"Fox News" just ran a story they headlined "Empty Shelves Joe" and put up a photo of empty grocery shelves behind him.
One big problem -- the photo is a store in Japan.
In an area that people were fleeing because it was near a nuclear power plant.
Once upon a time, this was the sort of story you'd roll your eyes at from "Fox News" and chalk it up to "Well, that's 'Fox News.'"
But this isn't eye-rolling anymore. This is a fascist, abusive attack on democracy. And one of the tenets of fascism it to attack power sources and make the public distrust the truth.
They knew what they were doing. They've done it regularly -- as they say in the courtroom, it's "pattern and practice." Using old photos wrongly to build up Republicans and tear down Democrats. Perhaps most infamously, of the Trump inauguration crowd, show a crowd from a few years earlier, which people were able to identify because of a building not being where it should have been. And even if you're "Fox News," you don't screw up a photo of a local grocery store today with one from a decade earlier in Japan over a story about a nuclear power plant.
This is just a case of a "news organization" giving up any pretense of trying to trick you into thinking they're presenting the news and just tossing out the concept of truth.
I know this isn't new concept, "Fox News" not caring about the truth. They took it to new levels during the pandemic, helping lay out the red carpet to the mortuary and killing off their viewers with knowing misinformation. They were doing it heavily with the "Big Lie" about how the election was fraudulent -- until they got threatened with a massive lawsuit by one of the companies who make voting machines, and their hosts noticeably backed up.
So, no, the idea that "Fox News" lies heavily on behalf of Republicans isn't new. But I think it's become a different matter to the extent that they don't care about the truth. Before it was to their benefit to care about the truth because they wanted to be seen as a News Organization, which therefore let their lies sneak in under the guise of respectability. And the truth and lies blended into one another.
But no more. Now if there's truth being reported, that's just an accidental occurrence. What I think happened -- and this is just a guess --- is that once upon a time, "Fox News" had the far-right field all to themselves. So, they could afford to toss in truth now and then, because their audience had nowhere else to go. But now there is OANN and Newsmax. And so, "Fox News" has competition. And OANN and Newsmax are so far to the right that Attila the Hun seems moderate, and truth is an alien concept in both places. Which "Fox News" has to go up against for their far-right audience.
And caring about the truth is the first casualty.
So, no, blatant lies and manipulation of the truth is no longer eye-rolling for "Fox News." It is very intentional, it is fascist, and it is an attack to undermine democracy.
Chris Wallace got out just barely in time to save his credibility and soul.
A couple days ago, Salon published a very good article by Chauncey Devega, titled -- "Stop calling the GOP fascists 'hypocrites': No one cares, and they have no shame." His point is basically that liberals waste too much time trying to make an issue of the hypocrisy of Republicans, and that's a waste of time and focus, since hypocrisy is almost one of the features of today's GOP.
He goes into a lot of thoughtful detail. And I liked the article very much. But I do have a couple of disagreements with it.
The first is the title (which, in fairness, he likely didn't write) and the other is what he gives as his only reason why liberals and Democrats call Republicans hypocrites (which directly leads to why he says calling Republicans "hypocrites" is meaningless).
1) If the GOP doesn't care about being called hypocrites, they won't care much or at all about being called fascists, and so calling them that won't stop them either -- yet he does so. And rightly does so. It's flawed logic, largely based, it seems, on his preferred choice of name-calling nouns. Yes, Republicans would vehemently deny they're fascists, but then they also generally deny being hypocrites, usually coming up with contortions to explain why their positions aren't hypocritical at all. (Sort of in the same vein as, "We don't listen to what Trump says, only what he does." Which is further twisted by the reality that they listen to him all the time. They just weed out the things that would force them to admit being hypocrites.)
Also, just on general principle, I rarely like when someone says "No one cares." While there might be some things in life where almost no one -- or even actually no one -- cares, for the most part it means "I don't care, and many others don't either." But it's clear that A LOT of people care that Republicans are hypocrites. If the title had said, "None of them care," it might have still been an exaggeration, but one that hews much closer to the truth. The headline writer might have though "None of them" was implied, but it wasn't. "No one" is pretty clear.
2) He's right, too, why liberals and Democrats call GOP hypocrites. It's along the lines of "God's judgment is called down to punish the 'hypocrite'' who has transgressed against the democratic order and its supposed commitment to truth and facts." And also they want Republicans to admit they were wrong and so await an "expression of repentance and a kind of conversion experience, in which Republicans and their followers come back to reason and fully commit themselves to 'normal' social and political behavior."
I'm sure that's a reason, and he's right about it -- but not as the only reason, which is how he dogmatically states is. Life is far too complex for just one reason to explain something so deeply central to the core idea of truth. And among many of those other reasons, perhaps, I would suggest, even the most important reason, is that Democrats and liberals also call out hypocrisy so it isn't accepted as normal. If you ignore pointing out hypocrisy, then words and positions lose their meaning. You can say whatever you want without ever being held to account for who you are and what you stand for, and you will continue to do so. And that's why it's important to keep calling hypocrisy. We just shouldn't expect it to matter to GOP fascist hypocrites. But then, we don't live by their standards.
Those two points aside, the article is sharp, insightful and well-worth reading. You can find the whole thing here.
Yes, it was pretty good when the January 6 House Select Committee presented their evidence yesterday for why former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows should be held in contempt, and then to bolster their case read several pleading text messages to him, including several from “Fox News” hosts and even sonny boy Don Jr. to please stop the insurrection.
A few thoughts about these.
The first is you’d think that since Don Jr. had his father’s phone number and could have just called to say, “Er…dad…” That he didn’t and instead wrote to Mark Meadows is certainly a fascinating family dynamic.
The other is that, although many people are pointing out how “Fox News” hosts Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Brian Kilmeade were reprehensibly hypocritical, indeed out-and-out lying, by telling their viewers that the riot should be blamed on “antifa” and Black Lives Matter while, at the same time, texting Mark Meadows that Trump’s own rioting supporters were undermining his legacy, that – as repugnant as it is – is only of secondary importance to me. After all, I think most people who aren’t “Fox News” viewers expect such deception to be the case. It’s certainly valuable, of course, that this blatant, dangerous hypocrisy is there in clear written texts for all to see, but I still would be shocked to discover that any “Fox News” hosts actually believed what they were saying on the air. More notable to me, though, is that these supposed “news” people were directly involving themselves in the news they were reporting on, to the point of telling the White House Chief of Staff what they thought he should do – while the story was going on. In fairness, yes, I suspect that many people assume that to be the case with “Fox News,” as well, that its hosts are often in policy-based discussions with Republican officials. But again, this was during the news story they were actively on the air doing reports about! To me, that’s taking it to a much higher level.
(Or then, there's also what the inveterate Chris Dunn noted to me -- that, knowing they could actually get through, rather than the first thought of the "Fox News" hosts being "This will be bad for Trump," far-better would have been "People are going to get hurt" or at the very least, "This does great harm to the country.")
In the end, this is a bit of high-level nitpicking: “Which is the most galling action by “Fox News” hosts? Here are five options, including ‘All the above.’” There probably isn’t really a wrong answer here. All the more notable since the standards you’re dealing with for “Fox News” are egregiously low.
Far more to the point is that the evidence seems to be pouring out of witnesses and crashing down on Trump, his administration and closest acolytes in the circle around him. I don’t know where this will lead in the House investigation, and with the DOJ, and among Republican officials. I do know, though, that history shows that the more it rains a torrent of damning evidence, the more rats tend to leave the sinking ship to protect themselves.
How many rats are willing to leave is another matter. As is what this will all mean to the general public. But I would suggest that the more evidence that pours out against something horrifying that most Americans saw live as it was happening, revealing an attempt to overthrow democracy, is generally not the campaign platform a political party prefers for itself going into a mid-term election.
But hey, this is today's Republican Party. Who knows what in the world they actually stand for? Overthrowing democracy seems as an accurate a brand for them as any.
I like The Rachel Maddow Show. A lot. But I always record it and wait about 20 minutes or so before I start watching – mainly so that I can fast-forward through her 10-15 minute opening history lesson which only has a tangential connection to the news story it’s leading to, usually one that (while interesting) shouldn’t necessarily be the lead story.
To be clear, I like that she gives history for perspective to the news. It’s not only often valuable, but can be important, as well. The problem is that I occasionally know the history, and also it can usually be told in a lot less time than she uses – which is important because an hour-long TV show only has about 44 minutes of content.
(I also will fast-forward through her endless repetitions of a point. Mind you, as readers of these pages know, I like to use repetitions. They’re a very good thing. But generally not four or five of them. And when I do use that many, it’s for dramatic structure, building to a point, not to Make Sure You Got What I Just Said.)
But mainly, it’s the history lessons at the start of the show, that for some reason she seems to think that if there’s a history tale behind it then that adds enough gravitas to make it the day’s lead story. Occasionally it should be the lead story – but not because of the history. Because of its meaning for the day, impacting people’s lives the most. And usually, it shouldn’t be the lead story. Just one for later in the show.
And so, in today's world with democracy at risk – indeed the day after The Rachel Maddow Show spent two-thirds of its broadcast on that very subject, based on an in-depth article in The Atlantic -- I could only shake my head when The Rachel Maddow Show spent, no, not the first 10 or even 15 minutes to History, but -- the first 20 minutes of their 44 minutes doing a history story about…about removing a statue.
It was a valuable story. The statue was of the first leader of the Ku Klux Klan. And it was interesting. (At least what I saw of it when I’d pause the fast-forwarding.) But it could have been done in six minutes. It should have been done in six minutes. And it should not have been done as the Lead Story of the Day.
After all, yesterday was the day President Biden had a video meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, brought about by a build-up of Russian troops on the Ukraine border. Rachel Maddow did get to that, happily. Eventually. Well into the show.
And by the way, yesterday was the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. One would think that if you’re going to do a history lesson, that would be a really good one to delve into. Not necessarily as The Lead, though it could be since its historical impact on American and world society was profound. Alas, she didn’t even mention it. That's right, Rachel Maddow -- history maven -- did not mention the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Because – after using up 20 minutes on removing a statue – there wasn’t time.
(Fun Fact: Even ESPN found time to mention the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor on their one-hour SportsCenter show of game highlights. And did a very good filmed piece on it, and the event's overlap with athletes involved.)
Oh, and there also was zero mention on the Maddow show of the egregious far-right "election fraud investigation" in Wisconsin that finally issued its findings – and said that they found absolutely no widespread voter fraud. A major story for its impact on America today – a story, in fact, that the show has been covering. A lot. Just not the results. Because there wasn't time to talk about it. They were too busy dealing with the…y’know, the history over the removal of a statue.
I like The Rachel Maddow Show. A lot. But I do record it so that I can fast-forward.
The problem is that even though I’ve figured out a way to deal with the interminable history lessons, that’s not good enough. Rachel Maddow has a very important platform on MSNBC – indeed, in the world of news. And to waste so much of it on overly-detailed history lessons as The Lead Story when you have such limited time is, to me, irresponsible.
And I love history. It was my minor in college, and it’s one of my favorite things to read. I’ve read the entire 11-volume set of Will and Ariel Durant’s Story of Civilization. And I like very much that Rachel Maddow gives history lessons.
But not how she does it. That’s a waste of precious time, most especially in an era when there is not as much time to waste as one would wish.
Over the weekend, CNN anchor Jim Anchor took a look at "Fox News" -- with a special eye for Tucker Carlson and its periodic guest Ted Cruz -- that for eight minutes was near-operatic.
There is an expression we hear today, when someone says, "I call 'bullsh*t' on..." someone. Well, Jim Acosta does that -- not metaphorically, but literally. And repeatedly.
It's best just to turn the floor over to him.
Yesterday while watching Andrea Mitchell Reports on MSNBC, they did a brief piece on the meltdown by Ted Cruz and other Republicans over Big Bird from Sesame Street sending out a tweet about kids getting vaccinated. But Mitchell's story left out one important point, which I tweeted. I wrote --
"Note to @mitchellreports -- if you do another story about Republicans "outraged" at the beloved fictional Muppet Big Bird for advocating the COVID vaccine, I hope you mention that Big Bird has been supporting that kids gets vaccinated since 1972!!! Almost half a century!"
This brought about an angry response -- not about me, but about Andrea Mitchell who tends to get criticism from both the right and the left when she does something they don't like. The person wrote --
"She sucks, and how her and Chuck Todd still have jobs, is beyond shocking"
Well, I thought that was a tad harsh, especially given her long and distinguished career. And normally I'd have let it slide, but since it was addressed to me, I didn't want my silence to suggest agreement. So, I wrote back --
"I don't agree. She doesn't always do stories the way I wish, & it bugs me but I don't expect her to report to my standards. However, in the Big Bird story she did jab Cruz & others for attacking a fictional character. And showed Big Bird's tweet saying he'd been vaxxed for years."
And that brought about a note from my correspondent, who replied --
"That's a fair assessment."
I could only just roll my eyes. I mean, yes, I did add a little bit of information, but it was pretty minor. Especially since it was written to someone who wasn't just complaining about this one small report, but stating bluntly overall that Andrea Mitchell "sucks" and how it's "beyond shocking" that she even has a job.
Mind you, I'm not complaining. I was explaining the person to begin slamming me as a right-wing apologist and something. So, I was actually quite pleased by the reply. But the eye-rolling for such a 180-degree switch from the outrage (!!) was too much.
Yes, hyperbolic angst is alive and well on social media, even when people don't exactly mean it.
Ah, the fun of juxtaposition and unintended whimsy. (At least I think it's unintended, though I wouldn't swear to it or put money down on the bet. Especially since the odds at press time are only 57-43, at best...)
RawStory had an article yesterday about the Trump-backed candidate for governor in Arizona -- Kari Lake, a very far-right, former local TV anchor of affiliate -- and how she was with a well-known Nazi sympathizer at an event. However, the photo that RawStory used gave it all a hilarious and wonderful double-entendre.
Now, I can make a good case why this juxtaposition was unintended -- but I can also make an almost-as-good case that it was very intentional.
On this week’s ‘Not My Job’ segment of the NPR quiz show Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, the guest is PBS news reporter and host of Washington Week in Review Yamiche Alcindor. She and host Peter Sagal talk about a bit about how she became better known to the public because Trump didn’t like her questions – and they talk, too, about an early job of hers scaring ducks away from McDonalds. And an early job in news being the “dead whale reporter.” She also explains that when friends invite her to parties, they often put her the table with strangers because she’ll ask so many questions she’ll get everyone talk. The point is that it’s a surprisingly very-fun interview.
This the full Wait, Wait… broadcast, but if you want to jump directly to the “Not My Job” segment, it starts at the 18:00 mark.
Reuters had an absolutely great “Part 1” article yesterday about the surprising close relationship between OAN and AT&T – which apparently help fund its start up and provides about 90% of its money. The article has gotten a bit of attention on social media, though I haven’t seen it covered yet on the TV news.
It's titled "A Reuters Special Report: How AT&T helped build far-right One America News."
The article begins --
"One America News, the far-right network whose fortunes and viewership rose amid the triumph and tumult of the Trump administration, has flourished with support from a surprising source: AT&T Inc, the world's largest communications company.
"A Reuters review of court records shows the role AT&T played in creating and funding OAN, a network that continues to spread conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and the COVID-19 pandemic."
The thing is, not all of this detailed investigation required much digging, nor would it stand up to denials. Indeed, it turns out that the head of OAN, Robert Herring Sr, testified under oath in court that the launch of his channel came from AT&T.
“They told us they wanted a conservative network,” Herring said during a 2019 deposition seen by Reuters. “They only had one, which was Fox News, and they had seven others on the other [leftwing] side. When they said that, I jumped to it and built one.”
The details and current funding only get deeper from there. Including that AT&T provides 90% of the income for Herring Networks, the parent company of OAN -- a figure that, again, comes from OAN's accountant under oath.
Although this is only Part 1, it’s very long. However, I think you can jump through much of it, if it's too long. In fact, I skimmed through the middle part because that's where they go into detail about what OAN is and some of their transgressions. I knew some of that, but mainly I was most-interested in the connection with AT&T, which they cover in the beginning section and then return to it again in the third section at the end.
You can read the full Part 1 of the series here.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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