42 Comments

Media conglomerates are big corporations, so it's not too hard to figure out what side they're going to be on when push comes to shove. As Heather Cox Richardson recently stated in her blog: "Kleptocrats, autocrats and criminals are making a strong bid to control our country." She also wondered "Will they succeed?" In my opinion, they already have, and the high-emotion, clickbait-driven Big Media has played a critical role in that success.

Expand full comment

With so much focus on how Facebook's feed algorithms drive stats that help sell targetted ads, you'd think media writ large would stop many of their blatant mischaracterizations now that the game is revealed. Nope. The media trucks right along with their narratives du jour. The job of teaching critical thinking skills will inevitably get harder for educators.

Expand full comment

"Why are the media covering for the GOP?"

Because unlike their blatantly propagandist counterparts at Fox, ONAN & Newsmin, the traditional media REFUSES to accept that they have any agency or mandate in the education of the electorate. They think by not calling out obvious lies from the right, they are "playing it straight." Meanwhile the propagandists utilize the typical Orwellian tactics (such as the Big Lie, repetition, doublespeak, & Madison Avenue appeals to emotion) to proselytize and gain power... Unfortunately for the US, it is working.

Expand full comment

Do any of the rank and file screamers on the right understand what CRT is or isn't? No. No matter what is said to them, all they hear is, "CRT says that white people are bad and guilty and I'm not going to stand there and just say OK, I'm guilty." As far as I can tell, that's the way that crowd thinks.

I'm going to put it in a nutshell and I hope this makes sense. That crowd might be willing to admit that "bad stuff" happened in American history, but they want a bygones for it. That's it.

Expand full comment

Paul Krugman has a column today arguing that cowards in the Republican Party are as responsible for what's happening as much or more than the GOP extremists. I would suggest media cowardice is as big or bigger as a problem.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/28/opinion/republicans-vaccines.html

Expand full comment

I like to think of #MAGAts as being addicts needing ever stronger fixes, and lacking any desire to quit the addiction.

Despite accepting that the mainstream media are subservient to the wants of the ruling class, which is to say they need to promote the GOP, I see them as addicts as well. There's a relatively fine line between promotion and irresponsibly spewing disinformation (not misinformation).

But despite knowing better, I'm still saddened (or maybe frustrated) to see that mainstream clearly must be as addicted as the #MAGAts because after Trump's causing a couple of hundred thousand Covid deaths and then all the attacks on elections -- verbal and otherwise -- with full support and worse from the party, the media, like an addict, still can't quit the junk. Eh, what's really sad is that there is no longer a single wholly trustworthy site for news.

As for CRT, yeah, sure, I could rant about media coverage, but let me bring in a professional:

https://presswatchers.org/2021/10/failing-to-call-out-critical-race-theory-as-racist-dog-whistle-let-me-rewrite-that-for-you/

Expand full comment

The CRT phenomenon is akin to what Republican wordsmiths like Frank Luntz has wrought over the years with misleading or even ironic labeling: "pro-life;" "illegal immigrants;" "death panels;" "partial birth abortion;" and "death tax." After putting the terms in front of focus groups to see which get the most visceral reaction, the talking point is issued and Republican candidates dutifully recite them. The reaction is the goal, and instead of pointing out the BS behind the terminology, the "liberal media" (another term!) literally admires the audacity of the strategy. Eric Alterman has long posited that the right's strategy of "working the refs" would bear (and was bearing) fruit. If he and Jay Rosen - communications professors - can see it, why can't any editors?

Expand full comment

I disagree with one thing. I don't believe that the MSM is afraid of being labeled as being liberal bias. I believe the owners of the media are very much on the right, believe that money is most important, believe that their taxes need to be lower. In other words they are aiding an abetting the lies of the Republican Party for the benefit of their own financial growth. Regarding CRT - Correct, it is not being taught in schools but it should be. Wake me up when America finally grows the fuck up and is not afraid to learn about the true history of this country. When will we not be afraid to teach our children how we have killed, enslaved, raped and marginalized minorities for the pursuit of money and power? The fairytales that are taught to our children prevent this nation from finally coming together. I know I'll never live to see the day when we face the truth but hopefully my children's children will.

Expand full comment

I stay off social media, and just read books and newsletters.

I wish I thought msnbc were better than other cable news outlets, but it's not.

Here's the thing: who brought up critical race theory in the first place?

Who proposed that the 1619 project (which is wonderful, but its premise is historically inaccurate) be taught in schools?

We tend to hand ammunition to the Right, then play the victim when they use that ammunition against us.

Why doesn't Terry McAuliffe say he also opposes CRT being taught in schools? It's not being taught in schools anyway, so what's the harm?

Oh, yeah - the Enlightened will eviscerate him as a racist if he says he opposes something being taught that is not being taught - and they will help elect the GOP candidate.

My fellow progressives blather on about useless crap like CRT while a disproportionate number of Black people sleep on the sidewalks of San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, LA, and Austin - "liberal" enclaves all.

Perhaps if white people accepted the fact that hitting themselves over the head with copies of White Fragility does nothing to help Black people, we would not even be having to fight about CRT.

We are not the smart ones, here. If we were, CRT would not even be an issue.

Expand full comment

This is my letter to the editor from yesterday, re. the republican "strategy". I wish I'd included something about the CRT con job, because the local paper seems to be sold on the idea too.

"They continue to cast all decorum aside because they are committed to overthrowing the democracy. They are proving it daily and daring, no taunting, the rest of us into challenging them so they can clog up the mainstream press with a barrage of lies, shouted over and over and over again until the proletariat believes they are true. All in the name of greed for wealth and power. It is past time for the press to wake up to this reality, or we will very shortly have only a Tass and Pravda-like means of learning anything about what the government is up to. Which is to say, kiss the first amendment and a good part of the Bill of Rights goodby, as well as the checks and balances and congressional oversight of the executive. The only news will be "official news". Then, as the judiciary gets packed with toadies, we'll have daily doses of BOHICA. Like Hungary, Russia, Brazil, Saudi Arabia. Then the magaverse will really have something to whine about, but it'll be too fucking late. Welcome back to the third world."

Expand full comment

Bush did the same thing in 2004 when he turned that election into a referendum on gay marriage, or as it is known now, marriage. It was a completely bullshit argument then, as this CRT thing is now.

I learned about CRT in law school, where we repeatedly studied a case called Shelley v. Kraemer, a U.S. Supreme Court decision from 1948, six years before Brown v. Board of Education. It dealt with the validity, enforceability, viability and constitutionality of racially restrictive covenants in real property transactions.

"Thou shalt not sell thine house to 'people of the Negro or Mongoloid race'" is essentially what they all said. Look in the chain of title of literally any piece of property anywhere in the country and you will find one of these clauses.

And in law school, we study that case in real property, torts, contracts, civil procedure, and constitutional law. I never learned about it in grade school, high school or undergraduate school. In fact, it's still not taught anywhere except to people who understand what's really going on with systemic racism in our society.

But the poor little snowflakes in the GOP know that the only way they can win any more elections is to appeal to the racists who wrote and enforced those clauses in the first place. They're still among us, and when they vote, they vote for old white men who really don't give two hoots and a holler whether they are thought of as Nazis, and that's because they are, shamelessly, Nazis.

And as you have pointed out in any number of ways, Eric, the media just loves themselves a good old-fashioned fight between and among Nazis and the non-sociopaths who oppose them.

Expand full comment

"... it’s 'not part of classroom teaching.' Shouldn’t that be the story?" This is the key conversation that should always (and used to) happen between reporter and editor BEFORE the story is written. Or during editing if the conversation didn't take place upfront. This isn't rocket science. Has journalism uninvented the wheel?

Expand full comment

I think you're barking up the wrong tree with this perspective, though I understand your reasoning. But the fact of the matter is that Critical Race Theory IS being taught in elementary school, just not under that name. The idea that there is such a thing as institutionalized or systemic racism, independent of personal and conscious prejudice? The fact that white privilege exists, and is at the same time mostly invisible to those who benefit from it? The mere possibility that laws and policing can result in unfair, unjust, and biased outcomes due to alignment, whether intentional or incidental, between socioeconomic circumstance and racial background? These things were developed by CRT, they were *proven to be true* by CRT, and when they are explained to students they remain CRT, whether they are identified as such or not. And these FACTS, not the college level academic approach that first hypothesized these facts, are what the right wing (racist fascist Republicons, IOW) don't want taught in schools. The fascist Republicon activists are certainly being disingenuous when they rale against CRT, and the racist Republicon voters are ignorant of whether their children are being taught to be ashamed of being white or just conscious of being privileged, but you're taking the bait and swallowing the hook, the line, and the sinker when you try to denounce them with this "CRT isn't being taught" screed. A far more productive and intelligent (but difficult) approach is to point out that racists *should* be ashamed of being racist, whether they are children or not, and just leave it at that. When the anti-CRT racist tries to fan their fake outrage with nonsense about how you just called their kid racist, point out that is a lie, and immediately follow up with "now you're the one pushing Critical Race Theory", and refuse to explain further. They will then be the one tangling themselves up trying to explain what is or is not CRT, or is or is not being taught in schools, instead of you.

Expand full comment

The CRT story is another example that journalism has been replaced by punditry. This story reminds me of Hard Ball.

Some years ago I realized that Chris Matthews’ Hard Ball —a program that only discussed campaign tactics— only asked one amoral question: did the tactic work? Matthews never asked was it fair, right, or good, only did/will it work.

So here’s the thing to remember: the media is a business. Their business is getting ads in front of eyeballs. Content does not matter in the slightest. Whatever will generate more eyeballs in front of ads is what will lead.

Republicans are really good at getting people emotional and stirred up, and that makes content that will get a lot of eyeballs on ads. If we on the left could somehow generate the same/similar emotional response for, oh, Global Climate Change the tables would shift.

Expand full comment