• Extraordinary Blinders: The WaPo looks back on the Orlando Massacre a year later. . . and omits the source of terror, calling it only “a madman with a gun”

    Here is the Washington Post headline:

    “A year ago, 49 people died at Pulse nightclub. Today, Orlando remembers”

    Perfectly appropriate headline for a sad, human-interest story.

    Their emphasis on remembering and mourning is good. That’s important for all of us.

    What’s not good is the Post’s deliberately omitting the source of terror.

    When they finally mention that a killer came to the Pulse nightclub, they intentionally mislabel as a “madman with a gun.”

    That’s political spin–and it tarnishes serious reporting.

    Here is the Post’s mischaracterization:

    For 12 years, the club grew into an integral space for the gay community, one shattered within a matter of minutes by a madman with a gun–Washington Post

    ♦♦♦♦♦

    Comment: I understand the focus of the article is on “remembering,” not analysis.

    But they do mention the attack–and, when they do, they deliberately mischaracterize it.

    It was not a “madman.” He had a purpose–a political/religious one.

    He came to kill infidels in the name of Islam, as his terrorist movement interpretted it.

    We need to speak clearly about that.

    At the same time, we must not tar Muslims (or members of any religion) who go about their lives peacefully and honorably.

    I write about these issues at Real Clear Politics: An Islamic Terrorist by Any Other Name (link here)

     

     

  • 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

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    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.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Here are two more, equally fair and tough.

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    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. 

  • Today’s British Tabloids have Dramatically Different Front Pages. Is America Moving that Direction?

    Britain’s tabloids have always been feisty and highly partisan.

    Today’s front pages are a perfect illustration.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

    British Media: Always Partisan

    American Media: Getting More So

    Strong covers matter for tabloids because they depend on newsstand sales. That’s true in the US, as well as Britain.

    But US papers are less overtly partisan, less stark. Every reader still knows the NY Daily News is liberal, the NY Post conservative, but the differences are more muted, less in-your-face than those of Britain’s Sun and Mirror.

    In my opinion, though, America’s mainstream media is sliding down the same slippery slope. That’s not confined to the few remaining tabloids. It’s true of mainstream papers, cable news, and broadcast channels.

    The trend is not new, but it has accelerated with their hatred of Donald Trump and his vituperative reciprocation, calling them “enemies” of the people. Lots of presidents have thought that, but he has shouted it from the bully pulpit.

    If we continue down this slope, those tabloid front pages await us.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Is Open Partisanship Actually Better than Subtle Suasion?

    There is one interesting response, worth considering.

    Many conservatives already think the New York Times, Washington Post, ABC, NBC, CBS, and CNN are “homers” for the Democrats and progressives. But their slanted coverage is more pernicious, these critics say, because it is less obvious. Ordinary readers and viewers find it harder to detect. They drink the Kool Aid, not knowing it is a sugary drink of editorial bias slipped into hard news stories. If would be better, these critics say, if the media simply declared themselves, as MSNBC has, so viewers would understand.

    Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe you do.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Hat tip to Joe Morris for the English tabloids and for stimulating this response

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, June 5

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

     UPDATE ON London Terror (from the BBC). Police

    • Know the attackers’ identities,
    • Have detained a “number of people” after searches in East London, on top of 12 people arrested Sunday in Barking
    • Report 21 people are still in critical condition.

    With three attacks in three months, terrorism against soft targets is beginning to feel, to some people, like the new normal.

    The brutal reality is that this kind of threat is absolutely typical of what jihadists sought to achieve in all their attacks across Europe.

    Since 2013 security services in the UK have foiled 18 plots. A large proportion of those have involved suspects who set out to commit acts of violence similar to the attacks on Westminster Bridge and London Bridge.

    Plans to use bombs, such as at Manchester Arena, are rarer because plotters need to have the technical skills for such an appalling attack – but attacking people with cars and knives is far easier and has long been encouraged by so-called Islamic State and other jihadists. –BBC

    Comment: The number of potential jihadis in England is beyond the authorities’ ability to track. The number of soft targets is beyond their ability to protect.

    That means hard political choices are coming, not just in England but across Europe to staunch this threat.

    The public simply will not accept this as the “new normal.”

     Dividends from Trump-Saudi talks to contain terror

    The Kingdom, UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar for its constant support of terrorism. CNN reports Bahrain’s tough statement:

    Based on the insistence of the State of Qatar to continue to destabilize the security and stability of the Kingdom of Bahrain, to interfere in its affairs, to continue the escalation and incitement of the media, and supporting armed terrorist activities, and financing groups associated with Iran to subvert and spread chaos in Bahrain in flagrant violation of all agreements and the principles of international law without regard to values, law, morals, consideration of the principles of good neighborliness, or commitment to the constants of Gulf relations, and the denial of all previous commitments. –CNN

    Since the US has a major base in Qatar, there are direct implications for the US. As CBS headlines it: Major U.S. military ops based in Gulf nations in throes of deep diplomatic rift

    Comments:

    • The cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Egypt is noteworthy; they have been grumpy with each other recently.
    • CNN’s story fails to mention Trump or the major meeting during his visit that launched this initiative.

     Since we are talking about CNN’s bias: They were just caught staging a “news event” to fit their narrative.

    They even had the white British police officers leave the frame; they were replaced with Asian officers.

    Comment: If CNN fakes the news, how will airport passengers know what is happening?

     One of those lovely stories about private generosity: 70 years ago, a man (now aged 98) bought $1,000 worth of Walgreens stock. Now, it’s worth $2 million, and, since he doesn’t have a family, he’s giving all of it to his favorite charity: the Illinois Audubon Society. (Fox 32 story here)

     Top Dem on Senate Intel Committee, Mark Warner (D-VA), says “no smoking gun” on Trump-Russia. He quickly adds “at this point”  (The Hill)

    He did say that Trump telling Comey to “let it go” would be “very concerning,” if Comey confirmed it.

    Comment: If there is hard evidence the Trump campaign really did cheat to throw the election, let’s see it. If there is none, let’s get back to governing the country. 

     New chancellor at U. of Missouri says diversity on campus must include “diversity of thought” (Heat Street)

    Comment: The university’s enrollment plummeted, along with its finances, after 2015 demonstrations by Black Lives Matter, threats against student reporters (“get some muscle over here”), and a spineless administration that couldn’t roll over fast enough. Now, they have a new leader on campus with a different idea.

    The question is whether he can implement it and withstand the pushback.

     

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, June 4

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

     England’s third major terror attack in 10 weeks raises fundamental questions about how to prevent these assaults

    Comment: Kudos to the London police for their immediate response. It was swift, sure, and effective. 8 minutes from first incident to squads arriving in force. Their swift action prevented countless additional casualties.

    ♦♦♦♦♦

    The problem is how to prevent these attacks, both in the short run (surveillance, arrests, etc.) and long run (tougher restrictions on immigration and rethinking the obvious failure to integrate the communities into the liberal west).

    All Europe is facing a high threat from Islamic extremists, many (like the Manchester bomber) born in the very Western countries they are terrorizing.

    As ISIS is squeezed abroad, they will try to revive their organization by killing in Europe.

    Ordinary Europeans will refuse to live in perpetual terror and demand answers from their failing political leaders.

     US media reported the London attack, wall-to-wall, but buried one aspect of the story. Any guesses? You are correct.

    I explain the MSM’s fecklessness, and illustrate it concretely, in a separate post, here. I call it PC BS.

     In happier news, one of baseball’s all-time greats, Albert Pujols become the 9th player to hit 600 homers. (ESPN) The cherry on top: it was a grand slam. Another cherry: it comes in the post-steroid era. His head and arms actually look human. 

     Japan holds evacuation drills as North Korea’s nuclear program advances  (Reuters)

    Comment: The Japanese navy is also conducting joint exercises with the US fleet.

    My sense is that the Chinese are playing rope-a-dope, doing a little to slow down Pyongyang but not nearly enough. That is simply unsustainable for the US and Japan.

     Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell hopeful on tax cuts, less so on healthcare  (Reuters)

    Comment: Tax reform is essential, and the Republicans know it, not just for the economy but for their reelection.

    On healthcare, the pressure in late autumn, when next year’s premium notices go out, will be enormous. Obamacare is melting down, and that means suffering. The Republicans will point at Obama and the D’s. But that won’t cut it. People elected the R’s to fix it.

     California progressives really, really want single-payer, and they want their state to provide it. (Fortune)

    The state Senate, with a big Democratic majority, passed it easily. They skipped over the pesky problem of paying for it. (Honestly, they did absolutely nothing about funding it.)

    How expensive would it be? $400 billion. That’s huge. More than twice as big as the entire state budget today.

    No one knows if the State Assembly will pass it or if Gov. Jerry Brown will sign it.

    Naturally, they would need to heft tax hikes to pay for it, but economic studies show there is still a big shortfall. (ABC News)

    Comment: The leading Democratic contender for Governor, Gavin Newsom (former mayor of S.F.), put on his tin-foil hat and strongly backed the single-payer plan.

     Another “can you top this” in college crazies: Black students at Evergreen State U. in Olympia, WA, demand all white people leave the campus for a day.  (Washington Post) 

    Their demands managed to close the entire school for a day.

    For some reason, not everyone thought this white-leave-campus thing was a good idea.

    One long-time progressive, Prof. Bret Weinstein, did not favor it. And he didn’t like the students’ demands that new academic hires deemphasize academic ability and focus on race/gender/undocumented/social justice/etc.

    As you can imagine, those opposed to Weinstein were not looking for a debate.

    The were looking for blood.

    In fact, the other professors at Evergreen State also turned on Weinstein. (National Review Online)

    It’s so nasty, so crazy that even the NYT’s Frank Bruni writes a column against it. Naturally, he begins by condemning the US, thus establishing his bona fides as a morally superior person, but he still doesn’t like the ideas out in Olympia. It’s a strong column–and one the NYT readership needed to see.

    There are names for people like Frank Bruni. Fascist. Racist. Sexist. Columnist.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Richard Siegler
     and Tom Wyckoff for the Frank Bruni column.

     

  • 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.

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦

    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.

    ♦♦♦♦♦

    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.”

    ♦♦♦♦♦

    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.

    ♦♦♦♦♦

    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.)

    ♦♦♦♦♦

    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.”

    ♦♦♦♦♦

    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.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, June 3

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

     Sec. of Defense James Mattis calls North Korea “a clear and present danger,” not just to America but to the world (AP via Washington Post)

    Significantly, Mattis made the speech in Asia.

    More bad news: On Friday, China blocked US-supported sanctions against North Korea at the UN Security Council.

    North Korea is accelerating its push to acquire a nuclear-armed missile capable of threatening the United States and other nations, and the U.S. regards this as a “clear and present danger,” U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Saturday.

    Speaking at an international security conference in Singapore, Mattis said the Trump administration is encouraged by China’s renewed commitment to working with the U.S. and others to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons. He also said he thinks China, which is North Korea’s closest ally, ultimately will see it as a liability. –Washington Post

    Mattis gave mixed reviews to US relations with China:

    “We cannot and will not accept unilateral, coercive changes to the status quo” in the South China Sea, he said.

    Overall, Mattis’ speech struck a positive, hopeful tone for cooperation and peace in the Asia-Pacific region, where he and his predecessors have made it a priority to nurture and strengthen alliances and partnerships.

    “While competition between the U.S. and China, the world’s two largest economies, is bound to occur, conflict is not inevitable,” he said. “Our two countries can and do cooperate for mutual benefit. We will pledge to work closely with China where we share common cause.”

    He was, however, unrelentingly critical of North Korea, a politically and economically isolated nation whose leaders have long viewed the United States as a military threat, in part because of periodic U.S. military exercises with South Korea, which the North sees as preparations for attacks aimed at destroying its ruling elite. –Washington Post

    Comment: The US is turning up the temperature on both China and North Korea.

     Comey’s upcoming testimony

    Comment: The ABC story is reported by Captain Obvious

     Early Trump administration was preparing to ease Russia sanctions, but was blocked by US diplomats who went to Congress  That’s what NBC is reporting, with retired diplomats going on the record.

     Three former top execs at Penn State given jail time for failing to act on reports of sexual abuse by Jerry Sandusky (ESPN)

    Comment: By failing to do their jobs, they put more children in danger. 

     Kathy Griffin has decided that she’s the victim. “Trump broke me” (CBS)

    Comment: She’s disgusting.

     LA Times covers for her. Their Headline: She’s “tearful but resilient”

    Comment: They’re disgusting

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  • Venezuela Imploding: “Nothing to see here. Please Move along”

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    In my ongoing coverage of media bias, I highlight three main problems:

    1. Selection bias in the stories covered and the emphasis devoted to them (in broadcast time or column inches)
      • The editors’ and reporters’ own blinders (deliberate or inadvertent) set the agenda for readers and views
    2. Editorializing merging with what should be disinterested hard news reporting, failing to clearly differentiate the two
      • Editorial opinions are absolutely fine, if well-reasoned, but it should be easy to determine that they are editorials
      • They should not be merged subtly into hard news coverage
    3. Readers and viewers’ own bias in selecting sources that reinforce their own views.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Here is a perfect illustration of number 1, “selection bias and agenda setting.”

    Out of approximately 50,000 total evening news stories on ABC, CBS and NBC combined in the last four years, just 25 have covered the ongoing crisis in socialist Venezuela, according to a Media Research Center study published Tuesday.  . . . And only seven mentioned “socialism.” . . .

    All too often, the media turn a blind eye to the atrocities and tragedies that fester in Venezuela, along with the root causes underlying them. –LifeZette (link here)

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