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It’s as preposterous as the notion of a president calling the press the enemy or tweeting a GIF of himself wrestling the CNN logo: Using the 100-year-old Espionage Act to go after journalists.
With President Trump at the G20 summit in Warsaw, with no incendiary tweets quite yet, the prospect is broached by George Freeman, executive director of the Media Law Resource Center and a former longtime top New York Times attorney.
Since Trump has ostentatiously threatened leakers and journalists already — again today in Warsaw he gratuitously bashed “fake news” CNN and NBC at a press conference — why not use the Espionage Act as a weapon?
The law was once used to prosecute World War I dissenters, is deemed by most scholars to be poorly drafted and aims to ensure national security. And it’s really been sparsely used, most recently to prosecute NSA contractor Reality Winner for leaking to The Intercept. Before that it was Chelsea Manning, a soldier whose sentence was commuted by President Obama (and there’s no evidence of our war efforts being undermined by her leaks).
“Most important, it has never been used to prosecute a journalist — let alone successfully,” Freeman writes. But that’s now in doubt as the act just had its 100th birthday.
Yes, amid all his bluster, Trump obviously craves the support of the mainstream press. “But if he actually tries to prosecute a journalist or publication which merely accepts and publishes a leak of information arguably covered by the Espionage Act — as opposed to just the leaker him/herself — that’s when the Trump offensive against the press will go to a whole new and terribly dangerous level.”
Will precendent rule here? Or will the Espionage Act remain a threat from a man whose own personality is of one who “thrives on litigation, prioritizes punishing his avowed enemies and enjoys going after the media?”
Freeman goes over various legal arguments and judicial politics that argue for either the possibility of Trump losing any such effort or, perhaps, winning if he can ultimately get to a rather pro-government U.S. Supreme Court.
“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that,” he concluded.
But before we do, just check out his latest tweets on the ‘fake news media.” It’s still early in Warsaw, and he will be meeting the maniacally shrewd Vladimir Putin. Imagine how upset he could be after that. He may get impatient playing world leader, see a GIF he likes and conjure up a tweetstorm.
Google and Canada
Why is Google expanding its London-based artificial intelligence efforts to Canada?
“The Canadian government has demonstrated a willingness to invest in artificial intelligence, committing about $100 million ($125 million in Canadian currency) in its 2017 budget to develop the AI industry in the country.” (Recode)
“This is in contrast to the U.S., where President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget request includes drastic cuts to medical and scientific research, including an 11 percent or $776 million cut to the National Science Foundation.”
Social media news from Idaho
Don’t ask why I was reading the Bonner County, Idaho Daily Bee (no real reason) and learned, “A Hayden teen was placed on probation Monday after a Facebook fracas ended in gunplay and an aggravated assault conviction.”
He was placed on supervised probation for two years after what a judge called a “social media disaster”: he shot another teen’s car twice with a shotgun after that teen and three chums dropped by “to discuss some of his Facebook posts.” (Daily Bee)
“Desperately Seeking Susan”
Vice reporter Evan McMorris-Santoro went looking for Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, part of a small and important GOP group opposed to the Republican healthcare bill. So he headed to Maine over the holiday weekend to see the liberal effort to get Collins to maintain opposition.
One guiding assumption in the piece shown on “Vice News Tonight” on HBO last night was that she would fake everybody out by not showing up where she said she would on July 4th. That’s what one liberal activist told the reporter.
That proved totally erroneous. She did show and quickly told the Vice reporter that when it came to voting yes, “Not on this version, no way…This version has a lot of problems with it.”
If you somehow missed John Oliver’s Sunday night HBO riff on Sinclair Broadcasting, check it out. It’s $4 billion pending deal to buy giant Tribune Media, which includes major stations in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. But he knits together video of pro-Trump, anti-liberal commentaries and news scripts it forces down the throats of local stations and their anchors. Not good.
Tech news you can use or, ah, don’t need
Techdirt’s stupid patent of the month goes to a computer designed to count calories.
“U.S. Patent No. 6,817,863 (the ‘863 patent) is titled ‘Computer program, method, and system for monitoring nutrition content of consumables and for facilitating menu planning.’ It claims the process of using a computer to track nutrition information like calorie or vitamin intake. It is difficult to think of a more basic and trivial use for a computer.”
Populism and the tabloids
Lots of folks have commented on Trump’s ties to The National Enquirer. The New Republic brings up a bit of needed history:
“In the American context, right-wing populism has often aligned itself with the tabloids, using gossip to wage war against Hollywood liberals, pointy-headed intellectuals, and the Washington establishment.”
“William Randolph Hearst was a master of the form, which reached its apogee with popular ‘yellow press’ columnists like Walter Winchell, Louisa Parsons, and Hedda Hopper. As historian Jennifer Frost noted in her 2011 book, Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood: Celebrity Gossip and American Conservatism, Hopper used her syndicated column, which ran from 1938 to 1966, “to build opposition to the New Deal in the 1930s, U.S. intervention in World War II, Communism at home and abroad during the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement, and modern manners and morals.”
Oh, just FYI, it’s Louella Parsons. Louisa was a 19th-century poet-educator.
Meanwhile, pasta lovers are upset
“Nigella Lawson might want to steer clear of Italy for the foreseeable future, because a lot of pasta-loving people in that country are livid over a spaghetti carbonara recipe that she posted to Facebook earlier this week.” (Eater.com)
“Her version of this dish, a homage to a scene from the Jack Nicholson/Meryl Streep dramedy “Heartburn,” involves cream and nutmeg, which are considered persona non grata to carbonara purists.”
CNN and the GIF
The network caused one of those intense internet kerfuffles with its mini-probe of the Reddit user behind the GIF Trump used of the president wrestling CNN to the ground. Folks on the right were especially chagrined. (Lifezette)
What about keeping the guy’s identity anonymous?
Indira Lakshmanan, Poynter’s Newmark Chair for Journalism Ethics, in part says this:
“What I find troubling is that the story focused on his pledge that ‘he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again,’ culminating with the highly unusual statement that ‘CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.'”
“Why not simply state the reason for giving him anonymity: ‘CNN has decided to withhold his name out of concern for his safety and because he apologized…’ — or whatever their reasons?” (Poynter)
As for Slate, it concludes, “The network may not have ‘blackmailed’ a Reddit user, but it managed to look foolish, self-righteous, and petty.”
Apple easing up on publishers’ take
“Apple is working on a money fix for publishers that send their articles and content to its News app but so far have gotten very little in return, according to people familiar with the plans.” (Ad Age)
“At the moment, Apple maintains tight control over ad delivery in its popular news app, and publishers say they are not generating much revenue there.”
Obscure tale of the morning
Fangraphs, one of the many data-obsessed baseball sites, includes Major League consultant Matt Swartz starting a three-part series arguing that heavy use of one particular statistic known as WAR is not anti-labor and meant to drive down player salaries. (Fangraphs)
“Since I’ve written about this, however, there has been a progressively minded, labor-sympathetic pushback against this framework that I felt it was important to address, because if the criticism were fair it would cast a long shadow across all of the analysis in the coming articles. Fortunately, I believe that this criticism is misguided, even if you accept the value system that proponents of this line of criticism generally espouse.”
Three parts. Three.
A Trump media favorite
Marc Fisher writes in The Washington Post, “One America News is an obscure TV channel struggling to emerge from the cellar of the cable ratings, but it is nonetheless one of President Trump’s favorite media outlets. It’s not hard to see why: On One America newscasts, the Trump administration is a juggernaut of progress, a shining success with a daily drumbeat of achievements.”
The real point: Though it failed to lure Bill O’Reilly, “and the channel is available in only about 30 million homes, a far cry from Fox News’s 90 million, One America is growing — in viewer numbers, in influence in Republican circles, and as a potential alternative for conservatives and libertarians who believe Fox’s commitment to a right-wing perspective is weakening.”
Offended by the Declaration of Independence
Yes, some apparent Trump allies were miffed that NPR tweeted the Declaration of Independence on July 4. (BuzzFeed) One found the tweets to be condoning “revolution.”
Thank goodness for this ruling
“Judge tosses woman’s lawsuit brought against Google because a blogger said mean things about her.” (Techdirt)
The morning babble
“Trump & Friends” praised the president’s Warsaw press conference, accentuating an answer about his recent CNN flap. “They’ve been fake news for a longtime…NBC is equally as bad despite the fact that I made them a fortune with ‘The Apprentice,’ but they forgot that.”
“Morning Joe” noted Trump’s bashing the CIA, his predecessor and, obviously, the press, while CNN’s “New Day” underscored his waffling over Russian campaign interference as he repeated the line that it was Russia and unnamed “others.”
On CNN, the acute foreign affairs analyst Robin Wright said, “this is a pivotal moment” for him but he’s possibly already “squandering leadership” by returning to badmouthing President Obama not doing enough about Russian interference. And, as she noted, he mentioned how Polish Americans voted for him but never cited the name of Vladimir Putin.