Trump Will Never Love CNN

Last week it was reported that Sarah Isgur Flores, a GOP hack who has never worked as a journalist, will be joining CNN as one of the network’s “political editors.” The exact contours of Isgur’s role remain unclear (due to CNN’s lack of transparency), but it appears she will be helping to shape the political coverage of an outlet whose agenda-setting power plays a large part in determining which stories receive national attention and how they are covered.

The arguments against this move are numerous and obvious: Isgur is a longtime Republican political operative who most recently served as a spokesperson for former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a position she gained after personally pledging her loyalty to Donald Trump. She has no experience in journalism, yet her job will now be to help guide its production. She has previously denounced CNN as the “Clinton News Network.”

In her role at the Justice Department, Isgur defended the administration’s war on leakers and will now be working with reporters who have confidential government sources; her abundant conflicts of interest have forced CNN to silo her off from vast swaths of political news. This seems like a handicap for someone in an editorial role.

For CNN the appeal seems simple: It suggests that the network is doubling down on its false notion of neutrality: a defensive, “both-sides-are-the-same” kind of political coverage that fails to both prevent Trump and the Republicans from attacking them (which they will do regardless), and more importantly, serve the public.

CNN has consistently failed to grapple with this form of false balance. Cable news networks traditionally hire a coterie of partisan contributors and turn them loose to discuss the issues of the day. This leaves viewers confused about what’s actually true and what isn’t as a representative from one party denounces a person or policy while the other excuses it. As a semi-famous saying goes: “If CNN covered sports, every game would be a tie.”

The results of this frame of mind have been grim. CNN has stocked its greenrooms with Trump lackeys, paying a motley assortment of shills, grifters, and extremists to lie to its audience under the guise of being “neutral” and (I suspect) trying to show Trump that they’re not “Fake News™.”

Many of these hires are ethically dubious, handpicked by the president himself or subject to nondisparagement agreements making them contractually forbidden from criticizing Trump on air. In perhaps the most embarrassing case, the network hired (and defended the hiring of) former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to comment on the election even though he was bound by an NDA and was still on the Trump campaign payroll.

The network wants to look like it is being “fair” to Trump, an allowance he has not earned, so it continues to shove these people in front of its cameras.

Like many newspapers and broadcast news outlets, cable news networks received a lot criticism for their false, “both-sides-are-equally-bad” coverage of the 2016 election. However, CNN doesn’t seem to be learning any lessons about their “neutrality-at-the-cost-of-all-else” coverage, or the type of people they are hiring.

When lies and the truth are given equal consideration, it serves the purpose of the liars.

Ban the Billionaires?

The idea that the rich have too much wealth at the expense of everyone else has taken off in recent months. There’s even talk of “banning billionaires” and there are extremely popular policy proposals looking to significantly raise taxes on the ultra-rich coming from legislators like Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Americans have supported raising taxes on the rich for a long time. But the ultra-rich, Republicans, and anti-tax extremists like Grover Norquist have kept that popular sentiment at bay. Partly with rhetoric about “freedom” and partly by philanthropic deeds, not to mention a right-wing media ecosystem (itself full of rich pundits) that portrays them as benevolent, self-made geniuses.

Then came Lord Dampnut.

With (self-proclaimed) billionaire Donald Trump occupying the White House and daily revealing what a profound moron and amoral con-man he is, the veil has been torn off. It’s easier to see that many billionaires are grifters that at best, stumbled into their wealth rather than the self-made entrepreneurs that we’ve been told they are.

Before, Americans wanted to tax the rich to pay for specific policies like Medicare-for-all, public college, and repairing infrastructure. Now, Americans are beginning to see it as a moral issue. These days, the reasoning goes that taxing the ultra-wealthy will tamp down extreme wealth inequality. They believe that someone shouldn’t start out with that much of an advantage in life, especially given what kind of people they turn out to be.

It’s a truism in American politics that there’s a natural tendency for public opinion to swing in opposition to whichever party is in power. Still, I think it’s fair to say that the public’s reaction to Trump has been more intense than it would’ve been under a President Jeb Bush. Trump has energized liberals and progressives on issues, like women’s rights, in resistance to the president, which has inspired record numbers of women to run for public office.

There are also other factors, such as outrage over the Great Recession, the Occupy Wall Street protests, and Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign which focused heavily on wealth inequality pushing the Democratic Party (the rank-and-file at any rate) to the left regarding economics. Also, our rich president, his super-rich Cabinet, and the millionaires on mainstream news TV have repeatedly demonstrated how out of touch they are with regular people when it comes to financial issues.

Finally, Trump has set himself apart from all other modern presidents by keeping his tax returns secret, bringing up daily questions about what he is trying to hide. Inadvertently shining a constant light on how the rich often get away with not paying their fair share.

Who Cares What the Media Says About Gamers?

A common refrain about the media in America is that our media has  a “liberal bias.” This has been debunked several times of course, the largest “news” network in the U.S. is basically the Republican Party’s media arm after all, but the media definitely does have a strong bias:

Laziness.

The American media is lazy, and it hates nuance. That’s why you’ll get a network like CNN spending weeks endlessly talking and speculating about a missing Malaysian airliner until the next big obvious thing comes along.

It’s in the midst of this laziness and hatred of nuance that gamers once again find themselves in relation to the media narrative of the #gamergate consumer revolt. There’s been a lot of wailing and rending of garments over the coverage that #gamerate has gotten in the media with outlets like MSNBC, The Guardian, and numerous online outlets regurgitating the narrative spoon fed to them by the people who despise gamers the most, a low-rent games press anxious to advertise its moral virtue.

At the behest of the games press, the mainstream media has entirely cast aside any ethics considerations brought up by #gamergate despite the fact that The Escapist, Kotaku and Polygon have each amended their editorial policies as a result of the concerns brought to light. This would seem, to me at least, like an acknowledgment of systemic failure.

Gamers supporting #gamergate have also successfully helped green-light a female developer’s game on the Steam marketplace via a Twitter campaign (all while opponents of #gamergate urged a boycott because she has the wrong opinions) and also contributed over $20,000 to the Fine Young Capitalists, a feminist organization.

Instead, the media has lazily stereotyped #gamergate as the highest expression of sexism in gaming and that gamers are a horde of basement-dwelling, fedora wearing neckbeards who hate the idea of women and/or minorities playing videogames and will threaten to murder and/or rape any that try. Five minutes of independent research would disprove most of these stereotypes but that would be work, and work is hard. Plus, it has the unfortunate side effect of complicating your tidy narrative.

It also bears mention that not a single arrest or prosecution has yet been brought as a result of alleged threats in which #gamergate has been implicated. nor a shred of evidence linking any #gamergate supporter to any threat. It should also be pointed out that social justice fundamentalists use online “threats” as currency in a perverted sort of Oppression Olympics, showing off to one another and begging for donations with each new round of threats that, in many cases observers suspect they have deliberately manufactured for themselves.

The annoyance is certainly understandable, but it shouldn’t really be surprising at this point. In fact, as depressing as it is, this perception of gamers is actually an improvement. You may recall, 10-15 years ago, once it was discovered that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who committed the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, were avid players of Doom, the media narrative around gamers became that we were all just one bad day from becoming mass-murderers.

Is it any wonder gaming enthusiasts and #gamergate supporters alike look at these dishonest summaries of themselves and the hobby they love, which in many cases has been an escape from everyday troubles, and are driven to hyperbole when describing their critics?

However, this media attitude in some ways actually helps #gamergate in that it solidifies opposition to lazy, ideologically motivated  media coverage which takes the easy route through the #gamergate controversy, instead of addressing the movement’s concerns and scrutinizing the claims made by the people who want to turn the entirety of the internet into an echo-chamber for their opinions.

It seems pretty clear at this point that gamers as a whole are a long way from getting any kind of fair shake from the media, even the media that purports to serve us specifically. Perhaps in another 10-15 years we’ll become acceptable members of society. In the meantime, if they don’t want gamers as part of their audience I think we should oblige them.

Shepard Smith Wins Ebola Coverage Forever

On Wednesday, Shepard Smith stepped up to the plate and by virtue of a calm and authoritative demeanor, took a punishing swing at the panic-stricken response by the mainstream media to the Ebola situation. He provided the facts on the virus as they now stand, free of irresponsible hype and implored everyone watching and listening to ignore the alarmists and react to these latest developments logically and reasonably.

It’s lamentable to have to say that what Shep said and did was extraordinary, but it is. Every news organization and journalist should be delivering the facts on Ebola in this way and yet very few have been. Shep’s own colleagues at Fox News are guilty of some of the most irresponsible and cynical panic-incitement we’ve seen over the past two weeks regarding Ebola. Maybe this is why, when Shep wrapped up this segment, he called out the media specifically, saying about that Ebola alarmism, “It’s not worth ratings and it’s not worth politics and we need to stop it.” We. His own network included.

Credit where credit is due: Bravo Shep.