Sean Hannity turns adviser in the service of Donald Trump

The New York Times reports: During major inflection points in Donald J. Trump’s campaign, the advisers, family members and friends who make up his kitchen cabinet burn up their email accounts and phone lines gaming out how to get his candidacy on track (and what counsel he might go along with).

But one person in the mix brings more than just his political advice. He also happens to control an hour of prime time on the Fox News Channel.

That person is Sean Hannity.

Mr. Hannity uses his show on the nation’s most-watched cable news network to blare Mr. Trump’s message relentlessly — giving Mr. Trump the kind of promotional television exposure even a billionaire can’t afford for long.

But Mr. Hannity is not only Mr. Trump’s biggest media booster; he also veers into the role of adviser. Several people I’ve spoken with over the last couple of weeks said Mr. Hannity had for months peppered Mr. Trump, his family members and advisers with suggestions on strategy and messaging.

So involved is Mr. Hannity that three separate denizens of the hall of mirrors that is Trump World told me they believed Mr. Hannity was behaving as if he wanted a role in a possible Trump administration — something he denied to me as laughable and contractually prohibitive in an interview on Friday.

But he did not dispute that he lends his thoughts to Mr. Trump and others in his close orbit whom Mr. Hannity has known for years.

“Do I talk to my friend who I’ve known for years and speak my mind? I can’t not speak my mind,’’ he said.

But, Mr. Hannity said, “I don’t say anything privately that I don’t say publicly.’’ And, he acknowledged, it’s unclear how far his advice goes with Mr. Trump, given that “nobody controls him.”

Mr. Hannity is unapologetic about his aim. “I’m not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States.” After all, he says, “I never claimed to be a journalist.” [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

This is what’s missing from journalism right now

Mother Jones reports: This June, we published a big story — Shane Bauer’s account of his four-month stint as a guard in a private prison. That’s “big,” as in XXL: 35,000 words long, or 5 to 10 times the length of a typical feature, plus charts, graphs, and companion pieces, not to mention six videos and a radio documentary.

It was also big in impact. More than a million people read it, defying everything we’re told about the attention span of online audiences; tens of thousands shared it on social media. The Washington Post, CNN, and NPR’s Weekend Edition picked it up. Montel Williams went on a Twitter tear that ended with him nominating Shane for a Pulitzer Prize (though that’s not quite how it works). People got in touch to tell us about their loved ones’ time in prison or their own experience working as guards. Lawmakers and regulators reached out. (UPDATE: And on August 18, the Justice Department announced that it will no longer contract with private prisons, which currently hold thousands of federal inmates — a massive policy shift.)

In the wake of our investigation, lots of people offered thoughts similar to this, from New Yorker TV critic Emily Nussbaum:


That’s a great sentiment, and we agree! But it also takes us to a deeper story about journalism and today’s media landscape. It starts with this: The most important ingredient in investigative reporting is not brilliance, writing flair, or deep familiarity with the subject (though those all help). It’s something much simpler — time. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

For Putin, disinformation is power

Arkady Ostrovsky writes: Fifteen years ago, a few months into his presidency, Vladimir V. Putin told Larry King on CNN that his previous job as a K.G.B. officer had been like that of a journalist. “They have the same purpose of gathering information, synthesizing it and presenting it for the consumption of decision makers,” he said. Since then, he has excelled at using the media to consolidate power inside Russia and, increasingly, to wage an information war against the West.

So the apparent hacking by Russian security services of the Democratic National Committee emails, followed by their publication by WikiLeaks, should come as no great surprise to Americans. It is only the latest example of how Mr. Putin uses information as a weapon. And the Kremlin has cultivated ties with WikiLeaks for years.

It has also used disinformation in its annexation of Crimea and in its war in Ukraine, launched cyberattacks on Finland and the Baltic States, and planted hoax stories in Germany to embarrass Angela Merkel. During the Cold War, the Kremlin interfered in American politics for decades. The K.G.B.’s so-called active measures — subversion, media manipulations, forgery and the financing of some “peace” organizations — lay at the heart of Soviet intelligence.

Then as now, Russia exploited real grievances in the West — discontent with the war in Vietnam and racial tensions in the 1960s; anxiety and fear of Muslim immigrants today. Nevertheless, Mr. Putin’s support of the likes of Donald Trump in America, Brexiters in Britain or the right-wing Marine Le Pen in France does not mean they are his creations. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

The climate crisis is already here — but no one’s telling us

George Monbiot writes: What is salient is not important. What is important is not salient. The media turns us away from the issues that will determine the course of our lives, and towards topics of brain-melting irrelevance.

This, on current trends, will be the hottest year ever measured. The previous record was set in 2015; the one before in 2014. Fifteen of the 16 warmest years have occurred in the 21st century. Each of the past 14 months has beaten the global monthly temperature record. But you can still hear people repeating the old claim, first proposed by fossil fuel lobbyists, that global warming stopped in 1998.

Arctic sea ice covered a smaller area last winter than in any winter since records began. In Siberia, an anthrax outbreak is raging through the human and reindeer populations because infected corpses locked in permafrost since the last epidemic in 1941 have thawed. India has been hammered by cycles of drought and flood, as withering heat parches the soil and torches glaciers in the Himalayas. Southern and eastern Africa have been pitched into humanitarian emergencies by drought. Wildfires storm across America; coral reefs around the world are bleaching and dying.

Throughout the media, these tragedies are reported as impacts of El Niño: a natural weather oscillation caused by blocks of warm water forming in the Pacific. But the figures show that it accounts for only one-fifth of the global temperature rise. The El Niño phase has now passed, but still the records fall.

Eight months ago in Paris, 177 nations promised to try to ensure the world’s average temperature did not rise by more than 1.5C above the pre-industrial level. Already it has climbed by 1.3C – faster and further than almost anyone predicted. In one respect, the scientists were wrong. They told us to expect a climate crisis in the second half of this century. But it’s already here. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Trump stands by Roger Ailes, casting doubt on motives of women accusing Fox chief of sexual harassment

Kirsten Powers writes: Donald Trump thinks it’s “very sad” that women at Fox News are “complaining” about being sexually harassed by former Fox chief Roger Ailes.

As allegations against his old friend piled up, Trump told NBC’s Chuck Todd on July 24 that, “Some of the women that are complaining, I know how much he’s helped them…And when they write books….and say wonderful things about him….[N]ow, all of a sudden, they’re saying these horrible things about him.”

Without passing judgment about the specific allegations, which are currently under investigation by 21st Century Fox, one should be able to accept that a woman could both have been promoted by a boss and harassed by him. Women are often forced to maintain good relations with men who abuse them precisely because those men have power.

When I mentioned this to Trump in a phone interview last Tuesday, he doubled down on his retrograde take. “There was quite a bit of fabulous things said [about Ailes by Gretchen Carlson],” he told me. “It would be easier for me and more politically correct for me to say you are right. But you would think she wouldn’t say those things.”

I pointed out that it wasn’t just Carlson who had made allegations. “I didn’t know it was more than just her,” Trump told me, even though his comments to Chuck Todd referred to women, plural.

What if someone had treated Ivanka in the way Ailes allegedly behaved?

His reply was startling, even by Trumpian standards. “I would like to think she would find another career or find another company if that was the case,” he said. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Turkey expands purge, shutting down news media outlets

The New York Times reports: The Turkish government ordered the closing of more than 100 media outlets on Wednesday, including newspapers, publishing companies and television channels, as part of a sweeping crackdown following a failed military coup this month.

The Turkish authorities ordered the shutdown of 45 newspapers, three news agencies, 16 television channels, 15 magazines and 29 publishers in a decree that was published in the government’s official gazette on Wednesday.

Among those ordered to close are the newspaper Zaman and the Cihan News Agency, which had previously been seized by the government over suspicions that it has links to the network of Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States and has been accused of orchestrating the July 15 coup attempt. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

French media explores ways of reducing ‘hero effect’ in its reporting on attacks

The Associated Press reports: Some leading French media outlets pledged Wednesday to stop publishing the names and images of attackers linked to the Islamic State group to prevent individuals from being inadvertently glorified, following a spate of attacks in France over the past 18 months.

The decisions, part of a wider French debate about how the news media might be contributing to the extremist threat, come as the French parliament debates whether to enshrine in law restrictions on the way the news media can cover “terrorist acts.”

The director of Le Monde, Jerome Fenoglio, said in an editorial that his newspaper would stop publishing photographs of attackers in a bid to prevent the “possible posthumous glorifying effects” and called for news media to exercise more responsibility. The newspaper already has a ban on publishing extracts of Islamic State propaganda or claims of responsibility emitted from IS’s media wing. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

How did the media cover the Munich attack?

 

Facebooktwittermail

Welcome to the era of post-truth politics and journalism

shadow7

Katharine Viner writes: One Monday morning last September, Britain woke to a depraved news story. The prime minister, David Cameron, had committed an “obscene act with a dead pig’s head”, according to the Daily Mail. “A distinguished Oxford contemporary claims Cameron once took part in an outrageous initiation ceremony at a Piers Gaveston event, involving a dead pig,” the paper reported. Piers Gaveston is the name of a riotous Oxford university dining society; the authors of the story claimed their source was an MP, who said he had seen photographic evidence: “His extraordinary suggestion is that the future PM inserted a private part of his anatomy into the animal.”

The story, extracted from a new biography of Cameron, sparked an immediate furore. It was gross, it was a great opportunity to humiliate an elitist prime minister, and many felt it rang true for a former member of the notorious Bullingdon Club. Within minutes, #Piggate and #Hameron were trending on Twitter, and even senior politicians joined the fun: Nicola Sturgeon said the allegations had “entertained the whole country”, while Paddy Ashdown joked that Cameron was “hogging the headlines”. At first, the BBC refused to mention the allegations, and 10 Downing Street said it would not “dignify” the story with a response – but soon it was forced to issue a denial. And so a powerful man was sexually shamed, in a way that had nothing to do with his divisive politics, and in a way he could never really respond to. But who cares? He could take it.

Then, after a full day of online merriment, something shocking happened. Isabel Oakeshott, the Daily Mail journalist who had co-written the biography with Lord Ashcroft, a billionaire businessman, went on TV and admitted that she did not know whether her huge, scandalous scoop was even true. Pressed to provide evidence for the sensational claim, Oakeshott admitted she had none.

“We couldn’t get to the bottom of that source’s allegations,” she said on Channel 4 News. “So we merely reported the account that the source gave us … We don’t say whether we believe it to be true.” In other words, there was no evidence that the prime minister of the United Kingdom had once “inserted a private part of his anatomy” into the mouth of a dead pig – a story reported in dozens of newspapers and repeated in millions of tweets and Facebook updates, which many people presumably still believe to be true today.

Oakeshott went even further to absolve herself of any journalistic responsibility: “It’s up to other people to decide whether they give it any credibility or not,” she concluded. This was not, of course, the first time that outlandish claims were published on the basis of flimsy evidence, but this was an unusually brazen defence. It seemed that journalists were no longer required to believe their own stories to be true, nor, apparently, did they need to provide evidence. Instead it was up to the reader – who does not even know the identity of the source – to make up their own mind. But based on what? Gut instinct, intuition, mood?

Does the truth matter any more?

Nine months after Britain woke up giggling at Cameron’s hypothetical porcine intimacies, the country arose on the morning of 24 June to the very real sight of the prime minister standing outside Downing Street at 8am, announcing his own resignation.

“The British people have voted to leave the European Union and their will must be respected,” Cameron declared. “It was not a decision that was taken lightly, not least because so many things were said by so many different organisations about the significance of this decision. So there can be no doubt about the result.”

But what soon became clear was that almost everything was still in doubt. At the end of a campaign that dominated the news for months, it was suddenly obvious that the winning side had no plan for how or when the UK would leave the EU – while the deceptive claims that carried the leave campaign to victory suddenly crumbled. At 6.31am on Friday 24 June, just over an hour after the result of the EU referendum had become clear, Ukip leader Nigel Farage conceded that a post-Brexit UK would not in fact have £350m a week spare to spend on the NHS – a key claim of Brexiteers that was even emblazoned on the Vote Leave campaign bus. A few hours later, the Tory MEP Daniel Hannan stated that immigration was not likely to be reduced – another key claim.

It was hardly the first time that politicians had failed to deliver what they promised, but it might have been the first time they admitted on the morning after victory that the promises had been false all along. This was the first major vote in the era of post-truth politics: the listless remain campaign attempted to fight fantasy with facts, but quickly found that the currency of fact had been badly debased. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

War reporter Marie Colvin was tracked, targeted and killed by Assad’s forces, family says

The Washington Post reports: American war correspondent Marie Colvin was deliberately targeted and killed by artillery fire in 2012 at the direction of senior Syrian military officers seeking to silence her reporting on civilian casualties in the besieged city of Homs, according to a civil lawsuit filed Saturday on behalf of her sister and other heirs.

Based on information from high-level defectors and captured government documents, the 32-page complaint alleges that the military was able to electronically intercept Colvin’s communications from a clandestine media center operating out of an apartment in the densely populated Baba Amr neighborhood in Homs. Syrian officials paired the intercepts with detailed information from a female informant to pinpoint the location of the reporter who worked for the Sunday Times of London.

Then, the suits says, military forces under the direction of President Bashar al-Assad’s brother, Maher, commander of Syrian army’s 4th Armored Division, launched a series of “bracketing” artillery attacks that came progressively closer to the media center, a classic artillery targeting tactic. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Tony Blair took Britain to war in 2003 — but most of Fleet Street marched with him

By John Jewell, Cardiff University

When, in October 2015, Tony Blair apologised for the use of “wrong” intelligence in the run up to the 2003 Iraq war, his contrition was qualified. Speaking to Fareed Zakaria on CNN, the former prime minister also said:

I also apologise for some of the mistakes in planning and, certainly, our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime.

Blair’s belated regret for how events transpired cut little ice with the British press. Writing in The Guardian, Roy Greenslade expertly discussed editorial responses which ranged from the scathing: “Blair’s weasel words insult Iraq war dead” in the Daily Mail – to the rather more considered. The Independent, which had offered qualified support for the invasion of Iraq, stated that the apology represented progress in coming to some sort of understanding about that ill-starred adventure and its longer-term consequences.

[Read more…]

Facebooktwittermail

Seeing beyond the Islamist extremism narrative in cases of Muslim attackers

Hannah Allam reports: Hours after Mohammad Abdulazeez fired 100 rounds into Chattanooga military offices, gunning down four Marines and a sailor before being killed by police, the emerging story was one of a “lone wolf” jihadist with possible ties to extremist groups abroad.

But Abdulazeez’s family made a decision that would quickly redirect the story of their son’s rampage last July in ways that didn’t happen after attacks in San Bernardino or, now, Orlando: They hired an attorney who turned the Chattanooga aftermath into a case study of what it takes to add nuance to a national tragedy involving a Muslim perpetrator.

The attorney, who asked that his name not be published because of the sensitivity of the case, first urged the parents to go public with a statement about their son’s history of depression, explaining that “the first thing you say is critical.” Convinced that Abdulazeez was no diehard jihadist, they also leaked the attacker’s suspected bipolar behavior, abuse of alcohol and painkillers, his struggle to stay employed, and how he faced bankruptcy and a drunken-driving charge.

The effect was immediate, with all major TV networks and newspapers pivoting from the terrorism angle to the shooter’s “troubled past.” The lesson, the attorney said, is that it’s hard – but not impossible – to make Americans see beyond Islamist extremism in cases of Muslim attackers.

“It would’ve been ‘ISIS lone wolf plans deliberate, premeditated attack on a military installation,’ ” the attorney said, imagining the headlines had the family not been up front about Abdulazeez’s struggles. “It would’ve been about the propaganda rather than the factors that converted that to action.”

That more nuanced public examination of Abdulazeez’s motivations remains the exception in a climate where fear of the Islamic State and other Muslim extremist groups seem to make the more simplistic jihadist storyline irresistible to news organizations and useful to politicians, according to interviews with attorneys, counter-terrorism analysts and representatives of civil liberties groups. Often, they said, that angle persists even with little or no evidence that the assailant was motivated by extremist ideology. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail