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    • Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – September 26, 2021
      Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – September 26, 2021 by Tony Wikrent Strategic Political Economy “Rich People Are Leading the Anti-Vaccine Movement — and Experts Have a Theory Why” [Money, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-20-21] From 2019, still germane: “Disease experts say the parents least likely to vaccinate their kids live in some of the most afflu […]
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Various Media Reflections

I saw the second part of “Hemingway,” he loved to shoot wild animals, he loved bullfights. Something very strange about him. Of course, he greatly admired Theodore Roosevelt, and he hunted as well. I find it abhorrent, I could not dream of shooting an animal. What kind of arrogance and contempt for other lives that shows. F. Scott FItzgerald had his flaws, but I don’t think he ever shot other living creatures,, and he was a better writer than Hemingway, too.

I saw “The Trial of the Chicago Seven.” It is well done; and has an emotional effect. Aaron Sorkin wrote an excellent script. Apparently he took some liberties with the facts of the actual trial, which I am not much in favor of, though of course sometimes things can be slightly altered for dramatic effect. The essence of the trial; and that the Republicans, Nixon and John Mitchell, wanted to make a show of it, and throw anti-war leaders into jail for ten years or so, is very important. And of course it has its echoes in the Trump Administration, which had it gone on another four years, would have taken away the rights of just about everybody that was not part of Trump’s mafia. I am pretty sure that this was the backdrop for Sorkin wanting to make this movie. I recommend it.

The Derek Chauvin trial continues, wall to wall on television. I do not remember any other trials shown for so long on TV, unless it was O.J. Simpson, and I was not home much, so I don’t know how much they showed of it. It is interesting that the cable networks have decided to show weeks of the Chauvin trial, which is unquestionably significant, but of course essentially about the same set of facts repeated from different perspectives.

Not to say that they shouldn’t be showing all of this, but I have mused that the cable networks seem to need the drama of live events. Trump impeachments, the Congress questioning various witnesses on a matter. Are people now bored with the usual pattern of news, and crave real-life drama, with arguments and stunts and contesting perceptions by the two sides? If so, the news stations will have to find more of it, to keep their audience.

Is twenty-four hour cable news a good thing? Well, it’s there, whether we think so or not. And of course there is a profit aspect to it, it is not a public service, as the nightly news used to be. The ownership of the stations want you to watch them,. So they need to make it entertaining, as best they can, with arguments and vitriol, and “both sides,” and “stay tuned!”

We used to have a half hour of news at night. Cronkite on CBS, Huntley and Brinkley on NBC, and Howard K. Smith on ABC. My parents would try to watch them all, though at least two of them were on at the same time. They would quickly change stations; if there were a particular political story; they would want to see how each dealt with it, if one of them had s slant which they did not appreciate. And then the news was over for the day, unless of course there was a momentous or tragic event being covered. Now, it is shown all day, if one wants to watch it. Is this a good thing? Probably not, if just for the reason that while the big three stations used to do news as a half-hour public service, now the cable stations need eyeballs and ratings, and they have to try to make it entertaining for their audience which of course has implications for how they cover things.

I certainly admit to having watched a good deal of cable news over the last couple of years, hoping that Trump would be convicted, or that various House or Senate hearings would unearth something which would destroy his presidency. It never did, of course; it took the election to remove him, and barely then, considering the armed insurrection.

Actually, in retrospect we see that much of the stuff that Trump;s people were leaking to the media, as “scoops” were just lies or deliberate misdirection. Remember how right after the election, the “Trump whisperers ” on cable first said that Trump was very upset and depressed with the results; and then, that he had come to terms with it? That sounded promising, but we would also hear that he was meeting or calling election officials in various states, which did not seem to comport with the narrative of a defeated person who was just readying himself to go back to private life. And we learned to our horror that the “coming to terms with it” narrative was untrue; that he was spending every waking hour plotting to stay in office, by either overturning state results, or blocking the certification of votes, or even fomenting terrible violence against elected officials, leading to the declaring of martial law.

I am convinced that four years of “sources close to the President say…” was essentially “Trump called me and told me.” As Trump had always done in his career, he would feed stories to media people who would trade their credibility and impartiality for the career enhancements that these “scoops” would give them. It was bad enough when he was doing it for business and celebrity publicity. As President, he was dong it to shape a narrative, and get his way. There are media people out there who greatly contributed to the series of lies which were dispensed throughout the four years. They would never admit this, even to themselves, but I see them as enablers, and very dangerous ones, who did inestimable damage.

Along that line, do you notice that Jen Psaki’s press briefings are not covered live? She is wonderful; very bright, very quick, good-natured but firm, and never letting the media get away with a false or skewed narrative. But they don’t show her, whereas they showed virtually every second of the Trump press secretary briefings, on and on, full of rancor, lies, disparagement of media in general. Why was that? Those were more entertaining, and hence provided higher ratings? The media was in Trump’s pocket, and wanted to cover him 24 hours a day? This kind of thing is not to be passed over, with, “Well, it’s over, let’s focus on the present.” It is indicative of a rot at the center of much of the media. Not all of the media of course, but enough to cause serious damage to our institutions.

We remember with sadness and anger, how the media skewed its coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign. I won’t recount the details, but it was not covered as a crucial news event, it was covered as an entertainment spectacle, with Trump being the main attraction, and thus getting all the space and time. Add that to the right-wing corporate bias of most of the large media, and you have the debacle of the campaign coverage, where Hillary was essentially portrayed as a foil to Trump, the TV show character who got a few requisite scenes, but with the audience craving the reappearance of the fascinating and unpredictable star.

“Do better,” yes, indeed. I wonder why my two favorite cable news anchors, Chris Jansing and Brooke Baldwin, are basically gone. Jansing got taken off the election coverage, perhaps after Sanders supporters reacted angrily to what they saw as her sighing when Sanders was shown winning the Nevada caucus. Now she just does news reporter stories. Baldwin was also taken off election coverage, which she said was not her choice. Then her show went from two hours to one; and then she announced that she was leaving the station. I liked both of them, because they were thoroughly professional, intelligent, and displayed a warmth and concern which was a welcome respite from the usual bland, full-of-themselves news anchors. They will be missed. I will be watching much less of cable news, maybe almost none of it, as a result of CNN and MSNBC opting tor Jake Tapper over Baldwin, and a variety of insipid anchors over Jansing. And of course, the welcome relief of having a competent and sane Joe Biden as President, makes it easier to not keep turning on the TV to see what new horror Trump had unleashed.

The news must go on, and there is always something for them to show. What the effects are, is not their concern, obviously. We want to keep informed, it is important to a democracy that the people know what is going on. But we will have to always be alert to filter it through the prism of realizing what the networks’ computer algorithms tell them are the most ratings-enhancing, and profitable to present.