March 27, 2017: The Blame Game | Mainstream Media Bias | Chainmail
1. The Blame Game: Trump is Illin’, too
There is no doubt that Paul Ryan has taken the brunt of the blame for the GOP’s failure to Repeal and Replace. As we started noticing two weeks ago, alt-right publications like Breitbart were letting President Trump largely off the hook while drubbing the House Speaker. It appeared DJT himself was joining in the party when he tweeted out Saturday that his followers should watch Judge Jeanine Pirro’s show on Fox. She opened by calling for Ryan’s resignation. (It emerged later that his motivation might have been a promo that had promised big news related to Obama wiretapping.)
Jeanine Pirro @JudgeJeanine tweeted:
"Paul Ryan needs to step down as speaker of the house.The reason? He failed to deliver the votes on his healthcare bill." #openingstatement
But Trump has not emerged unscathed from this legislative Waterloo. Leon Wolf, managing editor of The Blaze, Glenn Beck’s platform, fired off a tweetstorm in answer to the president on Sunday morning. Beck has not always been a Trump supporter, but The Blaze has been home to some huge Trump boosters like Tomi Lahren (recently fired for coming out as pro-choice).
Still, this attack by @LeonHWolf was notable in its ferocity. It began like this:
“And now for a few words about how it is already obvious that Trump is a much less effective political leader than Obama was.”
Twenty-five tweets later, the former RedState blogger, had practically written a treatise on how not to be president. Here are just tweets 4 through 7:
“Let's recall the work that went into the passage of Obamacare. It was a process that took nine months of intra-party wrangling. 4/
Obama was in regular contact with his own party's congressional leadership and engaged in a full-court PR press to sell the bill. 5/
A process which began long before the bill was even conceived. 6/
An important element of this was that Obama did not act like a jackass every single day on Twitter and immediately tank his approval 7/
Meanwhile, Mark Levin’s site, Conservative Review, was giving back-up to Mark Meadows, the leader of the House Freedom Caucus, and his troops, who sank the bill from the Right. Trump had tweeted that “The Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!” But in a version of the famous speech from Shakespeare's “Julius Caesar,” in which Mark Antony surreptitiously lauds the leader he says he has come to bury, Levin’s minions offer praise for Meadows:
Congressman Mark Meadows, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, is really naive. You see, when all Republicans running for office ran incessant ads during the past four election cycles promising to fully repeal Obamacare, Meadows actually thought they meant it! What a fool.
When Mitch McConnell promised to repeal Obamacare “root and branch,” Meadows actually thought that he meant … well … root and branch.
And when Mr. Meadows read the fifth sentence of Speaker Paul Ryan’s “Better Way to Fix Health Care,” which declared, "Obamacare must be fully repealed so we can start over and take a new approach,” well, he thought it meant full repeal, starting over, and a new approach.
Meadows, along with a few of his compatriots, didn’t seem to get the memo: that this was all a joke. Who do they think they are? Amelia Bedelia? Doesn’t he know they only meant to repeal the funding mechanism of Obamacare to make it more insolvent?
That’s not the only thing for which Mr. Meadows owes an apology.
What We’re Watching:
You thought last week was bad for Trump. During a Friday night panel discussion on CNN, Juliette Kayyem, an assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs in the Obama administration, said that General Flynn may have made some sort of deal with the F.B.I. -- presumably to rat out his superiors in return for saving his own skin. So like everyone we will be watching to see if the flip is real. (Kayyem later emphasized in a Facebook post that she had no confirmation of the flip but was only offering an interpretation of Flynn’s situation based on her experience.)
And This Too:
If you still can’t get enough of people pummeling Trump and would like to hear more about voters dissatisfied with him, perhaps you will enjoy. @Trump-Regrets, with 262K followers. It retweets people who regret voting for Trump. My, they have been busy in the past week.
But before you get too comfortable:
Salena Zito of The New York Post warns Blue voters they should not celebrate recent polls showing historically low approval ratings for Trump yet, because if you break the numbers down his standing is still strong beyond cities in the outer suburbs and rural areas.
“While pundits breathlessly reported this week that President Trump’s Gallup approval rating has plummeted to a historic low (dipping to 37 points), not all approval ratings are created equal. Because in American politics, geography is everything. Live in an urban, minority or college setting, and Donald J. Trump is underwater in the polls in a big way; he gets a frosty 29 percent approval rating in the cities, 35 percent approval in the urban suburbs, in the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal survey. But, live in the second ring of suburbs outside the cities, or the exurbs or the third and fourth rings that comprise rural America, and the president gets a 53 percent to 59 percent job approval rating in the same poll.”
“And, in all likelihood, that effervescent support will continue for a very long time. Why? Because the people who live in those outer rings of cities aren’t just separated by geography; they’re separated by culture, traditions and aspirations that differ from those of their city cousins. They also are so tired of being ridiculed by the political class over the notion they’re digging in for Trump, more so than they normally would. ”
2. Mainstream Media Still Suspect
Perhaps you hoped, as we did, that as Trump’s credibility plummeted, it would be accompanied by a newfound trust of old institutions like the Mainstream Media. No such luck. We find that as the Right and Alt-Right suffers defeats on health care and Russia-Trump links, old enemies are trotted out to rally the troops. Try as they may it is hard to kick around Hillary Clinton anymore, which is why two old favorites came out this week: feral immigrants and the Mainstream Media. In fact, they even conveniently merged into one story.
First, the White House pushback. In recent weeks, the Trump administration has been giving highly valued press credentials to Alt-Right establishments like The Gateway Pundit and The Signal. As their reporters take over pool duties -- that is, they have to give information on presidential events to other outlets-- the sites have come under withering criticism from Mainstream Media outlets that don’t trust their objectivity.
The Daily Signal, which was founded by The Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank, was the subject of a Washington Post profile earlier this month questioning whether its reporter was too partisan to be credentialed. The Signal has mounted a furious defense (and fundraising campaign) on its own behalf.
In this article headlined “Why Establishment Media Finds itself on Shaky Ground,” it asks what exactly makes someone partisan. It lists the ownership of three of the major networks and CNN and their political contributions and points out they have given disproportionately to Democrats:
ABC is owned by the Walt Disney Co., which has spent over $70 million lobbying the federal government since 1998. During the 2016 election cycle, individuals and PACs associated with the company contributed $1.6 million to Democrats and NBC is owned by Comcast Corp. In 2014, Comcast spent $17 million in lobbying and hired 128 lobbyists. When it came to the 2016 election cycle, contributions were almost evenly distributed between the two political parties, with Democrats receiving $3.5 million and Republicans $3.3 million. However, if you look at the contributions related specifically to NBC properties, the vast majority of contributions were to Democrats. The only outlier was NBC Sports.
CBS is owned by CBS Corp., which spent $4,470,000 in lobbying in 2016. CNN is owned by Time Warner Inc. In 2016, individuals and PACs related to the company gave 87 percent of contributions to Democrats and 11 percent to Republicans. The only year since 1990 that such contributions didn’t heavily favor Democrats was 1996, when contributions were split 50-50.
Now here is where immigration and MSM mix. This week, in a story headlined “One Nation, Under Fox: 18-hours with the Network that Shapes the Nation,” The New York Times noticed that Fox alone among the cable networks gave regular play to an alleged rape committed by illegal immigrant teenagers in Maryland. The hypervigilant focus on crimes by aliens is a theme in the right-wing press for sure. But as The Daily Caller writes here conservatives see partisan sins of omission in the Mainstream Media’s lack of coverage;
While the Mainstream Media finds itself defending its own lack of partisanship, it faces an even bigger issue: Does the audience really want the truth anyway? The Toronto Star reports that Trump voters know he is lying and like it anyway:
“NEWARK, OHIO—James Cassidy didn’t need the director of the FBI to tell him Barack Obama never wiretapped Donald Trump at Trump Tower. Cassidy knew from the start that Trump made the whole thing up.
He was happy the president lied.
“He’s ruffling every feather in Washington that he can ruffle. These guys are scrambling. So: yeah! I like it. I think it’s a good thing. I want to see them jump around a little bit,” Cassidy, 58, said on Tuesday.”
What We’re Noticing:
And while we are talking about preferred whipping boys of the Right, we see that concerns about masculinity were in the news this week. Masculinity (or lack thereof) is a frequent theme in the right press. A Trump favorite, the radio host Alex Jones, argues men are being turned into homosexuals because of hormones in the water. (Don’t worry, he sells expensive supplements to combat that problem.) Yet even the less conspiracy-minded conservative press remains alert to threats to manhood, so it was no surprise that when a new study found the average strength of college males had decreased significantly in the last two decades, National Review pounced:
“Young American males are losing touch with a critical element of true masculinity. If you’re the average Millennial male, your dad is stronger than you are. In fact, you may not be stronger than the average Millennial female. You’re exactly the kind of person who in generations past had your milk money confiscated every day — who got swirlied in the middle-school bathroom. The very idea of manual labor is alien to you, and even if you were asked to help, say, build a back porch, the task would exhaust you to the point of uselessness. Welcome to the new, post-masculine reality.”
3. Chain Email Watch
While much of our focus has been on social media, we’re also keeping a tab on circulating email chains touting biased and fake news. A reader recently forwarded a chain email that featured a short article with no known source cited. The author criticized the State Department Correspondents Association for complaining that Rex Tillerson only invited one reporter, from Independent Journal Review, to accompany him on his travels to Asia. To quote the email, “The rest of the article is Reuters tearing into IJR for having the audacity to accept a seat on the flight with T-Rex. This is like High School mean girls taken to exponential levels of vitriol and hatred.” The article was followed by candid photographs of reporters partying with Hillary Clinton aboard her private plane.
While no original source was cited in the email chain (and how many times it has been forwarded is difficult to measure), a simple Google search revealed that the article first showed up on the frequently vitriolic website The Conservative Treehouse.
What We’re Watching:
According to an experimental study from the Media Insight Project, a collaboration between the American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, when Americans encounter news on social media, their level of trust is determined less by who produces the news than by who shares it. Whether readers trust the sharer, indeed, matters more than who produces the article — or even more important than whether the article is produced by a real news organization or a fictional one, the study found. Still, on social media, at least a link to the original source is usually intact. In chain email threads, no original source is usually even cited. Meanwhile, another study study shows there’s a divide between what people share and what they privately read and watch. While people tend to selectively share content on social media that makes them look more appealing to others, people often read and watch content from categories that could harm their social appeal.