Posted tagged ‘Trump and media’

The Media is the Greatest Enemy of a Free Press

July 3, 2017

The Media is the Greatest Enemy of a Free Press, Front Page Magazine, Daniel Greenfield, July 3, 2017

Americans, from the government to the streets, must make it clear that there is no fourth branch of government. Only when the media cartel has been broken, can a free press rise once again.

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The media finally found its hero.

The hero was Brian Karem, the sweaty, surly and unshaven correspondent for Playboy, who whined that Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, the Deputy White House Press Secretary, was “bullying” the abused media.

Vox dubbed Karem “heroic” for defending “CNN’s honor.” The media’s “honor” has fallen so low that it needs defending by the red light district. If the media’s honor gets any lower, its honor will need an assist from the Mafia, Mexican drug cartels, NAMBLA and the Toxic Waste Association of America.

Karem claimed to be inspired by the tantrums of CNN’s Jim Acosta. CNN was particularly upset by the White House denying the network the precious video that it needs to show off its latest Trump attacks.

Off-camera briefings are a good start. Off-media briefings would be even better.

Under the illiterate headline, “We Stood Up to the Administration Today Because Free Press is Crucial,” Karem wrote at Playboy, “The administration supports the First Amendment – just not the people who practice it.”

And the only people entitled to practice the First Amendment, according to the media, own the media. They don’t need to know basic grammar. They don’t need to have their facts right. They just need to be part of huge media conglomerates with left-wing politics whose mission is attacking conservatives.

What got Karem’s goat (and the goats of the rest of the media herd) was that Sanders had given the first question to Breitbart. And conservative sites are not entitled to the protections of the First Amendment.

A free press is crucial. And when the White House fights for a free press by diversifying the press corps, it’s upholding the spirit of a free press that the media cartel is fighting to kill.

The entire “Fake News” outcry that Karem and the rest of his “honorable” colleagues in the media are whining about began with a media plot to censor conservative sites on social media for “Fake News.”

Why does the media believe that Playboy, but not Breitbart or the Daily Caller, have a right to be heard?

“I don’t like the entire institution of the press and free speech being castigated,” Brian Karem wheedled. “The foundation of a free republic is a free press.”

The media has reached rock bottom when a porn magazine’s correspondent starts claiming to be foundation of a free republic.

And when the media enthusiastically agrees.

The foundation of a free republic is free people. Free people have the right to say what they please. They can do it on social media, at a political protest or in the pages of a newspaper. Freedom doesn’t begin and end with the media cartel. Even though the media cartel would like nothing better.

“We can’t take the bullying anymore. It’s undermining the fourth estate, it’s undermining the first amendment,” the Playboy correspondent whined elsewhere.

America isn’t supposed to have a Fourth Estate. That’s France. But that’s what the media is. It’s not a free press. It’s a cartel that leverages control over what was once the free press. Few conservatives are allowed into its ranks. Its partisan mission is to support the left and oppose the right.

The First Amendment gives the media the freedom to do it. Not the institutional authority.

It’s the media that has zero respect for the First Amendment. Its contempt for the religious freedoms of the First Amendment is notorious. But its hostility for the free press is a more recent innovation.

The media has viciously fought the White House’s effort to diversify the press corps by bringing in conservative media. Karem’s tantrum was an outgrowth of that larger battle. Its push for “fact checks” is a cynical effort to embed censorship of conservative media outlets into Facebook and Google News. The media is the greatest enemy of a free press. And it should be treated that way.

It’s an unelected and illegitimate fourth branch of government backed by a handful of powerful interests that insists on setting the national agenda, determining who gets elected and impeaching them if the voters disagree. That is the coup that the fourth branch is busy trying to pull on President Trump.

And the media insists on determining who gets to belong to it. Playboy, yes. Breitbart, DailyCaller and Front Page Magazine, no. Playboy is a heroic defender of the media’s “honor.” Conservative sites must be censored so all that the media deems “Fake News” doesn’t undermine its political agenda.

But the media doesn’t get to decide who can belong to a free press. And what news is fake.

President Trump, Sarah Sanders Huckabee and others have called out the media as “Fake News.” And that outrages the media cartel because it challenges its institutional authority.

The media’s institutional authority shouldn’t just be challenged, it must be broken.

A free press is open to everyone. The media is a closed cartel. A free press has a diversity of opinions. The media has only one. A free press is a dialogue. The media silences dissent, from individuals to conservative outlets. A free press does not attempt to usurp democracy. That is the entire purpose of the media cartel. It manufactures an artificial consensus through mass communications propaganda.

The internet has made the media irrelevant. It also killed the very last of its ethics and journalistic integrity. All that remains are a network of partisan left-wing sites trailed by dead tree paper and dead cable outlets integrated into one heaving mess that connects CNN to ESPN to Playboy to Teen Vogue.

The media cartel is a network of money and power. This illegitimate network intersects with other institutional left-wing networks in the non-profit sector, the political sector, the academic sector and many others. Each network is a thread in a spider web that is choking the life out of this nation. And at the center sit the radical spiders that pull all the strings.

The obscene efforts of the media cartel to wrap itself in the tattered shrouds of the First Amendment are as disgusting as a man who murdered his parents begging the court to have mercy on an orphan.

The media is waging a ruthless campaign to censor its opponents under the guise of “Fake News”. Yet it plays the victim when it is criticized (rather than censored) for the dishonest lies of its partisan agenda.

It has made war on the Constitution. It rejects some parts of the Bill of Rights entirely. It is now engaged in a gargantuan effort to reverse the results of a national election. And when it is called out for its abuses of power, it contends that to criticize it is to undermine the foundation of a free republic.

How can you possibly have a free republic without CNN, MSNBC and the Washington Post? But a better question might be, how can you have a free republic when a leftist media cartel is running it?

The government should not privilege a media cartel or confuse its arrogance with authority.

Off-camera briefings should become off-media briefings. Media outlets that want to act like campus crybullies should be booted. Dot coms that clamor for Net Neutrality but then use media “fact checks” to censor conservative competitors should be called out for their partisan hypocrisy.

The White House’s battle against the media cartel is the best defense of the First Amendment.

Americans, from the government to the streets, must make it clear that there is no fourth branch of government. Only when the media cartel has been broken, can a free press rise once again.

Nothing happens in America besides carping about Trump

May 12, 2017

Nothing happens in America besides carping about Trump, Israel National News, Jack Engelhard, May 12, 2017

Yes, it’s time to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and who cares what the Democrats will say. 

Give them something else to carp about. They’re already out of their minds.

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President Trump’s visit to Israel later this month will be a timely getaway from all the feverish heat he’s been taking here in the U.S.A.

He may want to stay in Israel until the Democrats calm down…and whoever thought we’d say that Israel is a much calmer place than America.

But so it is at this moment. Being a Republican, especially being Trump, is not safe when nearly every Democrat in and out of Washington wants to skin you alive. From the moment Trump fired FBI Director James Comey – actually, from the moment Trump won the election – the Democrats have been on the warpath to oust him from office.

They want nothing less than his abdication by whatever means. That’s all they think about. They have no agenda for the rest of America.

Trump is their agenda – period.

Every day they find something else to pin on him and dumping Comey was just another ticket for them…and the howling began and won’t stop.

Throughout the dials, CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, it’s been a cavalcade of rhetorical hysteria.

Trump was acting tyrannical, cried Chris Matthews on MSNBC – the same Matthews who gets a thrill up his leg only when it’s Obama talking and acting.

Unconstitutional, wailed Chuck Todd at NBC. On CNN, Anderson Cooper was plainly crude and rude to Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway.

So it’s been and so it continues and the theme was set when Chuck Schumer raged in the Senate that Comey was getting “too close to home.” That’s why Trump fired him – and what is home to the Democrats? Russia. They are obsessed by Russia, these Democrats, and fixed on a dream that one day they will find the secret door that leads from Putin to Trump.

In fact, even as we speak, three investigations are underway with Russia in mind as intrusive troublemakers – in the Senate, the House and at the FBI.

In addition to that, Schumer wants a Special Prosecutor to prosecute…I mean investigate Trump and Russia and whatever links can be found between the two…even if it takes the next four to eight years. In other words, if you ask what’s going on in America today, the answer is, nothing much – nothing much besides Trump and Russia.

So it goes so long as we have a two party system and the party that loses just won’t quit. Instead of behaving like ladies and gentlemen, they turn into a mob.

In Israel, famous politically for running the country with 34 (yes, 34) political parties, the constant Bibi-bashing in the media pales when compared to the anti-Trump frenzy in the US.

And in Israel, things are getting done. One of those things is getting ready for Trump’s visit. He could not have picked a better time, May 22/23.

That’s around the time when Israel celebrates the reunification of Jerusalem. So here’s his chance to get away from it all and…and make good on a promise.

Yes, it’s time to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and who cares what the Democrats will say.

Give them something else to carp about. They’re already out of their minds.

How Trump turned media’s hatred of him into an asset

April 30, 2017

How Trump turned media’s hatred of him into an asset, American Thinker, Thomas Lifson, April 30, 2017

Last night’s White House Correspondents Association Dinner may have marked the end of an era.  The plaintive claim of the president of the group, “We are not fake news,” revealed the sadness and fear that underlie the mainstream media’s precarious position.

President Trump has largely eroded America’s trust in the national political media during his first few months in the White House, according to a new poll.

On the eve of Trump’s 100th day in office, a new national poll by Morning Consult finds that more voters trust the president than the reporters covering his administration on a daily basis.

Thirty-seven percent of voters believe the White House has been more forthright than the media, versus 29 percent who favor the press. Another 34 percent were unsure or had no opinion.

This comes after more than a year of sustained attacks on Trump. It has come to the point that the viciousness of the attacks on the sitting POTUS are counterproductive, weakening trust in the media, instead of the object of their scorn. Sadness is one response, but another one is escalation. Consider the viciousness of the remarks of the chosen headliner of the WHCA dinner: a purported comedian named Hassan Minaj, who is said to be a celebrity on Comedy Central.

During his monologue, comedian and “The Daily Show” correspondent Hasan Minhaj said that he was explicitly told not to go after the absent President Trump or the administration – but if true, he certainly ignored the marching order. (“You were not told that,” White House Correspondents’ Association president Jeff Mason appeared to say off-screen.)

“I would say it’s an honor to be here, but that would be an alternative fact. No one wanted to do this, so of course it lands in the hands of an immigrant. No one wanted this gig,” said Minhaj. “Don Rickles died just so you wouldn’t ask him to do this gig.”

There were jokes about Russia: “The leader of our country is not here. That’s because he lives in Moscow, it’s a very long flight.” Jokes about how the press should hope Trump keeps golfing: “The longer you keep him distracted, the longer we’re not at war with North Korea.” Jokes about how it’s a good thing Trump didn’t attend the dinner: “He’s done far too much bombing this month.”

He also took some shots at the Trump administration, including Sean Spicer, whose “go-to move when you ask him a tough question is denying the Holocaust.” And Mike Pence, who wasn’t there because there were women in attendance who were ovulating. “Good job ladies, because of you, we couldn’t hang out with Mike Pence,” he said. He noted that Jeff Sessions RSVP’d “no,” which is “his second-favorite ‘n’ word.”There were also the requisite jokes about the media – how CNN calls everything “breaking news”; how if he bombs his monologue, MSNBC’s Brian Williams will say he did a stunning job; how Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly’s $25 million exit package is the “only package he won’t force a woman to touch.”

Toward the end, Minhaj’s tone changed – he reflected on the surreal feeling of the entire evening (“I feel like I’m a tribute in ‘The Hunger Games,’ and if this goes poorly, Steve Bannon gets to eat me.”) and turned serious, marveling that because we live in a democracy, a first generation Indian-American Muslim can get on the White House correspondents’ dinner stage and make fun of the president.

“Surreal” doesn’t begin to describe what was going on. With the glittery assemblage alternately praising itself and accusing the Trump administration of hideous behavior (N-words, living in Moscow), while President Trump was with a huge crowd of supporters in a distinctly non-glamorous setting, there was an element of Versailles as the sans coulottes were building their barricades in the streets of Paris. Except that the sans coulottes and their leader hold the reins of power, and the media has only their diminished (and still shrinking) level of trust among the citizenry.

I think that once again Salena Zito has captured a reality that eludes most of her colleagues in the media:

 Dennis Dixon didn’t vote for Donald J. Trump. For the first time in his 46 years, the self-described “moderate Midwestern Republican” sat out a presidential election because he was less than thrilled with both major candidates. “I wrote in John Kasich,” he says, with a trace of humor. (snip)

“If he [Trump] continues to stick to his guns and do what he is doing, I’d vote for him if he ran again,” Dixon says.

He may not have liked the candidate but he is “enjoying the heck out of his presidency.”

What he likes about Trump is his determination on certain issues, “but he is also willing to show flexibility when it counts. That is the kind of outside non-politician behavior that attracted a lot of voters to him.”

He also is frustrated by the way the national press treats Trump in comparison to President Obama: “They really do not give him a fair shake.”

In fact, some of that perceived bias impacts how Dixon views Trump: Instead of pushing him away from the president, he is more intrigued by him.

Dixon’s opinion defies the conventional wisdom of national news outlets, which still seem unable to grasp that Trump’s supporters aren’t going anywhere for the moment and that they view his approach to the presidency as successful.

The media certainly couldn’t believe there are Dennis Dixons out there — voters who didn’t support candidate Trump but are now pleased by his outsider approach to governing. Enough to even consider voting for him in the future. The idea that someone could go from a Trump skeptic to having an open mind about his presidency is unheard-of in their circles.

Certainly they have done enough to make every newscast, written report, blog post or tweet a breathless condemnation of every step he takes. They are shocked at how unconventional he is, while people who voted for him are shocked the political class still doesn’t understand that’s exactly why they voted for him.

Like the driver of a car stuck in snow, the Trump-hating media are spinning their tires, which is melting the snow next to the treads, and thereby diminishing any traction available. The faster the wheels spin, the more water is generated, preventing any traction at all.

The media does not know how to ease off the accelerator. To extend the metaphor of a carin snow, they need some grit to place under their wheels. Salena Zito knows where such grit may be found: outside the glitter of New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.  And the only way to put that grit under the tires would be to understand the thoughts and feelings in flyover country well enough to have actual empathy for the proles who don’t get to hobnob with bejeweled and begowned celebrities that hate people who don’t share their views.

Off Topic | Wayne Barrett, Donald Trump, and the Death of the American Press

February 23, 2017

Wayne Barrett, Donald Trump, and the Death of the American Press, Tablet MagazineLee Smith, February 23, 2017

(Please see also, Off Topic:  A Purblind Press, Unable To Admit Error, Boycotts the President. — DM)

How did we get from ‘Village Voice’ reporters digging up everything there is to know about a flashy New York real estate salesman to not knowing anything about the President of the United States and his ties to Russia?

So when does the other shoe drop? Who’s going to break the story proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that the president of the United States is so deeply connected to Russian President Vladimir Putin that the White House has become a Muscovite colony in all but name?

Time to use some common sense—it’s not going to happen, there is no story. The narrative that Donald Trump is effectively Putin’s prison wife is an information operation orchestrated by Democratic hands, many of whom served in the Obama administration, sectors of the intelligence community, and much of the American press. The purpose of the campaign is to delegitimize Trump’s presidency by continuing to hit on themes drawn from the narrative that Russia “hacked” the election and stole it away from Clinton.

The narrative is contorted because it’s not journalism. It’s a story that could only make sense in a profoundly corrupted public sphere, one in which, for instance, Graydon Carter is celebrated for speaking truth to power with an editor’s letter critical of Trump in a magazine that has no other ontological ground in the universe except to celebrate power.

Oh, sure, there are regular hints that there’s still more to come on Trump and his staff’s ties to Russia—the big one is about to hit. But the steady sound of drip-drip-drip is the telltale sign of a political campaign, where items are leaked bit by bit to paralyze the target. Journalists, on the other hand, have to get their story out there as quickly, and as fully, as possible because they’re always worried the competition is going to beat them to it.

No, if Trump really was in bed with the Russians, the story would already be out there, and I’m pretty sure it would have had a Wayne Barrett byline.

When I worked at the Village Voice in the mid-1990s, my office was right around the corner from Barrett’s and his bullpen of interns, a team that kept the heat on local politicians like Rudy Giuliani, Ed Koch, and others. Barrett was the first journalist who wrote at length about Trump, starting in the mid-1970s. His biography, Trump: The Deals and the Downfall, was published in 1992, and reissued in 2016 as Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth: The Deals, the Downfall, the Reinvention.

When Trump won the nomination and the pace of Trump stories picked up, Barrett became something of an official archivist, with reporters visiting his Brooklyn house to go through his files in the basement. Anyone who wanted to know what Trump’s deal with Russia was, for instance, would want to talk to Barrett because either he or his team of interns, 40 years’ worth, would have it. After all, New York City is the world capital for information on Russians, even better than Israel—because even though the city got a smaller number of post-Cold War immigrants, New York got a higher percentage of mobsters.

Let’s compare the institution of Wayne Barrett, a subset of the institution of journalism, to the so-called Russia dossier, the document placing Trump in a shady underworld governed by Putin and other Russian thugs. The former includes not only Barrett’s body of work over nearly half a century, but that of the hundreds of journalists he trained, and many thousands of sources whose information is, therefore, able to be cross-checked.

The latter, a congeries of preadolescent pornographic fantasy and spy tales, was authored by a British intelligence officer who has gone to ground since the dossier was made public. The dossier started as work made for hire, first paid for by Republican opponents of Trump and then the Clinton camp, and is sourced to Russian “contacts” who are clearly using the document as an opportunity to proliferate an information operation for perhaps various and as yet unknown purposes. The former is journalism. The latter, part oppo research and part intelligence dump, is garbage. Clearly, it is also the new standard in the field, which is why journalists on both sides of the political spectrum are boasting about their willingness to let their bylines be used as bulletin boards for spy services and call it a “scoop.”

Barrett had Trump on a whole variety of issues, but check the records yourself—up until the day of his death, the day before Trump’s inauguration, there’s nothing on Trump and Putin. Does this mean Trump is totally clean? Who knows? But the journalists now clamoring like maniacs about Trump’s ties sure aren’t going to find it. They’re thin-skinned hacks outraged that Trump dared violate the inherent dignity of that most important of American political institutions, the presidential press conference. And as we all know, this is the apex of real journalism, where esteemed members of the press sit side by side with other masters of the craft to see who gets their question televised.

Does Trump really believe the media are “an enemy of the people”? Please. Let’s remember how he rode his wave to fame on the back of the New York Post’s Page Six (and Graydon Carter’s Spy magazine). He still speaks regularly to the head of CNN (aka “Fake News”), Jeff Zucker, who put him on The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice at NBC, where Trump sat atop the Nielsens for 13 years. Trump uses his Twitter feed to boost his replacement Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ratings because the president still has a credit as executive producer. No, Trump, doesn’t hate the media. Like Howard Stern, he sees himself as the king of all media. What he’s doing here is playing gladiator in front of an audience that wants to see the lions slain.

Maybe Trump deserves the heat with the fake Russia stories. He backed the Obama birth certificate story, and what goes around comes around. But the American public sure doesn’t deserve a press like this.

Trump adviser Steve Bannon calls the media the opposition party, but that’s misleading. Everyone knows that the press typically tilts left, and no one is surprised, for instance, that The New York Times has not endorsed a Republican candidate since 1956. But that’s not what we’re seeing now—rather, the media has become an instrument in a campaign of political warfare. What was once an American political institution and a central part of the public sphere became something more like state-owned media used to advance the ruling party’s agenda and bully the opposition into silence. Russia’s RT network, the emir of Qatar’s Al Jazeera network—indeed, all of the Arab press—and media typically furnished by Third World regimes became the American press’ new paradigm; not journalism, but information operation.

How did this happen? It’s not about a few journalists, many of whom still do honor to the profession, or a few papers or networks. It’s a structural issue. Much of it is because of the wounds the media inflicted on itself, but it was also partly due to something like a natural catastrophe that no one could have predicted, or controlled.

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I was at the Voice when the meteor hit. Like many papers back then, dailies and weeklies, the Voice made its money on classified advertising. The New York Times, for instance, had three important classifieds sections—employment, automotive, and housing—but if New Yorkers really wanted to find a great apartment, they’d line up at the newsstand on 42nd Street to get a copy of the Voice hot off the press.

And then the internet came along, and it was all there in one place—for free. The press panicked. The Voice’s publisher at the time, David Schneiderman, announced to the staff that the paper was going free. It made no sense, he argued, to keep charging $1 for what consumers could get on the internet for nothing.

Here’s how the staff heard it: Who would want to pay $1 a week to read Nat Hentoff on civil liberties, Robert Christgau on music, Michael Musto on New York nightlife—or Wayne Barrett on the follies of real-estate mogul Donald Trump? That is, who would want to pay $1 a week to feel themselves a part of what the Village Voice had made them feel part of for decades? But at the time, devaluing content was in fashion—which meant, as few saw back then, the profession was digging its own grave.

The American press’ new paradigm: not journalism, but information operation.

In midtown, Tina Brown had taken The New Yorker, a notoriously sleepy rag that entry-level assistants stacked in a corner of their studio apartments to spend a rainy Saturday with a 10,000-word Ved Mehta article, and turned it into a hot book that everyone from Bill and Hillary Clinton to Harvey and Bob Weinstein was talking about. “Buzz” was Tina’s catchword, and she made her writers stars. But something else was happening on the business side that wasn’t good for the content providers.

Before Brown, The New Yorker made its money by selling the magazine to readers who wanted to feel like a part of the world only The New Yorker made available, a cozy world reflected by the modest, but very profitable, number of subscriptions, which hovered around 340,000. Advertising was an afterthought. It may have been the only magazine in history at which the business side held ads because there wasn’t space for them, or because, well, Mr. Shawn might not like them.

Condé Nast owner Si Newhouse, who bought The New Yorker in 1985, and publisher Steve Florio turned the business model on its head when Brown came on in 1992. Forget about making readers pay for content; instead, bill advertisers for access to your readers—charge them for eyeballs. They slashed the subscription price dramatically and readership swelled by many hundreds of thousands. This enabled the sales team to bump up ad rates to levels on par with other Condé Nast glossies, essentially fashion catalogs, that enjoyed much larger readerships, like Vogue, GQ, and Glamour.

The paradox was that The New Yorker lost money because each of the new subscriptions was costly. Paper, printing, and postage are expensive, and even the new ad rates couldn’t cover the costs now that circulation had grown to something like 800,000—not monthly like Vogue, but weekly.

Instead of paying for the cost of high-level reporting and editing, subscribers now cost The New Yorker money. In Brown’s last year at the magazine, The New Yorker lost $10 million—a giant black hole that her successor would endeavor mightily to fill while retaining the magazine’s new subscribers, who had little knowledge of or attachment to the magazine’s prior mix of literary reporting and sophisticated whimsy. If the subscribers didn’t feel interested and flattered, the magazine was sunk.

With a new media model that devalued content, no one had a very clear picture of the problems ahead. The future was further obscured by what seemed to be an astonishing reflorescence of the press, with tiny internet startups throwing lavish parties in Manhattan bistros and paying writers Condé Nast-level fees. The internet was the messiah, everything was great—until the IT bubble burst and media giants like TimeWarner stopped throwing money at a platform they didn’t understand. So now who was going to pay?

For the next decade, the media couldn’t decide which slogan of the moment carried more weight—“content is king” or “information wants to be free.” Sure, you can give away “information,” but someone has to find some way to cover expenses, and yet no one had figured out how to make internet advertising work. Maybe you really could charge for content. Of course you could—The New Yorker had done it for decades.

Even if you bring your own glass to a lemonade stand, there is no 8-year-old entrepreneur who is not going to charge you for his product. Why didn’t media grandees get it? When they saw their ad-based business model collapse, why didn’t they do the logical thing and raise the price on consumers? Sure, they’d lose some readers and have to cut some staff and departments, but they’d have established a fundamental defense of the product, the industry, and the institution itself—news is worth paying for.

As the old Chinese saying has it, the first generation builds the business, the second generation expands it, and the third spends it all on Italian shoes, houses in the Hamptons, and divorces. For the most part, the people inheriting these media properties didn’t know what they were doing. It took The New York Times more than a decade to settle on billing consumers for its product—after giving it away, charging for it, giving it away again, then billing for “premium content,” etc. By then, it was too late. Entire papers went under, and even at places that survived, the costliest enterprises, like foreign bureaus and investigative teams, were cut. An entire generation’s worth of expertise, experience, and journalistic ethics evaporated into thin air.

In January, Bannon told the Times that the press doesn’t “understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.” But the Times had already acknowledged its blunder in a letter to its readers after the election. However, neither Bannon nor the Times seemed to grasp the logistical reasons for the failure—it wasn’t because the paper of record slants left, or because it was too caught up in its own narrative. It’s in large part because it had long ago cut the regional bureaus in the South, the Midwest, etc., that would’ve forced reporters to speak to Americans outside the urban bubble and thereby explain to readers what the world looks like once you wander off the F train.

By the time two planes brought down the World Trade Center towers in September of 2001, everyone in the industry knew the media was in big trouble. The Iraq War partially hid and then later amplified that fact. The media spent millions it didn’t have for coverage it gave away free of a war that the press first supported and then turned against. If journalists prided themselves on their courageous about-faces, to much of their audience it further discredited a press whose main brief is not to advocate for or against, but to report facts.

This is the media environment that Barack Obama walked into—where Post columnist David Ignatius was no more important a media figure than Zach Galifianakis, on whose precious and often funny internet show Between Two Ferns the president marketed the Affordable Care Act. I suspect the Obama White House was a little sad that the press we’d all grown up with was basically dead. As Ben Rhodes, former national security adviser for strategic communications, told The New York Times Magazine, “I’d prefer a sober, reasoned public debate, after which members of Congress reflect and take a vote. But that’s impossible.”

He was right. What was once known as the prestige media became indistinguishable from the other stuff that Facebook gives away. Was it The New York Times or BuzzFeed that published that video about cats terrorized by cucumbers? Or was it Fake News because, in fact, cats aren’t scared of vegetables? It doesn’t matter where it came from, because there is no longer any hierarchy in the press. The media, as Thomas Friedman might say, is flat.

Obama didn’t kill journalism, but he took advantage of it in its weakness, because he knew the press would do anything to feel relevant again. All those 27-year-olds at the Times, the Washington Post and others hired as bloggers—“who literally know nothing,” as Rhodes told the Times Magazine—when the foreign and national bureaus were closed, they didn’t know it wasn’t OK to be a journalist and a political operative at the same time. They thought it made them more valuable, even patriotic, to put themselves in the service of a historic presidency. And they’d replaced for pennies on the dollar all the adults who could have taught them otherwise.

That’s the raw material out of which the Obama administration built its echo chamber, the purpose of which was to drown out the few remaining vestiges of journalism in order to sell the president’s policies. And there really were real journalists still putting in the hours, still doing the work, but the echo chamber, a relentless, frenzied chorus of incoherent and nearly illiterate prose, shouted them down.

Yes, it would have been nice if the American public had a chance to discuss a policy of vital importance to our national security, like the Iran nuclear deal, but the press congratulated itself for silencing those who dissented from Obama’s signature foreign-policy initiative. These weren’t simply critics or opponents of the White House, they weren’t just wrong; no, they were warmongers, beholden to donors and moneyed interests and lobbies, they were dual loyalists.

But it was all OK for the press to humiliate and threaten Obama’s opponents in accordance with the talking points provided by Obama administration officials—they were helping the president prevent another senseless war. That’s for history to decide. What everyone saw at the time was that the press had put itself in the service of executive power. This was no longer simply tilting left, rather, it was turning an American political institution against the American public.

Now with Trump in the White House, commentators on the right are critical of those angry with the press for calling out Trump on the same stuff that Obama got away with. Let’s be above it, they argue. Just because Obama did it doesn’t make it OK for Trump to do it. Fine, obviously, call out Trump—but this isn’t about playing gotcha. It’s about a self-aggrandizing press corps gaslighting the electorate. The public is astonished and appalled that the media has now returned after an eight-year absence to arrogate to itself the role of conscience of the nation.

It’s not working out very well.

Consider the Washington Post, whose new motto is “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” which presumably was OK’d by owner Jeff Bezos, the man who closed virtually every independent bookstore in America. Here’s a recent story about riots in Sweden:

Just two days after President Trump provoked widespread consternation by seeming to imply, incorrectly, that immigrants had perpetrated a recent spate of violence in Sweden, riots broke out in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood in the northern suburbs of the country’s capital, Stockholm.

You’ve probably never seen the phrase “seeming to imply” in the lede of a story in a major American newspaper before—a news story. So did Trump imply, or seem to imply? How are readers supposed to parse “incorrectly” if the story is about the reality of riots in a place where Trump “seemingly” “implied” there was violence? So what’s the point—that Trump is a racist? Or that Trump can see the future?

The press at present is incapable of reconstituting itself because it lacks the muscle memory to do so. Look at the poor New Yorker. During the eight years of the Obama administration, it was best known not for reported stories, but for providing a rostrum for a man to address the class that revered him as a Caesar. Now that the magazine is cut off from the power that made it relevant, is it any wonder that when it surveys the post-Obama landscape it looks like Rome is burning—or is that the Reichstag in flames?

The Russia story is evidence that top reporters are are still feeding from the same trough—political operatives, intelligence agencies, etc.—because they don’t know how to do anything else, and their editors don’t dare let the competition get out ahead. Why would the Post, for instance, let the Times carve out a bigger market share of the anti-Trump resistance? And what’s the alternative? Report the story honestly? Don’t publish questionably sourced innuendo as news?

And still, you ask, how could the Russia story be nonsense? All the major media outlets are on it. Better to cover yourself—maybe it’s true, because the press can’t really be this inept and corrupt, so there’s got to be something to it.

I say this not only out of respect for a late colleague, but in the hope that journalism may once again merit the trust of the American public. Wayne Barrett had this file for 40 years, and if neither he nor the reporters he trained got this story, it’s not a story.

Who Rules the United States?

February 17, 2017

Who Rules the United States? Washington Free Beacon, February 17, 2017

(Update re President Trump’s EPA nominee, Scott Pruitt: He was approved by the Senate 52-46. — DM)

President Donald Trump pauses while speaking during a news conference, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President Donald Trump pauses while speaking during a news conference, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Donald Trump was elected president last November by winning 306 electoral votes. He pledged to “drain the swamp” in Washington, D.C., to overturn the system of politics that had left the nation’s capital and major financial and tech centers flourishing but large swaths of the country mired in stagnation and decay. “What truly matters,” he said in his Inaugural Address, “is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.”

Is it? By any historical and constitutional standard, “the people” elected Donald Trump and endorsed his program of nation-state populist reform. Yet over the last few weeks America has been in the throes of an unprecedented revolt. Not of the people against the government—that happened last year—but of the government against the people. What this says about the state of American democracy, and what it portends for the future, is incredibly disturbing.

There is, of course, the case of Michael Flynn. He made a lot of enemies inside the government during his career, suffice it to say. And when he exposed himself as vulnerable those enemies pounced. But consider the means: anonymous and possibly illegal leaks of private conversations. Yes, the conversation in question was with a foreign national. And no one doubts we spy on ambassadors. But we aren’t supposed to spy on Americans without probable cause. And we most certainly are not supposed to disclose the results of our spying in the pages of the Washington Post because it suits a partisan or personal agenda.

Here was a case of current and former national security officials using their position, their sources, and their methods to crush a political enemy. And no one but supporters of the president seems to be disturbed. Why? Because we are meant to believe that the mysterious, elusive, nefarious, and to date unproven connection between Donald Trump and the Kremlin is more important than the norms of intelligence and the decisions of the voters.

But why should we believe that? And who elected these officials to make this judgment for us?

Nor is Flynn the only example of nameless bureaucrats working to undermine and ultimately overturn the results of last year’s election. According to the New York Times, civil servants at the EPA are lobbying Congress to reject Donald Trump’s nominee to run the agency. Is it because Scott Pruitt lacks qualifications? No. Is it because he is ethically compromised? Sorry. The reason for the opposition is that Pruitt is a critic of the way the EPA was run during the presidency of Barack Obama. He has a policy difference with the men and women who are soon to be his employees. Up until, oh, this month, the normal course of action was for civil servants to follow the direction of the political appointees who serve as proxies for the elected president.

How quaint. These days an architect of the overreaching and antidemocratic Waters of the U.S. regulation worries that her work will be overturned so she undertakes extraordinary means to defeat her potential boss. But a change in policy is a risk of democratic politics. Nowhere does it say in the Constitution that the decisions of government employees are to be unquestioned and preserved forever. Yet that is precisely the implication of this unprecedented protest. “I can’t think of any other time when people in the bureaucracy have done this,” a professor of government tells the paper. That sentence does not leave me feeling reassured.

Opposition to this president takes many forms. Senate Democrats have slowed confirmations to the most sluggish pace since George Washington. Much of the New York and Beltway media does really function as a sort of opposition party, to the degree that reporters celebrated the sacking of Flynn as a partisan victory for journalism. Discontent manifests itself in direct actions such as the Women’s March.

But here’s the difference. Legislative roadblocks, adversarial journalists, and public marches are typical of a constitutional democracy. They are spelled out in our founding documents: the Senate and its rules, and the rights to speech, a free press, and assembly. Where in those documents is it written that regulators have the right not to be questioned, opposed, overturned, or indeed fired, that intelligence analysts can just call up David Ignatius and spill the beans whenever they feel like it?

The last few weeks have confirmed that there are two systems of government in the United States. The first is the system of government outlined in the U.S. Constitution—its checks, its balances, its dispersion of power, its protection of individual rights. Donald Trump was elected to serve four years as the chief executive of this system. Whether you like it or not.

The second system is comprised of those elements not expressly addressed by the Founders. This is the permanent government, the so-called administrative state of bureaucracies, agencies, quasi-public organizations, and regulatory bodies and commissions, of rule-writers and the byzantine network of administrative law courts. This is the government of unelected judges with lifetime appointments who, far from comprising the “least dangerous branch,” now presume to think they know more about America’s national security interests than the man elected as commander in chief.

For some time, especially during Democratic presidencies, the second system of government was able to live with the first one. But that time has ended. The two systems are now in competition. And the contest is all the more vicious and frightening because more than offices are at stake. This fight is not about policy. It is about wealth, status, the privileges of an exclusive class.

“In our time, as in [Andrew] Jackson’s, the ruling classes claim a monopoly not just on the economy and society but also on the legitimate authority to regulate and restrain it, and even on the language in which such matters are discussed,” writes Christopher Caldwell in a brilliant essay in the Winter 2016/17 Claremont Review of Books.

Elites have full-spectrum dominance of a whole semiotic system. What has just happened in American politics is outside the system of meanings elites usually rely upon. Mike Pence’s neighbors on Tennyson street not only cannot accept their election loss; they cannot fathom it. They are reaching for their old prerogatives in much the way that recent amputees are said to feel an urge to scratch itches on limbs that are no longer there. Their instincts tell them to disbelieve what they rationally know. Their arguments have focused not on the new administration’s policies or its competence but on its very legitimacy.

Donald Trump did not cause the divergence between government of, by, and for the people and government, of, by, and for the residents of Cleveland Park and Arlington and Montgomery and Fairfax counties. But he did exacerbate it. He forced the winners of the global economy and the members of the D.C. establishment to reckon with the fact that they are resented, envied, opposed, and despised by about half the country. But this recognition did not humble the entrenched incumbents of the administrative state. It radicalized them to the point where they are readily accepting, even cheering on, the existence of a “deep state” beyond the control of the people and elected officials.

Who rules the United States? The simple and terrible answer is we do not know. But we are about to find out.

The Russian Conspiracy Theory Boils Over

February 17, 2017

The Russian Conspiracy Theory Boils Over, Front Page MagazineMatthew Vadum, February 17, 2017

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The so-called scandal involving former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn is 9/11, Pearl Harbor, Iran-Contra, Watergate, proof of presidential fascism, a cynical money-making scheme, and a pro-Russian spy thriller all rolled into one, according to the increasingly deranged rants of howling left-wingers and their truth-adverse confederates in the mainstream media.

Despite this relentless barrage of fake news and smears, President Donald Trump pushed back against the orchestrated campaign against him yesterday at what is sure to go down in history as The Best Presidential Press Conference of All Time as he gave the mainstream media the beat-down it deserves. (See transcript.)

“To give you an idea how Trump’s press conference went, afterwards, the press corps demanded a safe space,” Ann Coulter tweeted of the 77-minute long White House event, Trump’s first solo presser as president. “I wish this press conference could go on all day.”

“The public doesn’t believe you people anymore,” a ferocious, animated Trump told the assembled press corps. “Maybe I had something to do with that. I don’t know. But they don’t believe you.”

“This whole Russia scam that you guys” are pushing on people is “so you don’t talk about the real subject which is illegal leaks.”

“The public sees it,” he said. “They see it. They see it’s not fair. You take a look at some of your shows and you see the bias and the hatred. And the public is smart. They understand it.”

“I didn’t do anything for Russia,” he said. “I have done nothing for Russia. Hillary Clinton gave them 20 percent of our uranium. Hillary Clinton did a reset, remember with the stupid plastic button that made us look like a bunch of jerks.”

A mewling Chuck Todd of NBC was offended by the president’s conduct at the press conference and tweeted, “This [is] not a laughing matter. I’m sorry, delegitimizing the press is un-American[.]”

Perhaps he shouldn’t have signed on to the effort to delegitimize President Trump.

Todd, of course, is one the members of the media out to get Trump.

He recently said the invented Flynn-Russia crisis is “arguably the biggest presidential scandal involving a foreign government since Iran-Contra.”

Disgraced former anchorman Dan Rather, the poster child for journalistic malfeasance who humiliated himself a decade ago with his proven lies about George W. Bush’s military service record, couldn’t resist hopping on the bandwagon in order to create the illusion he is relevant.

He gravely pontificated that “Watergate is the biggest political scandal of my lifetime, until maybe now. It was the closest we came to a debilitating Constitutional crisis, until maybe now.”

This manufactured mass hysteria directed against Trump, a democratically elected president, in order to drive him from office continues. It feeds on itself. It infects. It multiplies. It smothers.

This un-American mobocracy threatens to snuff out American democracy itself if not contained.

Calls for President Trump’s impeachment, removal from office by the Senate or by military coup, and assassination are growing on the Left as it comes to grips with the fact that the Chief Executive is deadly serious about protecting America and rolling back President Obama’s poisonous legacy.

No claim or statement is too crazy, lawless, undemocratic, or barbaric for the Left as it desperately tries to keep the borders open to Muslim terrorists, Americans groaning under the chains of Obamacare, businesses buried in red tape, and the welfare state ballooning.

Exhibit “A” from the magical land of fairy dust and unicorns is communist mockumentary director Michael Moore.

In the complete absence of evidence, Moore called Trump a “Russian traitor” and said he should vacate the White House. “We can do this the easy way (you resign), or the hard way (impeachment).” He also called for Trump to be arrested.

Todd, Rather, and Moore are far from alone.

On Fox News Channel, Sean Hannity held up an interview CNN’s Wolf Blitzer did with Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) as an example of the media’s “abusively biased coverage, this false narrative.”

“If members of the administration are essentially conspiring with Russia either through the campaign earlier or now in the administration itself, I mean, look, Wolf, that’s the definition of treason,” Moulton said. “This is a very, very serious affair.”

From his perch at a glossy, content-free fashion magazine, MSNBC reject Keith Olbermann huffed and puffed. “I call for the immediate indictment of Michael Thomas Flynn on charges of and his immediate arrest on suspicion of violation of the Logan Act,” he said invoking a long-forgotten statute from 1799 under which no one has ever been convicted. Trump should be named as Flynn’s “unindicted co-conspirator,” he added.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) conspiracy-theorized that Trump is using the Flynn saga to privatize intelligence-gathering and help his friends on Wall Street make money off it. Trump plans to ask Stephen A. Feinberg, a co-founder of Cerberus Capital Management, to conduct “a broad review of American intelligence agencies,” the New York Times has reported.

“Now what he’s doing is naming another Wall Streeter to go in like a corporate takeover of the intelligence community, clearly with the intent of creating a chilling effect upon these intelligence professionals, who are trying to help America to understand how our security may have been compromised in our relationship with Russia,” Markey said.

Riot-cheerleading Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who claims the Reagan administration flooded the nation’s inner cities with crack cocaine, was overjoyed at Flynn’s ouster, describing him as “a liar and someone who cannot be trusted.”

“I’ve always believed that there has been collusion between the Trump outfit here, and Russia and the Kremlin. So I believe this is the tip of the iceberg … the strategy and the plot, to defend Russia and to work with Russia, is part of who Trump and his organization is,” Waters said.

New York Times columnist and hyperbole junkie Thomas Friedman accused Flynn and Trump of participating in some weird, ill-defined international conspiracy. “After the Russians did not respond harshly to the eviction of their spies and diplomats, Trump actually tweeted out some positive encouragement of this. Did the two of them cook this up all along?”

“And it gets … to two other issues,” Friedman continued. “The first is, we have never taken seriously from the very beginning Russia hacked our election. That was a 9/11-scale event. They attacked the core of our very democracy. That was a Pearl Harbor-scale event.”

Radical kook Chauncey DeVega, who calls Trump a “fascist authoritarian,” hyperventilated at Salon that the president is “a traitor to the United States” and so are all who back him.

Trump’s “voters and other supporters who do not denounce him are also traitors, and any Republican officials who continue to back Trump are traitors as well,” he wrote, as visions of sending patriotic Americans to die in forced labor camps danced in his head.

PJMedia’s Michael Walsh calls what’s happening in the country “a rolling coup attempt” and he’s right.

Make no mistake about what’s happening here: this is a rolling coup attempt, organized by elements of the intelligence community, particularly CIA and NSA, abetted by Obama-era holdovers in the understaffed Justice Department (Sally Yates, take a bow) and the lickspittles of the leftist media, all of whom have signed on with the “Resistance” in order to overturn the results of the November election.

This escalating offensive against Trump kicked up a few notches after Flynn, an arch foe of Islamofascism, was forced out of his critically important advisory role Monday night by what is shaping up to be an East German-style Ben Rhodes-centered deep state cabal.

Flynn, a retired lieutenant general in the U.S. Army, fell on his sword reportedly for allegedly making contact with a Russian envoy. The White House claims Flynn resigned after admitting he lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak.

It’s not as if we know what actually happened with Flynn and the Russian or Russians at this point, or if there was any contact at all. News reports don’t quote any on-the-record sources.

And despite the lunatic ravings of NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Bill Kristol, David Frum, Sally Kohn, Joan Walsh, Hollywood celebrities, and many others, there is no credible evidence whatsoever that Trump had anything to do with the hacking of the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee or that Trump colluded with Russia in whatever may or may not have transpired.

Without proof all of this screaming about Flynn and Trump and their supposedly nefarious connections to Vladimir Putin is just noise.

It could be (and likely is) completely made up.

Fiction is, after all, what Ben Rhodes, now identified as a major player in the plot against the president, specialized in when he worked in the Obama White House. Rhodes bragged to the New York Times about duping Americans by creating a media “echo chamber” to promote the botched, unenforceable nuclear nonproliferation agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran that will actually end up helping the mad mullahs who want to kill us all get the bomb. Rhodes became a misinformation-manufacturing servant of a hostile power while betraying his fellow Americans to help an Islam-loving president cozy up to the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism.

But as we keep learning more and more about Rhodes and Obama’s post-presidential sabotage apparatus, there was a small victory for common sense as the FBI announced it sees no reason to do anything about the Flynn case because there’s nothing there.

The FBI is still investigating the Russian saga but won’t pursue charges against Flynn “barring new information that changes what they know,” CNN reported last night. Although Flynn stumbled at times during FBI interviews, investigators believe Flynn was “cooperative and provided truthful answers.”

And that can’t be bad.

RIGHT ANGLE: Who Watches the Watchdogs?

February 16, 2017

RIGHT ANGLE: Who Watches the Watchdogs? Bill Whittle Channel via YouTube, February 17, 2017