As the daily outrages coming out of the Trump administration pile up, it’s important to not overlook the fact that all the institutions of democracy are under attack from the right.
All the talk of tax increases and/or decreases amid the GOP’s rush to pass a major piece of legislation doesn’t take into account its biggest accomplishment, namely constructing a financial framework for government guaranteeing the eventual rollback of the New Deal.
Having eliminated the system of checks and balances within the Senate, a wave of judicial confirmations is underway designed to cripple the ability of ordinary citizens to seek redress.
The orchestrated (?) chaos throughout the executive branch is paving the way for a government devoid of ethical considerations and powerless to protect the country from both internal and external threats.
The fourth estate’s role of exposing excess, corruption and malfeasance is being subverted on several levels, starting with the elimination of net neutrality, continuing with allowing market dominance by single corporations in major markets and ending with an all-out assault on the very idea of a free press.
The “new normal” of American politics is not normal. The Weekly List reminds us of that. On a weekly basis, the List tracks specific news stories representing eroding norms under the current regime. Taken together, they reveal a nation pushed towards authoritarianism, the wielding of unchecked governmental authority by one person or group at the expense of the freedom of those who oppose them.
This drumbeat of derision aimed at the national consciousness has so warped the perception of reality for some Americans as to somehow make the candidacy for a seat in the Senate by an accused pedophile acceptable to a significant part of the population.
Those who decry the absurdity and insanity of these aberrations are met with contempt, derision, and –when the truth is undeniable– “what aboutism.”
The boundaries of what is acceptable shift imperceptibly every day, dulling our sense of outrage, and allowing those things once considered unacceptable to be normalized, even by people who should know better.
Why else would the New York Times run a feature article about an obscure suburban neo-nazi? And be dumbfounded when people found it offensive?
— Soledad O’Brien (@soledadobrien) November 26, 2017
Meanwhile at the Washington Post,* some reporters and editors were doing their jobs. *(No, they’re not perfect. Not even close. And “what about..” isn’t relevant here)
Dirty trickster/wannabe journalist James O’Keefe, who gets enough support from deranged billionaires to pay himself $317,000 annually, hired a woman to lie about having an abortion financed by Alabama’s Roy Moore.
Jaime T. Phillips approached Washington Post reporters, offering to go on the record with her story.
In a series of interviews with Post reporters over two weeks, Phillips shared a false story about an alleged sexual relationship in 1992 with Moore, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama. She said the relationship led to an abortion when she was 15. During the interviews, she repeatedly pressed Post reporters to give their opinions on the whether her claims could affect Moore’s candidacy if she went public.
The paper checked out her backstory and eventually discovered a connection with Project Veritas, the sham outfit run by O’Keefe.
The Post brought their own video crews into play, and the recording where Phillips is confronted over the irregularities in her story is a classic.
Aside from the failure of O’Keefe’s scam in “exposing” the Washington Post, there is also the reality of this caper–had it succeeded—being an attack on the veracity of women who dare to speak up about sexual harassment. I suppose the righties would consider that consequence to be a feature rather than a bug.
Will Saletan at Slate is one of many who suspect the O’Keefe caper was financed by candidate Moore’s backers.
Nov. 9: WP reports Moore accusations.
Nov. 10: Project Veritas agent emails WP to offer bait.
Nov. 11: Moore says: “There are investigations going on. In the next few days, there will be revelations about the motivations and the content of this article.”
What did Roy Moore know?
— Will Saletan (@saletan) November 28, 2017
Julia Ioffee at the Atlantic took a look at the Trump administration’s opposition to the proposed AT&T-Time Warner merger and the likelihood of the President’s dislike for CNN behind the decision.
She says this should be a wakeup call for American journalists.
I have seen this play out so many times before—in Russia, that scary place portrayed as one with no press freedom and dead journalists stacked like cords of wood. I have spent most of my professional life writing about Russia, and whenever I have lived there or travel there, Americans ask me, “Aren’t you afraid to report there?” Whenever my Russian journalist friends meet Americans, they get asked the same thing, “Aren’t you afraid for your life?”
It’s not a completely silly question, given the recent attack on journalist Tatyana Felgengauer, who was stabbed in the neck in her radio station’s office, and the infamous death toll of journalists working in Russia. But it reflects an ignorance of the greatest danger facing journalists in Russia today: It is not a violent death, but a quiet starvation. After years of outcry and bad press for the Kremlin every time a Russian journalist met a grisly end, Putin figured out a better way to keep the press in line: economics.
It occurs to me that the President’s ‘Fake News” rants are setting the stage where quiet official pressure adds to the difficulties already faced by news organizations.
The probability for self-censorship emerges as others in the media become aware of the economic forces already in motion suppressing the left/liberal media.
I visited Think Progress as part of the research for this article, thinking of including the President’s recent endorsement of conspiracy-fringe site MagaPill as part of the story. What I saw at the bottom of Judd Legum’s article relates to reports by Alternet and other internet-based media of unexplained traffic declines, likely driven by tweaks in search engine algorithms.
It seems as though executives at the ad networks utilized by Think Progress and others have now created a new class of sites by tagging them as “controversial political content.” Think Progress is not a clickbait site (those are apparently still okay) and has a long history of responsible reporting.
I remember from the early 1970s how the underground press slowly withered away, following a few discreet phone calls from the FBI to executives of the record companies regularly buying advertising.
The antidote for this kind of unofficial suppression is direct support from everyday people. I encourage you to subscribe or donate to media you find useful–this is, after all, giving Tuesday. (You can subscribe to the SD Free Press here–it’s free! Or you can donate here.)
Counting on Special Counsel Robert Mueller or (most of) the elected congresscritters to stem the tide of reaction is not the answer.
In the long term, the way this rollback of history will be thwarted is through building local political power. Running (or supporting progressive candidates) for school board, county assessor, or neighborhood planning groups is a first step toward rebuilding democracy.
Looking for some action? Check out the Weekly Progressive Calendar, published every Friday in this space, featuring Demonstrations, Rallies, Teach-ins, Meet Ups and other opportunities to get your activism on.
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