people there’s only a small small group
of people who can travel every day for
weeks and weeks and weeks and months and
months on end so it’s only that specific
small subset of sort of corporate funded
media that’s on on the plane of those
people the schedule for reporters has
gotten drastically different in the last
twelve to sixteen years back in the 70s
and 80s newspaper reporters who traveled
on the plane the toughest schedule they
usually had was to file maybe at most
once a day you had to write one article
a day if you’re on the plane when the
internet came along that changed people
who work for the major dailies suddenly
had to not only write stories for the
print edition but they had to do two
three four five website updates a day
and the people who worked for the cable
news stations instead of doing one
report for the 6 o’clock news broadcast
or the 11 o’clock broadcast they were
doing 5 6 7 8 9 hits a day and they were
constantly constantly working and if
anybody’s ever read about cults like
ouch in Rico or anything like that one
of the things that they tell you is that
the working people constantly and
keeping them sleep-deprived is a way of
sapping their will and and reducing
their ability to think critically and
this is something that happens
absolutely on the campaign trail a
typical schedule for a reporter and also
for the politicians interestingly enough
especially when you get into the second
half of a presidential campaign is you
leave a hotel at 5:30 or 6:00 in the
morning you will follow the candidate
you’ll be writing constantly as soon as
as anything you start writing your story
at the end of every event they heard you
into a little room called the filing
room you do your work you go from you go
back to a bus you go onto a plane you
repeat the process three or four times
and you don’t get to your hotel until 11
or 12 o’clock that night and then you
repeat it all over again and for most
people their writing or reporting pretty
much constantly from the time they wake
up in the morning till the time they go
to sleep and then they’re waking up
again the next day at 6 o’clock and that
was pretty much everybody in the plane
who covers who covered presidential
elections except me because as a
magazine writer and there are very few
magazine writers who regularly cover
presidential campaigns my deadline was
once every six weeks every two months
and so they would heard all the
reporters into these filing rooms and
while everybody else sitting there
furiously clacking away I would be doing
nothing in fact the first time I went on
the on these trips I actually got in
trouble with some of the other reporters
because I was too loudly flipping the
pages of a Sports Illustrated at another
stop in Houston they busted me for using
or having a Rubik’s Cube which they
found annoying so for actually two or
three election cycles
26:32and years um I noticed that the campaign26:37marketing process is a very strange26:38thing it’s it’s extremely sophisticated26:42in some ways and extremely simple-minded26:45in other ways if you listen to the26:47speeches in the in the pre Trump era26:50they were basically just strings of26:53meaningless cliches piled on top of one26:55another and it didn’t almost didn’t26:58matter which candidate was speaking if27:01you took out certain words from each27:03speech you wouldn’t be able to tell27:05which party the person represented or27:07what of what policies he or she27:10supported they just they were just sort27:12of anodyne meaningless phrases strung27:15together one after the other and just to27:17give you a couple of examples of actual27:19campaign rhetoric that was very common27:22here’s one for millions and millions of27:24American the-dream millions and millions27:26of Americans the dream with which I grew27:28up has been shattered the choice is27:31between the right change in the wrong27:32change between going forward and going27:34backward this is totally meaningless of27:37course but within these meaningless27:41phrases there was actually you know as27:43we found as I found out an incredibly27:46sophisticated marketing phenomenon and27:48what we now know and in fact they27:51actually introduced this to to consumers27:55that they were they were using27:57incredibly sophisticated technology to27:59find out which words people liked more28:01than other words I’m sure everybody28:04who’s watched debates now and they28:05you’ll sometimes see there’s a crawl on28:07the bottom with a little graph and when28:10a candidate is talking you’ll see it go28:12up or down and this is what they call28:15dial survey technology and basically28:18what they’ll do is they’ll get a group a28:21control group into a room and they’ll28:23have a bunch of people sit there and28:25you’ll have a candidate read off a28:26speech and if the people like the word28:29they’re supposed to turn the dial28:30this way and if they don’t like the word28:31they turn they turn it that way and what28:34people the people who are running these28:36campaigns found out is that certain28:39kinds of voters just like it they like28:41hearing certain kinds of words and what28:43they would do is they would write these28:45speeches which were essentially28:46collections of words that had28:48meaningless sentences connecting them28:50together and so for progressive voters28:54if you listen to speeches that are28:57directed towards that kind of voter28:58you’ll find that they are very often29:00contain words like futuresmart and29:03compassion but for a right-wing voter29:07you’ll often see words like family tough29:10work obligation and so what these29:15candidates were doing they were using29:17this very very advanced technology to29:19basically lay this incredibly idiotic29:22kind of politics on millions and29:24millions of people and the way I like to29:26think of it is they were building like29:29the most advanced rocket in history to29:31deliver the world’s worst cheeseburger29:33to the moon basically it’s just it was29:36very very sophisticated marketing very29:38very dumb politics and so why is one29:41part of the process done in one part of29:43its smart well the politics part when29:45you think about it doesn’t need to be29:46smart really most people only have one29:51of three choices when it comes to29:53politics they can either vote Democratic29:56they can vote Republican or they can not29:58vote at all of course interestingly not30:01voting at all it continues to be the30:03overwhelmingly most popular choice among30:06the three but the level of marketing30:11sophistication that you need to get30:13people to make one of three choices is30:16relatively simpler than it is to get30:20people to watch a political show at all30:23compared to everything else that’s on30:25television right so in other words it’s30:27easier to get somebody to vote30:29Democratic or republican than it is to30:33get a person to watch a political speech30:35instead of Monday Night Football or30:36Keeping Up with the Kardashians or or30:39porn or whatever it is they’re you they30:41watch30:42so as time went on the sort of reality30:47show aspects of campaigning this all the30:51trappings of campaigns the the lighting30:55the the production values the the back31:00the backdrops the scenery all of that31:03became more and more sophisticated over31:04time while the actual politics became31:09more and more simplistic over time so31:11what you ended up getting was an31:14incredibly sophisticated television show31:17about very very unsophisticated politics31:20and Donald Trump’s insight and a lot of31:24this had to do with the fact that he was31:26a reality television star was that not31:30only had our politics devolved into a TV31:34show but it was basically a bad TV show31:38any TV show that planned to have its31:42leading characters be people like Jeb31:44Bush Scott Walker and Lindsey Graham you31:48know probably needed new producers and31:52Donald Trump turned he took what was you31:56know a television show that was constant31:59had drama every single day something32:02happens in the campaign every day so32:03it’s great for reality TV format from32:06that’s perspective there’s always some32:07kind of thing going on there was a32:09back-and-forth between the candidates32:11but the content tended to be relatively32:15a non sensational compared to Survivor32:21or you know Tila Tequila show or a you32:27know whatever flava flav Flavor of Love32:33Donald Trump wasn’t competing with other32:35Republican candidates he was repeating32:37competing with Flavor Flav and Tila32:40Tequila and he turned the32:43the presidential campaign add to this32:45this crazy can’t-miss wild reality32:51television show and for the news media32:55that makes its money by getting people32:57to watch their program this was like33:00manna and heaven for them um so so33:06that’s one thing that he understood that33:08other candidates didn’t he also33:11understood how to how to make the33:14process more intimate and how to bring33:15people into the process one of the33:18things that have happened over the years33:19is that people actual people became33:22irrelevant to this television show that33:23we were making the way the campaign is33:27structured as you fly around with with33:29the with the press corps you don’t have33:31enough time when you’re in each city to33:33actually talk to people and the33:35campaign’s increasingly didn’t talk to33:38them either they just needed people as33:39sort of stylized backdrops they were33:41there to be props basically in a33:44television show they were there to you33:46know if he needed somebody to to show33:49that he was sort of down with33:51construction workers or with the working33:53person they would have a bunch of people33:55in hard hats up on stage or the you know33:57they wanted to appeal the farmers they33:59would visit a farming town and you know34:01be photographed you know hugging a34:03farmer but they didn’t actually talk to34:04these people and the people in the press34:09started to fall into the trap also of34:12just using people for quotes we would34:14descend on mass into these towns we34:17would not really spend a whole lot of34:18time with them and then we would just34:22hustle them for quotes do you like this34:24/ Canada do you like that candidate34:25oftentimes we were looking for the34:28people in the crowd to say a certain34:30thing and we would search people out and34:34until they actually said the quote that34:36they were looking for – another very bad34:38practice that journalists do and people34:40of course they resented it and what34:45ended up happening was is that both34:47politicians and the media started to34:50lose touch with actual people and they34:53increasingly relied upon each other34:56especially upon pollsters to sort of34:58take the temperature of the people out35:00there and if you’ve ever traveled in in35:03a campaign it’s actually like it’s35:05literally a prison once the Secret35:07Service gets involved you can’t leave35:10the group after the general election35:13campaign starts because security is so35:16tight I would bet back in my first35:18campaigns I was a pretty heavy smoker35:20back that I’m not anymore but you35:22actually had to get what they called35:24Sherpas to leave there were like people35:27who carried bags for the campaign’s they35:29would leave the group to go to stores35:31and get cigarettes and other supplies35:33for people because you’re so cut off35:35from the actual voters that you can’t35:39leave the group and so you lose touch35:42with what’s going on you and what35:43happened is over over in decades not35:47only do you do you lose touch with what35:50people are thinking but you lose touch35:51with the ability to talk to people and35:53to understand the cues that they’re35:55saying and to learn for instance people36:00would would start to rely on polls to36:02tell them whether or not36:04voters liked or disliked this or that36:06candidate what polls can’t tell you the36:08difference between say you know rage and36:10mere disapproval they’re they’re able to36:14tell you that people are drifting them36:16one way or the other but until you get36:17that qualitative experience of sitting36:19down with people and really36:20understanding what their frustrations36:22are you’re just going to miss what’s36:24actually going on um and so Trump he36:28took advantage of all this he took36:30advantage of the fact that we were out36:31of touch and he used that again to help36:36solve his own problems what he started36:38to do was he started to incorporate the36:40press into his act I remember being in36:44at Plymouth State University in New36:46Hampshire and Trump you as it usually36:49happens is there’s like a Arizer in the36:52middle of the hall and there’s a bunch36:54of reporters and camera people and we’re36:57stuck behind ropes like zoo animals in37:00the middle of the crowd and Trump he37:03started to experiment with mentioning us37:05in the middle of his speeches and he37:07would say things like look at these37:08people look at these37:09suckers they hate me they never thought37:13I would make it this far they’ve never37:15traveled so far for an event look at37:17them they hate you you know and what37:20would happen over time was his rhetoric37:22became more and more aggressive and37:25crowds would start to physically turn37:27towards the the media during his37:30presentations and it would hiss and Boo37:33and sometimes even throw stuff and you37:34know occasionally like you little37:36scuffles broke out and it got a little37:39bit dangerous in there and you know on37:42one level it was horrible and terrifying37:44because it evokes images of a lot of37:46sort of fascistic techniques from other37:51sort of strongman type politicians but37:54on the other hand he was also using a37:57sort of a WWE style method of turning38:03what had been a sort of supernaturally38:05boring phenomenon which is the38:08presidential stump speech to just you38:10know if anybody has ever been to one if38:12you can survive one that’s amazing but38:15you know for the press corps to be able38:16to listen to the same speech 50 or 6038:19times like we do I used to have a38:22numbered cliche system I heard one38:26candidate’s cliches so often that I knew38:28the top 20 by heart and instead of38:32writing down notes from his speeches I38:34would just have collections of numbers38:36it would be like 3 8 15 11 you know and38:42so Trump took this this terrible boring38:45format and he turned it into this38:47intimate menacing real physical38:53experience where the representative of38:57the hated establishment was literally in38:59the room and that was us and again a lot39:04of this this was this was years of the39:08press gradually losing its ability to39:10talk to ordinary people had turned39:12around and allowed this fatuous New York39:15billionaire to sell himself as closer to39:18the common man39:19and then reporters and and when I talked39:23to people who were at Trump crowds I39:25would ask them you know why do you what39:29do you feel this way or that way why do39:30you like this guy and they would say39:32well he’s real he’s not reading from a39:34script’ which was true you know unlike39:36the other you know the numbered cliches39:38Trump literally couldn’t keep it would39:41pass out his speeches but the text of39:45what was supposed to be his speech and39:47he would deviate from it in the second39:49word because he is the attention span39:51and so it’s so short that he couldn’t he39:54couldn’t read actual prepared remarks39:56people would say things to me like he’s39:59real and you people aren’t you know I40:02remember one guy in Washington Wisconsin40:03saying to me you know I’m going to clean40:07up his his speech here a little bit but40:09he says basically you jerks were always40:12trying to tell us how to live our lives40:14but you can’t change a goddamn oil40:15filter and you know he was right you’re40:19sort of right you know the the people40:21who represent the press corps tend to be40:24the suit of a feat again rich for the40:27most part because we’re you know the40:29people who are there they have to be in40:31order to in order to afford the trip40:32they have to come from a certain class40:34they’re almost all from New York40:37Washington and LA they went to the best40:40schools and they have a certain attitude40:42towards life and and Trump used that and40:47he used that to sort of bridge the gap40:48between himself and ordinary people and40:51so the last thing I want to talk about40:52is is sort of the appropriation of40:56bogeymen Trump did something that was40:58really strange but interesting the41:01traditional method of winning elections41:02in this country is you get up in front41:05of a group of people you say to them you41:07know I know you’ve had it hard in the41:09last four or five years and I’m going to41:11tell you who to blame and then X Y Z and41:15then a B and C they’re all there they’re41:17to blame for your troubles and you know41:19don’t don’t we hate them and that was41:22that’s sort of the traditional format of41:24a campaign speech the only difference is41:26that they’re a different bogeyman on the41:29Republican side and on the Democratic41:30side on the Republican side41:33the the villains tend to be immigrants41:36you know welfare moms liberal professors41:39terrorists they actually have a very41:41long list of villains on the other side41:43you know on the Democratic side it’s41:46it’s a little bit smarter and a little41:48bit more sophisticated it’s it’s41:50corporations it’s it’s health insurance41:52companies etc etc and what’s interesting41:56is that the traditional candidate never41:57crossed lines that you you know if you42:00were either used one group of villains42:01or another group of villains Trump just42:03gobbled up all of them he’s just he’s so42:07omnivorous in in his sort of the way he42:12approaches life in every way that he42:15used both lists you know he would go to42:17every crowd and he was all things to all42:19people at all times I’m against the42:21corporations I’m against Goldman Sachs42:23I’m against immigrants and against this42:24and that and the other and whatever you42:27hated Trump would eventually get around42:30to it in his speech and again the reason42:33that people didn’t do this in the past42:34traditionally is because the media would42:36say well look this is a contradiction42:38you can’t be this and that because those42:41two things don’t really go together but42:43Trump was tuned into the fact that the42:48people had tuned us out they had stopped42:50listening to us and that you know all of42:52us sort of News reporters who love to42:56correct people spelling on Twitter and42:58you know or just didn’t know how to fix43:00cars that what we thought about what we43:03know his his politics didn’t really43:04matter anymore43:05and his ability to sort of continue to43:09continually survive the negative43:14editorializing of the press and our43:16attempts to sort of bounce him out of43:17the race through this or seal of death43:19episodes which increased in frequency as43:22the campaign went along and as as43:25reporters became more and more aware of43:27their role their financial role in43:29helping Trump win but we we became more43:31cognizant of it you heard of things like43:33les Moonves with CBS everybody here this43:36you know these famously said Trump is43:38bad for America but good for business43:41you know as as that kind of spread in43:45press we became more and more aggressive43:49in our in our editorial stance towards43:51Trump and that just worked to his43:54advantage the the meaner we got Trump43:57has this uncanny ability to turn43:59everybody in his orbit into another44:01pro-wrestling character and when he gets44:05up there and he says that where we were44:06the opposition after a while it actually44:09turned out to be a little bit true we44:11you know he he cartoon eyes his own44:13opposition he eventually gets everybody44:16to sort of lower themselves you think44:19about you know Rubio making sort of dong44:24jokes during the middle of the debates44:27or you know people throwing water at44:29each other and Ted Ted Cruz started44:32acting like a ham during debate doing44:35impersonations from The Princess Bride44:37and and Ron Paul was chained selling44:40things in half and shooting the tax code44:42and everybody starts acting like a44:45reality star when they’re around Trump44:47long enough and and we were like that44:50too in the news media and what ends up44:53happening was that the symbiotic44:57relationship started occurring where we45:01paid more and more attention to them45:02even even though even though the things45:05we were saying about them were negative45:06we never took the cameras off of him45:07fret for a second and we still haven’t45:09and what is the end result of that45:12here’s some striking statistics sense45:15the since the election in November cable45:21news ratings are up 50% at CNN they’re45:27up 50% at Fox they’re up over 35% at45:30MSNBC and some programs are up higher45:32than that on that channel CNN expects to45:36make over a billion dollars this year in45:38profits and again what what starts to45:42happen after a while is that45:45unconsciously this the fact that he’s45:48making everybody so much money and make45:50no mistake about it it’s the fact that45:52that politics has begun to eat into the45:55entertainment world45:57and the the profitability of45:59entertainment and we’re taking some of46:01Hollywood’s market share by creating46:04politics as this giant reality show46:09unconsciously the people who are46:10covering Donald Trump whether they know46:12it or not they legitimize it the whole46:14thing and that’s why you’ll see periodic46:16episodes like you know he gives that46:18speech after the joint speech to46:20Congress and and there’s a you know CNN46:24will say you know he became president in46:26the United States tonight or that46:28happens after he lobs missiles you know46:30Tomahawk missiles that Syria you know46:33Fareed Zakaria will get up and say46:34exactly the same thing you know Donald46:36Trump became President of the United46:37States tonight and this is a company46:39that’s making a billion dollars this46:41year because of Donald Trump and so it’s46:43just a symbiotic relationship this had46:49been going on for a long time46:50it with this sort of synthesis of all46:53these different things the the the46:55collapse and Trust in news media the46:56declining profitability of news media46:58which was suddenly turned around by this47:01candidate who suddenly made money for47:03everybody nobody could make money for47:05for a longest time and then suddenly47:07everybody’s making money you have to47:09think about this when you think about47:11how politics is covered in this country47:12and it’s not just Trump that’s that’s47:17you know so my final word of caution47:20would be that the network’s have learned47:23and a lot of us in the business started47:26to talk about this last year that that47:29you know what Trump does his total47:32indifference to whether a thing is true47:34or not and the fact that he knows that47:37his his core supporters don’t really47:39care all that much the network’s have47:41also learned that lesson two in the last47:44year or so they knows we sort of by47:48custom and because of the libel laws47:50which don’t you know are incredibly weak47:52in this country and and really don’t47:54apply all that much the public figures47:57you know by custom we we we we try very48:01very hard to get things right and to not48:03be careless about citing sources that48:05aren’t reliable48:05that sort of thing but in the age of48:07Trump that’s really it’s starting to go48:09out the window everywhere and you know48:13it just as a sort of general warning I48:14would say again this whole phenomenon of48:19Trump and how he sort of unlocked he’s48:23converted politics into a show that has48:28implications that go beyond Donald Trump48:30as well I think everybody should just be48:31aware that this is a phenomenon that has48:34negatively impacted the entire business48:37and everything that was bad about48:40for-profit media in the past has gotten48:44exponentially worse in the last year and48:47you can expect you know going forward48:51that we’ll see we’ll see less and less48:52coverage of you know actual things that48:55matter you know environmental issues you48:58know if corruption and contracting in49:01the military disasters like flint you49:06know those things will get less and less49:07airtime and what will we get instead is49:09a very heavily polarized media landscape49:15where there’s one set of viewers that49:17hates this politician and one set of49:19viewers that hates another politician49:20and they’re all going to they’re all49:22going to tune in and watch and the49:24standards are going to go out the window49:26so it’s just in some I would just say49:28just be careful you know not without49:31commenting on any particular story that49:34the arc of the sort of failure of our49:37business has has really steepen in the49:40last year or so and I think as news49:42consumers people should pay more and49:44more attention to independent media and49:46alternative media and worry more and49:49more about the commercial media going49:50forward and thank you very much and I49:52would love to talk49:53[Music]49:59[Applause]49:59[Music]50:02[Applause]50:07so if you have questions please come50:11this way and we’ll do a line back that50:13way thank you I mean amazing talk I was50:16wondering if you could talk about some50:18of the unseen kind of new levels of50:22thought control such as Cambridge50:26analytical and how Trump used data50:29mining how that’s even a bigger climate50:33that were it right now and how that’s50:35affecting us jump using data might mean50:37all the candidates use data mining I50:38mean I I think that’s you know without50:43knowing exactly that exact thing but I50:48know that that was a phenomenon that50:50dated back to the Kerry the first Kerry50:54Bush campaign that was when that first50:55really started and I think it’s51:00worrisome I think the whole idea of51:04targeting shaping a candidate’s policies51:09based on the on your on the research51:12that you do into people searching habits51:14I think that’s going to be something51:14that’s more and more true going forward51:16they’re going to be able to target51:17political advertising the people based51:19on what they search for and on the web51:22and all that’s incredibly disturbing I51:25you know in the same way that they’re51:27they’re selling that data to to51:30prospective employers so they get51:31they’re going to be able to tell what51:32you what websites you look at the idea51:36of politicians being able to look at is51:37just horrifying51:39and I think yeah that’s definitely51:41something to worry about51:46so I was just going to see if you agree51:48at this opinion and I think it presents51:50a problem and I’m wondering if you know51:52of a possible solution to it51:55but I like that you compared it to him51:58not competing with the other politicians51:59but the reality stars because when he52:02got primary to actually said that the52:03only way that Clinton could win is if52:05she changed her name to Hillary booboo52:06right and but the problem is I feel like52:11because it is so entertainment52:13centric that’s almost kind of like a lot52:16people like to compare like the Empire52:18of America52:19Rome but then it’s kind of glad it’s52:20gladiator kind of asked where I feel52:23like it’s it’s good that you we do have52:26these critiques and that you are52:27addressing this and I love it is52:29actually directed at the press even52:30though it says president on your book52:32but I think a lot people hook get on52:34Trump and try to analyze him as a person52:36instead of looking at the system that52:38created them because I feel like for him52:39it’s self-fulfilling he doesn’t have a52:41clue like he’s not right and essentially52:43doing this but as long as we’re giving52:45attention to it it’s like a growing52:47beast and and where’s where’s it going52:49to end like how do you stop that how do52:51you it’s a great question there’s a52:52couple things that are really52:53interesting you know that I’d love to52:55talk about here first though is that one52:58of the things that one of the huge52:59weaknesses of the political press in53:01this country is that we we always think53:04when we see a political phenomenon we53:06always imagine that it originates with53:10the politician right like just to give53:12you a classic example the Bernie Sanders53:15phenomenon wasn’t was all about Bernie53:18Sanders to Washington reporters right it53:20wasn’t it wasn’t 13 million people53:22expressing themselves and being upset53:24about you know the their feelings about53:27the Democratic Party it wasn’t this53:29organic thing that rose up from the53:31population it was because some you know53:34independent socialist backbencher jumped53:38the line and got you know and so they53:40that’s the way they like they always53:41look at the Washington character first53:42and they don’t look outward at the at53:46the actual people and then the larger53:48thing that’s going on53:50Trump is is horrible for for that53:54instinct because he he concentrates so53:57much attention on him and his person and54:02he deflects so much attention not only54:04from the system but from the larger54:06forces that are going on in the54:08population that everybody imagines that54:10Donald Trump is the only problem and not54:12that there have been you know growing54:15trend towards nativism and racism in54:18this in the population cetera et cetera54:20et cetera so the what the solution is I54:24think we just have to focus out more as54:27in the media we got to focus on systemic54:29problems more we got to talk to people54:32more and and make it less about the the54:35fairy tale soap opera which is the easy54:39way to do the story you know that and54:41that’s that’s why we do it because54:42that’s easy you know and so yeah I think54:46the what the solution is we just got to54:48do our jobs better and I don’t know how54:50that’s going to happen so if we assume54:56that the Trump’s the nominee in 202054:58which he most likely will be barring55:00something serious like impeachment or55:04something like that if he is the nominee55:05and based on your experience what you’ve55:08seen55:09if this dynamic is still present where55:11he’s he’s he he is who he is he’s55:14gladiatorial what will be the formula55:16for the Democrats the counter that55:17should they have someone who’s also like55:19him or should they have someone who’s55:22who’s somehow a foil to him I mean based55:25on what you’ve seen what’s the answer55:26for the left in 202055:32it’s a great question um see how what I55:38worry about is that is the I already55:41hear people in Washington talking about55:43this and saying that we have to get our55:45own version of Trump all right and we55:48have to get a media figure we got to get55:51you know whether it’s Dwayne the rock55:54Johnson or Mark Zuckerberg or whoever it55:57is right like we we need to go that55:59route and what’s interesting to me is56:01that they’ve already forgotten the56:03lessons I think of Barack Obama Barack56:05Obama is a diametrically opposite56:07character to Donald Trump he is someone56:10who prefers you know he’s reserved56:13polite he doesn’t act like a real56:15reality star he comports him even though56:18you know for me personally politically I56:20don’t agree with Obama life he’s been a56:22disappointment to me a lot of ways56:23style-wise he won by appealing I think56:29to people’s better imagination right and56:33what I see in Washington is a lot of56:36pessimism they don’t believe that that56:39you know finding a better way to56:42communicate with people that get it you56:44know telling people that they understand56:47what their problems are making a sincere56:48effort to find out why people are56:50disaffected I think that’s the easiest56:52route to winning you know is going out56:54and actually finding out what’s wrong56:58and coming up with solutions that people56:59can connect with you know and but you57:03won’t they won’t do that you know I57:05think they what they’re going to do is57:07they’re going to look at a lot of polls57:08and they’re going to they’re going to57:09look at the media media centric version57:13of how to win elections and they’re57:15going to try to do their own version I57:16think57:22hi so I started thinking about this a57:25couple days ago in terms of you know the57:29backlash if Trump continues to try and57:32dig his own grave and put his foot in57:36his mouth and all that other stuff57:37eventually things will start to roll57:40against him but there’s going to be a57:43backlash from that in terms of all the57:45people who support him and it’ll be like57:46you know why are you taking away my toy57:48and you know the that could be the media57:52that could be the Democratic Party that57:53could be the Republican Party and so you57:55might have a phenomenon where57:56everybody’s trying to be like no you and57:59Peacham I don’t want to impeach um you58:00impeach him you know so that they don’t58:02deal with that backlash and I’m58:03wondering if you see any signs of that58:05and how that would play out yeah I think58:11actually I would say that there’s not a58:14lot of hesitation about taking on Donald58:17Trump in Washington now anything I would58:20say that there’s sort of an opposite58:21problem which is that being against58:24Trump has become whatever the only thing58:27that a lot of politicians are about now58:29and I I think that the key to succeeding58:34going forward is they have to have some58:35other kind of messages in addition to58:37that politically going after Donald58:39Trump doesn’t seem to be anybody’s58:40problem and they’re the the knives are58:42out in full force right now for for58:44Trump and they’re gunning for58:47impeachment there’s no question about58:48that except for people like Mitch58:49McConnell well he’s a Republican first58:51well he is but but but in terms of like58:54I was kind of surprised about uh not58:56completely but you know cuz he’s trying58:58to control this thing58:59you know whoa look impeachment is a it’s59:06a very extreme step and and think think59:11about approving it for a member of your59:13own party and think about think about59:16doing it in this situation you know um59:20there’s a lot of political will to try59:23to end Donald Trump’s presidency right59:24now and it’s far harder than it’s been59:26for anybody since since Bill Clinton so59:29I wouldn’t say that that’s a problem I59:31think there going to be plenty of59:32candidates we’re going to want to play59:33that role of the person who took on59:35Donald Trump I mean they’re practically59:37stepping over each other to do it Warner59:40Schiff all these people that these59:42committee chairs are anxious to be that59:45person in front of the cameras oh59:46there’s political opportunity there the59:49the problem the problem that I see you59:54know I just I just worry that the palace59:57intrigue aspect of it is has occupied so60:00much of the Democrats time that they’re60:02they’re not paying attention to other60:03things Thanks hi thanks for great talk60:11the thing that I noticed about the two60:15sides of the bus the politicians in the60:18front and the reporters in back is that60:21there is a kind of underlying logic60:23which is a profit incentive in both60:25cases and to me that bespeaks the fact60:30that capitalism is something that feeds60:32off the systemic pathologies of60:34societies and right now it seems like60:37it’s gotten the point where it’s just60:39reached a level of death Drive and like60:41there something about the Trump60:43phenomenon that feels like it could60:45really just unleash some really60:47pathological forces in our society to60:50the point where the situation you’re60:52describing with the media is just one60:53component of a kind of embrace of sheer60:55irrationality and I feel or my question60:59for you is that whether you think some61:01kind of like deep and systemic61:04paradigmatic changes is called for as61:07part of what were yeah no I totally61:10agree I I I think one of the things that61:15I believe that one of the reasons that61:18Trump happened is because people are on61:22some level they’re screaming out for61:24something drastically different you know61:26and it’s it’s for a lot of people it’s61:29an inarticulate longing you know for a61:32new way to experience life and and I61:34think the sort of this is relentless61:37heartlessness of modern American you61:40know industrial capitalism and it’s it’s61:43a sort of really casual immorality and61:47and I think it’s tough for people you61:49know even if they don’t understand it61:50you know it and we need I think we need61:54something we need to at least have61:55somebody who’s capable of opening a61:58discussion of can we live another way in62:01this country you know and that question62:04has been suppressed at the at the62:06presidential level you know it’s not62:08really it hasn’t really been possible to62:10have that dialogue because words like62:13you know socialism is of course a taboo62:15bernie has made it less so but even you62:17know other ideas you know like you know62:20there’s a European you know guaranteed62:22income movement you know like these62:24really interesting thoughts they’re not62:26did we can entertain them because our62:29politics are so narrow and yeah I agree62:32with you and and and just to talk about62:35one thing about the media in terms of62:37capitalism for ages we insulated62:41ourselves from the profit motive problem62:44in media by having this sort of unspoken62:48understanding you know the FCC they62:50licensed out the airwaves to the PUC to62:51these private companies and there was a62:54there was an understanding that that62:56they would get to make all this money by62:59having these TV stations and radio63:01stations but in return they would have63:03to do something in the public interest63:04in terms of news so traditionally news63:08was a lost leader for four television63:11stations radio stations and they made63:13their money covering sports and63:14entertainment other stuff and they63:16didn’t worry about making money off the63:17news well that changed started changing63:19in the 80s and now you know this is what63:23you get when one news is all about63:25profits it just becomes insane you know63:28unfactual unobjective and you know it’s63:31I think it’s really disturbing Thanks63:35[Applause]63:39hi Matt I’m today on Netflix the63:43Rogerses movie debuted and up until63:47Trump who are justö was more or less a63:50husband how influential was he in the63:542016 election sorry who the one63:58Rajasthan Rajasthan how influential is64:01he um my understanding of Roger stone is64:07that he’s a big talker who uh who has64:13less access to powerful people than he64:16has always claimed so I don’t know you64:19know Roger stone he was an advisor to64:22the Trump campaign he’s um64:26really not in position to really answer64:29that question very well you know64:30obviously he figures a lot in this this64:32Russia drama depending on who you talk64:35to but that’s just you know I I couldn’t64:39speak to it because I never haven’t64:41uncovered that story okay I have a part64:43to it this question if the media did not64:48cover Trump like they did because they64:52would concern with the ratings do you64:55think he would have gotten as far as you64:57did so that’s a great question but I65:01think it goes hand in hand with a couple65:03of things so if if we as had as a habit65:07did not have a for-profit media we would65:11have a different kind of audience65:13leading into 2016 we would have a more65:15thinking audience we would have a more65:17discerning audience you know Trump isn’t65:20something that happens overnight it65:21happens after decades of watching the65:24dumbest possible television and lowering65:28your attention span to half a second65:34and I think you know the fact that65:37nobody reads anymore and I mean the65:41ability to think critically about what65:43people are looking at is a phenomenon65:45that’s been that’s been degraded for65:47decades and if we if we had a different65:50kind of media dating back decades65:52there’s no way Donald Trump would win65:54because he was so plainly unsuited for65:57the job but he was perfectly suited for66:00what this actually was which is a66:03television show I mean and and and so if66:06we didn’t have that format he would66:08never have been successful thank you hi66:16hi so um what the person said earlier66:20about uh the Democrats opening their own66:22Trump I was thinking that too like he66:25maybe he’s gonna open his own franchises66:26like his University or something so66:29we’ll teach you66:29political hacking but um you were saying66:34stuff about being in the bullpen and66:36that he got the crowd to turn on you and66:39like all this up for the press in66:40general but despite all that I’ve66:43noticed you’re really objective about66:46this guy still like you’re able to look66:48at it from many sites like you don’t I66:49get the sense you don’t like Trump but66:51you know you can you can like kinda you66:55can kind of see through like his tactics66:57and like oh he’s like he’s like flipped66:59it around he’s like he figured out a67:00deal for these politics so if Paul if67:04politicians are actors is a Donald Trump67:07the greatest actor and can you respect67:08his hustle as an actor well that’s a67:13tough question I mean I find Trump67:15fascinating on a lot of levels and um67:17and and there’s a huge question67:22philosophical question with Trump which67:24is is it did you do this on purpose did67:27he did he intend to have all these67:29tactics work this way67:31or was it just a total accident of his67:33insane narcissistic personality that67:35just happened to fit like a glove into67:38the equally insane format of our67:40presidential system when and that’s the67:43form that’s the thing I leaned toward67:44but67:46you know I remember another New67:48Hampshire incident you probably all67:51remember it in Manchester when Trump67:55said there was a woman who stood up in67:58the crowd and said can I swear here she68:02sees he says Ted Cruz is a right68:05and and Trump looked at the woman and he68:09said oh that’s terrible what she said68:10that’s terrible and you shouldn’t you68:12shouldn’t have said that say it again68:13all right so so she says it again and68:17you know all of us in the media we’re68:20watching him and you could see him68:21thinking he’s he’s thinking if she says68:25it’s a six-hour story if I say it it’s a68:27four days story you know what I mean and68:29he he paused and he thought and then he68:33goes she just said Ted Cruz ooh68:35right and now there’s video right and it68:39Rockets around the internet and68:40obliterates everything else you know the68:42involved with the New Hampshire election68:44so Trump I think on some level he just68:47he can’t help himself like you know he68:49watches his tweeting habits and68:50everything there’s no way that this guy68:52is sitting there and calculating it’s a68:54good idea to tweet about Meryl Streep68:56and stuff like you know like no way but68:58he part of it you know he does have some69:02instincts that some of it is conscious69:03so I think it’s a mix of things like you69:06know you know as a reporter you have to69:08resist the easy interpretation that X Y69:11or Z I think it can be all things you69:13know I think he’s crazy and an actor and69:15you know and a manipulator and all that69:17stuff so the bypassing disgusts you69:19or as fascinates you well it’s69:23disgusting clearly I mean no the the69:25it’s everything you wouldn’t want in a69:28politician but the you know on some69:30level if you read the book clearly early69:34in the campaign when I I thought I saw69:36Trump I thought his historical role was69:40going to be that he was going to destroy69:41the Republican Party because it seemed69:44pretty clear early and early on that he69:47was he was sort of steam rolling through69:49the whole process almost like a like a69:52classic farcical parody of everything69:55right and he made everybody who was on69:56stage with him69:58look more ridiculous than he was and on70:01some of them on a literary level it was70:03kind of perfect right it was a perfect70:06story and the fact that it was people70:07like Rubio and Jeb Bush and all those70:11people who were the victims of it kind70:13of didn’t make you feel so bad about it70:14I mean to me it made it a much funnier70:17story and then and then after the70:19nomination it took this incredibly dark70:22turn where it’s like this is actually70:24going to happen and he’s going to get70:26elected and when that started to happen70:30you know that it stopped being funny and70:32then it started to be like insane and70:34crazy and terrifying and and you know I70:37think that’s where we are right now so I70:40had I had different feelings about it70:43the whole way through I thought I would70:45imagine everybody did great did you uh70:48I thought the longer he was in the race70:50more likely he was going to win and that70:53was even when he was with Hillary right70:56so it’s like okay it’s like one week so70:59he’s probably gonna win right at this71:00point right right excellent71:02excellent well you it was a good good71:04job thanks Matt I really thought I was71:10excellent I might take a different kind71:12of direction on this uh when I hear you71:14discussing this issue first of all the71:17idea of focusing not on the incident but71:18the context but I guess the context of71:21your profession in particular like the71:22fact that you’re a magazine writer and71:24at a news writer enables you to engage71:28more of your critical thinking71:29facilities than other people might be71:31able to I think we all have recognized71:33that we make poor decisions when we’re71:34rushed but given that like I mean like71:37right now I’m a professor and I have71:38many students who want their papers71:41immediately more they’d rather their71:44papers be done quickly than accurately71:46right given that we’re all rushed for71:48time what is the hope for your71:50profession is there hope because it71:52seemed like there’s a positive feedback71:53loop that you point to being a problem71:55is there a point where that just the71:57human body cannot take any longer or do72:00we you know stand in the ruins of72:01democracy before then72:03Wow that’s a great question and a scary72:07one no I I’m really worried about it72:10because um you know it’s this is this72:13has been a problem going back in our72:15business for decades and it started off72:18really I would say in the mid 80s and72:21early 90s and what started off with72:24seemingly small problems like the72:26appearance of free alternative72:29newspapers right and we started to give72:32give gift papers away then the internet72:35came along and people got their ads from72:38you know they didn’t have to go to buy72:40the Village Voice anymore to find to get72:43an apartment or put up a want ad they72:45could just go on the internet so that72:46depleted massively depleted the income72:50streams of alternative media and what72:53was the first thing that newspapers cut72:55when they stopped making a lot of money72:57they stopped they cut the people who72:59only spent who worked five or six weeks73:03on one story right the first thing they73:05cut was investigative reporting the73:07second thing they cut was fact-checking73:09right and so you know in the old days73:13you would have things like the73:14Cincinnati Enquirer doing a ten-part73:16series on the Chiquita banana company73:18right and they would send these two73:19reporters down to South America and they73:22would they would you know they would be73:24very well funded to do these long73:26investigations and and people were were73:30psyched for that kind of stuff they had73:31an app but the public had an appetite73:32for that kind of reporting well now you73:35two things would happen number one the73:37audience’s don’t have the attention span73:38to devour four and five thousand more73:41piece articles about things they’re73:44consuming tweets right and the other73:47thing is that the companies have found73:49out that they don’t need to do that to73:50make money you know so they they’re73:52they’ve invested all their money in73:54graphics and presentation and and the73:58content gets smaller and smaller and and74:01less weighty all the time and so there’s74:04no investigations there’s no critical74:06thinking there’s no reflection74:08it’s just reactive and it’s become like74:10this animalistic thing almost right and74:13I really worry about that because not74:15not only are you not getting good74:16reporting but you’re also training your74:18audience right to be rushed like that74:22right and and and you sure you see it74:25kids come up now they just they just74:28don’t have the the stomach to read74:31through long things anymore and I think74:34it’s a serious problem and I don’t know74:36how to fix it do you have an idea I mean74:38I you know I I mean I guess in general74:40it just seems like like speed is kind of74:42the enemy of democracy although we seem74:44to love speed so much I don’t know74:46myself except I just refuse to acquiesce74:48sometimes and right right throw sand in74:51the gears I think is a common popular74:53way to scribe it yeah no I mean I I wish74:56there was some way to do it but yeah I74:59think it’s you’re absolutely right speed75:00is a huge problem with us in Trump with75:02Trump again Trump was perfect for this75:04because you had to check Twitter every75:06ten seconds to see what he was up to he75:09was that he’s the perfect futuristic75:11speed candidate right like you know you75:13could be high on something at 4:00 in75:14the morning and he’d be changing doing75:16something you know he’s yeah it’s it’s75:20it’s very bad thank you good evening75:26Matt thanks for the talk tonight a75:29couple of observations maybe from you75:32can we agree that probably we don’t this75:36des gentleman before me the only one who75:38use the word all night but a democracy75:42and can we agree that we it’s a myth75:45probably in the United States it75:47probably more closer we live in a75:48corporate fascist state the way you win75:52elections also it seems to me is whether75:54it’s Republican or Democrat you want the75:56fewest people to turn out right and in75:59the end result was that maybe there was76:0052 or 54 percent of people that voted76:03for president which means that the man76:05at one got probably 25% of the total76:08vote yeah no it’s it’s ridiculous76:12yeah I know I agree with the quite76:14otally agree the wait the way we elect76:17presidents in this country has nothing76:18to do with democracy it has nothing to76:20do with it’s you know it’s a very76:23strange process then and76:28in the degree to which people are not76:31concerned with the lack of turnout you76:34know and and aren’t horrified that that76:38that neither you know beats both of the76:41candidates you know by factor of two to76:43one other than Russia for a long time76:46and they used to use to be able to vote76:47for none of the above in elections and76:50in a couple of races that it actually76:52won and and you know that it’s this is76:58really the crazy thing is the Trump what77:02what Trump did last year was almost more77:05democratic than the other system which77:06is just we’re going to give two sort of77:08preordained sort of corporate-funded77:10parties the ability to choose between77:14you know to spend a billion dollars77:16apiece on on a couple of marketing77:19campaigns and people will get to choose77:20between one of those two things you know77:22that’s not terribly democratic either77:24and and yeah I worry about it sure hi my77:30question is that you said that Trump77:32brought out the polarization that’s been77:35happening do we have time to unify or is77:40it too far for that and Trump being77:44someone that I don’t I didn’t vote for77:46but if he were baby impeached behind him77:49is pence and then behind him is Ryan so77:52and I’m hard pressed to find a77:54politician that I can really believe in77:56regardless right right I mean it’s a77:59great question the one thing I would78:03worry about with the whole idea of78:05unifying is that these the campaigns in78:07general have just become so become so78:10aggressive that the idea of you know78:15Democrats and Republicans ever coming78:18together again on any you know or people78:20or the whole country feeling good about78:22anyone who could be President I just78:24don’t I don’t see that happening going78:26forward I think you’re going to have one78:27half of the country that’s just furious78:28and you know that the template of you78:32know started with Obama you know the78:34people were hysterical on the other side78:36and now and now we have this with Trump78:38and um you know78:40both both sides are in this militaristic78:43mode and hate each other hating each78:45other mode and I don’t know I don’t78:46think that’s good either78:47first I’ve just been asked to announce78:49that there’s there’s a couple people in78:50line but that’s the last couple78:51questions and then my question is that78:53as a big believer that government and78:57policy should be deeply engaging to the78:58broader public is there any opportunity79:00to pivot here when we have sort of what79:02seems like unprecedented public79:04attention to is there a way to keep that79:06without continuing to appeal to the79:08basest interest it’s a great question um79:11I79:14I thought the Sanders movement was79:16really amazing in a lot of ways because79:19Sanders also you know he was again kind79:23of opposite to all the things I was79:24talking about he he’s exactly what79:28reporters mean when they talk about79:29someone being unelectable right79:31he doesn’t look good on TV he’s got a79:35funny speaking style he’s a socialist79:38right and yet there was an outpouring of79:43support for him and when you when he79:45gave speeches he what did he talk about79:47he talked about inequality and you know79:50all these actual problems it was a you79:52know it was amazing to see America79:55actually tuned into this for a while um79:58and I thought that that was proof that80:02you know there there is the ability of80:04politicians to engage people on80:05something other than stupidity in this80:08country but you know you right now you80:13know it’s it’s hard to say I hope people80:16get the lessons from the Sanders thing80:19and say that you know being just sort of80:23an honest politician who makes an effort80:26to try to reach out to people that that80:28can be successful to you know is there80:30an opportunity for the media in80:31particular there to entertain more of80:36those discussions well if you look at80:37what happened with Bernie Sanders you’ll80:38see that even though you he and Trump80:41were very equivalent stories actually in80:44a lot of ways they were they were both80:46rebels within their own party who were80:48taking on the80:49or at their own party structure but80:51Trump got 23 times the amount of80:53television coverage of Bernie Sanders80:55you had phenomena like you know an empty80:58mic stand whoop you know cable even81:01MSNBC publishing you know showing people81:06waiting for Trump to speak whereas when81:08Sanders spoke he would they wouldn’t81:10keep the cameras on it for very long and81:12I think you know he was still considered81:18taboo in a lot of ways and I don’t think81:20they’re really past that yet so you know81:23I mm-hmm yeah yeah yeah exactly yeah81:28Trump’s I met you had some negative any81:34deservedly negative comments about the81:37mainstream media I’m most concerned81:38about the control of information what81:41people can get now I’m retired I’m kind81:44of in the position that you were in when81:45you were writing and you had weeks and81:46weeks and weeks to do I’m I can spend81:48hours right looking for things and I81:51know how to sift through things I’m a81:53scientist to begin with but I’m most81:55concerned huh what kind of science81:57environmental science excellent82:05so I’ve come across things on the82:08internet that like for instance not not82:11that I agree with everything he says82:12Lord Monckton82:13is a tremendous speaker it’s got82:16completely contrary information to what82:19everybody gets on the mainstream media82:21about climate change hmm and you don’t82:24get any debate about that you don’t see82:26any of that how do you what’s your82:27advice on the people on how to sift82:30through what’s on the Internet and to82:33find the good stuff so it’s really82:35really hard these days because because82:39the standards really aren’t good82:41anywhere anymore again as the business82:45because because we’ve had this huge82:48decline in profitability and then in the82:49news media for years fact-checking you82:53know have82:54it used to be in order to get anything82:56into print you had to go through this82:58whole very long process now that’s83:00completely gone for daily Daily News83:03writing for magazine writing it’s mostly83:06all gone you know it still exists in a83:08few places our magazine still has a83:10little bit of it but nowadays when83:13you’re trying to decide whether83:15somebody’s reputable news source or not83:16you’re mostly relying on whether or not83:19that person has a track record of caring83:23about whether or not they’re factual you83:26know the institutions themselves don’t83:27really have time anymore to try to catch83:31everything and they don’t they don’t83:32worry about it anymore as much as they83:34used to so um you know I I don’t I don’t83:37know what to advise you except to say83:39that academic journals are tend to be83:42more respectable people who will link to83:46a primary source you know that that’s83:49always a good sign but even things like83:52can be you know it’s I was talking about83:54this with the reporter the other day in83:55the old days when when a member of83:59Congress would cite something a fact in84:01a prepared remark we always felt good84:03about using that as a fact in a story84:06nowadays even even members of Congress84:09have no problem using unsourced material84:11when they when they give speeches and84:13and so there’s this epidemic of kind of84:16unverified stuff flying around and it’s84:19just become really really hard so that I84:22think the main piece of advice is just84:23to read a lot on every subject and just84:26try to see what the most common story is84:28you know just one more thing on on the84:31published books are the publishers still84:34doing the fact-checking publishers do do84:37fact-checking but um it’s not it’s not84:42it depends on the project let’s put it84:44that way there’s there’s a legal vet for84:48pretty much every book but the kind of84:51line by line thing that used to be84:53standard in this business and it like84:58you know I used to write these six and84:59seven thousand word features for Rolling85:00Stone and literally every line you know85:03the sky was blue this day they would85:05check you know was it blue that day85:07that doesn’t happen anymore in books85:09they’re mostly concerned about what can85:10we be sued for and you know what are the85:15major factual issues in this book and85:17let’s just check those out but they85:18don’t you know the little things you85:20know really depends on the publisher and85:23you know you can’t you can’t depend on85:25somebody being everything being vetted85:28anymore I really appreciate your85:37analysis of the corporate media and also85:40how it’s not actually just about Trump85:43about their these systemic problems of85:45anti-immigration85:46anti-immigrant and nationalism and so85:50I’m wondering is there a practical way85:52to look at is our profitability to85:58talking about immigrants and say Middle86:00Easterners who have had traditionally in86:03the media kind of like a one-dimensional86:05perspective is there a way to reap or86:08tray them in part because it can help86:10maybe go against that tie that has been86:13actually set by the media historically86:15that and is there a way to do that in a86:19profitable way to entice the corporate86:22corporate entities to be interested in86:24that um it’s a great question86:27unfortunately I would say that you know86:30clearly the model is hate sells and you86:35know discernment doesn’t and if you look86:38back at our recent history advertisers86:42are terrified of being seen as for86:46instance you know back in 2003 200486:50the cable networks made enormous86:51enormous sums of money promoting the86:54Iraq war and there was literally zero86:58incentive for those companies to put a87:01halt to the you know Islamophobia to any87:04any of that that’s that’s never going to87:07be a moneymaker for the network’s you87:09know being being discerning you know I87:12would even say right now there’s a thing87:15about being anti Russian that that87:18you know you’re not going to find87:20anybody who is going to be willing to87:24kind of stand up and say hey you know87:25I’m pro-russian like that that’s that87:27there’s not going to be an incentive for87:28that I think some of the networks have87:31tried to do a better job of that in87:34their news coverage but that you know in87:36terms of a financial incentive you just87:37won’t find it unfortunately so a few87:43final words please support us this is87:46this place is dedicated independent87:48media and it is really fulfilling to us87:51to see all of you in this room and we87:53have sanctuary resist t-shirts everyone87:56needs one and we just really want to87:58thank Matt because you’re really a hero88:00in the movement right now and it’s so88:02important that you’re here88:12thank you soon
Evil, even in the darkest moments, is impotent before the miracle of human kindness. This miracle defies prejudices and hatreds. It crosses cultures and religions. It lies at the core of faith. Take a brief journey through the eyes of American, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges to Jerusalem, Gaza, and Iraq, and discover the sacred bonds that make us human.
Subtitles: 🇺🇸The Miracle of Kindness 🇪🇸El milagro de la bondad humana
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I studied Arabic four hours a day, five days a week, with my Palestinian professor, Omar Othman, in Jerusalem. We met in my house on Mt. Scopus overlooking the old city every morning. He would arrive with his books and something from his garden, olives, peaches, apricots or a bag of pistachios he would patiently unshell as we worked and then push towards me. Yom fil mishmish, we would say as we ate his apricots, literally meaning tomorrow will be good times and we will eat apricots, but given the long tragedy that has befallen the Palestinians, this phrase is converted into a wistful tomorrow will never come.
Omar, a polyglot who spoke German, Hebrew, and English fluently and who had worked as a teacher in the court of King Hussein in Jordan, was determined I would not only learn Arabic, but the politesse and formalities of Palestinian society. He drilled into me what to say when someone offered me food – Yislamu Edek – may God bless your hands, or when a women entered the room — nowar el beit – you light up the house – or when someone brought me a small cup of thick, sugary Arabic coffee — ‘away dime. A phrase that meant, may we always drink coffee together in an occasion like this.
Omar had a fondness for the Lebanese child singer Remi Bandali, a fondness I did not share, but on his insistence, I memorized the lyrics to several of her songs. He told long involved shaggy dog jokes in Arabic and made me commit them to memory, although sometimes the humor was lost on me.
In March of 1991 I was in Basra, Iraq during the Shiite uprising as a reporter for The New York Times. I had entered Kuwait with the Marine Corps and then left them behind to cover the fighting in Basra. I was taken prisoner by the Iraqi Republican Guard, who in the chaos – whole army units had defected to join the rebels – had ripped their distinguishing patches off their uniforms so as not to be identified with the regime of Saddam Hussein. I was studiously polite, because of Omar, with my interrogators. I swiftly struck up conversations with my guards. My facility in Arabic rendered me human. And when I ran out of things to say I told the long, shaggy dog jokes taught to me by Omar. Perhaps it was my accented Arabic, but my guards found these jokes unfailingly amusing.
I spent a week as a prisoner. I slept and ate with Iraqi soldiers, developed friendships with some, including the major who commanded the unit, and there were several moments when, trapped in heavy fighting with the rebels, they shielded and protected me. I would hear them whisper at night about what would happen to me once I was turned over to the secret police or Mukhabarat, something they and I knew was inevitable and dreaded.
That day came. I was flown on a helicopter to Baghdad and handed to the Mukhabarat, whose dead eyes and cold demeanor reminded me of the East German Stasi. There was no bantering now. I was manhandled and pushed forcefully into a room and left there without food or water for 24 hours.
I awoke the next day to plaintive call to prayer, the adhaan, as the first pale light crept over the city.
“God is greater. There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the messenger of God.”
I went to the window and saw the heavily armed guards in the courtyard below. I did not know if I would live or die.
At dawn the women and often children climb to the flat rooves in Baghdad to bake bread in rounded clay ovens. I was famished. I called out in Arabic to these women. “I am an American journalist. I am a captive. I have not eaten.”
A mother handed fresh bread to her young son who scampered across the rooves to feed me. A few hours later I was turned over to the International Committee for the Red Cross and driven to Jordan and freedom.
Where are they now, these men and women who showed me such compassion, who ignored the role my own country had played in their oppression, to see me as a one of them? How can I replay this solidarity and empathy? How can I live to be like them? I owe Omar, I owe all these people, some of whom I did not know, the miracle of human kindness – and my life.
The 2017 film “Shock and Awe” shows how a group of journalists exposed major gaps in the Bush administration’s justification for the Iraq war. It’s a situation worth re-examining as tensions rise between the U.S. and Iran. The reporters at the center of “Shock and Awe” include Warren Strobel, Jonathan Landay and John Walcott. They joined CBSN to take a closer look at the comparisons between the two situations.
By Davis Merrit
Born in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina
Graduated in 1958 from the University of North Carolina
(born 1936?) ~ 83 years old
Adjunct journalism professor at University of Kansas and Witchita State
~Live in Wichita, Kansas?
21 N Cypress Dr, Wichita, KS?
A free press is essential to a functioning democracy. A function democracy is essential to a free press. They synergy of these two ideas is important because a free society cannot determine its course — that is,, self-determination does not exist — without three things: shared, relevant information; an agora (that is, a place or mechanism where the implications of information can be discussed); and shared values (at a minimum, a belief in personal liberty itself).
Coming to Public Judgement is the title of a seminal book in which Daniel Yankelovich explains the phenomenon of public judgement and how it is formed. Published in 1991, it demonstrates that the democratic way of dealing with problems is to strive for a resolution that
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everyone can live with; that benefits more people than it harms; that recognizes and allows for differing opinions and values but nevertheless helps settle the issue so the public’s business can move on.
Public judgement,, Yankelovich explains, is far more complex than mere opinion. In his three decades of research into public opinion preceding publication of the book, he developed ways to distinguish between off-the-cuff public opinion, as reflected in most statistical surveys, and true public judgement.
A public judgement is “the state of highly developed public opinion that exists once people have engaged in an issue, considered it from all sides, understood the choices it leads to, and accepted the full consequences of the choices they make.
Reaching public judgement about important and complex issues can take years or only hours. For instance, Americans reached public judgement about women’s rights decades ago after more than a century of debate, but aligning that determination with life’s realities is still a work in progress. On the other hand, surveys showed that public judgement on Operation Desert Storm in 1991 was almost instantaneous and supportive.
.. True public judgement, once arrived at, reflects values at least as much as it reflects information because of the complex way in which the public arrives at the judgement, Yankelovich contends. The process involves three stages: consciousness raising, working through, and resolution. He describes them this way:
Consciousness raising is “the stage in which the public learns about an issue and becomes aware of its existence and meaning .. When one’s consciousness is raised, not only does awareness grow but so does concern and readiness for action.” In other words, people decide: We must do something about this. But what? And how?
Working through can be complex and time-consuming, for it involves individuals having second thoughts — that is, “resolving the conflict between impulse and prudence”; accepting new (and sometimes unsettling) realities; and resolving conflicts among the competing values that they hold. In other words, working through involves cognitive, emotional, and moral calculations.
Resolution occurs only after successful consciousness raising and working through, and the accumulated mass of that effort then reflects a public judgement.
Consciousness raising — which journalists are good at and dearly love — does not alone lead to public judgement. The working-through phase is essential. So when newspapers, either deliberately or by lack
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of insight or public service orientation, limit their role to merely calling attention to things and flit, hummingbird-like, from one issue to the next, the process begins to break down; public judgements rare not given time to mature; the working-through process is time-consuming, expensive, and full of risk. It is not the sort of thing that newspapers can do with one eye always on the bottom line.
For decades, the mantra that people in journalism delivered to people who thought they wanted to be in journalism went something like this: You won’t get rich and you probably won’t be famous, but you can make a difference and have a lot of fun in the process.
Seeing Richard Nixon as a prototype rather than an anomaly, journalists began a two-decade-long practice of treating all political figures at any level as potential suspects in the next Whatever-Gate. The journalistic norm became “We catch crooks.” Scalps on the belt, particularly government scalps, were the sign of rank and the measure of testosterone at gatherings of the journalistic tribe. The democratic process, which had been superbly served by the Watergate reporting, was enveloped in a flood of self-indulgent and self-serving efforts by journalists-cum-cops to find a bogeyman under every government and institutional bed.
.. Journalism also learned from Watergate that, unlike the era of Chester S. Lord, journalists could indeed become both wealthy and famous, a realization that would turn the occasional knaves or fools who sneaked into the profession into an army of wanna-bees much more sinister and difficult to deal with: serial liars, cheats, and thieves driven by reckless ambition and bereft of the restraint and respect for intellectual honesty that guided most of their predecessors.
In the first thirty-five years of my experience in daily news-papering, I did not encounter any such liars, cheats, and thieves, or at least
was not aware of the if they workd around or for me. In the last ten years of my experience, they were everywhere infecting a business, and a society, that seemed to have no useful serum for combating them.
Hodding Carter III is president and chief executive officer of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which has within its mission the improvement of American journalism through many mechanisms, including endowed chairs at journalism schools. Carter is also, by genetics and training, a newspaperman inflamed by the idea of journalism as a public trust. And he’s angry about what is happening to newspaper journalism. In a speech at Kent State University in April 2001, he argued that newspaper companies need not march to Wall Street’s drumbeat of ever-increasing profits.
It is a fallacy, said Carter that newspaper companies “must accept the market’s logic and demands,” and went on to say:
Actually you don’t [have to accept it], as long as you’re not emphasizing profit growth as masculinity surrogate, a macho game of “my profit growth is bigger than yours.” The Washington Post goes to the market. The New York Times goes to the market. Neither comes close to the profit margins the market allegedly demands. Neither will as long as current management endures. Both these great newspapers prosper and lead.
What it takes is a little guts. A little cohesion among media managers and all would echo [Washington Post CEO] Dom Graham’s remarks to Wall Street analysts not long ago. You want profits, he told the. We want profits. But we know what matters. Our journalism is not the focus of your interests, but it is the focus of min, and it is better than ever. It’s going to stay that way.
Let me put a proposition to you. Today, GM averages around a 5 percent to 6 percent profit.. Suppose GM went to 20 to 25 percent. Would you buy its cars? Would you believe the product was as good at a 25 percent return as a product at 5 percent? And yet the newspaper industry has doubled what used to be the acceptable profit margin, well past what we routinely call “obscene profits” in the oil industry in days gone by, and things it can’t live below 25 percent.
Of course, the way Wall Street see it is determinative for
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some. Terry Smith of The News Hour with Jim Lehrer did a segment on the issue of newspaper profits. Well, he ask the bright analyst, what margin does Wall Street expect from a publicly held newspaper company? If they average in the twenties, is that enough? No she replied, it’s never enough, of course, This is Wall Street we’re talking about.
Precisely. And what we should be talking about is journalism in the public interest.