Category Archives: Media/Journalism

The Myth of the Alt-Left

Sam Kriss writes for Politico:

GettyImages-832184054.jpgThe words “alt-left” sounded strange coming from Donald Trump’s mouth, but then most words do. After a weekend of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left three dead, including an anti-fascist activist murdered by the far right, Trump has refused to unequivocally condemn the “alt-right” neo-Nazis responsible for the violence. Instead, he complains that his exterminationist supporters have been treated “very unfairly.” What about the violence of the anti-fascists, he wants to know: “What about the fact that they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem?”

The existence of this strange and terrifying alt-left is new to most people; Trump’s mention of it seemed like a transparent attempt to somehow pretend that the murderousness of the Nazis and the Klan is no worse than the people forced to defend themselves against it. And that’s exactly what the idea of an “alt-left” is. But not in the way you might think.

After Trump announced the existence of the alt-left on live TV, media outlets scurried to tell the world exactly where the term emerged from. CBS explains that it “came out of the conservative media.” CNN, quoting a director at the Anti-Defamation League, describes it as a “made-up term used by people on the right.” Heavy.com writes that “the term ‘alt-left’ began being used by the online conservative media in 2016 before it slowly migrated to more mainstream conservative voices, like Fox News’ Sean Hannity.” (Hannity, who repeatedly uses the term on his TV show, seems to be getting widespread credit.) The British Telegraph newspaper, meanwhile, flatters the president with a power of logodaedaly he definitely doesn’t have, claiming the phrase was “coined by Mr Trump” himself.

None of these explanations is really true. The term “alt-left” was probably simultaneously invented hundreds or thousands of times, always bearing a slightly different meaning depending on its inventor. But up until now, the people who most forcefully pushed the idea of an alt-left weren’t Nazis or 4chan posters or anyone else in the orbit of Trump and pro-Trump Republicans trying to invent a mythical opposite to the alt-right. The alt-left is, first and foremost, a figment of centrist Democrats.

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John Oliver’s Alex Jones Segment Explored Bizarre Products Sold By InfoWars

Lani Seelinger writes for Bustle:

Image result for john oliver alex jonesLast night on Last Week Tonight, John Oliver delved into something that it’s usually more pleasant to stay far, far away from: Alex Jones and Infowars. Instead of just showing the usual clips of Jones spouting conspiracy theories, John Oliver’s segment on Alex Jones explored the collection of strange products that Jones, or as Oliver dubbed him, “the Walter Cronkite of shrieking batshit gorilla clowns,” sells on the Infowars website.

In one of his four-hour long broadcasts, Jones complained about John Oliver just taking his words of of context. Oliver, then, segued into his main segment of the night by pledging to do exactly the opposite. “People are right,” Oliver said, “That people don’t present [Jones] in his full context. So tonight, we’re going to do that.”

Oliver then dedicated quite a lot of time and energy to showing that rather than just lecturing people on the evils of chemicals in tap water, Jones actually lectures people about the evil chemicals in tap water and then pivots right around to selling products meant to get rid of those chemicals. “If you play small clips in isolation, he looks like a loon,” Oliver said. “But, if you play them in context, he looks like a skilled salesman spending hours a day frightening you about problems like refugees spreading disease and then selling you an answer.”

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The Washington Post Worships Principled, Humanitarian McCain That’s Never Existed

Adam Johnson writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

Washington Post: What We Can All Learn From John McCainIn a fawning editorial Saturday (7/22/17), pillar of the national security establishment the Washington Post fell over itself to commend a John McCain that never existed, instead lavishing praise on a well-curated PR facsimile developed over decades.

After praising McCain for issuing a “toughly worded criticism” on Twitter of Donald Trump for allegedly ending an entirely pointless, destructive and likely illegal CIA program supporting unnamed “rebels” in Syria (the highest act of moral courage for the Post is gunrunning to CIA proxies), the Fred Hiatt–run editorial board proceeds to paint McCain as the antidote to the problem of “partisan warfare, where politicians will say just about anything at all, true or untrue, to gain an advantage.”

This is clearly meant to be an opaque shot at Trump, but the Post is too cowardly to say so outright, much like McCain was too cowardly to actually vote against any of Trump’s cabinet—aside from the OMB director who McCain only opposed because he believed he would cut defense budgets. Never mind, the Washington Post had a childhood hero to worship:

And all over this world, Mr. McCain is associated with freedom and democracy. He has championed human rights with verve and tirelessness — speaking out against repression and authoritarianism, and inviting — no, cajoling — his colleagues, both Republicans and Democrats, to bear witness with him on trips abroad. He has frequently welcomed victims of repression to the corridors of the capital, too, giving them succor and encouragement in the fight against tyranny.

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Leftwing Breitbart? Chapo Trap House is a Strong New Voice in Resistance to Trump

Edward Helmore writes for The Guardian:

Image result for Chapo Trap HouseIt has been called the leftwing alternative to Breitbart – a subversive, humorous and politics-focused new media presence that has attracted a devoted following on both sides of the Atlantic.

Chapo Trap House has mostly attracted followers of Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders, but recently it burst into the mainstream US media when a dispute erupted between the podcast’s provocative, hard-left commentators and the New Republic, a stately institution of polite neoliberalism.

As part of a takedown of the “dirtbag left”, the century-old commentary magazine noted that a phrase used by Chapo’s Brooklyn-based hosts had prompted outrage in some quarters.

In a recent edition, co-host Will Menaker said – not for the first time – that Clintonian liberalism was the architect of its own defeat. “But get this through your fucking head,” he said. “You must bend the knee to us. Not the other way around. You have been proven as failures, and your entire worldview has been discredited.”

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Washington DC’s Role Behind the Scenes in Hollywood Goes Deeper Than You Think

Matthew Alford, teaching fellow of propaganda theory at University of Bath and the co-author of National Security Cinema, writes for The Conversation:

The US government and Hollywood have always been close. Washington DC has long been a source of intriguing plots for filmmakers and LA has been a generous provider of glamour and glitz to the political class.

But just how dependant are these two centres of American influence? Scrutiny of previously hidden documents reveals that the answer is: very.

We can now show that the relationship between US national security and Hollywood is much deeper and more political than anyone has ever acknowledged.

It is a matter of public record that the Pentagon has had an Entertainment Liaison Office since 1948. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) established a similar position in 1996. Although it was known that they sometimes request script changes in exchange for advice, permission to use locations, and equipment like aircraft carriers, each appeared to have passive, and largely apolitical roles.

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Manufacturing Bob Marley

Hua Hsu writes for The New Yorker:

Image result for bob marleyWhen Bob Marley died, on May 11, 1981, at the age of thirty-six, he did not leave behind a will. He had known that the end was near. Seven months earlier, he had collapsed while jogging in Central Park. Melanoma, which was first diagnosed in 1977 but left largely untreated, had spread throughout his body. According to Danny Sims, Marley’s manager at the time, a doctor at Sloan Kettering said that the singer had “more cancer in him than I’ve seen with a live human being.” As Sims recalled, the doctor estimated that Marley had just a few months to live, and that “he might as well go back out on the road and die there.”

Marley played his final show on September 23, 1980, in Pittsburgh. During the sound check, he sang Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” over and over. He asked a close friend to stay near the stage and watch him, in case anything happened. The remaining months of his life were an extended farewell, as he sought treatment, first in Miami and then in New York. Cindy Breakspeare, Marley’s main companion in the mid-seventies, remembered his famed dreadlocks becoming too heavy for his weakened frame. One night, she and a group of women in Marley’s orbit, including his wife, Rita (to whom he had remained married, despite it being years since they were faithful to one another), gathered to light candles, read passages from the Bible, and cut his dreadlocks off.

Drafting a will was probably the last thing on Marley’s mind as his body, which he had carefully maintained with long afternoons of soccer, rapidly broke down. Marley was a Rastafarian, subscribing to a millenarian, Afrocentric interpretation of Scripture that took hold in Jamaica in the nineteen-thirties. By conventional Western standards, the Rastafarian movement can seem both uncompromising (it espouses fairly conservative views on gender and requires a strict, all-natural diet) and appealingly lax (it has a communal ethos, which often involves liberal ritual use of marijuana). For Marley, dealing with his estate probably signified a surrender to the forces of Babylon, the metaphorical site of oppression and Western materialism that Rastas hope to escape. When he died, in Miami, his final words to his son Stephen were “Money can’t buy life.”

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When Did Music Journalism Stop Wielding the Axe?

Luke Turner, co-founder of The Quietus, writes for Crack Magazine:

Image result for music journalismAs a result of changes in how we consume media, music journalism is increasingly in flux. This unstable climate, The Quietus’ Luke Turner argues, has all but stamped out the flames of negative criticism. Who are critics writing for today, and why should they resist the suppression of honest reviews?

It’s a curious sensation to watch something you love being bludgeoned to death in front of you. I’d not want to do it to anyone’s cat, dog, or gerbil. But albums are a different matter and, at the moment, there’s not enough stomping going on. At The Quietus, the online music magazine I co-founded, I recently wrote a hatchet on risible trip-hop nostalgists Public Service Broadcasting for their dire LP Every Valley, a tacky and inept album that turns the collapse of the Welsh mining industry into a gin-in-a-jam-jar musical turn at a bunting-strewn village fête.

The online reaction was not merely people agreeing or disagreeing with what I’d written, but surprise that such a critical review had been published. Bootings are, it seems, becoming a thing of the past – a relic of the print music press of the 80s and 90s. This is a troubled time for music-focused editorial websites generally. It’s recently transpired that writers for MTV News – which had undergone a politicised makeover not long ago – had their editorial freedoms restricted after Chance the Rapper and Kings of Leon threatened to no longer work with the channel. A new “reshuffle” has seen many MTV writers get the axe, while Vice announced the end of its dance music portal Thump. In both cases, writers have been laid off to prioritise video content.

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Documents Expose How Hollywood Promotes War on Behalf of the Pentagon, CIA and NSA

Tom Secker and Matthew Alford, authors of National Security Cinema, report for Insurge Intelligence:

When we first looked at the relationship between politics, film and television at the turn of the 21st century, we accepted the consensus opinion that a small office at the Pentagon had, on request, assisted the production of around 200 movies throughout the history of modern media, with minimal input on the scripts.

How ignorant we were.

More appropriately, how misled we had been.

We have recently acquired 4,000 new pages of documents from the Pentagon and CIA through the Freedom of Information Act. For us, these documents were the final nail in the coffin.

These documents for the first time demonstrate that the US government has worked behind the scenes on over 800 major movies and more than 1,000 TV titles.

The previous best estimate, in a dry academic book way back in 2005, was that the Pentagon had worked on less than 600 films and an unspecified handful of television shows.

The CIA’s role was assumed to be just a dozen or so productions, until very good books by Tricia Jenkins and Simon Willmetts were published in 2016. But even then, they missed or underplayed important cases, including Charlie Wilson’s War and Meet the Parents.

Alongside the massive scale of these operations, our new book National Security Cinema details how US government involvement also includes script rewrites on some of the biggest and most popular films, including James Bond, the Transformers franchise, and movies from the Marvel and DC cinematic universes.

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Why the Media Really Hates ‘War Machine’

Scott Beauchamp writes for The American Conservative:

War Machine, the new Netflix original movie starring Brad Pitt playing a disturbingly over-confident General based on Stanley McChrystal, is controversial for all the wrong reasons.

First there was the kerfuffle at Cannes, where Netflix was booed for breaking tradition by submitting films that would be released on laptops instead of theaters. Then there was the casting of Brad Pitt, which some categorized as a colossal misstep. Variety said that the almost surreal comic role should “have gone to John Goodman, or some comparably gifted character actor.” And then there’s the focus of the film itself. Is it an “irrelevant and brash” alpha-male misfire? Or an “assured and nervy black satire” that tries to have it both ways by mocking the war even as it sympathizes too heavily with the officers who wage it?

What gets ignored in all of these various reactions is the reality of the ongoing war itself and how this film relates to it. Sure, it’s novel and interesting that online streaming companies are producing original films. And of course the wisdom of casting a Peter Pan hunk like Brad Pitt as an American general is up for debate. But isn’t the real scandal that there’s an ongoing occupation to critique at all? If the film comes off as brash, it’s because it conveys an irreverent confidence that almost seems to anticipate the media missing the forest for the trees. A major theme of the film is, after all, how mass media fails us on a moral level, always transforming events that require somber moral reflection into superficial sleaze. And so I can’t help but wonder if reviews of War Machine have been so uniformly unfavorable because of the disconnect between the ongoing war and popular culture, and how the film implicates the media in sustaining that rift.

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Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse Warns Against ‘Weaponizing Distrust’

Susan Wright reports for Red State:

Image result for Ben Sasse Warns Against “Weaponizing Distrust”Leave it to Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse to be the voice of reason.

Again.

While President Trump is intent on ramping up the caustic rhetoric towards the media, cooler heads, like that of Sasse, are stepping forward and speaking real truth.

Said Sasse:

“I mean there’s an important distinction to draw between bad stories or crappy coverage, and the right that citizens have to argue about that and complain about that, and trying to weaponize distrust,” Sasse told host Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“And it’s not helpful to call the press ‘the enemy of the American people,’” Sasse added, referring to a past comment by the president. Sasse warned such rhetoric could lead to a new form of “tribalism.”

He’s absolutely right.

Donald Trump is not the first president to get bad coverage from the media. He’s the first to dissolve into a ranting puddle of crazy over it, though.

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How the Left Lost Its Mind

McKay Coppins writes for The Atlantic:

[…] Over the past two decades, an immense amount of journalistic energy was spent exploring the right-wing media ecosystem—from talk radio, to Fox News, to Breitbart and beyond—and documenting its growing influence on mainstream GOP politics. This turned out to be a worthy and prescient pursuit, and if any doubt remains about that, I’d present “President Donald Trump” as Exhibit A. While serious Republicans in the political class spent years scoffing at the “entertainers” and “provocateurs” on the supposedly powerless fringe, the denizens of the fever swamp were busy taking over the party.

But 2017 poses the question: Could the same thing happen on the left?

It’s a prospect that deserves more serious attention and debate than it’s gotten this year. The Trump era has given rise to a vast alternative left-wing media infrastructure that operates largely out of the view of casual news consumers, but commands a massive audience and growing influence in liberal America. There are polemical podcasters and partisan click farms; wild-eyed conspiracists and cynical fabulists. Some traffic heavily in rumor and wage campaigns of misinformation; others are merely aggregators and commentators who have carved out a corner of the web for themselves. But taken together, they form a media universe where partisan hysteria is too easily stoked, and fake news can travel at the speed of light.

Before we go on, let me try to quiet the cries of “False equivalence!” before they begin: No, these personalities and publications do not yet wield the same influence in the Democratic Party that their counterparts do in the GOP. But ignoring them would be a mistake. In recent months, some of the most irresponsible actors in this world have proven alarmingly adept at influencing venerated figures of the left—from public intellectuals, to world-famous celebrities, to elected officials.

What follows is an attempt to map the topography of the left’s modern alternative media landscape. It is by no means comprehensive, but hopefully it provides a useful start to the kind of exploration and anthropology that’s needed.

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New NRA Video and Trump’s Media Attacks Are Symptoms of America in Decline

Jaisal Noor speaks with historian Gerald Horne about Trump’s latest attack on the media and an alarming new NRA recruitment video. (The Real News)

Al-Jazeera, Insurgent TV Station That Divides the Arab World, Faces Closure

Hugh Miles, author of Al-Jazeera: How Arab TV News Challenged the World, writes for The Guardian:

Image result for Al-JazeeraOn Monday a bold and controversial experiment in Middle Eastern media and politics may be abruptly brought to an end. Al-Jazeera – once heralded as the beacon of free Arab media that broke the hegemony of the western networks and reversed the flow of information from east to west for the first time since the middle ages – faces closing its doors for good.

On 23 June, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt subjected Qatar to unprecedented diplomatic and economic sanctions, followed by an aggressive blockade and threats of further action if Qatar fails to meet a list of 13 demands, one of which is to shut down the al-Jazeera network.

If Doha capitulates – and there are no signs it will – it will effectively have lost its sovereignty and become a vassal state of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Yet defying the deadline could lead to regime change in Qatar, or even war.

Whatever happens, it is a credit to al-Jazeera that, 21 years after its launch, it is still so disruptive and challenging to those in power. Few other media outlets can claim to be so influential. But al-Jazeera is not like other broadcasters. It is a unique phenomenon which, since it started broadcasting in 1996, has revolutionised the Arab media, and in 2010 played a major role in bringing about a real political revolution across much of the Arab world.

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As Democratic Voters Shift Left, ‘Liberal Media’ Keep Shifting Right

Adam Johnson writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR):

Daily Beast: MSNBC Hires Conservative Columnist Bret StephensIn the past few years, the Democratic Party’s rank and file have shifted left on major issues. From healthcare to legalization of drugs to taxes, the heart of the party has grown more progressive—and, in many instances, overtly socialist in nature. Forty-seven percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents now identify as both socially liberal and economically moderate or liberal, up from 39 percent in 2008 and 30 percent in 2001.

In contrast, nominally liberal media—or major media whose editorial line is reliably pro-Democratic—have drifted rightward. On Wednesday, MSNBC announced it had hired torture-supportingclimate-denyinganti-Arab racist Bret Stephens, a recent hire at the New York Times opinion page. Stephens—whose very first article at the Times had to be corrected due to his misunderstanding of basic climate science—will be an “on-air contributor” for both MSNBC and NBC.

This pickup continues a conservative hiring spree at MSNBC, including former George Bush adviser Nicolle Wallace, right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt, old-school conservative Washington Postcolumnist George Will, and former Fox News stars Greta Van Susteren and Megyn Kelly (though Van Susteren’s show has already been canceled due to comically low ratings).

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The National Enquirer’s Fervor for Trump

Jeffrey Toobin writes for The New Yorker:

Image result for The National Enquirer’s Fervor for Trump[…] The Enquirer is defined by its predatory spirit—its dedication to revealing that celebrities, far from leading ideal lives, endure the same plagues of disease, weight gain, and family dysfunction that afflict everyone else. For much of the tabloid’s history, it has specialized in investigations into the foibles of public personalities, including politicians. In 1987, the Enquirer published a photograph of Senator Gary Hart with his mistress Donna Rice, in front of a boat called the Monkey Business, which doomed Hart’s Presidential candidacy. Two decades later, the magazine broke the news that John Edwards had fathered a child out of wedlock during his Presidential race. When Donald Trump decided to run for President, some people at the Enquirer assumed that the magazine would apply the same scrutiny to the candidate’s colorful personal history. “We used to go after newsmakers no matter what side they were on,” a former Enquirer staffer told me. “And Trump is a guy who is running for President with a closet full of baggage. He’s the ultimate target-rich environment. The Enquirer had a golden opportunity, and they completely looked the other way.”

Throughout the 2016 Presidential race, the Enquirer embraced Trump with sycophantic fervor. The magazine made its first political endorsement ever, of Trump, last spring. Cover headlines promised, “donald trump’s revenge on hillary & her puppets” and “top secret plan inside: how trump will win debate!” The publication trashed Trump’s rivals, running a dubious cover story on Ted Cruz that described him as a philanderer and another highly questionable piece that linked Cruz’s father to the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

It was even tougher on Hillary Clinton, regularly printing such headlines as “ ‘sociopath’ hillary clinton’s secret psych files exposed!” A 2015 piece began, “Failing health and a deadly thirst for power are driving Hillary Clintonto an early grave, The National Enquirer has learned in a bombshell investigation. The desperate and deteriorating 67-year-old won’t make it to the White House—because she’ll be dead in six months.” On election eve, the Enquirer offered a special nine-page investigation under the headline “hillary: corruptracistcriminal!” This blatantly skewed coverage continued after Trump took office. Post-election cover stories included “trump takes chargesuccess in just 36 days!” and “proof obama wiretapped trumplies, leaks & illegal bugging.

Pecker and Trump have been friends for decades—their professional and personal lives have intersected in myriad ways—and Pecker acknowledges that his tabloids’ coverage of Trump has a personal dimension. All Presidents seek to influence the media, but Trump enjoys unusual advantages in this regard. He is also in close contact with Rupert Murdoch, whose empire includes Fox News and the Wall Street Journal. (While the Times and the Washington Post have produced repeated scoops about Trump and Russia, the Journal, which employs a large investigative staff, has largely been silent on the issue.) Unlike Murdoch, Pecker heads a fading and vaguely comic archetype of Americana; sales of the Enquirer are down ninety per cent from their peak in 1970. But the impact of the tabloids, particularly their covers, remains substantial. A.M.I. claims that a hundred million people see the Enquirer in more than two hundred thousand checkout lines around the country every week. And the Enquirer’s covers invariably include statements about celebrities that are deeply misleading, if libel-law-compliant, as well as claims about politicians that are outright lies.

Pecker is now considering expanding his business: he may bid to take over the financially strapped magazines of Time, Inc., which include TimePeople, and Fortune. Based on his stewardship of his own publications, Pecker would almost certainly direct those magazines, and the journalists who work for them, to advance the interests of the President and to damage those of his opponents—which makes the story of the Enquirer and its chief executive a little more important and a little less funny.

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Gawker Is Dead, But the Forces That Destroyed It Are Still Very Much Alive

James West writes for Mother Jones:

In June 2016, Gawker Media filed for bankruptcy and put itself up for auction. The company’s high-profile demise came after it lost a $140 million libel lawsuit brought by wrestler Hulk Hogan, whose sex tape had made its way to Gawker‘s readers in 2012.

Soon after the verdict, we found out that PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel—a prominent Trump supporter—was secretly funding the lawsuit in apparent revenge for a 2007 Gawker article outing him as gay. Thiel hated Gawker and its family of blogs. In 2009, Thiel said Valleywag, a tech blog owned by Gawker, possessed the “psychology of a terrorist.”

The mogul called the Hogan verdict “one of my greater philanthropic things that I’ve done.”

A new Netflix film released Friday tracks the bizarre twists and turns of the Gawkercase and its larger-than-life characters—and what happens when a secretive billionaire takes a big grudge to court and wins.

Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press also examines this moment of crisis for American newsrooms facing the dual threats of haemorrhaging revenue and public distrust in the time of Trump—and how the likes of Peter Thiel and billionaire casino-owner and conservative donor Sheldon Adelson can take advantage of the crisis for their own purposes.

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The Megyn Kelly Interview with Infowars’ Alex Jones

Here’s the full segment of Megyn Kelly’s interview with right-wing talk radio host and conspiracy kingpin Alex Jones of Infowars. An interesting enough piece but there’s no mention of the role Matt Druge played in elevating Jones to his current position. Also included is Alex Jones’ response where he plays clips of the pre-interview phone call between  himself and Megyn Kelly. (NBC News/Infowars)

Hey Intercept, Something is Very Wrong with Reality Winner and the NSA Leak

Peter Van Buren writes:

An NSA document purporting to show Russian military hacker attempts to access a Florida company which makes voter registration software is sent anonymously to The Intercept. A low-level NSA contractor, Reality Winner, above, is arrested almost immediately. What’s wrong with this picture? A lot.

Who Benefits?

Start with the question of who benefits — cui bono— same as detectives do when assessing a crime.

— Trump looks bad as another trickle of information comes out connecting something Russian to something 2016 election. Intelligence community (IC) looks like they are onto something, a day or so before ousted FBI Director James Comey testifies before Congress on related matters.

— The Intercept looks like it contributed to burning a source. Which potential leaker is going to them in the future? If potential leakers are made to think twice, another win for the IC.

— The FBI made an arrest right away, nearly simultaneous to the publication, with the formal charges coming barely an hour after The Intercept published. The bust is sure thing according to the very publicly released information. No Ed Snowden hiding out in Russia this time. IC looks good here.

— More evidence is now in the public domain that the Russians are after our election process. Seems as if the IC has been right all along.

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NSA Contractor Charged for Leak After Intercept Exposé on Alleged Russian Hacking of 2016 Election

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak with security technologists Bruce Schneier and Jake Williams, who is a former member of the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations hacking team, after a military intelligence contractor was arrested and charged with leaking a top-secret NSA report to the media. (Democracy Now!) 

Roger Ailes Was One of the Worst Americans Ever

Matt Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone:

On the Internet today you will find thousands, perhaps even millions, of people gloating about the death of elephantine Fox News founder Roger Ailes. The happy face emojis are getting a workout on Twitter, which is also bursting with biting one-liners.

When I mentioned to one of my relatives that I was writing about the death of Ailes, the response was, “Say that you hope he’s reborn as a woman in Saudi Arabia.”

Ailes has no one but his fast-stiffening self to blame for this treatment. He is on the short list of people most responsible for modern America’s vicious and bloodthirsty character.

We are a hate-filled, paranoid, untrusting, book-dumb and bilious people whose chief source of recreation is slinging insults and threats at each other online, and we’re that way in large part because of the hyper-divisive media environment he discovered.

Ailes was the Christopher Columbus of hate. When the former daytime TV executive and political strategist looked across the American continent, he saw money laying around in giant piles. He knew all that was needed to pick it up was a) the total abandonment of any sense of decency or civic duty in the news business, and b) the factory-like production of news stories that spoke to Americans’ worst fantasies about each other.

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Democrats Are Falling For Fake News About Russia

Zack Beauchamp writes for Vox:

President Donald Trump is about to resign as a result of the Russia scandal. Bernie Sandersand Sean Hannity are Russian agents. The Russians have paid off House Oversight Chair Jason Chaffetz to the tune of $10 million, using Trump as a go-between. Paul Ryan is a traitor for refusing to investigate Trump’s Russia ties. Libertarian heroine Ayn Rand was a secret Russian agent charged with discrediting the American conservative movement.

These are all claims you can find made on a new and growing sector of the internet that functions as a fake news bubble for liberals, something I’ve dubbed the Russiasphere. The mirror image of Breitbart and InfoWars on the right, it focuses nearly exclusively on real and imagined connections between Trump and Russia. The tone is breathless: full of unnamed intelligence sources, certainty that Trump will soon be imprisoned, and fever dream factual assertions that no reputable media outlet has managed to confirm.

[…] The unfounded left-wing claims, like those on the right, are already seeping into the mainstream discourse. In March, the New York Times published an op-ed by Mensch instructing members of Congress as to how they should proceed with the Russia investigation (“I have some relevant experience,” she wrote). Two months prior to that, Mensch had penned a lengthy letter to Vladimir Putin titled “Dear Mr. Putin, Let’s Play Chess” — in which she claims to have discovered that Edward Snowden was part of a years-in-the-making Russian plot to discredit Hillary Clinton.

Last Thursday, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) was forced to apologize for spreading a false claim that a New York grand jury was investigating Trump and Russia. His sources, according to the Guardian’s Jon Swaine, were Mensch and Palmer.

Members of the Russiasphere see themselves as an essential counter to a media that’s been too cautious to get to the bottom of Trump’s Russian ties.

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Julian Assange Defiant as Sweden Drops Rape Investigation

BBC News reports:

Julian Assange speaks to reporters at the Ecuadorean embassy - 19 MayWikileaks founder Julian Assange has said he will not forgive and forget attempts to arrest him over rape allegations which led him to seek asylum in Ecuador’s London embassy.

Hailing an “important victory”, he said he was prepared for dialogue with the US and UK authorities.

Mr Assange, 45, is wanted in the US over the leaking of military and diplomatic documents.

Sweden said on Friday it had decided to drop its rape investigation.

Meanwhile Ecuador urged the UK to allow him safe passage out of the country.

The Wikileaks founder has chosen to remain in the embassy as he fears extradition to Sweden would lead to extradition to the US.

“Today is an important victory for me and the UN human rights system, but by no means erases seven years of detention without charge… while my children grew up. That is not something I can forgive or forget,” he told journalists from a balcony at the embassy.

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Alex Jones Settles Chobani Lawsuit, Retracts Comments About Refugees

David Montero reports for the Los Angeles Times:

Image result for alex jones chobaniAlex Jones backed down. Again.

The far-right conspiracy theorist agreed Wednesday to settle a defamation lawsuit filed against him by Greek yogurt manufacturer Chobani. The key component of the settlement agreement required him to retract inflammatory comments about refugees and the company he made on his Infowars broadcast last month.

“During the week of April 10, 2017, certain statements were made on the Infowars, Twitter feed and YouTube channel regarding Chobani LLC that I now understand to be wrong. The tweets and video have now been retracted, and will not be re-posted,” Jones said. “On behalf of Infowars, I regret that we mischaracterized Chobani, its employees and the people of Twin Falls, Idaho, the way we did.”

It marks the latest blow to Jones, who in March apologized and issued a retraction to a Washington, D.C.-based pizzeria for his broadcast’s role in pushing a false story about a child sex ring that involved Hillary Clinton.

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Alex Jones and Roger Stone: Trump Must Go After His Critics

Alex Jones and Roger Stone continue to show their fascist tendencies by calling on President Trump to go after his critics on the left and within the Democratic Party. (Right Wing Watch)

NPR Can’t Help Hyping North Korean Threat

Glen Frieden writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR):

NPR: As North Korea Acts Out, A Search for Kim Jong Un's MotivesUN Ambassador Nikki Haley told the UN Security Council on March 8 that “all options are on the table” regarding North Korea. Between then and April 27, NPR.org published 60 stories on US/North Korea relations.

[…] North Korea’s dictatorial government uses the threat of war as a propaganda tool against its own population—fostering loyalty to itself and its military establishment. As NPR’s own reporting (3/23/16) put it, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un “needs to establish his own legitimacy, and that means standing up to enemies.” According to Brookings’ Sheena Greitens, interviewed in that piece: “North Korea might use a range of strategies…but we should remember that they’re all aimed at the same underlying, fundamental objective: ensuring Kim’s political survival.”

If North Korea’s warlike propaganda is so transparent, what should we think of the US media? Of course, professional journalists claim to pursue the truth, and report it in nobody’s interest but the public’s. But what if even a “serious” outlet like National Public Radio launches a flurry of fear-mongering at a word from the Pentagon? A survey of its coverage since March 8 suggests that NPR has promoted the perspective of the US government at the expense of public understanding of US/North Korean relations. The construction of foreign “threats” benefits both a national government hungry for legitimacy—and news organizations hungry for an audience.

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Fake News, Echo Chambers and Filter Bubbles: Underresearched and Overhyped

Professor William H. Dutton reports for The Conversation:

In the early years of the internet, it was revolutionary to have a world of information just a click away from anyone, anywhere, anytime. Many hoped this inherently democratic technology could lead to better-informed citizens more easily participating in debate, elections and public discourse.

Today, though, many observers are concerned that search algorithms and social media are undermining the quality of online information people see. They worry that bad information may be weakening democracy in the digital age.

The problems include online services conveying fake news, splitting users into “filter bubbles” of like-minded people and enabling users to unwittingly lock themselves up in virtual echo chambers that reinforce their own biases.

These concerns are much discussed, but have not yet been thoroughly studied. What research does exist has typically been limited to a single platform, such Twitter or Facebook. Our study of search and politics in seven nations – which surveyed the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain in January 2017 – found these concerns to be overstated, if not wrong. In fact, many internet users trust search to help them find the best information, check other sources and discover new information in ways that can burst filter bubbles and open echo chambers.

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The Stephen Colbert Gay Joke Row is a Repulsively Cynical Ploy by Far-Right Homophobes

Lindy West writes for The Guardian:

Image result for Stephen Colbert gay joke[…] It’s important for progressives to have in-group conversations about how we talk about our political enemies and the people who hurt us. It matters (and it’s telling) when men jump straight to misogynist tropes when criticising rightwing commentator Ann Coulter, or when thin people use fatphobic slurs to decry New Jersey governor Chris Christie. It’s also important to keep a grip on nuance in those conversations, taking into account a person’s track record (Colbert was a staunch advocate of marriage equality) and intent and willingness to listen and change. And criticism within the arts is a living dialogue, not a hard-and-fast binary.

But as the Colbert situation mushroomed over the next few days, I realised that there was another potential reading of the man’s question. The far right, smelling an opportunity to manipulate the left into eating their own powerful and popular satirist, had pounced on Colbert. Oh, the homophobia, they wailed! Wasn’t it terrible? #FireColbert took hold on Twitter – strangely, not on the feeds of those oppressed by homophobia, but on the feeds of homophobes. That same week, Trump signed his executive order on religious liberty, which turned out to be a toothless dud, but was a symbolic nod to religious homophobes all the same. Colbert is now being investigated by the Federal Communications Commission, a relatively routine procedure, but alarming in the context of Trump’s obsession with punishing unfriendly media outlets and flirtation with amending the first amendment.

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Farewell to Matt Drudge

Justin Raimondo writes for Antiwar:

Related image[…] Yes, I’ve always been a big Drudge fan, which is why I was so thrilled to see him give Antiwar.com a permanent link, right between Adweek and The Atlantic – except, as it turned out, it wasn’t permanent.

About a week before President Trump bombed Syria, the Antiwar.com link on the Drudge Report disappeared.

What a coincidence!

As a conservative columnist who was a prominent supporter of Trump put it to me: “I didn’t know Jared Kushner was running the Drudge Report!”

Drudge has been pushing Trump from the beginning, which is his right. I reported favorably on many of Trump’s earlier foreign policy pronouncements, which is probably why Drudge added us to begin with: it’s too bad President Trump walked back the best aspects of his foreign policy agenda. Yet Drudge, and some – not all – of Trump’s supporters don’t seem to care about the President’s policy reversals: they’re just defending whatever he does. And that, I believe, accounts for the deletion of Antiwar.com from the Drudge Report: forget about the news you can’t get anywhere else that is published on this site. Never mind our large audience, which spans the globe. And who cares about our unique perspective? If it doesn’t fit into the Trumpian agenda – whatever that may be at any particular moment – then Matt has no use for us.

So be it.

This isn’t the first time one of my plaster gods turned out to be a disappointment, and it likely won’t be the last. We’re all of us susceptible to partisan prejudices, and we all have our little agendas, although I have to say I expected more from Drudge. I can’t even begin to describe the sinking feeling as I logged on to the Drudge Report, looked for the Antiwar.com link, and saw that it wasn’t there. For me, that link represented the only kind of legitimacy I had ever sought: recognition from one rebel to another that Antiwar.com had accomplished something real.

But I take it from where it comes: all too often, yesterday’s rebel is today’s Establishment shill. That’s just the way it is, and always will be.

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The Onion Struggles to Lampoon Trump

Charles Bethea reports for The New Yorker:

170320_r29594webIn January, 2013, Donald Trump’s special counsel, Michael Cohen, sent a letter to the Onion. The satirical online newspaper, whose Latin motto is Tu Stultus Es (“You Are Dumb”), had just published a piece under Trump’s byline, titled “When You’re Feeling Low, Just Remember I’ll Be Dead in About 15 or 20 Years.” The attorney threatened legal action. “Let me begin,” Cohen wrote, “by stating the obvious . . . that the commentary was not written by Mr. Trump. Secondly, the article is an absolutely disgusting piece that lacks any place in journalism; even in your Onion. I am hereby demanding that you immediately remove this disgraceful piece from your website and issue an apology to Mr. Trump.” The Onion gleefully declined to comply.

“We never apologized,” Cole Bolton, the site’s editor-in-chief, said recently at the Onion’s offices, in Chicago. “The article’s still up.”

Trump has been a target of the Onion for around two decades. “We’ve always thought of him as a horrendous buffoon, an objectionable person,” Bolton said. Still, the editor and his staff of sixteen mostly liberal writers and editors weren’t thrilled by the prospect of having to cover, even satirically, a Trump Presidency. “I felt a comedic dread,” Chad Nackers, the forty-three-year-old head writer, said. Nackers has satirized four Presidencies. His favorite was the Obama Administration, he said, “because Biden was a fucking blast.” Like many news outlets, just before this past election the Onion prepared headlines for both possible outcomes.

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Barrett Brown on Press Freedom, FBI Crimes and Why He Wouldn’t Do Anything Differently

Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh speak with investigative reporter Barrett Brown, who recently completed a four-year prison sentence related to the hacking of the private intelligence firm Stratfor, which exposed how the firm spied on activists on behalf of corporations. He was released from prison earlier this year but was unexpectedly rearrested late last month, one day ahead of a scheduled interview for an upcoming PBS documentary. Brown was detained for four days and then released without receiving any formal written explanation for the arrest. (Democracy Now!)