Imago/ZUMA On Sunday, the New York Times launched its much-anticipated 1619 Project, an entire magazine issue dedicated to examining the lasting legacy of slavery on the 400th anniversary of the first arrival of enslaved Africans in America. The reception to the initiative was overwhelmingly positive, with many applauding editor Nikole Hannah-Jones for spearheading a journalistic […]
We start off our Monday with another conspiracy theory promoted against Donald by his pro-Trump and Fox Business hosts over the volatile U.S. economy. Last week Donald Trump sent the stock markets on a roller coaster ride of uncertainty, anger and desperation which was fueled by his continued trade war with China. As a normal […]
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised in an industry that routinely protected the careers of the likes of Charlie Rose, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Matt Lauer and Glenn Thrush while making the working environment as hostile as possible to female employees, that serial sexual harasser Mark Halperin feels so entitled to a media career. And sadly, […]
The 1619 Project is an ambitious, interactive report, led by award-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, and hosted by The New York Times. It’s mission statement: The 1619 Project is a major initiative from The New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 […]
h/t Jason Campbell You gotta hand it to Rachel Campos-Duffy. She’s been able to parlay her lack of discernible skills into a fairly decent television career, from MTV’s “Real World” (where she met and married her congressman husband, Sean Duffy (R-WI) and birthed eight children with a ninth on the way) to “The View” to […]
Donald Trump’s new White House press secretary hasn’t given a single press briefing since she was appointed in June, and the odds are she never will. No briefing has been held there in more than 150 days, as Trump moves to drastically cut off the fourth estate’s access. It’s just another example of how reporters are being denied a chance to keep watch over Trump and his team.
And one of the desired effects, as Trump moves to eliminate transparency, is that reporters increasingly seem to have very little idea of what’s happening inside the White House. Permanently stuck in reactive mode as they respond to Trump’s catalog of bizarre and untrue pronouncements, journalists have largely become spectators. Just as importantly, they refuse to concede that a titanic shift has occurred at the White House. Instead, they cling to the illusion that they’re plugged in and have the pulse of the Oval Office.
“Reminder: There is no White House, not in the sense journalists have always used the term,” New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen recently tweeted, hitting on a media critique he has amplified for more than a year. “It’s just Trump—and people who work in the building. The term is still in use because what else are ‘White House’ reporters going to do? But there’s no referent for it. The metonymy broke.”
Rosen’s accurate appraisal pulls back the curtain and reveals that the “White House” that reporters are so busy reporting on and referring to is, at this point, basically a media concoction. It’s a prop that’s being held up because “the White House” is how journalists have always referred to the sprawling West Wing enterprise that powers and supports each American president. Mercurial Trump, though, has basically dismantled that infrastructure (he doesn’t like listening to people who don’t agree with him), yet the press still holds on to preferred tradition. The press keeps pretending “the White House” exists, and keeps presenting a false narrative about what’s happened to our executive branch.
Let’s look at recent examples. Trump’s Labor Secretary Alex Acosta was forced to resign over his role in offering wealthy sex offender Jeffrey Epstein a sweetheart plea deal back in July when Acosta served as U.S. attorney for southern Florida. His resignation came specifically after news accounts appeared suggesting that the press conference he staged in hopes of saving his job had gone well and that Trump was happy with the outcome.
In June, Ivanka Trump shocked observers, including reporters, when she not only accompanied her father to South Korea, but was also given an elevated role, delivering news interviews, posing for photos, and meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Reporters had no idea she’d be playing such a prominent role, and were given almost no explanation for her role as U.S. pseudo-diplomat.
To be fair, journalists aren’t alone in terms of often being completely in the dark about what’s happening inside the Trump White House; so, too, are senior administration deputies. We saw a clear glimpse of that last month when Department of Justice officials were caught completely unawares after Trump used his Twitter account to announce a stunning reversal in the court case over the administration’s attempt to include a question about citizenship on next year’s U.S. census survey. One day after the DOJ informed a federal judge that the government would not try to add to the 2020 census the citizenship question the Supreme Court had blocked, Trump tweeted out, “We are absolutely moving forward” on the citizenship question. “The tweet this morning was the first I had heard of the president’s position on this issue,” the DOJ lawyer handling the case told an irritated U.S. District Court judge. “As you can imagine, I am doing my absolute best to figure out what’s going on.”
Reporters, like administration attorneys, had no idea about Trump’s pending policy reversal. And we’ve seen that over and over, with the news media caught flatfooted regarding major policy pronouncements in a way that would have been unheard-of in previous administrations.
Increasingly, even those connected to the Trump White House concede that the place is a shell of its former self. Asked about Trump’s awful decision to retweet a murderous conspiracy theory about the Clintons, one anonymous aide told Axios, “I think we’re beyond the point of trying to control these things.”
Why is the White press corps so reluctant to admit what’s happening? Pretending there’s a well-oiled Trump White House machine, and that he’s surrounded by advisers who are deeply engaged with him in policy decision-making, is another way the media helps normalize the chaos that’s been unfolding at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the last two years. And, let’s face it, constantly reporting that Trump watches Fox News, which basically dictates most of his policy actions as president, doesn’t sound like an enticing story for D.C. press insiders to tell.
Instead, there’s collective tiptoeing around the obvious, which means we get lots of reports about anonymous “advisers” who are supposedly filling in the blanks of the Trump presidency. But increasingly, it all feels like a charade. And it’s a charade the press is happy to perpetuate, in part because the truth makes it look bad. It doesn’t want to publicly acknowledge how severely journalists have been cut out of the Trump administration loop, that so many traditional sources of information have completely dried up. Recently, I looked at several “White House Memo” installments in The New York Times, which are supposed to be snapshots from inside Trump’s inner circle. But none of the articles actually included any quotes from people who work inside the White House.
Having long prided themselves on being plugged in and able to dig up all kinds of closely held information, White House journalists under Trump are now often stuck in the role of bystanders.
Eric Boehlert is a veteran progressive writer and media analyst, formerly with Media Matters and Salon. He is the author of Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush and Bloggers on the Bus. You can follow him on Twitter @EricBoehlert.
This post was written and reported through our Daily Kos freelance program.
Thursday Jay-Z and National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell held a news conference announcing a deal with the league in which the hip-hop mogul’s company will handle the NFL’s entertainment events with a purported nod toward enhancing a message of social justice. This is a coup for Goodell and the league, which has been under fire from both sides of the political spectrum over the NFL’s reaction to Colin Kaepernick’s protest of racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem. Trump and conservatives have used the anthem protests as a wedge issue for the culture war in order to stoke white resentment among the Republican base, with the resulting firestorms leading many of those making money decisions in the sports industry to scurry away from either covering, discussing, or wanting to involve themselves in political discussions. ESPN’s Dan Le Batard recently defied the network’s edict of “no politics” by calling out Trump’s racism, and called ESPN’s reluctance to cover those issues directly “cowardly.”
Even as the anthem protests have become more widespread, with Megan Rapinoe of the U.S. women’s national team during the World Cup and Race Imboden at the Pan American Games, Kaepernick has remained unsigned to any NFL team since 2017, and other players have been frozen out and found it difficult to work in the league for their support of the protests. Over these past years of controversy, celebrities have offered differing degrees of solidarity with Kaepernick, usually by refusing to be a part of NFL events. Both Rihanna and Cardi B reportedly turned down an offer to perform at the Super Bowl halftime show because of the appearance of supporting the NFL after its treatment of Kaepernick. In public performances and some of his music, Jay-Z has in the past turned down offers to perform with the NFL and publicly supported the stance taken by Kapernick, calling him “an iconic figure.” For Beyoncé’s and Jay-Z’s 2018 track “Apeshit,” Jay-Z called out the NFL with this: “Once I said no to the Super Bowl: You need me, I don’t need you. Every night we in the end zone. Tell the NFL we in stadiums too.”
But that support only seems to go so far. Jay-Z’s decision to partner with the NFL has faced intense blowback from critics who believe collaboration with the league allows the powers that be to sidestep Kaepernick’s protest, and the NFL will use Jay-Z as an imprimatur to shut down any criticism of how the NFL handles the intersection of politics and sport, especially if team owners enforce edicts which silence players. For his part, Jay-Z claims “we’re past the point of kneeling” and his deal with the NFL is about “action.”
As part of the deal between Roc Nation and the NFL, Jay-Z’s entertainment agency will be consulted and collaborate with the NFL on the production, promotion, and marketing of any live music events connected with the league. The deal also anticipates possible community concerts, artist podcasts, and albums. The partnership will also involve Roc Nation being a part of the NFL’s “Inspire Change” initiative, which has the stated goals of education and economic advancement, improving police and community relations, and criminal justice reform. The initiative will include community events, “social justice grants” to help communities “bridge economic and racial divides,” and the promotion of stories from NFL players about their past and efforts to affect change.
However, there is one notable aspect which this deal doesn’t include: Kaepernick.
It doesn’t seem like the NFL or Jay-Z felt it necessary to seek Kaepernick’s approval for this arrangement, or to take into account his current circumstances of still seeking employment. The announcement of this partnership between Jay-Z and the NFL may or may not be a step in the direction of Jay-Z becoming the first African American majority owner of a football team, but it also comes at the same time Kaepernick released a video marking the three-year anniversary of when his protest began.
From Morgan Phillips at Mediaite:
“We forget that Colin’s whole thing was to bring attention to social injustice,” said Jay-Z. “In that case, this is a success. This is the next phase. There [are] two parts of protesting. You go outside and you protest, and then the company or the individual says, ‘I hear you. What do we do next?’”
Another reporter in the room asked Jay Z if he would stand if he would kneel. Jay-Z said “we’re past the point of kneeling” and it’s time to move on with “actionable items.” “I think everyone knows what the issue is, and we’re done with that… okay next,” said Jay-Z, adding that he was not minimizing Kaepernick’s kneeling because it was a necessary part of the process.
“For me it’s like action, [an] actionable item, what are we gonna do with it? Everyone heard, we hear what you’re saying, and everybody knows I agree with what you’re saying [in Kaepernick’s message]. So what are we gonna do? You know what I’m saying? [Help] millions and millions of people, or we get stuck on Colin not having a job,” said Jay-Z.
According to reports, Jay-Z and Kaepernick did have a discussion on Monday, but sources say “It was not a good conversation.” Critics in the media have gone so far as to say it’s the modern equivalent of Jay-Z having “30 pieces of silver inside the cupholder of [his] Maybach,” and have compared Jay-Z to African Americans who collaborated with segregationist institutions during the civil rights movement to give businesses the appearance of tolerance while they still excluded other blacks.
Kaepernick’s girlfriend, radio host Nessa, publicly excoriated Jay-Z Thursday night for “letting [the NFL] use him,” which she called “disgusting and disappointing.”
Jay-Z’s deal with the NFL has been criticized as a “hypocritical” betrayal by some.
Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid has criticized the move as “despicable,” seeing it as a distraction to cover up the NFL’s treatment of Kaepernick and to put a “black face” that’s marketable front and center in order to make perpetuating the current institutional policies of the league more palatable.
about people of color by forming numerous disingenuous partnerships to address social injustice while collectively blackballing Colin, the person who brought oppression and social injustice to the forefront of the NFL platform.
— Eric Reid (@E_Reid35) August 14, 2019
These arenÃ¢Â€Â™t mutually exclusive. They can both happen at the same time! It looks like your goal was to make millions and millions of dollars by assisting the NFL in burying ColinÃ¢Â€Â™s career. https://t.co/LFBZpbj2tw
— Eric Reid (@E_Reid35) August 15, 2019
Jay-Z doesnÃ¢Â€Â™t need the NFLÃ¢Â€Â™s help 2 address social injustices. It was a money move 4 him & his music business. The NFL gets 2 hide behind his black face 2 try to cover up blackballing Colin. #NeoColonialism https://t.co/tO49a1JC2c
— Eric Reid (@E_Reid35) August 15, 2019
The financial arrangements have not been made public. But whatever the numbers, the NFL’s new partnership with Jay-Z is a huge win for the league. Some of the biggest celebrities in the world have voiced their support of Kaepernick, saying they would boycott the NFL until Kaepernick is back in the league.
Now that the NFL has Jay-Z’s blessing, it’s conceivable that some of those entertainers who distanced themselves from the NFL might change their mind. Jay-Z has given the NFL exactly what it wanted: guilt-free access to black audiences, culture, entertainers, and influencers.
NFL officials must have been bothered by how much Kaepernick was discussed during Super Bowl week earlier this year. Not only did Goodell have to answer more questions about why Kaepernick still isn’t receiving any interest from NFL teams, but there had also been a number of reports that the league was having a hard time finding performers for its halftime show … It’s easy to see why Kaepernick would be upset now. The partnership with Jay-Z is part of the NFL’s larger strategy to continue to absolve itself of what happened to the quarterback and throw enough money at social-justice causes so that the players will no longer feel the need to protest—or, at the very least, keep their opinions about racial injustice far away from the football field. Last year The New York Times obtained audio of the three-hour meeting that took place among owners, players, and executives in October 2017, during the pinnacle of the protest drama. The late Houston Texans owner Bob McNair told the players who were present at the meeting, “You fellas need to ask your compadres, ‘Fellas, stop that other business. Let’s go out and do something that really produces positive results, and we’ll help you.’”
By leaving Kaepernick completely out of the mix, Jay-Z is now complicit in helping the NFL execute its strategy. Now he is an accomplice in the league’s hypocrisy.
Now, as Hill points out and to be fair to Jay-Z, he does have a history of using his position to do exactly what he claims this NFL deal will include, which is using media to point out areas of injustice.
He has used his music to bring attention to things like the effects of “the war on drugs” on the Latino and black communities. Executive-produced a six-part documentary series about Trayvon Martin. Was involved with and produced an absolutely amazing miniseries on the life of Kalief Browder, a teen falsely imprisoned at New York’s Rikers Island for three years without conviction, starting when he was 16 years old, after being accused of stealing a backpack. x x
Some sports pundits like Stephen A. Smith and Jalen Rose have defended Jay-Z’s partnership with the NFL by arguing Kaepernick wanted the NFL to address issues of social justice, and this deal may be a step in that direction which could be embraced and used instead of condemned. Rose has argued this is the NFL giving a “full embrace to the hip-hop culture.”
But all of it is colored in self-interest and money. No one in this is doing this out of the kindness of their hearts. No one believes the NFL would be doing this if they hadn’t been pushed and pulled to this point. There are dollars and cents involved, and that’s true of even Kaepernick as well. His deal with Nike, which has used Kaepernick in advertisements and stood beside him even in the face of MAGA idiots burning their shoes, has been criticized on similar ground as being a sellout of Kaepernick’s message. In the end, the question in all of this becomes whether the sort of change and attention which people like Kaepernick want can be achieved from within, and whether this sort of big-business approach to “social justice” is possible.
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In a news cycle full of clownish characters and outrageous rhetoric, it’s no wonder satire isn’t fully registering with a lot of readers. Ozger Sarikaya/Shutterstock.comR. Kelly Garrett, The Ohio State University; Robert Bond, The Ohio State University, and Shannon Poulsen, The Ohio State University In July, the website Snopes published a piece fact-checking a story […]
Mark Taylor, the self-professed “firefighter prophet,” joined another extremist to discuss Rep. Maxine Waters, who earlier this week tweeted a rebuke to Donald Trump’s weak and cowardly response to the mass shootings in El Paso, Dayton and Gilroy. Trump, you called the El Paso shooting an act of cowardice. Trump, you’re the coward. You could […]