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Thursday, November 30, 2017

5 worst media moments of last week

Thomas L. Friedman

Thomas L. Friedman, NY Times columnist (AP Photo/Keystone/Peter Schneider) (Credit: Associated Press)

AlterNet

Saudi Arabia gets some top-shelf public relations help from U.S. media, alt-right chuds have meltdown over Twitter ban, and the most incompetent administration in history still manages to openly manipulate the media. We dissect these and more in this week’s five worst media moments.

1. Thomas Friedman writes creepy love letter to Saudi dictator-in-waiting.

What can be said about Friedman that hasn’t been said a million times by better writers? He’s tedious, venal, incoherent, morally repugnant hack who’s been phoning in power-flattering columns since I was in middle school. But on Thanksgiving he managed to find a new, heretofore unknown level of shamelessness, by running what was, in effect, a public relations piece for the Saudi Crown Prince – fresh off a recent purge of all his political enemies under the guise of “anti-corruption” and “reform”.

“Saudi Arabia’s Arab Spring, at Last“, the headline proclaimed. Evidently absolute monarch dictators can assert an “Arab spring” despite the entire point of the Arab Spring being to oppose such forces. Nonetheless, Friedman would continue for 2700 words painting the king-in-waiting for his bravery and courage. Glossing over the brutal, criminal war in Yemen as a “humanitarian nightmare”, Friedman insists his “biggest sin” was “moving too fast”. Evidently, mercilessly bombing the poorest country in the Arab world for two-and-a-half years falls below “being too goddamn passionate about reform” in the severity of sins ranking.

In the groveling interview, Friedman let’s Mohammed bin Salman, without pushback, call Iran “the new Hitler”, claim the anti-corruption investigation is “independent” (as is the custom in absolute monarchies), spew out vague reformist pablum, and even ends by comparing the prince to Hamilton from the Broadway show Hamilton (Why does he always work like he’s running out of time”? Friedman fawns). In Dante’s Inferno, sycophants occupy the second pit of the eighth circle of hell, grovelling in excrement that represents the insincere flattery of their words. There’s not, we will likely find out, a pit deep enough nor feces potent enough suitable for The Times worst columnist.

2. Trump plays media like fiddle over bogus Iran-HBO hack case.

It’s rare one has evidence the media is being manipulated in real time but such is the case this week with the sensational case of an Iranian national hacking HBO and stealing Game of Thrones scripts. The Washington Post reported Sunday that the Trump administration was pressuring DOJ lawyers to find any dirt on Iran or Iranian nationals in a broader push increase tensions with the country:

Last month, national security prosecutors at the Justice Department were told to look at any ongoing investigations involving Iran or Iranian nationals with an eye toward making them public.

The push to announce Iran-related cases has caused internal alarm, these people said, with some law enforcement officials fearing that senior Justice Department officials want to reveal the cases because the Trump administration would like Congress to impose new sanctions on Iran.

Here we have whistleblowers in the DOJ letting the public know, in no uncertain terms, the Trump administration was selectively seeking out cases to smear Iranians to undermine the Iran Deal, impose sanctions, and stoke a potential war. How did the media respond to this after a story broke the same day an Iranian national hacked into HBO? By mindlessly repeating the story without noting this glaring piece of mitigating context. Every outlet, from LA TImes to Buzzfeed to Reuters to Daily News to The Guardian to The New York Times ran with the “LOL Winter is Coming for this Iranian hacker” frame without noting it was part of a deliberate propaganda effort by the Trump White House. DOJ lawyers told us Trump was playing the media and it worked anyway. No one cared.

3. $32 million media campaign to seat Neil Gorsuch on Supreme Court funded by anonymous donor.

What would be the biggest scandal of the week in a healthy society – a single anonymous donor backing the PR campaign to seat a far-right judge on the Supreme Court — was relegated to minor coverage in our present hell timeline.

MapLight’s Andrew Perez and Margaret Sessa-Hawkins revealed Tuesday that the major group behind the push, the Wellspring Committee, had, “donated more than $23 million last year to the Judicial Crisis Network, which spent $7 million on advertisements pushing Republican senators to block President Barack Obama’s court pick, Merrick Garland. After the election, the network spent another $10 million to boost President Donald Trump’s pick, Justice Neil Gorsuch.”

The most offensive part isn’t even that billionaire donors can have such colossal influence over our nomination and electoral process; it’s that they can do so entirely anonymously. Not only can we not do anything about the rich shaping our perception on matters of huge political import, we can’t even know who is behind it. This should be an outrage, but alas, it’s just another dot on the sprawling map of monied influence we now accept as routine.

4. 60 Minutes, Washington Post completely omit U.S. role in Yemen slaughter.

Two major media outlets spent the past two weeks whitewashing US role in the famine and bombing of Yemen. In this time, the country’s leading National Security paper, The Washington Post, has published two editorials and an explainer on the conflict and omitted, entirely, America’s military role in the campaign that’s left 15,000+ dead, two million internally displaced, and one million with cholera.

Escalating the negligence was CBS News’ 60 Minutes that dedicated a whole 13-minute segment to the conflict and never once mentioned that the United States provides targets for the Saudi Royal Air Force as well as refuels and sells billions in weapons. America’s role in the worst on-going humanitarian crisis on earth just slipped into a memory hole.

5. Major alt-right accounts get banned from Twitter, have colossal meltdown.

Alt-right troll, master of the self-own, practitioner of self-macing, and part-time holocaust joke maker, Baked Alaska (a/k/a Tim “Treadstone” Gionet) was banned from Twitter this week for being an all around vile nazi-sympathizer. After having a meltdown at an In-and-Out Burger parking lot and yelling at random strangers he attempted to created a “secret” account which was quickly banned as well.

Twitter has finally got around to sort of maybe trying to tame its runaway nazi problem. The rules are still arbitrary and opaque but at least they finally decided to decertifying celebrity white supremacist Richard Spencer–though they couldn’t bring themselves to actually ban him. This, one assumes, would just be too far.

Adam Johnson is a contributing analyst at FAIR and contributing writer for AlterNet. Follow him on Twitter @AdamJohnsonNYC.



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