I can say “good morning,” can’t I? Can I tweet it? Is it moderate enough?
About calling the news media “the enemy of the people”...Foolishly, people are cheering Senator Jeff Flake’s dishonest and cheap characterization of President Trump’s description of the news media as “words infamously spoken by Josef Stalin to describe his enemies.” They were also words used by playwright Henrik Ibsen about 70 years before Stalin used them. The device of finding the most revolting person ever to use a phrase and then connect a current speaker to that person is an unethical abuse of the cognitive dissonance scale, and as low a political tactic as I can think of right now, but I’m sure “the resistance” will come up with a lower one.
Flake’s entire speech was below the belt demagoguery. By what measure, for example, is a Presidential aide’s ad lib comment on cable TV about “alternative facts” “enshrining “alternative facts” into the American lexicon.” The news media did the enshrining, Senator. The White House never mentioned the term, not even once. “2017 was a year which saw the truth — objective, empirical, evidence-based truth — more battered and abused than any other in the history of our country, at the hands of the most powerful figure in our government” is simply a lie. 2017 was a year which saw the truth battered and abused by the one profession whose job and duty it is not to abuse the truth: journalists. Worse, the did much of it to create fear, disrespect and distrust of the elected President of the United States, because they wanted someone else to win.
Flake reminds us that the press is protected by the Constitution, and he seems to believe, as the news media does, that this special status that they abuse daily, hourly, by the minute, should insulate them from deserved criticism and distrust no matter how they misinform and the degree of harm they do in the process. Let’s take just a single cable anchor: Chris Cuomo. He told the public that they could not legally read the Wikileaks leaks, but the news media could. He tweeted that “hate speech” was not protected by the First Amendment. He sid last week that the President’s alleged use of “shithole” irresponsibly polluted the minds of children, when if he spoke that word at all, he spoke it behind closed doors, with the understanding that he was dealing with responsible professionals who would not intentionally breach their implied promise that the meeting was private and confidential. Those are three flagrant examples of journalism malpractice, and off the top of my head. If I chose to, I could find dozens more, and that’s only one “respected journalist.”
The resistance to the President’s description is in some cases denial, and in more cases a deliberate deception to allow wrongdoing to continue. I am cross-posting the following from my comments today on another post:
If judges started sentencing based on political views, would I call them the enemy of the people?
If doctors defied “first do no harm” and began letting the poor, criminal and stupid die to benefit the nation in their warped view, would I call the medical profession the enemy of the people?
If accountants decided that their fealty was to the companies that paid their salaries and not the public, so they were willing to lie on financial statements, audits and tax returns, would I call them the enemy of the people?
If lawyers routinely betrayed client confidences, and criminal lawyers made half-efforts to defend clients they thought were guilty, would I call the legal profession the enemy of the people?
If church leaders sent child-raping priests back into parishes because they wanted to protect their denomination’s reputation, would I call their church the enemy of the people?
In fact, I will.
Thus I am consistent—and correct, and responsible,—in calling a profession dedicated to independent, objective, competent communication of vital facts to the public that instead engages in deception, incompetence and partisan manipulation to the detriment of the political process, civic literacy and societal comity the enemy of the people.
And so is the President.
UPDATE: Pointer to Other Bill, who sent along this John David Davidson quote from Real Clear Politics:
“The one thing Jeff Flake gets wrong and the mainstream media gets wrong is that the number one threat, if there is a main threat to our democracy, when it comes to the media, it’s that the media has totally thrown away its credibility with the American people. There was this Gallup poll that showed more Americans have a negative view of the media that have a positive view of the media. That is not good for a democracy. We need to have a robust, credible media to hold power accountable and to inform the citizenry. We don’t have that right now because the media does not see itself as the guardians of free speech, the guardians of common Americans, holding power accountable. They see themselves as protectors of the status quo.”
2. And speaking of sinister…Are our elected representatives really so naive and addled that they can’t see the danger in this? From CNBC:
Facebook, Google and Twitter told Congress Wednesday that they’ve gone beyond screening and removing extremist content and are creating more anti-terror propaganda to preempt violent messages at the source.
Representatives from the three companies told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation that they are, among other things, targeting people likely to be swayed by extremist messages and pushing content aimed at countering that message. Several senators criticized their past efforts as not going far enough.
“We believe that a key part of combating extremism is preventing recruitment by disrupting the underlying ideologies that drive people to commit acts of violence. That’s why we support a variety of counterspeech efforts,” said Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management, according to an advance copy of her testimony obtained by CNBC.Bickert said that in addition to using image matching and language analysis to identify terror content before it’s posted, the company is ramping up what it calls “counterspeech.”
Facebook is also working with universities, nongovernmental organizations and community groups around the world “to empower positive and moderate voices,” Bickert said.
Google’s YouTube, meanwhile, says it will continue to use what it calls the “Redirect Method,” developed by Google’s Jigsaw research group, to send anti-terror messages to people likely to seek out extremist content through what is essentially targeted advertising. If YouTube determines that a person may be headed toward extremism based on their search history, it will serve them ads that subtly contradict the propaganda that they might see from ISIS or other such groups. Meanwhile, YouTube supports “Creators for Change,” a group of people who use their channels to counteract hate.
The “Redirect Message?”
“Empowering positive and moderate voices?”
George Orwell, is that you?
Google is being sued, and credibly so, by James Damore, engineer who filed a class-action lawsuit Monday claiming that the technology giant discriminates against white men and conservatives. Twitter is being sued on similar grounds, by one of many conservative commentators who had his feed suspended. Facebook, as we discussed earlier this week (Item 3), is changing its news feed to allow less outside news and opinion to penetrate the echo chamber, because it makes people anxious. Facebook wants to emphasize “what’s good for people.”
What the three tech giants are describing is censorship, indoctrination, partisan propaganda and thought manipulation, and our elected representatives are saying, “Duhhhh, GREAT!”
No, I don’t trust Google to decide what views are “extremist.” I don’t trust Facebook to be wielding “counterspeech,” or to determine what a “moderate message” is. And I don’t trust Twitter to …well, I don’t trust Twitter period.
Our elected representatives are too lazy, ignorant and incompetent to know an existential threat to freedom of thought and speech when they see one.