• Chelsea Mourning: Harvard Students in a Snit over Her Cancellation as a Fellow

    Well, maybe “fellow” isn’t such a good title, either.

    In any case, Harvard students know oppression, imperialism, capitalism, and heteronormativity when they see it, and they are shouting back.

    Here’s the headline in the student newspaper:

    Outcry After Chelsea Manning Dropped from IOP Fellowship (The Crimson, Harvard)

    Controversy enveloped the Kennedy School of Government this weekend as critics on campus and around the country castigated the school for rescinding Chelsea Manning’s appointment as a visiting fellow this fall.

    Facing criticism on-campus and nationwide, Dean of the Kennedy School Douglas W. Elmendorf rescinded Manning’s invitation in a statement issued in the early hours of Friday, calling her selection a “mistake.”

    Now the school faces a fresh wave of controversy as commentators lambast Harvard’s decision to disinvite Manning, a transgender activist whose prison sentence former President Barack Obama commuted in 2017. –The Crimson

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    The Aggrieved Left Pushes Back

    They and Chelsea Manning are “Victims”

    The pushback from the campus left, which now sees itself in its preferred position of “blameless victim,” includes a letter condemning the university for dropping the Manning offer:

    In light of her selfless sacrifices as a whistleblower, her dedication to the truth, and her commitment to human rights, we call upon the Harvard Kennedy School to reinstate Chelsea Manning’s designation as a fellow at the Institute of Politics,” read the letter, signed by the Trans Task Force, the Progressive Jewish Alliance, and the Anti-Islamophobia Network, among several other groups. –Letter from student organizations supporting Chelsea Manning appointment at Harvard, quoted in The Crimson

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    The Crimson’s Reporting: Fair and Competent

    The Crimson article, it should be noted, is fair-minded and includes on-the-record quotes from university members on both sides of the controversy.

    Its reporting on a disputed left-right issue is actually superior to that of the NYT, Washington Post, and other media.

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    Framing This Issue is Contentious

    Comment: This dispute is framed in quite different ways by the opposing sides–and that framing matters.

    The left sees it as primarily a snub to Manning because of her gender reassignment.

    The right sees it as a reasonable decision about someone who leaked classified information.

    The left sees the leaking as a valuable public service.

    The right sees it as a crime that was properly punished by a court-martial.

    Both sides see the designation as a “Fellow” of the Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics as an honor. One sees it as well deserved, the other as an endorsement of espionage.

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    FYI: The headline of this post, “Chelsea Mourning,” is a nod to Joni Mitchell:

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    Thanks to the wonderful Belladonna Rogers for this story

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, June 10

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     The aftermath of Comey remains “He said. He said.” One he is Comey, the other is Trump.

    Other than Trump’s foolhardy bravado in offering to testify under oath to Mueller, nothing really happened.

    The newspapers generally covered the testimony honestly. The outlier was the New York Times. Here’s my blog post on that:

    How Five Newspapers Headline Comey’s Testimony: Four are Fair, One is Not

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    Comment on Conspiracy Theories: The Comey testimony and its aftermath underscore and reinforce a larger shift in public discourse that is very troubling: the rise of conspiracy theories.

    America’s media in tandem with the Democratic party and progressives are now playing a constant drumbeat of conspiracy theories, mostly about secret collaboration between the Kremlin and Trump to throw the 2016 election.

    We haven’t seen anything like that since Joe McCarthy.

    Trump does not come to this with clean hands. His claims about Barack Obama’s birth certificate were a major conspiracy theory for years.

     Britain’s Tories face a trainwreck. Their call for a snap election has produced a hung Parliament and likely a shaky coalition government

    The headline in The Independent: Theresa May tries to move on after humiliating result as critics begin to circle

    A chastened Theresa May is attempting to move on from her botched election gamble, under intense pressure from members of her own cabinet and Tory backbenchers to dramatically improve her game. . . .

    Ahead of what is promising to be a bruising meeting with Tory backbenchers next week, MPs publicly questioned Ms May’s position and her campaign, with one even branding it “madness”, while others demanded changes to her Brexit strategy and raised concerns about a deal with the Northern Irish DUP [Democratic Unionist Party] . –The Independent

    May met with the Queen and said she intends to form a government. But there is considerable question about her future.

    The Tories could toss her out before the next election, which is likely to come fairly soon.

    Meanwhile, here are the main effects of the British election. It

    • Requires Conservatives to partner with a small party (DUP) from Northern Ireland to form a government
    • Shows the failure of Theresa May’s campaign; she was a bad candidate who ran on her personality, not future policy
    • Rejects the Conservatives positioning themselves as mushy, big-state centrists, far away from Thatcher’s free-market policies.
    • Gives Labour its biggest gains since late 1940s, even though (or perhaps because) the party is headed by a very, very far leftist.
      • Labour’s huge gains under Jeremy Corbyn, an unabashed socialist who supports a number of terrorist regimes, mark a major political shift in the electorate.

     Spain’s Catalonia region (Barcelona and surrounding area) will hold a referendum on leaving Spain (NPR)

    The Spanish central government sees the vote as illegal, so this sets up a confrontation.

    The Washington Post story is here.

    “There is not going to be any illegal referendum that goes against the Constitution,” the government’s spokesman . . . said after a weekly cabinet meeting. “We are facing an increasingly radical strategy that has less and less support.”

    [But Catalonia’s regional president] Carles Puigdemont said the decision to call for the vote was reached after more than 18 months of efforts failed to establish a dialogue with Madrid.

    He also said the vote was nonnegotiable because Catalans backed his plan for secession by voting for his coalition of pro-independence parties at the end of 2015. –Washington Post

    Comment: The region has a long history and its own language, Catalan, that is related to Spanish but different.

     Repealing Obamacare puts the Senate’s centrist Republicans in a bind. An example from Ohio, in his USA Today story:

    Rob Portman’s dilemma: How to repeal Obamacare without undermining opioid fight

    The key problem: any cutbacks in Medicaid, which Ohio expanded as part of the ACA, would harm addicts’ ability to get care.

    Comment: Repealing and Replacing Obamacare depends on solving very hard problems like this. 

     Meanwhile, Politico reports that “Conservatives near revolt on Senate health care negotiations”

    Comment: Staunchest opponents appear to be Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mike Lee (R-UT).

    Skepticism about the bill voiced by Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Tom Cotton (R-AK) 

    Republicans have 52 votes. They would need 50 votes plus the Vice President to pass a bill and send it to a reconciliation committee with the House.

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  • How Five Newspapers Headline Comey’s Testimony: Four are Fair, One is Not

    I have written a separate post summarizing Comey’s testimony: what he said, what he didn’t, what he implied, and what I think is significant about it.

    Comey’s testimony lacerated the president and laid the basis for Special Counsel Robert Mueller to investigate obstruction of justice. That and self-justification were his main goals, and he succeeded.

    But Comey’s testimony was careful.

    Here are some fair representations of it.

    The best, I think, is the Wall Street Journal’s because it

    • Puts Comey’s accusation against Trump in the headline
    • Gives it the most prominent place on the front page without stretching it to World War III headline size
    • Makes clear that Comey is saying how he “felt.” The WSJ is not taking a hard-news stance that he is correct or incorrect in that interpretation

    The Chicago Tribune is fair, too. It gives the story more prominence (a perfectly reasonable decision) and puts the hard news in the subheader.

    The headline merely says what we all know: he testified.

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    Here are two more, equally fair and tough.

     

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    Now, the New York Times.

    The Times’ headline represents everything that is wrong with mainstream media.

    It is an editorial without saying so.

    Why? Because Comey did not testify that Trump tried to “sink” the inquiry.  He was more careful, more lawyers, more “touchy-feely” about what he “felt” (which, of course, is entirely subjective and so cannot be refuted).

    Comey did not say Trump tried to stop the inquiry.

    He didn’t say Trump ordered him to do anything.

    He didn’t report anything like obstruction of justice at the time, as he would have been required to do.

    What he testified was that he felt pressured.

    Comey may be exactly right–or not. We can make our own judgments, but we don’t know for sure.

    His testimony was a lawyerly self-defense, designed to help himself and get revenge on Trump.

    But he did not testify, under oath, that Trump “tried to sink” the investigation. That’s the NYT’s editorial spin.

    Their interpretation may be exactly right, but it belongs on the editorial pages.

    All the other stories above the fold are designed–and headlined–to reinforce the NYT’s editorial viewpoint.

    Their headline should be hard news, and it should be accurate.

    That would be a refreshing change. 

  • London attacks: Media buries the religious motivations. It’s just “terrorism” of some sort

    First, some background.

    News organizations can bury entire stories or part of them.

    That’s not always bad. It may represent solid news judgment that the story or some part of it does not deserve much coverage.

    Too often, though, it represents news bias, in effect editorializing by downplaying what is really significant.

    The reverse also happens. The media can overplay or hype stories, as when CNN played the “lost Malaysian airliner” story for weeks on end.

    To consume news intelligently, it helps to look for these biases, which nudge you in one direction or another.

     

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    I had a hunch that would happen with the London Bridge attack. The story itself is huge news.

    What I wanted to know was whether the major news organizations would downplay the religious fury behind the attacks, which was known almost immediately.

    Here’s the answer.

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    New York Times lead story is here. At the bottom of paragraph 8, the Times slips this in:

    The police treated that attack, in which 50 were injured, as “Islamist-related terrorism.” –NYT

    That is the first mention of any motivation.

    The Times mentions a related point in the 10th paragraph.

    Then, way, way down in the story, it quotes an eyewitness telling the BBC the terrorists were shouting: “This is for Allah.” (I understand eyewitness testimony may not be accurate so you might be cautious about that in the early going. Turns out there were several witnesses and the motivations were not in doubt–except to the NYT and its readers.)

    And that’s it. Two mentions of Islamic radicalism in the entire story, both in lower paragraphs. That’s the only context the give for this story, other than saying it is “terrorism.”

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    NBC News, predictably, skips all mention of the Islamist motivations until it includes the quote, “This is for Allah,” in paragraph 9.  The story makes no other mention of the apparent religious motivation of the attackers. None.

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    SHAMEFUL: The Washington Post tops ’em, an impressive feat. Their lead story has no mention of Islamic terrorism at all, and only one glancing mention of that “This is for Allah” quotation somewhere around paragraph 30! (I confess I gave up counting somewhere after paragraph 20.)

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    Fox News also mentioned the ubiquitous quotation in para. 9, but it did something the others did not. It added further information immediately.

    Witnesses told Sky News and the BBC that the attackers shouted “This is for Allah.”

    The attacks came just over two months after the car-and-knife attack at British Parliament and less than two weeks after the suicide bombing at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester that killed 22 people. Britain just recently lowered its official terror threat from “critical.”

    The threats targeting Europe have been among the worst that American intelligence officials have seen in a decade, a U.S. government official told Fox News. Both London Mayor Sadiq Khan and U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert described the attacks as “cowardly.” –Fox News

    Notice that the Allah quote is now attributed to several witnesses, not one. That’s important confirmation.  Second, it notes that this attack comes after two other recent terrorist attacks, though it refrains from calling them “Islamic terrorism.”

    Finally, Fox features another major story on its front web page, devoted to their larger meaning of this string of attacks, calling them a “bellweather of assaults on Western civilization.”

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    My conclusion is straightforward.

    The MSM, like European politicians, does not want to report awkward facts than undermine their political preferences.

    If they can’t bury the whole story, they at least bury those inconvenient truths.

    My view: Put your political preferences on your editorial pages. Report the news and the crucial context, and cut the PC BS.

  • Choose the right news photo to help your friends and hurt your foes

    This is not a story about one paper or website’s bias. It’s a story about how easy it is for them to do it, if they wish, without readers notice. It can work because it’s subtle.

    In this case, it’s the choices faced by news photo editors. Look at these options, and you’ll see how easy it is to favor the politicians you like and hurt the ones you loathe.

    The pictures show two US presidents meeting Pope Francis. In every picture, the presidents are smiling.

    But the pope not. He is smiling in some, frowning (or somber) in others.

    All an editor has to do, if he wishes to tilt the coverageis pick the smiling or frowning Pope.

    Those kinds of options are almost always available at news events.

    Fair-minded photo editors play it straight.

    But not all editors are fair. Their bias works because we don’t notice what we don’t see.

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    These pictures were posted on Imgur and shared with me by Michael Lipson. Thanks to him and the person who posted them.

  • Media Bias, Illustrated: Same Story, Different Headlines

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     The easiest way to see spin and bias is to see how different outlets treat the same story.

     In this case, the basic news is straightforward, or at least it should be:

    Trump Administration tells remaining 46 holdovers to resign as US Attorneys. Will name own people

    All administrations do that. The only real news here is that they did not do it soon after inauguration.

    But there was a good reason: the Trump Administration didn’t have its own person heading the Department of Justice. Senate Democrats had slowed Jeff Sessions’ confirmation as Attorney General. Now that he is in place, they will put in their own people as US attorneys.

    There is a secondary issue about the process. The US Attorneys had not been given a heads-up, so the news surprised them. That’s part of the story, but only a secondary part.

    Who cares if they were surprised? The news is that the Trump Administration will install its own people to reflect their priorities, just as President Obama and Eric Holder did.

     Now, let’s see how the media convey that news.

    I am looking only at hard news sites.

    Neutral, fair headlines

    • AG Sessions asks remaining 46 US attorneys to resign (Fox News)
    • Jeff Sessions asks 46 Obama-appointed US attorneys to resign (Los Angeles Times)
    • Sessions seeks resignations of 46 US attorneys (USA Today)
    • Justice Department tells all remaining Obama administration U.S. attorneys to resign (Washington Post)
    • Fardon, other Obama holdovers out as US attorneys, Sessions says (Chicago Tribune; Zach Fardon is the US Attorney for Chicago)
    • Houston US Attorney Magidson among Obama appointees resigning (Houston Chronicle)
    • AG Sessions asks US attorneys, including Montana’s, to resign (The Missoulian)

    Biased, hostile headlines

    • Trump Abruptly Orders 46 Obama-Era Prosecutors to Resign (New York Times)
    • Way in Which US Attorneys Told to Resign Came as Surprise: Source (NBC News; special bonus for putting an anonymous source in the headline)
    • Report: Preet Bharara won’t survive Trump’s purge of US Attorneys (Syracuse.com; “purge” and “survive” are nice choices)

     And the Winner and Still Champion in the Heavy Weight, Biased-Reporting Division: 

    ⇒ Anger Mounts Over Handling of US Attorney Firings (CNN)

     

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