30 November 2016

Silence of the Lambs: Corporate Media on Trump

Something funny happened after the US presidential elections.

The corporate media that focused almost exclusively on "crooked" Hillary's email servers (560,397 articles in one year) and her ties with the Clinton Foundation throughout the campaign suddenly discovered that the new President-elect was a white nationalist, misogynist, ignorant buffoon. And a yuge walking conflict of interest.

Who knew?

It's not like Breitbart CEO the renowned bigot Steve Bannon had anything to do with his campaign. Oh wait, he was its chairman.

Trump the White Nationalist

A week after the elections, Washington Post ran a piece about how Bannon courted Donald Trump for more than a year and convinced him to align his views and policies with the alt-right movement.
In those exchanges, a dynamic emerged, with Bannon often coaxing Trump to agree to his viewpoint, whether on climate change, foreign policy or the need to take on Republican leaders in Congress. (...)
He flattered Trump, praising his negotiating skills and the size of his campaign crowds. 
The conversations marked a coming-together of Trump, who at the time was a pariah among many top Republicans, and the alt-right, a loosely defined term describing a far-right ideology that includes opposition to immigration and “globalism” and had found a home in the Breitbart News empire. 
Curiously, they did not feel the need to mention any of this before people cast their votes.

Similarly, the media also discovered fake news items from FaceBook and other outlets only after the elections, even though they knew of this meeting in May:
Sixteen prominent conservatives met with Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg Wednesday to air concerns about allegations of political bias at the world’s largest social network, in a session several attendees said was a productive start to a dialogue that should continue.
[Besides Brent Bozell, president of conservative media watchdog the Media Research Center other] attendees included Donald Trump adviser Barry BennettJim DeMint, a former Republican senator from South Carolina and now president of the Heritage Foundation; American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks and Mitt Romney’s former digital director, Zac Moffatt. The group also included television host Glenn Beck and CNN commentator S.E. Cupp.
Within days, FaceBook acquiesced to their demands and got rid of its human editorial board and implemented an algorithm that started sending out biased and fake news items that included Pope Francis endorsing Trump and Obama confessing his Kenyan birth.

It turns out that most of these news items were produced by close Trump allies and advisers, the same people who asked Zuckerberg to give them the key to the empire.

Here are some of them:

- There was a video in FaceBook that claimed that Clintons arranged for John F Kennedy Jr's plane crash
- Voting machines were rigged by a Soros-owned company
- UN, backed by Obama administration, had a secret plan to take over local police departments
- Hillary Clinton's staff is involved in occult rituals
- Obama had changed the American flag in the White House logo to a "white flag" to signal America's readiness to surrender to its enemies
- Muslims were ordered to vote for Hillary
- Illegal immigrants were encouraged to vote without fear of reprisals

In case you are wondering these items all received tens of millions of views.

LifeZette, run by Laura Ingraham is one of the main sources for FaceBook items and their JFK plane crash video got 14 million views. Liftable Media, managed by a Trump consultant Floyd Brown, had multiple tabloid sites, one of which, Western Journalism, has 13 million unique visitors every month. Another one, called Conservative Tribune, had 19 million monthly unique visitors.
During the last three months of the campaign, Buzzfeed News found that the top 20 best-performing hoax stories related to the election had more Facebook engagement than the 20 best-performing stories from major news outlets.
As for Breitbart, "it's Alexa online ranking puts it above the LA Times, the New York Post, Vox, Slate and the New Yorker, not to mention CBS, NBC and ABC's news sites."

And its monthly audience is more than 19 million people.

Since the elections, the BBC ran six pieces on "fake news" propagated by FaceBook and Breitbart and other alt-right outlets. This, this, this, this, this and this.

Before the elections: nothing.

This is what I mean by Oh Dearism.

Trump the Walking Conflict of Interest

Despite what you may have heard about Trump being a real estate developer, he is actually in the business of selling his brand. Which is his name. In the past, whenever he tried the development thing, he went belly up. Now, he mostly licenses his name and makes a killing. He also owes a lot of money to a lot of foreign banks.

Yet, before the elections, with the exception of a couple of articles in the New York Times, the media was mainly interested in petty stuff. The fact that he pocketed campaign contributions by renting out his properties and by selling his stuff to his own campaign, or that he donated $25,000 to a group supporting Florida's attorney general to influence her decision on Trump University.

One of the media's biggest preoccupations was Trump's crass product placement stunts, you know Trump water, Trump wine, Trump steaks being prominently displayed during press conferences. The problem is that most of these products were bogus, as the fake news program Daily News revealed. But very few media outlets cared about Trump Towers in Istanbul or Manila or his hotel project in the Old Post Office Building in Washington.

In late August Mother Jones ran a piece entitled "Donald Trump Has a Huge Conflict of Interest That No One's Talking About" to tell the story of the Post Office Building. What is interesting is that Trump overbid on the project and he has been trying to renegotiate the terms of the agreement. Now he can as he is both the landlord and the tenant.
Jessica Tillipman, a law professor at George Washington University who specializes in government ethics, said the Old Post Office deal poses a massive conflict of interest for a President Trump. "You'd be kidding yourself if you don't think the president of the United States has influence over this," she says. "And he's taken no affirmative steps to separate himself from this conflict of interest. I don't know how this is not a bigger issue. It's crazy."
But it wasn't a bigger issue. In fact, when the New York Times tackled the problem of Trump owing money to foreign banks, this is how they presented it:
For example, an office building on Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan, of which Mr. Trump is part owner, carries a $950 million loan. Among the lenders: the Bank of China, one of the largest banks in a country that Mr. Trump has railed against as an economic foe of the United States, and Goldman Sachs, a financial institution he has said controls Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, after it paid her $675,000 in speaking fees.
So Trump owing almost a billion dollars to Bank of China is tied in, within the same sentence, to Hillary Clinton receiving $675,000 in speaking fees. You know, both sides do it.

Now that he is President-elect, the Times is focusing on his international ties around the world:
Situations like these are already leading some former government officials from both parties to ask if America’s reaction to events around the world could potentially be shaded, if only slightly, by the Trump family’s financial ties with foreign players. They worry, too, that in some countries those connections could compromise American efforts to criticize the corrupt intermingling of state power with vast business enterprises controlled by the political elite. 
So does BBC and NBC News and Wall Street Journal and Washington Post and countless others.

Who knew?

It is not like Trump altered his positions to save his businesses. Or did he? We learned this after the elections.
 And in Turkey, officials including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a religiously conservative Muslim, demanded that Mr. Trump’s name be removed from Trump Towers in Istanbul after he called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States. More recently, after Mr. Trump came to the defense of Mr. Erdogan — suggesting that he had the right to crack down harshly on dissidents after a failed coup — the calls for action against Trump Towers have stopped, fueling worries that Mr. Trump’s policies toward Turkey might be shaped by his commercial interests.
Trump's partner in Manila is the new Philippine ambassador to the US. And a week after the elections he met his partners in India, as the Times put it:
Several of Mr. Trump’s real estate ventures in India are being built through companies with family ties to India’s most important political party — making it more likely that Indian government officials will give special favors benefiting his projects. 

I think Tom Toles has the best summary of the situation.

Whitewashing White Supremacy

Another funny thing happened after the elections.

New York Times published an article entitled "Critics See Stephen Bannon, Trump’s Pick for Strategist, as Voice of Racism" which started with this sentence:
A fierce chorus of critics denounced President-elect Donald J. Trump on Monday for appointing Stephen K. Bannon, a nationalist media mogul, to a top White House position, even as President Obama described Mr. Trump as “pragmatic,” not ideological, and held out hope that he would rise to the challenge of the presidency.
The man Southern Poverty Law Center called ""the main driver behind Breitbart [News] becoming a white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill" is now only a nationalist.

As Atrios put it:
Labeling Bannon a "nationalist" instead of a "white nationalist" isn't just covering for racism, it's racist itself, removing any distinction between nationalism, which many people just read as a strong form of patriotism, and white nationalism, which explicitly seeks to create a whites only nation.
And he is not such a plain old racist, he is also an anti-Semite. This is a man who said this:
An ex-wife of Bannon said he expressed fear of Jews when the two battled over sending their daughters to private school nearly a decade ago, according to court papers reviewed this summer by The Associated Press. In a sworn court declaration following their divorce, Mary Louise Piccard said her ex-husband had objected to sending their twin daughters to an elite Los Angeles academy because he "didn't want the girls going to school with Jews." 
Yet in the normally vigilant corporate media when it comes to anti-Semitism, there was nary a peep.
I long thought anti-Semitism was a step too far in bigotry in the US, that it was something the US media would "monster" in a way that they're capable of even if they don't admit it. I guess even that is only unequivocally bad if "both sides" agree it is. If one side goes full racist and full anti-Semite, then, well, it's just just a one side/other side controversy. Let the readers decide but let's make it as hard as possible for them to do so by not adequately describing the situation! 
Then the Associated Press reported this:
Under Bannon's tenure, Breitbart pushed a nationalist agenda and became one of the leading outlets of the so-called alt-right - a movement often associated with white supremacist ideas that oppose multiculturalism and defend "Western values." 
Nationalist agenda, not white nationalist agenda. We also learned that Bannon's rhetoric was just populist, not something out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, as some sensitive souls might suspect.
Bannon, who became campaign CEO in August, pushed Trump to adopt more populist rhetoric and paint rival Hillary Clinton as part of a global conspiracy made up of the political, financial and media elite, bankers bent on oppressing the country's working people - a message that carried Trump to the White House but to some, carried anti-Semitic undertones. 
The piece congratulated Trump for "history making" moves to inject diversity in his cabinet.

I can tell you that Trump is making history but not for diversity.

Let's go through the list: Bannon, the anti-Semite and white supremacist was made the equal of his Chief of Staff, which makes him the most powerful man in this administration.

Education will be handled by the heir to Amway fortune Betsy DeVos "who has been trying to gut public schools for years".

National Security is given to Mike Flynn, a rabid Islamophobe known for making up facts.

Health is relegated to Tom Price a sworn enemy of Obamacare and women's reproductive rights.

And Laura Ingraham, the woman who produced many of the fake news items through LifeZette, well, she is the leading contender for Press Secretary.

Oh Dear!

I forgot to mention. It turns out that the media is failing to explain Trump's recklessness.

Who knew?

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