Archive | Media

Revisiting Krugman on Reagan and Race Part II

Previously, I pointed out that Paul Krugman got his facts wrong on two of the three examples he used in a much-cited column to allege that Reagan used “tacit race-baiting.” But what of the third example? “During the 1976 campaign Reagan often talked about how upset workers must be to see an able-bodied man using food stamps at the grocery store. In the South — but not in the North — the food-stamp user became a ‘strapping young buck’ buying T-bone steaks.”

I traced the source to a February 1976 New York Times article by reporter Jon Nordheimer about Reagan’s Florida primary campaign. The article states that Reagan made no direct appeals for antiblack votes, and said explicitly he didn’t welcome them. However, Nordheimer added, sometimes “the impression is left, perhaps inadvertently, that he comes close to an indirect appeal in this regard.” The example he gave is that the previous night, Reagan gave a speech in which he repeated a favored anecdote about people being upset when they see a healthy young man buying a steak with food stamps. However, Nordheimer wrote, in Ft. Lauderdale this young man became a “strapping young buck,” a phrase he didn’t use in New Hampshire and other states with small black populations. “Young buck,” the reporter adds “to whites in the South denotes a large black man.” Reagan soon denied any racist intent, stating that when he grew up in Iowa in the 1920s, a young man of any race could be describe as a “young buck.”

I’m not sure what to make of this. Except in the context of Reagan’s remarks, I’ve never heard of [or at least don’t recall hearing of] “young buck” being used as a racial term, and I’ve read lots of racist drivel from the South in [...]

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Revisiting Krugman on Reagan and Race (UPDATED)

Back in 2007, Krugman wrote a much-talked-about column in which he accused Ronald Reagan of exploiting white racism in his quest for the presidency.  He gave three specific examples of Reagan using “tacit race-baiting.”

One was Reagan’s speech at a County fair in Mississippi where, he says, Reagan “declared his support for states’ rights — which everyone took to be a coded declaration of support for segregationist sentiments.”  This event has been discussed in great detail, including on this blog, but suffice to say that this is at best an exaggeration; contemporary coverage of the event, while noting the controversial venue (near where three civil rights workers were murdered), does not support the idea that the audience thought Reagan was endorsing segregation.  As I wrote previously, “Reporters at the time reported that the audience didn’t perceive that Reagan was referring to race , e.g, the NY Times in October wrote, “Although Mr. Reagan did not elaborate on that occasion, he later explained that he was referring to his proposal to shift certain taxing powers and social programs such as welfare from the Federal to the state level. Most of those at the rally apparently regarded the statement as having been made in that context.”   An audio tape of the event (discovered after Krugman’s column appeared) further debunks Krugman’s take, showing that Reagan only mentioned states’ rights once in a context that had nothing to do with race, and the speech itself was about economic policy and never mentioned race.

A second example that Krugman gave was that “Reagan repeatedly told the bogus story of the Cadillac-driving welfare queen — a gross exaggeration of a minor case of welfare fraud. He never mentioned the woman’s race, but he didn’t have to.”  It turns out, however, as a wonderful investigative report [...]

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Speaking of the Kennedy Assassination

While fifty years later, much of the MSM still refuses to acknowledge that JFK’s assassin was a Communist loser, somehow it’s also apparently not cricket to point out that his brother RFK was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist.

So let’s review. Sirhan Sirhan was a Palestinian refugee with Jordanian citizenship. He murdered Kennedy because the latter promised to send advanced fighter planes to Israel. The PLO terrorist group Black September demanded his release in exchange for hostages in 1973, recognizing that he was “one of theirs.”

Yet of 5755 hits for “Sirhan Sirhan” in the ALLNEWS database on Westlaw, only four of them refer to him as a “Palestinian terrorist” or “Palestinian extremist;” three of these sources are the Jerusalem Post, and one is the New York Jewish Week. In mainstream publications, you actually get phrases like this, “Black September terrorists who kidnapped the Western diplomats in a failed plot to free Palestinian terrorists in European jails and Sirhan Sirhan, the killer of Robert F. Kennedy,” as if Sirhan Sirhan, a terrorist and a Palestinian, on the same “trade of for hostages list” as other Palestinian terrorists, was somehow not a “Palestinian terrorist.” An even better one, from the Huffington Post: “[RFK] was gunned down in a hotel kitchen by a 24-year-old Palestinian whose motives have never been determined.” (Ironically, sources from the Arab world (e.g.,) seem more likely to acknowledge the real dynamic, though with the message that the U.S. and assumedly RFK got what was coming to it and him for supporting Israel).

As I was growing up, the assassinations of JFK, MLK, and RFK, were always portrayed as a resulting from a “culture of violence” and “hatred” that showed that America was going nuts in the 1960s, first because of the [...]

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Remarkable Take on JFK’s Assassination

This is really amazing to me. The New York Times and the Washington Post each manages to publish a piece on the Kennedy assassination, by two different authors, focusing on what they see as the right-wing extremist environment in Dallas in 1963, and while never saying so directly, implicitly blaming Kennedy’s assassination on that environment. [UPDATE: The Washingtonian magazine is more explicit: “The city of hate had, in fact, killed the President.”]

Look, guys. Lee Harvey Oswald murdered JFK. Oswald was a Communist. Not a small c, “all we are saying is give peace a chance and let’s support Negro civil rights” kind of Communist, but someone so committed to the cause (and so blind to the nature of the USSR) that he actually went to live in the Soviet Union. And when that didn’t work out, Oswald became a great admirer of Castro. He apparently would have gone to live in Cuba before the assassination if the Cubans would have had him. Before assassinating Kennedy, Oswald tried to kill a retired right-wing general. As near as we can tell, he targeted Kennedy in revenge for Kennedy’s anti-Castro actions.

The attempt to at best distract us from who the killer was and why he killed JFK, and at worst to pin the blame on entirely innocent people for inciting Dallas opinion against JFK (or perhaps to imply that the right-wingers plotted the assassination), even though those innocents were exactly the type of people Oswald hated, is just pathetic, and the Times and Post should be embarrassed for publishing these pieces. The Post piece is especially embarrassing because it explicitly links Dallas “right-wing extremism” circa 1963 to the modern “Tea Party,” as if to say, “if the Tea Party had been around in 1963, one of its members would [...]

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Jack Shafer on the Limits of the Media’s Ability to Increase Political Knowledge

Jack Shafer of Reuters has an interesting column on the implications of my book Democracy and Political Ignorance, and other recent scholarship, for claims that public knowledge of politics can be subtantially increased if only we had more or better media coverage of political issues:

The surplus of quality journalism in print, on the Web, and over the air should give the public little to no excuse for being uninformed about political issues. Never before has so much raw and refined political intelligence been available at such a low cost to citizens willing to buy a cheap computer and Web connection — or pay the bus fare to the local public library.

But uninformed the people are, as Ilya Somin delineates in his subversive new book, Democracy and Political Ignorance, and their ignorance is willful!….

The public has been cashing the information dividends tossed off by new information technologies. But as Somin and others point out, most Americans are spending most of their new wealth on entertainment media — more football, more baseball, more online games, more movies and TV shows, and lots and lots more social media — and comparatively little on political information. [Already] Well-informed audiences are more likely to avail themselves to the new technologies to become better informed…

We could try to mimic Europe — if the First Amendment allowed — and mandate more political news on TV, in print, and on the Web; government could regulate political news content in an attempt to increase its quality; and it could even be directly producing political news that it, and not PBS or NPR, supervised.

This sort of government intervention into the news media would be rightly attacked as political indoctrination and state propaganda, although Somin doubts (as do I) that the programs would have much

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Political Ignorance and the Weakness of Consumer Demand for “Hard News”

Media writer Jack Shafer and economics columnist Megan McArdle have interesting pieces discussing the weakness of the market for “hard news.” Shafer notes that producing “hard news” has never been very profitable because most readers aren’t particularly interested in it and are reluctant to pay for it. McArdle points out that the hard news media’s profitability has taken a nose-dive in recent years, thanks to the increasingly competitive market created by the internet, which makes it easier than ever for readers to get the sports and entertainment news they like more, without simultaneously buying a full-service newspaper that also carries stories on political issues:

Political and international news really came into its own in the early-to-mid 20th century … ironically, because radio and television killed off the competition in most places, turning almost all of America’s cities into one-paper towns. The last paper standing effectively had a license to print money. They spent a lot of that money establishing an elaborate system of reporting norms that emphasized “objectivity” — and building up reporting capacity on the prestige beats. They did this in much the way that companies in another industry might fund a large, impressive building or a charitable trust.

Don’t get me wrong: I am very glad of this capacity. I think that hard news reporting is a great social good. But as the Internet has unbundled news, it has become clear that this isn’t a social good for which many people are willing to pay. Reporters who thought that political and international news reporters, plus a few people who write long reported series about poverty and related “serious” subjects, constituted the apex of their profession, have been humbled to learn that readers considered us a moderately interesting freebie to thumb through on the way to the important stuff

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Colorado Inside-Out 1973 Time Machine

This Friday, July 6, at 8 p.m. Mountain Time, is Colorado Inside-Out’s annual Time Machine episode, on Colorado Public Television, channel 12. These episodes have won three regional Emmy Awards. This year’s episode takes us to 1973, with discussions of Equal Rights Amendment ratification, political violence, the energy crisis, and Watergate.

The characters are, from left to right: KHOW radio host Charlie Martin (Dominic Dezutti), folksinger Judy Collins (Patty Calhoun), Colorado State Rep. Gerald Kopel (me), an obscure actress with a couple Broadway cast appearances (Dani Newsum), and Rocky Mountain News police reporter Al Nakkula (Kevin Flynn). If you don’t live in Colorado, you can watch it on the website, starting sometime next week.

Also on the website, by Friday, will be a bonus segment, set in the year 2025. There we discuss the challenges facing President Chelsea Clinton, as she faces a hostile Congress dominated by the fusionist Green Tea Party.


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Emmy award nomination–1912 Time Machine

For the sixth year in a row, Colorado Inside-Out’s annual Time Machine episode has been nominated for a Heartland Regional Emmy. (We’ve won three.) The category”Interview/Discussion – Program/Special.” In this episode (originally broadcast in July 2012), the Colorado Inside-Out political discussion program travels back to 1912.

Former Rocky Mountain News reporter Kevin Flynn turns in a stellar performance as Denver Police Commissioner George Creel. (Creel later served as President Wilson’s minister of propaganda during WWI.) Westword publisher Patty Calhoun plays the unsinkable Molly Brown. Dani Newsum is well-educated leader of the National Progressive League. I play the fictional Hobart Drizzlewhit, assistant designer of Denver’s new City Park municipal golf course.

In a few weeks, we will be taping a new episode to be broadcast on Friday, July 5. The new episode will be set in 1973, covering topics such as Watergate and the Yom Kippur Arab-Israeli War. In the 5-minute “postgame” segment (broadcast only on the Web), we will travel to the future, discussing the politics of a nation dominated by the fusionist Green Tea Party. [...]

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I Think Jeffrey Goldberg is Trying to Defend President Obama

when he says, “Like many liberal American Jews, when he looks at Netanyahu he sees a conservative Republican and he fails to understand how a Jew can be a conservative Republican. I think he looks at Netanyahu in much the same way he contemplates Eric Cantor, the Republican ‏(and Jewish‏) house majority leader. Like many liberal-leaning Jews, he might simply not understand how a Jew could be a Republican.”

But if Obama truly understands so little about Israel that he reduces things to “Netanyahu = conservative Republican” (something the Washington Post actually did quote an administration official as saying), as if Israeli politics somehow map on to an incredibly different American political scene, and truly has been so cloistered on the left that the idea of a Jewish Republican is somewhere between anathema and beyond his comprehension, Goldberg is not doing Obama any favors in pointing these things out. I actually doubt that Obama actually thinks these things, but I don’t doubt that a significant number of “liberal American Jews,” some of whom are or have been Obama advisors, do, and that there views filter down to journalists like Goldberg as Obama’s.

UPDATE: Put another way, there are some liberal Jews who are strong partisan Democrats who are both appalled by the notion of conservative Republican Jews and extremely resentful that (a) an influential group like AIPAC maintains strict partisan neutrality, which has the effect, given the baseline, of pushing the Jewish community and its donors effectively to the right; (b) there is a group of wealthy Republican Jews, exemplified by Sheldon Adelson, working for “the other side.”

There is little that can be done about “a” (JStreet is the attempt to do so) and nothing that can be done about “b” (though liberal Jewish groups did launch [...]

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Starting a Column with a Lie?

Thomas Friedman in the New York Times: “Israeli friends have been asking me whether a re-elected President Obama will take revenge on Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu for the way he and Sheldon Adelson, his foolhardy financier, openly backed Mitt Romney. My answer to Israelis is this: You should be so lucky.”

I’m pretty sure it’s true that Netanyahu would rather have had Mitt Romney in office than Barack Obama. But “openly backed?” That’s just false. But note that Friedman cleverly gave himself plausible deniability for spreading this falsehood, by attributing it to his “Israeli friends.” And of course Friedman does want Obama to “take revenge” on Netanyahu, making the whole column an exercise in concern trolling. It’s too bad Israel can’t have a government that Friedman really admires, like China’s. [...]

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In Pursuit of Journalistic Negativity

A new report on media coverage of the presidential campaign from the Pew Research Center looks at the balance of positive and negative coverage of the major presidential candidates. Among the report’s findings:

The study reveals the degree to which the two cable channels that have built themselves around ideological programming, MSNBC and Fox, stand out from other mainstream media outlets. And MSNBC stands out the most. On that channel, 71% of the segments studied about Romney were negative in nature, compared with just 3% that were positive-a ratio of roughly 23-to-1. On Fox, 46% of the segments about Obama were negative, compared with 6% that were positive-a ratio of about 8-to-1 negative. These made them unusual among channels or outlets that identified themselves as news organizations.

(Hat tip: Slate) [...]

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A Non-Controversy at Brandeis

The Times reports that a potentially controversial Palestinian art exhibit at Brandeis’ Rose Art Museum hasn’t caused much controversy. As an alumnus, I can guess why. Unless things have changed dramatically since I was there, Brandeis students are only dimly aware of the museum’s existence, and it plays essentially no role in campus life. In short, students don’t know and don’t care what goes on at the museum. (In fact, if you had asked me during my tenure at Brandeis where the museum was located, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you.)

This, of course, makes one wonder why the Times bothered to do a story about it. Here’s a guess. “We know what we do now will attract lots of attention,” said Christopher Bedford, the new director of the museum. “We want to capitalize on that attention.” Bedford, I’m guessing, contacted the Times (personally or through a P.R. rep.) to try to manufacture a controversy, and thus attention. The Times played along, but couldn’t find much to say, and was left to vaguely accuse pro-Israel students at Brandeis of not wanting to “engage” the Palestinian narrative. Pretty pathetic, if I’m right.

UPDATE: It’s like an onion headline: “Campus Art Museum Hosts its Most Controversial, Provocative Art Exhibit Ever; Students React by Studying and Drinking Beer”

FURTHER UPDATE: My college roommate emails: “We had a museum?” [...]

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Arthur Brisbane, the NYT‘s public editor for the past two years, wrote his final column this weekend. In that column, he commented:

I had taken up the public editor duties believing “there is no conspiracy” and that The Times’s output was too vast and complex to be dictated by any Wizard of Oz-like individual or cabal. I still believe that, but also see that the hive on Eighth Avenue is powerfully shaped by a culture of like minds — a phenomenon, I believe, that is more easily recognized from without than from within.

When The Times covers a national presidential campaign, I have found that the lead editors and reporters are disciplined about enforcing fairness and balance, and usually succeed in doing so. Across the paper’s many departments, though, so many share a kind of political and cultural progressivism — for lack of a better term — that this worldview virtually bleeds through the fabric of The Times.

As a result, developments like the Occupy movement and gay marriage seem almost to erupt in The Times, overloved and undermanaged, more like causes than news subjects.

According to Politico, NYT executive editor has a different view:

Times executive editor Jill Abramson says she disagrees with Brisbane’s “sweeping conclusions.”

“In our newsroom we are always conscious that the way we view an issue in New York is not necessarily the way it is viewed in the rest of the country or world. I disagree with Mr. Brisbane’s sweeping conclusions,” Abramson told POLITICO Saturday night.

“I agree with another past public editor, Dan Okrent, and my predecessor as executive editor, Bill Keller, that in covering some social and cultural issues, the Times sometimes reflects its urban and cosmopolitan base,” she continued. “But I also often quote, including in talks with Mr.

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