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To hear billionaire tech mogul and Gawker slayer Peter Thiel tell it, Hulk Hogan might as well be a tenant farmer driven out of Oklahoma by a Depression-era drought.
Justifying his long-secret subsidizing of Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker, Thiel yesterday made the multi-millionaire wrestler sound like Tom Joad in “The Grapes of Wrath” — a person impotent to take on powerful forces.
He spoke at the National Press Club in Washington, coming off as an anti-media shiv in a velvet glove. He sounded alternately understated, civil, deeply ideological and vengeful. (C-SPAN)
“One of the striking things is if you are middle class, upper middle class, a single-digit millionaire like Hulk Hogan, you have no effective access to our legal system. It costs too much.”
Stop: Single-digit millionaires don’t have effective access to the system to fend off a “singularly sociopathic bully?” That’s his take on Gawker?
Thiel’s appearance was to justify support of Donald Trump. His argument is somewhat contorted and involves dismissing Trump’s misogyny and various policy positions, such as opposition to free trade.
As for the press, his defenses of the media — he says he’s a full supporter of New York Times v. Sullivan — were interspersed with tart hyperbole.
The Hogan case “involved a sex tape. If you make a sex tape of someone with their permission, you are a pornographer. If you make it without their permission, we are told now, you are a journalist.”
He swore he’s not secretly funding other cases, including those brought by Hogan’s lawyer, Charles Harder, who is also Roger Ailes’ lawyer. “This (Hogan’s v. Gawker) is not about the First Amendment but the most egregious violation of privacy imaginable.”
The advocate of free markets evinces a certain improbable nostalgia in discussing media days of old.
“These were incredibly robust monopoly businesses….If you worked at a newspaper, it was like working at a utility” — until the internet eroded the basic business models.
Society was by and large well served by those de facto monopolies. Now their futures are unclear. He’s not sure which way they’ll go, including whether they should become nonprofits.
“I’m not sure that’s the healthiest way for the media to develop. A lot of nonprofit organizations are not all that effective….often not managed that well.”
But if there is one thing he says he does know, it’s simple: “I wouldn’t want to compete with Jeff Bezos ever.”
Good for CNN
It’s good that it offered a straight tale on how “Donna Brazile, the acting chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, resigned from her role as a CNN contributor earlier this month.” (CNN) This involved her apparently shameful dissembling about sending questions to the Clinton campaign “in advance of a CNN debate and a CNN-TV One town hall.”
Bad for CNN: while it made clear it was “completely uncomfortable with what we have learned about her interactions with the Clinton campaign while she was a CNN contributor,” it remains complicit in foisting ethically challenged analysts such as Brazile on viewers. The underlying ill, writes Politico’s Jack Shafer, is “the whole show-business concept that places paid partisan yakkers on television is corrupt and venal and deserves burial in a shallow grave.”
As he suspects, it won’t happen. The horse is out of the barn on hiring muckraking partisans. But, guys and gals, why not do what CNBC does with on-screen disclosure about the potential trading self-interests and financial conflicts of analysts who appear on its air to discuss certain matters? Imagine: “Made 1.2 million lobbying for African dictator…Gave speech to AT&T corporate meeting for $50,000…Took in $200,000 in fees from Fannie Mae…Daughter interned for Sen. Schumer…Gets $30,000 a pop doing corporate left vs. right amiable road show with (fill in blank),” etc., etc.
Of the 100 largest newspapers by circulation, here’s the situation so far: 56 with a total circulation of 13 million for Clinton, three with 661,000 circulation for Gary Johnson and one with 233,0001 for Trump.
Erdogan continues to screw journalists
“Police in Turkey have arrested senior journalists and Kurdish political leaders as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wields his emergency powers to continue a sweeping purge of an already battered opposition.” (Financial Times)
Forcing government to cough up what’s yours
The Miami Herald had to file a lawsuit to get the toxicology and autopsy reports on a famous, beloved young baseball pitcher who died recently in a boating accident (it turns out he was drunk and also taking cocaine). But this isn’t the only attempt of late by Executive Editor Mindy Marques to extract public information buried by government in this era when most citizens are clueless about the role of the evil “mainstream media.”
The paper sought to use public records laws to extract the locations of mosquito traps where any and all mosquitoes that tested positive for the Zika virus had been found in Miami Beach. The health department stonewalled.
The paper asked the county, which had the data from the state. It said no, saying the state didn’t want any of it shared. So the paper sued the county — and got the record “when the state claimed they had no problem if the information went public,’ says Marques. “The outrageous fact, for me, is that only once they were compelled to give us the information did they then inform the occupants of buildings where the Zika-positive mosquitoes had been found. In many cases this was weeks after the mosquitoes had been trapped.”
Of course, all too many citizens — including many Trump supporters — don’t for a moment understand why a democracy can use strong local media outlets. Here’s one relevant link to its handiwork. And here’s a second.
The morning babble
Seven days left. “Fox & Friends” was “All hands on deck,” but the chyron wasn’t self-referential about their early labor but rather about the FBI’s work on the latest Clinton-related emails. It was very Huma-centric, wondering where Anthony Weiner’s estranged wife was.
CNN’s “New Day” was similarly focused on the latest disclosures from FBI Director James Comey. It sounded like a bombshell, but Comey doesn’t know what’s in there, so maybe it’s a lot of baloney, suggested co-host Alisyn Camerota. What is the actual impact on the election? “We simply don’t know,” said David Gregory. But rather than stop there, honorably, the cable paradigm insisted he proceed apace with speculation.
Over at MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Mike Barnicle said that the story “hasn’t moved the needle.” As co-host Joe Scarborough said, “it’s baked in the cake.” Talking to an unscientific sample of voting age trick or treating parents (some well-served) last night, that seems accurate. It’s background noise.
Here’s one that needed actual reporting by the print crowd: “But newly obtained documents show that in the early 1990s, as he scrambled to stave off financial ruin, Mr. Trump avoided reporting hundreds of millions of dollars in taxable income by using a tax avoidance maneuver so legally dubious his own lawyers advised him that the Internal Revenue Service would most likely declare it improper if he were audited.” (The New York Times)
Black rodeo star
The Undefeated does a fine profile of Fred Whitfield, eight-time world champion tie-down roper and among the very few Black cowboys on the rodeo circuit. It includes this:
“The cowboy is an iconic American figure and in popular mythology almost always a white one. For every Django or Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman’s character in “Unforgiven”) there are hundreds of white gunslingers. But of the ‘estimated 35,000 cowboys that worked the ranches and rode the trails between 1866 and 1895, researchers have calculated that the number of Black cowboys ranged from five thousand to nine thousand, with the high number representing 25 percent,’ wrote Tricia Martineau Wagner, an author of several books about the West, in Black Cowboys of the Old West.” (The Undefeated)
Women splitting Yahoo
“Women executives left Yahoo Inc at an unusually high rate after the U.S. technology company announced plans to sell itself earlier this year, but it was not immediately clear why, according to the company’s 2016 diversity report, released on Monday.” (Reuters) Those in leadership roles “slipped to 21 percent as of June 30, down from 24 percent the year before, while the total of women remained at 31 percent. In July, it struck that now shaky $4.8 billion deal to sell to Verizon Communications.
Bagging a big one
The New York Times and Vox likely won’t be reprising the Bangor, Maine Daily News’ “Biggest Bucks Contest.” The paper yesterday recounted how an Oakfield 14-year-old bagged a “247-pound, 11-pointer.” City kids, that’s a deer.
Logan Swallow, 14, did the shooting but, says his dad, size isn’t what really matters.
“‘My father was a guide. He owned and operated Katahdin View Guide Service,’ Jeff Swallow explained. ‘Logan did everything with him, whether it was lugging bear buckets when he was a little, little boy or wanting to go [out in the woods] with him all the time.'”
“My dad passed away five years ago of brain cancer,” he continued. “The rifle that Logan shot the deer with was my father’s favorite rifle, the one that he carried all the time. So that was pretty special.” (Daily News) I’m getting a bit verklempt myself. Have a good day.