Posts by Cheryll Barron

Why has The New York Times abandoned its commitment to journalism ‘without fear or favour,’ covering this presidential election?

 

Noticing the to-hell-with-objectivity coverage of the presidential race by some old media organs would be lonely without new media sites like deathandtaxesmag.com

Noticing the to-hell-with-objectivity U.S. election coverage by some old media organs would be lonely without new media sites like deathandtaxesmag.com

 

Why is Donald Trump’s non-existent following in Silicon Valley worth a story near the top of the home page of The New York Timesa report in which readers had to scroll down to its 11th paragraph to read the infinitely more remarkable news that Bernie Sanders has collected more than twice as much gold in donations from technology workers across the U.S. than Trump and Hillary Clinton put together?

According to estimates taken from Crowdpac, Trump campaign contributions from a grand total of 52 donors in this segment do not appear to have scraped even $20,000, compared with $2.7 million for Clinton and $6 million for Sanders. The headline for the bizarre NYT piece was just below the masthead when we popped in at the site last Wednesday night.

There was worse to come. Anyone who revisited the online NYT on Friday afternoon would have found no mention at all of the extraordinary backing for Sanders among the techie intelligentsia in an opinion piece by the veteran NYT reporter, Timothy Egan, illustrated with a picture of a supporter carrying a gigantic, clownish, papier-mâché model of Bernie’s head. The dateline for this screed titled ‘Bernie’s Last Stand’? Disneyland. And how did it characterise Sanders supporters? As virtual clowns:

Rumbling and roaring his way across California, Senator Bernie Sanders brought his political revolution to the neighborhood of Goofy and Mickey. […] Sanders … made his point about the great economic disparity in American life. His rallies in California — nearly two dozen in all — have drawn the expected crowds: young white Bernie bros in man buns, aging lefties in mildly subversive T-shirts — but also a fair amount of Hispanics and curious political neophytes. […] The Bern has been felt, the establishment rattled. Voters are decrying a “rigged economy” run by 1-percenters. Time to go back to Vermont, resuming the virtual anonymity that has characterized his quarter-century in Congress.

That is not merely partisan. It verges on vicious, not to mention contemptuous.

Call us naïve, but we confess to being shocked to the marrow by this newspaper smashing any illusion of a continuation of the grand old ideal for the practice of journalism ‘without fear or favour’ famously espoused by one of its own proprietors, in 1896. In hunting for the original declaration by that proprietor, we found the NYT all but disowning any connection to it last August — in a teasing attack on a reporter for the rabidly partisan Fox news network. Any idealist would read as a depressing exercise in revisionism what the story supplied — a sort of explanation for the elimination of an inscription of that quotation beside a statue of the newspaper baron in the lobby of the paper’s offices. It began:

Political madness has surely gripped the nation when a Fox News journalist publicly embraces a 119-year-old guiding principle of The New York Times, as Megyn Kelly did this week by vowing — Donald Trump’s taunts notwithstanding — to “continue doing my job without fear or favor.”

The piece concluded with this sentence: ‘But we still try to abide by Mr. Ochs’s principles.’ Only a Witless Wonder following the big New York paper’s coverage of this year’s presidential election could possibly believe that. Something has changed profoundly at the so-called ‘Gray Lady,’ long viewed by many as America’s sober, irreproachable journal of record — and not for the better.

Googling ‘Bernie Sanders Silicon Valley’ in the small hours of Friday morning yielded a string of headlines like the right-wing Wall Street Journal’s ‘Bernie Sanders Out-Raises Hillary Clinton in Silicon Valley’ and Newsweek’s ‘Who’s Silicon Valley Backing for President?’ with a lot of similar titles on all-digital media sites across the political spectrum. But certainly on Google’s first page of search results, on which any NYT story tends to rank high, there was nothing comparable from that paper. Nothing at all, in fact.

Most dismaying about the NYT’s decision to focus on Trump, not Sanders, in reporting on technology workers’ affiliations, is that the actual story is a good reporter’s or columnist’s dream. It is a paradox of marvellous depth, an as-yet unsolved mystery. Silicon Valley has been singled out for near-universal condemnation — not least, on this blink-and-you-miss-it post-Gutenberg blog — for its seeming callousness and unconcern about extreme, live illustrations of the growing social inequality crisis on its own doorstep. As Gawker.com has also noticed, the techies’ support of Sanders contradicts the Valley’s reputation as a stronghold of libertarian don’t-know-don’t care-about-the-less-fortunate and don’t-you-dare-tax-my-millions-for-government politics. We drew attention last August to the contradiction between this pegging and a statement by Sundar Pichai, the new head of Google, in an interview with a German journalist a few months before his appointment:

The thing that attracted me to Google and to [the] internet in general is that it’s a great equalizer. I’ve always been struck by the fact that Google search worked the same as long as you had access to a computer with connectivity, [whether] you were a rural kid anywhere or a professor at Stanford or Harvard.

Referring to the signs of clear approval, at the northern limit of the region, for the Vermont senator’s focus on income inequality — in spite of the growing tension, for years, between filthy rich techies and the poorer residents of San Francisco — Gawker’s Brendan O’Connor threw up his hands in obvious bafflement:

This is a little bit of an odd thing to say, however, as it is those very Silicon Valley workers who have contributed to said tensions. But! The world is a complicated place.

Over to you, New York Times: how about a spin-free analysis of this question from your army of Silicon Valley reporters and analysts? Seize the chance to prove your claims this very week that old print media capable of thorough, old-fashioned reporting deserve special privileges and protection?

How does a partisan press mislead the public and distort an election? Watch this conversation between Cenk Uygur and Bernie Sanders on The Young Turks

Bernie Sanders being interviewed about corporate media's partisan distortions of the truth by Cenk Uygur on The Young Turks, 23 March 2016

Bernie Sanders being interviewed about corporate media’s partisan distortions of the truth by Cenk Uygur on The Young Turks, 23 March 2016

Partisan press = blinkered vision + distorted facts Reichenau Island, 2011, by postgutenberg@gmail.com -- Originally posted on this blog on 5 May 2013

Partisan press = blinkered vision + distorted facts
Reichenau Island, 2011, by postgutenberg@gmail.com
— Originally posted on this blog on 5 May 2013

 

Weakening the capacity of the proudly partisan old media establishment to undermine democracy has been one of this blog’s causes from the start. In 2013, we collected a few of our posts about the evils of a blinkered — and blinkering — partisan press in one entry in post-Gutenberg.com during a British debate on the subject:

How Lord Justice #Leveson let down everyone who cares about the practice of journalism ‘without fear or favour’

We do not have a vote in U.S. elections. But, following the drama as closely as we can — like anyone anywhere on the globe not buried in a cave with abysmal wifi reception — we were delighted by the proof, in a superb half-hour interview, of exactly how influential old media are warping their depictions of Bernie Sanders and his campaign:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ggFitmOTSok

for  27. 3. 2016

photographs, 27 April 2015, postgutenberg[at]gmail.com

photographs, 27 April 2015, postgutenberg[at]gmail.com

+jackrabbit LEAPING DETAIL Cheryll Barron postgutenberg@gmail.com (1)

 Y    R

Don’t be ridiculous, you say — who ever heard of an Easter jackrabbit? It doesn’t even look right!

Here is proof of how suspicious we must all be about some of our most ancient presumptions. The first and true Easter hopabout in the ancient symbolism was a hare, not a rabbit at all, or certainly not a Beatrix Potter-ish flopsy bunny.  So also — technically — is the Lepus californicus or black-tailed jackrabbit. Last April, we discovered we were virtually cohabiting with a member of this tribe — being closely monitored round the clock by it, indeed, in a comradely, affectionate sort of way, during a wilderness break of about a fortnight.

This jackrabbit knew which room of our stick abode we were in, and in exactly which window we sat writing. Its species is renowned for its acute hearing, which must have something to do with those giant ears proportionately bigger than any other mammal’s on earth.

Whereas rabbits are born with eyes shut, hares drop from their mothers with theirs wide open.

For none of those reasons, but another, we feel a close kinship with these silent, hyper-energetic wild beasts sometimes indistinguishable from lava rocks of their size in their habitat, until they leap. Post-Gutenberg scribbles most efficiently long into the night. That is when the nocturnal jackrabbit forages and nibbles — although our trails have also crossed by daylight, especially in the late afternoon and early evening.

We have learnt from an irresistible summary on rabbit.org (yes, there is such a thing) of  ‘The Easter Hare’ by Katharine Hillard, published in The Atlantic Monthly in May 1890, that despite Easter Sunday’s closeness in years like this one to the vernal equinox, its date moves from year to year for reasons only indirectly related to that day, and that it is more accurate to think of it as a lunar, not solar, celebration. It is calculated in relation to both the equinox and the first full moon after it.

Part of the proof of the origins of this Germanic tradition happens to be in Sanskrit.

From rabbit.org, again:

Easter is not really a solar festival, but rather one of the moon. The name Easter comes to us from the Saxon Eostre (synonymous with the phoenician Astarte), goddess of the moon. From the most ancient times, this goddess was the measurer of time. Her name as we know it (moon) comes from the Sanskrit mas—from ma, to measure— and was masculine (as it was in all the Teutonic languages).

No matter how closely we inspect these pictures and a few others in our jackrabbit collection, we never come to a conclusion about whether our rabbit is a he or she. Looking up links between hares and Easter, we found that there is good reason for this in the symbolism. The ancients, ‘Pliny, Plutarch, Philostratus, and Aelian,’ believed that hares were hermaphrodites, or …

… that a rabbit could change its sex—like the moon. Other stories in Sanskrit and Hindu[sic] connect the rabbit to the spots on the moon (related to the story above); to stories of hares dwelling upon the shores of the moon; and as mortal enemy of the lion (sun).

Gender hopping is an experience post-Gutenberg has only ever sampled in commenting pseudonymously on the net, or in sock-puppetry — two kinds of masks that we warmly recommend you try, too, dear reader.

In fact, if you try them out today or on Easter Monday, you will correctly be interpreting the pagan, pre-Christian message linked to hares at this time of year as: be fruitful and multiply … yourself.

Which would surely entitle you to at least one more hare-borne chocolate egg.

+jackrabbit LEAPING Cheryll Barron postgutenberg@gmail.com