The real threat of Trump’s press bashing
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So what if Donald Trump strong-armed media advertisers in the same way he's trying to get companies to keep jobs in the United States?
The subject was broached by a faraway observer after Trump's angry and rambling anti-press rhetorical screed yesterday. (Poynter) Or after what the alternate universe of Sean Hannity last evening called a "must-see epic beatdown" on "the abusively biased left-wing press."
The more knowing observer lives amid the rise of an authoritarian right.
He's Miklos Martin-Kovacs, a droll and eclectic former Hungarian diplomat who was posted to the United States and is now back in Budapest plying his original trade, journalism, as a local TV and radio journalist-commentator. And, if you can believe this, he's also running the Chicago Yoga Studio in Budapest (he was economic attaché in Chicago for a time).
I sent him a link to Trump's press conference, in part because Hungary has been heading down an authoritarian path for several years under Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Meanwhile, ultra-right parties are cropping up all over Europe.
He reiterated how blaming and bashing the media can be politically beneficial for Trump. OK, fine, we knew that. But he then noted how "most of the news organization's’ existence largely depends on the market and non-stop attacks on their credibility could lead to significant financial losses. That’s especially true if big-ticket advertisers, perhaps seeking to make nice with Trump or just being gutless, "have second thoughts about spending at White House-targeted outlets."
That's a contrarian notion, is it not, especially as some media outlets crow to the rafters about their dramatically increased viewership and digital subscriptions as a result of serving as tough-minded Trump critics. Keep bashing us, they imply, we'll laugh all the way to the bank.
But if Trump will scare Ford Motor Co. about plants in Mexico, why not scare them and others about advertising on certain broadcast or cable outlets he doesn't like?
Richard Nixon went as far as threatening to "screw around" with the broadcast TV licenses of the Washington Post Company as it was investigating Watergate (he also routinely wrote nasty comments about individual reporters on the daily news summary he got each morning).
Overseas this pulling of ads is happening "in more than one European country. Many upcoming European nationalist populist...politicians probably feel encouraged by Mr.Trump’s anti-media agenda. Politicians who share his views, once in power, already have been making every effort to change the ownership structures of privately owned press and news media ventures…”
He concedes the change in corporate structures would be hard to do in the U.S. But the Trump camp's visceral disdain of much the press (even as Trump so craves its approval) leaves one wondering what he thinks (if he has a clue about the world outside America) of those countries where the press is muzzled and other democratic institutions are confronted by new laws making it tough to fulfill their original missions.
From Budapest, he wrote, "The U.S. is still lucky because the Constitution was wisely and carefully composed. But in fact fierce attacks on the press currently protected by the Constitution make one wonder when someone from the executive branch might come up with the idea of changing the basic law."
Sound crazy? Any weirder than Trump himself yesterday?
Headline of the day
From the day's obvious big story:
"Majority of refugees coming from terror-exporting countries after judge strikes down Trump’s executive order" (Breitbart)
The more things change....
So White House reporters had a "background briefing" with the vice president's office about a Mike Pence trip to Munich and Brussels this weekend. They agreed to ground rules including that comments be attributed to "a senior White House foreign policy adviser and a senior administration official." Those comments included this:
“The trip is an opportunity for the vice president to reassure our allies and our partners, and also to lay out our U.S. priorities for the transatlantic relationship on behalf of the president. The trip is going to allow the vice president not only to outline our priorities for the transatlantic relationship, but it’s also going to offer him the opportunity to establish personal relationships with some of the most valued allies and partners. So we’re very much looking forward to the trip.”
Why does pablum like this (and there was much more in a pool report) have to be on "background" and attributed to anonymous officials? It doesn't. But, collectively, the press corps doesn't have the balls to say, "Guys, this is B.S. We're using your actual names or not a smidgen of this self-serving publicity."
George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama or Donald Trump, little changes. Actually, it gets worse.
A belated Valentine's gift for a loved one
"There's only so much stress Americans should be forced to withstand each day. In an effort to decrease the panic and heart palpitations that have come to define the country's every waking moment and try to restore a semblance of normalcy, a 21-year-old Miami Ad School student created a simple filter that will effectively tune out any news involving President Donald Trump from your social media feeds." (TimeOut)
"Erin Kaufman, daughter of producer Aaron Kaufman (Sin City: A Dame to Kill For), has turned Trump's promise to build a wall against him by creating the "Wall Against Trump" filter, an online extension that filters out all references to the President from news sites and social media feeds."
Twitter fights a good fight
There's ongoing litigation between Twitter and the government "over exactly how specific or not the social media service can be regarding the number of government surveillance requests it receives. Most of the rest of the big internet companies reached a settlement with the DOJ, including rules how specific companies could be (not very) in revealing such requests." (TechDirt)
Potential bingeing fare
If you've not seen the Netflix "Chef's Table" series focusing on great chiefs worldwide, find it. Season 3 returns today. "As a primer for these six new episodes, which are being released at the same time for maximum binge-watchability," Eater offers dossiers on the chefs and tips on getting reservations.
In some cases, you'll need more than an Uber. For example, there's Jeong Kwan, "a 60-year-old Zen Buddhist monk who cooks daily meals for her community (and the occasional visitor) at the Baekyangsa Temple, located in a national park 169 miles south of Seoul."
"In keeping with the principle of detachment, Kwan prepares food that is not designed to make you crave more once you’re finished." American food writers and chefs have known about her through publicity events in New YOrk City but, when it comes to a reservation, "The temple does not have a public restaurant. If you wish to try Kwan’s cuisine, your best bet is to apply to visit and/or stay at the temple (website is entirely in Korean)."
Zuckerberg's mea culpa (cont.)
"Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg emphasized the importance of a 'strong news industry' in his 5,000-plus word manifesto published this afternoon." (Poynter)
But, as far as that outreach to local media, he offers no suggestion it will actually financially assist local media even as Facebook and Google lure most of the nation's digital ad revenue. He went into the letter in greater depth later in a phone chat with Kara Swisher of Recode, saying. "No one single event triggered this." (Recode) In the background remains the criticism over Facebook aiding and abetting fake news.
Apple falling short
"Apple has essentially settled for turning the television set into a giant iPhone: a cluster of apps with a store. 'That's not what I signed up for,' says one of the people, who requested anonymity to talk freely about internal company matters. 'I signed up for revolutionary. We got evolutionary.'" (Bloomberg)
The morning babble
On this morning, of all mornings, you had to start with "Fox & Friends" because, as Trump put it yesterday, "They're very honorable people."
Their honesty, morality, ethics, principle and right-mindedness were manifested in coverage of what they joyfully called the "Beat the Press" event. There were lots of clips of Trump, and Rush Limbaugh now heralding Trump. "He's back, this was his wheelhouse," said co-host Ainsley Earhardt.
But co-host Brian Kilmeade briefly clashed with Trump shill Steve Doocy, arguing Trump is too media focused. "He's got so much to do, why is he even watching Don Lemon at 10 a.m. on CNN?" It was a minority sentiment among the "very honorable people."
"Morning Joe's" Joe Scarborough, the self-styled Trump Whisperer turned corporate culture consultant also reacted to the press conference. Trump can keep lying about the Electoral College votes he got, "and everybody says 'good job, boss.'" More direct was referring to front-row press conference attendee "little Miller" (Stephen Miller), "who went on all the Sunday shows, lied through his teeth about the three million votes and then he had Donald Trump say 'great job.' (U.S. News & World Report) Trump "rewarded" his and "Kellyanne's" lying. "So who's going to go to Donald Trump and say it's really going to undercut your credibility if you don't stop lying'?"
CNN's "New Day" explored the Trump obsession with the press, including inevitably the exchange with its colleague Jim Acosta ("the tone is such hatred," said Trump). Political director David Chalian displayed a firm and unavoidable grasp of the obvious by portraying a man "obsessed and consumed by media coverage. It is clearly one of his motivating and life sources."
Fittingly, it cut to an ad for Ewan McGregor's poorly received 2016 "American Pastoral," a film adaptation of a Philip Roth novel. Its deep sense of melancholy and apprehension inadvertently fits the presidential moment. The show returned for Chris Cuomo and PolitiFact reporter Jon Greenberg detailing multiple Trump misstatements yesterday.
As Trump bashed the press and CNN
As Trump harangued, CNN boss Jeff Zucker was appearing at a lunch hosted by his corporate parent. "CNN commissioned what Mr. Zucker called its largest-ever brand study to assess if the White House was in fact tarnishing the CNN brand. ‘We are still incredibly trusted.’” (Ad Age)
So Zucker probably missed this bizarre back and forth between Trump and CNN reporter Jim Acosta:
Q: Thank you very much, and just for the record, we don’t hate you. I don’t hate you.
Q: So, pass that along —
TRUMP: Ask — ask Jeff Zucker how he got his job. OK?
Trump apparently believes he put in the fix for Zucker. He likely also believes that he scored the goal that clinched the 1994 Stanley Cup for the Rangers, gave Steve Jobs the idea for the iPhone, personally killed Osama bin Laden and, in a prior life, built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
Here's a story to check out
Questions of Trump ethics have focused on Michael Flynn and very vaguely on Trump family business dealings. But Bloomberg this morning delves in the "cozy relationship" quickly built between Trump and Chicago-based Boeing Co. "The question is how close is too close."
It's already reported that its CEO "had listened in on a phone call last month between Trump and the Air Force general managing purchases of Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-35 fighter jets." Trump has derided the price and wonders if a Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet might be a better deal. Boeing "is set to host Trump on Friday for the rollout of its 787-10 Dreamliner at a South Carolina factory." (Bloomberg)
A quote of the day
Thomas Edsall, the cerebral journalist-author who writes a online politics column for The New York Times, has an intriguing effort about why Democrats’ immigration stance hurts them. There's no clear consensus, but he includes this comment from Nolan McCarty, a Princeton University political scientist:
"Purely in terms of politics and strategy, the Democrats have played immigration badly. They have allowed their position to be associated with open borders and sanctuary cities. They have based their opposition to the immigration restrictionists in terms of identity politics rather the economic benefits of well-managed immigration."
"This has caused them to be deaf to concerns that many voters have about the effects of immigration on wages and public services. While I do not think the evidence shows immigration has these alleged harms, the Democrats have to do better than dismiss all opposition to immigration as racism."
"Vice News Tonight" on HBO did a fine piece on schools that had been run by ISIS re-opening in Mosul, Iraq after the terrorists were finally chased out of town. It was scary to learn about the ISIS curricula, including biographies of ISIS leaders, tips on murder and looting, and lessons on weapons and urban fighting.
Now teachers, even as they have their freedom, must not just teach students the tried and true subjects but offer psychological counseling to very scarred kids. Most books and manuscripts were burned by ISIS in front of students and teachers. "They destroyed our heritage," said a former teacher who's now back.
A break in the Palm Beach ranks
Don't assume a united front at the Mar-a-Lago country club in Palm Beach with the boss now the president and various benefits accruing to them as a result.
"Saying that the noisy group was really getting on his nerves, Mar-a-Lago country club member Walter Forsyth reportedly complained to the management Thursday about the obnoxious U.S. cabinet meeting seated at the next table. 'I just wanted a nice, quiet dinner, but this rowdy table of high-ranking government officials keeps rudely shouting about classified policy initiatives,' said Forsyth, adding that more than a dozen raucous aides and advisors had pulled up chairs to a table that was clearly only meant to seat six."
Next time could they have not at least join two tables or head to the billiards room? Or at least the next time The Onion offers a similar exclusive.
Have a good weekend. Soccer, basketball and a Sunday chess tournament in Deerfield, Illinois are on the kids' chauffeuring schedule. A lot of free time to concoct really fake news.