5 of the Biggest Media Meltdowns Last Week
1. New York Times invents anti-Bush tax cut Republicans
While attempting to provide some historical context to Trump’s colossal giveaway to the rich on Thursday, "both sides”-obsessed New York Times did a bit of historical revisionism about early 2000s tax cuts:
"In 2001, when surging budget surpluses fueled hopes of extinguishing the national debt, a pitched battle broke out over President George W. Bush’s proposed $1.6 trillion tax cut. Never mind that the tax cut’s 10-year tab was supposed to leave behind more than $3 trillion in surpluses—Democrats and some Republicans said that the tax cut was just too large."
So how many House Republicans in 2001 opposed Bush’s tax cut because it was “just too large”? The answer is two: Lincoln Chafee and John McCain (who later supported the tax plan). Out of 261 congressional Republicans at the time (or 0.76 percent), that is a very liberal definition of “some.”
The idea that a sizable percentage of Republicans ever or currently oppose tax cuts plays into the myth that they actually care about “deficits,” though it’s becoming increasingly clear they do not. A fact solidified in the Times' own story when Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) and the chairman of the Republican Study Committee said, in a rare moment of GOP honesty, “[Deficits are] a great talking point when you have an administration that’s Democrat-led...It’s a little different now that Republicans have both houses and the administration.”
2. Story about racist attack at Air Force preparatory academy somehow becomes warm and fuzzy viral of Air Force fighting racism.
When racist graffiti was written on the Air Force Academy Preparatory School message boards of five African American cadet candidates, one would think this would rightfully solicit outrage from the media. Instead, the focus from 95 percent of outlets was on the Air Force’s response to the hate crime. To their credit, the Lieutenant General in charge did do some solid CYA in browbeating the young cadets, but somehow the evidence of a problem of racism in an Air Force-run school became a warm and fuzzy viral story for the Air Force’s benefit. Everyone from the Washington Post to Mother Jones to NPR praised the “viral” “racism speech” but hardly touched on the underlying dynamics of racism in the military, which are considerable.
The U.S. military at present is bombing five majority-Arab countries, two African countries, two Central Asian countries and threatening nuclear genocide on a regular basis against an East Asian country. But some guy in uniform gave a nifty speech, so I guess let’s plaster that on every website and newspaper.
3. Study shows media neglected Puerto Rico; casual racism the only answer.
Staying on the topic of racism, it’s rare those in the field of media criticism get a solid A-B test in how the media’s coverage is informed, either consciously or subconsciously, by the cold fact of racism (and in this case, its close cousin, colonialism).
FiveThirtyEight compared raw media mentions in online news of both the hurricane names and locations and found the disparity was quite stark:
Same for television coverage:
"The major culprit here is the casual colonial attitudes of news editors, which largely reflect those of Americans at large, almost half of whom don’t know Puerto Ricans are American citizens. "Of the Americans who knew Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, 81 percent support aid for the territory. In contrast, only 44 percent of Americans who didn’t know this supported aid.
"By disproportionately highlighting the effects of natural disasters in Texas and Florida compared to those in Puerto Rico, the media helps reinforce these colonial narratives. It’s only when the storms clear and there’s a quantitative analysis on the whole of coverage can one look at such a huge visual disparity and see what’s been obvious to those in the Puerto Rican community for decades: the media is incredibly, and casually, racist.”
4. Sunday talk shows completely ignore Trump administration's use of private email servers.
Remember when the use of private servers mattered to the media? Remember when Hillary Clinton’s use of private emails was the major scandal of the hour and likely helped tip the election against her? It’s notable how unremarkable the revelation this week that the Trump administration's highest officials have been using private servers was. As Media Matters notes:
"The New York Times reported that at least six White House advisors, including Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus, had used personal email accounts to conduct official government business. The Times’ story followed a Politico report that Jared Kushner, a senior advisor and President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, had used a private email account to conduct correspondence related to White House matters…"
By failing to discuss the news of the officials’ use of private accounts, Sunday political talk shows ignored a significant story and failed to inform their audiences of yet another example of the lack of transparency that has been endemic in the Trump administration. This failure is particularly shocking given the media’s obsessive focus on Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as Secretary of State throughout the 2016 election.
One of the reasons these outlets may have “overlooked” the email scandal was they were too busy wading through the dozens of other scandals, up to and including: Trump’s Twitter diatribes against an impoverished Island territory; threats against North Korea; botched hurricane relief; random racist fights against NFL players; his Sec. of Health and Human Services resigning over overt graft; and a whole host of other scandals in the past week alone.
The "expectations game” is a phrase thrown around a lot in the world of political punditry, but Trump’s ability to turn what would otherwise be devastating scandals into non-stories is truly remarkable. The sheer volume of outrage is simply too much for a mortal editor or producer to keep up with, much less the average media consumer.
5. Right-wing rag is called out for having a 'black crime' tag, hastily deletes it.
Stormfront-meets-Thought Catalog rag the Federalist was called out when one of its overtly racist, whiny stories, “If You Don’t Want Police To Shoot You, Don’t Resist Arrest," was tagged with “black crime"—an odd distinction to say the least. After being flagged on Twitter by user @UrbanAchievr, the Federalist quickly deleted the tag from its website.