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Arriving for the first jailhouse interview with the Trump insurrectionist known as the "QAnon Shaman," 60 Minutes+ this week provided a surprisingly gentle and understanding forum for someone who helped terrorize members of Congress on Jan. 6, when a murderous mob ransacked the U.S. Capitol.
Along with interviewing Jacob Chansley (aka the Shaman), CBS's Laurie Segall interviewed Chansley's mother who insisted her son is innocent of the six charges he faces after storming the Capitol, bare-chested and wearing a fur helmet with horns.
She claimed President Joe Biden had won the election "fraudulently," which is part of the GOP's Big Lie campaign. Her bogus election claim received no direct pushback from Segall. Why would CBS present someone as a credible person who thinks the election was stolen? 60 Minutes+ also allowed Chansley's mother to spout QAnon rhetoric about human trafficking without calling it out.
The whole CBS segment had the unfortunate feeling of a rehabilitation effort, and specifically the national press using a sympathetic lens through which to view white, right-wing political criminals. It's part of an ongoing, compassion campaign to better understand Trump sycophants who are so divorced from reality and the rule of law that they eagerly ransacked the Capitol in a dangerous effort to overturn an American election.
Are these really the type of people we need to better understand, the people who deserve a national platform? Isn't it just giving a megaphone to an insurrectionist who wants to rebrand himself on the eve of his court date, while expressing his deep admiration for Trump? (Segall: "What was it about Donald Trump that you felt so fiercely loyal to?")
"I consider myself a lover of my country. I consider myself a believer in the Constitution. I consider myself a believer in truth and our founding principles. I consider myself a believer in God," Chansley told CBS.
The interview felt like an extension of the media's four-year obsession with profiling Trump voters, and treating them as some sort of anointed tribe of captivating voters who represented the true, authentic voices of America. Not the backbone for a looming insurrection. Segall: "Do you still believe you're a patriot?"
Think of how many prisoners of color are sitting in jails across the country, unjustly convicted or facing disproportionately long prison sentences, and ask if the QAnon Shaman really deserves national attention to better tell his personal tale? Should CBS be working with the insurrectionist's defense attorney, who help set up the Q&A, because he desperately wants to clean up his client's public image in advance of a court proceeding? ("He's like a kid.")
House members this week were allowed to leave town Wednesday night after law enforcement warned about a possible militia-led attack on the Capitol because of the deranged conspiracy claim that on March 4, Trump would be inaugurated. Meaning, QAnon is not a curiosity. It’s a collection of dangerous radicals who have already terrorized the country.
"The "QAnon Shaman" of the January 6th attack on the Capitol tells his story for the first time from jail," is how CBS promoted the report. But why we should care about "his story" was never explained. During the 20 minutes, viewers learned Chansley thinks he's innocent, thinks he didn't do anything wrong on Jan. 6 (i.e. it wasn't an "attack"), and that his intention that day was "to bring divinity, and to bring God back into the Senate." Viewers also learned that Chansley's family and his attorney agree he's innocent — not exactly ground-breaking stuff. What it really comes down to is 60 Minutes+ landed the interview, period, and thought that in and of itself was news.
Additional problems arose when Segall interviewed Chansley's mother, Martha Chansley, who justified her son’s inclusion in the January mob by claiming the 2020 election was stolen. "I don’t think it’s right that [the election] was won fraudulently. I don’t believe it was won fairly at all,” she told CBS. Segall was not shown confronting that lie on camera. Instead, during a voice-over she said, "Both Jacob and Martha Chansley are part of a significant group of Americans who believe the 2020 election was fraudulent, that Donald Trump actually won."
Segall also gave Martha Chansley free rein to spew QAnon lies: "Jacob was exposing that and helping people to being formed; money laundering, human trafficking, all that ugly stuff. How all that revolves around our election and everything is it's part of the draining of the swamp." The CBS report then cut to Martha going through old photo albums as she, "paint[ed] a picture of Chansley's childhood."
Insurrectionists who spread bogus claims about human trafficking don't deserve to be the subject of human interest profiles by 60 Minutes.
(Photo Win McNamee/Getty Images)
The need to diversify newsrooms continues to be a pressing problem, especially as newspapers across the country shrink, and offer fewer perspectives.
That’s why a recent tweet that pointed out every page-one byline from Wednesday’s San Francisco Chronicle came from a woman, was so encouraging:
FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK
James Brown, “Down And Out in New York City”
You ever hear an old song for the very first time that’s so good and so startling you wonder how you possibly managed to miss it for so long? That was my reaction last week when I came across this James Brown song from 48 years ago! It appeared on the Black Caesar soundtrack from 1973 and became a minor hit, peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard R&B chart.
Today, it stands as an gritty, soul powerhouse, featuring Brown’s signature horns but also more rhythmic, acoustic guitar playing than we usually hear from his songs.
I can’t stop listening to it. Such punch and prowess. It’s timeless.
I was born in New York City
On a Monday
It seems I was out shinin' shoes 'bout two to noon
All the fat cats
In the bad hats doing me a real big favor
Forgot the fat cats
In the bad hats laying it on real good