Friday, May 12, 2023

You Have To Actually Do the Journalism Part

No doubt you've heard about the CNN-hosted Trump "town hall" (in a "town" that only includes Republicans and Republican-leaners, naturally). You know, the one where CNN set the ground rule that only applause, but not booing, was permitted?

Many people argue that Trump, given his egregious lies, should not be given this sort of prime media platform. And a common defense to that charge is that it's better to give Trump a platform and subject him to "tough questions" than it is to let him roam the earth unchallenged. Isn't that what journalism is? Here's CNN chairman Chris Licht, for example:

“I absolutely, unequivocally believe America was served very well by what we did last night,” Mr. Licht added. “People woke up, and they know what the stakes are in this election in a way that they didn’t the day before. And if someone was going to ask tough questions and have that messy conversation, it damn well should be on CNN.”

As it happens, I was perusing my archives the other day and came across this oldie shot/chaser, involving Jerusalem Post editor Jacob Katz defending his decision to host Sebastian Gorka at a conference while Gorka was under a cloud of controversy for his ties to neo-Nazis. Here's the shot:

[Katz said that] "We decided that ... he would be interviewed by me on stage while knowing that I will confront him with tough questions, including about the various allegations that have been reported in the press."

And here's the chaser:

Sitting on stage in an interview setting, Gorka was not pressed by Jerusalem Post editor Jacob Katz to provide any substantive explanation of his involvement with Vitezi Rend order in Hungary. Although he has denied being a formal member of the group, Gorka has repeatedly expressed support for the far right wing organization that the U.S. government says was under the control of the Nazis during World War II.

Katz allowed him to change the subject to his preferred topic of the threat of radical Islam.

This is the thing. It's one thing to defend platforming bigots and liars by saying "when these people are in the public eye, it's our job as journalists to ask the tough questions and hold their feet to the fire." But then you actually have to, you know, do it. What we seem to get more often is the conceptual promise of "asking tough questions" used to defend an actual practice of creampuffing.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Pardon the Insurrection

If Donald Trump is elected president in 2024, there is a near-100% chance he will pardon the January 6 insurrectionists. I think that is effectively beyond contestation. Here are my two questions:

1) If a different Republican (e.g., DeSantis) is elected in 2024, what are the odds that he pardons the insurrectionists? I'd say it's less likely than the near-certainty that Trump would do it; but is it even below 50%? Below 10%?

2) If Trump is elected in 2024, what are the odds that he tries to prosecute at least some of the Capitol police officers who resisted the January 6 insurrectionists (here he is calling one such officer a "thug" and Ashli Babbitt a "hero")?

Scary thoughts.

Enough With The Horse Racing

No, this isn't about the Kentucky Derby. This is about the jury that just found that former President Donald Trump sexually abused and defamed E. Jean Carroll. The jury did not find that Trump raped Carroll.

Shakezula found a particularly egregious example of a common media response to this ruling, and indeed, this entire lawsuit: framing it entirely in terms of the impact on Trump's political future. Will it hurt him? Help him? All be a wash?

How's this for a comment: it doesn't matter. I mean, obviously, it should matter in the sense that "a man whom a federal jury just found is a sexual predator and liar should have no political future, and it's appalling if that isn't the case." But beyond that, the idea that political calculations should play an iota of a role in terms of whether this case should have been brought, or how we respond to it, should appall us all.

The simple truth of that matter is that if E. Jean Carroll was sexually abused by Donald Trump, and then defamed by him, she deserved justice. A jury found that Trump did both of those things, and has now awarded her some measure of compensation and vindication. If it redounds to Trump's political advantage, it was worth it. If it redounds to Democrats' political advantage, it was also worth it. The political implications mean absolutely nothing in the face of ensuring that Ms. Carroll received the due a jury of her peers determined she was owed for being preyed upon by Trump. That's all there is to it.