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Wed Jun 24, 2020, 01:07 PM

'NPR's avoiding an "angry tone" ... reveals a politics hidden in the supposed absence of politics.'

The July 2nd issue of The New York Review of Books has a review of Masha Gessen's book Surviving Autocracy. The full review is currently available to the public.

An excerpt:

...

As a journalist, Gessen is inevitably preoccupied with the corruption of public discourse and particularly the rapid deterioration of the media’s ability to hold American power to account. Of course, “holding to account” also requires a legislature and a judiciary that are willing and able to act on information uncovered by news organizations, but it is true that existing problems in the media—the tendency to treat politics as a horse race, and above all the “view from nowhere,” the foundational belief in reporting the news “neutrally”—have hampered the public understanding of Trumpism. Gessen glosses “neutral” as “without assigning value or providing more than the immediate context.”

To function, both of these conventions require all parties to operate with a degree of good faith that does not currently exist. In an information environment saturated with bad actors, the convention against context makes it hard to flag deliberate misinformation. The convention against value judgment means, for example, that it took NPR until July 2019 to apply the word “racist” to one of the president’s statements. The view from nowhere is all very well if your civil rights aren’t being assaulted by the head of state. If they are, then your view is unavoidably located in your nonwhite body.

NPR’s commitment to avoiding an “angry tone”—a phrase used by an executive in an open letter about the network’s refusal to use the word “lie” to describe Trump’s many lies—is shared by other organizations and reveals a politics hidden in the supposed absence of politics. For a news organization, a commitment to unthreatening civility should surely be secondary to a commitment to civil rights and to truth, the foundational journalistic value. If reporting the truth clearly is replaced by some notion of “balance,” then it’s possible that your primary political commitments are not to that lofty objectivity mentioned in your mission statement but reside somewhere offstage, in a shared hinterland of class and culture that deserves interrogation. Your media organization may be susceptible to capture, perhaps doubly so if its source of funding rests in the hands of Trumpist politicians, or Trumpist shareholders and advertisers.

Gessen asserts that “it will be the job of journalists to embody and enforce the expectation of meaning.” The strategy Gessen puts forward is one adopted by Russian journalists in the last twenty years, faced with the blizzard of lies and threats emanating from the circle of Vladimir Putin. “When something cannot be described, it does not become a fact of shared reality.” This was a problem under Stalinism, and it is again under the oligarchy:

Russian journalists opted for language that was descriptive in the most immediate way: they tried to stick to verbs and nouns, and only to things that could be directly observed. In a bid to regain trust, they resorted to a drastically reduced vocabulary.


American political commentators have struggled to operate in a world of “alternative facts,” the blandly sinister phrase of Kellyanne Conway. The supine notion of a “post-truth” world and the attendant melancholy posturing of sectors of the commentariat should be retired in favor of what Gessen frames as a rediscovered commitment to meaningful political speech,

speech intended to find common ground across difference, to negotiate the rules of living together in society…speech that, on the one hand, brings reality into focus and, on the other, activates the imagination.


This will require that journalists acknowledge where they stand. “To cover Trumpism as a system, journalists have to position themselves clearly—and critically—outside that system.”

more ...

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Reply 'NPR's avoiding an "angry tone" ... reveals a politics hidden in the supposed absence of politics.' (Original post)
Jim__ Jun 24 OP
dalton99a Jun 24 #1
spooky3 Jun 24 #2
dalton99a Jun 24 #3
Wellstone ruled Jun 24 #4
Jirel Jun 24 #5
intheflow Jun 24 #6
I_UndergroundPanther Jun 24 #7
lostnfound Jun 25 #8

Response to Jim__ (Original post)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 01:16 PM

1. Kick

The Trumpist ideal is a black box world, a world in which power does not have to account for itself, and oligarchic rulers can conduct negotiations in secret, without the irritation of a public they must consult or represent. It is the world of the deal, and it means the end of politics as a public practice. For writers and everyone else who believe that public speech should be meaningful, Trump’s abuses of language are a form of epistemological warfare. It’s not a question of sniggering over the man’s solecisms but of recognizing an assault on our shared ability to make sense of the world.

Trump’s surrogates say we should take him “seriously but not literally.” We are expected to “know what he means,” to infer meaning from tone, but such inferences are always debatable, which renders criticism impotent. How could we possibly think the president is a white supremacist, a misogynist, an authoritarian who lacks basic human empathy? He said those words, but he didn’t mean them in that way. This withdrawal from the most basic pledge of the democratic politician, to stand by what you say, makes the public sphere arbitrary and capricious. The Trumpist attack on language is an attack on the basis of civil society.

It is possible that we have come to the moment of autocratic breakthrough. The uprising that has erupted across America in the days since the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer has created a new layer of chaos on top of the pandemic, reminding America that black citizens, disproportionately affected by Covid and the economic consequences of the lockdown, face the same institutional violence that gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement in 2013. On the afternoon of June 1, Trump made a speech in the Rose Garden at the White House, with the sound of explosions audible in the background. Police were firing gas, rubber bullets, and flash-bang rounds at a peaceful protest a few blocks away, creating a scene of mayhem that was played on split screen by cable news channels as the president threatened to send troops into American cities. It became apparent that the protest had been dispersed to allow Trump to finish his speech and walk over “recaptured ground” to St. John’s Episcopal Church, where he waved a Bible for the cameras. The cynical use of violence, to allow the president to stage a photo op, constitutes a new moral low in a presidency that has not exactly been short of them. The deployment of the US military against Americans exercising their First Amendment right to protest is a red line. If it is crossed with impunity, the transition to autocracy will be complete.

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Response to Jim__ (Original post)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 01:16 PM

2. Using their "neutrality" standard, I guess Hitler was a leader with an interesting point of view. nt

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Response to spooky3 (Reply #2)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 01:25 PM

4. Same thought.

The Koch and Anshutz Trusts have really dumbed down Public TV to just blather.

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Response to Jim__ (Original post)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 01:35 PM

5. I long ago stopped listening to NPR.

They are a bunch of hacks. They want to play the “fair and balanced” game so badly, they become useless as a news source. There is no call for accountability, no investigation into the horrors of the day.

I dropped them like a hot rock as soon as they started their “listening” campaign. No, kids, I don’t need to “understand” a racist’s Or a fascist’s point of view. I understand them just fine - my job is to take away all power from them, not hold their hand and make peace.

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Response to Jim__ (Original post)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 02:19 PM

6. Literally listening to a webinar saying exactly the same thing.

Describing a diversity training the trainer talked for 45 minutes and never mentioned racism - because it was too controversial a word.

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Response to Jim__ (Original post)

Wed Jun 24, 2020, 11:01 PM

7. News providers

Need to be unowned public and not beholden to raking in ad revenue.

If you want honest news
Get rid of media station owners,ads and people that silence them with threats,purse strings politics and beliefs.

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Response to Jim__ (Original post)

Thu Jun 25, 2020, 05:47 AM

8. Kick for later. She is always a wake up call

And I have a running debate on subject of insidious messaging at NPR

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