I would have mentioned tonight’s debate in the headline, but I’m not fond of thinking about the future of American democracy resting on the ability of Donald Trump to speak coherently and to control himself. Who came up with this script anyway?
Then again, God works in mysterious ways…
1. In Alaska ethics news…Here’s an ugly ethics train wreck, and one of the best examples I could imagine of the old adage, “Don’t sleep with anyone crazier than you are,” except it doesn’t seem like there was sleeping involved.
The mayor of Anchorage, Ethan Berkowitz, resigned last week after admitting that he had engaged in an “inappropriate” “consensual messaging relationship”— I’m not even sure what that is”—with an Anchorage news anchor.
Berkowitz’s resignation followed an unsubstantiated claim in a video posted to social media by the news anchor, Maria Athens, promising viewers an “exclusive” story showing that the mayor engaged in sex act with underage children. When the mayor responded by calling the allegations “slanderous” and false, Athens posted what she said was an image of the mayor’s bare backside, and added a laughing emoji.
Yes, she is apparently insane. The Anchorage Police Department said it had worked with the F.B.I. to investigate the allegations about the mayor and “found no evidence of criminal conduct.”
Before Athens posted her video online, she had left a voice message for him in which she engaged in an emotional rant, made anti-Semitic references and promised that she would be exposing the mayor as “a pedophile.” “I’m going to get an Emmy, so you either turn yourself in, kill yourself, or do what you need to do,” Ms. Athens said, according to the audio clip. She then said she would personally kill him and his wife.
That must have been some messaging relationship.
Athens, 41, is—well, was– the main news anchor for two outlets, KTBY and KYUR. The station owner said the video she posted had not been approved. After her video went up, Athens was arrested following a physical altercation with her boss at the station, and was charged with misdemeanor assault, criminal mischief and disorderly conduct.
So remember, kids, never engage in an inappropriate messaging relationship with someone crazier than you are.
2. Apparently news anchors are going nuts all over. How’s this sequence for strange?
- Rush Limbaugh spoke sincerely and emotionally to his audience about his lung cancer, which he says is terminal, and appeared to get choked up on the air.
- Reliably vile conservative talk-show host Michael Savage, who makes Rush seem like Tom Hanks by comparison, tweeted,
“Limbaugh’s crying about his cancer on air! Worst 15 minutes in radio history! Spilled a large coffee all over counter and floor. I PROMISE MY AUDIENCE THIS- I WILL NOT DRAG YOU DOWN WITH ME! Best wishes RUSH, but stop and leave the stage with dignity.”
Then he criticized Rush for not being like Lou Gehrig. He really did. You know, if there are two people I always associate with each other, it’s Rush Limbaugh and “The Iron Horse.”
- In response, unemployed former Fox News, former NBC news anchor Megyn Kelly shot back, “I think I speak for, oh, pretty much everyone when I say STFU you absolute douchebag.”
Somehow, I can’t imagine Barbara Walters, David Brinkley or Walter Cronkite …or even Dan Rather…tweeting something like that.
3. Yet another story I don’t understand at all. It all began with the satire site the Babylon Bee mocking Senator Hirono, who deserves to be mocked, with one of its lesser efforts, writing facetiously,
WASHINGTON, D.C.—After two days of Amy Coney Barrett gracefully and stoically answering questions with perfect recall and no notes, suspicions grew on Capitol Hill that she might be a practitioner of the dark arts. “Oh, she’s a witch alright, just look at her!” said Senator Hirono. “Just look at the way she’s dressed and how she’s so much prettier and smarter than us! She’s in league with Beelzebub himself, I just know it! We must burn her!”
Senator Hirono then pulled a live duck out of a massive burlap sack next to her and announced: “In addition to being a Senator, I am also quite wise in the ways of science. Everyone knows witches burn because they are made of wood. I think I read that somewhere. Wood floats, and so do ducks– so logically, if Amy Coney Barrett weighs as much as this duck I found in the reflection pool outside, she is a witch and must be burned.”
The Democrat senators nodded in solemn approval while the Republicans yelled and pounded on their desks a bunch before pouncing and booking interviews with Tucker Carlson.
Congressional aides brought in the bathroom scale from Jerry Nadler’s office in order to weigh ACB against the duck. Fortunately, disaster was averted when Mitch McConnell entered the room and put a stop to the proceedings.
Ha ha! Okay, that was pretty lame, but lamer still was the next development: Facebook deleted the post for “inciting violence,” and demonetized the Bee’s site as punishment. The satire site appealed, causing a human being to check the work of the computer algorithm, and the allegedly real person concluded that Facebook’s decision to delete the post was valid.
The culturally literate among us recognize the Bee’s gag as a recycled bit from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”
Then blogger/law professor Ann Althouse, whom I believe has been slowly driven bonkers by the Presidential campaign, wrote this bizarre analysis:
The threat of burning and the verbal image of burning a human being — a specific, famous person — is violent. It’s certainly not a true threat, because witch burning is a familiar trope in American discourse and because, if somehow we’re confused about whether literal witch burning is a possibility, we can be confident that Barrett weighs significantly more than a duck…
I’m not impressed by the “regurgitated Monty Python” argument. Not everyone knows the movie. I saw it long ago but didn’t remember this part, which actually isn’t a good reference point if the aim is to make Hirono look stupid and wrong….[She then shows the clip]
…There, you see that the character who proposes the duck-weight test is attempting to devise a method of convincing the mob that the woman is not a witch. So the Bee lacks originality — cutting and pasting text from a movie script — and it isn’t even very good at selecting what text to use.
But Facebook doesn’t have a policy against unoriginality, inapt quoting, and lame humor. Facebook teems with that stuff. The question is whether equivalent violent language — with reference to a real person — is censored the same way when it is posted by non-conservatives. I don’t know the answer, but if [The Babylon Bee] wants to make an argument that works on me, he needs to point to similar things from the other side that Facebook has not targeted.
This gets my “Murder by Death” clip:
No, professor, what’s wrong with banning the post isn’t that it might not be even-handed or shows a double standard. What wrong is that it’s stupid. The spoof article doesn’t “incite” violence by any possible analysis. The fact that the “verbal image of burning a human being” is violent is beside the point: since it’s an obvious joke to anyone with a couple of live neurons to rub together, it cannot possibly “incite violence.”
What’s happened to you?
Finally, last night, Facebook reversed the decision and apologized in a statement to Fox News, saying, .
“This was a mistake and we apologize that it happened. Satire can be difficult for our systems to identify, but we’ve restored the article and their ability to monetize.”
The Babylon Bee CEO was not impressed, and neither am I.
“Why did it have to take getting the media involved to fix this? And why did it happen in the first place?” Dillon asked in response.. “This was not just an algorithm flagging an article in error. Yes, that happened. But then a manual review took place and the ruling to penalize us was upheld. I notice they left that part out.”
Well, to be fair, apparently Ann Althouse wouldn’t have caught the “mistake” either….
What’s going on here? What was going on was that Facebook was clumsily trying to protect The Dumbest Senator Alive from just mockery, and was acught making a fool of itself. Again.