Media

The Uniquely Awful Role of Sheldon Adelson in the Israeli Election

(AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
A s the contest for who will lead the nation takes shape, the classic right-wing charge of pervasive, hostile media bias was splashed in giant tabloid type across the front page of the daily Israel Hayom last Friday. The headline read: "Netanyahu: The Media is Campaigning to Bring the Left to Power." The Friday edition of an Israeli paper is the equivalent of a thick Sunday edition in America; print newspapers are still very popular in Israel, and Israel Hayom is one of the two most popular papers. You might just sense a contradiction here: The most-read headline of the week in one of the country's most influential news sources carried Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's accusation that the media is deliberately trying to take power from him and give it to the left. The irony certainly wasn't intentional. The undeclared purpose of Israel Hayom is to promote Bibi Netanyahu . "Newspaper" in Hebrew is iton; Israel Hayom has gained the nickname Bibiton. A vast army of people wearing red...

Carnage at The New Republic and Prospects for the Liberal Press

The New Republic
A .J. Liebling, the early New Yorker ’s celebrated press critic (he invented the genre) once wrote : The pattern of a newspaperman's life is like the plot of 'Black Beauty.' Sometimes he finds a kind master who gives him a dry stall and an occasional bran mash in the form of a Christmas bonus, sometimes he falls into the hands of a mean owner who drives him in spite of spavins and expects him to live on potato peelings. You might say the same thing of magazine publishers. Political magazines are something close to public trusts—key elements of a robust democracy--but most are privately owned. Like newspapers, they are at the mercy of the whims of owners who are sometimes astute at the publishing business, and sometimes inept; sometimes kind masters, and sometimes capriciously cruel. The New Republic , where I worked for a decade, was once America’s leading liberal magazine of essay, reporting, and criticism. In the past half-century, TNR went through a convoluted odyssey. A chain of...

Cosby and Ferguson: Why Addressing Gender Violence and Racial Violence Is Not Either/Or Option

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast) Young women attend a candlelight vigil for victims of gun violence Friday, October 10, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri. I 've never understood the "one or the other" mentality. Being a mother, I am in an ever present state of multi-tasking. So when a male acquaintance said that the Cosby scandal was a a distraction from the grand jury decision regarding Ferguson, I inquired, "How?" He asserted that if the lead news story becomes Cosby, then Ferguson and the protests in response to the police violence there become a footnote to the issue of racial violence in the town. He took the view that I've seen from a lot of men lately, which is that it is horrible "if" these alleged sexual assaults occurred, but we need to "wait until all of the evidence comes out" for us to fully understand what happened with these women and Bill Cosby. This is my issue: If you find it necessary to take a "wait and see" approach to the outcome of the allegations mounting against Bill...

The Next Cool Thing: Great Writing From the Middle of America

Marking its first year in publication, Belt Magazine, with its focus on the industrial Midwest, is the nation's new literary darling.

(AP Photo/Mark Duncan, File)
(AP Photo/Mark Duncan, File) This Tuesday, September 11, 2012, file photo shows the Cleveland skyline taken from the city's Edgewater Park. W hen news outlets and websites write about the industrial Midwest, the coverage can vacillate between boosterism and “ ruin porn ,” often at the expense of telling compelling stories about the people and complexities of cities like Detroit, Cleveland, and Buffalo. Belt Magazine , an online publication based in Cleveland, just celebrated its first anniversary with the release of Dispatches from the Rust Belt , a collection of the magazine’s best content. The American Prospect spoke with Belt ’s editor-in-chief Anne Trubek about the magazine’s first year and its mission to elevate longform writing and first-person essays alongside original reporting and stories from—and for—the Rust Belt. TAP: Where did you grow up and what brought you to Cleveland? And what made you stay for nearly two decades? Anne Trubek: I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin—so not...

Whither Wheeler? FCC Mulls the Fate of Net Neutrality

Whatever choice the FCC chairman makes will need the support of the other two Democrats on the commission to make it stick. Most believe he’ll have that backing.

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh) Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, left, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013, before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. This post first appeared on BillMoyers.com. A week has passed since President Obama surprised everyone with a strong statement in support of net neutrality, declaring that the Internet should be available to everyone—reclassified under Title II of the Telecommunications Act as a common carrier — a public utility like telephone service or electricity without special privileges to companies willing to pay a premium for faster, more exclusive access. In those seven days, opposition from the telecom and cable companies and their supporters in Congress has countered the initial, intense burst of enthusiasm from the media reform community. And the big question remains: When push comes to shove, where will Federal Communications Commission Chair Tom Wheeler — an Obama loyalist but former lobbyist...

Fox News, Where Conservative Senior Citizens Get to Look At Half-Naked 'Girls'

Another hard-hitting Fox investigation.
There's something almost endearing about the fact that in an age when there are literally millions of images and videos of humans without their clothes on available instantaneously to anyone with an internet connection, the occasion of a famous person allowing her butt to be photographed can produce such an extraordinary amount of discussion. I'm not going to analyze the semiotic meanings and deep cultural resonance of Kim Kardashian's behind (beyond saying that for someone with no discernible skills or talents, she sure is good at getting attention), but I do want to say something about the issue Conor Friedersdorf raises with regard to Fox News, which has been giving this critical issue extensive coverage: Fox is, of course, not so different from other gigantic broadcast media corporations in shamelessly exploiting the fact that sex sells. Its behavior is noteworthy only insofar as it underscores the fact that the ideological mission it purports to have and the cultural critiques it...

Why Republicans Have Gotten Away With Craziness This Year

Just a couple of people with non-crazy ideas. (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
We don't know if Joni Ernst is going to be the next Senator from Iowa, but one thing we can say is that Democrats failed to paint her as a radical Tea Partier with dangerous ideas. (Actually, there's another thing we can say: her replacing liberal lion Tom Harkin would have to be the widest ideological swing in a Senate seat from one Congress to the next in a long time.) The question is, why? And more broadly, why have they failed to do that with any of the GOP Senate candidates running this year? It's not like this is a bunch of moderates. One explanation is that the establishment triumphed by weeding out the nutcases : National Republicans managed this year to snuff out every bomb-throwing insurgent who tried to wrest a Senate nod away from one of their favored candidates. They spent millions against baggage-laden activists such as Matt Bevin, the Louisville investor who mounted a ham-fisted challenge to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Mississippi state Sen. Chris...

Seahawks' Russell Wilson Controversy Shows Dangers of Racial Authenticity Tests

(AP Photo/Tom DiPace)
(AP Photo/Tom DiPace) Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) during an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers, Sunday, October 26, 2014, in Charlotte. W hether Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is “ black enough ” is beside the point. The real issue is why we are still talking about racial authenticity at all. “My feeling on this—and it’s backed up by several interviews with Seahawks players—is that some of the black players think Wilson isn't black enough,” Mike Freeman writes at Bleacher Report, reporting on tensions between just-traded teammate Percy Harvin and Wilson, including a locker room reportedly divided into pro/con camps. “This is an issue that extends outside of football, into African-American society—though it's gotten better recently,” Freeman writes. “Well-spoken blacks are seen by some other blacks as not completely black. Some of this is at play.” The “Am I Black Enough?” racial authenticity card is a recurring theme in the lives of black...

No Love for Obama as Election Day Approaches

Official White House photo by Pete Souza
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza I f Republicans win a significant victory in next Tuesday's election—and it now looks like they will indeed take the Senate—get ready for a whole lot of Obama-bashing, not only from the press and Republicans, but from liberals, as well. Some will go so far as to declare his presidency over, and I suspect more than a few genuine leftists will heap scorn on their liberal friends for their naïve embrace of a politician promising (as politicians always do) to change Washington. We can see one variant of this critique, the Jimmy Carter comparison, in a piece by Thomas Frank , based on an interview he conducted with historian Rick Perlstein: The moral of this story is not directed at Democratic politicians; it is meant for us, the liberal rank and file. We still "yearn to believe," as Perlstein says. There is something about the Carter/Obama personality that appeals to us in a deep, unspoken way, and that has led Democrats to fall for a whole string...

Rand Paul Continues Record of Brilliant Media Manipulation

Flickr/circulating
As I've probably made clear by now, I am 1) abundantly skeptical of Rand Paul's ability to be president of the United States, and only somewhat less skeptical of his ability to win the presidency; and 2) in tremendous admiration of Paul's skill at working the media. There will be abundant time to explore #1 in the months ahead, but today offers us yet another example of #2. Paul, you see, is convening a super-secret meeting of his brain trust to discuss his upcoming presidential campaign, and somehow, news of the meeting found its way to the National Journal and reporter Shane Goldmacher: Sen. Rand Paul is summoning his top strategists and political advisers to Washington one week after the November election for a strategy session over his widely expected 2016 presidential bid. The gathering of Paul's top lieutenants in the nation's capital has been quietly organized by Doug Stafford, his chief political strategist, who began reaching out to key figures in Paul's political world...

Why Liberals Love (and Trust) NPR

Flickr/MrTinDC
The Pew Research Center has one of its ginormous studies out today, this one about polarization and media use, and as usual it's full of interesting stuff. I want to make a point about news in general and NPR in particular, and then after that, for those who care about these things, I have a methodological point to make about how we measure ideology. One of the distinct things about the Pew results is that conservatives love, love, love Fox News, while no single news outlet has the same kind of near-universal use among liberals. Look, for instance at this chart showing which sources each group cites as their main source of news: But the really interesting difference emerges when they ask which sources people trust: You'll notice that for the consistent conservatives, trust is basically a function of ideology and partisanship. The only sources that over 50 percent of them trust are Fox and a bunch of conservative radio hosts (and yes, conservatives would argue that that's because all...

Whether Lies or B.S., Netanyahu's Interviews Pose Special Challenges for Journalists

The storyline and most of the details of a tale told by the Israeli prime minister on American television were deliberately untrue.

Face The Nation/CBS News
Face the Nation/CBS News Benjamin Netanyau, prime minister of Israel, is interviewed by Bob Schieffer of CBS News on the October 5, 2014, edition of Face the Nation . A journalist colleague in Jerusalem sent me a link to the prime minister of our land speaking to a faraway audience on CBS News’s Face the Nation . She expected the video clip to make me laugh and choke at the same time. She was right. It also made me think of philosopher Harry Frankfurt's immortal essay , "On Bullshit," because the unavoidable question, while watching Benjamin Netanyahu responding to White House criticism of settlement activity in Jerusalem, was whether he was deliberately speaking untruths, or was spinning words with absolutely no concern about whether they were true or not. As Frankfurt demonstrated, this is the difference between lying and bullshitting. (Understand that I follow Frankfurt in using the latter word strictly as a philosophical category. In contrast to the New York Times , therefore, the...

It's Not Your Senator's Job to Stop Ebola

Flickr/Krysten Newby
To the endless list of inane things candidates accuse one another of, we can now add this: My opponent has not done enough to stop Ebola! Or actually, in this case it's local media , and the politician in question is Pat Roberts; but Roberts' opponent is picking up on it (and may have been the source of the story, since a nearly identical report appeared on a second local news station ): On the stump and in television interviews, Senator Pat Roberts has taken aim at the White House's response to the Ebola outbreak in Africa, and in the United States, including calling for a travel ban to effected [sic] West African nations. But when Roberts had a chance, as a member of the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, to attend a special joint hearing with top public health officials briefing lawmakers on the virus and the fight against it—he was a no-show. If only Pat Roberts had been at that hearing, we'd all be safe. There are few criticisms more meaningless and yet...

Americans In the Grip of Irrational Fears, Just Like Usual

Flickr/NIAID
Thomas Eric Duncan, the American who contracted Ebola in a visit to Liberia, died today in Texas. That tragedy will obviously be big news, and it will lead more people to freak out about the disease, something that will be heartily encouraged by the cable news channels (or at least by Fox News, which has apparently been going a little crazy on the "We're all going to get Ebola because Obama hates America Benghazibenghazibenghazi!" line). And freaked out we are. Let's look at some poll numbers: Gallup asked people "did you, personally, worry about getting the Ebola virus yesterday, or not?" Twenty-two percent of people said that they worried yesterday about getting Ebola. Then they asked people how likely it was that they or someone in their family would get Ebola. Four percent said "very likely," 10 percent said "somewhat likely," 34 percent said "not too likely," and 49 percent said "not at all likely." On one hand, almost six in seven Americans are still tethered to reality on this...

Social Contagion and Facebook's Mea Culpa: An Interview With Deanna Zandt

The social media giant may have misfired with its secret manipulation, but a leading technologist says that such mapping—done right—can be a tool for good.

(Photo by: Alex Milan Tracy/Sipa USA) (Sipa via AP Images)
Sophia Wallace Deanna Zandt, technologist L ast July, Facebook came under fire for a social contagion experiment that manipulated users’ news feeds in order to test users’ emotions. Employing a technique known as social contagion mapping, the experiment used the newsfeeds of 689,000 users; manipulating their newsfeeds, Facebook sought to find out if putting negative posts at the top of the experimental group’s newsfeeds would cause them to experience negative emotions. Facebook issued an apology and released a statement on October 2 claiming that future research on users would be “subjected to greater internal scrutiny,” according to the New York Times . But the details of how the new standards would be implemented remain unclear. Since its launch over a decade ago and now with over one billion users, Facebook propelled the entire world into a new era of communication, socializing, relationships and emotions. Though everyone from your Great Aunt Mildred to the president of the United...

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