Media

5 of the Biggest Corporate Media Disasters This Week

Here’s how the mainstream news disappointed us this week.

Keith Olbermann.
Photo Credit: By By Freedom To Marry [CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

From NBC's cover up of Harvey Weinstein's horrendous actions, to Keith Olbermann's whitewashed Twitter statement, here’s how the  corporate media disappointed us this week:

1. NBCUniversal Universally Dragged for Burying Harvey Weinstein Scoop.

Ronan Farrow works for NBC News but published what is likely the biggest story of the year at The New Yorker. What seemed at first like a strange break-up between Farrow and Comcast (NBC News’s parent corporation), quickly merged into a full-blown media scandal after multiple sources–12 to be exact–both within NBC and those close to the reporting itself, came out and said in no uncertain terms NBC spiked the story out of pressure from Weinstein and Comcast corporate. As Huffington Post’s Yashar Ali and Lydia Polgreen reported Wednesday:

All of the sources who spoke to HuffPost asked not to be named, either because they weren’t authorized to speak to the media about the story or because they were fearful of retribution from NBC News executives. These sources detailed a months-long struggle within NBC News during which Oppenheim and other executives slow-walked Farrow’s story, crippling it with their qualms and irresolution.

This is an impression Farrow has done nothing to downplay. Indeed, he went on Rachel Maddow's MSNBC show earlier this week (to her credit) and effectively accused NBC higher-ups of killing the story under pressure, telling Maddow, “I will say that over many years, many news organizations have circled this story and faced a great deal of pressure in doing so... And there are now reports emerging publicly about the kinds of pressure that news organizations face in this. And that is real”.  

2. News Stations Downplaying Racism and Police Abuse.

Twitter accounts aren’t usually run by media higher-ups but their mistakes and awkward, terrible headlines can serve as a useful window into how casual racist and pro-cop spin are simply taken for granted in the news business. Take, for example, two ill-advised headlines from NBC 29 Charlottesville this week, one publicizing a sitdown interview with neonazi media celebtity Richard Spencer and the other referring to nazis marching with torches as “white activists”.

Two other gems from KSDK St. Louis and NBC 4 Columbus also served as pro-police propaganda, or as activists like to call it “Copaganda”.

The first one referred to a man being tased to death by police officers as simply “man dies” (How? By whose hand? Did he have a heart attack??) while the other gratuitously smeared a teen victim of a police shooting by bringing up his past misdeeds--a tactic common in local media

Man dies after threatening restaurant employees https://t.co/j48WwFhIBX

— KSDK News (@ksdknews) October 8, 2017

Teen shot by police Monday has lengthy juvenile record: https://t.co/JGqNdyJGrz via @YouTube

— NBC4 Columbus (@nbc4i) October 10, 2017

Just routine, terrible racism carried out this week by local media affiliates.

3. 4Chan Troll-with-a-Masters-Degree Bret Stephens Spins for Weinstein in Trolliest Way Possible

Racist, climate-denying hack Bret Stephens shows that so long as you adequately hate Russia and Iran and sometimes use big words you can be a rightwing troll and still be broadly accepted as a Serious Person by center and liberal media, up to and including The New York Times and MSNBC where Stephens has high-paying gigs.

Stephens, ever the troll, tweeted out his latest by saying “a defense, of sorts, for Harvey Weinstein.” It began with this tone-deaf framing:

Of all of the dismaying and disgusting details of the Harvey Weinstein saga, none is more depressing than this: It has so few heroes.

Actually, it’s the decades of rape and sexual harassment by Weinstein but Stephens has a silly morality tale on which to opine:

It’s in this context that one can mount a defense of sorts for Mr. Weinstein, who inhabited a moral universe that did nothing but cheer his golden touch and wink at (or look away from) his transgressions.

See, Weinstein is simply a product of his environment. By casting the responsibility net so wide, Stephens–even by his own admission–seeks to absolve Weinstein. It’s a cultural or social failure, not a specific or personal one. If everyone’s guilty, then no one really is. What is the point of this meditation other than muddying the waters and running spin for Weinstein? It’s unclear. But it’s about what one would expect from the guy who once said the campus rape epidemic was an “imaginary enemy.”

4. Keith Olbermann Tweets Possibly the Whitest Tweet of all Time.

In an effort to promote Eminem's Trump diss track, GQ ranter and noted blowhard Keith Olbermann tweeted out terribly awkward praise that, for some reason, felt the need to go out of its way to dump on a popular African-American art form.

Why 27 years? What an oddly specific timeframe. (some suspected it’s because it was when Vanilla Ice’s “To the Extreme” album came out.) Why does he have “doubts about rap”? Why did it take a white middle-aged rapper spouting boring anti-Trump bromides for him to finally warm up to the genre? Why is Keith Olbermann so consistently the most embarrassing liberal pundit on earth. For no real reason here’s a video from 2006 of him slut-shaming Paris Hilton after she was allegedly punched in the face:

5. Peak Neoliberalism achieved: Business Insider editor's response to massive, widespread conspiracy of institutional rape is Human Resources hack

What is the point of Business Insider editor Josh Barro exactly? He’s sort of a meandering pundit man, a moderate conservative with no home, the last of a breed like those relict neanderthals wondering medieval Europe in The 13th Warrior. With no apparent ideology or purpose, Barro’s takes usually consist of criticizing Democrats for being out of touch with working class voters while tweeting out bafflement at the existence of dive barscalling McDonalds customers “fat slobs”, and mocking Bernie Sanders for not owning a tuxedo.

So when one of the biggest media scandals of the past decade hit--the wide spread conspiracy to cover up media mogul Harvey Weinstein’s decades of rape and sexual harassment--Meandering Pundit Man offered up one of the most bizarre and useless takes one can imagine: the lesson from all of this is to enforce stricter HR standards.

“More formal, less 'fun' office cultures would be good for all of us” the headline insisted. In the piece, Barro checks the box by saying it’s not work environment's fault per se but then goes on to effectively argue it is by telling us it’s incumbent upon corporate rule-makers to better manage social interactions between the sexes, an approach Jezebel writer Ellie Shechet correctly calls “highly questionable”:

Across industries and throughout the relatively short period of history they were allowed to hold jobs, women have been harassed at work—it happens during field expeditions in Antarctica, in hospital rooms, at the Department of Justice, in the U.S. military; it also happens quite a lot over email, or, say, via secret Facebook pages. This argument assumes both that men fundamentally can’t control themselves around women and that the fix for this lies in, what, uniforms? Rules against socializing together? “Stronger norms of professional behavior” don’t matter for shit when even people whose job it is to explain things can’t address the underlying problem.

Writers are under a lot of pressure, compelled to have original takes on current events often a half-dozen times a week. But Barro facing a developing moral outrage and coming up with a clever HR hack is both ethically obtuse and bordering on victim-blaming. What is the point of this piece? What, above all, is the point of Josh Barro?

Adam Johnson is a contributing analyst at FAIR and contributing writer for AlterNet. Follow him on Twitter @AdamJohnsonNYC.

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