We need to think about more than Trump. We need to deliberate over the course of public policy in a beneficial way.
Jay Cost writes: If the people deliberate about nothing except Trump, they are not thinking about important issues.
It can be hard to keep one’s wits about oneself during the Age of Trump. Our president is like the ringmaster of a circus, and the American people are his enthralled spectators. It seems as if we cannot get enough. Love him or hate him, he remains at the center of our public consciousness.
It is hard to meditate on anything about politics these days without one’s passions being inflamed by Trump. Case in point, Jeff Flake’s appearance on State of the Union Sunday afternoon. CNN reported:
Flake said he was “puzzled” by the White House’s intense focus on former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe and disagreed with Trump declaring McCabe’s firing “a great day for democracy.”
“I think it was a horrible day for democracy,” Flake said.
This is how the Trump effect works. He says something ridiculous — in this case, that the firing of Andrew McCabe was a “great day for democracy.” Flake, in disagreement, says the opposite. No, it was a “horrible day for democracy.”
“This is a great way to become the main character, be it the hero or villain, which is exactly what Trump has managed to do. But if we move outside his orbit for a moment, it’s easier to appreciate how we have become detached from reality.”
How about: Neither great nor horrible? How about: The quality of our democracy does not hinge on whether some relatively obscure government official receives his pension?
Temperamentally, the American people have often tended to millenarianism — a great hope that the world is on the cusp of some massive transformation, which hinges on this generation. It is amazing that this predominantly Protestant expectation has managed to remain part of the civic consciousness, even while the United States has become less and less religious.
Trump brings this impulse to the forefront in the way he communicates with the nation. He frames just about everything in hyperbolic terms, and those who disagree with him seem compelled to do likewise. Read the rest of this entry »
A closer look at Francisco Goya’s scariest painting.
FISA Memo Is Scarier than Watergate.
Victor Davis Hanson write: The Watergate scandal of 1972–74 was uncovered largely because of outraged Democratic politicians and a bulldog media. They both claimed that they had saved American democracy from the Nixon administration’s attempt to warp the CIA and FBI to cover up an otherwise minor, though illegal, political break-in.
In the Iran-Contra affair of 1985–87, the media and liberal activists uncovered wrongdoing by some rogue members of the Reagan government. They warned of government overreach and of using the “Deep State” to subvert the law for political purposes.
We are now in the midst of a third great modern scandal. Members of the Obama administration’s Department of Justice sought court approval for the surveillance of Carter Page, allegedly for colluding with Russian interests, and extended the surveillance three times.
But none of these government officials told the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that the warrant requests were based on an unverified dossier that had originated as a hit piece funded in part by the Hillary Clinton campaign to smear Donald Trump during the current 2016 campaign.
Nor did these officials reveal that the author of the dossier, Christopher Steele, had already been dropped as a reliable source by the FBI for leaking to the press.
Nor did officials add that a Department of Justice official, Bruce Ohr, had met privately with Steele — or that Ohr’s wife, Nellie, had been hired to work on the dossier.
Unfortunately, such disclosures may be only the beginning of the FISA-gate scandal.
Members of the Obama administration’s national security team also may have requested the names of American citizens connected with the Trump campaign who had been swept up in other FISA surveillance. Those officials may have then improperly unmasked the names and leaked them to a compliant press — again, for apparent political purposes during a campaign.
“Elite” is now an overused smear. But it is a fair pejorative when denoting a cadre that is not a natural or truly meritocratic top echelon, but is instead a group distinguished merely by schooling, associations, residence, connections and open disdain. If this is supposed to translate into some sort of received wisdom and acknowledged excellence, ordinary Americans may be pardoned for missing it.
Victor Davis Hanson writes: Those damn dairy farmers. Why do they insist on trying to govern? Or, put another way:
Why are Republicans trusting Devin Nunes to be their oracle of truth!? A former dairy farmer who House intel staffers refer to as Secret Agent Man because he has no idea what’s going on.
Thus spoke MSNBC panelist, Yale graduate, former Republican “strategist,” and Bush administration speechwriter Elise Jordan.
Jordan likely knows little about San Joaquin Valley family dairy farmers and little notion of the sort of skills, savvy, and work ethic necessary to survive in an increasingly corporate-dominated industry. Whereas dairy farmer Nunes has excelled in politics, it would be hard to imagine Jordan running a family dairy farm, at least given the evidence of her televised skill sets and sobriety.
Republicans “trust” Devin Nunes, because without his dogged efforts it is unlikely that we would know about the Fusion GPS dossier or the questionable premises on which FISA court surveillance was ordered. Neither would we have known about the machinations of an array of Obama Administration, Justice Department and FBI officials who, in addition to having possibly violated the law in monitoring a political campaign and unmasking and leaking names of Americans to the press, may have colluded with people in the Clinton campaign who funded the Steele dossier.
“Elite” is now an overused smear. But it is a fair pejorative when denoting a cadre that is not a natural or truly meritocratic top echelon, but is instead a group distinguished merely by schooling, associations, residence, connections and open disdain. If this is supposed to translate into some sort of received wisdom and acknowledged excellence, ordinary Americans may be pardoned for missing it.
The frustration with chronic elite incompetence was a theme in the 2016 election. “Expert” pollsters assured us of a Clinton landslide. The media could not follow undergraduate rules of decorum and truthfulness. “Brilliant” Ivy League trained pundits preached that the Trump administration’s first year would be disastrous and without accomplishment. Televised legal eagles insisted that Robert Mueller by now would have indicted Team Trump on charges of Russian collusion.
Half the country no longer believes these self-appointed authorities, largely because there is no visible connection between what the self-congratulatory say and do and any commensurate discernable accomplishment.
After a half-century of “whiz kids,” “the best and the brightest,” and “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” Americans finally yawned and are moving on.
Deplorables, Clingers, and Those Not Worthy of Worry
One symptom of such a played-out elite is its blanket condemnation of the supposed blinkered middle-class—usually evident in their virtue-signaling outrage and in their inclination to contrast their own supposed enlightenment to the supposed ignorance of everyone else.
You could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? They’re racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic—Islamophobic—you name it. And unfortunately, there are people like that… Now, some of those folks—they are irredeemable, but thankfully, they are not America.
So said Yale law graduate Hillary Clinton, in an incoherent, factually unsubstantiated, and politically disastrous rant that may have lost her the 2016 election.
Clinton all but wrote off 25 percent of America as “not America”—this from the 2008 primary challenger to Barack Obama who was blasted by progressives for pandering to just such a white gun-owning consistency.
Or as Barack Obama once said, Hillary Clinton is “talking like she’s Annie Oakley . . . Hillary Clinton is out there like she’s on the duck blind every Sunday. She’s packing a six-shooter. Come on, she knows better.”
Or as Clinton herself once put it, “[I’ve] found how Senator Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me . . . There’s a pattern emerging here.”
It is hard to image the Yalie feminist Clinton having any sort of political career without attachment to president emeritus and spouse Bill Clinton, whose serial sexual harassment and assault she not only contextualized over four decades, but by serial defense fueled. Read the rest of this entry »
Andrew C. McCarthy writes:
… First, the main questions that we need answered are:
- Were associates of President Trump, members of his campaign, or even Trump himself, subjected to foreign-intelligence surveillance (i.e., do the FISA applications name them as either targets or persons whose communications and activities would likely be monitored)?
- Was information from the Steele dossier used in FISA applications?
- If Steele-dossier information was so used, was it so central that FISA warrants would not have been granted without it?
- If Steele-dossier information was so used, was it corroborated by independent FBI investigation?
- If the dossier’s information was so used, was the source accurately conveyed to the court so that credibility and potential bias could be weighed (i.e., was the court told that the information came from an opposition-research project sponsored by the Clinton presidential campaign)?
- The FBI has said that significant efforts were made to corroborate Steele’s sensational claims, yet former director James Comey has acknowledged (in June 2017 Senate testimony) that the dossier was “unverified.” If the dossier was used in FISA applications in 2016, has the Justice Department — consistent with its continuing duty of candor in dealings with the tribunal — alerted the court that it did not succeed in verifying Steele’s hearsay reporting based on anonymous sources? Read the rest of this entry »
We are living in an era of political panic.
Yuval Levin writes: Some of President Donald Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters in 2016 were motivated to overlook his shortcomings by desperate fear that our system of government was near death and only the most extreme measures could save it. A poll conducted by PRRI and the Atlantic immediately after the election found that more than 60 percent of Trump’s voters believed the 2016 election was “the last chance to stop America’s decline.” As one pro-Trump essayist famously put it, things had gotten so bad that it was time either to “charge the cockpit or you die.”
” … Levitsky and Ziblatt essentially ignore core conservative complaints about the ways in which the left has undermined our constitutional norms and institutions. The progressive celebration of executive unilateralism, of the administrative state, and of a politicized judicial branch are left unmentioned. But even though they do not amount to autocracy, of course, these long-term trends are surely threats to American democracy and of at least the magnitude of President Trump’s tweets.
And yet to say so, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest, would itself amount to an attack on our institutions. Without a hint of irony, they note that one of the ways the Tea Party movement undermined political norms was that it lodged the accusation “that President Obama posed a threat to our democracy.” Later they say, regarding Republican critiques of Obama, that “such extremism encourages politicians to abandon forbearance. If Barack Obama is ‘a threat to the rule of law,’ as Senator Ted Cruz claimed, then it made sense to block his judicial appointments by any means necessary.” Presumably this means that if you write an entire book arguing that Donald Trump threatens to bring the death of democracy, you are similarly justifying resistance to his administration by any means necessary.
Can the website survive without its current leader? Should it?
Derek Hunter writes: As the war of words between the President of the United States and Steve Bannon rages over comments in a new book, one question remains on the minds of those who were friends of the man whose website Bannon now runs: Can it survive without him?
Breitbart News was founded by the late Andrew Breitbart and his childhood friend Larry Solov as several separate sites, the “Bigs,” they were called. Big Hollywood, Big Government, Big Journalism, etc. The names were a play on the liberal penchant for demonizing entire industries by labeling them as “big” and using it against liberal sacred cows – think big oil, big tobacco, big pharma.
Around the time of Breitbart’s death, the individual sites were rolled into one: Breitbart News.
After Andrew’s death in March 2012, Steve Bannon became the effective head of the company, though Solov and Breitbart’s widow retained ownership control.
I was friends with Andrew and used to write on a volunteer basis for his sites because of that friendship. It’s unclear how Steve came into the picture, he wasn’t around at the start, I just remember him suddenly being around when Andrew came to town. I never asked, he never said, and it doesn’t really matter.
To say things changed when Steve took over is to say the sun is bright. Matt Drudge, a close friend of Breitbart’s and former supporter called Bannon “schizophrenic.”
Bannon is “a blot on the conservative movement and a detriment to Breitbart News more broadly, as he always was,” says Ben Shapiro, a good friend of Andrew’s and editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire.
Dana Loesch, nationally syndicated radio host and author who served as editor-in-chief of Big Journalism was equally as blunt. “He should have never been in this position in the first place. Bannon has turned that website into the Media Matters of the right,” Loesch said.
Former editor-in-chief of Breitbart TV sees Bannon as an obvious liability. Larry O’Connor, now a radio host in Washington, DC, told the Daily Caller, “It’s hard not to see how he’s a liability for the Brand for the company at this point. Not to mention the reputation of the investors. He’s the face and voice and identifying figure that represents the website and you’ve got the president of the United States publicly humiliating and ridiculing him almost a daily now.”
“He’s a total piece of shit,” said another friend of Andrew’s who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Meredith Dake-O’Connor, one of the original editors at Breitbart video, was not happy with the choice of Bannon to succeed Andrew but tried to give him a chance. She quickly soured on him. “From the day that Bannon was announced I have been against his leadership at Breitbart.com. In reality, I tried to give him a chance right after Andrew’s death, but his treatment of people and his editorial vision is and always has been unacceptable,” she told the Daily Caller.
I’ve only known Steve socially, I’ve never worked with him – and socially he was perfectly fine – but several former Breitbart employees, many of whom are friends of mine, have painted a picture of abuse, bullying and threats that completely changed both the tone and direction of the company once he took over.
Make no mistake, Andrew Breitbart was a partisan; he was upfront about it, proud of it. But the work was not about pushing any person or party.
“It’s impossible to say how the site would have evolved under Andrew’s leadership,” Dake-O’Connor said. “In my observation, Andrew was far less interested in Washington tick-tock than Steve’s editorial vision. Andrew despised the incestuous relationship that media organizations had with politicians. Steve recreated that incestuous relationship but on the other side of the aisle. I cannot imagine Andrew doing the same thing.” Read the rest of this entry »
Public order creates a virtuous circle that enables neighborhoods to flourish.
In the last week of 2017, it was announced that homicides in New York City were at a 60-year-low and that gun murders of officers nationally had dropped 33 percent, after rising 53 percent in 2016. Inveterate cop critics seized on the information to argue that there was no such thing as a war on cops, and that proactive policing was irrelevant to crime control, since pedestrian stops had dropped in New York City along with homicides. I responded in National Review Online that gentrification was likely now contributing to New York’s crime decline. Nationally, however, the rising civilian violence in 2015 and 2016 resulted from the prolonged rhetorical onslaught against the police since the 2014 fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. But now it is considered bigoted even to mention racial crime and victimization rates, or to suggest that demographic and economic change can affect a neighborhood’s crime picture.
Let’s look at the facts.
The fact that should concern us all, and that should be at the forefront of discussions of crime and policing, is that blacks die of homicide at six times the rate of whites and most Hispanics combined. That is a serious civil-rights issue, but to my knowledge, Black Lives Matter protesters have remained silent about it. Blacks disproportionately suffer from nonlethal violence as well. Last year in Chicago, 4,300 people were shot—one person every two hours. Those victims were overwhelmingly black. If one white Chicagoan had been shot every two hours, there would be a national uproar; it is unthinkable. But because the victims were black and not shot by the police, the national media are indifferent. (The Chicago police shot 25 people last year, most of them armed or dangerous, amounting to 0.6 percent of all shooting victims in the city.)
The shooting victims in Chicago last year included 24 children under the age of 12, among them a three-year-old boy mowed down on Father’s Day 2016 who is now paralyzed for life, and a ten-year-old boy shot in August whose pancreas, intestines, kidney, and spleen were torn apart. None of the two dozen children were shot by the police. When white children are shot or killed, an outcry ensues—see Newtown, Connecticut. When black children are shot or killed, the country largely looks away—though cops do not—unless the assailant is an officer. This year’s child shooting victims in Chicago include a four-year-old boy shot on the West Side in July while standing next to his mother, who was fatally shot in the head; another four-year-old boy and his six-year-old sister, shot in July while getting snow cones on the West Side; a ten-year-old boy fatally shot in the back while riding in an SUV with this stepfather; and two girls, seven and 13, shot in June on an elementary school playground during a picnic. In February 2017, 11-year-old Takiya Holmes was fatally shot in the head in Chicago by a 19-year-old marijuana dealer, who was blasting away at rival marijuana dealers. While the world knows the name of Michael Brown, the public at large remains ignorant of these young victims because they do not fit the Black Lives Matter narrative. Black Lives Matter activists have held no rallies on their behalf.
Who is killing and shooting black crime victims? Overwhelmingly, not whites, not the police, but, tragically, other blacks. The high black homicide-victimization rate is a function of the black homicide-commission rate. Blacks commit homicide nationally at seven times the rate of whites and most Hispanics, combined. Black males between the ages of 14 and 17 commit homicide at 10 times the rate of white and most Hispanic males between the ages of 14 and 17. Officer-involved shootings are not responsible for the black homicide-victimization rate, either. In fact, a greater percentage of white and Hispanic homicide victims are killed by a police officer than black homicide victims: in 2015, 12 percent of all whites and Hispanics who died of homicide were killed by a cop, compared with 4 percent of black homicide victims who were killed by a cop. Nor is white violence responsible for the black victimization rate. Blacks commit most interracial violence. Between 2012 and 2015, there were 631,830 violent interracial victimizations, excluding homicide, between blacks and whites, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Blacks committed 85.5 percent of those violent victimizations, or 540,360 felonious assaults on whites, while whites committed 14.4 percent of those violent victimizations, or 91,470 felonious assaults on blacks.
These national disparities are repeated locally. In New York City, for example, blacks, 23 percent of the population, committed 71 percent of all gun violence in 2016; whites, who, at 34 percent of the population, are the city’s largest racial group, committed less than 2 percent of all shootings. These identifications are provided by the victims of, and witnesses to, those shootings, overwhelmingly minorities themselves. A black New Yorker is thus 50 times more likely to commit a shooting than a white New Yorker. In Chicago, blacks and whites are each a little under a third of the city’s population; blacks commit 80 percent of all shootings, whites, a little over 1 percent, making blacks in the Windy City 80 times more likely to commit a shooting than whites. In Oakland, blacks committed 83 percent of homicides, attempted homicides, robberies, assaults with firearms, and assaults with weapons other than firearms in 2013, even though they constitute only 28 percent of Oakland’s population. Read the rest of this entry »
Every decade the Islamist regime has been in power, an uprising has cost it an element of its legitimacy.
Mark Dubowitz and Ray Takeyh report: Iran has a peculiar habit of surprising Americans. It has done so again with the protests engulfing its major cities. The demonstrations began over economic grievances and quickly transformed into a rejection of theocracy.
“As with the Soviet Union in its last days, the Islamic Republic can no longer appeal to its ideals; it relies only on its security services for survival.”
The slogans must have unsettled the mullahs: “Death to Khamenei!” “Death to Rouhani!” “We will die to get our Iran back!” Imperialism has not revived the regime’s legitimacy, as the protesting Persians pointedly reject expending their meager resources on Arab wars: “Death to Hezbollah!” “No to Gaza, not Lebanon! Our life only for Iran!”
However the events on the streets unfold, their most immediate casualty will be the presidency of Hassan Rouhani and its false claim of pragmatic governance. In the aftermath of the Green Revolution of 2009, which rocked the foundations of the Islamic Republic, a sinister argument gradually pervaded Western salons and chancelleries. The convulsions of that summer, the claim went, were over no more than electoral irregularity. With the election of the so-called moderate Mr. Rouhani in 2013, the system rebalanced itself. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his allies supposedly learned some hard lessons on the need to yield to popular mandates. Iranians want gradual change, we have been told, and believe that the system’s own constitutional provisions and plebiscites can be used to nudge it toward moderation.
Then, last week, Iranians took to the streets.
Every decade of the Islamist regime’s rule has seen one of its political factions lose its legitimacy through national uprisings. In the 1980s, the Islamic Republic waged a determined civil war against liberals and secularists who sought to redeem the revolution’s pledge of a democratic order. The student riots of 1999 ended the reformist interlude and Mohammad Khatami’s presidency, which had promised that the expansion of civil society and elections would harmonize faith and freedom. The reformists lingered as discredited enablers of a repressive regime, but no one believed in their promises of change from within. The hard-liners offered their own national compact, one that privileged economic justice over political emancipation. But the tumultuous presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad produced only corruption and bellicosity.
Then came Mr. Rouhani and his centrist disciples with their pledge to revive the economy, primarily through foreign investment. Mr. Rouhani needed a nuclear agreement to lift debilitating sanctions and stimulate commerce. The Obama administration was happy to deliver, and Iran received tens of billions of dollars in financial dividends, including $1.7 billion in paper currency. Read the rest of this entry »
Heather Lynn Mac Donald (born 1956) is an American political commentator, essayist, attorney and journalist. She is described as a secular conservative. She has advocated positions on numerous subjects including victimization, philanthropy, immigration reform and crime prevention. She is a Thomas W. Smith Fellow of the Manhattan Institute.
In this clip, she talks about delusional university students who see a threat in anything even though they are the most privileged people. Until this victimhood complex stops, there can be no win for free speech.
Because they have lost the ability to cover real news when it happens.
Lee Smith writes: As widespread anti-regime protests in Iran continue on into their third day, American news audiences are starting to wonder why the US media has devoted so little coverage to such dramatic—and possibly history-making—events. Ordinary people are taking their lives in their hands to voice their outrage at the crimes of an obscurantist regime that has repressed them since 1979, and which attacks and shoots dead them in the streets. So why aren’t the protests in Iran making headlines?
“The problem, of course, is that the places that have obsessively run those stories for the past year aren’t really news outfits—not anymore. They are in the aromatherapy business.”
The short answer is that the American media is incapable of covering the story, because its resources and available story-lines for Iran reporting and expertise were shaped by two powerful official forces—the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the Obama White House. Without government minders providing them with story-lines and experts, American reporters are simply lost—and it shows.
It nearly goes without saying that only regime-friendly Western journalists are allowed to report from Iran, which is an authoritarian police state that routinely tortures and murders its political foes. The arrest and nearly two-year detention of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian drove this point home to American newsrooms and editors who might not have been paying attention. The fact that Rezaian was not an entirely hostile voice who showed “the human side” of the country only made the regime’s message more terrifying and effective: We can find you guilty of anything at any time, so watch your step.
The Post has understandably been reluctant to send someone back to Iran. But that’s hardly an excuse for virtually ignoring a story that threatens to turn the past eight years of conventional wisdom about Iran on its head. If the people who donned pink pussy hats to resist Donald Trump are one of the year’s big stories, surely people who are shot dead in the streets in Iran for resisting an actual murderous theocracy might also be deserving of a shout-out for their bravery.
Yet the Post’s virtual news blackout on Iran was still more honorable than The New York Times, whose man in Tehran Thomas Erdbrink is a veteran regime mouthpiecewhose official government tour guide-style dispatches recall the shameful low-point of Western media truckling to dictators: The systematic white-washing of Joseph Stalin’s monstrous crimes by Times Moscow correspondent Walter Duranty.
Here’s the opening of Erdbrink’s latest dispatch regarding the protests:
Protests over the Iranian government’s handling of the economy spread to several cities on Friday, including Tehran, in what appeared to be a sign of unrest.
“Appeared”? Protests are by definition signs of unrest. The fact that Erdbrink appears to have ripped off the Iran’s government news agency Fars official coverage of the protests is depressing enough—but the function that these dispatches serve is even worse. What Iranians are really upset about, the messaging goes, isn’t the daily grind of living in a repressive theocratic police state run by a criminal elite that robs them blind, but a normal human desire for better living standards. Hey, let’s encourage European industry to invest more money in Iran! Didn’t the US overthrow the elected leader of Iran 70 years ago? Hands off—and let’s put more money in the regime’s pocket, so they can send the protesters home in time for a hearty dinner, and build more ballistic missiles, of course. Erdbrink is pimping for the regime, and requesting the West to wire more money, fast.
Selling the protesters short is a mistake. For 38 years Iranian crowds have been gathered by regime minders to chant “Death to America, Death to Israel.” When their chant spontaneously changes to “Down with Hezbollah” and “Death to the Dictator” as it has now, something big is happening. The protests are fundamentally political in nature, even when the slogans are about bread. But Erdbrink can hardly bring himself to report the regime’s history of depredations since his job is to obscure them. He may have been a journalist at one point in time, but now he manages the Times portfolio in Tehran. Read the rest of this entry »
The people haven’t closed ranks behind the regime.
“After years of cynicism, sneering or simply tuning out all things political,” wrote Erdbrink, “Iran’s urban middle classes have been swept up in a wave of nationalist fervor.” He went on: “Mr. Trump and the Saudis have helped the government achieve what years of repression could never accomplish: widespread public support for the hard-line view that the United States and Riyadh cannot be trusted.”
Erdbrink’s argument echoed rhetoric from Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Responding to October’s announcement of new U.S. sanctions against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Zarif tweeted: “Today, Iranians–boys, girls, men, women–are ALL IRGC.”
Jonathan Haidt writes: Here is the fine-tuned liberal democracy hypothesis: as tribal primates, human beings are unsuited for life in large, diverse secular democracies, unless you get certain settings finely adjusted to make possible the development of stable political life. This seems to be what the Founding Fathers believed. Jefferson, Madison, and the rest of those eighteenth-century deists clearly did think that designing a constitution was like designing a giant clock, a clock that might run forever if they chose the right springs and gears.
Thankfully, our Founders were good psychologists. They knew that we are not angels; they knew that we are tribal creatures. As Madison wrote in Federalist 10: “the latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man.” Our Founders were also good historians; they were well aware of Plato’s belief that democracy is the second worst form of government because it inevitably decays into tyranny. Madison wrote in Federalist 10 about pure or direct democracies, which he said are quickly consumed by the passions of the majority: “such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention . . . and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”
So what did the Founders do? They built in safeguards against runaway factionalism, such as the division of powers among the three branches, and an elaborate series of checks and balances. But they also knew that they had to train future generations of clock mechanics. They were creating a new kind of republic, which would demand far more maturity from its citizens than was needed in nations ruled by a king or other Leviathan.
Here is the education expert E.D. Hirsch, on the founding of our nation:
The history of tribal and racial hatred is the history and prehistory of humankind. . . . The American experiment, which now seems so natural to us, is a thoroughly artificial device designed to counterbalance the natural impulses of group suspicions and hatreds. . . . This vast, artificial, trans-tribal construct is what our Founders aimed to achieve. And they understood that it can be achieved effectively only by intelligent schooling. (From The Making of Americans)
Thomas Jefferson wrote, in 1789, that “wherever the people are well informed they can be trusted with their own government;” he backed up that claim by founding the University of Virginia, about which he wrote, in 1820: “This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow the truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error as long as reason is left free to combat it.”
So, how are we doing, as the inheritors of the clock? Are we maintaining it well? If Madison visited Washington, D.C. today, he’d find that our government is divided into two all-consuming factions, which cut right down the middle of each of the three branches, uniting the three red half-branches against the three blue half-branches, with no branch serving the original function as he had envisioned.
And how are we doing at training clock mechanics? What would Jefferson say if he were to take a tour of America’s most prestigious universities in 2017? What would he think about safe spaces, microaggressions, trigger warnings, bias response teams, and the climate of fearfulness, intimidation, and conflict that is now so prevalent on campus? But first, let’s ask: How did we mess things up so badly? Read the rest of this entry »
Authoritarian regimes like Russia and China are outspending the United States in the realm of soft power, Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told the National Democratic Institute’s annual Democracy Dinner at the Fairmont Hotel in Washington, D.C. last night.
“Our budget is $650 million—a fraction of what our adversaries spend,” he said “Today, Russia is spending over a billion dollars on covert propaganda operations,” he added. “Russian TV, radio, and internet bots continue to push misinformation without almost no pushback from the US.”
The authoritarian threat required greater investment in non-kinetic resources for exerting influence abroad, Murphy added.
“We have more people working at military grocery stores than diplomats deployed abroad,” he said.
Facebook estimates that 10 million people saw the [Kremlin’s] paid ads and up to 150 million people saw other content from the fake accounts, which Facebook has traced to the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-backed troll farm, WIRED reports:
Psychologists and students of advertising say the ads were cleverly designed to look like other internet memes, and to appeal to readers’ emotions. Jay Van Bavel, an associate professor of psychology at NYU, says he was surprised at the sophistication of the campaign. “It wasn’t transparent lies. It was just pushing our buttons,” says Van Bavel. “To me, this is more pernicious. It’s not a matter of fiction that we can root out with fact-checking. It’s more about turning Americans against each other.”
“The IRA are not amateurs, they’re clearly familiarizing themselves with the kind of content that resonates with the target audiences,” says Renee DiResta, researcher with Data for Democracy, a nonprofit group that has been digging into the data on Russian-linked accounts.
The threat of disinformation and other active measures employed by the Kremlin requires adaptation and innovation from the advanced democracies, according to NATO’s Secretary General.
“Defense is no longer about just looking at a map and deciding where to place armies,” Jens Stoltenberg said this week. “It’s also about countering misinformation. Protecting infrastructure. Making our societies resilient to attack.”
“The geography of danger has shifted,” he added.
The NDI dinner honored three civil society groups on the front lines of confronting disinformation and false news – . Rappler from the Philippines, the Ukraine-based StopFake and the Oxford Internet Institute.
“When a lie is repeated 1 million times it becomes truth, especially when it’s state-sponsored hate,” said Rapplerdotcom‘s Maria Ressa. “A sock puppet network of 26 fake accounts can reach 3 million.”
Disinformation “exploits the fracture lines of society,” she said, adding that she received an average of 90 hate messages per hour.” Read the rest of this entry »
We should undo the Obama administration’s rules that regulate the web like a 1930s utility.
Ajit Pai writes: As millions flocked to the web for the first time in the 1990s, President Clinton and a Republican Congress decided “to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet.” In the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the government called for an internet “unfettered by Federal or State regulation.” The result of that fateful decision was the greatest free-market success story in history.
Here’s my plan to repeal the Obama Administration’s heavy-handed regulation of the Internet. This time–unlike in 2015–you can read it before the @FCC votes. https://t.co/xcPDkxPgW7 https://t.co/wnshqlJoMa pic.twitter.com/wACDCspuEP
— Ajit Pai (@AjitPaiFCC) November 22, 2017
Encouraged by light-touch regulation, private companies invested over $1.5 trillion in nearly two decades to build out American communications networks. Without having to ask anyone’s pemission, innovators everywhere used the internet’s open platform to start companies that have transformed how billions of people live and work.
But that changed in 2014. Just days after a poor midterm election result, President Obama publicly pressured the Federal Communications Commission to reject the longstanding consensus on a market-based approach to the internet. He instead urged the agency to impose upon internet service providers a creaky regulatory framework called “Title II,” which was designed in the 1930s to tame the Ma Bell telephone monopoly. A few months later, the FCC followed President Obama’s instructions on a party-line vote. I voted “no,” but the agency’s majority chose micromanagement over markets.
This burdensome regulation has failed consumers and businesses alike. In the two years after the FCC’s decision, broadband network investment dropped more than 5.6%—the first time a decline has happened outside of a recession. If the current rules are left in place, millions of Americans who are on the wrong side of the digital divide would have to wait years to get more broadband.
The effect has been particularly serious for smaller internet service providers. They don’t have the time, money or lawyers to cut through a thicket of complex rules. The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, which represents small fixed wireless companies that generally operate in rural America, found that more than 80% of its members “incurred additional expense in complying with the Title II rules, had delayed or reduced network expansion, had delayed or reduced services and had allocated budget to comply with the rules.” They aren’t alone. Other small companies have told the FCC that these regulations have forced them to cancel, delay or curtail upgrades to their fiber networks.
The uncertainty surrounding the FCC’s onerous rules has also slowed the introduction of new services. One major company reported that … (read more)
FCC Head Ajit Pai: Killing Net Neutrality Will Set the Internet Free
Promises that “we’re going to see an explosion in the kinds of connectivity and the depth of that connectivity” like never before.
Nick Gillespie & Ian Keyser report: Todd Krainin, ReasonIn an exclusive interview today just hours after announcing his plan to repeal “Net Neutrality” rules governing the actions of Internet-service providers (ISPs) and mobile carriers, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai has an in-your-face prediction for his critics: “Over the coming years, we’re going to see an explosion in the kinds of connectivity and the depth of that connectivity,” he said this afternoon. “Ultimately that means that the human capital in the United States that’s currently on the shelf—the people who don’t have digital opportunity—will become participants in the digital economy.”
Pai stressed that regulating the Internet under a Title II framework originally created in the 1930s had led to less investment in infrastructure and a slower rate of innovation. “Since the dawn of the commercial internet, ISPs have been investing as much as they can in networks in order to upgrade their facilities and to compete with each other,” he says. “Outside of a recession we’ve never seen that sort of investment go down year over year. But we did in 2015, after these regulations were adopted.” In a Wall Street Journal column published today, Pai says Title II was responsible for a nearly 6 percent decline in broadband network investment as ISPs saw compliance costs rise and the regulatory atmosphere become uncertain. In his interview with Reason, Pai stressed that the real losers under Net Neutrality were people living in rural areas and low-income Americans who were stuck on the bad end of “the digital divide.”
Proponents of Net Neutrality maintain that rules that went into effect in 2015 are the only thing standing between rapacious businesses such as Comcast, Verizon (where Pai once worked), and Spectrum and an Internet choking on throttled traffic, expensive “fast lanes,” and completely blocked sites that displease whatever corporate entity controls the last mile of fiber into your home or business. Pai says that is bunk and noted that today’s proposed changes, which are expected to pass full FCC review in mid-December, return the Internet to the light-touch regulatory regime that governed it from the mid-1990s until 2015.
“It’s telling that the first investigations that the prior FCC initiated under these so-called Net Neutrality rules were involving free data offerings,” says Pai, pointing toward actions initiated by his predecessor against “zero-rating” services such as T-Mobile’s Binge program, which didn’t count data used to stream Netflix, Spotify, and a host of other services against a customer’s monthly data allowance. “To me it’s just absurd to say that the government should stand in the way of consumers who want to get, and companies that want to provide, free data.”
The FCC is not completely evacuating its oversight role. ISPs, he says, will need to be completely transparent with customers about all practices related to prioritizing traffic, data caps, and more. Pai believes that market competition for customers will prove far more effective in developing better and cheaper services than regulators deciding what is best for the sector. “In wireless,” he says, “there’s very intense competition—you have four national carriers and any number of regional carriers competing to provide 4G LTE, and a number of different services. In those marketplaces where there’s not as much competition as we’d like to see, to me at least, the solution isn’t to preemptively regulate as if it were a monopoly, as if we’re dealing with ‘Ma Bell,’ but to promote more competition.” Read the rest of this entry »
In a politically polarized America, gun control is destined to be obeyed primarily by its advocates.
J.D. Tuccille reports: Has it occurred to anybody that when restrictive laws are imposed, they’re likely to have the greatest impact on the people most willing to obey them?
The past week saw yet another invocation by the usual suspects of the supposed need for tighter gun controls. This time, we had a special emphasis from lawmakers on such “innovations” as banning people convicted of domestic abuse from owning firearms—which is to say, restrictions that are already on the books and have been in place for years, but which haven’t had the wished-for effect. Honestly, so many of gun-controllers’ preferred laws have been implemented that they can’t be expected to know that their dreams have already come true. But laws aren’t magic spells that ward off evil; they’re threats of consequences against violators, enforced by imperfect and often incompetent people, and noted or ignored by frequently resistant targets.
Gun controls then, like other restrictions and prohibitions, have their biggest effect on those who agree with them and on the unlucky few scofflaws caught by the powers-that-be, and are otherwise mostly honored in the breach. As a result, gun laws intended to reduce the availability of firearms are likely to leave those who most vigorously disagree with them disproportionately well-armed relative to the rest of society. That raises some interesting prospects in a country as politically polarized and factionalized as the United States.
That gun restrictions are widely disobeyed is a well-documented fact. I’ve written before that Connecticut’s recent “assault weapons” registration law achieved an underwhelming 15 percent compliance rate, and New York’s similar requirement resulted in 5 percent compliance. When California imposed restrictions on such weapons in 1990, at the end of the registration period “only about 7,000 weapons of an estimated 300,000 in private hands in the state have been registered,” The New York Times reported. When New Jersey went a step further that same year and banned the sale and possession of “assault weapons,” disobedience was so widespread that the Times concluded, “More than a year after New Jersey imposed the toughest assault-weapons law in the country, the law is proving difficult if not impossible to enforce.” That’s in states with comparatively strong public support for restrictions on gun ownership.
Across the Atlantic, despite varying but generally tight laws on gun ownership, “Contrary to widely-accepted national myths, public gun ownership is commonplace in most European states,” according to the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey. How can that be? “Public officials readily admit that unlicensed owners and unregistered guns greatly outnumber legal ones,” possibly because of “a pervasive culture of non-cooperation with public authorities” in many places.
Just a thought, but existing examples of defiance of gun laws in the United States might be an indication that “a pervasive culture of non-cooperation with public authorities” is exactly what we should expect in response to any future successes gun controllers might achieve legislation-wise. Read the rest of this entry »
Jonathan David Haidt (born October 19, 1963) is an American social psychologist and Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business. His academic specialization is the psychology of morality and the moral emotions. Haidt is the author of two books: The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom (2006) and The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion (2012). Read the rest of this entry »
These were the myths in which the Kennedy assassination came to be embalmed. Despite all evidence to the contrary, they are still widely believed, and not only by members of a credulous public. The claim that JFK was a victim of hatred and bigotry or a martyr in the crusade for civil rights is now a basic element in the liberal interpretation of the post-war era.
James Piereson writes: It has now been 50 years since President John F. Kennedy was cut down on the streets of Dallas by rifle shots fired by Lee Harvey Oswald, a self-described Marxist, recent defector to the Soviet Union, and ardent admirer of Fidel Castro. The evidence condemning Oswald was overwhelming: the bullets that killed President Kennedy were fired from his rifle, the rifle was found on the sixth floor of the warehouse where he worked and where he was seen moments before the shooting, witnesses on the street saw a man firing shots from a sixth floor window in that building and immediately summoned police to provide a description of the assassin. Forty-five minutes later a policeman stopped Oswald on foot in another section of the city to question him about the shooting. As the policeman stepped from his squad car, Oswald pulled out a pistol and pumped four shots into him before fleeing to a nearby movie theater where he was captured (still carrying the pistol with which he had killed the policeman). Two days later Oswald was himself assassinated while in police custody by a nightclub owner distraught over Kennedy’s death.
Despite the evidence, few Americans today believe that Lee Harvey Oswald shot President Kennedy or that, if he did, he acted alone. A recent poll found that 75% of American adults believe that JFK was the victim of a conspiracy of some kind, usually of a right-wing variety. This is not surprising because most of the popular books published on the assassination since the mid-1960s have elaborated one or another conspiracy theory. Right-wing businessmen, disgruntled generals, CIA operatives, and Mafia bosses are the typical villains in these scenarios. Before long the Kennedy assassination came to be encrusted in layers of myth, illusion, and disinformation strong enough to deflect every attempt to understand it from a rational point of view. And this enduring national illusion and confusion has had unfortunate consequences.
Creating the Myth
In the days and weeks following the assassination the idea took hold that a climate of hate in Dallas and across the nation established the conditions for President Kennedy’s murder. Racial bigots, the Ku Klux Klan, followers of the John Birch Society, fundamentalist ministers, anti-Communist zealots, and conservatives of all kinds had sowed hatred and division in national life. These battalions of the American Right had been responsible for manifold acts of violence across the South against Negroes and civil rights workers in the years leading up to the assassination, and they must have been behind the attack on President Kennedy. It followed that President Kennedy was a martyr, like Abraham Lincoln, to the great causes of civil rights and racial justice. Liberal writers had warned throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s about the undercurrent of bigotry and intolerance that ran through American culture and the political dangers arising from the “radical Right.” Now it appeared that their warnings had come to fruition in the murder of a president.
This explanation for the assassination did not drop out of thin air but was circulated immediately after the event by influential leaders, journalists, and journalistic outlets, including Mrs. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Chief Justice Earl Warren, Democratic leaders in Congress, James Reston and the editorial page of the New York Times, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., columnist Drew Pearson, and any number of other liberal spokesmen. The New York Times through its editorial page and columnists insisted that a climate of hate brought down President Kennedy, even as the paper’s news reporters documented the evidence against Oswald and his Communist connections. Reston, the paper’s chief political correspondent, published a front-page column on November 23 under the title, “Why America Weeps: Kennedy Victim of Violent Streak He Sought to Curb in the Nation.” In the course of the column he observed that, “from the beginning to the end of his Administration, he [JFK] was trying to damp down the violence of the extremists on the Right.” Reston returned to this theme in subsequent columns, pointing the finger at hatred and a spirit of lawlessness in the land as the ultimate causes of the presidential assassination.
Following this line of thought, Chief Justice Warren, soon to head the official commission that investigated the assassination, declared: “A great and good President has suffered martyrdom as a result of the hatred and bitterness that has been injected into the life of our nation by bigots.” Pat Brown, governor of California, and Charles Taft, mayor of Cincinnati, organized a series of candlelight vigils across the nation “to pledge the end of intolerance and to affirm that such a tragedy shall not happen in America again.” The Reverend Adam Clayton Powell (also a congressman) issued a statement shortly after the assassination: “President Kennedy is a martyr of freedom and human rights and a victim of injustice as promulgated by Barnett and Wallace,” here referring to the segregationist governors of Mississippi and Alabama. Less than a week after the assassination, Pearson published one of his syndicated columns under the title, “Kennedy Victim of Hate Drive.” Many took this a step further to declare that all Americans were complicit in Kennedy’s death because they had tolerated hatred and bigotry in their midst. As a popular song, “Sympathy for the Devil,” by the Rolling Stones put it a few years later: “I shouted out: who killed the Kennedys? When after all it was you and me.” This became the near universal response to the assassination: a strain of bigotry and hatred in American culture was responsible for Kennedy’s murder.
For his part, President Johnson saw that his job as national leader in that time of crisis was to supply some meaning to his predecessor’s sudden death. “John Kennedy had died,” he said later, “[b]ut his cause was not really clear…. I had to take the dead man’s program and turn it into a martyr’s cause.” In his first speech before the Congress on November 27, Johnson proclaimed that “no memorial oration or eulogy could more eloquently honor President Kennedy’s memory than the earliest possible passage of the civil rights bill for which he fought so long.” The civil rights bill, which Kennedy belatedly proposed in mid-1963, was approved in 1964 with bipartisan majorities in the Congress. On the international front, Johnson feared a dangerous escalation of tensions with the Soviet Union and another McCarthy-style “witch-hunt” against radicals should the American public conclude that a Communist was responsible for the assassination. From his point of view, it was better to circumvent that danger by deflecting blame for the assassination from Communism to some other unpopular target. Read the rest of this entry »
Poll: 71% of Americans Say Political Correctness Has Silenced Discussions Society Needs to Have, 58% Have Political Views They’re Afraid to SharePosted: November 1, 2017
Emily Ekins reports: The Cato 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey, a new national poll of 2,300 U.S. adults, finds that 71% Americans believe that political correctness has silenced important discussions our society needs to have. The consequences are personal—58%
of Americans believe the political climate prevents them from sharing their own political beliefs.
Democrats are unique, however, in that a slim majority (53%) do not feel the need to self-censor. Conversely, strong majorities of Republicans (73%) and independents (58%) say they keep some political beliefs to themselves.
It follows that a solid majority (59%) of Americans think people should be allowed to express unpopular opinions in public, even those deeply offensive to others.
On the other hand, 40% think government should prevent hate speech. Despite this, the survey also found Americans willing to censor, regulate, or punish a wide variety of speech and expression they personally find offensive:
- 51% of staunch liberals say it’s “morally acceptable” to punch Nazis.
- 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
- 51% of Democrats support a law that requires Americans use transgender people’s preferred gender pronouns.
- 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
- 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
- 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
Americans also can’t agree what speech is hateful, offensive, or simply a political opinion:
- 59% of liberals say it’s hate speech to say transgender people have a mental disorder; only 17% of conservatives agree.
- 39% of conservatives believe it’s hate speech to say the police are racist; only 17% of liberals agree.
- 80% of liberals say it’s hateful or offensive to say illegal immigrants should be deported; only 36% of conservatives agree.
- 87% of liberals say it’s hateful or offensive to say women shouldn’t fight in military combat roles, while 47% of conservatives agree.
- 90% of liberals say it’s hateful or offensive to say homosexuality is a sin, while 47% of conservatives agree.
Americans Oppose Hate Speech Bans, But Say Hate Speech is Morally Unacceptable
Although Americans oppose (59%) outright bans on public hate speech, that doesn’t mean they think hate speech is acceptable. Read the rest of this entry »
Professor of Law at Columbia University Law School Philip Hamburger discusses the rise of the administrative state and what, if anything, can be done to reduce its power.
“The administrative state is the leading threat to civil liberties of our era,” says Philip Hamburger, the Maurice and Hilda Friedman Professor of Law at Columbia Law School and author of the recent books, Is Administrative Law Unlawful? (2015) and The Administrative Threat (2017).
“We have a system of government in which our laws are made by the folks that we elect, and these laws are enforced by judges and juries in the courts, but we have within that an administrative state, a state that acts really by mere command and not through law.” Hamburger argues that by reducing the role of elected officials to set policy, the administrative state, which has grown rapidly since World War II, disempowers blacks, women, and other minorities who have only recently gained full voting rights and political power.
Before he left the Trump administration, former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon famously vowed to “deconstruct” the administrative state—the collection of bureaucrats, agencies, and unelected rule-making bodies who decrees and diktats govern more and more of our lives. And many of the president’s picks at places such as the FCC, the FDA, the EPA, and the Department of Education seem to be doing just that: cutting regulations and policies that come not directly from Congress but from administrators who decide, say, that the FCC has the ability to regulate the internet as a public utility, and that so-called net neutrality is a good idea. Read the rest of this entry »
Justice Thomas appears in an exhibit that was installed Sunday, a Smithsonian spokeswoman said Monday. The display honors both of the black justices who ascended to the pinnacle of the legal profession. The other is Thurgood Marshall.
Justice Thomas’ apparent omission irked conservative observers, who suspected an ideological bias among Smithsonian officials and called for the influential jurist’s inclusion in the museum.
Ronald D. Rotunda, distinguished professor of jurisprudence at the Dale E. Fowler School of Law at Chapman University, said Justice Thomas deserves to be recognized for his contributions to constitutional jurisprudence, his record of public service and his inspirational life story.
“Like Thurgood Marshall, he has been a very influential justice, and like Thurgood Marshall, he has risen from humble beginnings,” Mr. Rotunda said. Read the rest of this entry »
Are some cultures better than others? Or are all cultures and their values equal? Bestselling author Dinesh D’Souza, who was born in India and moved to America, explains.
Exoneration First, Investigation Later: Comey Under Fire Over Draft Clearing Clinton Written Before Interviewing Key WitnessesPosted: September 4, 2017
Below is my column in the Hill newspaper on the recent news about Comey drafting a statement declining to charge Hillary Clinton or her staff before key witnesses were interviewed or evidence reviewed. The question is why Comey pursued the investigation if he felt comfortable months in advance in drafting the statement. I do not share the President’s view that this draft shows a “rigged process,” though some FBI agents have objected to the drafting of the statement in this context. I take Comey at his word that he did not make up his mind until after all of the evidence was reviewed. However, the draft does show a markedly different approach to the investigation of the Clinton emails and the Special Counsel investigation of the Trump Administration.
Here is the column:
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Ayaan Hirsi Ali joins me to discuss her new book, The Challenge of Dawa: Political Islam as Ideology and Movement and How to Contain It and her views on the challenges facing Western civilization in regards to political Islam. She argues that Islam needs to be separated into two different parts, one part of religion and the other part, political philosophy. She concedes that many aspects of the religious part of Islam are peaceful but argues that the political side is much more concerning due to its focus on Dawa, which means “to plead or to call non-Muslims to Islam.” This call to convert people to Islam is what she argues was a driving force behind the spread of Islam throughout history.
Earlier this year Ayaan Hirsi Ali was called before Congress to testify on her book. She discusses her testimony and that although she was invited by a Democrat senator to speak “about the ideology of radical Islam,” the Democrats present didn’t ask her a single question because they were likely uncomfortable with what she had to say about Islam. She argues … (read more)
Source: National Review
The state of the Fourth Estate—and who can save it.
Brittany Karford Rogers writes: If hashtags had been a thing, these would have been some #FakeNews whoppers.
The 32 BC Mark Antony takedown: it began with a fake-news campaign masterminded by Octavian, complete with Tweet-like proclamations on ancient coins.
The Simon of Trent humdinger: in 1475 a prince-bishop in Italy set off a story that local Jews murdered missing 2-year-old Simon—and used his blood for rituals. Fifteen Jews burned at the stake.
The Benjamin Franklin special edition: he concocted an entire 1782 newspaper, peddling a fake story about Native Americans scalping 700 men, women, children, and infants.
In short, fake news is old news.
For all the handwringing over fake news today, BYU journalism professor Joel J. Campbell’s (BA ’87) response is more “meh.” It’s another punch for a profession that’s been in the ring for the better part of a decade. Trust in news media is at an all-time low. Revenue models are upended. Reporters are exhausted. Readers are fragmented. And that’s just a short list of jabs.
Looming larger in Campbell’s eyes are analytics-driven newsrooms and disenfranchised readers, who, flooded with content, are living in information silos or, worse, opting out altogether.
So how does one make sense of the crowded, increasingly polarized news landscape? And what’s left of journalism as we knew it?
BYU faculty and alumni practitioners—their collective résumés spanning Fox News, C-SPAN, CNN, the Atlantic, and more—have some ideas.
Before you throw your hands up, consider the forces at play, take heart in journalists’ earnest self-searching, and look in the mirror—because the finger pointing goes all the way around.
It’s worth asking, “Is journalism still doing its job?” But as our panel of experts chimes, there’s an equally important question: “Do the citizens of this country have the will to save it?”
A Happy Accident
Journalism has a lofty goal—one epitomized by the career of R. John Hughes.
The emeritus BYU professor won the Pulitzer Prize in 1967 for his coverage of an attempted communist coup and its bloody aftermath in Indonesia. Over his career as a writer for and then editor of the Christian Science Monitor, he covered revolutions and interviewed world leaders.
“Journalism was almost like a religion to me, to get the story, and get it right, to help evince change,” Hughes says. “It’s a kind of love affair for most journalists, shining light in dark corners.”
Journalists call themselves the watchdogs, the truth seekers. The press is dubbed the Fourth Estate after all, the final check on all three branches of government. Democracy requires informed citizens; the press make up the informants. “Democracy Dies in Darkness” goes the new Washington Post tagline.
That’s the why of modern journalism.
The how—being objective, non-partisan—“is rather a new phenomenon in the history of news,” says Campbell.
It has always depended on who’s paying.
Wealthy traders and merchants underwrote the first news in the Americas, and it was all route intel. In the colonial period political parties footed the bill for most papers—party organs that were far more partisan and acrimonious than what we cry foul at today. It wasn’t until the penny-press era—the 1830s on—that a new funding model developed: scale up the circulation, then sell readers’ attention to advertisers. That advertising revenue could bring the cost of the paper down to something many could afford.
Writing to a mass audience, publishers began to recognize there was a market for real, honest news that could cross political divides and speak with a relatively neutral voice. This paved the way for professional journalism standards. And for most of the 20th century, it made newsrooms the information power brokers.
Then the internet smashed the model.
“For the last decade, we have seen a steady erosion of the advertising economy for newspapers,” says Campbell. That’s the nice way of saying it. Revenue streams have been gutted.
Department stores and auto malls, the go-to advertisers, cut back on ads, facing their own disruptions: e-commerce competition and recession. Craigslist happened to the classifieds. And reader eyeballs, once concentrated among a few media outlets, are now diverted to Facebook, YouTube, and that thing you just Googled—and the bulk of advertising has followed them.
As they say in the industry, the digital transition traded print dollars for digital dimes and, in turn, digital dimes for mobile pennies.
One thing is certain: it’s a fascinating time to study the news. Alum Seth C. Lewis (BA ’02) holds the Shirley Papé Chair in Emerging Media at the University of Oregon and is a leading scholar on the digital transformation of journalism.
“We’ve gone from media monopoly to media disruption and ubiquity,” says Lewis. And in ubiquity, no one gets a sizable piece of the economic pie.
Lewis suggests that maybe the last century of advertising-based news subsidy—which fostered these objective, non-partisan notions—“was just a happy accident. Maybe instead we’re returning to other forms of funding and thinking about the news.”