Should NBC News air Megyn Kelly’s interview with Alex Jones?
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After his 1996 conviction for the murder of 12-year-old Polly Klaas, Richard Allen Davis raised the middle fingers of both hands toward her family.
Then-Sacramento Bee Editor Gregory Favre conspicuously did not use the image. Others did. He was right, they were wrong, since there was absolutely no need to further memorialize the pain inflicted upon the family.
So are Megyn Kelly and NBC allowing right-wing polemicist Alex Jones to give most of the country the finger Sunday evening, including the families of kids gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School?
The interview with Jones for her new Sunday show has been publicized but not aired and there is a belief among some that she's needlessly offering a conspiracy theorist a very big public forum.
Jones, of course, is an acquired taste even for some conspiracists, but he and his ilk are a new media commodity worth examining. He's been profiled lots of times, including by mainstream organizations. He's claimed that the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax perpetrated by enemies of the Second Amendment. Other decorations are equally odious and along the way have attracted a large audience, including President Trump.
The Trump link is the thin reed upon which NBC News hangs the self-imagined noble cause of bringing him to a large TV audience. It does so while offering its own pre-show outrage at the audacity of the man it will market in coming days and monetize. Ain't the First Amendment great?
“I find Alex Jones’s suggestion that Sandy Hook was ‘a hoax’ as personally revolting as every other rational person does,” Kelly said in a formal statement. “It left me, and many other Americans, asking the very question that prompted this interview: How does Jones, who trafficks in these outrageous conspiracy theories, have the respect of the president of the United States and a growing audience of millions?”
This rationale, of course, would justify interviewing anybody with a large audience, no matter his moral depravity. In our social media age, that's not a small group.
Many reporters have spent quality time with bad guys. In my case, I'd include some very bad mobsters. There are awful people who also happen to be heads of government and major groups given to genocide.
Of course, if Megyn Kelly had scored a 1942 interview with Adolf Hitler, nobody would have had much of a problem with that, would they? His vile ravings impacted the world and more should have been known a lot quicker about them.
Ditto the likes of Efraim Rios Montt, who staged a coup and ran Guatemala three decades ago during a horrendously bloody period. Raymond Bonner, a former longtime ace New York Times reporter, recalled to me on Tuesday how he'd interviewed that scumbag.
But, he also noted, Montt had just staged a coup, was running an entire country, and his views needed to be known, too. Many years later, he'd be convicted of genocide against the Mayan people.
Do we need to know what's already out there about Jones? Most of it is very much in the public domain. We don't necessarily suffer from an ignorance that places us in peril, as was the case with Jews (Hitler) and Mayans (Rios Montt), to forget assorted other evil doers, ranging from Hutu genocidal maniacs in Rwanda to Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
Again, the interview hasn't aired. So one must suspend judgment until then. All that is assuredly clear is that some sizable portion of the media reaps what it sows.
Daily, we clamor to produce what's interesting and provocative, often preferring those elements to the sober and boring. We will use every new trick in the book — be it an algorithm or social media tool — to bring people into the tent, convincing ourselves that ends justify the means. We're intoxicated by metrics.
It's why a lot of us have made a fetish out of the rousing and alluring (and our own self-promotion). It begets some excellent work. It begets some crap.
And somewhere amid that polarity is Megyn Kelly. As the late Walt Kelly's wonderful comic strip figure Pogo declared long ago, "We have met the enemy and he is us."
The Washington ethos
The Washington Post's Marc Fisher produced a terrific look at Jamie Gorelick, an attorney of liberal Democratic bent who was in the Clinton-era Justice Department and now enrages some by representing Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump:
"This being Washington, some of Gorelick’s critics tuck their attacks behind the cloak of anonymity. 'Do you want to be seen as a fixer available to all or a fixer for principles you believe in?' said a lawyer who has worked with Gorelick on campaigns since the Clinton and Gore era. 'One probably pays better than the other, but every step you take has consequences.'
"In a quintessentially D.C. move, some longtime friends of Gorelick contacted for this article offered complimentary comments about her on the record, and then, after asking if they could make other remarks without attribution, bashed their colleague to smithereens. Those people will not be quoted in this article, by name or anonymously, as one tiny bulwark against outright awfulness."
A dumb access kerfuffle
"Senate Republicans on Tuesday quickly backed away from a proposal to restrict media access in the Capitol after an angry backlash from reporters and an emergency meeting between the Senate Rules Committee and the media gallery directors." (The Hill)
At first, members of the press were informed that they'd need the OK from various parties, including senators, before interviewing a senator anywhere in the Capitol or in Senate office buildings. Dumb, dumb.
And, if you are of a historical bent, it conjured (reverse) recollection of John Quincy Adams.
There was the infamous "Gag Rule" adopted in 1836 and officially squelched all anti-slavery petitions. Ultimately, Adams, by then the former president who was back in Congress, led the opposition (and showed real bravery amid actual northern mob attacks on abolitionists), and the rule was ditched in 1844.
The over-storing of America
The day's best tech story (Uber drama aside) is really about the state of consumerism and our shopping habits via Recode.
"America has too many retail stores and 'the reckoning is here,' says L2 founder and New York University professor Scott Galloway — and Amazon stands to profit from the looming chaos."
“The majority of retailers will face this triple threat of stagnant wages in the middle class, a transition away from typical retail goods to more experiences and Amazon/fast fashion,” he said on the podcast Recode Decode hosted by Kara Swisher. “And also the over-storing of America: We could lose a third of our retail space and probably not miss it.”
Death of a brand
Adweek does a generally solid story about Sinclair's purchase of Tribune Media (TV stations) and the pending sale of the Chicago Sun-Times to rival Tronc (formerly Tribune Publishing).
But it also hangs its central and harshest criticisms of the Sun-Times (which it likens to "a punch-drunk fighter on the ropes") on a local historian who writes speeches for a notoriously potent local city council member, who hates the paper. Dubious sourcing, even if the casual reader won't put two and two together.
The difference between Wyoming and Montana
So I briefly mixed up Montana and Wyoming Tuesday before I caught my screw-up — along with readers from Seattle to Prague — in writing that congressman-elect Greg Gianforte is from Wyoming, not Montana. But I did learn other important information after I made the correction.
"Jim Angell here at the Wyoming Press Association. I’m afraid I have a correction to today’s (June 13, 2017) column.
"Wyoming has been responsible for a lot of iffy things in our history. Volcanoes. Tom Horn. The Sundance Kid. However, we cannot take credit for Mr. Gianforte. He belongs to our friends to the north — in Montana," wrote Angell.
"I know — two big square states in the middle of nowhere — how do you tell the difference? Well, try to think of it this way — Wyoming is the state that keeps Montana from sliding into Colorado."
The more things change...
Shakespeare in the park
The Trump-inspired New York production of "Julius Caesar" is getting tons of publicity, and The Wall Street Journal's Edward Rothstein opines, "When it comes to the Trump-focused Shakespeare in the Park production, director Oskar Eustis seems more imperious than any of the play’s characters."
ACORN and the firestorm
Writing about a new documentary, Salon argues, "One of the superpowers of the documentary form is its ability to provide what the 24-hour (more recently veering toward 24-minute) broadcast and online-media news cycle often can’t: the nuanced story behind the headlines."
"Take, for example, that hubbub almost a decade ago when the hardscrabble community rights group ACORN was ripped to shreds by accusations of voter fraud and a proto-alt-right video suggesting the organization was using tax dollars to set up brothels."
"Many, many news cycles have passed, but that doesn’t mean the impact of that sordid tale doesn’t reverberate today."
The genesis of an idea
Says Dropbox founder Drew Houston:
"The proverbial story is: I was going from Boston to New York on the Chinatown bus, forgot my thumb drive, and I was so frustrated — really with myself, because this kept happening. And I'm like, my God, I never want to have this problem again. And I opened up the editor and started writing some code. I had no idea what it would become. But those were the beginnings."
Well, it's a decade later and, writes Business Insider, "The file-sharing service has more than 500 million users, generates $1 billion-plus in annualized revenue, and was valued at about $10 billion in 2014."
Did Bob Dylan rip off a few Nobel riffs?
"If a songwriter can win the Nobel Prize for literature, can CliffsNotes be art? During his official lecture recorded on June 4, laureate Bob Dylan described the influence on him of three literary works from his childhood: The Odyssey, All Quiet on the Western Front, and Moby-Dick. Soon after, writer Ben Greenman noted that in his lecture Dylan seemed to have invented a quote from Moby-Dick." (Slate)
"Those familiar with Dylan’s music might recall that he winkingly attributed fabricated quotes to Abraham Lincoln in his 'Talkin’ World War III Blues.' So Dylan making up an imaginary quote is nothing new. However, I soon discovered that the Moby-Dick line Dylan dreamed up last week seems to be cobbled together out of phrases on the website SparkNotes, the online equivalent of CliffsNotes."
The morning babble
Our hereby retitled "Trump & Friends" celebrated flag day on the president's 71st birthday by talking about a London fire, a U.S student released from prison in North Korea, a Georgia manhunt for two inmates and news that Trump will give out his first Medal of Honor to a Vietnam War veteran. This was all before they mentioned the name Jeff Sessions.
CNN's "New Day" and MSNBC's "Morning Joe" were Sessions-heavy, with lots of eyebrows raised about Sessions saying he wasn't briefed on Russian election interference but the concession that not much disclosed on theory of Trump obstruction of justice (and the latter got a Republican, Sen. Tom Cotton, to appear and defend Trump, a GOP rarity).
As CNN co-host Chris Cuomo underscored, Sessions' logic for not talking about his Trump discussions means that the president would never have to claim executive privilege. Turning the dial, Mika Brzezinski noted the differences between how Sen. Kamala Harris was treated by a "lot of older white ruder men" (Harris got more solicits treatment in appearing on both CNN and MSNBC).
Back at "Trump & Friends," they were talking about jailed Americans in North Korea and a really big flag unfurled in Hoboken, New Jersey ("the largest free-flying American flag"). Dated cultural reference spoiler alert! Hoboken was whose home? (Frank Sinatra).
A USA Today investigation
After six months of work, it concludes, "Since President Trump won the Republican nomination, the majority of his companies’ real estate sales are to secretive shell companies that obscure the buyers’ identities."
"Over the last 12 months, about 70 percent of buyers of Trump properties were limited liability companies — corporate entities that allow people to purchase property without revealing all of the owners’ names. That compares with about 4 percent of buyers in the two years before."
Tale of the tape (billionaires edition)
As of this morning, Bloomberg's Billionaires Index has Bill Gates at his customary No. 1 slot, with a net worth of $89.6 billion, and Jeff Bezos closing in at No. 2, with $84.1 billion, up $18.7 billion so far this year with the hike in Amazon stock.
"Sending a pair of guards scrambling for safety as he gunned his black SUV through a chain-link gate and onto the tarmac, Robert Mueller, the former FBI director who was recently tapped to lead the ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, chased Air Force One down the runway at Joint Base Andrews moments before takeoff, sources reported Tuesday."
With the mainstream media concentrating on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, this was left to The Onion.