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The [Redacted]-Era Overcorrection

The evolving coverage of a confrontation on the National Mall offers a case study in how media outlets zigzag wildly in their efforts to please their readers.

Adam Serwer, The Atlantic

As the Covington students ascend to right-wing martyrdom, some perspective is in order. The disproportionate reaction to their behavior does not, as some conservative commentators have suggested, represent a new kind of oppression comparable to that experienced by historically disfavored groups. While all children deserve forgiveness and understanding, in America, children who are not white are often simply not seen as children at all.

The Covington students are not likely to have their summary executions by police officers justified; they will not be separated from their parents for the crime of seeking asylum; they are not disproportionately more likely to be charged as adults for crimes they committed as children; they are not likely to be stalked in the night and murdered by grown men who become folk heroes for acting out the violent, racist fantasies of others. The presidentís campaign merchandise remains a favorite of white-supremacist groups, and his name remains a racist taunt for those seeking to antagonize people of color of any age. None of this has changed, and the disgraceful overreaction of some liberals does not change it. If the right extended the sympathy the Covington students are now receiving to children who donít remind them of their own, this would be a more just society.

... (discussion of Buzzfeed/Mueller story)

Over the weekend, the presidentís personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, allowed that Trump might have told Cohen to lie to Congress or tacitly approved of his intention to do so. Giuliani said that Trump was negotiating a real-estate project in Moscow right up until the moment ballots were being cast in the 2016 election, even as he deflected responsibility from Russia for the very hacking and disinformation campaign that Mueller is investigating. He said that Cohen and Trump might have discussed Cohenís testimony, but insisted that there was no proof the president told him to lieóa suggestion that the president may have committed an impeachable offense but that there may not be as much proof as BuzzFeed News had reported there was. The story may turn out to be incorrect, but the special counselís statement doesnít, on its own, prove it was, and there is not yet enough public evidence to adjudicate its claims.

In both instances, the initial reaction would have benefited from additional context. But once that context was revealed, much of the media overcorrected by assuming the exact opposite of the original story was true, when that overcorrection was just as mistaken. The overcorrections are a symptom of the mainstream mediaís ongoing preoccupation with winning the affection of the presidentís most enthusiastic supportersóan impossible task, because those supporters believe what the president wants them to believe. If you write something they donít like, youíre fake news. If you correct something you got wrong, youíre also fake news. The only way not to be fake news is to say what they want you to say, the way they want you to say it. News outlets should neither ignore legitimate criticism based on the source nor go out of their way to assuage critics in the hopes of improving their brand.

The way Serwer has identified the specific media problem (lurching from one inflammatory POV in covering a story to the opposite, equally or even more inflammatory POV, as the narrative unfolds over time) is shrewd and apposite.

It's a good analysis, and here on a well-moderated (by comparison!) discussion website that focuses on political issues which are often divisive by their very nature, we see it a lot. That's okay for us here, because we are a discussion site and changing viewpoints, emerging narratives, accumulating facts, and disputed analyses are the metaphorical bricks and mortar of DU.

But while DU posts, links to, discusses, analyses and argues about news, we are not a news site or a news source, and it's not our responsibility to regard the basic principles of journalism in doing what we do. Instead, our rules focus on maintaining the commons and preventing damage to the community and what we focus on. As it should be.

I actually have a great deal of respect for almost ALL of the "mainstream" legitimate news outlets in the era of [Redacted], the editors, reporters, etc. doing the actual work of journalism are swimming against riptides of public fury from all points on the ideological compass. They're trying to encompass the outflow of a veritable firehose, with a woefully inadequate set of tools and for an audience that's often more interested in seeing who and what are blown away by the high-pressure news stream, than wanting to understand any component(s) thereof.

The "overcorrection" response to rapidly-emerging narratives and accumulating facts shines a glaring light on several problems with our "fifth estate":

One is the inadequate resources most news organizations have to actually process news according to appropriate journalistic principles: not enough editors, not enough fact-checkers, not enough bureau chiefs in enough locations, not enough experienced reporters on specific beats, not enough tools to collaborate or combine reportage with other organizations.

Another is the market reality that dictates inadequate revenues and the constant triangulation and pressure to build viability, clicks, eyes-on, etc. Eliding time and effort, applying inflammatory framing, too much emphasis on "breaking!" and first past the post becomes all too attractive for news organizations fighting to survive in a fast-changing environment.

And a third is the shattering of shared social assumptions about the very nature and function of news. This is the 'untrained audience' phenomenon, the reality that all too many consumers of information cannot distinguish the difference between news and opinion, analysis and entertainment, and have pitifully inadequate tools for screening out the signals from the noise.

I don't have answers. But this article provides some useful questions for both news providers and news consumers.


I do not want to hear one shutdown complaint from any Grover Norquist cultist.

Y'all are the ones who were so damn' sure we could shrink government to drown it in a bathtub and rely on the magic of an invisible hand to take up the slack and ensure a livable community.

Now you're getting a taste of what that might be like. Do you see any private sector entrepreneurs stepping up to ensure the safety of our food supply?

How about all those v-cappers who rushed in to clean up the messes on federal land? Oh, wait, I hear y'all muttering something about how there shouldn't BE any "federal land" because it should all be in the hands of the Noble Titans of Industry and Agriculture, creating jobs for all.

Okay, in that case, let's go ahead and devise a fair and equitable way to recompense every citizen for the loss of their share of those commons, and an orderly process to implement that and enable those same Titans to compete on a level playing field to do the best job with those resources. Except that the federal courts are about to shut down, damn.

I'm sure everyone trusts some private-sector substitute for them to carry out the process, though, right? The magic unseen digits would hold them accountable, natch.

What, your flight may be delayed or canceled because of unsafe conditions? After you had to wait for HOURS to get through security?

Quitcher whining. Pony up another grand for your economy ticket from Omaha to Miami and those sterling capitalist warriors will spring into action to provide nationwide security, safe airspace, and seamless interaction with those services worldwide.

You've got a great idea to start a little capitalist enterprise of your own to step into the breach? Sounds wonderful! Take it to the SBA for... oh, wait. Ne'mind. I'm sure you can get EXCELLENT terms from your local bank. Or one of those generous, patient, collaborative v-cap types, right?

Your daughter got laid off from her barista job and now she can't afford her rent and has to come back and live with you while she looks for another job? NO!! So sorry, but while that federal building is mostly empty, not too many people are nipping next door for a caramel macchiato. But those parasite federal workers never contributed anything to the "real" economy anyway.

Your brother's check for the compensatory farm subsidy to make up for the unsold soybeans didn't come through? So what? He's a farmer, he can grow more stuff, right? Oh, he needed that money to pay for seed and fertilizer for a spring crop? Dayum. But hey, he sounds like a taker anyway. Without all that expensive stupid government support for agriculture we can all start paying the real prices for food, now. You're gonna love that.

By the way, what IS that nasty stuff in the creek behind your house? Smells awful! But I'm sure it's safe. It better be, because the EPA's got no one available to come and check. But hey, the fittest will survive.

Oh, and what are you going to do about that near-disaster when the generator you fired up during the winter storm power outage caught fire? If it was me, I'd file a complaint about product safety with the Consumer Complaint Center. If it was open, of course.

Well, at least we can get on with kicking out all those undocumented immigrants, right? Leaving more great, wonderful, highly-paid jobs for real Americans? Ummmm.... no, not while 42,000 immigration court hearings have been postponed because there aren't any of those useless grifter federal employees to undertake them.

So, you're finally getting a taste of what you've said you really wanted, all along.

Hey, just wait 'til the CDC has to shut down emergency responses for the massive epidemics of food-borne illness that are on the way!

Won't that be fun? But at least government will be smaller, yanno?

So will the population.

And there'll be tons of work for gravediggers, crematorium operators, etc. You might want to invest in the manufacture and distribution of body bags.

Someone should be making a few bucks off this "smaller government" your God Emperor of Weeniness is "helping" us pilot.


[Redacted] does "Great Presidential Quotes"

Truman: "The buck stops here." (Sign on his desk)
[Redacted] Version: "The buck stops with everybody!"

Okay, everybody can play, now! I'll start us off:

FDR: "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."
[Redacted]: "Fear whatever I tell you to fear."

JFK: "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."
[Redacted]: "Ask what you can do for me, and do it!"


I'm trying to imagine what $5.7 billion could do in terms of REAL national security.

We have 328 Ports of Entry, and approximately 153 consulates and embassies around the world. Imagine the improvements in data management those nearly 500 facilities could implement for $5.7 billion. Additional staff could be processing requests for visas, for asylum, for all forms of entry, providing fast and secure processing at ports of entry, tracking visa holders and enforcing visa limits, providing secure asylum, identifying sponsors, nailing employers of undocumented and exploited workers, liaising with local law enforcement and social services, managing wait lists, operating courts to provide expeditious decisions...

And all of those jobs would be good quality jobs, able to hire qualified individuals, with excellent training and advancement available, building economic strength and improving relations with host countries, giving legal immigrants the opportunity to add to America's economic growth and mesh with new communities, and meeting crises and special needs with flexibility, skill, and even-handed judgment.

Instead, what does [Redacted] want to provide?

A wall to keep brown people out at the southern border.

WTF, people?

Stop claiming you care about immigration policy and/or national security and just call it what it is: a monument to ignorance, and our own national pride in being mean, racist goobers.


It's got to really chap some misogynist asses that the two most important people in government...

...are women.

Please note the word choice: "Important."

Nancy D'Alesandro Pelosi

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

These are the two people in America's government making the toughest stand between us and tyranny.

Remember how there was a slight hope, between the election of 2008 and the inauguration of Barack Obama, that the nastier and more overt forms of American racism might be abandoned, and we might actually begin to have the important discussions about race and history that would free us from those underlying chains?

Remember what we got?

Prepare for misogyny like you've never seen it before, people. Even during Hillary Rodham Clinton's candidacy for President.

Misogynistic shit, meet right-wing media fan.


The line I MOST want to hear from Madam Speaker:

"Please don't worry, Mitch. We plan on treating [Redacted] with every bit of the respect, deference, consideration, cooperation and bipartisanship that President Obama received from you and Mr. Ryan."

She won't, of course, because tit-for-tat isn't her style.

But a persona can dream...


Dear Mr. Bezos, Mr. Buffet, Mr. Soros, Mr. Steyer, et al.... May I suggest...

...a truly spectacular way for you to serve your country while ensuring the future stability of capitalism in America?

It's pretty simple: Form a consortium, buy Faux Snooze, and transform it into an actual news source.

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