Archive for the ‘Media’ Category
Jason Kottke has a great post on the trials and tribulations of the obit department.
Mary Elizabeth Williams provides plain talk to journalists who have no experience with abusive relationships
Many journalists lack real-life experience as a partner in an abusive relationship—thank God—which leaves them WAY out of their depth in trying to deal with Trump. They lack the experience of dealing daily with a narcissistic and disordered personality who’s accustomed to abusing others, from grabbing them by the pussy to the sort of vengeance he feels entitled to if anyone crosses him in any way, however slight, like claiming that he—he, Donald Trump—lost the popular vote. It’s also possible that some are in such a relationship currently but not yet ready/able to look directly at the situation, and so they simply block out things that would lead them to confront something they are now not ready confront. The effect is the same: they don’t see what’s going on.)
In contrast, Donald Trump has loads of experience in dealing with regular people in daily life, and he knows exactly how to handle them—e.g., promise whatever they want to hear, and once he has what he wants, discard them.
Compare: An ordinary person meeting a famous person is struck dumb, particularly if the famous person is one the ordinary person “knows” and admires (from afar). Such an encounter is extremely unusual for the ordinary person, who therefore does not know how to act in the situation. But for the famous person an encounter with an ordinary person happens all the time, so the famous person is quite comfortable: because s/he’s accustomed to this.
An ordinary person who meets many famous people, as does some rising start making the transition from ordinary to famous, will from the experience from these encounters learn how to handle it and loses the awkwardness and self-consciousness that s/he had at the beginning: it’s just a skill, learned through practice, and a famous person has more practice in meeting ordinary people than ordinary people have in meeting famous people.
It’s all a matter of having enough experience with a kind of situation to know how to react in that situation. See also this earlier post; from that post:
One interesting statistic: We were told that the average assailant has done 17 attacks [on women], so that the victim is totally outclassed just on the basis of experience. The victim is going through something for the first time, trying to work out a response on the fly, while the attacker has the advantage of experience and knows what to expect and how to deal with it.
But during the 12-week course [in Model Mugging], the students go through 54 very realistic simulated attacks, with full force. So if a student later faces an assailant, the experience tables are turned. The assailant just doesn’t have the depth of experience in dealing with physical assault that this particular victim does, and he finds himself out of his depth.
So Donald Trump knows exactly what to do with people like you, from long experience and much practice, but the ordinary person, without any experience with that sort of situation, is totally outmatched. He knows how to handle you, but you don’t know how to handle him. That’s how he got away with being a serial sexual assaulter for so many years.
Mary Elizabeth Williams makes some good points in her Salon column:
Friends, fellow members of the media and those of you with far more reach and influence than I will ever attain: I know you’re used to dispensing free advice, but let me offer you some today. If you don’t have a lot of direct experience with how vindictive, possibly unbalanced people behave, bless your heart.
If you’re low on the chain of groups that are currently being targeted by a former reality star and his rogue’s gallery of intended allies, congratulations on your good fortune. Now, I ask you to take a step back from lecturing everybody else about what is a “distraction” these days — because this would be an excellent moment to start listening and reconsidering some of your views.
In a period between Sunday and early Tuesday, Donald Trump, a man who lost the popular vote by 2 million votes and counting, went on a number of separate, reckless Twitter rants. First, he went gunning after the results of the election, falsely claiming, “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”
It’s a thoroughly bogus statement, one that can be traced to screaming conspiracy theorist and Sandy Hook truther Alex Jones. Trump next announced he would just met with former general David Petraeus and was “very impressed” with a man who not so long ago was under investigation for revealing classified information to his mistress.
He then moved on to a genuinely baffling series of tweets to his followers — including at one point, specifically a 16-year-old Oakland Raiders fan — about his ongoing media grudges. “What PROOF do u have DonaldTrump did not suffer from millions of FRAUD votes? Journalist? Do your job! @CNN,” he fumed, calling out CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny as “just another generic CNN part time wannabe journalist!
He added, “Pathetic — you have no sufficient evidence that Donald Trump did not suffer from voter fraud, shame! Bad reporter. There is NO QUESTION THAT #voterfraud did take place, and in favor of #CorruptHillary!”
It was a veritable smorgasbord of paranoia, narcissism and direct bullying. By Tuesday morning, he was still carrying on about CNN, but also cryptically threw in a new target, announcing, “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag — if they do, there must be consequences — perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!” (Note: Your right to burn the flag is constitutionally protected, as is your citizenship — at least for now.)
With every tweet, with every public declaration he makes — especially every one since Nov. 8 — Donald Trump reveals himself to be dangerously, willfully ignorant, hellbent on punishing his perceived enemies and profoundly butthurt about just about everything. And every time it happens, along come a trove of well-meaning individuals — often male, often white, often straight — to offer a scolding about how what Trump is doing is a “distraction” that “we” shouldn’t pay attention to.
I suspect that many smart, talented people, like Jack Shafer, who says we should “stop being Trump’s Twitter fool,” are coming from a genuine place, based on their own political and media experience. But let me break it down: Trump is not a politician. Trump is not a person with an iota of public service experience. Trump is, to say the least, a really outside the box human being. It is unhelpful to talk about him like any of the normal rules apply.
It also unhelpful right now to sermonize about who “we” are when many of “us” are immigrants, POC, women, persons with disabilities or members of the LGBTQ community. I’d love for the self-appointed arbiters of What Really Matters to grasp that much of the threat to American liberties right now is coming from people who are super duper invested in their white male privilege, so maybe you’ll excuse us if hah!
We’re a little burned out on guys like that telling everybody else how to think and behave. And if you, like Shafer, look at Trump and can be reminded of a petulant toddler and not an abuser, I sincerely envy you.
I suspect that if you’re accustomed to the world operating for you in ways it doesn’t for millions of others, the idea that a man who consistently behaves in a manner that shows himself to be uncurious, unkind and totally lacking in impulse control could attain the highest level of power does not compute. All around me, I see wise, nice people who went to good schools twisting themselves into knots over this. . .
If readers could click a “Fake” flag to identify fake news stories, then fact-checking is crowd-sourced. What could go wrong? Well, a lot of people who don’t like a report by (say) the NY Times could click the “Fake” flag and tar the story with baseless accusations.
The way around that is pretty easy: a whitelist of news sources that don’t do fake news: NY Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and so on. Links to whitelisted sources would not offer the “Fake” flag option.
I think this would be a relatively easy modification. (That’s a statement programmers hate because they hear it so often from people who have absolutely no idea of what’s involved.) The biggest effort will be curating the whitelist, which will grow over time, but that should be much more manageable than trying to curate individual stories.
In the meantime, Ben Smith has an interesting article in the Columbia Journalism Review:
Leaders of the most important tech companies in the world are grappling with fake news, as embarrassing screenshots of bogus Trending Topics and Google News headlines go viral. The presidential campaign turned a spotlight on this viral disinformation, but it has been growing for a while in a crack in the media sidewalk. Over the last few months, it overran its surroundings: In fact, fake news drew more engagement on Facebook than real news as the election drew to a close.
In particular, fake news—that is, hoaxes and false and misleading stories from hyper-partisan and other sites—took advantage of the widening gap between the booming platforms and legacy media companies. The tech companies now inform more Americans than any other news outlet. BuzzFeed News is among the very few professional news outlets fully native to that ecosystem. Most media companies are still spending the vast bulk of their reporting resources on print, broadcast, or paywalled digital distribution that isn’t made for those spaces. Filling that gap is now a central challenge for media and tech companies: How can media companies do professional journalism that reaches audiences on the major platforms? And how can the giant platforms make that professional journalism worth their while?
This gap played out through the coverage of the 2016 election. Conventional political reporting did a pretty good job revealing facts about Donald Trump: Reporters from The New York Times and the Washington Post to BuzzFeed News and Politico and elsewhere challenged and tested the candidate and revealed much that he had tried to conceal—tax returns, views on Iraq, sexist comments, and unlikely policy claims.
This was a heated, competitive chase. Our political and investigative reporters celebrated when we got a scoop, and we kicked ourselves when great competitors beat us to these stories.
At the same time, another team of our reporters was at work in a cavernous space full of strange new figures, and very few professional journalists. This echoey new world—think of the Upside Down in Stranger Things—is the wide open digital news space, where linear television only exists when a clip goes viral, paywalled legacy media sites are largely absent, and a relative handful of outlets—fewer after a year that saw Gawker collapse, Gigaom vanish, Mashable step back, and much of the new investment go into video aggregation—engage in hand-to-hand combat over basic questions of truth and falsehood.
Here in the gap between the speed of the tech transformation and the recalcitrance of changing media there are gleeful trolls spreading manic, entertaining garbage. There are deep conspiracy theorists who believe in false flags and (((hidden hands))). And there are, perhaps most hallucinatory, Macedonian teenagers for whom feeding Trump supporters what they want to hear on sites like WorldPoliticus.com and TrumpVision365.com was a good way to make a few bucks. . .
James Fallows has a good column on the Trump problem. Here’s just a part of it:
3) Dealing with this kind of man. While I was chronicling Donald Trump’s lies, outbursts, and attention-failures in the Time Capsule series, I received a large amount of mail offering medical hypotheses for why he might behave the way he did. I suspect the same is true of most other reporters who have written about him. And like most other press operations, while the campaign was underway, TheAtlantic deliberately decided not to “medicalize” any discussion of Trump’s behavior. Most of us are not doctors; even the doctors who were writing to us had not dealt with Trump firsthand; and from a civic point of view, the real issue was the behavior itself, not whatever label you might attach to it.
The campaign is now over; Trump is set to assume enormous power; and the world and the country need to understand how to deal with him. A reader with professional expertise in this field has sent a note on how journalism should prepare for Trump, especially in thinking about his nonstop string of lies.
Again, to be clear, this reader is not “medicalizing” Trump’s behavior or recommending that the press do so. But there are common-sense meanings for terms to describe behavior, which we can use without suggesting a medical diagnosis. We can say someone seems cruel without saying he’s a psychopath; that he seems amoral without claiming he’s a sociopath; that he seems moody or depressed without implying a clinical diagnosis. And in common-sense terms, anyone can see that Trump’s behavior is narcissistic, regardless of underlying cause. I turn it over to the reader:
Now that he is poised to assume power, I (and a lot of others) are feeling some urgency around holding his worst tendencies in check and preventing him from following through on his noxious campaign challenges.
It troubles me to observe that so far the news media are having trouble when they deal with him directly. I am seeing good investigative reporting on his conflicts of interest, for instance, but it looked like the NY Times just sort of rolled over when they interviewed him in person.
Nobody seems to realize that normal rules do not apply when you are interviewing a narcissist. You can’t go about this in the way you were trained, because he is an expert at manipulating the very rules you learned. It’s clear to me that reporters (and anyone else) who will deal with DT directly need to take a crash course in handling someone displaying these behaviors.
The Times got in trouble by trying to make sense of his words. It’s an easy mistake for people in a word-saturated medium to make, but anyone who’s dealt with a narcissist knows you never, ever believe what they say—because they will say whatever the person they are talking to wants to hear. DT is a master at phrasing things vaguely enough that multiple listeners will be able to hear exactly what they want. It isn’t word salad; it’s overt deception, which is much more pernicious.
But the Times fell for it. I’m watching the same mistake get made over and over again, but I don’t know how to help journalists get out of the trap. If we are going to survive the days ahead, someone needs to teach reporters the difference between naming narcissism—[JF note: which, to emphasize, there is no point doing]— vs. dealing effectively with a narcissist.
There’s a ton of information out there about how to deal with narcissists. I would really like to see journalists get as interested in the topic—and adept at the strategies—as abused spouses are. We need to somehow widely disseminate ideas for dealing with it.
Nicole Hemmer in the US News & World Report wrote an excellent and specific description of Donald Trump’s verbal style:
This is an intervention.
You have a problem.
He’s gaslighting you.
It’s a technique abusers use: Through manipulation and outright lies, they so disorient their target that the person (or in this case, the country) is left defenseless.
Trump is a toxic blend of Barnum and bully. If you’re a good mark, he’s your best friend. But if you catch on to the con, then he starts to gaslight. Ask him a question and he’ll lie without batting an eye. Call him a liar and he’ll declare himself “truthful to a fault.” Confront him with contradictory evidence and he’ll shrug and repeat the fib. Maybe he’ll change the subject. But he’ll never change the lie.
Evidence? He says he never settles lawsuits. He says he’s polling better than Clinton in New York. He says he never encourages violence at his rallies. He says he’s winning Latinos. He says he’s the first candidate to mention immigration. He says, he says, he says.
But forget all that, because evidence is for losers.
Political journalists have been repeatedly criticized for not confronting Trump on his lies. But of course they have. For political journalists, a politician caught in a lie is chum in the water. But when they confront Trump with his lies, he doesn’t behave like most people. He doesn’t blush or equivocate or argue. He steamrolls. He bullies. He lies some more. And the journalists don’t know what to do. They brought facts to an ego fight, and found them to be worthless weapons.
If it’s hard to wrap your mind around the gaslighting of a nation, just watch the dynamics at work on a single person: Michelle Fields. While covering a Trump rally last Tuesday, Fields was grabbed and pulled toward the ground. Ben Terris of the Washington Post reports seeing Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski do it. Fields has bruises on her forearm and there was audio of the event. Lewandowski himself reportedly told a Breitbart editor he grabbed Fields.
So what happened next?
Lewandowski said Fields was crazy. “Totally delusional,” he tweeted. Trump suggested she made the whole thing up. As my colleague Robert Schlesinger put it, “the Trump campaign pulled straight from the attack-the-victim playbook typically deployed against those who raise accusations of sexual assault – she’s delusional, she’s making things up, why didn’t she tell the police, she has a history of this kind of behavior.”
In other words: gaslighting.
And what does this look like as he does it to an entire nation? Let’s go to Chicago, where Trump cancelled a planned appearance, resulting in a series of scuffles between outraged Trump supporters and cheering protestors.
Appearing on Sean Hannity’s show that night, Trump said law enforcement had advised him to cancel the rally out of safety concerns.
The Chicago Police Department says it never advised Trump to cancel. . .
Laura Sydell reports at NPR:
A lot of fake and misleading news stories were shared across social media during the election. One that got a lot of traffic had this headline: “FBI Agent Suspected In Hillary Email Leaks Found Dead In Apparent Murder-Suicide.” The story is completely false, but it was shared on Facebook over half a million times.
We wondered who was behind that story and why it was written. It appeared on a site that had the look and feel of a local newspaper. Denverguardian.com even had the local weather. But it had only one news story — the fake one.
We tried to look up who owned it and hit a wall. The site was registered anonymously. So we brought in some professional help.
By day, John Jansen is head of engineering at Master-McNeil Inc., a tech company in Berkeley, Calif. In the interest of real news he helped us track down the owner of Denverguardian.com.
Jansen started by looking at the site’s history. “Commonly that’s called scraping or crawling websites,” he says.
Jansen is kind of like an archaeologist. He says that nothing you do on the Web disappears — it just gets buried — like a fossil. But if you do some digging you’ll find those fossils and learn a lot of history.
The “Denver Guardian” was built and designed using a pretty common platform — WordPress. It’s used by bloggers and people who want to create their own websites. Jansen found that the first entry ever for the site was done by someone with the handle LetTexasSecede.
“That was sort of the thread that started to unravel everything,” Jansen says. “I was able to track that through to a bunch of other sites which are where that handle is also present.”
The sites include NationalReport.net, USAToday.com.co, WashingtonPost.com.co. All the addresses linked to a single rented server inside Amazon Web Services. That meant they were all very likely owned by the same company. Jansen found an email address on one of those sites and was able to link that address to a name: Jestin Coler.
Online, Coler was listed as the founder and CEO of a company called Disinfomedia. Coler’s LinkedIn profile said he once sold magazine subscriptions, worked as a database administrator and as a freelance writer for among others, International Yachtsman magazine. And, using his name, we found a home address.
On a warm, sunny afternoon I set out with a producer for a suburb of Los Angeles. Coler lived in a middle-class neighborhood of pastel-colored one-story beach bungalows. His home had an unwatered lawn — probably the result of California’s ongoing drought. There was a black minivan in the driveway and a large prominent American flag.
We rang the front doorbell and . . .
From later in the article, with emphasis added without comment:
When did you notice that fake news does best with Trump supporters?
Well, this isn’t just a Trump-supporter problem. This is a right-wing issue. Sarah Palin’s famous blasting of the lamestream media is kind of record and testament to the rise of these kinds of people. The post-fact era is what I would refer to it as. This isn’t something that started with Trump. This is something that’s been in the works for a while. His whole campaign was this thing of discrediting mainstream media sources, which is one of those dog whistles to his supporters. When we were coming up with headlines it’s always kind of about the red meat. Trump really got into the red meat. He knew who his base was. He knew how to feed them a constant diet of this red meat.
We’ve tried to do similar things to liberals. It just has never worked, it never takes off. You’ll get debunked within the first two comments and then the whole thing just kind of fizzles out.
Sounds as though WaPo was played: Washington Post Disgracefully Promotes a McCarthyite Blacklist From a New, Hidden, and Very Shady Group
Ben Norton and Glenn Greenwald report in The Intercept:
The Washington Post on Thursday night promoted the claims of a new, shadowy organization that smears dozens of U.S. news sites that are critical of U.S. foreign policy as being “routine peddlers of Russian propaganda.” The article by reporter Craig Timberg – headlined “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say” – cites a report by a new, anonymous website calling itself “PropOrNot,” which claims that millions of Americans have been deceived this year in a massive Russian “misinformation campaign.”
The group’s list of Russian disinformation outlets includes WikiLeaks and the Drudge Report, as well as Clinton-critical left-wing websites such as Truthout, Black Agenda Report, Truthdig and Naked Capitalism, as well as libertarian venues such as Antiwar.com and the Ron Paul Institute.
This Post report was one of the most widely circulated political news articles on social media over the last 48 hours, with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of U.S. journalists and pundits with large platforms hailing it as an earth-shattering exposé. It was the most-read piece on the entire Post website after it was published on Friday.
Yet the article is rife with obviously reckless and unproven allegations, and fundamentally shaped by shoddy, slothful journalistic tactics. It was not surprising to learn that, as BuzzFeed’s Sheera Frenkel noted, “a lot of reporters passed on this story.” Its huge flaws are self-evident. But the Post gleefully ran with it and then promoted it aggressively, led by its Executive Editor Marty Baron:
Russian propaganda effort helped spread fake news during election, say independent researchers https://t.co/3ETVXWw16Q
— Marty Baron (@PostBaron) November 25, 2016
In casting the group behind this website as “experts,” the Post described PropOrNot simply as “a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds.” Not one individual at the organization is named. The executive director is quoted, but only on the condition of anonymity, which the Post said it was providing the group “to avoid being targeted by Russia’s legions of skilled hackers.”
In other words, the individuals behind this newly created group are publicly branding journalists and news outlets as tools of Russian propaganda – even calling on the FBI to investigate them for espionage – while cowardly hiding their own identities. . .
And do read the whole thing. Bezos may be great at retail sales, but he sure doesn’t know how to run a newspaper. The WaPo muffed this badly by showing the shallowness of their “investigation and research” (if indeed there were any).
Later in the article:
Who exactly is behind PropOrNot, where it gets its funding and whether or not it is tied to any governments is a complete mystery. The Intercept also sent inquiries to the Post’s Craig Timberg asking these questions, and asking whether he thinks it is fair to label left-wing news sites like Truthout “Russian propaganda outlets.” Timberg replied: “I’m sorry, I can’t comment about stories I’ve written for the Post.”
As is so often the case, journalists – who constantly demand transparency from everyone else – refuse to provide even the most basic levels for themselves. When subjected to scrutiny, they reflexively adopt the language of the most secrecy-happy national security agencies: we do not comment on what we do.
Timberg’s piece on the supposed ubiquity of Russian propaganda is misleading in several other ways. The other primary “expert” upon which the article relies is Clint Watts, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a pro-Western think tank whose board of advisors includes neoconservative figures like infamous orientalist scholar Bernard Lewis and pro-imperialist Robert D. Kaplan, the latter of whom served on the U.S. government’s Defense Policy Board.
What the Post does not mention in its report is that Watts, one of the specialists it relies on for its claims, previously worked as an FBI special agent on a Joint Terrorism Task Force and as the executive officer of the U.S. Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center. As Fortune’s Ingram wrote of the group, it is “a conservative think tank funded and staffed by proponents of the Cold War between the U.S. and Russia.”
PropOrNot is by no means a neutral observer. It actively calls on Congress and the White House to work “with our European allies to disconnect Russia from the SWIFT financial transaction system, effective immediately and lasting for at least one year, as an appropriate response to Russian manipulation of the election.”
In other words, this blacklisting group of anonymous cowards – putative experts in the pages of The Washington Post – are actively pushing for Western governments to take punitive measures against the Russian government, and are speaking and smearing from an extreme ideological framework that the Post concealed from its readers.
Ian Fang reports in The Intercept:
The extraordinary phenomenon of fake news spread by Facebook and other social media during the 2016 presidential election has been largely portrayed as a lucky break for Donald Trump.
By that reckoning, entrepreneurial Macedonian teenagers, opportunists in Tbilisi and California millennials have exploited social media algorithms in order to make money — only incidentally leading to the viral proliferation of mostly anti-Clinton and anti-Obama hoaxes and conspiracy theories that thrilled many Trump supporters. The Washington Post published a shoddy report on Thursday alleging that Russian state-sponsored propagandists were seeking to promote Trump through fabricated stories for their own reasons, independent of the candidate himself.
But a closer look reveals that some of the biggest fake news providers were run by experienced political operators well within the orbit of Donald Trump’s political advisers and consultants.
Laura Ingraham, a close Trump ally currently under consideration to be Trump’s White House press secretary, owns an online publisher called Ingraham Media Group that runs a number of sites, including LifeZette, a news site that frequently posts articles of dubious veracity. One video produced by LifeZette this summer, ominously titled “Clinton Body Count,” promoted a conspiracy theory that the Clinton family had some role in the plane crash death of John F. Kennedy, Jr., as well as the deaths of various friends and Democrats.
The video, published on Facebook from LifeZette’s verified news account, garnered over 400,000 shares and 14 million views.
Another LifeZette video, picking up false claims from other sites, claimed that voting machines “might be compromised” because a voting machine company called Smartmatic, allegedly providing voting machines “in sixteen states,” was purchased by the liberal billionaire George Soros. Soros never purchased the company, and Smartmatic did not provide voting machines used in the general election.
One LifeZette article misleadingly claimed that the United Nations backed a “secret” Obama administration takeover of local police departments. The article referenced Justice Department orders that a select few police departments address patterns of misconduct, a practice that, in reality, long predates the Obama presidency, is hardly secret, and had no relation to the United Nations.
Another LifeZette article, which went viral in the week prior to the election, falsely claimed that Wikileaks had revealed that a senior Hillary Clinton campaign official had engaged in occult rituals. Ingraham’s site regularly receives links from the Drudge Report and other powerful drivers of Internet traffic.
But LifeZette, for all its influence, pales in comparison to the sites run by Floyd Brown, a Republican consultant close to Trump’s inner circle of advisers. Brown gained notoriety nearly three decades ago for his role in helping to produce the “Willie Horton” campaign advertisement, a spot criticized for its use of racial messaging to derail Michael Dukakis’s presidential bid. Brown is also the political mentor of David Bossie, an operative who went to work for Trump’s presidential campaign this year after founding the Citizens United group. In an interview this year, Brown called Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway a “longtime friend.”
Brown now produces a flow of reliably pro-Trump Internet content through a company he owns called Liftable Media Inc., which operates a number of high-impact, tabloid-style news outlets that exploded in size over the course of the election. . .
Continue reading. There’s a lot more.
I don’t think much of seditious libel as a crime, but I think a case could be made for seditious spamming of fake news, which corrodes the basis for our democracy and government. In other words, I think the offense is quite serious. It’s no laughing matter.