Governance, morality and the media

Written by  //  October 29, 2018  //  Government & Governance, Media  //  No comments

29 October
Pence Invites “Christian Rabbi” to Offer Campaign Event Prayer, an Inflammatory and Very On-Brand Move for Trump Administration
(Slate) … the Trump administration—presumably looking to give the impression of compassion for Jewish communities deeply shaken by the attack—had a rabbi open with an invocation before Vice President Mike Pence’s campaign event in Michigan. However, in possibly the most on-brand move yet from the Trump administration, the Pence team managed to make the prayer not only controversial, but bafflingly offensive as well, by ceding the stage to a Messianic Jewish rabbi, Loren Jacobs of Synagogue Shema Yisrael, to lead a prayer, “Jesus the Messiah.”
Messianic Jews, commonly known as “Jews for Jesus,” are not considered Jewish at all by most mainstream Jewish groups, and their embrace by evangelical Christians is often considered offensive, even anti-Semitic.

John Cassidy: American Democracy Is Malfunctioning in Tragic Fashion
(The New Yorker) In his book “The American Mind,” from 1950, which I took down from the bookshelf during the weekend, the historian Henry Steele Commager notes that “the American” of the late nineteenth century had “little time for tradition and authority,” because “he knew that his country had become great by flouting both.” Simultaneously, however, the American “thought his government and the Constitution the best in the world, credited them with a large measure of the success of his experiment, and would not tolerate any attack upon their integrity.” Although some of Commager’s language, such as the use of “he,” grates on the modern ear, the paradox that he identifies survives to this moment, and it is doing untold harm to this country. The horrible events of the past few days have confirmed that the United States, while it remains a great nation, is a country trapped by its past. Despite a rising tide of gun violence and political extremism, it has repeatedly failed to adapt its institutions and its laws—particularly those relating to guns and the online spread of hate speech—to an age of technology-enabled savagery. Now the very foundations of the political system that so many Americans take for granted seem to be under threat.

28 October
Rhetoric and Responsibility
Trump’s Caravan Hysteria Led to This
The president and his supporters insisted that several thousand Honduran migrants were a looming menace—and the Pittsburgh gunman took that seriously.
In reality, the caravan was thousands of miles and weeks away from the U.S. border, shrinking in size, and unlikely to reach the U.S. before the election. If the migrants reach the U.S., they have the right under U.S. law to apply for asylum at a port of entry. If their claims are not accepted, they will be turned away. There is no national emergency; there is no ominous threat. There is only a group of desperate people looking for a better life, who have a right to request asylum in the United States and have no right to stay if their claims are rejected. Trump is reportedly aware that his claims about the caravan are false. An administration official told the Daily Beast simply, “It doesn’t matter if it’s 100 percent accurate … this is the play.” The “play” was to demonize vulnerable people with falsehoods in order to frighten Trump’s base to the polls.

Brazil shows us, again, that deep misogyny is no bar to running a country
(Quartz) Bolsonaro, a former army captain of the conservative Social Liberal Party, has expressed admiration for Brazil’s past military dictatorship, and says the country needs tough leadership to deal with its problems. It’s a message that seems to have resonated with voters fed up with ever-expanding corruption scandals and violent crime (paywall)

An American President Bends to the Demands of Terror
(The Atlantic) Trump continues to argue that his casual bigotry and xenophobia, his exhortations of extralegal measures against political opponents, and his delegitimization of the media are inconsequential to the violence. Instead, Trumpism demands that violence be solved by local militarization: increased security at schools, the arming of teachers, and now, the adoption of guns in places intended quite literally to be sanctuaries from the scourges of the world. Taken altogether, what Trumpism seems to intend is the creation—or perhaps the expansion—of the machinery of a police state.
After the attack in Pittsburgh, Trump again expressed his inclination to meet violence with the machinery of a police state.
On Friday, in the very same speech in which Trump first addressed Sayoc’s arrest, he also laughed along to a chant from supporters to lock up George Soros, the liberal billionaire activist and philanthropist, who’d been one of Sayoc’s alleged targets. At a rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, later that evening, despite a vow that “political violence must never, ever be allowed in America, and I will do everything in my power to stop it,” the president also repeated claims that he was a “nationalist,” derided “globalists,” and attacked the media. The very next day, the president suggested that armed guards should be stationed outside places of worship and that gun laws couldn’t prevent a mass shooting.

Trump’s Attacks on the News Media Are Working
(NYT) “Funny how lowly rated CNN, and others, can criticize me at will, even blaming me for the current spate of Bombs and ridiculously comparing this to September 11th and the Oklahoma City bombing,” he wrote, “yet when I criticize them they go wild and scream, ‘it’s just not Presidential!’”
“President Blames Media For Attempted Bombs,” read the onscreen chyron on “Good Morning America” as an ABC News correspondent, Jonathan Karl, briefed the anchor George Stephanopoulos on the president’s latest digital sortie from the still-dark White House lawn.
So began Day 645 of a presidency that has made denigrating the news media one of its identifying features.
Even in a national crisis, he was sticking with his anti-media strategy.
The question is, Is it working?
The short answer is yes. Increasingly, the president’s almost daily attacks seem to be delivering the desired effect, despite the many examples of powerful reporting on his presidency. By one measure, a CBS News poll over the summer, 91 percent of “strong Trump supporters” trust him to provide accurate information; 11 percent said the same about the news media.
Mr. Trump was open about the tactic in a 2016 conversation with Lesley Stahl of CBS News, which she shared earlier this year: “I do it to discredit you all and demean you all, so when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you,” she quoted him as saying.
And with the president settling on “fear and falsehoods” as an election strategy, as The Washington Post put it last week, the political information system is awash in more misleading or flatly wrong assertions than reporters can keep up with. It’s as if President Trump has hit the journalism industry with a denial-of-service attack.
Now, partisan smears are a staple of every single news cycle. As crude pipe bombs were discovered at CNN headquarters and in mailboxes across the country, Mr. Trump’s supporters like the Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, Rush Limbaugh and the conservative writer Ann Coulter asserted that the crime was a frame job by Democrats.

27 October
Trump warns of violence if GOP loses midterms
(CNN) President Donald Trump warned there will be “violence” if the Republicans lose their majority in Congress as a result of the 2018 midterms, in a recording now heard by CNN.

25 October
University Backed by George Soros Prepares to Leave Budapest Under Duress
(NYT) … as Hungary drifts toward authoritarian rule under Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the university says it is being forced to close its Budapest campus, portraying itself as a victim of Mr. Orban’s efforts to vilify Mr. Soros and to stifle dissent and academic freedom.

24 October
A tipping point: The Khashoggi killing is the blurring of global moral values and principles
By C. Uday Bhaskar
However outraged global opinion is currently over the Khashoggi death, it is more likely that normative principles and values will be “trumped” by the complex geopolitical and energy considerations that Saudi Arabia represents. It is pertinent to note that India, China and Russia have been muted in their public statements about this sordid issue – there is a sub-text here which is a disquieting reality check about the unalloyed realpolitik contours of international relations.
(CUB Blog) Will moral principles and ethical values shape the global response to this killing of a journalist?
President Erdogan declared, “Covering up a savage murder like this will only hurt the human conscience. We expect the same sensitivity from all parties, primarily the Saudi Arabian leadership.” Cynics can draw attention to the manner in which Erdogan himself and Turkey, in general, have dealt with their own political dissidents, but the Khashoggi case has turned the global spotlight on the Saudi profile in an embarrassing manner.
Long accused of supporting radical Islamic ideologies and terror groups (recall the identity of the perpetrators in the 9/11 Twin Tower attack), Saudi Arabia has a dismal human rights record when it comes to journalists and political dissidents. Yet, given its hydro-carbon primacy in the world and individual geopolitical compulsions, most nations defer to Riyadh and prefer to turn a Nelson’s eye to many of its transgressions.
The Khashoggi affair appears to be the tipping point to this pattern

Jeffrey D. Sachs: Killer Politicians
(Project Syndicate) Americans are rightly horrified at Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal murder, yet most fail to recognize that their own leaders’ murderous ways may be little different than those who ordered Khashoggi’s death. The pervasiveness of state-sponsored killings is no excuse for treating murder as acceptable, ever.
What rulers crave most is deniability. But with the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by his own government, the poisoning of former Russian spies living in the United Kingdom, and whispers that the head of Interpol, Meng Hongwei, may have been executed in China, the curtain has been slipping more than usual of late. In Riyadh, Moscow, and even Beijing, the political class is scrambling to cover up its lethal ways.
Since 1947, the deniability of presidential murder has been facilitated by the CIA, which has served as a secret army (and sometime death squad) for American presidents. The CIA has been a party to murders and mayhem in all parts of the world, with almost no oversight or accountability for its countless assassinations. It is possible, though not definitively proved, that the CIA even assassinated UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld.

20 October
Virginia Heffernan: Something is desperately wrong when America is accused of covering up the killing of a dissident
(LA Times) What happened to Khashoggi, as we understand it, may outdo even the Kremlin for sadism. And yet the response in the U.S.— especially among Republicans — has been in stark contrast to the response to Solzhenitsyn’s abuse by the Soviets in the 20th century.
Today the Trump administration stands accused of helping to cover up the full story of Khashoggi’s death and even of having foreknowledge that Khashoggi was some sort of target in Istanbul. At the same time, the Republican Party is evidently smearing Khashoggi while aiming to exonerate the Saudis, with whom the oligarchs of our nation, including the president and his son-in-law, have an unholy commercial alliance.
Something has gone gravely wrong in America.
In the 1970s, Americans of every stripe considered Alexander Solzhenitsyn a hero. To fight repression in a brutal, totalitarian regime like the USSR was to gain the admiration and material support of the West, where individual freedoms are the sine qua non of our way of life.
Now Trump almost seems to consider violence toward a member of the media by an authoritarian regime something he can get behind.

10 October
The forces of evil are getting bolder. We can’t let them win.
By Christian Caryl
(WaPost) When we journalists write about politics, we tend to focus on the rational. In our efforts to help readers understand current events, we strive to explain the calculus of power: who has it, who wants it, how it is acquired and maintained. In the process, we usually try to avoid too much outright moralizing, because that might make us look sentimental or subjective.
But there are times when our cautious political vocabulary fails us — and now is one of those times. We are experiencing a moment when many events can be described only with the word “evil.”
Genocide in Myanmar. Russia’s war on Ukraine. China’s ethnic cleansing of the Uighurs. The shocking rise of political movements that openly vilify minorities and migrants.
What is striking about all of these horrors is the shamelessness of the perpetrators. Evil has always existed (and always will), but rarely have the bigots, the thugs and the warmongers so brazenly advertised their sins. Vladimir Putin’s government positively rejoices over the murder of its opponents. A Brazilian presidential candidate and the Philippine president make jokes about rape.
I’m not sure I understand all the reasons for this outpouring of depraved behavior. Social media, which has unleashed many of our hitherto closeted demons, clearly serves as an accelerant. (Consider Facebook’s role in whipping up animosity against the Rohingya minority in Myanmar.) A worldwide revolt against established elites — part slow-motion response to the 2008 financial crisis, part discontent with the inequities of globalization — has engendered a politics of rage that loosens the norms of good behavior. International networks of corruption are eroding democratic institutions. Western governments — above all, the Trump administration — show little inclination to call out human rights violations or to push back against the despots. And the strongmen appreciate the favor.

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