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The Numbers Indicate We Spend Too Much Time Talking Hate Crime in RI

David Bernstein takes to Instapundit with the FBI’s findings that hate crimes increased by 5% in 2016, noting:

The increase isn’t good news, but between what certainly looks like an increase in hate crimes hoaxes and the greater attention paid by the media to real hate crimes, which encourages reporting, there may not be any real increase at all.

Digging into the data, I find hate crimes actually went down in Rhode Island:

2015 2016
Total 19 13
Aggravated assault 3
Simple assault 6 4
Robbery 1
Destruction/damage vandalism 10 7
Crimes against society 1

Following Bernstein, I’d suggest that this hardly illustrates a Trump-campaign boost in hate crimes, even though the president had an unexpectedly strong showing in Rhode Island.

More important, though, the minuscule size of these numbers — fewer than 20 incidents per year — has implications for the amount of time that Rhode Islanders should spend pondering public policy related to this issue.  Little wonder progressive Democrat Mayor of Providence Jorge Elorza has found very little by way of hate crime, even though his administration has essentially solicited reporting with its “little used” hotline.

In a contest of harm to Rhode Islanders, especially disadvantaged minorities, hate crimes don’t even compare with our state’s unhealthy tax and regulatory policies.

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Partisan Descriptors

Maybe it’s just that Halloween is coming that I noticed this, but something in the word choice of Michelle Cottle’s commentary in The Atlantic on Alabama’s GOP primary struck me funny:

Alabama is usually such a happy place for Republicans. The state is not merely blood red; its conservatives thrill to the culture-war revanchism that the GOP has been peddling for decades.

I’m curious: Has anybody ever seen a similarly ghoulish metaphor used in passing for Democrat blue?  Maybe “suffocation blue”?

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Political Monday with John DePetro, No. 31: Sick Outs and What It Means to Be a Democrat

For my weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WADK 1540 AM show, last week, the topics were the Warwick sick outs, my ethics complaint, Josh Miller’s view of the Democrats, Raimondo’s remorse for hurting journalists’ feelings.

Open post for full audio.

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AI, Social Media, and the Internet of Things

Of course, I’m inclined to come to this conclusion, but sometimes I have to remark how often I find traditional Christian prescriptions for society to be an obvious antidote to the bogeymen that haunt our near future.  Richard Fernandez has a brief essay on PJMedia noting that, even as our nation’s tech giants attempt to push their high-tech influence machines into every area of our lives, hostile nations like Russia are experimenting with ways to leverage the resulting access for their own benefit.  Here’s the key part, though:

The conventional wisdom is that Putin’s information ops were meant to benefit Trump. But the record shows the Kremlin backed both sides. An even more devastating strategy was to destroy political discourse — and freedom — itself. A network flooded with spurious messages (“fake news”) will tend to zero trust operating on the principle “never trust, always verify.” Eventually “micro-segmentation and granular perimeters” — the echo chambers and conspiracy circles so familiar today — will emerge and paralyze action. Foer writes how “the tide had turned so quickly. The biggest problem is that Facebook and Google are these giant feedback loops that give people what they want to hear. And when you use them in a world where your biases are being constantly confirmed, you become susceptible to fake news, propaganda, demagoguery.”

The answer is obvious:  Never close all of the windows through which you hear contrary opinions, no matter how much you think they’re just aggressive noise.  More fundamentally, that requires us to maintain a respect for our fellow human beings’ worth and a concern for their well being especially when they are in error.

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Media Bias Like Rock in the Late ’60s/Early ’70s

In the past couple days, I’ve skipped over a few articles that would have made for easy posts because, frankly, the bias of the American news media has become so egregious that it’s not even interesting to point out anymore.  Even relatively straight reporting on President Trump’s actions tends to be slathered with subjectivity meant to instruct readers not on what has happened or what some policy will do, but to signal how they’re supposed to feel about it.

One article on which I almost posted yesterday was Amy Goldstein’s Washington Post piece, appearing in a watered-down version in today’s Providence Journal, on President Trump’s Affordable Care Act executive orderOnline, the Projo disappeared the article and sent the link to an entirely different AP release.  Take a look at this paragraph as originally posted:

The White House and allies portray the president’s move to expand access to “association health plans” as wielding administrative powers to accomplish what congressional Republicans have failed to achieve: tearing down the law’s insurance marketplaces and letting some Americans buy skimpier coverage at lower prices. The order is Trump’s biggest step to carry out a broad but ill-defined directive he issued his first night in office for agencies to lessen ACA regulations from the Obama administration.

If this is an outlier in the mainstream coverage of President Trump, it isn’t by much.

This trend among journalists brings to mind the over-production of pop/rock music in the early ’70s.  The Beatles were famously unhappy with Phil Spector’s saturation of Let It Be with orchestration.  When George Harrison remastered All Things Must Past 15 years ago or so, the liner notes expressed his urge to “free the songs” from all of the layers of sound, and demos of the songs released with the Beatles Anthology albums give a wistful sense of what could have been.

In other words, the current style of reporting on the president as a sort of fad for adding layers of virtue-signaling editorial content to reporting.  Luckily there are (metaphorical) hard rock and folk trends running alongside the schlock if you know where to look.

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“Negotiations” Over Other People’s Money… Without Mentioning the Cost

I continue to be amazed at the use of the word, “negotiations,” in contexts like Patrick Anderson’s Providence Journal article:

Negotiations between the House and Senate, and labor and business groups, produced a new version of the sick leave bill, which emerged late Friday evening in the House Labor Committee and passed unanimously.

A priority for the General Assembly’s progressive caucus, the bill would guarantee Rhode Island workers up to three paid sick days in 2018, four sick days in 2019 and five days off per year from 2020 onward.

Who’s negotiating with whom over what?  People most of us didn’t elect are “negotiating” with people most of us don’t acknowledge as representing our “community” over costs that will be borne by everybody who operates a business in the state or has any dealings with anybody who operates a business in the state.

The unbelievable mindset — strike that: the all-too-believable mindset — that this is a “negotiation” is put over the top by the fact that nobody involved in the “negotiation” or in reporting on it is putting a cost on the result.  Anderson isn’t alone in this; Steph Machado does the same on WPRI.

If anybody wants a starting point, I looked into the matter (along with other pieces of legislation) last month for the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity and concluded that the cost of this program will be about $49 million per year.  Others are free to debate that number, but for the sake of our state, shouldn’t we take it as a warning sign that nobody is doing so?

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Red Sox Bleacher Banner Was Anti-American

Sometimes it’s important to be accurate, and Ken Powtak’s failure to be so for an article from the AP is important to note:

A few fans seated above the Green Monster dropped down a sign denouncing racism during the fourth inning of Boston’s game against Oakland at Fenway Park on Wednesday night.

The sign — draped over the top middle of the 37-foot Monster — had a black background with white letters that read: “Racism is as American as Baseball.”

Sure, that message clearly carries the assumption that racism is bad, but what it does most of all is to denounce America as a racist country.  We shouldn’t let activists (in and out of the news media) muddy the waters.  One can be anti-racist and pro-America, but this sign doesn’t carry it off and shouldn’t be celebrated.

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Gorbea’s Inappropriate Press Release

Politics in America have taken on a strange tone in recent years, amped up by the election of Donald Trump as president.  This is particularly notable in discussions of election integrity, both in the notion that Russians interfered in our national election and in different views on the significance of voter fraud.

Today, Rhode Islander Ken Block presented findings of his voter roll review to the president’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.*  Among other things, in that presentation, Block highlights that “30.7% of 2016 votes in Rhode Island were cast by voters with no identifying information in voter registration database.”  He doesn’t allege that those voters are doing anything wrong, but does insist, “It is vitally important to know how many voters in each state cannot be identified by their data.”

In a press release that is clearly more of a political document than an informative one, Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea mischaracterizes this presentation in a strange way:

Today the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity met in New Hampshire. Part of their presentation included the erroneous claim that 30 percent of Rhode Island voters in 2016 are somehow illegitimate or not verified. …

In short, these voters are your friends, your family, and your neighbors. If you registered to vote in Rhode Island before 2002, these voters likely include you. Allowing unsubstantiated claims to influence our public policy can lead to real consequences and the exclusion of legitimate voters.

Gorbea is speaking out about claims that nobody is making and, in doing so, sidesteps the important question of whether Block’s findings are correct and a legitimate cause of concern.  Note, for illustration, that apart from mischaracterizing his claims, she unprofessionally declines to name Ken Block, attributing his statements to the commission, and attempts to make voters take this as an attack on them.

Obviously, folks are behaving with political motivation on both sides of these matters, but more and more, I find myself wishing that everybody involved, especially officials elected to do a job representing all of us, would let some opportunities for political jabs pass by in order to provide the public with a fair and reasonable understanding of what is actually going on.

* Memo to the editors of the Providence Journal: That is actually the proper name of the commission, as formed by the President of the United States.  Putting quotation marks around the whole title or (especially) just the “election integrity” part is unnecessary grammatically and inappropriate as journalistic practice, illustrating yet again your newspaper’s bias.

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Rhode Islanders’ Nostalgia

In the context of a general melancholy feeling among some about the closing of Benny’s, Ted Nesi expressed an interesting thought on Twitter:

It is amazing that the PawSox have had so little ability to capitalize on sentiment in a state as nostalgic as RI

That does seem curious, but on the other hand, people’s nostalgia for Benny’s didn’t lead them to forgo the conveniences and prices of Amazon or even other local retailers and shop there more often.

The reality is probably something more like this:  Only a segment of Rhode Islanders are actually all that nostalgic, or rather, all that nostalgic about a particular institution, and one would expect the sorts of people who participate in public life and news media (as producers or consumers) to be especially interested in local details.

That’s true everywhere, of course.  Perhaps what makes it seem more prominent in Rhode Island — apart from the state’s size and general quirkiness — is a social comfort with letting relatively small segments use government to impose their interests.  That is, whereas most people in Rhode Island (or anywhere else) will observe a departing institution and give it little more than the thought, “Huh; the world changes,” Rhode Island has a high proportion of people who feel like somebody ought to do something to make the world exactly as they want it (probably at public expense).

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With SPLC, “Hate” Should Have a Trademark Sign

The group of conservative organizations signing on to an open letter addressed, so to speak, to the news media are absolutely correct:

We are writing to you as individuals or as representatives of organizations who are deeply troubled by several recent examples of the media’s use of data from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The SPLC is a discredited, left-wing, political activist organization that seeks to silence its political opponents with a “hate group” label of its own invention and application that is not only false and defamatory, but that also endangers the lives of those targeted with it.

At this point, citing the SPLC as some sort of arbiter of “hate” is either lazy or malicious.  The group has inspired a good deal of hate, itself, including a 2012 attack on the Family Resource Council that left a security guard injured.  And now its list of political enemies may be insinuating itself as a guide for corporations to blacklist organizations, as with the Ruth Institute’s loss of online payment processing.

As Tyler O’Neil notes, the same net that puts the Ruth Institute on the SPLC’s list ought to ensnare the Catholic Church, as well, except that inclusion of the church would expose the SPLC’s list for what it really is.  It’s a ploy to label as bigots those who wish to promote a culturally conservative worldview through persuasion and good works and thereby prevent them from participating in American society.

Journalists should have no part on advancing that ploy… unless, of course, they’re just left-wing activists, themselves.

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Hurricanes and Vultures

Here’s another one for your “what if the ideology were reversed” file.

Two seemingly separate items on today’s Providence Journal opinion page have a telling connection if your morning news stream looks like mine.  The first is the top-of-page political cartoon by Dave Granlund.  It shows some vultures saying, “We’re the other responders,” and holding a newspaper with headlines of people taking advantage of the victims and the destruction.

The second is a letter from Michael Hayes of East Greenwich who wants to know why, if events in Charlottesville merited four days of spontaneous front page coverage on the Providence Journal, a wave of even-more-deadly police shootings didn’t deserve the same treatment:

I wonder if anyone remembers the Black Lives Matter marches and the chants of “What do we want? Dead cops. When do we want it? Now.” I guess those words were not “disgraceful” and “shameful.”

Where were the headlines “WAR ON POLICE CONTINUES” or those telling us that our Rhode Island leaders were “sickened” over the killing of police officers?

The story that connects these two items comes courtesy of left-wing activist Linda Sarsour, who has had a high profile with “The Resistance,” offering the news media an opportunity for photos of a hijab-wearing radical.  Sarsour’s response to Hurricane Harvey’s devastation was to promote a left-wing community organizing PAC under the title of “Hurricane Relief Fund.”  Called on the scheme, Sarsour could only draw the fine distinction that it wasn’t her PAC and accuse people of being white supremacists.

So, what do you think?  If some prominent right winger were out there telling people that a donation to a conservative PAC in Texas was “hurricane relief,” would that be transformed into a national story?

Even if you wouldn’t go that far, the letter to the editor and the Sarsour story provide a reminder that we can’t rely on mainstream news outlets to keep us informed about what’s going on in the world would have a distorted view.

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Reality Reasserting Itself… for Some

Frank Somerville, an anchor for KTVU news in California, has declined the mainstream veil of silence on the nature of Antifa.  After visiting the “anti-hate protest” in Berkeley, he wrote:

I walked away stunned. I grew up in Berkeley. I marched in anti-war protests during the sixties. It’s one thing to read about hate. It’s another thing to be right next to it. In my opinion, these people dressed in black are just as hateful and intolerant as the people they are protesting against.

Afterward I was talking to several other protesters (not dressed in black). One of them actually stood up for me as the people dressed in black were threatening me. I was touched. They were just as disappointed as I was. They said that the people dressed in black represent a small minority and that they “hijack” the protests.

I can’t help but contrast, however, the insistence that this represents “a small minority” “hijacking” protests with the treatment of the Tea Party.  The conservatives didn’t even have “a small minority” hurting people and breaking things, and they received no credit for it.  Rather, the news media slandered the entire movement and yawned away a “non-scandal” as the Obama Administration’s IRS targeted such groups to disrupt their political advocacy and harass them.

(Curious, isn’t it, that the “small minority” of vicious masked thugs is on the same ideological side as the administration that corrupted government into dictatorial behavior.  It seems almost like a coordinated effort to undermine our system of government.)

As the new saying goes, that’s a big part of why you got Trump.

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Obscuring Reality One Headline at a Time

The dishonesty of reporting about Antifa has been something to behold, even down to the local level of the Newport Daily News.  On Monday, the paper carried an AP story about violence in Berkeley on page A2 with the headline, “Berkeley protest against hate turns violent as left, right clash.”  Here’s the first paragraph:

Black-clad anarchists on Sunday stormed into what had been a largely peaceful Berkeley protest against hate and attacked at least four people, including the leader of a politically conservative group who canceled an event a day earlier in San Francisco because of fears violence could break out.

Two notes:  The headline makes it sound as if there were two groups of substantial size fighting.  That’s a “clash.”  When one group arrives and assaults the other, that’s an “attack.”  Catch, also, the qualifier that the “protest against hate” had only been “largely peaceful.”  In other words, what Berkeley saw was a very violent subgroup enter into a larger — ideologically sympathetic — group that was already engaging in some violence and the now-larger mob attacking the actually peaceful protesters with which the mob disagrees.

Here’s video of Arthur Christopher Schaper, who occasionally submits essays to the Ocean State Current, being chased by a mob and then spat upon.  Now, Arthur’s more of a provocateur than I am, but journalists across the country should begin considering whether they really want to further a narrative that compounds the injustice to those attacked by left-wing mobs by denying the reality of the attack.

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When Tyranny Comes to the United States

Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby has some worthwhile things to say about the anti-free-speech mob in Boston last weekend.  Many people praised the Boston police for preventing street battles, but it wasn’t the police work that did that, but rather the fact that the nature of the planned free-speech rally had been promoted falsely as white supremacist by local politicians and news media across the country:

Result: The free-speech rally took place in a virtual cone of silence. Its participants “spoke essentially to themselves for about 50 minutes,” the Globe reported. “If any of them said anything provocative, the massive crowd did not hear it.”  [Journalists were also kept away.]

Even some of the rally’s own would-be attendees were kept from the bandstand. But when Police Commissioner Bill Evans was asked at a press conference Saturday afternoon whether it was right to treat them that way, he was unapologetic.

“You know what,” he said, “if they didn’t get in, that’s a good thing, because their message isn’t what we want to hear.”

Think about this, folks.  Here’s a government agent deciding that a particular message isn’t worth hearing, and rather than ensure that the angry mob could not interfere with the message of the group, the police created a “cone of silence” that even journalists weren’t permitted to enter.  This is censorship, cut and dried.

All it takes is for some reckless talk from political elites’ affixing an implied swastika on a group, and that group apparently loses its constitutional rights.  The reaction of the local authorities is “unapologetic,” not intent on reevaluating the actions to determine whether more could have been done to preserve those rights.

Perhaps that’s not surprising in a city whose people tolerated door-to-door raids while “sheltering in place” after the marathon bombing.

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Mainstream Media Figures Should Give More Details on Decisions

Last week, Providence Journal Executive Editor Alan Rosenberg penned a column on “how [the paper] decided on big front-page treatments of stories related to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, four days in a row, starting last Sunday.”  Unfortunately, he never quite gets to the interesting part, which is why a particular story is bigger news than another.

Why, for example, was it “of course” the right move to put promoting an “anti-white-supremacy vigil at the Rhode Island State House” on the front page Monday?  I’m not suggesting it wasn’t, but what made it so?  Is that what Providence Journal readers want to know about, especially?  Was the hope to tap into interest in a national story with a local angle?

By Wednesday, such questions have a little sharper edge.  Why was President Trump’s “both sides” comment so newsworthy as to bring the front-page coverage count to four days?  These aren’t idle questions, because as we saw, coverage like that provided by the Projo contributed to a massive mob descending on Boston to intimidate a small group of local free-speech advocates.  Where do the objective news decisions end and the contribution to a partisan left-wing narrative begin?

Ed Driscoll recently raised a telling reminder on Instapundit:

Note that this syndicated column by Ruben Navarrette, Jr. is running in the San Francisco Chronicle,which buried its editors’ videotaped interview with Obama in January of 2008 in which he vowed to bankrupt the coal industry, instead of putting his words in giant 72 point type on its front page the next day. A serious presidential candidate vowing to wipe a major industry should be major news no matter what your political leanings or your views on environmentalism. Its omission by the Chronicle served as a stark reminder that long ago, old media morphed into Democratic operatives with bylines, who merely produce content as a side function of their main goal of keeping their team in power and accumulating more of it.

It sure feels that way, and if Driscoll’s impression is incorrect, the Rosenbergs of the news industry are going to have to be a little more detailed in their explanations of why.

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Out of Touch Elite Don’t See the Nerve Trump Touches

Rod Dreher got to this point before I was able to do so:

The news media have been seriously distorting public reaction to Trump’s handling of Charlottesville. Whether this is a matter of only seeing what they want to see, or a matter of the talking heads being concentrated among coastal elites of both parties, is a matter of conjecture. True, a slight majority of Americans think Trump didn’t go far enough, but judging from the coverage and commentary, you would have thought at Charlottesville, Trump met his Waterloo. It didn’t happen. Charlottesville is not nearly as big a deal to Americans as it is to the media and coastal elites.

From coverage in the national media (and across the board, here in the Northeast), one would expect the “not far enough” opinion to rate in the 90s.  The only quibble I’d make is that Dreher skipped one possibility:  Maybe it’s not only that journalists are seeing what they want to see within their coastal elite bubble, but that they actively want to shape the narrative.

Whatever the case, one might fairly suggest that, when it comes to anything having to do with President Trump, journalists aren’t doing their job.  That’s true even if they see their “job” in some respects to be advancing their ideology.  Consider this, from Dreher:

This is likely to cause them to seriously overreach. If Democrats and liberals only pay attention to the media and to each other on the statue debate, they are going to alienate a lot of people. The hostile media environment has made it very difficult for anybody to speak up for keeping the statues, even though that is a majority opinion in America. So people will keep that opinion to themselves.

Keeping their opinions to themselves doesn’t mean forgetting the issue altogether.  Even people who don’t particularly care about Confederate statues will observe the way things work, these days, and may conclude that the country very much needs forces pushing back against the elite zeitgeist.  President Trump is currently the most visible manifestation of that conclusion, and I fear there are worse.

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