Amanpour Drops Truth Bomb On Trump Era Press: ‘I Believe In Being Truthful, Not Neutral’

This week CNN’s chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, received the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists. It is awarded at the International Press Freedom Awards for “extraordinary and sustained achievement in the cause of press freedom. Her acceptance speech was an inspiring appeal to “recommit to robust, fact-based reporting” in the Age of Trump. [Video below]

Amanpour Trump

Right from the start Amanpour addressed the serious challenge posed by Donald Trump’s rancid rhetoric. She recognized the risks created by a candidate whose words literally incited violence toward reporters:

“I never thought in a million years that I’d be standing up here, after all the times I’ve participated in this ceremony, appealing, really, for the freedom and safety of American journalists at home.”

That is indeed a sobering realization on the current state of media relations as practiced by Trump and his campaign. Even so, Amanpour expressed optimism that after the election Trump would moderate his hostility toward the press. Unfortunately, he did no such thing:

“I was chilled when [Trump’s] first tweet after the election was about professional protesters incited by the media.” [Because as we all know] “First the media is accused of inciting, then sympathizing, then associating. And then suddenly they find themselves accused of being full-fledged terrorists and subversives. And then they end up in handcuffs, in cages, in kangaroo courts, in prisons, and then who knows what.

On this Amanpour may be a little behind the curve. The right-wing media has been denigrating the press for years with charges of being “in the tank” for Obama or Clinton or whoever the current object of their hatred is. And as for accusing them of being terrorists, that was already done on Fox News by their “strategic analyst,” Lt. Col. Ralph Peters. In an unhinged rant he assaulted the media saying:

“Rejecting the god of their fathers, the neo-pagans who dominate the media serve as lackeys at the terrorists’ bloody altar. […] Although it seems unthinkable now, future wars may require censorship, news blackouts and, ultimately, military attacks on the partisan media.”

Imagine that. Fox News actually pays that guy to advocate for military assassinations of American journalists. No wonder Amanpour is chilled. She goes on to explain why the media needs to stand firm in defense of facts and not fall into the trap of false equivalencies. What follows are some selected quotes:

“[It’s time to] recommit to robust, fact-based reporting, without fear or without favor, on the issues. Don’t stand for being labeled or called ‘lying,’ or ‘crooked,’ or ‘failing.'”

“Much of the media was tying itself in knots trying to differentiate between balance, between objectivity, neutrality, and crucially, the truth. We cannot continue the old paradigm. We cannot, for instance, keep saying, like it was over global warming. When 99% of the science, the empirical facts, the evidence, is given equal play with the tiny minority of deniers.”

“I learned a long, long time ago…never to equate victim and aggressor. Never to create a false moral or factual equivalence…So I believe in being truthful, not neutral. And I believe we must stop banalizing the truth. We have to be prepared to fight especially hard right now for the truth.”

“[Donald Trump] did a very savvy end run around us and used it to go straight to the people. Combined with the most incredible development ever, which is the tsunami of fake news, aka lies.”

“I feel that we face an existential crisis, a threat to the very relevance and usefulness of our profession. Now, more than ever, we need to recommit to real reporting across a real nation, a real world in which journalism and democracy are in mortal peril. Including by foreign powers like Russia who pay to churn out and place these false news articles, these lies, in many of our press. They hack into democratic systems.”

“I was shocked because very few ever imagined that so many Americans conducting their sacred duty in the secret ballot box, using their ballots, would be angry enough to ignore the wholesale denigration of these values. The vulgarity of language, the sexual predatory behavior, the deep misogyny, the bigoted and insulting views.”

Amanpour closed by declaring that “We must fight against the normalization of what is unacceptable.” By that she means the way the media has begun to treat neo-Nazis and racists and anti-Semites as if they were just another place-setting on the table of ideologies. They are not. And Trump’s “alt-right” Chief Strategist, Stephen Bannon, is a good example of what is unacceptable, but is getting a pass from the press.

This is not the first time that Trump has been rebuked for placing the First Amendment in Jeopardy. In October the Committee to Protect Journalists released a statement calling him “an unprecedented threat to press freedom.” And the National Press Club condemned his anti-press tactics as “unacceptable and dangerous to our democracy.” Hopefully these warnings, and Amanpour’s words, will be heeded and applied as the next administration prepares to execute its abhorrent agenda.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Hannity Wants To Use White House Press Credentials To Punish, Censor ‘Unfriendly’ Media

The emerging profile of the Trump administration is beginning to take shape. And it is just as frightening and offensive as expected.

Sean Hannity

Donald Trump’s first two official appointments provide no confidence whatsoever of a competent, inclusive Executive Branch. Right out of the gate is the current chair of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, as Chief of Staff. So the gateway to the Oval Office will be guarded by a rank political partisan with no experience in government. Secondly, Trump made his campaign chair, Stephen Bannon, his Chief Strategist. Bannon, of course, is also the CEO of Breitbart News, the alt-right’s mouthpiece for racist propaganda.

On Monday Sean Hannity of Fox News (Breitbart Lite) made his position clear regarding how Trump should handle the media. Not that Trump hasn’t already been clear that he regards it as a dishonest bunch of sleazy liars. A pro-Trump Twitter user posted a comment that caught Hannity’s eye. It said “CNN, NYT, WaPo & others shown to have colluded by @wikileaks should not receive WH press credentials.” Hannity retweeted it and responded simply “Amen.”

First of all, there have been no WikiLeaks documents revealing any collusion between the news organizations cited. That is just another invented “fact” that fuels so much of the right’s irrational outrage. The truth is that most of the WikiLeaks references to the media exposed nothing but reporters seeking information or interviews. In other words, doing their jobs.

The bigger problem here is the eagerness with which Hannity agreed that it would be proper to deny press credentials to some of the most prominent news enterprises in the country. It is a direct expression of support for punishing media for being critical of the President. That is a blatant breach of the First Amendment and the principle of freedom of the press. The White House press corps is not supposed to be the cheering section for Trump & Company.

For his part, Trump has demonstrated a hostility to the media that borders on psychotic. Journalist organizations have deemed him an unprecedented threat to press freedom. He calls reporters liars, dummies, and sleazy, as he points to them menacingly at his rallies. That has resulted in some reporters becoming targets of assaults. His vitriol has contributed to driving trust of the media to historic lows. And he has already engaged in discriminatory acts that amount to censorship by banning certain reporters from his events. They include the Washington Post, BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, Fusion, Univision, the Des Moines Register, and the New Hampshire Union Leader.

On the other hand, Trump has granted press passes to some unsavory characters who don’t qualify as legitimate media. A notable example is James Edwards of the Political Cesspool blog. Edwards is an unabashed racist who has written favorably about slavery. That’s the sort of “journalist” that makes the grade in Trump’s Ivory Tower. If The Donald’s Politburo has its way only Breitbart News and the National Enquirer would receive credentials.

However, it may not be that easy for them to carry out their purge. Authority over who gets press passes to the White House belongs to the Standing Committee of Correspondents on Capitol Hill. The committee is made up of credentialed congressional reporters. But the White House could still forbid individuals based on informal criteria mainly involving security. Even then, it might encounter opposition from the media and the public if it acted out of partisanship or revenge.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Hannity’s hypocrisy, however, is both stunning and typical. The same Hannity who now favors punishing “unfriendly” media, used to have seizures if President Obama said anything mildly critical of the press. And this anti-First Amendment view is plainly shared by Trump and his inner circle of autocrats. Without strict oversight of the Trump administration’s tendency toward censorship, it will surely try to poison press relations and access. That could lead to a dangerous situation wherein an aspiring dictator could deceive the nation into creeping tyranny. It has happened before.

Trump Threatens Freedom Of The Press With Chilling Statement On The Media

To say that Donald Trump is no friend of a free press is an understatement of Olympian proportions. His open hostility toward the media generally, and journalists individually, virtually drips with white hot hatred. And his animosity is focused solely on his own self-interest and his paranoid perception that everyone is against him.

Donald Trump

As a result, Trump has treated the press like cattle, forcing them into cramped pens at his rallies. Then he points them out to his followers as “disgusting scum” and jokes about killing them. And those are the lucky ones who didn’t have their credentials revoked.

As the campaign progresses and Trump’s prospects for victory dwindle, he is getting even more maniacal in his rage against the media. Now he has issued a statement spurred by the recent bid by AT&T to acquire TimeWarner. The content and tone of the statement should worry every American who values the First Amendment of the Constitution. It was written by his Senior Economic Advisor, Peter Navarro, and addresses a very real problem: Monopoly Power of New Media Conglomerates. The problem is that he twists the whole subject into an ego-driven tirade against his perceived enemies. It’s opening paragraph states that:

“Over a hundred years ago, a pro-business Teddy Roosevelt busted up more than 40 oil, railroad, steel and other ‘trusts’ that were wielding their rapacious monopoly power to gouge consumers and interfere with the efficient functioning of the American economy. Donald Trump will break up the new media conglomerate oligopolies that have gained enormous control over our information, intrude into our personal lives, and in this election, are attempting to unduly influence America’s political process.”

Not bad, so far. But rather than making a reasoned argument against the concentration of corporate interests, he turns it into a political diatribe. He complains that these media monopolies are “the very same media conglomerates now pushing Hillary Clinton’s agenda.” Then he singles out “NBC, and its Clinton megaphone MSNBC,” for “engag[ing] in their Never Trump tactics.” With regard to the AT&T/TimeWarner deal he ignores the anti-trust issues and instead whines about “the wildly anti-Trump CNN.”

Moving on to the newspaper sector, Trump seems to be obsessed with the ownership of the New York Times. That’s likely because one of the its biggest shareholders is the Mexican billionaire, Carlos Slim. Just like with the judge in his Trump University fraud case, Trump is offended that anyone with Mexican heritage is permitted to do business in America. For the record, Slim owns 17 percent of the publicly traded Class A shares of the Times. The vast majority of the company is owned by the Sulzberger family, including the privately held Class B shares. Additionally, Slim has no representation on the company’s board of directors. So Trump’s inference of influence by Slim is entirely a product of his warped imagination.

Notice anything missing from this unhinged harangue? Trump never mentions Fox News, one of the biggest media conglomerate in the world. It’s reach extends to news, entertainment, television, films, publishing and digital media, on an international scale. It’s clear that Trump only has a problem with media monopolies that he doesn’t like. Conservative oligopolies are A-OK in his book. And if it weren’t obvious enough, Navarro went on Fox News where he was asked by Neil Cavuto if Trump aimed to break up existing media companies. Navarros’s answer: “Not this one, Neil.”

So, as long as you don’t piss off President Trump you’re free to be an abusive monopoly. Otherwise, watch out. But that isn’t how a free press works. To the contrary, that’s how a fascist dictatorship works. And Trump reiterated this position Sunday in an interview with the local CBS affiliate in Miami (video). He was asked “Do you think there is too much protection allowed in the first amendment?” He responded by advocating for the system in England where he thinks it’s easier to sue the media. Continuing, he said that “Our press is allowed to say whatever they want and get away with it.”

Let that sink in. Trump favors a foreign system where there is no First Amendment, which he believes allows for “too much protection.” And he is troubled that the press in the United States is “allowed to say whatever they want.” OMG! Somebody needs to put a stop that sort of freedom right away. And who better than Trump, who in the same interview declares that “I’m a big believer – tremendous believer of the freedom of the press. Nobody believes it stronger than me.” Uh huh.

That must be why prominent advocates for freedom of the press have made scathing denunciations of Trump. The Committee to Protect Journalists blasted him as “an unprecedented threat to the rights of journalists.” The National Press Club condemned his anti-press tactics as “unacceptable and dangerous to our democracy.”

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

This new statement by Trump on media monopolies is just another self-serving scam intended to advance his personal interests and punish his foes. The blatant partisanship baked into it disqualifies it from serious consideration. Concentration of power in a shrinking corporate media landscape is a truly disturbing development that needs to be addressed. But it isn’t addressed by a policy of clamping down on political adversaries as revenge for honest criticism. Trump can do that on his TrumpTV, if he’s foolish enough to actually launch it. Fortunately for America, it won’t take very long for that to devolve into a HUGE and humiliating catastrophe.

Journalists’ Org BLASTS Trump As ‘An Unprecedented Threat’ To Press Freedom

The United States has never seen the likes of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. He has spent the last year and a half engaged solely in puerile insults and personal attacks. His victims have included women, minorities, veterans, and anyone he deemed less than reverential. However, the media has borne much of the weight of his manic scorn. When he isn’t “joking” about killing them, he is calling them scum, losers, dummies, and sleazy. He has revoked the press credentials of people or organizations he doesn’t like, including the Washington Post, BuzzFeed, the Huffington Post, Fusion, Univision, and more. For a couple of hours he even boycotted Fox News.

Donald Trump

Trump’s hostility toward the press is frighteningly intense. And his authoritarian attitude should alarm anyone who values free speech. Just last week two Pulitzer Prize winning journalists told NPR that Trump is a “clear and present danger” to the First Amendment. Now the Committee to Protect Journalists is weighing in with a statement “in response to Trump’s threats and vilification of the media.”

Here is the statement in full:

Guaranteeing the free flow of information to citizens through a robust, independent press is essential to American democracy. For more than 200 years this founding principle has protected journalists in the United States and inspired those around the world, including brave journalists facing violence, censorship, and government repression.

Donald Trump, through his words and actions as a candidate for president of the United States, has consistently betrayed First Amendment values. On October 6, CPJ’s board of directors passed a resolution declaring Trump an unprecedented threat to the rights of journalists and to CPJ’s ability to advocate for press freedom around the world.

Since the beginning of his candidacy, Trump has insulted and vilified the press and has made his opposition to the media a centerpiece of his campaign. Trump has routinely labeled the press as “dishonest” and “scum” and singled out individual news organizations and journalists.

He has mocked a disabled New York Times journalist and called an ABC News reporter a “sleaze” in a press conference. He expelled Univision anchor Jorge Ramos from a campaign press conference because he asked an “impertinent” question, and has publicly demeaned other journalists.

Trump has refused to condemn attacks on journalists by his supporters. His campaign has also systematically denied press credentials to outlets that have covered him critically, including The Washington Post, BuzzFeed, Politico, The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, Univision, and The Des Moines Register.

Throughout his campaign, Trump has routinely made vague proposals to limit basic elements of press and internet freedom. At a rally in February, Trump declared that if elected president he would “open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.” In September, Trump tweeted, “My lawyers want to sue the failing @nytimes so badly for irresponsible intent. I said no (for now), but they are watching. Really disgusting.”

While some have suggested that these statements are rhetorical, we take Trump at his word. His intent and his disregard for the constitutional free press principle are clear.

A Trump presidency would represent a threat to press freedom in the United States, but the consequences for the rights of journalists around the world could be far more serious. Any failure of the United States to uphold its own standards emboldens dictators and despots to restrict the media in their own countries. This appears to be of no concern to Trump, who indicated that he has no inclination to challenge governments on press freedom and the treatment of journalists.

When MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough asked him in December if his admiration of Russian President Vladimir Putin was at all tempered by the country’s history of critical journalists being murdered, his response was: “He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country… Well, I think that our country does plenty of killing, too.”

Through his words and actions, Trump has consistently demonstrated a contempt for the role of the press beyond offering publicity to him and advancing his interests.

For this reason CPJ is taking the unprecedented step of speaking out now. This is not about picking sides in an election. This is recognizing that a Trump presidency represents a threat to press freedom unknown in modern history.

Nuff said.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

UPDATE: On October 13, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued an “unprecedented” statement declaring Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump “a threat to press freedom unknown in modern history.” And October 14, the National Press Club put out a statement condemning Trump’s anti-press tactics as “unacceptable and dangerous to our democracy.”

Tweet-Storming With The Whiner-In-Chief, Donald Trump

Nothing illustrates desperation more than the frantic whining of someone who knows he’s losing badly but refuses to admit it. Donald Trump is a textbook case of this. Ever since his disastrous convention, Trump’s prospects have been sinking like an elephant in a tar pit. According to Gallup, the Republican convention actually resulted in more people saying they are less likely to vote for him. That’s the first time that has ever happened since polling on that question began.

Trump Baby

As Trump’s popularity declines he is behaving more and more erratically. His deranged assertions that Obama “founded ISIS,” that the elections will be “rigged,” and shamelessly insulting a Gold Star family, paint a picture of a pathetically deluded loser. And now he is directing his impotent fire at the media:

Trump is getting increasingly unhinged (to the degree that’s possible). He has also taken to calling the media “the worst human beings in the world.” There may be some victims of terrorism who disagree with that. However, the media must be so proud for having overtaken Hillary and ISIS in the Race for the Worst in Trump’s deranged head.

Having an active imagination must bring Trump some comfort. Because that’s the only way he can believe that he would be beating Clinton by twenty percent, even with more friendly media. As for not being covered properly at his rallies, they generally point a camera at him and let him rant. That is SO unfair. Holding him accountable for the things he actually says is the ultimate dirty trick.

It’s funny that Trump is complaining that he is losing to someone who “is not a talented person or politician.” Think how badly he would be losing if Clinton WAS a talented politician. And by the way, it absolutely IS freedom of the press “when newspapers and others are allowed to say and write whatever they want.” That’s the definition of freedom of the press. Even if you don’t like what they’re saying. But keep it up, Donald. Because nothing solves a cratering campaign like whining.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Donald Trump Loser

Pro-Censorship Fox News Says Government Should Seize Profits From Snowden Biopic

Taking their propaganda business model one step closer to police state fascism, Fox News is now advocating government censorship of film producers for projects that challenge their right-wing world view. This became all too apparent on today’s episode of Fox & Friends during an interview with Tom Fitton, the president of the ultra-conservative Judicial Watch group.

Fox News Snowden

The “Curvy Couch” potatoes of Fox & Friends aired a transparently hostile segment (video below) on director/producer Oliver Stone’s upcoming biographical film about Edward Snowden, the systems administrator turned whistle-blower, who leaked documents that revealed the NSA’s mass surveillance programs. The segment began with the trio of co-hosts suggesting that Stone’s film “could violate federal law” and that “the DOJ may be able to seize [its] profits.” The first question Fitton was asked was specifically about that possibility. He responded:

“Well, if they were interested in pursuing where these profits were going and who is funding this movie, because Oliver Stone was working with Mr. Snowden who had no right to the information he had. As a fugitive he’s under indictment. And typically you can’t benefit from moneys that you may earn from stealing government property and betraying your country.”

Notice that Fitton did not offer any evidence that Snowden was benefiting from the film. He merely planted the suggestion and inferred that Stone’s working with him was in itself suspicious. Although any competent film maker would seek to get first hand accounts from the subject of a biopic if that subject were available.

Notice also that the outrage expressed by Fitton, and shared by the Foxies, for someone who “stole” information was never shown toward the thieves who hacked the Democratic National Committee. And those thieves actually were working for a foreign government (Russians) who had hostile intentions toward the U.S. Undeterred by reason or patriotism, Fitton went even further with his baseless inferences against Stone:

“Mr. Stone knew something was up with respect to Mr. Snowden because he made a point of saying that ‘I stuck to making this movie in Munich,’ because he was, quote, ‘afraid of the NSA.’ If he was doing a regular movie what would he have been afraid of?”

First of all, there is nothing unsavory about making a film in Munich, especially when it places you 3,000 miles closer from your home base in New York to your primary source in Moscow. Secondly, the very topic of the film validates any concern Stone might have had about interference from the NSA.

Most importantly, Fitton’s assertion that Stone should have nothing to fear if he were making a “regular” movie (whatever that is), is reminiscent of the assurance from authoritarians that, so long as you’re not doing anything wrong, it shouldn’t bother you if the government reads your email, listens to your phone calls, or searches your bedroom closet. What are you afraid of, comrade? The absurdity of Fitton’s comment even seemed to make Fox’s co-host Tucker Carlson nervous. He gingerly asked:

“So I’m not defending Oliver Stone, or of course Snowden, but the NSA did spy on Americans who had nothing to do with terrorism, so maybe Stone’s not a total paranoid. But more to the point, every news organization in America reprinted information that Snowden stole. So by the standard you just held, should every news organization also be liable for abetting a criminal?”

Fitton’s defensively knee-jerk response to this was “Not necessarily.” He reiterated that Stone’s meetings with Snowden somehow made the whole relationship an unholy conspiracy. According to Fitton “Snowden is no whistle-blower,” and his actions were tantamount to “treachery.”

At this point Fox’s co-host Pete Hegseth chimed in that “There’s no doubt that Snowden’s disclosure helped groups like Al Qaeda and others.” And once again, he provided no evidence for such a serious charge. But he did gave Fitton the opportunity to present his own wingnut theory that “The Obama administration is no fan of our nation’s security.” Fitton is obviously in the camp that regards Obama as a foreign-born Muslim terrorist sympathizer.

The notion that the federal government is empowered to confiscate profits from a filmmaker, based on the content of the film, is a blatant violation of the principles of free speech. It is a breach of constitutional liberties and merely threatening to do so would have a chilling effect on the rights of free people. It is by definition censorship.

The fact that Fox News would provide a platform for someone advocating this, and then fail to repudiate it, is indicative of Fox’s affinity for rightist tyranny. And it’s further proof that the mission of Fox News has nothing to do with the pseudo-patriotic image they attempt to manufacture for themselves and sell to their dimwitted audience.

Please do visit the Snowden film website and watch the trailer for the movie that is coming out September 16.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Crybaby Trump Revokes The Washington Post’s Press Credentials In A Childish Tantrum

Tough-talking Donald Trump has proven again that his macho image is as phony as a diploma from Trump University. Within a couple of hours of his first post-Orlando speech, wherein he ranted about the evils of “radical Islamic terrorism” and the traitors who refuse to say those three magic words, Trump announced that he was too scared to face the bone-chilling visage of reporters from the {shudder} Washington Post. He posted a message on Facebook declaring that…

“Based on the incredibly inaccurate coverage and reporting of the record setting Trump campaign, we are hereby revoking the press credentials of the phony and dishonest Washington Post.”

Donald Trump Crybaby

Trump didn’t bother to enumerate any instances of the Post’s alleged dishonesty because he expects his disciples to accept whatever he says as gospel without verification. That’s pretty much the same take he has on matters of policy which he never details because he knows his supporters simply don’t care.

The likely reason for banishing WaPo is related to a Facebook post he made just prior to the credential revocation. He complained about a headline in the Post that correctly reported his implied assertion that “President Obama was involved with Orlando shooting.” Again, Trump didn’t bother to elaborate, but his actual commentary said “Look, we’re led by a man that either is not tough, not smart, or he’s got something else in mind […] There’s something going on. It’s inconceivable.”

The Post was not the only news organization that noticed Trump’s suggestion that the President might be an accomplice to a terrorist act. Every broadcast news network reported the same story with similar headlines:

Add to that group other similar media reports from The Atlantic, Mother Jones, The New Republic, Salon, Esquire, Vice, Chicago Tribune, Politico, Time, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Reuters, and you have an awfully large chunk of the media who risk losing their press credentials to cover the Trump campaign.

Trump’s campaign has been a hotbed of media discontent for many months. His treatment of the press got so bad at one point that an assembly of media companies got together to discuss what could be done about it. This was after numerous incidents wherein reporters were mistreated by Trump or his staff, including confinement to journalist “pens” and revocation of credentials from reporters the campaign deemed to be unfriendly such as BuzzFeed, the Huffington Post, Fusion, Univision, the Des Moines Register, and the New Hampshire Union Leader. Additionally, Trump threw an anchor for Univision, the largest Spanish-language TV network in the country, out of one of his press conferences. He even briefly boycotted Fox News.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

This is behavior that marks Trump as both cowardly and tyrannical. After all, how can he claim to be able to stand up to Putin or ISIS when he’s running scared from WaPo and Mother Jones? His response to coverage that is less than adoring is to revert to the tactics of a wannabe dictator. He even promised that, as president, he would “open up our libel laws” governing the media so that he “can sue them and win lots of money.” As repugnant as that is coming from a political candidate, it would be far more troubling coming from the White House. Trump is demonstrating an overt hostility to the principles of a free press, and if his narcissistic authoritarianism and ignorance weren’t already enough reason to keep conscientious Americans from voting for him, this should seal the deal.

Is Fox News Shielding Donald Trump From Release Of Damaging Courtroom Video?

News organizations generally favor having access to as much information as possible. It is, in fact, their mission to compile as much raw data on a subject as they can in order to present a complete account to the public. It is almost unheard of for a media company to decline to advocate for access to relevant information, particularly from a government or legal entity. And yet, that is exactly what Fox News is doing.

Trump News Channel

A motion filed Friday with the U.S. District Court in San Diego is petitioning for the release of video depositions of Donald Trump made in connection with the fraud case against him and his defunct Trump University. And, yes, that’s the same court presided over by Judge Gonzalo Curiel who Trump has been attacking in a baseless and racist effort to smear the judge as unfair.

The videos referenced in the filing have the potential to reveal a more accurate representation Trump than the one he carefully crafts with his media and public appearances. The motion was filed on behalf of every major television news network (ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN), as well some of the most prominent newspapers (New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune).

Well, make that “almost” every major television news network. There are a couple of conspicuous holdouts who have not joined this filing, most notably Fox News. Along with Fox, the Wall Street Journal, another cog in Rupert Murdoch’s media machine, did not participate in the filing. This raises questions as to whether Fox News is deliberately abstaining so as not to harm the electoral prospects of the candidate they openly support, or to avoid aggravating Trump and thus lose access to his frequent and profitable appearances on the network (he has boycotted Fox News in the recent past). Another more fanciful theory is that Trump has dirt on Fox News, and/or its CEO Roger Ailes, and is steering clear for fear of retaliation.

The motion filed by the press succinctly describes the argument in favor of releasing the videos. It’s an argument that rests on the public’s right to know and the importance of transparency during a presidential campaign. The opening paragraphs say…

“For many years, Defendant Donald J. Trump has been at the center of an ongoing controversy over his namesake, Trump University (“TU”). This lawsuit – one of several actions alleging that TU defrauded its customers and encouraged their participation in the volatile late-2000s real estate market – drew significant public attention even before this year’s Presidential election.

“Now, Defendant is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, and has made his business acumen an important element of his campaign. Thus, this lawsuit not only raises important questions about Defendant and his organization, it has become a prominent electoral issue. Opposing candidates have pointed to the allegations in this case in criticizing Defendant’s qualifications for the presidency; Defendant has cited TU as an example of his business success, and made this litigation itself a campaign issue.

“Given the undeniable and substantial public interest in these proceedings, the need for transparency could not be greater.”

Trump’s legal team is, predictably, opposing this motion, although they have not yet laid out the details of their rebuttal. But it’s one thing for Trump’s lawyers to argue against releasing material that will prove detrimental to his case and reputation. It’s their job to insulate him from legal jeopardy. However, it is not the job of Fox News, or any media enterprise, to protect Trump from embarrassing disclosures and to help him keep such information from the public.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

By their conspicuous absence as plaintiffs in this filing, Fox News is signaling both their allegiance to Trump and their contempt for a free press. While they often feverishly complain that President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and other Democrats lack transparency, Fox is demonstrating that their “fair and balanced” slogan is nothing more than a phony marketing gimmick. If the court rules in favor of this motion Fox News will almost certainly air the videos that become available. But look for them to air along with vigorous defenses of Trump and attempts to dismiss their relevance and malign his critics. It’s the Fox News way.

GOP Senator Attempts To Strongarm Facebook Over Bias Allegations

In what may be one of the most alarming examples of government overreach, the Republican chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Sen. John Thune, is injecting himself into the operations of Facebook’s news publishing. Upon hearing about a report by Gizmodo that Facebook might be slanting the articles that appear in their Trending Topics section, Thune fired off a letter to Facebook demanding an accounting of their procedures.

John Thune Facebook

It needs to be stated firstly that the article on Gizmodo consists only of unsupported allegations from anonymous sources. They claim to be former Facebook contractors so their shield of anonymity seems peculiar since Facebook cannot retaliate against them. However, without any identity it’s impossible to know whether they have ulterior motives or are disgruntled ex-employees lashing out for their own reasons. They provided no documented proof to support their claims of bias. Yet they did admit that “there is no evidence that Facebook management mandated or was even aware of any political bias at work.” So the whole story may be the overblown product of personal grudges. Which makes what happened next all the more troubling.

After the story was pumped through the conservative media echo chamber, where Fox News took particular interest (more on that later), it eventually landed on the desk of Sen. Thune. His response was to write a letter to Facebook expressing his concern that the company might be inappropriately influencing its audience. The letter said…

“Facebook has enormous influence over users’ perceptions of current events, including political perspectives. If Facebook presents its Trending Topics section as the result of a neutral, objective algorithm, but it is in fact filtered to support particular political viewpoints, Facebook’s assertion that it maintains a ‘platform for people and perspectives from across the political spectrum’ misleads the public.”

Thune also stated in a press release about the letter that…

“Facebook must answer these serious allegations and hold those responsible to account if there has been political bias in the dissemination of trending news,” said Thune on sending the letter. “Any attempt by a neutral and inclusive social media platform to censor or manipulate political discussion is an abuse of trust and inconsistent with the values of an open Internet.”

Oh really? So now the federal government is empowered to force a news provider to refrain from any political bias and, according to Thune, failure to do so is regarded as “an abuse of trust.” Asserting the heavy hand of government, Thune instructed Facebook to make its employees available to brief his committee. What’s more, Thune asserts that Facebook is “mislead[ing] the public” if they falsely claim to be a “platform for people and perspectives from across the political spectrum.”

So when will Thune be sending a similar letter to Fox News? After all, Fox has been falsely claiming to be “fair and balanced” for years. They also have enormous influence over “perceptions of current events, including political perspectives,” yet they regularly “censor and manipulate” their reporting.

The arguments made by Thune are a flagrant violation of the constitutional right to the freedom of the press. Congress has no business interfering with the editorial decisions made by the journalists employed by Facebook. If there is bias in their work it can be reported by other journalists, protested by media watchdogs, and the public always has the opportunity to make up its own mind as to whether to patronize Facebook or any other news enterprise.

From the moment this story broke, Fox News has expressed their outrage that the liberal weasels at Facebook would dare to suppress conservative stories. They treated it as if the allegations were proven facts, which of course they were not. Facebook has already looked into the charges and responded saying that “We take these reports extremely seriously, and have found no evidence that the anonymous allegations are true.” But that hasn’t stopped Fox News from continuing to portray Facebook as being guilty of grossly prejudicing their news coverage.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Anyone who has watched Fox News for twenty minutes recognizes the absurdity of Fox complaining about another organization being biased. But the intrusion of the government on behalf of offended right-wingers who cannot even validate their charges is beyond the pale. Thune is overstepping his authority by threatening to investigate Facebook and demanding their compliance. Even Fox’s media correspondent, Howard Kurtz, was taken aback by Thune’s aggressive approach. Kurtz told Fox Business Network host Trish Regan that “If Thune had sent a letter like that to the New York Times or the Washington Post or Fox News we’d probably tell them to buzz off.” And that’s exactly what Facebook should tell them.

[Update:] Steve Benen at MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow blog takes Thune to task noting that he is “The wrong Republican to pick a fight with Facebook.” As a leading opponent of Net Neutrality and the defunct Fairness Doctrine, Thune previously condemned the sort of government intrusion he is currently engaging in. In a 2007 article he said that “the hair stands up on the back of my neck when I hear government officials offering to regulate the news media and talk radio to ensure fairness.” Perhaps he shaved his neck since then.

Racist Moron Declares His Gun Store To Be A “Muslim-Free” Zone

Andy Hallinan is the owner of a gun store in Florida who has had enough of the senseless violence that his products cause. Well, that is if said violence is committed by a devotee of a specific religion – in this case Islam – to which he is virulently opposed. His solution to the problem is to deny service to all Muslims.

Muslim-Free Zone

Announcing the implementation of this flagrantly biased policy, Hallinan posted a video on YouTube (see below) that reeks of both bigotry and ignorance in painfully huge doses. Not surprisingly, Fox News promoted this revolting diatribe on their Fox Nation website. Hallinan begins by warning his fellow fear-infected viewers that…

“We’re in a battle, patriots. The leaders of the country want you to believe that this [Confederate] flag represents white supremacy, hatred, and intolerance. That’s not true.”

Hallinan then delivers an abbreviated remedial history of the flag that ignores the contemporary embrace of it by openly racist people and organizations, including the KKK and white supremacists. He entirely leaves out the fact that the flag had virtually disappeared from public display for nearly a century after the Civil War until it was removed from mothballs as the banner of southern segregationists in the 1950’s and 1960’s. [Side note: Hallinan also seems not to have noticed that, in his hasty patriotic zeal, he hung his flag upside-down (notice the stars)]

He goes on to whitewash the flag’s symbolism as representing “nothing but the rich heritage of the South and the willingness of patriots to stand up against tyranny of all sorts.” By that he must mean the rich heritage of slavery and standing up against the tyrants who fought against it under the flag of the United States of America.

After insisting that he is not a racist, Hallinan asserted that “Racism was on the decline in America until Obama took office.” Perhaps he missed the obvious subtext of his own statement, which is that the emergence of the country’s first African-American president brought out the racist cockroaches who had slithered under the floorboards as advancements in civil rights made it more difficult for them to showcase their hatred in public.

Then this “not-racist patriot” inserted video clips of civil disturbances in Baltimore to shore up his claim that he isn’t racist by presenting images of African-Americans engaged in riots following the tragic and unexplained death of Freddie Gray while in police custody. Hallinan never brought up the reasons for the protests, nor did he show the vast majority of protesters who were peaceful. Clearly his intent was to leave a decidedly negative impression of the protesters. And he wasn’t through yet.

“Our leaders are telling you that the cross is a symbol of intolerance and hatred, bigotry, anti-homosexuality. Don’t believe their lies. Our leaders are telling you that Islam is a peaceful religion, full of tolerance and love and hope. Don’t believe their lies.”

I wonder which leaders he is referring to that are making those charges against the cross. He doesn’t say. But he does reveal more of his rancid prejudice with his ridiculous and contemptuous perception of Islam. Hallinan then warned his viewers that they are in “a battle with extreme political correctness that threatens our lives.” Who knew that political correctness could be a mortal foe?

This is when Hallinan got to the meat of his presentation. Saying that he “will not train and arm those who wish to do harm to my fellow patriots,” he declared his store a “Muslim-Free” zone. That course of action is so patently idiotic that it is hard to know where to begin. So let’s start with the fact that he is violating the Constitution by discriminating against people on the basis of their religion. Apparently the patriotism that he espouses so freely is conditional when it comes to equal protection of the law.

What’s more, this moron doesn’t explain how he is going to determine the religion of his customers in order to discriminate against them. Maybe he only intends to discriminate against Muslims who look Middle-Eastern. But then he will likely also be denying service to brown-skinned folks who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jews, and even other Christians. Maybe he could use beards as an indicator. But then he would have to send away ZZ Top and the Duck Dynasty family. And of course, any European Muslims like the Tsarnaev brothers who bombed the Boston marathon would escape detection entirely.

Perhaps even more absurd is the fact that Hallinan is violating the favorite Amendment in the Bill of Rights for right-wing nut cases like himself. The Second Amendment says nothing about permitting the infringement of the right to keep and bear arms from people associated with a particular religion. Although it does include a qualification for “well regulated Militias,” which they generally like to ignore. In Hallinan’s perverted view, law abiding and patriotic American Muslims have no right to protect themselves or their families with firearms. Apparently Hallinan is unaware that the most frequent target of Islamic extremists like ISIS is other Muslims. And never mind the fact that many Muslims are currently serving with distinction in the U.S. military. Many have even given their lives defending this country.

Just for the record, Hallinan doesn’t seem to have any problem with selling guns to domestic abusers, rapists, drug traffickers, car-jackers, bank robbers, serial killers, suicides, or right-wing domestic terrorists. At least he doesn’t have a policy addressing any of those. And they occur with a far greater frequency than any Muslim violence. In fact, the sort of guns that he sells are responsible for about 30,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.

It is always somewhat depressing to stumble upon the sort of deranged idiocy that people like Hallinan represent. And unfortunately, there are way too many like him. They are the core audience of Fox News. They are the listeners of Glenn Beck. They are the disciples of evangelical hucksters like Pat Robertson. And they are the voters who are currently swarming around their Meathead Messiah, Donald Trump.

Hallinan closes his video screed by proclaiming definitively that Islam is evil and that our government is not to be believed. So apparently he has hostility for both in equal measures. Yet he still considers himself a patriot. The final frame of the video tells his frightened viewers to “Get armed. Get trained. Carry daily.” But of course he only means that if you are recognizably not Muslim, because Hallinan will not do business with you if you are.

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