“Unbiased” media

I have been following much of the commentariat in the fallout of the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Typical Conservative sites accept the result as a victory of due process, while the opposite side of aisle holds the result as proof of the vile system they have so vehemently opposed.

One thing has been raised, and it’s a topic that I often discuss here, is the role of the media in proceedings. From what I have observed, the media’s reporting has been accepting of the allegations toward Kavanaugh, seeming to condemn the new Justice without criticism of the claims.

However, the counter to my concern is that the media’s reporting has been impartial, carefully using language to ensure that the articles make no certain conclusions.

And for this claim, there is a point. However, it does miss the modus operandi I observe in the media, and it’s one that has affected me personally. The media may report the facts, but there is always an underlying drama that is quite often heavily implied.

A news outlet will report the facts, but that is only secondary to how the article makes you feel.

Whenever covering matters of Government, the media knows that what draws attention is the idea of malfeasance on part of the powers. It’s one thing to say where a Government might have erred, but if the media can indirectly imply malice on part of the error, then all the better. Moreover, if the media can further imply potential corruption – for example, that their policies seek to enrich a buddy or vested interest – then that’s a further whammy on the media drum.

But let’s talk about portrayal for a moment, because it lends to this implicit bias theory. Look at this article from Australian News Corp outlet, news.com.au.

I haven’t regarded the text in this article so much, because I am sure that nothing is written that could be construed as libellous, but note the photographs selected, particularly those of Justice Kavanaugh and Doctor Ford. The former has a look of aggression or even guilt, while the latter is either sad or noble.

Remember also that in the wake of the testimony, Kavanaugh admitted to still enjoying beer, while also passionately decrying the allegations, and for that he was painted as someone with anger and alcohol issues.

This is propaganda. Simply put.

While the words might be balanced, it’s the whole picture that can frame how the audience feels about the topic. A story might cover its rear with careful words, don’t be blind by what they’re trying to make you think.

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The Democrat Judgement game

The ongoing saga of the appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, at the time of writing, is now being drawn out for another agonising week while the United States achingly waddles to the mid-term elections. The process of confirming Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court must now be subject to another FBI probe to check on 36-year old allegations of sexual assault.

I have read and heard reams of commentary that focusses upon the veracity of the claim being made by the alleged victim, a matter that appears to be the fulcrum of the issue, where the weights of “Believe Victims” and “Due Process” fight over the prominent heights. I do not wish to weigh into this aspect of the debate, however choosing to focus upon the behaviours observed by the interested parties.

I have written before about the current tactic of using issues as ammunition, and I think it fair to raise it again here. Because it appears here that Democrats, in waiting until the 11th hour to raise the matter of Kavanaugh’s alleged malfeasance, has sought to deploy and weaponise the #MeToo movement – not for genuine justice, but for their own gain.

And like the previous issue of DACA recipients, I fully expect Democrats to completely discard the alleged victim, Doctor Christine Blasey Ford, the moment her political fuel has been spent.

Dr Ford is just as much a victim of this process as anyone else who is in this crosshairs – particularly that of Kavanaugh, and his family, who at this point seem to be guilty only of having been nominated to the Supreme Court.

To repeat the timeline, Senator Dianne Feinstein received advice from Dr Ford in July 2018 about the alleged incident with Judge Kavanaugh in 1982. Since then, Feinstein had not referred the matter to the FBI, had not discussed the matter with her Democrat colleagues, had not questioned Kavanaugh during any hearings on the matter, and only saw fit to finally reveal her hand in the final week of deliberations of Kavanaugh’s appointment.

And let’s not forget to mention that Feinstein has denied leaking Dr Ford’s identity to the press, an assertion that clangs as hollow as an empty tin.

Does her sitting on the allegation for literally weeks sound like the behaviour of someone who was genuinely concerned about victims of assault? That Feinstein deployed the allegation at the last possible moment in order to delay Kavanaugh’s certain confirmation sounds only of political gamesmanship – the aim being to delay filling the seat on the Supreme Court until after the mid-term elections, after which Democrats hope to obtain control of the Senate, and keep the seat unoccupied until after the next General Election.

And by using their media – all of whom cannot claim any kind of impartiality at this point in time – will attempt to oust Trump.

This is the lowest of the low. To use someone’s pain for political gain is the absolute gutter level of politics of which I would have hoped that any civil society dispensed ages ago. As much of the debate centre’s on whether the incident occurred in 1982 as per Dr Ford’s recollection, it is the sheer cynicism on display from the Democrats.

I find it incredibly difficult to believe that Democrats care for victims of sexual assault when they only elect to address the matter at a time that is most politically beneficial. And, with the media in tow, they lambast the accused for daring to deny the allegation with the passion of someone who might have felt just a little but slighted at having their name besmirched by an allegation only.

This is the Democrats – and their media lackeys – pulling out all the stops to prevent the Supreme Court seat from being occupied. However, as I have mentioned before, the tactics they employ today are the tactics they must welcome in return. If anyone accuses one of their party of improper or criminal behaviour, the victim simply must be believed on the allegation alone, with no corroborating evidence. To not is simply hypocrisy.

But when you have the media running defence for your party, Democratic bold hypocrisy is not a surprise.

Now, it must be also mentioned that Republicans stymied the appointment of Judge Merrick Garland during the last nine months of Obama’s presidency. Was this political gamesmanship, with Republicans holding up the process for their own political gain? Undoubtedly. They had control and they used their power to prevent someone from a lifelong Supreme Court appointment.

But their reasoning was that, according to the Wikipedia entry, they:

“… would not consider any nominee put forth by Obama, and that a Supreme Court nomination should be left to the next President of the United States.”

There is currently no precedent in place to say when or whenever a President should be able to appoint a Supreme Court Justice. The rationale here could be considered dirty and dishonest, and I would certainly agree with the sentiment. However, Merrick Garland did not have to face down serious allegations of a crime that would serve to sully his name, and muddy his entire career for actions he (allegedly) performed while in High School.

Disagree with Republicans on their rationale with Garland, sure. It was dirty, but at least the reasoning was perhaps worthy of debate. But if the counter from the Democrats is to unearth decades-old (alleged) felonies, and ruin the name of an entire family and a life-long public servant because they were nominated, then I am not on board.

This is rich people laughing, and to not recognise the giant temper tantrum that the Democrat party is throwing is sheer unadulterated blindness. The willingness to destroy someone for the simple act of being promoted is the kind of psychopathic coldness that needs to leave politics. It is as vicious as it is open and naked, for all to see.

Mid-terms are going to be interesting, at least in terms of whether the public are seeing the cold, naked viciousness that I am seeing.

The headline versus the story

I often find that there can be a disparity between what a headline says, and what the contents are within the story. In some cases, this is referred to as “burying the lede”, in where the headline information is either burying deep within a distant paragraph, or in some cases, including information that refutes the headline as a castaway sentence.

However, there is this other thing I find in where a story’s headline seems to be secondary to the actual story that is important. Take, for instance, the recent address by United States President Donald Trump to the UN General Assembly, in where he was openly laughed at.

If you were to read the headline, you’d sigh and resign yourself to the known fact that Trump is a buffoon and has somehow, yet again, self-flagellated on the world stage. The story itself is littered with descriptions of how the world seemingly mocked him, along with Reactions From Twitter that reinforced this notion.

But, there are some aspects to his speech that warrant some discussion, and even would suggest that he didn’t completely muff the entire thing up. Please note that I write this as someone who actually hasn’t viewed the President’s routine in front of the UN, and the story I linked certainly doesn’t compel me to watch.

Consider some excerpts posted in the article:

He also talked up his administration’s relationship with North Korea and its progress towards denuclearisation.

“I would like to thank Chairman Kim for his courage and for the steps that he’s taken — though more work remains to be done,” Mr Trump said, noting existing “sanctions will remain in place until denuclearisation occurs.”

So, aside from acknowledging a despot, isn’t the continued pressure to denuclearise the Korean peninsula a good thing?

Mr Trump declared that the “bloodthirsty killers known as ISIS have been driven out of the territory they once held in Iraq and Syria,” and he called for a “political solution” in the latter country that reflects “the will of the Syrian people.”

Seeing as the insurgence of ISIS is what created the refugee crisis with people fleeing Syria, isn’t progress to nullify the influence of the known terror group another success? Certainly refugees fleeing would like to see that their homeland has loosened the grip of the problem that caused their initial flee in the first place?

And he delivered a message to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying the United States “will respond if chemical weapons are deployed by the Assad regime.”

Right, so we mock someone who is stating that there are severe repercussions for, you know, perpetrating a war crime?

Mr Trump said he had asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to take a “hard look” at US foreign assistance, saying that the US is the world’s largest donor of foreign aid “but few give anything to us.”

He said the review will examine what is working and what is not working and whether countries that receive US aid “have our interests at heart.”

Didn’t Trump go to an election on a platform of “America First”? Look back a decade, and I distinctly remember much tut-tutting over a United States that considered itself a World Police, and meddling in affairs of other sovereign nations, yet now we laugh because the President wants to be insular?

But no, let’s publish the intellectual waste that gets posted on Twitter and call that news.

Twitter being snarky is not news. In fact, it is such a passe notion, I’m surprised it ever get reported at all. But I guess having major news sources pull quotes from Twitter only serves to fuel Twitter users into trying to make the snarkiest snark and the belly-aching gotcha.

I’m sure I’ve said it before on this blog, but the media really need to step up their game. they need to do better. the issues, it appears, are being missed in favour of entertainment. If the media don’t want to be seen as untrustworthy hacks, then perhaps they’d better try being a little more trustworthy, rather than reporting tweets.

Because, at the moment, I’m pretty sure if a nuclear holocaust suddenly broke out, the news would report that Twitter collectively pointed at the bombs and lolled.

Only when the Government does it

Definitions are a funny thing sometimes. It’s important to define things properly so that they can be pigeonholed and categorised. However sometimes definitions get distorted, particularly when language allows the use of hyperbole. The particularly troubling case I see recently is the argument about the removal of Alex Jones from prominent platforms like Youtube, Twitter, Facebook and Apple’s stores.

This is not a post to agree or disagree with these companies’ actions, but rather to speak about how the concerns are dismissed.

Also this post isn’t to suggest that I seek to defend Alex Jones and his frankly outrageous opinions.

Those who are concerned with his removal from these platforms – and along with those sympathetic to him – have used the word “censorship” to describe the actions. However, the retort to the claim is that Apple, Google, Twitter, Facebook et al are well within their rights to remove him and his message from their systems. Also, the further reply is that only the Government can “censor” citizens.

I can see the points from both sides, and I can do so without explicitly endorsing Alex Jones. I do not care for the crazy man.

However, for all the talk these days about “conversations” and “having a discussion”, I feel that this does warrant further investigation to hash the issue out. To be outraged and demand boycotts is equally as troublesome as being snidely dismissive because the definition of the word “censor” doesn’t apply.

One can be concerned about the suppression of speech while also condemning the individual who is speaking. Voltaire quote and all.

Review the world of today. Take a good look at how information is being broadcast and shared. When using the internet, it is typically the dominant method of spreading oneself and their words. News sites will frequently feature tweets from celebrities and regular individuals in their stories. If you’re applying for a job, employers will actively scour your social media for telltale signs of your behaviour to ensure your character is one befitted their organisation.

If you want to build any kind of public persona, it is through non-Government means. You need these platforms today. Even hosting a website, or a blog like this, is beholden to non-Government controls. That private companies can exercise supreme control – and especially in seemingly such a coordinated fashion in the example of Jones – I don’t see how people can be so cavalier about dismissing concerns.

While it may not be “censorship” by definition, is could be argued that it is by action. I have used this expression in other instances, but I feel that it’s often the best way to frame what it is that I’m talking about:

What if it’s someone you admire being removed like this?

What if it were Colin Kaepernick? What if it were Linda Sarsour? Pick any well-regarded political activist with a large platform, and ask yourself if you’d be happy with these companies huddling together to prevent them from spreading their message.

There is also the matter of Alex Jones being removed for “Hate Speech”. While I am not entirely aware of what specific examples this regards, although I am familiar with his disgraceful words around the Sandy Hook school shooting. Were they disgusting? Yes. Would they cause harm? Undoubtedly. Would I support him? No.

Yet the ownership of his words are his. Not Facebook’s. Not Apple’s. Not Google nor the rest of the cabal of networks. I have the same feeling toward Louis Farrakhan, who has also said egregiously hateful things, but oddly remains on the social media public square.

People could point to Alex Jones’ followers and say that they are inspired to do harm because of his words. However, Bernie Sanders remains unscathed despite one of his followers shooting up a Congressional baseball game, nearly killing Steve Scalise.

I am not expecting these companies to host whoever wants to help themselves to their technology. However, I do expect them to apply their policies equally, which is where I think much of this concern about “censorship” stems.

Sure, by strict definition, it may not be censorship. But for all the harm this kind of arbitrary application can provide, in that it can deny “troublesome” (or whom these tech companies think are troublesome) speech, I think this shouldn’t be dismissed so easily.

Giant corporations ruling the world through controlling what speech is allowed, I feel is the kind of dystopic nightmare movie that many of these dismissers might be horrified by.

And if these people are still to see justification in what is happening and want to deny further conversation, then I offer the following:

Today it’s these companies who are able to define hate speech and deny people a platform. However, if MySpace, Friendster or similar are any indication, these networks won’t be prominent forever and something will eventually take their place. And that thing might have sympathies that do not align with your own, and they might be able to define your words as hate speech.

Will you worry about censorship then?

A theory on Big Bang Theory

This isn’t really something I initially felt compelled to comment on, because the story seemed relatively benign; a long-running TV show is coming to an end, and is doing so on top. But this opinion piece at news.com.au prompted me to write a response.

The column contends that detractors of the Big Bang Theory sitcom largely have things wrong and that criticism of the show is misguided. The thrust of the argument seems to be that it has given rise to nerd culture, and that it proves an inspiration to people to show an interest in science.

The article also outlines that:

… viewers now realise nerds can be funny and charming and not just locker stuffing.

The last part of that sentence being rather glaring – in that it doesn’t denounce the bullying of stuffing nerds into lockers, and rather seems to “normalise” it.

The reason that I care not for Big Bang Theory’s demise is that the brief watches I did have of the show didn’t celebrate nerd culture as much as it made it the butt of jokes. The characters were playing Dungeons and Dragons, and that was the joke. They were passionate about comic books, and that was the joke. Sheldon did something socially awkward, and that was the joke.

Big Bang Theory was not so much a celebration of nerd culture as much as it was the gentrification of it. It seemed cynical. The pastimes of nerds was distilled down to cliche and stereotype, and then served in a milquetoast beverage for people to consume. This lead to dilettantes to move into the space that nerds had long received bullying for pursuing, and then have them dominate proceedings.

Star Wars, for instance, was that nerdy movie franchise with the very dedicated fan base. Now it’s akin to a religion, with nigh on everyone excited for the next episode on the franchise. It is almost creepy.

Comic books are being transformed into mainstream blockbusters, rather than being a niche product for a passionate audience.

It could be argued that this is something that should be celebrated, as it brings greater prominence to something that needed it, but I would counter that, like any gentrification, that kind of flourishing robs any culture of the genuine heart, soul and character that had given it the charm, and it replaces it with a thin veneer that satisfies enough to stave off complaints, and remains – ultimately – profitable.

Big Bang Theory, from my observation, was an initial breaking of dirt of the gentrification of nerd culture. It has brought much success to the culture, and has introduced new people to something they might have dismissed (or stuffed nerds into lockers over), but it has seemingly left behind those initial customers who had given it the culture to begin with.

I don’t care to rate the humour of BBT, as comedy is subjective. I don’t care about how it introduces science to people – anyone with an enthusiasm for science will get into it anyway, and I would guess that anyone who obtained an interest in science from BBT would soon abandon it for being too boring.

But BBT has left an indelible mark on nerd culture, and it seems to have been administered in a largely cynical way. I understand that capitalism relies upon presenting a product that people want, but to appropriate nerd culture in a way that seems to mock its core is the kind of offensive that I would have though more people would understand.

But nerds are still just locker stuffing, right?

The long game

It’s difficult to review the political landscape and not recognise the situation panning out. We’re reaching a tipping point, I feel, and it feels that a return to moderation is going to be some time away. This is especially so when you see the popular culture running what appears to be freshly sewn propaganda.

While conservatives fight the policy of the day, the polar opposite are infiltrating popular culture to indoctrinate the youth in their ideals. All the major pop stars support one side of the debate, and for any celebrity to go against this grain, they face large backlash and the ends of their careers.

See the fallout with Kanye West for a prime example. For another example, an up and coming actor had to purge his tweets for daring to not consider conservative firebrand Ben Shapiro a practitioner of hate.

The game that Democrats are playing is a long one. They seem to be seeking intergenerational voters to follow their cause, whereas the conservatives seem content to appeal to their base that has always served them well – middle America. That’s all well and good, except getting people when their minds are the most pliable and open is probably going to play strongly to the Democrats, going forward.

I am from an era where the popular culture was viewed with disdain, that people who consumed the most superficial of media had largely superficial understanding of things. Yet today we seem to give greater credence to ideas espoused by those who are the most popular. The political musings of Katy Perry seem somehow more noteworthy than political commentators who have analysed the field for years.

People who come for the interest of the way power works, rather than people with a vested interest in producing an outcome for their team. Because that’s how I view pop culture personalities who weigh in on politics – sales staff for political powers. They aren’t experts. They are billboards.

But they appeal to the approaching demographic who will soon reach voting age.

There’s a saying that if you aren’t a socialist in your 20’s, you have no heart, but if you aren’t a capitalist in your 30’s, you have no brain. The superficial benevolence of socialism did appeal to me in my younger days, but i understand that the system comes with a large and grave cost.

Conservatives better hope that the conditioning toward the left wears off earlier rather than later.

Just do a better job

As the media seem intent to call themselves a “vital part of democracy”, all the while failing to do even the most basic of reporting, I think it worthwhile to point out why the public rally behind Trump’s call of “fake news”

If the media is in any way confused about this, the solution to their problem of people distrusting the media is actually quite simple:

Do better.

This isn’t to say that the media needs to be Trump’s lapdog. Quite the opposite. But the media seem hell bent on taking any report about Trump, and blowing it well out of proportion. It’s doing nothing to endear the people to the media, and it’s further worsened when the media sees fit to compare themselves literally to soldiers on the front line.

So when every single discussion in the news focuses on the stupid shit that Trump says, while ignoring how policy actually manifests, it tells the public that the media have an ulterior motive. A motive to portray the President in the worst possible light.

… as though the President has trouble doing so without their help.

But it also confirms in peoples’ minds that the media are so far in the tank for one side of the political divide, that they cannot trust what is being reported. The place from where the reporting is coming from is dishonest, and tainted with partisanship.

Take, for example, the recent Antifa skirmishes with Police and journalists. CNN’s talking head will blindly whistle and hand-wave away Antifa’s behaviour on the grounds of it being a moral right. I sincerely doubt that this is a luxury they would afford had it been a conservative group attacking journalists – especially since CNN’s Jim Acosta apparently feared for his safety when he was taunted with jibes of “CNN sucks” at a recent Trump rally.

If the media really wants to earn the trust back from the people, they simply need to do one thing.

Do better.

Stop appearing like the propaganda wing of the Democrat party. Stop treating conservative views like they’re evil. Give opposing views respectful treatment. And be honest about your leanings.

Fox News has been rightly labelled as a right-wing outlet, and they appear to make no apologies for it. CNN, however, purports to be impartial and fair – when the proof provides little to back up the allusion. In fact, I would even think a good start for CNN would be to admit that they’re not impartial, and that they are partisan.

It would be a good start in having people trust them a little more.