#1: The media's detention test, the Bad Online President, and the ascendant LA Times

It’s bright and dumb and hot in Boston today. My bosses at my internship appear to be on a shoot I didn’t know about. My bus was late, so I had to pay $12 to Uber to the office, which is ironic because I was worried about being late for no one apparently.

Anyway. The idea for this newsletter is to create a space for ideas that is between a full blog (which I don’t have time to write consistently) and Twitter (which is a bad thing to base my entire creative output on). I’m always thinking about and consuming content about politics and media and the places where they intersect and affect each other. This seems like an excellent place to curate interesting stories about those topics and write some words about it. If that’s interesting to you, please keep subscribing! If not, please unsubscribe I guess. Or just keep subscribing and just don’t read the emails. I need those numbers.


“A Humanitarian Crisis”

That’s how Cilo Chang of Splinter describes what’s happening to families at the US-Mexico border, and I cannot think of a more apt descriptor. Try and listen to this audio obtained by ProPublica and come up with a different answer. The policy represents a new level of depravity for Trump and America’s immigration policy, an unavoidable manifestation of the cruelty always at the core of our immigration laws.

The way America handles immigration both on the border and domestically has always a disgusting, under-reported blight on the country for years. It’s always torn families apart, but quietly and subtly. We constructed a blind spot about this violence in the media and in people who consume media. But today, because of Trump’s brazen policy of family separation and the reverb of the media, the effects of this violence have never been felt so viscerally by those of us who would otherwise have the privilege of not understanding any concept of this pain.

The inhumanity of the detention camps is a new challenge for the media

The viciousness of Trump’s policies are often obfuscated by how objectively stupid they are: the desperate incompetency of the health care reform pushes; the inherent impracticality and sheer monetary waste of building a giant wall between us and Mexico; the petty high school drama of a White House that’s become Lord of the Flies for shitty middle age hanger-ons that love airing their dirty laundry to reporters. I think the only reason a lot of us have remained above water on the whole “we are living in an authoritarian nightmare state” take is because the constant ridiculousness and failures of the ruling party have created a weird sense of brevity around the whole thing. Look at these dumb dipshits trying to be fascist and failing over and over again.

This forced separation policy story is feeling different. For one---and surprisingly for a White House that is continually leaking shit--- this policy started covertly, only really exposed over the last week by a growing drumbeat of press stories. But more importantly, it’s been effective in practice: over 2,700 families have been separated, and the photos emerging from the detention camps point to an infrastructure that is sprawling and functioning.  

So then, the media is facing a policy that is inherently morally repugnant, ineffective in its goals (beyond how inhuman it is, family separation is universally regarded to be a lousy deterrent for families seeking asylum) but effective in its implementation. And it’s already happening. Those last two bits are significant because most of the previous headlining Trump stories often were based on bad policies being poorly rolled out, as opposed to something that’s been happening for weeks in the background.

So far, the most effective reporting has been about the human cost of this all; giving voice to the families separated traumatically and horrifically. There’s been some solid contextualization about why this is such a uniquely despicable escalation of America’s immigration policy. And, predictably, the most useless stories have focused on the White House drama around the margins or—even worse—thinly veiled defenses of a policy no one should be defending.

This moment is an unprecedented challenge for the media. We talk a lot about the idea of an opposition press and how important it is to keep the government from backsliding into something really fucked. This is a moment that tests that power. The way that the press responds to this story and how consistently they cover it will be telling. Expect a lot of distractions from Republicans and the White House this week, and pay attention to how effective they are.

Reading List:

Good: This Vox article smartly and deeply lays out the basics of the story and the underlying context. Very useful!

Bad: Leave it to the cowards at the National Review to walk this close to actually just endorsing the policy of family separation but not actually going there.

Good/Bad: This article by The Times uses a lot of problematic language while talking about immigrants (“illegal immigrants” ete.), but the section on how the Obama administration dealt with an uptick in border crossings is interesting and important to understanding how we got here.

Credit where it’s due: I haven’t seen anything about this on the Wall Street Journal opinion page yet, I appreciate their restraint.


Meanwhile, at the Democrats Headquarters:

*Yakety Sax plays as Chuck Schumer falls down a staircase for five consecutive days while the country falls to fascism*


  1. The Atlantic’s New Cover Story

The Atlantic@TheAtlantic

Your child says she’s trans. She wants hormones and surgery. She’s 13 years old. What do you do? @jessesingal reports in our most recent cover story: pic.twitter.com/iJw2GTYf9S

June 18, 2018
The Atlantic’s new cover story picks a bad author to ask a dumb question that will inherently have a much more convoluted and bigoted answer than the obvious one of “just support your child, idiot.”

2. Bleeding talent at the WSJ

Jonathan Martin@jmartNYT

The Murdoch-era exodus at WSJ is remarkable - and not fully appreciated by folks outside journalism. A great paper bled of so much talent. https://t.co/0wqchoYw54

June 18, 2018

The Wall Street Journal has a new editor in chief, but it’s apparently not enough to stop a continuing exodus of talent. By its very nature, working at a corporate media outlet will always mean compromising your journalism to some degree, but if you have the choice, I can see why you’d rather work at CNN than a Murdoch-owned outlet.

3. What happens when this is over?

Bryan@MurderBryan

Pretty sure the next president is probably gonna be a Democrat and when it comes to punishing this piece of garbage they will say “we need to look forward not backward” or some democrat horse shit https://t.co/zUuahxodDg

June 18, 2018

My prediction: unless there is a Mueller bombshell waiting to happen, there will be very little prosecution about anything and the next President will say something about how we all have to move on together.

  1. Thoughts and prayers for ICE

CBS This Morning@CBSThisMorning

This just in from @davidbegnaud: Border Patrol has reached out to @cbsthismorning and said they are "very uncomfortable" with the use of the word cages. They say it's not inaccurate and added that they may be cages but people are not being treated like animals. pic.twitter.com/0zSDqJszgK

June 18, 2018

ICE’s ability to be the worst people in America while simultaneously being insufferable babies about they are treated unfairly is staggering. It’s like if you took the world’s worst cop school flunk-outs, empowered them with a subhuman mandate and generous funding, and then gave them the moral superiority of the most insufferable police union imaginable.


Trump’s new narrative about Europe mirrors the alt-right media gremlins

Here’s a fun hypothetical: what if the most important person in the world got a large portion of his news from the dumbest people in the world?

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump

The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition. Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!

June 18, 2018
Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump

We don’t want what is happening with immigration in Europe to happen with us!

June 18, 2018

Today, online, Trump seemed to justify his immigration policies by using the example of what an influx of migrants have done to Europe and, specifically, Germany. This was a flimsy point, because Germany actually has the lowest crime levels since 1992.

However, the idea that migration has created an influx of crime and---more broadly---a disenfranchisement of white culture is very trendy in one circle: the far-right conspiracy fringe.

You can find them talking about it as recently as Infowars did last month and as far as Breitbart in 2015. The fallen son of these dummies, Milo Yiannopoulos, tried to have a gay pride march through a Muslim neighborhood in Sweden. (Like most Milo ventures, he was too lazy to do the follow-through.) If you’ve been following these dweebs you know the idea of a failing Europe is something they really like talking about.

There’s been some reporting about Trump’s media habits, but a lot of it is old and possibly outdated considering the extremely volatile nature of anything in the administration. What we do know is that Trump doesn’t use the internet for news, instead relying on print-outs or newspapers given to him by aides. We know he watches Fox News religiously and other cable news occasionally to frequently (but more to hate-watch than gleam information.) We know he doesn’t like written intelligence briefings. Beyond those broad margins, there’s not a lot about the day-to—day information Trump ingests.

Today’s tweets point to something concerning. Like most Trump stories, it combines two ridiculous and gross concepts: (a) the President relying on the Online for information instead of the people whose entire jobs rely on giving him information and (b) idiots attempting to con other idiots into believing the West is falling to a surge of impoverished Syrians for profit and glory and maybe the justification for a white ethno state, and combines them into something exponentially scarier. What if the most powerful person in the world---driven away from any sensical news source by his ego and inability to take criticism---is increasingly relying on absolute bigoted idiots like Alex Jones for news? What does that Presidency look like?

Or, to put it another way:


The Los Angeles Times has a new owner

It’s weird and bad that we’ve gotten to a place where only three newspapers matter at a national level. Places like the Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, and countless other surviving newspapers do important work on a local level, but by and large the national conversation as it relates to newspapers comes from The New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. Decentralization of media is bad for readers and we should be relying on more sources, not less.

That’s one of the encouraging things about the LA Times’ new ownership. The paper has a long legacy of doing important work for California and beyond, but they’ve been saddled by poor ownership for years that was specifically unmatched to evolve digitally. Finally, last year, the paper engaged in a very public breakup with the very corrupt Tronc. It was a huge victory for the paper’s besieged staff, whose unionization was one of the focal points of the conflict.

Today is the start of a new Tronc-less era for the paper, and early signs from the new billionaire owner Patrick Soon-Shiong point to an agenda of revitalization and national ambitions. This is exciting. An ascendent LA Times is unquestionably good for the journalists of the LA Times, the state of California, and everyone in the country.

(And yes, billionaires owning papers creates an inherent conflict of interest and a suspicion that reporting is being suppressed. However, when you factor in the position the paper was in, the good work the Washington Post has done under Bezos, and the lack of a reliable competing model of funding for papers of the LA Time’s size, I’m going to stand behind greeting this news with optimism.)


That’s it! I don’t know how the format will evolve in the days and weeks to come, but I’m going to take it one step at a time. It’ll be shorter in the future, I can promise you that.

Please follow me on Twitter @TomHBunting. Visit VideoLoss.com for more coherent articles or find even more of my work at TomBunting.net.

Thanks for reading!

-Tom

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