April 24, 2017

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As the Bill O’Reilly affair underscores, what author Maureen Orth tagged the Celebrity-Industrial Complex includes lots of journalists, including ones on the right.

Roger Ailes is out at Fox News. Bill O’Reilly is out at Fox News. Michael Flynn is out at the White House. Those three names — the head of the most powerful cable news network, the highest-rated cable news personality, and the national-security adviser — represent a stunning wave of resignations and terminations,” attorney-journalist David French just wrote in The National Review.

“But this isn’t scalp-taking, it’s scalp-giving. Time and again prominent conservative personalities have failed to uphold basic standards of morality or even decency. Time and again the conservative public has rallied around them, seeking to protect their own against the wrath of a vengeful left. Time and again the defense has proved unsustainable as the sheer weight of the facts buries the accused.”

For sure, such flaws cut many ideological ways, all the more so in a media universe in which being provocative can be more important than being right or vaguely precise. Celebrity can trump talent (and ethical weakness). I asked Tennessee-based French Sunday night why the right was different from the left.

“Ever since the Clinton administration and the continued Democratic embrace of the Clinton machine more broadly, I’ve had a low view of the left’s respect for civility, decency and integrity when those values conflicted with short-term political victories. I used to think that the right, for all its flaws, was different. With notable exceptions (like my own National Review colleagues and a number of others who’ve maintained their respect for vital religious and cultural values in the face of strong headwinds), I no longer do. Perhaps I was naive.”

So French is notable in chiding the right from the right, and writing how “the pattern is repeating itself with the younger generation of conservative celebrities.”

In our email chat, he elaborated, “The bottom line is that it is incredibly difficult to maintain your support for essential, core values when maintaining those values may mean surrendering power/control in the short-term. Many, many people on both sides of the aisle fail that test.”

And this addendum from his opus: “The sharp rise and meteoric fall of both Tomi Lahren and Milo Yiannopoulos were driven by much the same dynamic that sustained O’Reilly for years, even in the face of previous sexual-harassment complaints — Lahren and Yiannopoulos were ‘fighters’ who ‘tell it like it is.'”

So is anything to come of O’Reilly’s fall? Or is it some media equivalent of the United Airlines mess, where the competitive landscape probably assures the airlines continue to operate with great success, packing in the consumer (with knees jammed to their chests in economy)?

“O’Reilly’s fall can be an important act of public hygiene, but only if it represents the beginning of the end of a conservative culture that makes us behave like the cultural enemies we purport to despise. Otherwise conservatives will hand the left more scalps, forfeit more public trust and ultimately lose because of their single-minded quest to win.”

A Trump-inspired Sunday newspaper bonus

The New York Times, The Washington Post and The San Francisco Chronicle ran ads from Doug Derwin, a Silicon Valley investor who wants Elon Musk to end his cozy friendship with Trump. His full-page ads, “called on the Tesla and SpaceX leaders to ‘stand up against Trump,’ citing the fact that the new president is a ‘disaster for the fight against climate change.’” (Recode) Don’t worry, TV sales guys and gals, “Derwin has also promised to run critical television ads in the coming days.”

Moral question of the day

“Who is responsible when a competitive eater dies?” (Eater)

How could Twitter make real money?

Bruce Judson, a digital author-marketer, writes in TechCrunch, “Here’s a proposal to radically change the economics of Twitter: Charge businesses that exceed a set number of followers (perhaps 250,000) a monthly fee based on their total number of followers. To provide a sense of scale, here are the follower counts for a cross-section of well-known brands: @TeslaMotors 1.4 million, @Verizon 1.7 million, @Pepsi 3.1 million, @CocaCola 3.4 million, @McDonalds 3.4 million, @Intel 4.7 million, @Marvel 4.9 million, @GoogleChrome 6.1 million, @SamsungMobile 12.1 million (and) @Google 17.6 million.”

Suppose, he says, that “Twitter collected an average annual fee of $600,000 from 2,000 businesses. This would represent increased annual revenues of $1.2 billion.”

C’est la vie

“Macron, Le Pen in French runoff as establishment crashes out.” (Bloomberg)”Emmanuel Macron vows to be ‘president for all of France’ after first round win.” (The Guardian)

“Historic defeat for establishment.” (Breitbart)

“Who is Emmanuel Macron and why is he running as an independent?” (The Telegraph)

Tech and Trump’s executive order on travel

There are 162 tech companies that signed a so-called amicus brief for a federal appeal to the Virginia-based 4th Circuit, contending that Trump’s travel ban executive order was unlawful. The same group and Pandora “have filed basically the same amicus brief in the appeal in the 9th Circuit (which is the appeal of the decision in Hawaii that a smaller group had filed an amicus brief on as well).

“As with last time, people are going to come up with all sorts of conspiracy theories over this, but the fact is this is an issue that matters to many, many people who work at these companies, and the companies have committed to speaking out about it,” according to TechDirt, one of those companies on the appeal.

The benefits of reading a story to the end

“President Trump nears the 100-day mark of his administration as the least popular chief executive in modern times, a president whose voters remain largely satisfied with his performance, but one whose base of support has not expanded since he took the oath of office, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.” (The Washington Post)And way, way down in the story, notes longtime political analyst Michael Barone, comes this:

“The new survey finds 46 percent saying they voted for Clinton and 43 percent for Trump, similar to her two-point national vote margin. Asked how they would vote if the election were held today, 43 say they would support Trump and 40 percent say Clinton.”

Remnick on Trump’s first 100 days

From David Remnick’s New Yorker take on Trump’s early days: “Trump appears to strut through the world forever studying his own image. He thinks out loud, and is incapable of reflection. He is unserious, unfocused, and, at times, it seems, unhinged. Journalists are invited to the Oval Office to ask about infrastructure; he turns the subject to how Bill O’Reilly, late of Fox News, is a ‘good person,’ blameless, like him, in matters of sexual harassment. A reporter asks about the missile attack on Syria; he feeds her a self-satisfied description of how he informed his Chinese guests at Mar-a-Lago of the strike over ‘the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen.'”

“Little about this presidency remains a secret for long. The reporters who cover the White House say that, despite their persistent concerns about Trump’s attempts to marginalize the media, they are flooded with information. Everyone leaks on everyone else. Rather than demand discipline around him, Trump sits back and watches the results on cable news. His Administration is not so much a team of rivals as it is a new form of reality entertainment: ‘The Circular Firing Squad.'”

A libertarian’s take on the first 100 days

After reading Remnick on Sunday, I asked Nick Gillespie, editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason.tv, for his take. “While the first 100 days of Donald Trump’s presidency have been far less eventful than he bragged they would be, they have also been far less cataclysmic than 100 Days of Sodom, too. The fact is that his worst tendencies — banning Muslims, for instance, have been smacked down by American institutions that restrain autocrats. Even his one overt act of military violence — his widely praised yet pointless and ineffective missile attack on a Syrian airbase — has all the earmarks of a one-off rather than a new campaign in the Middle East.”

“In short, he hasn’t accomplished anything significant, which is the point. The center has held and mere anarchy is still slouching somewhere off on the horizon. There have been worse presidential debuts.”

Like who?

“Bill Clinton! Opened with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and was so bad his first two years he elected a GOP majority in 1994!”

The Morning babble

100 Day Trump analyses were rampant, as a Pavlovian press impulse can’t be resisted, even as Trump preemptively downplays the marker. “A plurality-based president,” Ron Brownstein called him on CNN’s “New Day,” while “Fox & Friends” saw the polling to be a glass three-quarters full. He will end the arbitrary demarcation “on a high note,” especially as he plans to build the wall.

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough seemed interested, if confused, on whether Trump watches CNN or not, according to an interview with The Associated Press. Trump said, “I don’t watch CNN anymore,” after saying he did in the same session.
The consensus Mika BrzezinskiMark HalperinJohn Heilemann analysis: he does. Yeah, don’t figure he’d yank himself off his de facto cable ventilator. Meanwhile, there was a good chat with New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt on co-authoring a big Sunday tale on FBI Director James Comey’s campaign fumbling.

A slice of sportscaster surprise

The Chicago Cubs radio broadcasters were surprised Saturday during a game in Cincinnati when a very, very loud cheer when up in the 8th inning after a Cubs batter struck out. The Cubs were far ahead. What was the deal? They only learned later that because it was the 10th strikeout of an opposing hitter, anybody with a ticket stub got free pizza at a local establishment.

Want Van Jones at your commencement?

A prime vehicle for TV pundits to cash in is underscored by the sad saga of Northeastern Illinois University, a financially struggling state school in Chicago, which got some local attention with word that its board said no way to a $30,000 graduation speech fee for longtime Barack Obama friend and aide Valerie Jarrett. The Chicago Sun-Times now reports that getting her to speak (they’ll now paid travel, her fat fee will be donated by someone else) results from Christie Miller, a school official, contacting Jim Oliver of Gotham Artists, a New York talent agency and speakers bureau.

“We had a LGBT activist last year so we don’t want that this year. But a diverse speaker to highlight leadership, motivation, etc. would be ideal,” she wrote.

Oliver sent a list of clients and Miller then sought “further info on fee and availability for Van Jones, Valerie Jarrett and Erin Brockovich.”

“Jones, a CNN commentator, would have cost $55,000, according to Oliver. Brockovich, the environmental activist portrayed by Julia Roberts in the movie that bears her name, would have charged $24,000.” Here’s the relevant email. (Poynter)

As reporter Dan Mihalopoulos elaborated for me Sunday evening, Jones would have received first-class travel expenses. Heaven forbid any of our higher-profile media populists should ride in economy.

Bannon, Seinfeld and Breitbart

Out this morning is a very solid Connie Bruck New Yorker profile of Steve Bannon’s Hollywood years, which raises doubts about the much reported riches he’s accumulated by having a profit participation in “Seinfeld” syndication. It also details his segue from a lower-profile, small-impact entertainment career than has been suggested into running Breitbart News.The similarities between Bannon and his future patron, Trump, clearly include a combative, even mean-spirited temperament. But it also involved this: “Trump, too, was a brash huckster who despised the elite that had always spurned him.”

And if you had any doubt about the fears that power can instill, it’s notable how many folks would either not talk to reporter Bruck or simply not discuss anything for attribution.

Corrections? Tips? Please email me: jwarren@poynter.org. Would you like to get this roundup emailed to you every morning? Sign up here.

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New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S.…
James Warren

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