If you were trying to sow division and promote civil unrest (and maybe civil war), you would promote the narrative of these CNBC headlines.
My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for June 8, included talk about:
- Raimondo to the rescue or enters stage left?
- Who was in control of the march?
- Was no-discount donuts a mistake, a backlash against regulations, or good woke marketing?
Blue check marks on Twitter can guffaw about things that Fox News viewers believe, but maybe they should be thinking about the importance of collecting information from a wide variety of sources.
COVID-19 results continue to improve in Rhode Island, even the previously stubborn daily deaths… despite what one news team insists on reporting.
My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for May 27, included talk about:
- Justice Flanders still protecting rights
- Trump v. Gina
- General Assembly… still out
- Mail ballots
- Money for insiders
- No jobs for Rhode Islanders
When you’re claiming to be speaking from a position of science and advocating policies that restrict our rights and that have massive implications for the real lives of millions of people, details are important.
As we claw back our liberty little by little in the months ahead, we must adjust for the degree to which our opinions (and those of our neighbors) can be swayed by the Zeitgeist.
The assumptions of an ideological insider class in Rhode Island discount and brush aside diverse ideas that would help the state run better and recover from economic hits.
Turning anecdote into fearful narrative is a disservice from our information institutions.
My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for May 11, included talk about:
- The governor’s New Order
- Cops push back
- Protesters push back
- The press pushes back
- Will businesses push back?
- Will the General Assembly push back?
- Elorza gets push-back and stumbles
Rhode Island’s news media is reporting 17 more COVID-19 deaths, which sounds like a lot until you realize that, according to the state, only one of them was reported to have actually happened yesterday.
Governor Raimondo wants Rhode Islanders to take on faith that she actually has the authority she’s wielding and that she’s basing decisions on “science,” but the public, and the news media, should not follow the cult of personality.
As “state of emergency” becomes more a legal term of art than a fact, we need our free press to challenge government authority rather than just conveying its message.
My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for April 13, included talk about:
- The governor’s handling of the virus crisis
- The silence from everybody else
- The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s suggestions
- The decisions facing the governor and the people of RI
A recent bill to mandate aspects of media reporting deserved its death and ridicule, but the reaction does raise questions about when censorship is OK and how much it depends who is being censored.
Looking out beyond the boundaries of our town, for Episode 14, the Tiverton on Track podcasters discussed the coronavirus and the daily countdown of cases, leading to panic and a better-safe-than-sorry attitude that is closing schools and cancelling activities.
For the category of the news media constructing narratives on behalf of government, is there any way this finding could have been otherwise?
Police: R.I.’s red flag law ‘likely averted potential tragedies’
As of Oct. 31, state and local police across Rhode Island had invoked the red flag law on 33 occasions since its adoption in June 2018. The law allows police to petition a court for an “extreme risk protection order” that allows them to confiscate firearms from individuals believed to be at “imminent risk” of killing themselves or others.
Yeah, of course any time you take away somebody’s gun, you can say you might have stopped some tragedy. But (of course) maybe you didn’t.
The implicit bias of this article is indicative of the entire gun-control impulse. It’s the same mentality that says if we just take away all guns, we’ll obviously be avoiding tragedies.
Except when we don’t. In those cases, there’s always an excuse and an explanation of how being even more aggressive about taking away guns would work better. Contrary evidence is also difficult to connect decisively; while law enforcement can claim that every confiscated gun might have “averted potential tragedies,” we simply don’t know what “potential tragedies” might be caused by confiscation.
There are the immediate scenarios, of course, like the woman who obeyed a gun-free-zone law while the stalker who murdered her husband did not or the Texas church-goers who brought a quick halt to a mass shooting attempt. And then there are the longer-term consequences of being the sort of people who’ll let government promise us greater security if only we’ll sacrifice a little bit more of our freedom.
My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for November 25, included talk about:
- Insider Alves and the radical caucus
- The union view of employer responsibility
- Gaspee versus campaign finance laws
- Paint on the statute becoming blood on government’s hands
- Blood on the police officer’s hand gets a slap on the wrist
By way of some morning levity, I thought I’d pass along this headline from the Fall River Herald that caught my eye: “For classicists, ‘quid pro quo’ is music to the ears,” for a story from the Washington Post news wire.
They could have chosen “this for that.” Or possibly even “tit for tat.” But instead, Democrats and Republicans alike decided to go with “quid pro quo” as the defining term for the central accusation of the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.
They disagree, of course, on whether an illegal quid pro quo occurred, but have embraced the alliterative Latin phrase as the lingua franca for the debate. Now all that remains is the ultimate political thumbs up or thumbs down decision.
For people thoroughly convinced that the mainstream news media is — to varying degrees depending on region — an active wing of the Democrat Party machine, articles like this appear to be a sly effort to push impeachment. The presentation is of a light article about linguistic fashion, but what it accomplishes, politically, is to give readers the sense that the impeachment effort is about something real (the Democrat position) and to explain a key phrase for people who aren’t familiar with it.
My awareness of this phrase goes back at least 25 years, for a reason that affects my impression of the news media’s efforts. During the presidency of George H.W. Bush, news stories were repeatedly framed so as to make him seem out of touch. One example was a news cycle about how he’d been like a stranger in a strange land at a grocery store, when really he’d been expressing due admiration for some new checkout technology that was cutting edge at the time.
I remember distinctly the coloring of the press when President Bush stated, in response to some faux scandal, “There was no quid pro quo.” The implied commentary of the news media was so strong as to carry across decades of memory: “What is this strange phrase, and who even talks like that?”
Vulpes pilum mutat, non mores.
My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for November 11, included talk about:
- The problem of public sector pensions
- The value of the Fung brand for the Mrs.
- Mayor Pete’s no-media, no-controversy event
- Nanny Bloomberg and Gina’s RFP
- No warning on the homeless transplants
The RI education establishment trumpets the “transformation” of East Providence because its focus is on schools as a jobs program rather than a service to children.
Let’s begin with the necessary caveat that advocates and government agencies have incentive to make problems seem critical and to make increased funding seem to be the solution. That said, Alex Kuffner’s reporting for the Providence Journal does raise a red flag worth noticing:
Environmental organization Save The Bay blames the disrepair of the state’s dams on inadequate staffing in the dam safety program, a problem that plagues the DEM as a whole, resulting, the Providence-based advocacy group argues, in a diminishment of the agency’s enforcement capabilities and an increased threat to public safety.
“We are literally one storm away from loss of life,” said Kendra Beaver, staff attorney with Save The Bay and a former chief legal counsel at the DEM.
So, here’s the next question we must ask: Where is all the money going? The state has a $10 billion budget. Rhode Island must be doing something wrong if the condition of dams has reached the point of near certain catastrophe.
To be fair, Kuffner’s very long article does moderate Beaver’s assertion, but in doing so, it only amplifies the relevant question: What’s the point, if it isn’t the need for more resources? And that brings us back to: Where is all the money going?
Read mainstream news stories for long, and you’ll become very familiar with the “here’s a problem in need of more taxpayer dollars” genre. Maybe what we need is more skepticism about what the priorities of government should be.
Maybe it’s not specific to anything Rhode Island, but Remy’s latest video for Reason captures part of our modern moment well and will might start your day off with a chuckle:
If you hear that the federal government is changing some policy that will affect welfare benefits for millions of people, what is the first bit of information you’d want to know? For me, the answer is what the change actually would be. For mainstream journalists, that’s often a secondary or tertiary consideration, probably because they fundamentally see their job as advocacy, not the provision of information.
A prime example is the Columbus Dispatch and Gatehouse Media article by Catherine Candisky and Jayme Fraser about the Trump administration’s proposed rule change for food stamp eligibility appearing in the Providence Journal. Readers have to get more than halfway through the article before finding a direct statement of what the policy does:
The proposed change would end benefits for people who receive assistance because of broad-based categorical eligibility.
The policy change would only add a requirement that state governments must actually check the eligibility of people applying for food stamps even when they are already receiving other forms of welfare. The only people who would lose food stamps under the new rule are those who are not eligible for them now, but who receive them because states don’t check.
Of course, as a society we can have the conversation about what level of income ought to entitle a family to assistance, but sneaking beneficiaries onto the rolls seems mainly to be a way to expand the business available for government and the dependency of the people on it.
It isn’t mere pedantry to see something conspicuously off about the Providence Journal headline, “Ethics Commission to probe GOP ethics complaint vs. Raimondo, IGT.” The Boston Globe might be slightly better inasmuch as it leaves the GOP out of the headline, with “State Ethics Commission to investigate complaint against Governor Raimondo.”
The problem, of course, is that the commission is investigating the governor, not the GOP or its complaint. As WPRI correctly puts it, “Ethics Commission to investigate Raimondo over IGT deal“:
The R.I. Ethics Commission on Tuesday voted to open a formal investigation into Gov. Gina Raimondo’s dealings with gaming giant IGT in response to a complaint filed by the state Republican Party.
The GOP alleged that Raimondo violated the state ethics code by negotiating a proposed 20-year extension of IGT’s state contact to run lottery and casino games. The Republicans cited Raimondo’s relationship with Don Sweitzer, IGT’s former chairman and current lobbyist, who was tapped by the governor to be treasurer of the Democratic Governors Association. Raimondo is the current chair of the national group.
Tuesday’s vote was an initial step based on the facts put forward by the GOP. “The decision to investigate does not address the validity of the complaint; rather, it merely indicates that the allegations properly fall under the provisions of the Code of Ethics,” the commission’s website says. “Neither the complainant nor the respondent participates in the initial determination.”
This is the sort of detail that used to give conservatives the impression of media bias back in the days before it was open and explicit. Whether it’s deliberate or an indication of the mental tics of the editors, errors or ambiguous language unfailingly makes it more likely to think the conservative or Republican side of dispute has done something unseemly, rather than the other way around.
If we were inclined to pause and review video of incidents with an eye toward understanding why each person is doing what he or she is doing, maybe we could reduce the level of conflict in our society, but where’s the profit in that?
Michael Graham, who can be credited with ramping up questions about Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s dealings with IGT and Donald Sweitzer, is out with another column asking whether the air of scandal that now lingers around her will be good for Democrats elsewhere, especially in swing states:
“[The Democratic Governor’s Association’s fundraising windfall is] great, until GOP oppo researchers in Kentucky and Louisiana start putting together DGA donations to Democrats in those states and the ethics scrap back in Rhode Island,” one national Democratic strategist told InsideSources. The strategist requested anonymity in order to speak freely about Democratic campaigns. …
Veteran Democratic strategist Jim Manley doesn’t agree that it’s a problem. “Sure, the GOP will try to make an issue out of it, but in the grand scheme of things, the 2020 election is going to come down to Donald Trump,” he told InsideSources.
And having one of the nation’s most unpopular governors as the public face of the DGA?
“Now that’s a good question,” Manley concedes.
For Rhode Islanders who believe our governor is best predicted, at this point, by her national ambitions, this is a conspicuous trend. So far, Raimondo’s PR army has managed to get her good press nationally no matter what was going on in Rhode Island. We’ll see how well that holds as she gets an increasingly real sense of the national stage, where not everybody who has substantial influence is more inclined to be on her side than not.
By the same token, Rhode Islanders who are frustrated with our state’s inability to address its systemic corruption can take a lesson: Where there are competing groups, there is accountability.
Not to go back to the well of content that is Naomi Chomsky, but this passage from an interview appearing on Liberation (“Newspaper of the Party for Socialism and Liberation”) is of note far beyond the topic of drag queen story hours:
What about media coverage of the events?
It’s been quite positive. I’ve done a lot of back and forth with the Massachusetts Family Institute. They made comments comparing drag to blackface, and called it misogynistic. But they’re fighting to restrict women’s bodies. They also are proponents of conversion therapy. I said this to everybody, and mentioned how these groups are attacking abortion rights— but none of the media printed that. They sort of softened my message a little bit, as they do.
Softened the message as they do for whom? I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a conservative, for example, complain that the media is softening his or her message — quite the opposite.
If you don’t read very broadly, across alternative media from all ideological angles, your understanding of controversies of the day is going to be very limited. And it’ll be limited in the particular way of softening the edges for the progressive pill that the mainstream news media wants our society to swallow.