have I ever heard him say (I am willing to accept any factual evidence to the contrary that you provide), anything against the institution of a free press. What he has argued against is the reportage, bias, and excessively partisan commentary of major media outlets*, CNN most especially.

And, having watched CNN recently, I think Trump has been entirely within the realm of propriety to attack this “Clinton News Network.” CNN’s coverage of politics is so prejudiced and partisan that not only has it supplied its side with debate questions in advance, it regularly prevaricates. The method it does so is as Clintonian as its loyalties.

If Kasparov thinks it “despotic” for a President to castigate and ignore a media outlet, what did he think of President Obama’s constant harping on Fox News, and the way he treated its correspondents in press conferences?

While folks like Trump who decry “the major media” or the “MSM” or just “the media” obviously intend to be engaging in synecdoche, and everyone with half a brain knows that this usage is innocent of logical fallacy, the anti-Trumpers who pretend that this be not synecdoche but, instead, a dangerous, broad-brush equation of part and whole prove themselves either base rhetoricians or witless buffoons in the game of debate.

Who makes up the Stupid Party now?

For the record, I do not know how dangerous Trump is. Right now, he seems more entertaining than any previous president, more active and efficient than recent ones, and more intent on following through on political promises than any politician I can remember.

This does not mean I agree with what he is doing. Far from it. I did not like even half his promises. I did not vote for Trump. I did not support him, except in one way: to note, over and over, how much worse Hillary Clinton was than he seemed. Hillary was the worst Secretary of State in recent memory, a warmonger and a center-left power-luster with a sense of entitlement at least as large as Trump’s own narcissistic ego. And, now that Hillary Clinton is out of the way, I am more than willing to oppose Trump, especially regarding his insane protectionism.

But I hope I can do so honestly.

Much of the hysterical opposition to Trump seems to focus on the man’s style. He seems to lie in new ways,  brushing off falsifications with greater ease than any past pol. He speaks in remarkably simple ways without reminding us of the Bushisms of the two previous Republican presidents. And he is surely the opposite of the abstruse and periphrastic John Kerry.

We do have something of a new creature on our hand — at least the latest hopeful monster in a strange course of evolution. And he is changing in front of our eyes, in part because of how the Left has opposed him, with all rhetorical guns a-blazing. He is a person moved mightily (perhaps most) by issues of loyalty and betrayal. So he is moving further away from his Democratic Party roots under the onslaught of current Democratic outrage.

And Kasparov has jumped in line with the outrage brigade. It is sad to see someone lose grip on the nature of noble rhetoric and argumentation.

When you stoop to using logical fallacies to make your point, you have lost.

At least, in the eyes of those of us sporting a more philosophical bent.

Hint: you cannot promote “accountability & the truth” while simultaneously slinging fallacy and engaging in base rhetoric.

And remember: the great and noble thing about a free press is not that it is “press” but that it is “free.” We here on our blogs and social media are part of the solution. We are the freer press.

But even that does not make us right. We must still mount attacks upon behavior and policies by recourse to facts and logic.

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N.B. I chose Kasparov’s tweet at random. There are many similar, almost identical tweets, memes, what-have-you. It is almost as if a memo went out, saying: HERE IS WHAT TO SAY. (Perhaps I need to read those Move-On emails I get every day.) So, Kasparov serves as a symbol. He stands in for many another egregious anti-Trump paranoiac. It is too rare to see honest criticism — which I would (and do) welcome. Kasparov’s tweets neatly serve to represent all the similar nonsense one hears on the talking head “newscasts,” on the comedy put-down shows, on social media, and out of the mouths of protestors who know only a lockstep uniform ideological response. In all other matters, Peace be unto him.

* Actually, Donald Trump has complained that the press has been “unfair.” That is an inelegant and whiny way to complain about the lying press, the fake media. But I never said that Trump was an elegant or philosophically astute man of letters. Far from it.

I like Charlie Booker. He sports a droll, mocking presentation style, probably my favorite “attitude” of all the topical comedians now in play.

However, this year-end round-up — 2016 Wipe — is more interesting as an example of fake news. Not as comedy.

Since some of the subjects here being made fun of were issues and debates I know quite a lot about, it was instructive to watch him effectively distort the news, the better to serve the prejudices of his elitist, London insider audience. Indeed, he frankly says so, at one point. But we’re supposed to take it as irony. I guess.

I took it as earnest confession.

First example? Brexit supporter (and Euro MP) Dan Hannan. Booker’s editing suggests that Hannan was lying when he said the Brexit issue was mainly about sovereignty, one of the few times in the show when that issue came up. But Hannan is eloquent, and precise. His primary interest in sovereignty was clear from every video I saw of him. I mean, the videos are still up on the Web, right? Maybe I noticed merely because I’m separated from Britain by an ocean and a continent.

In any case, it’s not as if this couldn’t be checked.

Or take Hillary Clinton — please. Booker glosses right over all her scandals, never drawing the real gallows humor latent in every move of her shrill, smug campaign. It is almost as if Booker were trying to score ideological points with his comrades in the show’s audience rather than be funny. Oh, say it ain’t so, Charlie!

Or take the NeverTrump protests both before and following the election . . . or the relentless sabotage (and Twitter-feed death threats) that Trump withstood from the beginning of his campaign. No mention how the pre-election shennanigans turned out to have been orchestrated from high up in the Clinton campaign. The revelations coming out just weeks before the election. No notice of how the same folks who had been, before the fateful Tuesday, decrying Trump’s droll suggestion that he would accept the outcome of the election “only if” he won, next took to the streets to cry “Not my president!” when their side lost. Are you sure you could not find any cause for laughter, here? I thought hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance were the very stuff of topical comedy.

Charlie Booker apparently “knows better.”

This past year was filled with insanity on all sides. And yet, somehow, Booker makes it look as if the wholly insane could only be found in the ranks of Leave/Trump vothers.

There was one genuine bit of satire, though, when he interviewed a Leave voter and then shouted the man down before he could get three words out in a row. In that moment he did acknowledge that “his side” was, indeed, habitually throwing stones in their glass domiciles.

You’ve got to pick and choose a lot to make a comedy special, I know. But 2016 Wipe wasn’t so much topical satire as apologetics — if in the form of despairing mockery.

Sad. Sad indeed.

It could have been so much funnier if a teensy bit honest. Pay me his fee and I could write a funnier year-end review. At least I would capture the spirit of the age in all its witlessness.

Oh, and speaking of witlessness . . . you know what I noticed most? Repeated revelations of poor education. Ms. Cunk, near the very end (how apt) showed no knowledge of what the word “apocalypse” originally meant, how it became what it now “means,” and how both definitions work together to nod, knowingly, at the real human predicament. Instead, she runs through a brain-dead, uninformed view of the current devastation that her class feels. Oh, the feels.

In that, the show did not serve as satire, but merely as mildly entertaining grist for real satire.

For a much better attempt, scorn the professionals and give the amateurs a chance. Sargon of Akkad did a far better job than Booker did. Sure, he is serious. But also funnier:

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Matthew Blanchfield, the CEO who refuses to do business with Trump supporters, was interviewed by Tucker Carlson on tonight’s new Fox news opinion show, Tucker Carlson Tonight. Not the best interview ever; not the worst. Least favorite Tucker moment: when he suggested the man couldn’t even define the term “fascism.” Tucker should have innocently asked the man what he meant by the word.

Worst moment for Blanchfield is a little harder to identify. It seems weird to me that his shareholders would approve of cutting off a whole bunch of clients, thereby losing potential profits. Why no questions about how the owners of the company reacted to the CEO’s stand, Tucker?

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Blanchfield’s best moment was an aside: his thinking that Trump might take office despite losing the popular vote “quite ironic,” considering the charges of a “rigged system” that Trump made so much of in the election. There is irony here, though I’m not sure Blanchfield and I would agree on its precise nature.

One possible worst moment — Blanchfield messed up his challenge to Tucker, re: doing business with Nazis. I can see why Tucker might’ve been nonplused, since the exact manner in the formulation of the question was witless and confusing. (“If you were a member of the Nazi Party in the Forties, in Hitler’s day, would you have done business with Nazi Party members?” Yikes, that goes off track, eh?) The man seems to think that fascism is the same as a dictatorship under an authoritarian.

Terrible definition of fascism. I mean, come on: I recently read the Gentile and Rocco and Mussolini treatises, and there is more to it than just a grab-bag epithet for tyrants one does not approve of.

Tucker was probably right to not extend the pissing match over definitions very far. But I think it is incumbent upon him to explore the concept in future shows.

A teachable moment, I’d say.

Blanchfield, whose moral courage I kind of admire, had some problems with definitions far beyond the one word. Indeed, not long after he claimed to be aware “what all these definitions are,” he then proceeded to misuse the word “turpitude.” (Another possible worst moment.) He praised “having the moral turpitude to stand up against the masses” as very American, as “what a citizen and a patriot actually does.” What? I know, I know: he meant “moral courage” — or maybe he was thinking of “temerity.” But that’s a word demoting excess, inherently a pejorative.

“Audacity” would do better, maybe? The audacity of . . . ?

It was a bizarre interview, to say the least.

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Vile, evil, and craven. That is — to name the representations of these concepts in our time — Donald Trump (vile), Hillary Clinton (evil), and America’s press corps (craven). This article (“This Election Has Disgraced the Entire Profession of Journalism”) is from a leftist journalist (Ken Silverstein) with some integrity. And almost entirely spot on.

We have two unbelievably shitty candidates, neither of whom is fit to lead the country.

But it is too painful to dwell further on the presidential candidates. Turn your attention to the journalists. What can we say? Maybe “craven” is too weak. How best to characterize the major media outlets and their ostensible “journalists”? Servile. Cultish. Worthy of utter destruction and salt sown into the presses and TV cameras involved in their craft.

Worse than the two major candidates. And that is bad. Bad indeed.

This election has exposed as never before that there is indeed a media elite, bound together by class and geography, that is utterly clueless about its own biases and filters. A vast number of journalists covering the presidential campaign are economically privileged brats that seem blissfully unaware that for most Americans, the economy is in recession and people are terrified.