Meet Politico’s new maverick publisher, Peter Elon Bezos Yang Musk or whatever

The Washington Post has a long read on the man now in control of American political news site Politico, and it comes with the newsworthy snippet that Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner sent a rather bizarre email to his executive team "weeks" before the November 2020 elections.

"Do we all want to get together for an hour in the morning on November 3 and pray that Donald Trump will again become President of the United States of America?" he asked his team.

That the rich "entrepreneurial"-styled head of an international news company might have still been backing ridiculous clownburger Donald Trump—after transparently corrupt acts and a pandemic response that relied heavily on his clownburger son-in-law poking his nose into things before everyone lost all remaining interest—is not really news. Much of the news you read comes through the filter of right-leaning corporate owners who don't give a particular damn about anything but themselves and their personal cash flows, whether it be the Post's own worker-gouging Bezos or the unmitigated malevolence of the Murdoch clan. It's baked in.

The weirder part is that Döpfner apparently insisted quite boldly he had never sent such a message, right up until the Post showed him their copy of the email in question, after which he claimed he might have sent such a thing as "an ironic, provocative statement in the circle of people that hate Donald Trump."

You know, just to get a rise out of his own executives. As one does, when one wants to be a free-spirited provocateur.

The “I only did that to be an asshole” defense is itself usually a pretty solid one when it comes to any profile of any chief executive who has rapidly risen through the ranks and now stands on the top of the common rabble, and Döpfner might have had a shot at selling the Ironic Asshole Defense had the email not also contained a numbered list of Trump's supposed best accomplishments, aside from the being impeached for corruption and leading a staff of incompetent mostly-crooked buffoons through a campaign of screwing up any part of government any one of them was aware of.

"No American administration in the last 50 years has done more," wrote Döpfner after listing off successes like "defending the free democracies" against Russia(?), pressuring NATO to spend more money(??) and, of course, "tax reforms."

A complete failure to respond to worldwide pandemic disaster didn't make the cut of Döpfner's concerns, and whether or not Trump instituted a policy to intentionally separate refugee children from their parents is not worth mentioning. It just couldn't compete against the powerful success of "tax reforms."

The Post's profile of Döpfner is gawdawful familiar, even to the point of being rote. We're told that Döpfner's politics are hard to pin down, but that he thinks the Post and The New York Times have gone too far left while he is not a fan of conservative media's "alternative facts." He believes there is a nonpartisan path between the two, between "predictable political camps." He is an iconoclast, spending his money on "a collection of female nudes by female artists" rather than the usual yachts. He's not a fan of racism or homophobia, but as his plaudits for Trump's alleged successes show, neither is a dealbreaker.

Oh, and he calls Elon Musk "one of the most inspiring people" he's met, and the man’s son works for the fascism-promoting white-nationalist-boosting Peter Thiel, and it just happens that the two news outlets at the top of the company's German media empire are a hard-right skeevy tabloid and a not-as-hard-right mostly corporatist paper—an arrangement we here in America are already quite familiar with and do not find "hard to pin down" in the slightest.

By the time you're even halfway through, then, the Post story paints a picture of the sort of big-media iconoclast who is utterly rote at this point. Got it. He's a right-leaning new-money self-promoting entrepreneur type who wants to chart a path where rich people get lots of tax cuts, but we maybe don't burn his LGBTQ friends at the stake. He's here to revamp journalism around a version of centrism that thinks Donald Trump was doing a bang-up job when he was scooting around the world dragging his bare ass on the carpets while not giving a particular damn about the crooked parts or the authoritarianism.

We heard this biography when it was about Musk. Or about Thiel. Or when Andrew Yang declared that all this fuss over hard-right fascism and not-fascism was super-super partisan and what the world needed instead was a new party that didn't care about such things and instead cared about whatever Andrew Yang cared about—cryptocurrencies, maybe. We heard it when it was the Starbucks guy who wanted to run for president on the same platform.

This isn't being a maverick. This is the most bog standard of all possible Rich Person Political Stances. This is the utter, magnificent laziness of men at the top of their profession quickly coming to decide that Politics Itself is wrong and that they, uniquely and truly, are the ones who can see through the nonsense and give us a nice, semi-fascist middle ground.

Jeebus Cripes, this is Great Gatsby stuff. New Wealth Fixes The World is what Ayn Rand choked her pages with. This sort of nihilistic I-can't-be-defined-by-your-politics hokum is the essence of every "tax cuts for rich people, marijuana for the poor people" college libertarian rant—and the people in charge of the world love this vapidity. Each of them is convinced they, personally, may have invented it.

We get it. The moment a certain kind of man gains elevated wealth and power, they can't rest until the rest of the world knows that it's because they have the brain to solve all problems, and the answer they come up with every last time is: A middle position! One where both sides agree that I get tax cuts and we compromise down the middle on the fascism and book-burning and whatnot!

I mean ... whatever. The Post is doing us a service in showing us that time after time, the leaders of all the stuff you watch and read are, for the most part, vapid people who rose through the ranks of other vapid people to become the new earls and dukes of vapidity, but there’s not a lot of divergent thinking among any of them. Is there any question that newspapers find people to own newspapers to be the cleverest and most interesting people in the world? Are you surprised when a new network head is feted by the rest of the industry as having a bold new take on things that only looks exactly the same as the previous take to you because you aren't a media visionary?

Eh. Seriously though, to write a letter boosting Donald Trump for overseeing corporate tax cuts in the fall of 2020, with half a million American pandemic dead, a prior impeachment over corruption, and a list of accomplishments that can best be described only as a campaign of international blowhardism: The new head who will be steering Politico into yet another vision of wealth-backing neutrality seems to have spent a lot less time on his political stances than he has on his art collection. Can't all these iconoclasts follow their hearts, building space yachts shaped like naked women or whatever it is animates them without dragging the rest of us into it? Why dip yourself into politics at all? If all you want are tax breaks, sure, whoever develops a new space program gets a tax break. Whoever figures out a way to keep the state of Florida above water when Greenland's ice sheets collapse gets a tax break, and we'll rename Miami to whatever new name you want.

We'll agree to that if you all stop telling us how your own indifference to the slow dismantling of world democracies amounts, when balanced against new tax policies, to a heretofore unseen and brilliant Third Way. Gawd, just stop already.

No Surprise: New Study Says Cable News More Biased Than 10 Years Ago, Especially After Trump Elected

A new study out is showing what anyone who has been alive for more than five minutes was already well aware of, that cable news networks are biased, and that bias has grown much more pronounced in the last ten years especially after the election of Donald Trump.

The study, just published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” is called, “Measuring Dynamic Media Bias.” The level of network bias was based on guest appearances.

RELATED: Trump Celebrates Defeat Of Rep. Peter Meijer, Who Voted For Impeachment: ‘7 Down, 3 To Go!’

How The Study Was Conducted

Researchers took a look at who came on networks like the Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC, as guests for more than 10 hours between January of 2010, and August of 2020. Those guests were rated on a bias scale which was based on their political views.

The bias scale, dubbed “visibility bias” by researchers, showed what has been apparent to most Americans for years. Fox News was more right leaning, and CNN and MSNBC were more left leaning. However, this visibility bias also determined, based on the guest list, that CNN programs like “Anderson Cooper 360,” and “CNN Tonight,” were even more liberal than MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.”

Those conducting the study noticed what they believed to be an interesting detail. While Fox News has always been more conservative than either CNN or MSNBC, at one point during the time period being studied, CNN seemed a tad more conservative than MSNBC. After 2015 though, the researchers say that changed.

While each network catered to either a more conservative or liberal audience, the ideological bent of all three networks became more definitive in 2016.

Yphtach Lelkes is an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School of Communication, and one of the co-authors of the study. He explained, “For many years, Fox News was to the right of MSNBC and CNN, but they used to track each other. When Fox moved to the right, so did MSNBC and CNN. They all flowed together. After Trump came into office, they responded to events in the news by leaning away from each other and more strongly toward their respective ideologies.”

The Big Disconnect

What is also becoming more pronounced is the disconnect between those who report the news, and the average viewer who is watching them. The Political Insider reported back in June that a Pew Research Center poll found that 65% of journalists believe they are doing a good and accurate job of reporting news. 

That is not what a large portion of the American people think. Only 35% said journalists were actually doing their job the right way. Of the five different areas of journalistic integrity the poll surveyed,  journalists gave their overall performances a thumbs up. The reading, listening, and viewing public on the other hand, gave them a hearty thumbs down.

Back in April, during a Q&A session at a University of Chicago forum entitled, “Disinformation and the Erosion of Democracy,” CNN’s Brian Stelter was part of a panel to whom students posed questions.

It was college freshmen Christopher Phillips who gave those who heard his question to Stelter, hope for future generations. He addressed Stelter’s implication that Fox News was the sole purveyor of misinformation and listed a series of, what turned out to be false stories, that were pushed by CNN. Phillips then asked the money question.

“All the mistakes of the mainstream media, in particular, seem to magically all go in one direction,” Phillips stated. “Are we expected to believe that this is all just some sort of random coincidence or is there something else behind it?”

RELATED: Gaetz Introduces Bill To Ban IRS From Acquiring Ammunition

Death Of Journalism?

For many viewers of cable news, Professor Lelkes and his colleagues have only verified what they have long know to be true. In fact, they have the date— 2016.

It was then New York media columnist Jim Rutenberg, who stated that when covering then candidate Donald Trump, his fellow journalists were essentially justified in breaking every journalistic rule of objectivity they had been taught. The reason why, because Trump was a Republican, and therefore, the enemy.

Even now, names like Joy Reid, Lester Holt, and Don Lemon have said things such as conservatives and Republicans being a threat to freedom, fairness is overrated, and that, “Republicans are doing something that is very dangerous to our society and we have to acknowledge that.” 

This study may be attempting to blame Donald Trump and the 2016 election for more obvious bias among cable news networks, but average Americans who knew it was there all along are thanking Trump for verifying it.

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The post No Surprise: New Study Says Cable News More Biased Than 10 Years Ago, Especially After Trump Elected appeared first on The Political Insider.

It is well past time to confront the truth of the Republican Party’s threat to democracy

Watching the depressing and alarming spectacle of 17 Republican state attorneys general joining Texas’s bad faith, frivolous Supreme Court application to overturn the election in favor of Donald Trump, I am reminded that in September 2015, I wrote a post titled “The Dark Truth of John Boehner’s Resignation.”

What was that “dark truth”?

What is important here is not that Republicans object to the limits of their power, but that Republicans apparently cannot accept that such limits even exist. 

It sounds crazy, I know, but this represents the true "dark side" of Boehner's resignation: It is another significant step in the Republican Party's shocking withdrawal from our system of democratic governance.  

Five years ago, the notion that Republicans were abandoning democracy was considered to be a somewhat important observation, something to be widely shared and discussed. Today? Well, let’s consider a few of the developments since 2015.

Folks, this is insane. It’s an open, ongoing assault on the fundamental tenets of this country, unseen since the run up to the Civil War. 

Admittedly, defeating this Republican problem is hard and complex, and viable solutions will take discussions longer than this one post. But allow me to propose we rediscover an essential concept: scandal.

The first and necessary step back requires that our country, our politics, and our media rediscover how to label, report, and resist scandalous behavior. Remember Watergate? Whitewater? Benghazi? None of them compares to this threat to democracy (yes, not even Watergate).  

That means reporting this for what it is, and not inviting any co-conspirators on for polite interviews. It means having a panel of historians and civic leaders on, regularly, to discuss the scandal, not a D-list of political hacks. It means consistent front page reporting on this crisis. It means not reporting this as “horse race” politics. And it means that Democratic leadership has to be fighting against this, openly and all the time.

Shutting this down requires that, as a basic first step, we all begin to treat this as the five-alarm fire scandal that it is. 

I once called the Republicans’ hunger for power a “dark truth.” Five years later, sadly, it is an open, proud and largely unchallenged truth.

We can’t let this continue.

Journalism 101 fail: NYT article lets Republicans lie and attack, but can’t find Democrat to respond

What the hell is going on at The New York Times? This question has arisen far too often in the past few years, most recently last week after James Bennet, the paper’s now-former editorial page editor, pitched and then published—without reading it first, allegedly—a fascist op-ed by Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas. They were rightly reamed for it, with their own 2020 Pulitzer Prize winner and "The 1619 Project" creator Nikole Hannah-Jones leading the way, saying, “As a black woman, as a journalist, as an American, I am deeply ashamed that we ran this.".

So that was a poor decision by the opinion department, but surely the folks in the Times’ news department are doing their level best and practicing solid journalism, right? They’ve learned the hard and necessary lessons from the absurdly irresponsible, obsessive way they covered “her emails” in 2016, while downplaying investigations and actual wrongdoing by The Man Who Ended Up Losing The Popular Vote, right?

Well, from what I saw in a recent Sunday edition, not so much.

Like so many New York stories, we must begin in Central Park. I was sitting on the Great Lawn—appropriately distanced from a few friends, of course—and reading the Sunday Times news section when I started muttering. Then I humphed. Then I just slapped the newspaper with the back of my hand and said, “Sorry to interrupt, guys, but you gotta hear this.”

The article that prompted my outburst was one that I initially figured would be pretty dull. “Trump Wanted a Pre-Virus Convention Crowd, or None At All,” was the print headline (it’s slightly different online). The piece focused on Trump’s threat to move the Republican National Convention from Charlotte, North Carolina (we now know that most of the convention activities, including the nomination acceptance speech, will take place in Jacksonville, Florida). The story focused on the impeached president’s dismay with the Tar Heel State’s Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who wouldn’t guarantee that Republicans could pack people together on the convention floor and party like it was 2019.

The article’s first quote came from Ada Fisher, a national committeewoman for North Carolina’s Republican Party. Unsurprisingly, she blamed Democrats. “There are a lot of liberal, establishment people here who just don’t like the Republican Party. People didn’t want it to happen just because Republicans were involved. But Charlotte can’t stand to lose $200 million in revenue right now.” Standard Republican boilerplate: The Democrats are a bunch of meanies. She even managed to work in both “liberal” and “establishment” as slurs. Well played, Ms. Fisher.

The next quote was from Orange Julius Caesar himself, who’d informed Cooper how stupendously North Carolina had been treated by the White House; he’d sent lots of tests and ventilators, see, as well as the National Guard. “I think we’ve done a good job!” and “We gave you a lot!” and more of the same. About what you’d expect from Trump.

Republican National Committee chair Ronna (don’t call me Romney) McDaniel’s letter to the convention’s host committee was next; essentially, she blamed the Democrats. If you’re wondering if, at any point in this journey so far, the Times offered any response from North Carolina Democrats, you already know the answer to that.

Two more Republicans weighed in before the final quotes came from the Republican state chair from Connecticut, J.R. Romano, who criticized Gov. Cooper’s supposedly over-aggressive requirements regarding wearing masks and social distancing: “We’re adults,” Romano said. “We all know the risks. If someone wants to wear a face mask, they can. If someone doesn’t, they’re taking a risk. I don’t think they had to make this mandatory.”

It is worth noting that Thursday was the fourth day in a row that coronavirus hospitalizations in North Carolina hit a new high.

I couldn’t believe that Romano’s nonsense was the end of the article. I kept waiting for the pushback, a quote from Cooper, or one his aides or allies, about the need to be careful because of the virus, or how decisions on the convention would be governed by science, or how they’d have to see how the outbreak looks in the coming weeks, or that they’d love to host the Republicans, but social distancing rules will still probably be necessary. Anything along those lines would’ve worked. Anything.

Could the authors really not find a Democrat in the entire state or country to go on record here? How did they submit this piece without making sure they at least found one? Did they even notice the imbalance? Where were their editors? There are multiple layers of editorial oversight, one would imagine, for an article on national politics that runs in the main print section of the Sunday New York Times. Did nobody ask, “Hey, can you find a quote from a frickin’ Democrat?” I’ve never worked as an editor at the Gray Lady, but that question came to mind before I was halfway through the piece.

The article did summarize the respective positions of Cooper and Trump, as well as their conversations, yet only Trump and Republicans were given space to defend their positions. Republicans’ assertions about the motivations of North Carolina Democrats also went unchallenged by the authors, other than a brief mention—far from any Republican statements—that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended mask-wearing and social distancing.

The article was written by Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman. While Karni has not faced significant criticism over her work in the past, Haberman has been called out before for pro-Trump, pro-Republican reporting. Trump has also attacked Haberman, but given that he has attacked the entire journalism profession, such attacks are a badge of honor and don’t mean anyone’s actually been unfair to him or his administration. Haberman’s critics maintain the opposite.

In May 2019, Haberman wrote an article for the Times about Hope Hicks, who had left her position as White House communications director a year earlier, then received a subpoena to testify before the House regarding her former boss and obstruction of justice (remember the Mueller report?). Haberman’s article explored whether Hicks would, you know, actually comply with the law. Yet some folks were concerned that the decision to commit a crime was framed, by Haberman, as “an existential question.”

What gets me is news breaks that this woman is weighing committing a crime before Congress &it�s getting framed by the NYT as some Lifetime drama called �Hope�s Choice.� This is a fmr admin official considering participating in a coverup led by the President. Treat her equally.

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 26, 2019

Anyway: Here's a dare for @maggieNYT, since she wants to write about what happens when women defy a subpoena. Write a similar story about @xychelsea, who is in jail for defying a subpoena.

— emptywheel (@emptywheel) May 26, 2019

There is nothing for Hope Hicks to �decide.� She got a subpoena from Congress. Were she not white, wealthy, and connected, we wouldn�t be having this conversation. She would appear, or she would face the threat of prison like the rest of us. As she should.

— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) May 26, 2019

One Vanity Fair headline referred to Haberman as a “Trump Whisperer,” citing her “closeness—and fairness—to the president.” Fairness is a subjective term, but I have a hard time seeing it as fair to Roy Cooper or North Carolina Democrats that Haberman and Karni’s article quoted five angry Republicans, but not one Democrat.

Beyond the problems with Haberman’s reporting specifically, one of the biggest problems with the so-called mainstream media writ large is something called “bothsidesism,” also known as false equivalency. Bothsidesism occurs when reporters cover an issue simply by presenting the opposing views of Democrats and Republicans as equivalent, irrespective of which side is telling the truth.

Laila Lalami, writing in in The Nation, describes bothsidesism as when journalists “give space to both sides of any story, no matter what the facts show, leaving them open to manipulation by surrogates acting in bad faith and, more worrying, making it harder for ordinary citizens to remain informed and engaged.” Nancy LeTourneau, writing for Washington Monthly, notes that “For those of us who are trying to keep the door to being open-minded cracked at least a little bit, this both-siderism has a kind of gaslighting effect. You begin to question whether what you are witnessing with your own two eyes is real.”

At the Columbia Journalism Review, Jon Allsop went in-depth on bothsidesism and the Times during the impeachment of Donald Trump.

As impeachment has progressed, attacks on the “both sides” approach—and the Times, in particular—have intensified. Over the weekend, critics trained their ire on an article in the paper, headlined “The Breach Widens as Congress Nears a Partisan Impeachment,” about a debate in the Judiciary Committee. Nate Silver, of FiveThirtyEight, noted that the actual words “both sides” appeared four times in the piece. (One of these was in a quotation.) Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at NYU, listed 12 more snippets from the article as evidence of the Times’s inability to handle what he calls “asymmetrical polarization.” They included “the different impeachment realities that the two parties are living in,” “both sides engaged in a kind of mutually assured destruction,” and “the two parties could not even agree on a basic set of facts in front of them.”

Rosen is right that this sort of language is inadequate: Democrats, for the most part, are engaging with the factual record; Republicans, for the most part, are not. These positions are manifestly not equivalent. Treating them as such does not serve any useful concept of fairness; instead, it rebounds clearly to the advantage of the one side (Republicans) for whom nonsense being taken seriously is a victory in itself. The Times is far from the only culprit.

The Times also blew it when covering Trump’s remarks after back-to-back mass shootings in August 2019—one of which was carried out by a racist who specifically targeted Latinx Americans. The initial headline—in all caps (something done relatively rarely, as it indicates special importance)—read “TRUMP URGES UNITY VS. RACISM.” Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, among many others, pushed back hard on that framing.

Lives literally depend on you doing better, NYT. Please do.

— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) August 6, 2019

After facing a lot of heat, the headline was changed to “ASSAILING HATE BUT NOT GUNS.” A spokesperson for the Times admitted that “The headline was bad and has been changed for the second edition.” Executive editor Dean Baquet also called it a “bad headline.” The final headline, at least online, reads: “Trump Condemns White Supremacy but Stops Short of Major Gun Controls.” The Confederacy’s Biggest Fan, of course, still liked the original headline best, calling it “the correct description” of what he’d said.

What mattered, in the context of the mass shootings, was that Trump had declared a refusal to support any significant new gun control measures, such as universal background checks, or bans on high capacity ammunition magazines. However, the Times’  first instinct was to praise Trump as an anti-racist unifier. Let that choice sink in.

It’s bad enough when reporters at mainstream media outlets are so afraid of being accused of showing “liberal bias” that they engage in bothsidesism and false equivalency. Regarding the Sunday Times article about the RNC, presenting both sides would have been an improvement, as the authors literally only gave us one side of a political story in which Democrats and Republicans disagreed. Yet what the article on the battle over the RNC convention shares with other New York Times pieces that are guilty of bothsidesism is the willingness to bend over backward to help Republicans. And they call that paper the liberal media.

There are no quick fixes here for The Times. As for constructive criticism, journalists at The Times could do a lot worse than to listen to the aforementioned Professor Rosen. Rosen diagnosed the crux of the paper’s problem a couple of years ago (and is as good a media critic as there is), in a long analysis that’s worth reading. One quote in particular hits the nail on the head.

“Remember when the Washington Post came out with its new motto, “Democracy Dies in Darkness?” It put Post journalism on the side of keeping democracy alive. Dean Baquet, executive editor of the Times, made fun of it. ‘Sounds like the next Batman movie,’ he said.”

You know what they say about the fish rotting from the head down? Perhaps the entire staff, top to bottom, could undergo the kind of training they did at The Telegraph (UK), which Rosen also cited as a way to help mainstream media journalists unlearn some of their worst habits.

To paraphrase Ted “Theodore” Logan, strange things are afoot at The New York Times, and not at all in the cool, “I just met George Carlin outside the Circle K” kind of way. In all seriousness, what The Times did here is reflective of what’s been going on for generations. In 1969, Vice President Spiro Agnew drew up the playbook for Republican liars attacking the media in order to intimidate them into providing more favorable coverage; the Koch brothers have kept that tradition alive. In sports, this is called “working the refs,” and Paul Krugman rightly applied the term to the imbalance in how the media covered Trump as compared to Hillary Clinton in 2016.

To the detriment of American politics, the American people, and our democracy, we’ve had four more years of this media malpractice since then. If mainstream media outlets keep this up, and we end up with four more of Trump as a result, there may not be much of a free media left to cover his second term. It’s on all of us to do our part between now and November to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Ian Reifowitz is the author of  The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh's Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (Foreword by Markos Moulitsas)