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Barack Obama is pissed, no surprise. Inescapably pragmatic, no surprise. But taking the long, long view, no surprise.
Some of the media’s caricature, especially of Obama’s meeting with Donald Trump, looks decidedly suspect after New Yorker Editor David Remnick tracked him down after, including a two-hour session in the Oval Office. (New Yorker)
“The official line at the White House was that the hour-and-a-half meeting with Trump went well and that Trump was solicitous,” Remnick writes, though he could have added it was the official line for a media that largely regurgitated it.
“Later, when I asked Obama how things had really gone, he smiled thinly and said, ‘I think I can’t characterize it without…’ Then he stopped himself and said that he would tell me, ‘at some point over a beer — off the record.'”
Enough said. Leave it to our imagination. As for Remnick, “I wasn’t counting on that beer anytime soon.” And he should know, having been an informed and regular in-depth chronicler of Obama in recent years.
Meanwhile, Obama, who does not suffer from undue equivocation on matters related to media, says the media universe now “means everything is true and nothing is true.”
He tells Remnick, “An explanation of climate change from a Nobel Prize-winning physicist looks exactly the same on your Facebook page as the denial of climate change by somebody on the Koch brothers’ payroll. And the capacity to disseminate misinformation, wild conspiracy theories, to paint the opposition in wildly negative light without any rebuttal—that has accelerated in ways that much more sharply polarize the electorate and make it very difficult to have a common conversation.”
“In ’08, they saw me coming, but I was a guy named Barack Hussein Obama coming up against the Clinton machine, so no way! So they weren’t focussed on me, and I established a connection. Then came the stuff: Ayers and Reverend Wright and all the rest. What I’m suggesting is that the lens through which people understand politics and politicians is extraordinarily powerful. And Trump understands the new ecosystem, in which facts and truth don’t matter. You attract attention, rouse emotions and then move on. You can surf those emotions. I’ve said it before, but if I watched Fox I wouldn’t vote for me!”
As for election night, “Even by ten o’clock, Obama said, ‘I’m still not watching television, which is just a general rule that I’ve maintained for the last eight years, not watching political television.’ Not watching, in the Obama household, he said, ‘is part of how you stay focussed on the task, as opposed to worrying about the noise.'”
This piece is about far more than his (somewhat redundant) acidic views of the press. In the process, even if you’re not an Obama fan, it’s hard to dispute that there’s an intellectual and emotional sophistication and maturity at a breathtaking distance from that of his successor.
Bloomberg’s latest shuffling
There have been lots of changes in the Bloomberg financial news empire since the founder’s return after three terms as New York mayor. They now include a change of editors at Businessweek, which was revived under then-Editor Josh Tyrangiel and did well editorially, too, under successor Ellen Pollock. (Poynter)
She’s now gone, replaced by Megan Murphy, who’s been promoted after a rather uneventful tenure overseeing its Washington bureau. The magazine will morph into something different next year, with diminished frequency, as Michael Bloomberg himself appears to be skeptical about endeavors that can’t be directly linked to profits and the phenomenally successful financial terminal.
The company says rather dramatic change is all quite positive, with lots of investment upcoming in a relaunch whose specifics aren’t clear. But many magazine staffers will be redeployed to Bloomberg’s sprawling newsroom operation.
No surprise: “Verizon Communications Inc.’s AOL on Thursday plans to lay off close to 500 employees, said a person familiar with the matter. Among the areas hit by AOL’s staff reduction will be human resources, marketing, communications and finance, the person said.” (The Wall Street Journal)
Headline of the day
“Dear Racist White People: Don’t Write a Check Your Ass Can’t Cash — You’re going to run up on the wrong Black person with some nonsense and get knocked the f–k out.” (The Root)
Yesha Callahan notes, “On Thursday a video of a cashier being accosted at a Miami Starbucks went viral. A man, who presumably was upset about the amount of time his latte was taking, not only berated the Black cashier but also yelled that he had voted for Racist McRacist Face.”
She continues: “I commend the woman at Starbucks for not throwing that coffee in that man’s face. I also commend those kids in the classroom for not throwing a chair at that teacher. And I commend those children’s parents for not meeting that teacher at the school’s doorsteps.”
“When Black people start retaliating, I don’t want to see President-elect Orangina on television or Twitter condemning us. Because if anything goes down, it’s his fault.”
Social media and tyranny
“Whether it’s organizing revolutions in Egypt and Iran, tracking Russian troop movements in Ukraine, or providing real-time information to protesters in Sudan, social media is supposed to give activists an edge.” (Foreign Policy) But this argues that’s a fallacy. “Yet in spite of this optimism, what is sometimes known as ‘liberation technology’ is not, in fact, making pro-democracy movements more effective.”
In part, it might be explained this way: “Governments are simply better at manipulating social media than activists.”
East vs. West
Go figure the bottom-line here for the economy and whether it’s another example of counterproductive regional competition:
“Silicon Valley is now the media capital of the world — Northern California media companies now reach two billion people every day, taking billions of dollars in advertising revenue from the East Coast media conglomerates.” (Recode)
Out-of-control war on drugs
Want to have your stomach turned before the weekend? Check out Vice News Tonight’s 11-minute video on Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte’s over-the-top war on drugs, which is said to have resulted in killing of 3,000 people, including lots of innocent citizens. (Vice) Dealing with Duterte will be one of 234 interesting challenges awaiting Trump.
Journalists as Heinrich Schliemann
Oh, you know Schliemann, the German archaeologist-businessman who found the ruins of Troy. Well, The Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger says this about post-election analyses and the Democrats:
“A conclusion has emerged that the party forgot the forgotten man. In the past week, Trump voters have become the biggest archaeological dig in journalism, with the New York Times last weekend outputting three reporters on lost tribes in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.”
Another Bloomberg move
Bloomberg News went heavy into politics coverage and spent tons of money on reporters Mark Halperin and John Heilemann and a hefty infrastructure for a show, “With All Due Respect.” That brought lots of internal frictions (some driven by envy of their lush deals) and what were known as growing doubts by Michael Bloomberg that the politics group was a real fit as he reigned the company back toward its roots.
So it’s no surprise that the show will end. (Politico) Bloomberg’s TV operation remain a marked weakness. Halperin and Heilemann, who did triple campaign duty for Bloomberg, Showtime and MSNBC, will be just fine, having reached that new holy grail for journalism, namely approaching “brand” status. It at least makes for higher speaking fees.
The morning babble
CNN, MSNBC and Fox were all heavy on cabinet and top adviser speculation. Leading the pack was chatter about Mike Flynn, the apparently new national security advisor. There was lots on his weird email habits and those even of his chief of state-son.
There was also the conventional wisdom of needing some adults, even Trump critics like Mitt Romney as Secretary of State (boy, that Rudy Giuliani sure subsided today).
On “Morning Joe,” there was speculation on, yes, Democratic candidates for the next election. Yes, the next one. The C.W. is “no bench strength.” One heard the same babble before Obama came out of the blue.
“Fox & Friends” co-hosts included the internally rehabilitated Ed Henry, he of the wandering extramarital eye. His sources claim there’s scant chance Romney would be in the cabinet. But that he and Trump will play golf Saturday. One wonders how Romney will respond when Trump, alleged to be a pretty regular bender of the rules on the course, starts miraculously finding balls apparently hit 40 yards out of bounds into a neighbor’s Jacuzzi.
Well, the weekend beckons, so my only advice is, Mitt, fairways and greens. And drive for show, putt for dough. The ever-rational Barack Obama would surely concur. Have a good weekend, duffers.