Where’s the Hatchet? The Washington Post’s final attempt to derail Kavanaugh

Friday, October 5: As Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination fight nears its final hour, the Washington Post made one last attempt to derail his confirmation by digging into Kavanaugh’s past. I expected the front-page story entitled “The rise and reckoning: Inside nominee’s circles of influence,” to bring out last minute hatchets finely honed in order to decapitate the candidate. What a let down!

The Post must have assigned their top investigative reporters. I can imagine them spending overtime hours on the phone with every last person to ever cross paths with Kavanaugh from high school to the present. They state their conclusion upfront: Kavanaugh had a circle of “friends, loyal and true . . . [who] made it their business to buff and defend Kavanaugh’s reputation.”

Okay, I thought. Let’s hear examples of how his reputation needed buffing and needed to be defended. The juicy details must follow. But they don’t. There are no juicy details. Oh, one high school student who was teased says, “Brett was a jerk.” Wow! That disqualifies him right there. Is there more? Well, there’s a female Yale student who says he was a sloppy drunk. But did he try to ‘get into her pants?’ Apparently not, because the story moves on with zero reference to such behavior on Brett’s part.

There are references to things boys do as they become men: “a bar fight, groping attempts to get somewhere with women, perhaps worse.” But is anyone quoted saying that Brett did those things? Apparently not with the kind of conviction that the Post needed. The best the reporters can do is attack Brett’s “community”––people who attend prep schools and colleges like Yale. In other words, children of those who achieved some measure of success in American society, as if that should be sufficient evidence that he’s not qualified to serve on the court.

That in the final analysis is why the media and the Democrat Party hate Brett Kavanaugh. He is on the wrong side of the divide they have created and militates against their narrative that America is the land of the unjust. If America has been constructed on a foundation of racism, sexism, and the rest of the Left’s complaints, then anyone who is near the top economically and socially needs to be knocked off their pedestal.

Kavanaugh, not surprisingly, believes in the foundational values embodied in the U.S. Constitution. The Post and the Democrats do not. It’s as simple as that. The Post could find no hatchets to throw at Kavanaugh other than he came from a family that made it, and that expected a great deal of their son. He excelled––graduating first in his class in high school, as a Yale undergraduate and at Yale Law School. For shame. He has to be stopped.

On behalf of those who are not currently in the upper echelons of our society who would like to attain those heights, let’s hope Kavanaugh is confirmed because the kind of society he’d like to preserve is one where you’ll have a chance on your own merits to become the best you can be. You do not have to reside at the bottom accepting charity in return for your loyalty to the Democrat Party.

Brett Kavanaugh is not a perfect human being. There is no such thing. Did he go through normal growing up experiences? Yes. Did he ever go too far? Probably. Who can say they never did! Do you want to appear before a judge who has never made mistakes, who has no experience with pushing the limits? I’d hate to be the defendant before a judge who pretends to be perfect and denies he (or she) ever did something they wished they hadn’t done.

So the attempted hatchet job reveals more about the Post than it did about Brett Kavanaugh. It shows us their bias against people who send their kids to prep schools, who hold conservative views, and who have friends who they support and who support them.

Time to move on to the rest of the paper. Or maybe I’ll just skip the stories and go right to the crossword puzzle. That can’t be imbued with political ideology, or can it?

100 Swan Song Editorials

The American newspaper industry has responded to an appeal for 100 newspapers to write editorials on the same day attacking President Trump for being critical of the news media. This act is an admission of the extent to which the national media has lost power and credibility. It may just be their swan song––a last minute attempt to regain status and authority. My bet is that it will fail. It will fail to sway any members of the public who aren’t already Trump haters and it will fail to restore the national media’s position as the arbiter of right and wrong in America. That horse left the stable years ago and is not coming back.

Why do I claim the media has lost its power? First, you need to concede that once upon a time everyone counted on newspapers for national and local news. Even with the emergence of radio and TV, newspapers held their own, funded by advertising, as the primary source of not only in-depth coverage, but by reporting on a greater number of stories each day than the broadcast media.

The handwriting signaling the end of their monopoly came with cable TV. Now people could hear about breaking news immediately and didn’t have to wait for the morning or afternoon paper to learn about it.

P.S.: Yes, there were afternoon newspapers. In my hometown––population 20,000 there were morning and afternoon newspapers until well into the 1960s.

But the largest nail in the newspaper’s coffin was the arrival of the Internet. The Internet is cable TV on steroids. It not only enables people to learn about breaking news within seconds, but it offers both scope and depth of coverage from a variety of official and unofficial sources.

The newspaper industry responded slowly and poorly. Why? Because of the huge capital investment required to produce a daily newspaper. That’s why newspapers have shut down and some dailies now publish twice or once a week, and why all but a few major newspapers print many fewer pages than they did just a generation ago. Union domination of newsrooms also made it difficult for newspapers to adapt.

Newspapers found they had to compete by offering web versions. Some have been able to charge subscriptions; many find they lose more money doing so than offering free access and selling ads on those pages. Either way, newspaper websites are not the only source of news. Millions rely on other sources. Some of those are poorly vetted and over time followers figure that out and abandon those outlets.

But that’s just the structural story. The rest of the story is that what was once an industry where views varied widely from conservative to liberal, has on the national level, pushed aside the conservative outlook, and united to become not just the reporter of news, but the maker of news created on behalf of a liberal-left ideology.

Consider how papers like the New York Times and Washington Post transformed their editorial outlook of the CIA and FBI. In the 1960s, both papers were highly critical of those agencies, seeing them as emblematic of a nascent police state––above the law and accountable to no one. Today, however, those papers love those agencies because they did exactly what they were accused of doing in the 1960s. They took sides in a national presidential election, acting outside the law on behalf of one candidate to the detriment of the other candidate. Further, their illegal and unethical behavior continued after the election to the extent they tried to subvert the Trump administration. They created false evidence, suborned perjury and leaked classified information to the news media.

I don’t think I’m being naïve in suggesting that the national media today is different than it was 50 or 100 years ago. Yes, some media organizations in those days had greater access to power than others and they used their power on behalf of certain parties and candidates. The difference is that there was competition in those days. The fact that 100 newspapers today (out of 1200+) are willing to act in unison is testimony to the lack of competition for viewpoints and scope of coverage, which is why subscription numbers are down and editorial pages are not read by the majority of subscribers.

One hundred editorial writers will be claiming they are defending freedom of the press. This self-indulgent, holier than thou, attitude doesn’t fly with me. Mr. Trump’s criticisms focus on the reality that some media are out to get him, and he has that right. It’s called free speech.

The President’s criticisms have not resulted in any reporters being personally attacked, or newspaper offices being bombed or burned down. (The incident in Annapolis had nothing to do with national politics.)

The national media is mad, but they are not telling the truth about why they’re mad¬––which is that millions of Americans agree with the President. Long before 2016, millions came to view newspaper coverage as biased against them. They read stories that made the average American out to be deplorable, racist, misogynist, bigoted, and a despoiler of the environment. How many of you like being attacked on a daily basis without the chance to defend yourself?

Newspapers have not learned the lesson that they don’t represent the majority of Americans. Acts like 100 editorials attacking the President make that clear and will likely hasten the day when the number of dailies sinks below 1,000.

Is the News Media above criticism?

The national news media has been engaged in a battle royal with Donald Trump that began the day he declared his candidacy. I doubt any major newspaper has failed to post an editorial attacking Trump for criticizing the news media, arguing their reporting is above criticism thanks to its Constitutional protection and that his attacks encourage or at least give permission to others to do so as well which threatens this vital institution.

There is a red line in all criticism that should not be crossed––namely advocating violence to people or property, but Donald Trump has not crossed that line nor have the people who are accountable to him. I’m not saying you might not be able to find some nut job who has advocated violence against the media, but according to my philosophy professor one example of anything does not make that thing representative. There was also the case of the man who killed journalists in Annapolis, but there’s no evidence he was motivated by national politics.

Those who feel the media has not just been unfair, but has engaged in a concerted campaign against Donald Trump and his administration, can feel somewhat justified at the announcement that the New York Times has added an avowedly racist Asian woman to its editorial board.

Sarah Jeong has posted on Twitter statements like “Dumba— f—ing white people marking up the Internet with their opinions like dogs pissing on fire hydrants” and “It’s sick how much joy I get from being cruel to old white men.”

How do you think the Times would react if it discovered a white male it had hired had said the same thing about Asian women while a teenager and now admits it was stupid and wrong? He would have been shown the door faster than Clark Kent changed into Superman. Yet Sarah Jeong is not recanting her racist comments and the Times and others defend its choice telling white people to stop being so sensitive.

What we have is a clear case of hypocrisy. It’s okay if I attack you for something even when I can’t prove it, but you are not allowed to attack me even when you have proof.

But it’s worse than that because the Times is saying it’s okay to be a racist as long as you attack white people. So, racism is only wrong when it’s practiced by white people. It’s okay if you’re a Black, Latino or Asian racist.

This country was built on a different set of principles––the notion of equality before the law. The New York Times may claim to still support that principle, but actions, as someone once said, speak louder than words.

How Lies Become Facts in American Media

It is now taken as fact that the American people are unhappy with Donald Trump and the Republican Party. Evidence for this is polling data and two elections—one in Alabama where Roy Moore lost in large part due to accusations by women concerning his behavior thirty plus years ago and the other, the gubernatorial race in Virginia.

Those who tout Virginia’s gubernatorial election result as a sign of a Democrat turn around ought to test the contents of their hookas because the smoke they are exhaling is nothing but thin air.

To understand why the victory for Democrat gubernatorial candidate Northam is not a repudiation of President Trump, take a look at two key data sets: the actual vote numbers and the exit poll data generated by Edison Media Research.

The raw data shows that Northam did slightly better than Hillary Clinton who won Virginia in 2016 by winning 53.9 percent of the vote to her 49.7. Gillespie’s 45.0 percent, however, was virtually identical to Donald Trump’s 44.4 2016 total.

Although Gillespie lost, he did no worse in what must be considered a Democrat majority state than Trump did. Gains by Democrats in the Virginia State House confirm the fact that Virginia is a blue state.

Looking at the exit polls we see additional data that show Trump and Gillespie pulled very similar numbers.

While Trump won 52% of the male vote, Gillespie got 50%. The two won identical percentages of the female vote—39%.

By race, Trump did slightly better with “White” voters—59% to 57% while Gillespie did slightly better with “Blacks” 12% to 9% and Hispanics 32% to 30%.

The bottom line is the Trump presidency did not hurt Gillespie. Democrat candidates for statewide office should win in Virginia unless they run a Hillary type campaign or face an usual candidate, which Gillespie was not. He was a mainstream Republican, unable to give independent and Democrat voters a reason to come out for his candidacy.

Anyone who thinks Virginia’s results provide implications for 2018 or 2020 are fooling themselves as well as anyone who listens to them.

When motive not fact becomes the basis for discourse

People complain a lot these days about the divisions in our society. Some put stickers on their car bumpers in favor of civility and say the world needs more love in the face of terrorist attacks and political infighting.

What’s odd, however, is how so many of those who preach compassion refuse to debate the merits of an issue and dismiss others on the basis of their motives.

Take for example, President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accords. Rather than respond to his stated rationale, which was that the agreement was damaging to the U.S. economy without doing very much to improve the environment, people attributed his decision to his being a “climate denier.” In other words, they say we shouldn’t look at what Trump said about his decision, but conclude his remarks are a cover for his true motives.

This is not an isolated instance, but represents a pattern by people on the Left when they don’t like something someone who is a Republican, or worse a conservative, does or says. By labeling their opponents greedy, bigoted, misogynist, or racist, critics don’t have to deal with their opponents’ actual positions or behaviors.

The same tactic is used against those who defend the existence of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria (also known as the West Bank). Critics call those who defend the so-called settlements “colonialists” who engage in apartheid, but in doing so they refuse to take into account why they exist in those locations––their origins and history. To some, a Zionist––someone who supports the existence of a Jewish state in the land where Judaism was born––is a racist, end of story.

Attacking someone’s views by claiming their motives are impure is an attempt to avoid having to deal with the fact that all individuals are imperfect and that people can change. Those on the Left can’t accept the possibility that while Mr. Trump has faults, he might be giving us his honest beliefs about something like Paris. Isn’t dismissing his or anyone else’s every statement itself a form of bigotry?

A perfect example was the media’s attacking Trump for bumping into an official from Montenegro in Geneva. It was cited as evidence of his boorishness, when calmer reflection suggests it was the kind of incident that has probably happened to many of us in certain social situations. Attribution of motive replaced rational explanation.

The unwillingness of people to take others at their word suggests a defensiveness about their own positions. For example, why won’t those who support Paris respond to Mr. Trump’s assertion that the agreement would accomplish little at such a great cost? Could Mr. Trump be correct in claiming a better agreement is possible––i.e., one that would do more to reduce pollution without blackmailing the U.S. to pay for others to clean up their problems? His critics can avoid such a discussion by doubting his motive, which protects them from having to defend their own logic and their facts.

With regard to the Jewish communities in the West Bank, their existence only represents an impediment to peace if one ignores the fact that no Palestinian leader has been willing to concede the existence of a Jewish state where Israel currently exists much less one that includes traditional Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. The Palestinians won’t accept any boundaries that thwart their demographic majority. Instead they rely on the fact that they can create millions of Palestinians at a moment’s notice by recruiting residents of five or six Arab countries to overwhelm the Jewish population, create an Islamic caliphate, and kick any Jews who won’t convert into the sea. To object to such a scenario is not up for discussion if opponents can be dismissed for having “colonialist, racist” motives.

That so many people who know better––academics, journalists, and elected officials––engage in motive blaming or fail to challenge it, suggests our culture is infected with a form of ideological insanity. What people who claim to want peace and to save the planet really want is for those who hold views antagonistic to their own to give up their positions and go away. They need to believe in the purity of their own motives and therefore assume that when one is pure of motive the facts are on your side. It’s time to give up motive blaming and go back to traditional rules for resolving differences––focusing on evidence and demonstrable fact.

 

Declining newspaper circulation in a divided society

Despite the early, national interest to the candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, the circulation and advertising revenues of daily newspapers in the U.S. continued to drop precipitously over the past year according to the Pew Research Center’s “State of the News Media 2016” report. The question is what’s causing the accelerating circulation decline and will owners do anything about it?

Let’s look at the numbers first: Weekday circulation fell 7% in 2015 while Sunday circulation dipped 4%. Further bad news is a decline in advertising revenue of 8% between 2014 and 2015. Even digital ad revenue declined, although only by 2%.

These numbers contrast with world media data, which show booming circulation, especially online. Print circulation worldwide grew just under 5% in 2015, confirming a trend that shows 21.6% increase in print circulation over the past five years. The majority of that increase comes from China and India. Print circulation for North America declined 10.9 percent during the same time period.

I doubt anyone has the data, but I suspect the percent of print and online newspaper readership among supporters of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump is much lower than the national average. Both groups are disaffected with the mainstream narrative as demonstrated by their support for candidates who challenged that narrative. If they do subscribe to a mainstream newspaper, my guess is the majority access that publication online and few receive the print edition.

One can’t blame these citizens from giving up on large daily newspapers. Much of the news they are interested in can be obtained faster and cheaper online or from the TV. Further, the editorial pages of most daily newspapers largely ignore the issues Trump and Sanders supporters feel important or present positions that contrast with their own. Further many editorials and columnists disparaged dissident voters as racists, homophobes, and worse.

Will owners make course corrections in light of the above data or tweak their current game plans? I’m convinced we won’t see any major changes. Why? The newspaper industry has already responded to projections of declining circulation by seeking revenue from its online product, by consolidating operations, and by generating revenue from other sources. Hence, they have no incentive to change their papers’ editorial focus, which today makes many columns and editorials appear as if they were written by the Democratic National Committee, if not by White House staff.

Buying into the Democrat/Liberal national narrative is the safest bet for media owners. They don’t need a crystal ball to see that Hillary Clinton is the presumptive winner and that little will change in Washington. Therefore to listen to dissidents or challenge the national narrative would only invite unwanted scrutiny and probably alienate their current readers, most of whom agree with their editorial outlook.

Media owners are probably correct in assuming being more critical of Washington would not result in disaffected citizens taking out subscriptions. All they need to do is print the occasional column by a conservative or an elected Republican, and they can maintain the appearance of neutrality.

There is an unfortunate consequence of the world of today’s newspaper industry, which is that they are playing a major role in dividing our nation in two. On one side with the newspaper industry is what we can call the Washington elite. These people are committed to increasing government’s reach into every aspect of daily life. On the other side are the average citizens whose views are not taken into account––people who resent Washington’s intrusion into every aspect of their lives, including which bathroom their children use at school. These are the people who lost their jobs or had them reduced from full to part-time by Obamacare, the war on coal and other environmental dictates, and by overregulation of every aspect of business practice. These are the people whose taxes provide more in cash and services to illegal immigrants than they can bring home from a $50,000/year salary.

From today’s divided society we got Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Many Sanders supporters feel he was robbed by undemocratic provisions of the Democratic Party’s primary system. They will stay home in 2016, but they will be looking for the next Bernie to run in 2020. Trump’s ego may have prevented him from having a realistic chance to win in November. I’ve talked to people who hate the Democrats, but will not vote for The Donald due to his failure to stay on message, but those people will also be around in 2020 looking for someone to challenge the mainstream narrative. All bets would be off if those two groups ever teamed up. Meanwhile, newspaper editors might do themselves a favor by listening to disaffected Americans instead of dissing them.

The Washington Post’s Biased Narrative on Israel

If you read the opinion pages of the Washington Post, you’ll see an imbalance in the views expressed by their in-house as well as guest columnists on Israel. They are uniformly critical of the current government and continue to hammer away on a theme of the need for Israel to give up the territories of Judea and Samaria as well as part of Jerusalem to allow the formation of a Palestinian state. In doing so they are carrying water for the Palestinian Authority and its narrative of what’s going on in that part of the world.

But opinion pieces aside, not everyone recognizes how this bias influences news stories. My goal in this piece is to demonstrate that their news coverage rests on a narrative that is inherently biased against the Netanyahu government.

The piece I’m about to analyze appeared under the headline “Kerry warns of ‘chaos’ if Palestinian Authority collapses,” which appeared on Sunday December 6, 2015 on page A22 of the print edition.

The article, written by Karen DeYoung, reports on a talk John Kerry gave the day before warning Israel bad things are likely to happen if the Palestinian Authority (PA) collapses. Nowhere in the story, however, does DeYoung report the source of that possibility. In fact, she reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu is opposed to such a collapse. So why does Israel need to receive this warning? The danger of the PA’s collapse is something manufactured by the PA as a threat to convince world opinion to increase its pressure on Israel to withdraw its military presence in the territories the media calls the West Bank. Kerry’s warning is like telling a bully’s sister that bad things will happen to her if her brother keeps beating up other kids.

Instead of placing the blame where it belongs, DeYoung picks up another theme of the Palestinian’s narrative to explain the recent violence in which dozens have been killed or injured. Here, instead of blaming the PA for inciting violence against Israeli civilians, she states, “Clashes that began in early fall over a holy site in Jerusalem revered by both Muslims and Jews have ignited a wave of stabbings, shootings and vehicular assaults…” Yes, but the clashes didn’t begin for no reason. They began because members of the Palestinian Authority, including its leader Mahmoud Abbas, incited them with false claims Israel was about to do something to change Muslims’ status on the Temple Mount.

Later in the piece, she writes “Israel . . . has expanded its military presence in Palestinian areas and has allowed the growth of Jewish settlements on territory originally intended to be part of a Palestinian state.” The problem here is the word “originally.” Let’s assume DeYoung is referring to the 1947 United Nations resolution that led to the formation of the state of Israel which included a map dividing the British Mandate for Palestine into Jewish and Arab enclaves. The problem with blaming Israel for not honoring that map is that the Arabs (who didn’t called themselves Palestinians until the 1960s) rejected the boundaries in 1947, and they have rejected them over and over again, most recently by Abbas in 2008. So, how can Israel be bound by a map created 68 years ago that the Arabs/Palestinians have never accepted?

I’ll add one final example showing how DeYoung followed the Palestinians’ narrative. She paraphrases Kerry at the end of her article saying, “increased Jewish settlement activity and the demolition of Palestinian homes in the West Bank ‘are imperiling the viability of a two-state solution.’” But why are Palestinian homes being demolished? Not so that Jewish settlements can be expanded, which is implied. The homes that have been demolished belong to terrorists who have attacked Israeli civilians, soldiers, and police as part of a policy to try to deter individuals from engaging in terrorist acts. If Kerry lumped demolished homes with settlement activity together, DeYoung should have separated them out. They are apples and oranges.

The author of this story can attribute the positions I argue are wrong and biased to the Secretary of State, but that’s a cop out to use a 1960’s phrase. The role of a journalist when reporting on a news event is not only to report what took place or in this case what the speaker said, but also to either talk to other sources when the speaker’s statements are controversial or fly in the face of accepted knowledge or appear self-interested or biased. In this case DeYoung helps Kerry out by drawing from the Palestinian narrative.

I don’t mean to pick on DeYoung because she is not the only Post reporter who has drunk of the Palestinian/Kerry cool aid. It starts with the editorial board, the editorial page editors and flows down into the newsroom. It’s why if you read the Post, do so with the foreknowledge that you will not get unbiased reportage on stories about Israel and the Palestinians.

Footnote: The Post is not the only media organization that is biased on Israel. See “Reuters reports lie that Israel changes status quo on Temple Mount.