Today’s Lesson: Never Tweet

Last night, on twitter, I came across a discussion about Chris Cuomo.

Chris Cuomo, the CNN anchor who is also Andrew Cuomo’s kid brother, was diagnosed with COVID-19 at the end of March.  For the last few weeks, he’s been broadcasting from his basement and talking about how difficult the quarantine has been for him.  At one point, he said that he was so delirious with fever that he saw the ghost of his dead father.

Cuomo has also broken quarantine, to go visit a property that he owns.  (Apparently, a second home is being constructed at the property.)  This is not just a rumor.  Not only did many people see Cuomo at the site while he was claiming to be quarantining in his basement but Cuomo himself confirmed a story about getting an argument with a bicyclist who demanded to know why Cuomo was out of quarantine.  The bicyclist later came forward to confirm that he and Cuomo had the argument that Cuomo described.

Last night, on CNN, Cuomo very dramatically emerged from his basement and announced that he was now over COVID-19.  Despite the fact that Cuomo himself has admitted to breaking curfew, CNN reported the story as if this was his first moment to emerge from the basement.

I have to admit that, ever since he claimed to have seen the ghost of his dead father, I’ve felt that Cuomo’s been milking the situation for everything that it’s worth.  While I don’t doubt that he was sick and I agree that COVID-19 is not something to take lightly, I’ve always felt Chris Cuomo was laying it on a little thick.  Common sense says that if you’re so delirious that you’re seeing a ghost that you’re not then going to be in any shape to do a nightly TV show from your basement.  My suspicion has always been that Cuomo, not being in the age group that’s usually hit the hardest by the disease, had a mild case of COVID-19 and, because of the attention that he was receiving, he exaggerated his description of how sick he was.

That was the theory that I attempted to share last night on twitter.  Unfortunately, I said that I suspected Cuomo was “faking.”  Again, I don’t think he was faking being sick.  I think was faking the severity of his condition.  However, I didn’t make that clear and I immediately started to hear from people who apparently believe that every case of COVID-19 is fake.  Though it wasn’t a huge amount of people (and the majority of the replies I got did seem to understand what I was trying to say), there were still enough people in the “Coronavirus isn’t real!” crowd that it was an eye-opening experience to read their tweets.  It was a real trip down the rabbit hole.

So, for the record, I think COVID-19 is real.  I think people are getting sick and that they’re dying and that we’re fools if we pretend like it’s no big deal or that it’s not actually happening.  I also think Chis Cuomo should be ashamed of himself for breaking quarantine and CNN should be ashamed of themselves for pretending like he’s been down in the basement for the last two weeks as opposed to leaving the house and potentially exposing others to the coronavirus.

The main lesson that I’ve learned from all this?  Never tweet.  It’s just not worth the trouble.

Lockdown Journal: 4-20-20

Today is 4-20.  Because I know my mother occasionally checks this blog, allow me to say that I have no idea why that date would be significant.  Some people were excited about today’s date but not me.  No way.

Another day in lockdown.  Three more bandannas arrived at the house today.  I ordered them off of Ebay a few weeks ago and they finally showed up.  Lisa and I put them on, just to see if they were the right size.  Then we stared at ourselves in the mirror and wondered what it’s going to be like to spend the rest of our lives looking like we’re about to hold up a stagecoach or rob a bank.  For a few minutes, at least, we felt like Bonnie and Clyde.

I heard today that Georgia is scheduled to reopen on Friday.  A lot of people are saying that it’s a huge mistake and others are saying that it’s about time to reopen the economy and loosen some of the lockdown restrictons.  I don’t know what’s going to happen.  Even if COVID-19 hasn’t been the end of the world event that some people thought it would be, it’s still not something to mess around with.  At the same time, there’s something galling about the same people who refuse to close Central Park criticizing another state for wanting to get back to work.  So much of the coverage of this pandemic seems to come from people who almost seem to be rooting for massive red state fatalities.  It’s a sad statement about the current lack of national unity.  My hope is that things will be okay in Georgia.  And, if they’re not, my hope is that we’ll learn a lesson from it.

About that CNN clip

“Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.”

Believe me, I absolutely hate that I’m starting today by quoting Nietzsche.  Making it even worse is that I’m use the same Nietzsche quote that everyone else uses whenever they talk about people becoming the thing that they claim to despise.  So much for originality.  Still, it’s an appropriate quote for today’s “outrage.”

There’s a clip floating around social media this morning.  It’s from CNN and it features Rick Wilson and, to a lesser extent, Wajahat Ali mocking Trump voters as being (to quote Wilson) “boomer rubes” who don’t know how to read a map or anything else.  While Wilson and Ali speak in mock hillbilly accents, Don Lemon giggles like a schoolgirl and then ends the segment by saying, “I needed that.”

Needless to say, there’s a lot of pissed off Trump supporters on twitter right now.  There’s also a lot of pissed off people who don’t necessarily support Trump but who know that the clip is basically a dream come true for the Trump campaign.  Not surprisingly, Donald Trump retweeted the clip this morning.  (Wajahat Ali responded by tweeting that his “friends fear for my safety.”)

Here’s the clip in question:

Personally, I think a lot of the outrage about the clip is performative.  Ali is an outspoken Trump critic and Rick Wilson has been doing his “anyone who disagrees with me is a rube” act for so long that I find it hard to believe that anyone was shocked by what they said or even by how they said it.  Don Lemon is another matter, in that he at least pretends to be a journalist.  But again, this is nothing that people haven’t seen in the past from Lemon.

Instead, what I find interesting about the clip is just how much those who claim to oppose Trump will act like Trump in order to make their point.   I guess the argument would be, “Trump acts like a jerk so we’re justified in acting like jerks too.”  I understand the argument but I think it misses an important point.  I have not met a single Trump voter who doesn’t think that Trump can be a jerk.  I’m sure there’s a few who worship him as blindly as Rick Wilson seems to think but the majority of Trump voters know that Donald Trump is hardly a perfect person.  Trump’s campaign has even cut ads praising Trump for willing to be a jerk.  To many people, it’s a part of his appeal.  They consider it to be a sign of his authenticity.  It also helps that Trump is someone who can say, “Yes, I’m a jerk but I’m the jerk who is presiding over the strongest economy in recent memory.”  That’s an accomplishment that, for many people, will make it easier to justify voting for someone who they may not like personally.

But then you have the people in this clip.  What are they going to say if someone accuses them of being a jerk?

Don Lemon: “Yes, I’m a jerk but I’m the jerk who is currently in last place in the cable news ratings.”

Rick Wilson: “Yes, I’m a jerk but I’m the jerk who helped run Evan McMullin’s  unsuccessful presidential campaign.”

Wajahat Ali: “Yes, I’m a jerk but I’m the jerk that most people have never heard of.”

Which brings us back to the Nietzsche quote.  To oppose Donald Trump, it’s not necessary to become Donald Trump.  In fact, it’s probably best that you don’t because Donald Trump seems to be the only one who can pull that off.

As for the clip, there will be something new to be outraged about tomorrow.

A New Day With A Double Endorsement

Last week was a busy one and I feel like I missed a lot.  When last I checked in with the news, Cory Booker was suspending his campaign and Elizabeth Warren was refusing to shake Bernie Sanders’s hand at the end of the Democratic debate.  That seems like a month ago.

Today, on the other hand, feels like an entirely new news cycle.  The 49ers and the Chiefs are going to the Super Bowl and The New York Times turned their presidential endorsement process into a reality show.  Last night, people stayed up late to discover that the New York Times can’t even do an endorsement right.  That they endorsed Elizabeth Warren is not a surprise as Warren has always been the media’s favorite Democrat.  That they also endorsed Amy Klobuchar is a head scratcher.  I get the feeling that they secretly know Warren’s campaign is doomed so they tossed in a second endorsement to cover their bases.  Since Tulsi Gabbard is hated by the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party and all of the other major candidates are white males, tossing a second endorsement to Amy Klobuchar was a safe way to be woke without tossing all in behind a campaign that is obviously self-destructing.

I think the real winner of the New York Times endorsement show was probably Donald Trump because the whole affair just made the NYT look like the collection of out of touch elitists that the majority of MAGA people already assume that it is.  (The New York Times seems to suffer any time that it tries to turn its top people into TV stars.)  As for the Democrats, the big winner was probably Michael Bloomberg because he wisely refused to degrade himself by begging the Times for their endorsement.  The Times‘s petulant response to Bloomberg’s refusal to kiss their ring probably did more to help Bloomberg than any endorsement ever would.

There’s been a lot of talk about what the media needs to do to regain the credibility that they’ve lost over the past few years.  It’s an important question because, as easy as it is to dismiss the media’s self-regard, they does have a very important role to play in America society.  It’s hard to know what the media has to do to repair the damage that’s been done to its reputation but turning their presidential endorsement process into a reality show was probably not the right direction to go.

Lessons From Last Night

Last night, as Iran launched 15 missiles at two Iraqi military bases, we truly got a chance to the see the American media at its worse.

First, it was announced that hundreds of missiles were being launched.  Then, on MSNBC, a reporter shared that at least 30 American soldiers had been killed.  Where did these numbers come from?  The Iranian government, which had every reason to spread disinformation last night.

Pictures and videos of the bombing started to show up online and on television.  We saw bombs exploding and buildings on fire.  It looked terrifying but, it turned out, that none of it was filmed during last night’s attack.  Instead, these were pictures of previous military attacks.  (One was apparently a picture of a fire at an oil drill.)  These images were released by Iran and then were shared, without any apparent skepticism, by the U.S. media.

After about an hour of panic, the truth finally emerged.  Iran’s attack was a pathetic attempt to save face.  There were no casualties.  Iran even gave Iraq advance warning.  In the end, more Iranians were killed during the funeral for Qasem Soleimani than coalition force members were injured during the bombing.  A Ukraine International Airlines flight may have been accidentally shot down by Iran, killing all 176 of the people aboard.

In other words, last night was not a triumph for Iran but, for at least a few hours, we were led to believe that 1) several Americans had been killed and 2) World War III had begun.  And why?  Because instead of getting confirmation, people ran with unconfirmed rumors and propaganda.  In a world where the media actually held itself accountable, people would be getting fired today.

Give credit where credit is due.  One of the few public figures to actually have the right response to last night’s attacks was Joe Biden.  Here’s what he said on twitter:

That was the correct response and, for once, everyone could learn something from Joe’s example.  Of course, they won’t.

Protecting The Rich and Terrible

My natural instinct is to be skeptical of anything that comes out of Project Veritas but their latest — a video of ABC news anchor Amy Robach caught on a “hot mic” while talking to her producer about how ABC news killed a story on Jeffrey Epstein in 2016 — seems to be a pretty big deal.

In the video, Robach is heard to complain to her producer:

“She (Virginia Roberts) told me everything. She had pictures, She had everything. She was in hiding for 12 years. We convinced her to come out. We convinced her to talk to us. Um, it was unbelievable what we had. Clinton, we had everything. I tried for three years to get it on to no avail. And now it’s all coming out and it’s like these new revelations and I freaking had all of it! I’m so pissed right now! Like, every day I get more and more pissed. ‘Cause I’m just, like, ‘Oh, my God.’ We, what we had was unreal. Other women backing it up…. Brad Edward, the attorney three years ago saying, like, we, there will come a day when we will realize Jeffrey Epstein was the most prolific pedophile this country has ever known. I had it all three years ago.”

Usually, I’m not a fan of yelling, “Fake news!” whenever a news outlet runs a story that I’d rather not hear or read.  I also think that, for too often, the relentless focus on “media bias” is used as a way to distract from larger issues.  Despite what their followers may say, neither Trump’s low approval ratings nor Beto’s failure as a presidential candidate are solely due to a biased media.  However, just because a problem is sometimes overstated, that doesn’t mean that it’s not a problem.  At this point, it’s impossible not to see that the mainstream media has spent decades protecting the rich and powerful.  Even before the revelations concerning Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein, Matt Lauer, and so many others, we had the BBC running interference for Jimmy Savile.

For their part, Robach and ABC News have released a statement that, just as with NBC and Ronan Farrow’s reporting on Weinstein, Robach’s original Epstein story did not meet the “editorial standards” of ABC News and that Robach was merely letting off some steam in the clip.  That they didn’t go with their typical accusation that the video was somehow doctored is perhaps significant, especially considering that’s the usually the de facto response to anything released by Project Veritas.

Below is the video.  Judge for yourself.

Aaron Calvin, Carson King, and Cancel Culture

Earlier today, I read the following article in the Columbia Journalism Review:

Twitter hates me. The Des Moines Register fired me. Here’s what really happened.

This is a first person account from a former reporter for the Des Moines Register about what it’s like to be hated on twitter.  Aaron Calvin was a reporter who, as he puts it in the first paragraph of this article, “worked as a trending-news reporter for the Des Moines Register, it was (his) job to write about viral news in Iowa and to frame (his) stories in ways that would increase their viral potential.”  His final piece for the Register was also his most widely-read, a profile of Carson King, an Iowan who, after a random appearance holding a sign asking for a beer money on ESPN, channeled his viral fame into raising a million dollars for a children’s hospital.

That the story should be covered and that King should be profiled by the media was not controversial or unusual.  What was controversial was that Calvin wrote about some tweets that the 24 year-old had posted when he was in high school.  The tweets, which Calvin judged to be racist and which Carson King apologized for shortly before the profile was published, were references to jokes that King saw on Tosh.0.  The resulting firestorm saw Anheuser-Busch cutting ties with King’s charity efforts and King giving an emotional apology.  It also led to internet sleuths doing to Calvin what he did to King.  When some of Calvin’s earlier tweets were judged to be racist, Calvin was promptly fired from the newspaper.

It’s interesting to read Aaron Calvin’s account of what happened.  On the one hand, I have some sympathy for Aaron Calvin because I think he got fired for doing exactly what he was hired to do.  I doubt any of his editors ever said, “Is it really relevant that Carson King tweeted something stupid 8 years ago?  Should we be focusing on tweets or celebrating raising money for sick children?”  They were probably looking forward to getting all of the clicks.  “Cancel culture” has become such an ingrained part of media that I doubt many in the business give the ethics of it a second thought.

At the same time, there’s an amazing lack of self-awareness to Calvin’s account.  Aaron Calvin writes that he should not have been fired for tweets that he wrote years ago and I think he’s right.  At the same time, Calvin still does not seem to get that there was no need for him to dig up Carson King’s tweets from when he was in high school.  That Calvin said something stupid 8 years ago and then apologized for it was not at all relevant to the story of a young man raising a million dollars for a children’s hospital.  After all the controversy, Calvin still doesn’t seem to understand why people were upset in the first place and instead blames it all on people being angry that his story targeted “the young, white son of a police officer.”  Furthermore, Calvin seems to have made the same mistake that many journalist seems to make nowadays, assuming that the ability to dig into someone’s life is somehow exclusive only to the professionals.  Thanks to social media, today everyone is a journalist.

This article, with it’s mix of self-pity, excessive self-regard, and total lack of self-awareness, really is the modern mainstream media in a nutshell.  As far as cancel culture is concerned, this entire story is a harbinger of things to come.  Everyone’s going to end up canceled by this time this all rides itself out.  Much like the Leninists who were declared to be insufficiently communist after Stalin came to power, today’s cancelers seem fated to become tomorrow’s canceled.