Good Tuesday morning. Welcome back after the long Memorial Day weekend. To get started today, here’s a look at some of the notable journalism you might have missed over the past few days.
Stunning yet not surprising
To get us going, this stunning — and yet somehow not surprising — piece in The New York Times from Alexandra Berzon: “Lawyer Who Plotted to Overturn Trump Loss Recruits Election Deniers to Watch Over the Vote.”
The story starts with lawyer Cleta Mitchell leading a seminar on “election integrity” telling 150 “activists-in-training”: “We are taking the lessons we learned in 2020 and we are going forward to make sure they never happen again.”
As Berzon describes, Mitchell was among lawyers who “frantically compiled unsubstantiated accusations, debunked claims and an array of confusing and inconclusive eyewitness reports to build the case that the election was marred by fraud. Courts rejected the cases and election officials were unconvinced, thwarting a stunning assault on the transfer of power.”
And now? Berzon writes, “Ms. Mitchell is prepping for the next election. Working with a well-funded network of organizations on the right, including the Republican National Committee, she is recruiting election conspiracists into an organized cavalry of activists monitoring elections.”
Read the story. It’s extremely troubling.
My take: As we move toward the 2022 midterm elections, and then the 2024 presidential election after that, there might not be a greater threat to democracy than those — fueled by misinformation and promoting wild conspiracy theories themselves — using their positions of power to influence elections and damage election integrity.
Stories such as Berzon’s are critical in shining a light on the issue of those who, in a twist of irony, want to steal the future elections. In this case, it’s some Republicans and, in particular, many of Donald Trump’s supporters who continue to push the Big Lie of 2020. Trump’s support of candidates in recent primaries tended to lean toward those who backed his claims that the 2020 election was stolen.
Trump laid out such a blueprint — that the only way he could lose is if he was cheated — back in 2016, but he ended up winning that election. He then pulled out that playbook for 2020 and has continued to embrace it as he mulls over another run at the presidency in 2024.
Efforts to cast doubt on and even influence future election results are well underway.
A somber anniversary
This summer is the 50th anniversary of the Watergate break-in. I was just a kid, but I still remember North Carolina Democratic Sen. Sam Ervin leading the hearings a year later, in the summer of 1973. Like many of us, I’d later learn of the role that the media played in uncovering the truth, including the work by The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan, however, writes, “Yet thinking about Watergate saddens me these days. The nation that came together to force a corrupt president from office and send many of his co-conspirator aides to prison is a nation that no longer exists. It’s not just our politics that have changed. It’s also our radically transformed media environment.”
Sullivan then notes that this summer there will be hearings on the events of Jan. 6, but those hearings will be quite different than those of Watergate. Sullivan writes that they might be dramatic and could change a few minds, but the public attention will be different and “minuscule” compared to how the Watergate hearings gripped a nation.
Sullivan writes, “Our media environment is far more fractured, and news organizations are far less trusted. And, in part, we can blame the rise of a right-wing media system.”
She adds, “Not everything was good about the media world of the 1970s. It was almost entirely White and male, barely open to other views or voices. This was long before the democratizing effect of the Internet, which has elevated the ideas of people of color, women and other marginalized groups. But it was a time when we had a news media that commanded the trust of the general public, a necessity in helping bring Nixon to justice. That, at least during his presidency, was never possible with Trump.”
Must-see work in the aftermath of the horrific school shooting in Uvalde, Texas …
- The New York Times’ Keith Collins, Albert Sun, Eleanor Lutz and Larry Buchanan with “78 Minutes” — a tough, but important read of the timeline of events on that awful day.
- A guest essay in The New York Times from retired FBI special agent Katherine Schweit: “I Created the F.B.I.’s Active Shooter Program. The Officers in Uvalde Did Not Follow Their Training.”
- New York Times opinion columnist Charles M. Blow with “The Hard Truth: Gun Safety Must Be Everything That Republicans Fear.”
- And one more from the Times, sports columnist Kurt Streeter with “The Week When Sports Would Not Let America Look Away.”
- The Washington Post’s Holly Bailey and Joshua Lott write about the relationship between Texas and guns in “The Uvalde shooting ‘stirred something’ in him. So he gave up his gun.”
- The Los Angeles Times editorial board with “America needs a Memorial Day for gun-violence victims.”
- The Associated Press’ Will Weissert with “Biden sees chance of ‘rational’ Republican approach on guns.”
- The New Yorker’s Rachel Monroe with “The Staff of Uvalde’s Local Paper Cover the Worst Day of Their Lives.”
A chilling ‘60 Minutes’ piece
Again, a tough story, but an important one. “60 Minutes” correspondent Scott Pelley with “What makes the AR-15 style rifle the weapon of choice for mass shooters?”
It includes this quote about AR-15s from Cynthia Bir of the ballistics lab at the University of Southern California: “There’s going to be a lot more damage to the tissues, both bones, organs, whatever gets kind of even near this bullet path. The bones aren’t going to just break, they’re going to shatter. Organs aren’t just going to tear or have bruises on them, they’re going to be, parts of them are going to be destroyed.”
Remembering Ray Liotta
I’m a huge fan of the movie “Goodfellas.” Isn’t everyone? It’s physically impossible for me to change the channel if I happen to stumble upon it — no matter where it is in the movie and no matter what time of day it is. If I catch it, it’s more than likely I’ll be there until Ray Liotta, playing Henry Hill, says, “I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook.”
So I was saddened to learn of the passing of Liotta last week at the age of 67.
Liotta did more than “Goodfellas.” He did a good job playing Shoeless Joe Jackson in “Field of Dreams,” although as an avid baseball fan, I was always a little bothered that Liotta threw lefty and batted righty even though the real Shoeless Joe batted lefty and threw righty. (D.B Sweeney got it right in “Eight Men Out.”)
Liotta also had one of film’s all-time great “Who is that guy?” debuts in the very underrated “Something Wild” and played a good villain (and the main course in a very gory scene) in “Hannibal,” the sequel to “The Silence of the Lambs.”
Here are some of the better remembrances of Liotta:
- The Ringer’s Rob Harvilla with “Ray Liotta Made ‘Goodfellas’ As Much As It Made Him.”
- Washington Post chief film critic (and always must-read) Ann Hornaday with “Ray Liotta delivered one of cinema’s greatest breakout performances.” Hornaday also talked about Liotta in this episode of “The Tony Kornheiser Show” podcast.
- For New York magazine, Will Leitch with “10 Essential Ray Liotta Performances.”
And we wrap up with these good reads …
- If you only read one of these today, make it this one. It’s The New York Times’ Dan Barry and Karen Zraick with “The Men Lost to 20 Bruckner Boulevard.”
- The Wall Street Journal’s Konrad Putzier with “The Sports Fans Who Root for…the Referees.”
- The New Yorker’s Dana Goodyear with “The L.A. County Sheriff’s Deputy-Gang Crisis.”
- The Washington Post’s Geoff Edgers with “Norm Macdonald had one last secret.”
- Should Russian athletes be banned from competition because of Russia’s war with Ukraine? Sports Illustrated’s Michael Rosenberg writes about it in “The Russia Dilemma.”
- And, finally, the new “Top Gun” movie is getting rave reviews from seemingly everybody. Who saw that coming? Here’s The Atlantic’s David Sims with “The Ludicrous Beauty of ‘Top Gun: Maverick.’”
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