March 12, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 8:12 PM


A former producer of the largest Fox show calls Trump supporters inbred 'terrorists' (Sarah K. Burris, March 12, 2023, raw Story)

In an exchange with Carlson and Shah, the former Trump adviser, explained that Sidney Powell claimed that she had an affidavit that would prove a link between Dominion and Venezuela. Shah called it absurd.

"Might wanna address this, but this stuff is so [****] insane. Vote rigging to the tune of millions? C'mon," Shah wrote.

Carlson's then-producer, Alex Pfeiffer, followed up: "It is so insane but our viewers believe it so addressing again how her stupid Venezuela affidavit isn't proof might insult them."

Shah encouraged Carlson to talk about it, saying it was "not new info, not proof" and then to quickly "pivot to being deferential."

Pfeiffer, who now runs his own public affairs company according to his LinkedIn page, called the wavering "surreal."

"Like negotiating with terrorists," he told the other men. "But especially dumb ones. Cousin [*****] types not Saudi royalty."

"Pander faster, I hear banjos..."

Posted by orrinj at 5:30 PM


A Tampa teen was racially harassed by her teacher. He's bullied students for years. (Bethany Barnes, 3/12/23, Tampa Times)

Until her teacher brought up her race, it had been an otherwise unremarkable American government class at Wharton High. One of Melanie Copeland's parents was Black, the other white. Her teacher, Todd Harvey, wanted to know what she put as her race on government forms.

What she should put, he told her, was "mutt."

Melanie struggled to process what was happening. Did her teacher really just call her a dog?

She remembers Harvey grinning, while she and other students sat stunned.

Mr. Harvey is a tall, mercurial white man who has taught in Hillsborough County Public Schools since the late '90s, after working as a salesman and briefly pitching in the minor leagues for the Kansas City Royals. He's spent the bulk of his career at Wharton High, which serves mostly students of color.

The impact of Melanie's 2017 encounter with Mr. Harvey has been lasting, proving so haunting she wrote her college admission essay about it. The summer after her high school graduation, she read a Tampa Bay Times story about Blake High mishandling sexual harassment complaints that later prompted the federal government to investigate.

Melanie emailed the Times.

"I thought I was the only one who had a serious problem with Hillsborough County trying to sweep things under the rug," she wrote.

What she didn't know is that students and parents had complained about Mr. Harvey since before she was born.

Yeah, but the bookshelves in his classroom are exquisitely curated!

Posted by orrinj at 5:23 PM


Fox News Edits Out Trump Saying He Might've Let Russia 'Take Over' Parts of Ukraine (Justin Baragona, Mar. 07, 2023, Daily Beast)

Donald Trump has long insisted that the Ukraine war would have never happened if he were still president, going so far as to blame the "rigged election" on Russia's unprovoked invasion while claiming he had the magic words to stop the fighting "immediately."

During a radio interview with Fox News host (and longtime confidant) Sean Hannity on Monday, the twice-impeached ex-president finally revealed how he personally would have prevented the war. According to Trump, all he needed to do was let Russia "take over" parts of Ukraine.

Not that he generally pays his debts, but Donald never did pay off on his promise to reward Vlad if he interfered in the election. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:46 PM


FBI: Michigan man threatened to "kill anyone who tries to take my guns" (Shawna Chen, 3/12/23, Axios)

A Michigan man has been arrested and charged with illegally possessing firearms after repeatedly threatening to kill President Biden, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), FBI agents and LGBTQ people.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why Tucker Carlson still promotes Jan. 6 Capitol attack lies -- and sympathetic audiences believe them (Steve Reilly and Khaya Himmelman, March 7, 2023, Grid)

The repetition of false claims is a method of deflection, experts said. Partisan actors continue to push false narratives about Jan. 6, and sympathetic audiences continue to believe them, because they reframe the blame away from the people responsible for inciting the events whom they view as allies, senior analyst for NewsGuard Lorenzo Arvanitis said.

"Spreading and believing these narratives is both politically and morally expedient," he said.

And, like Carlson, those who spread misinformation about Pelosi and Jan. 6 likely know that what they are saying is not true, said Inga Kristina Trauthig, researcher at the Propaganda Research Lab at the University of Texas at Austin. It's simply a way for Republicans, like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), to try to discredit their political opponents.

"If you want to do harm to your political opponent that is a tactic to discredit main figures," Trauthig said. "And if that works, then you home in on that."

It's also about playing the long game. Repeating these false narratives about the attack on the Capitol is a way for the Republican Party and its allies to prepare for the next election cycle, said Yotam Ophir, professor of communication at the University at Buffalo. While lying is generally considered discrediting to the speaker, when the lie is expedient to political allies the lies can work to discredit the subject of the lie. In this case, it's a strategy to delegitimize figures on the left, and promote the persistent narrative that Democrats are attempting to systematically cheat their way into power, he added.

News organizations like Fox News that work with right-wing figures to amplify lies about Jan. 6 are "conducting an unhealthy, systematically biased relationship between one party and one media channel," Ophir said. For Fox News, he said, these lies are profitable because it's a way to drive engagement. [...]

Fact-checking works insofar as people who see the fact checks are more accurate for having seen it, said Ethan Porter, professor of media and public affairs and of political science at George Washington University. But, Porter emphasized, even though fact checks work in reducing belief in misinformation, they are still limited.

When we speak about misinformation, he added, we aren't simply talking about its effect on the accuracy of people's beliefs, but on other attitudes, too.

"It might be the case that if you if you were exposed to misinformation about Jan. 6, the effects are not just going to be measurable on the accuracy of your beliefs about Jan. 6," he said, "but it might further radicalize you, or it might lead you to become skeptical of democracy, or it might have these sorts of other downstream effects on you."

In other words, the ability of fact checks to influence these other downstream effects appears to be limited.

And then, of course, there are those who more deliberately resist fact checks about Jan. 6 specifically to avoid exposure to anything that might interfere with their partisan predilections. "From the perspective of the average Republican, misinformation persists because fact-check exposure is pretty limited," Porter said.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Cut the politics. Phonics is the best way to teach reading. (The Editorial Board, March 11, 2023, Washington Post)

The so-called reading wars have been raging for decades now, sometimes pitting teachers against publishers or publishers against academicians -- and also sometimes, as too many things do these days, pitting progressives against conservatives or Democrats against Republicans. That's unfortunate, because -- as perhaps too few things do these days -- the debate over how best to teach children to read lends itself to a conclusive answer. That's phonics.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Orwell, Camus and truthOn honesty as an attitude (William Fear, 12 March, 2023, The Critic)

One phrase from Nineteen Eighty-Four should be familiar to us all, even to those who might not have actually read the novel: 

There comes a time in history when the man who dares to say that two and two make four is punished with death.

Except of course, these words are not Orwell's at all. This is a quote from Albert Camus' novel La Peste, which was published two years before Nineteen Eighty-Four, in 1947. Of course, the formulation of two and two making five has a history that predates both Orwell and Camus, but Orwell used a very similar version of it as far back as 1939, in a review of a book by Bertrand Russell in Adelphi:

It is quite possible that we are descending into an age in which two plus two will make five when the Leader says so

The similarity between these lines is patent. Is it possible that Camus got the idea from Orwell's article? Yes, but such things are nearly impossible to prove. Still, it is not important whether Camus was taking influence from Orwell's writing (although an interesting possibility). What's important about this example is that it exposes common ground. These quotes embody a foundational principle that united their work: a shared anxiety over the fragility of truth.  

The political turbulence of twentieth-century Europe forced both Camus and Orwell to confront the question of truth as a matter of necessity, even and especially among their own colleagues and friends. When Orwell returned from Spain, he found that many of his fellow journalists had taken the view that Stalin was - by all accounts - a force for good. As a result, he found his pieces were being declined by publications that would've normally accepted them. One such publication was the New Statesman, the editor of which - Kingsley Martin - rejected one of Orwell's pieces on the grounds that it contravened the "political policy" of the paper. Understandably, annoyed Orwell, as many of his comrades from the POUM and other socialist militia groups were still facing incarceration and torture at the hands of pro-Soviet militant groups in Spain. He said in a letter to an editor of the New Statesman, "I think it would be better if I did not write for you again ... I have got to stand by my friends, which may involve attacking the New Statesman when I think they are covering up important issue". 

This debacle would foster in Orwell an enduring hatred of Kingsley Martin, Orwell going so far as to move tables when he saw Martin at lunch, so that he didn't have to look at his "corrupt face".

Camus had similar problems in Paris. When Camus published The Rebel in 1951, it made him very unpopular indeed with his own side, creating a rift between Camus and his fellow intellectual Jean-Paul Sartre. Camus' reputation as a public intellectual would suffer as a result of the publication of The Rebel, as its condemnation of Marxism led many intellectuals on the left to ostracise him. Andy Martin's book The Boxer and The Goal Keeper (2012), features a questionable but nevertheless illustrative anecdote about how tense things became: while defending Arthur Koestler in an argument against Merleau-Ponty, Camus became so riled by Merleau-Ponty's indifference to the Soviet purges, that Camus wrangled him into a headlock and threatened to punch him. Camus, it seems, was a passionate man in every respect. Camus wrote about the effect this ideological abandonment had on him in his private letters: "everyone is against me, is remorselessly seeking a share in my destruction; no one ever proffers his hand, comes to my aid, shows me affection for who I am."

Both Camus and Orwell are rightly credited with being "antitotalitarian" writers. And yet their reasons for being so are not wholly political. They were antitotalitarian not just because they opposed totalitarian regimes, but because they both understood that the totalitarian mindset requires you accept that truth comes from ideology. If the ideas say something is true, it becomes true, and is true. For Fascists and Communists, ideology is not merely a set of values or beliefs, but a cohesive explanation of the past, present and future of mankind. This is what Camus referred to in The Rebel as the desire "to make the earth a kingdom where man is God". Orwell and Camus both understood the dangers of such thinking, and sought to repudiate it in their work.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Tolerance of Texts (Joseph Pearce, March 9th, 2023, Imaginative Conservative)

As Chesterton reminds us, angels can fly because they take themselves lightly whereas the devil falls through the force of his own gravity. Those who spurn humility and follow the creeds of Pride take themselves far too seriously. Theirs is the only perspective permissible. Other perspectives are offensive and must not be tolerated.

Against such Pride, we can counter with the words attributed (erroneously) to Voltaire: "I may disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

In the final analysis, freedom is not possible without freedom of speech, and tolerance is not possible without the tolerance of texts with which we disapprove. The lack of such tolerance leads to the banning of books and the banning of people. Ultimately, so history proves, it leads to the burning of books and the mass execution of people.

It's fun watching Tiny Trump and co. both rage at the Left over Dr. Seuss and Roald Dahl and at the possibility a schoolkid might read about Jim Crow,

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Bill Sammon, the Deer HunterHow the former managing editor of Fox News kept his head while everyone else seemed to be losing theirs. (Chris Stirewalt, Mar 6, 2023, The Dispatch)

Like all people through all time, many Americans today would like to have the good things that come from wealth and power but not to face the hard choices that the pursuit of these things invariably bring to those who wish to be ethical people. They set out to succeed as political leaders, or business tycoons, or celebrities, or journalists, but don't think about the implications. And when the time comes to pull the trigger--to risk reelection, economic loss, influence, or audience in order to do what they set out to do--they fail.

Too few of us are like my old boss, Bill Sammon, who, as managing editor for the Fox News Channel, faced extraordinary pressure to flinch at a crucial moment in the work he had set out to do as a journalist. Americans now know some of the story about how Sammon stayed steady and purposeful when his bosses and so many at our then employer were surrendering to fear. 

"Weak ratings make good journalists do bad things," Bill wrote to me in a private email during the period of panic at Fox following our correct call of Arizona for Joe Biden in 2020. I didn't remember the email until I read it in the wall-to-wall coverage of the suit against Fox by Dominion Voting Systems. But I did remember how steady and sure he was, and how I counted on him to keep his head while everyone else seemed to be losing theirs. 

But now the story is out, including how Bill was sacrificed to send "a big message with Trump people." I got tossed overboard, too. But sacking Bill is the only part that still sticks in my craw. I know how good he was, and how he stayed straight even when the weight of the world was coming down on him.

"Morals excite passions, and produce or prevent actions. Reason of itself is utterly impotent in this particular," David Hume wrote in A Treatise of Human Nature. "The rules of morality therefore, are not conclusions of our reason."