Category Archives: media

it’s not the job of the government to protect people. It’s the job of the government to make money for people (our people): FDA and aduhelm

A day after a Fox News anchor, Brian Kilmeade, argued that it was not the job of the government to protect people, the NYT is reporting that the FDA approved the use of a drug, Aducanumab, manufactured by Biogen when there was no conclusive evidence that the drug was effective in treating Alzheimer’s.

As is noted in the Times, officials from Biogen worked closely with the FDA during the application process to “…jointly assess the data and chart a path forward.” They also participated in a “joint Biogen-FDA presentation to a committee of independent experts.”

It took a consumer advocacy group filing a complaint and demanding an inspector’s general investigation of the “collaboration” to initiate an internal review. 

haiti: some of what we know

NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 25: President of the Republic of Haiti H.E. Jovenel Moise speaks onstage during the 2018 Concordia Annual Summit – Day 2 at Grand Hyatt New York on September 25, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Concordia Summit)

The corporate media no longer finds it necessary to cover international stories.  We are treated to video after video of Biden boarding a plane to go somewhere, but the assassination of the President of Haiti is barely mentioned.

The assassination of Haiti’s president, Jovenel Moise, was barely covered last week. 

From what I have read, this is some of what we know.

During an attack early in the morning of July 7, President Jovenel Moise, was killed and his wife wounded in their private residence on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince.  The wife was flown to Miami.

The attack has been described by the NYT as “well-planned.”  And there were reports that many of the attackers were foreigners who spoke Spanish. 

A great many questions are left unanswered about how Moise, President of the country, who usually traveled with more than a dozen armored cars and police guards could be so easily targeted.

The NYT reports that Moise had over 100 officers from the presidential guard around his home.  Nevertheless, Moise was found lying on the floor at the foot of his bed “bathed in blood.”

There were 12 bullet holes visible in the body according to a Haitian Justice of the Peace, Carl Henry Destin, who was on the scene.

The house had been ransacked.  The servants had been tied up.

There are two Americans among the 20 people who have been detained so far.  They were described as Florida residents of Haitian descent.  Other members of the hit squad were described as Colombians.  Mr. Edmond described the men as “well-trained professionals, killers, commandos.”

The Americans told authorities that they were merely translators and had not been in the room where Moise was killed. 

Clement Noel, a judge involved in the investigation said that the two Americans had met with other members of the hit squad at a suburban hotel to plan the attack.  They said that the attack had been planned over the course of a month.  The two American men maintained that the goal was not to kill Moise (the body had 12 gunshot wounds), but to bring him to the national palace.

It has not been reported when the American men entered Haiti, or what connection they had with the other hit men before the assassination. 

Judge Noel said that it was one of the Americas Solages who can be heard on audio of the attack, yelling out that the attackers were DEA agents.  Solages had previously worked as a security guard at the Canadian Embassy in Haiti and there had been no evidence reported that indicates there was any DEA connection.  Why this particular claim was made aloud at the beginning of the attack is not known.

Haiti’s interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, put the country under martial law after the assassination.  It is not clear whether he has the legal authority to do so.  In fact, most of what is going on in Haiti at the moment is of dubious legal basis. 

Days before his death, Moise, had appointed a new prime minister, Ariel Henry.  Henry says he should be in charge of the government.

There is no clear designation of authority in the executive branch and there is no functioning Parliament in Haiti.  There are only 10 sitting senators out of 30.  The terms of the other 20 have expired.  The entire lower house is no longer sitting because their terms expired last year.  The head of the Supreme Court died of Covid.

Haitian government officials told the NYT that they had asked the U.S. to provide troops to protect infrastructure. 

According to a BBC podcast (7/7/21), Moise had become increasingly autocratic during his tenure as president.  He was pushing through a referendum which would have changed the constitution so he would stay in power longer. 

Notes:

  • The former Prime Minister is Laurent Lamothe.
  • Haiti’s ambassador to the U.S. Bocchit Edmond.
  • Claude Joseph is Haiti’s interim prime minister.
  • The two American men were identified as Joseph Vincent and James J. Solages.
  • Former President, Michael Martelly, left office in an electoral crisis in 2016.  He was able to use his political power, however, to see his supporter, Moise, elevated to the presidency.  Protestors were in the streets demanding Martelly’s ouster in 2016.  He left office formally giving presidential power to the leader of the National Assembly.
  • Martelly (like Moise) was criticized for not holding elections during his years.  Martelly was accused of surrounding himself with “cronies, some of them criminals.” NYT (2016)
  • When Martelly was elected, the process was said by critics to be riddled with fraud.
  • Former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier was ousted in 1986.

Sources:

Global News Podcast.  BBC. (7/7/21)

New York Times (7/8/21)

Reading:

New York Times (2016)

MORNING NEWS RUNDOWN

News Roundup

Police

  • On the internet: Video after video of police officers behaving abusively, escalating situations, cursing at people, threatening them, intimidating them, killing them, all over the country.  CNN has an expert on to explain that our brains work differently when we’re under stress. 
  • The “stress professor” and the Vanderbilt guy both agreed that we need more training for police.
  • I’ve been involved in criminology in one way or another for fifty years.  I did research on female police partners and male use of deadly force in the 70s.  Training is not the problem.  Minneapolis, for example, spent a small fortune on training. 
  •  Police culture will win out over all the training and policy in the world.
  • If you look at the Derek Chauvin case as an example, Chauvin didn’t take the stand because basically his defense is that he didn’t do anything wrong and that he would do it again if he had the chance.

Authoritarians

  • It appears that Alexander Navalny is dangerously close to dying.  In the past, he told colleagues he couldn’t understand people using hunger strikes to advance their cases.  It seemed, to him, merely a way to hand the state a tool.  But, evidently the situation for him in prison was so bad, he resorted to using his own body as a tool to try to get help.  It’s unlikely to work. The world stands by and watches. 
  • Gary Kasperov, former Russian chess player and current activist, pointed out on Twitter that the West continues to deal with Putin as if he were some quasi-democratic head of state.  Kasperov noted that Biden’s decision to turn around a ship to try to appease Putin was the wrong tactic.  Autocrats, kleptocrats, authoritarians view offers of compromise as weakness.
  • Biden deals with Putin the way the Democrats deal with the Republicans.  When will they learn that authoritarians cannot be compromised with or appealed to?

Corporate News

  • Joe Scarborough, who helped elect Trump, is now back to his rabid Republican heckling.  It is difficult for me to understand how anybody could think that Scarborough was an ally.  He and the dreadful Mika were up Trump’s ass until Trump threatened to reveal their adulterous affair.  People need to remember we have Mika on tape asking Trump’s permission to ask him a “hard” question.  Morning Joe as outlived its usefulness if it ever had any.  It belongs in the Chris Matthews trash bag of programming.  MSNBC needs to do better. 
  • While I’m on MSNBC, the nightly news programs continue to use Jason “island of misfit black girls” Johnson as a commentator.  He lost his job at the Root for his nasty, racist comment about the women who worked for Bernie Sanders, and MSNBC punished him with a few weeks off air.  But, he’s back now with a vengeance.  Joy Reid loves him because she actively worked to destroy Sanders’ campaign.  The lesson here?  You can say anything and get away with it if it’s about Bernie Sanders or his campaign. 

Cats

  • The new feral cat we are socializing woke me up at 3:30 in the morning because his food bowls were empty.  I’m wide awake, but he’s back asleep, stretched out at the foot of the bed on a quilt. They learn so quickly.  Cats are the masters of psychological manipulation.  His name is Oliver Wendell Holmes.

putting “profit before candor.” Freespeech TV

Richard Wolff, Economic Update

The corporate news media is a vast wasteland, a mental fidget-spinner of trite nonsense.  It’s purpose, as far as I can tell, is to keep the lid on, to convince the population that the “institutions are holding,” and to stupify the public into believing that nothing is really wrong. 

There is the endlessly repeated both-sidesism enmeshed in the discussion of every topic.  Tonight, for example, in covering the allegations that DeSantis, Governor of Florida, participated in making it possible for rich campaign donors to skip the line on vaccines, Ari Melber felt it was necessary to show photographs of Cuomo and note for the audience that the show also covered Democrats who were accused of wrongdoing.   

And, there are the jokes, the uplifting People Magazine stories, the fashioning of narrative to make heroes out of every person who just behaves with normal human decency.

Essentially, the corporate news media is a waste of time. 

But, there are other places to go for news.  There are more podcasts than one person can listen to in a lifetime, and there are a few TV channels.  Freespeech TV is one of them. 

Richard Wolff hosts a program called Economic Update.  There are no guests, no video clips, no commercials. The program is adult news, discussion.

These are notes on the episode from 3/3/21

History Lessons on Capitalism’s Failures  

•            Even if you argue that the present economic system works in normal times, it certainly has not worked in a crisis like the pandemic.

•            Freemarket capitalism produced no warehouses of supplies (masks, ventilators) waiting to be distributed .  There were no facilities in population centers stocked with testing equipment.  There was no plan for dealing with the dislocations that a pandemic would cause. There’s no money, no profit in it.

•            Private enterprise isn’t going to provide a plan or products, or logistics for dealing with a pandemic before it happens. Only government can do that.

•            The signs the system isn’t up to the job of dealing with a crisis are everywhere.  Take, for example rising food prices.  The evidence is that globally food prices are increasing.  Private enterprise is not going to function to ensure the distribution of food in a pandemic.  Secondly, under the current system of capitalism, the eviction crisis will only exacerbate the pandemic problem.  In a pandemic people need to stay at home, but with evictions uncontrolled by the government, that’s exactly what we will not get.  Thirdly, only 5% of private schools are having internet learning due to the pandemic.  Private schools can afford to take measures to ensure safety.  They can have smaller classes, move people to other buildings.  65% of public schools, however, are not meeting students.  They are forced into distance learning.  The students on the bottom of the economic scale are taking the hit of the pandemic.

•            As Richard Wolff notes, the problems are so evident that the question is really: “Why are there people not understanding this still?” 

•            Wolff goes on to discuss the settlement of a criminal case against Boeing in which the company that makes most of the planes we travel in, was allowed to pay its way out of criminal prosecution for  $2.5 billion dollars.  Boeing, the settlement said, lied and put “profit before candor.”   But, in a capitalist society, profit is put before everything.  The people who run Boeing make careers from profit, not from candor. 

Economic Update, FSTV, is well worth your time. 

DEMOCRACY OR AUTHORITARIANISM, YOU CHOOSE

147 Republican members of Congress voted against seating Joe Biden’s electors.  They moved against accepting the votes of the people in this country based on no evidence that there was a significant problem with the voting system. 

These 147 Republican members of Congress did not win, but they tried to.  There are not 147 Trumps.  These people are Republicans.  They are Republicans who do not support democracy.  But, as of today, they are all still in Congress.

Just like all the other outrages of the Trump administration, the fact that 147 members of Congress tried to throw out the results of an election, is being normalized.  Corporate news anchors are repeatedly asking representatives of the Biden administration how they can claim to seek “unity” when they are proposing legislation that differs from (what purports to be) the Republican agenda. 

The past four years has been difficult, nerve wracking, infuriating, but since the nomination of Biden, it has been even more infuriating.  It is perhaps a bit less stressful since I don’t wake up every morning dreading to find out what the president has done while I was asleep, but the Democrats and the corporate media seen to have learned nothing, NOTHING from the last four years.

The Democrats have not learned how to run against the Republicans, and the corporate media (in the face of an insurrection) is still indulging in mindless bothsidesism.

When Trump was in office, it seemed like a frontal assault, every day.  Now, I have the feeling that the corporate media is playing music while people are relentlessly creeping up behind me. 

Unlike many of the people I know, I feel no relief with the election of Biden.  The Democrats are still talking about “unity” and “bipartisanship” with people who have demonstrated that they want to destroy democracy to maintain their power.  It’s like watching a government negotiate, trying to win over the Naxi party.  It is enraging and it is terrifying.

While the Democrats waltz around congratulating each other for representational appointments, the Republicans are seizing 2022.

In Georgia, Warnock is up for reelection in 2022.  We don’t have six years with Warnock, we have less than two.  We have to do this again.  We have to drag out a win in what is essentially a red state, and we have to do it in a circumstance where the state government is already actively working to eliminate as many potential voters as possible.

In Georgia, Republicans have proposed steps to make it harder to vote by mail and easier to throw out legally cast ballots.  The same Republicans who the corporate media celebrated – Kemp, Raffensperger, Sterling – are beavering away to purge voters from the rolls and make it more difficult for people to vote.

What people need to remember is that Kemp, Raffensperger and Sterling went along with every Trump inspired move to suppress voting except put themselves in criminal jeopardy by changing votes.  They are like the gang members who were perfectly willing to drive the get away car, but not willing to go into the liquor store with the gun.

They will be even more willing to drive the car now because they are trying to get back into the good graces, and the donations, of right-wing supporters.

Across the Country

Emily Singer (1/22/21) is reporting in the Independent that efforts to make it harder to vote are going on in most of the GOP-controlled state legislatures.  They are introducing legislation to make voter registration and voting by mail more difficult.

These voter suppression moves have been practiced by the Republicans for decades, but picked up steam especially after Biden’s win in 2020.  Republicans are daily pointing out the dangers of what they see as “voter fraud” and legitimating moves to keep people from voting in the name of eliminating “voter fraud.”

In Montana, the state House began hearings on a bill which would eliminate same-day voter registration.  This is what the SOS refers to as “election integrity.”  These measures are expected and intended to affect the voting of Native Americans and students.  Both groups vote Democratic by a wide margin.

In New Hampshire, the GOP-controlled House started hearings on a bill that would repeal same-day registration and putt barriers to students who want to vote.  Students must, if the bill is passed, prove that they qualify for in-state tuition before registering to vote.  Republicans passed a similar law ahead of the 2020 election which required students to become permanent residents to vote.  This law was struck down by a judge.

In Arizona, a GOP-run legislature is weighing getting rid of the state’s Permanent Early Vote List, which allows residents to register to receive mail-in ballots automatically. They are also working to impose restrictions on recounts and add other burdens to discourage people from voting.

In Pennsylvania, a Republican state senator introduced a bill that would eliminate no-excuse absentee voting. 

In Mississippi, a Republican state senator proposed a bill which would lock Mississippi from releasing vote totals in presidential elections until after all states had cast their votes in the Electoral College. 

Democrats in the House are working to pass H.R.1, which would require states to implement automatic voter registration and limit their ability to purge voters from the rolls.  An identical bill passed the House in 2019, but McConnell blocked it from getting a vote. 

So, Democrats are trying to make it easier for people to vote.  Republicans, who realize they cannot win if there is a popular vote, are working furiously to purge voting lists and make it more difficult for people to vote. 

One Party is advocating and working for democracy. The other party is fighting against it.  You choose.

Resources

https://americanindependent.com/gop-lawmakers-states-legislation-voter-suppression/

Glenn greenwald interviewed by chris hedges: monday notes

I don’t pretend to fully understand the ideology of Chris Hedges or Glenn Greenwall, and there are important positions I disagree with them on.  But, I think they are important to at least listen to given the lack of criticism on the part of the corporate media for the Biden Administration.  CNN is doing a “celebrity piece” on Kamala Harris where she is asked to tell stories from her life. 

The media is supposed to be a critic of those in power, not their best friends.     

These are notes from an interview Chris Hedges did on his RT program “On Contact.”

Points made by Greenwald:

•       Bernie Sanders was rebuffed in his attempt to get the Secretary of Labor position in the Biden administration.  Sanders has expressed frustration with the Biden appointments.

•       AOC was denied a position on the Commerce Committee.

•       (Note: The DNC also refused to give Katie Porter a waiver to stay on another important committee)

•       What the Biden nominations represent is a third term of the Obama administration.

•       Susan Rice was nominated for the Domestic Policy Council

•       Biden has a long completely obvious history.  He has supported militarism.  He was a key supporter of the Invasion of Iraq, 2002, as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

•       Biden’s state is the center of Banking and credit card industry.  He was so supportive of them that it provoked Sen. Warren to get into politics.  Biden was the architect of a bankruptcy bill that made Warren furious.

•       Biden, in addition, was more responsible for the crime bill than anybody else.

•       Biden has shown himself to be a man who serves imperialism and corporatism.

•       Wall Street celebrated when he picked Harris as Vice President. 

•       (Greenwald lives in Brazil.)  People ask him why Brazil suddenly lurched to right.  He explains that after years of what billed itself as being a “liberal” system, the system failed people.  They rallied behind anybody who seemed to oppose the system that failed them.  That’s what has happened with Trump. 

•       Now, the Biden administration is going to do exactly what the Obama administration did, nothing, for regular people.  And so, if you are doing exactly the same thing, you have to expect the same outcome.  The Obama failures led to the Trump administration.  And, now the Biden administration is setting itself up to repeat Obama’s failures. (Note: See Majority Report discussion noting that the Biden Administration seems to have learned from the failures of the Obama administration.)  According to Greenwald, the Middle class will continue to be destroyed.  Jobs will continue to be moved overseas.  The drug addiction, suicide, and anger that characterize working class communities will all continue to get worse.    

•       Note: There were such enormous hopes for Obama.  My brother, noting the support enjoyed by Obama, said “He could be the next Roosevelt.”  But, Obama wasn’t the next Roosevelt.  Obama was constitutionally predisposed to behave himself in many senses of that.  No matter what happened, Obama was going to behave himself.  Research the discussion about “behaving” and race.  Also, the Obama administration assumed that the Republicans were operating from a position of good faith, (what ever that means).  The Republicans are definitely not operating from a position of “good faith” and have not done so for decades.  How long it will take the Democrats to acknowledge this, I don’t know.  And, Obama was never a progressive, never a supporter of real change.  The movement that helped Obama get elected was jettisoned immediately after the election in 2008.  The group organizing for him were told to “behave.’  People were told not to give money to these groups, but to give the money to support Obama.  These groups, by and large, went silent under Obama. 

Christ Hedges: Biden and Obama regard progressives as the enemy.

•       Biden has always had contempt for the left.  As has Obama. 

•       And, the left is now more submissive than ever.  They are even praising Biden for distancing himself from Bernie, saying it was a savvy political move.  They played along with the excuse was that it was better to leave Barnie in the Senate than appointment his labor secretary. 

•       There are no progressives in the cabinet.

•       And, even with this fact, there is little dissent on the left. 

•       The choice that is presented is you can either unite behind the Democratic Party or succumb to fascism. 

•       The left has embraced censorship coming from corporations, and Biden is calling for new terrorism law.  Biden was an architect of the Patriot Act.

•       Hedges brings up the Hunter Biden laptop story which, he says, was censored out of the Intercept (the organization Greenwald co-founded).

•       Hedges points out that progressives supported Markey in Massachusetts against a primary challenge from Joe Kennedy.  After Markey won, he participated in a hearing with Zuckerberg.  Markey told Zuckerberg: we don’t believe you are censoring too much, you’re not censoring enough.   

•       Obama released a statement before election in which he said that the internet was the greatest threat to democracy.

•       The political center has decided we cannot have free speech in this technological age.  The center was pleading with billionaires to censor people even before the election.

•       World leaders denounced the banning of Trump from the internet (Merkle, Obredor of Mexico).

•       These leaders are well aware that tech corporations can do this to them (censor them) and their countries.   The EU has tried to break up these big Silicon valley companies without success.

•       What Google has done is to destroy a competing platform, Parler (AOC, Khana, and others supported this). 

•       This will make more difficult the ability to organize on the internet.  Corporations are outside democratic accountability.

•       Hedges points out that Greenwald has gone to Substack as has Matt Taibi. 

•       This is an effort of destruction of any outlet that permits independent voices of dissent.  They are laying the groundwork for rightwing censorship.  They will go after others.  It won’t be long before they are Turning guns on Substack and Patrion.

Greenwald    

•       Greenwald became concerned (about the media) when, during the Bush administration, the mainstream media presented torture as a “both sides” issue.  They wouldn’t call torture torture because the Bush administration said it wasn’t torture.  They took the position of “who are we to decide?”  We can’t call it torture because the Bush administration says it’s not true. We’ll just present both sides and let you decide.  This is not journalism.

Article about Greenwald, Counterpunch

•       Greenwald first came to prominence as an anti-Bush blogger

•       He published much of the Snowden reporting in “The Guardian.” 

•       He co-founded along with Jeremy Scahill and Laura Poitras, The Intercept.

•       His columns have become “insufferable.”

•       There is “almost no ideology besides reflexive contrarianism.”

•       Greenwald is “a kind of fanatic.”

•       The tendency toward contrarianism has led him to increasingly align with the far right. 

•       For example, Greenwald has made comparisons between Trump and Bernie.

•       Matt Taibbi has taken a “similar turn.”

•       He is an opponent of the national security state.

IT’S NOT JUST THE CORPORATE MEDIA THAT PERPETUATED THE DELUSION THAT TRUMP WAS IRRELEVANT

Michael Isikoff

Just listened to a podcast, Skullduggery, hosted by Michael Isikoff. This episode was recorded before the coup attempt. He was talking with someone and they were saying that Trump was likely to just fade away. Why do we have journalists, not just celebrity “journalists”, people who should know better, dismissing Trump and his movement?

I don’t understand it.

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/skullduggery/id1333621434

republicans might not like trump but they “don’t regret the supreme court.”

Can I just say that Sam Nunberg is an imbecile.  He was in an important position in the Trump as a “campaign advisor” because he is an imbecile and now CNN is interviewing him as if he is this expert on anything. 

Nunberg at one time faced prosecution because of his role in the Trump campaign and he is saying about Trump:  “He is not a perfect man.”  Nunberg, says that he has no regrets about working to get Trump elected.  This fruitful line of discussion was cut off by the CNN anchor.  But, Nunberg continued: “I don’t regret the Supreme Court.  I don’t regret …Israel.”  “He (Trump) did a service to the forgotten men and women…”  “I am happy he beat Hillary Clinton…”

Tony Schwartz, who was also on the CNN panel broke in to confront Nunberg.  Schwartz said it was “sad to hear somebody say I don’t take any responsibility.”  “Come one Sam.”  “It’s time to say the truth about this man.”

But, Nunberg, growing visibly angry, just continued to defend Trump.

While CNN cut this discussion off, it is an important one.  What it demonstrates is that these people around Trump (even those who have been left out to dry in terms of prosecution by the Trump administration) have learned nothing.  To the extent that Nunberg is willing to criticize Trump and those around him it is because they didn’t step in to legally protect Nunberg. 

On to another topic raised by the CNN coverage this morning.  Tony Schwartz said that this might be his last public statement about Trump because everything that can be said has been said.

I agree with Schwartz.  I am completely disgusted with this continued cheap psychoanalysis of Trump that takes up hours and hours on corporate news.  I don’t care what Trump thinks.  I don’t care what is “inside Trump’s head” as CNN purported to cover this morning.  I care about what Trump does and what he represents and what the complicit group of people around him are fomenting.  This is a movement and make no mistake, Mitch McConnell is as much a part of it as is Donald Trump.  Getting rid of Trump (if we even can) is not going to solve the problem.

This is one of the reasons why people in my intellectual territory of the Democratic Party shudder every time Biden or his cohorts starts to talk about “healing” or “unity” or (to repeat Obama’s line) “moving on.”

McConnell may have decided that he has gotten as much out of Trump as he can, and is now ready to kick him to the curb.  But, moving on means McConnell and the Koch’s will find somebody else, smarter, cleaner, more devious, and more palatable to carry on the fight to establish an authoritarian one-party Christian nationalist state.  That’s where they have been going for decades and where they will continue going, with Trump at the head or not.

Mitch McConnell (and McConnell’s wife), Bill Barr and others are making self-serving statements, so that they can live to fight another day.  And, the corporate media is already complicit in laundering the reputations of prominent Republicans.  Joe Scarborough is a prime example of someone who will happily criticize Trump (who threatened to out his adulterous affair, and who called Scarborough a murderer) and then turn around and laud Republicans who are complicit in advancing Republican goals while making superficial criticisms of Trump.

“I don’t regret the Supreme Court” should be tattooed on the foreheads of Mitch McConnell, Steve Schmidt, Joe Scarborough, Elise Jordan, Nicolle Wallace, Mitt Romney, Pat Toomey, Ben Sasse, John Bolton, George Conway, Bill Kristol, Michael Steele, Jeff Flake, Justic Amash, David Jolly?, John Kasich, Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio, Susan Collins, Richard Burr, James Lankford and many others.

Folks, these people are not our friends.  They cannot be our allies.  They have worked for decades to bring this situation about.  They established the groundwork for this situation.  They cannot plead ignorance and innocence now.

The corporate media and access journalism

Corporate Media and the Trump Family

In the midst of an on-going coup attempt, the Washington Post is continuing to publish puff pieces about Trump staffers and family.  The seemingly inexplicable nature of this has led some on Twitter to hypothesize that the puff pieces are pay back for individuals who previously provided access to Post reporters and/or who passed on information to them.

When I read this speculation from someone who is a journalist this morning, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

I know to some people this must sound naïve, but what kind of newspaper sells positive stories for information?  The Washington Post unabashedly uses “Democracy dies in darkness” as a slogan.  Democracy dies in darkness, but reporters are making back room deals selling positive coverage for information?

How exactly do these deals work?  Is there an explicit negotiation?  Does a reporter say to Ivanka Trump, we’ll give you five 3000 word totally positive personal write-ups in exchange for a hot piece of information? 

If this kind of negotiation is going on, why isn’t that considered essential to disclose to the reader.  After all, the reader is consuming the story as if it is independent journalism, not a glamour piece placed by Ivanka Trump’s agent. 

Why is such a practice considered ethical?  Why is such a practice not a scandal, not considered as what it is, a bribe?

When our local newspaper publishes a puff piece about a doctor and his practice which looks like an article, it is at least identified as such.  I don’t even think that practice is ethical, but it at least involves disclosure for those who are interested enough to look, that the piece is bought and paid for, not independent journalism. 

There is no such disclosure for these little fluff pieces churned out in exchange for “access.” 

That would be one kind of disclosure, letting the reader know that the piece is paid for.  But, another type of disclosure is also necessary.

The assumption is that publishing a paid-for personal ad as independent journalism is worth the “access” given the reporter.  Well, I would like to be able to judge that for myself.  If the Washington Post is going to allow itself to be bribed into publishing particular stories, what was the going price?  I as a reader have a right to know.

There are a lot of problems with the current widespread practice of “access journalism.”  First of all, it’s lazy.  Reporters are too lazy to go out and establish sources for a story, so they tell themselves they have to spend endless hours socializing with powerful people at parties or retreats in the country to get information.  Second, journalists are supposed to be keeping the powerful honest, not spending weekends with them in their country estates.  No journalist is going to keep honest the people s/he is socializing with and on whom he is dependent for information.  People in power are not supposed to be a reporter’s friends.  Third, how much trust can you put in information that is intentionally leaked to you by the powerful.  There have been countless instances where “access” has resulted in journalists being turned into stenographers for those in power.  The powerful leak the stories they want to be published.

Now, evidently, we have to add to the problems of access journalism, other stories, published by other reporters that are part of some deal for access.  To portray staffers and members of Trump’s family as glamorous, hard-working innocent bystanders with a promising political future in exchange for some undisclosed piece of information is unconscionable. 

The corporate media has a lot to answer for.