No Facts Were Used In Writing This Column: Des Moines Register Edition

Iowa passed a self-defense reform law in its most recent session, mere weeks ago. Commonly called “Stand your Ground”, what it does is removes the “duty to retreat” – which is really a “duty to remember a lot of state statutes about attempting to disengage” – from the affirmative legal defense for self-defense.

Now, if you’ve followed this blog, you know the continuum of events:

  1. “Stand your Ground” law is proposed.
  2. Newspaper columnists write alarmed, “sky is falling”, uninformed stories about the subject.
  3. A bunch of other stuff happens.

The Des Moines Register and Daniel Finney are no exception.

And I’d like to try to do something about that.  Ignorance is a tragedy.  Let’s stop the tragedy.

It Wouldn’t Be An MSM Article about Guns…:   Finney starts off with some history.

In this case, history of newspaper people’s myopia:

 

About 20 years ago, when there was an outbreak of shootings in the metro, The Des Moines Register ran a list of tips suggesting what people should do if they were caught in the crossfire.

This was the photo that the Des Moines Register ran with the online version of this piece. No, no scaremongering here.

One of the tips was duck and find cover.

This list generated a lot of laughter, both in and out of the newsroom, because the advice was seemingly so obvious that it engendered a, “No, duh” response.

But for those who remember Nick Coleman as a columnist, that’s not quite a low enough standard.

But I digress:

These days, though, “duck and cover” is out of fashion.

Earlier this month, Gov. Terry Branstad signed sweeping changes to Iowa gun laws that include expanding the so-called “stand your ground” laws.

That part is true.

I point it out because it’s just about the last part of this column rooted in objective fact.

Out Standing In The Field::  Finney isn’t the only one on the Register’s staff that doesn’t really get the law:

As standout Register Statehouse reporter Brianne Pfannenstiel writes, the new law says you don’t have to duck and cover or run away.

Instead, if a person is “any place where the person is lawfully present,” they may defend themselves with deadly force.

Further, the law says “a person may be wrong in their estimation of danger or about how much force is necessary ‘as long as there is a reasonable basis for the belief … and the person acts reasonably in response to that belief,'” Pfannenstiel reported.

real “standout” reporter would have asked a few more questions, and found out that that’s pretty much how the “Reasonable Person” standard works.    If a complete stranger revs up a chainsaw and charges toward you yelling “I’m going to kill you, you sonafabitch”, and you shoot her, and deep in her heart she actually intended to stop at the last second and tell you it’s an elaborate practical joke?   The law doesn’t expect you to be a mind-reader – and no reasonable person would ever convict you for it.   –

At any rate, when Mr. Finney says…:

I wish Polk County Attorney John Sarcone and his colleagues the best of luck figuring out how to interpret what a “reasonable basis for belief” of someone feeling they’re in danger.

…you can tell he needs to talk with an even stand-outier capitol reporter, because they have to do it with every single self-defense case today.  

Let’s Take A Break From The Column For Some Actual Facts:  Mr. Finney:   there are some subjective but firm factors that everyone has to meet to claim self-defense; I wind up citing them on this blog so often, I made a separate page for them.

  • Don’t be the aggressor
  • A jury would believe you legitimately feared being killed, maimed or raped
  • You use only the force needed to stop the threat
  • A jury would believe you tried hard enough to disengage before resorting to lethal force.  What’s “hard enough?”  In Minnesota, that’s the subject of a dozen pieces of case law; I’d imagine Iowa is – or was – the same.   “Castle Doctrine” laws eliminate this in your home.  “Stand your Ground” eliiminates this, and only this, anyplace else where you have a legal right to be.    And that is all.  You still have to convince the cops, the prosecutor or the jury of the other three criteria!

Situational Awareness:  Back to Mr. Finney:

I’ll use an example from my own life. I used to walk a 3-mile loop in my parents’ east Des Moines neighborhood. Periodically, I crossed paths with a woman who was also out walking.

Every time the woman saw me, she crossed to the other side of the street. I understand that. She didn’t know me.

I’m 6-foot-4. I’m heavy. And, especially in the fall, it was getting dark out.

While most violence, including rape and homicide, is committed between people who already know each other, the woman was being cautious. I was a large man she didn’t know at twilight.

Better safe than sorry.

Well, yeah – that’s common sense.

But common sense doesn’t trump ignorance.  As we’ll see with Mr. Finney’s next bit:

I tried to keep an eye out for people around me, but I was also listening to my workout mix cassette tapes (yeah, I’m that old). On hills, sometimes I put my head down and gritted through the climb.

What if I was walking at a fast clip and happened to come up behind this woman or bump into her?

It seems to me the way that law is written, she could shoot me dead, and the law, as written, would say she was free to go.

This is far-fetched, of course.

No, it’s not far-fetched.

It’s ignorant.

Mr. Finney:  If she shot you, would a jury believe you posed a threat of death, mutilation or rape?  A real jury, not a fantasy nightmare jury?

Not sure how you behave around strange women in the dark, Mr. Finney, but as a 6’5 guy with an air of calculated menace living in a neighborhood full of college-age women, I go out of my way to appear innocuous and unthreatening when out and about after dark.

Of course, Finney is not merely ignorant about Iowa self-defense law; knowingly or not (I tend to think most reporters don’t know better and never get around to asking, because their editors never make them); he’s trafficking a lie about “Stand Your Ground”, one that I see, almost unaltered, from uninformed columnists all over the place; “Stand your Ground means you can shoot people who make you nervous”.

As we’ve pointed out in this space countless times in the past, it’s an ignorant myth.

I’m going to ignore the rest of the article; it’s no better-informed, but it’s off topic.

But Mitch – Why?:  You might be thinking to yourself “Mitch – you’re fisking yet another reporters’s badly-informed column about a law he or she clearly doesn’t understand.   For like the 1,000th time in the past 15 years.  Why?”

Because Don Quixote is my role model?

Well, maybe a little.  But there’s a more important reason.

I sent Mr. Finney an email, gently setting him straight on his many factual errors.

But if you know some 2nd Amendment activists in Des Moines, feel free to have them send Mr. Finney the link to this piece (his email address is at the bottom of the article).     Because newspaper columnists, for all their vaunted contact in the community, tend to live in echo chambers – especially columnists in “blue” cities like Des Moines (to say nothing of Minneapolis and Saiint Paul).

And sometimes, a little dissonance makes the chamber a little less echo-y.

Today’s News, Ten Years Ago

Bill Kling, the godfather of Minnesota Public Radio as we know it today, was a radio visionary or a skilled political operative who was an expert at marshaling political clout to his ends.

Well, forget the “or”.  He was both.

Kling was much of the reason MPR is what it is today – in terms of creative vision and, especially, “business development” via both conventional fundraising and endowment-mongering, and use of the political system to meet his ends.  He built a huge, successful merchandising arm (based on the success of Garrison Keillor and “Prairie Home Companion”, the lighting in a bottle that made MPR not only big, but phenomenally wealthy); he also led the charge against community low-power FM radio stations – which could have cut into Big Public Radio’s funding and audience – until the Internet rendered the battle moot.  And any time any conservative got any ideas about cutting public funding for MPR, Kling called in enough favors on Capitol Hill to make a Chicago ward heeler dizzy with envy.

And to this radio geek, who spent his formative years working at dusty little small-town stations tucked in above drugstores or behind hardware stores, or places like the old KSTP-AM, wedged into an old transmitter shed, a tour through MPR’s studios on 7th and Robert in Saint Paul – even in their “old” facility – made you feel a little like Jethro Clampett walking through that Beverly Hills mansion for the first time (as did hearing what MPR people got paid; people doing the exact same job I did at KSTP-AM made 50% more than I got).  And when they upgraded it in the mid-aughts, with a huge indoor auditorium and capacious new offices and, best of all, state of the state of the art studios?  Not just exactly at the radio high-tech fashion curve – oh no.  That, plus they had not one but two state of the art on-air studios, mirror images of each other, so that the staff (!) of one show didn’t have to rush and trip over each other to get out of the way of the next show coming in; they’d just alternate studios.

The Taj Ma Kling. Or the “Kling Public Media Center”. Tomayto, Tomahto.

So opulent (to my commercial radio tastes) was it, that ten years ago this past Tuesday, I christened their facility the “Taj Ma Kling“.

And ten years and one day after I named the facility, Minnesota Public Radio in effect agreed with me:

Minnesota Public Radio will rename its St. Paul headquarters and broadcast facilities the Kling Public Media Center on April 19. The decision to do so was actually made back in 2011, the year Kling retired from his post as CEO of both MPR and American Public Media, but the actual change was held off until now so that it coincided with MPR’s 50th anniversary.

““Our 50th anniversary is the perfect time to honor what Bill created and built. His entrepreneurial spirit and passion for public service continue to inspire us as we begin our next 50 years,” said Jon McTaggart, the current president and CEO of American Public Media Group. “What Bill has done – not just for Minnesota and MPR, but for public media audiences across the country – is unique and lasting. The creativity and innovation within the walls of the Kling Public Media Center will always be a living testament to what Bill began a half century ago.”

“Taj Ma Kling” / “Kling Public Media Center”.

Different words,  Same idea.

Layers And Layers Of Gatekeepers

Lapse in fact-checking among “legitimate” mainstream media over the weekend caused, by itself, a radical ratcheting up of tensions on the Korean Peninsula:

As expected – and feared – during the annual “Day of the Sun” celebration parade (celebrating the birth of the nation’s founder), Bloomberg blasted a headline that Chinese news agency Xinhua reported that North Korea has fired a projectile.

NORTH KOREA FIRES PROJECTILE, MEDIA SAYS: XINHUA
On its website, Bloomberg immediately picked up the story, and ran with “North Korea Fires Projectile Media, Says Xinhua” (at a url which still reads: “https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-04-15/north-korea-fires-projectile-media-says-xinhua”)

But there was no launch.  Just an appearance at a parade (emphasis added):

However, it appears that the headline scanning [algorithms] made a collosal error, and that Xinhua interpreted events quite incorrectly as it was, as CBC and Reuters reports, the appearance of a new submarine-launched missile at the parade for the first time.

Layers.  And. Layers.  Of.  Gatekeepers.

Just Doing Their Jobs

To:  The Star/Tribune
From:  Mitch Berg, Deplorable Peasant
Re:  You’re Not Even Trying To Deny It Anymore, Are You?

Dear Strib:

I’ll take the headline of this piece as a tacit – and, let’s be honest, redundant – admission that your paper isn’t so much a “journalistic” endeavor as a PR arm for the DFL.     You’re taking run of the mill dissent, and romanticizing it (using a term that should never, ever be “romanticized”).

I could say more – but that’d be pretty much bouncing the rubble, wouldn’t it?

That is all.

Breslin

Jimmy Breslin died over the weekend.  He was 88.

We’ll come back to that.


The media today – or at least, people of a certain age (i.e. older than me) who are still in the media – remind me of circus performers telling inside jokes about what the ringmaster did after that one show in Lincoln, or of mailmen amongst themselves about the worst breeds of dog to encounter, or  city bus drivers reminiscing about the foibles of that old model of bus that got retired a couple of decades ago, unlamented by anyone but, well, them.  They remind me of any group of clubby, beleaguered insiders who turn the foibles, peccadillos and petty miseries of their callings into legends in their own minds.    Not like World War II veterans telling niche anecdotes from a little tiny window of the fight to save freedom.  Just guys who did something most people don’t care about all that much, building it in their minds into something worthy of the life they built around it.

Unlike arthritic old circus hands, mailmen and bus drivers, journalists buy newsprint by the rail car and ink by the barrel – so they can inflict their particular tales, traditions and argot onto the rest us.  And lest anyone accuse me of ridiculing other people, I am one of them, at least as regards the radio industry.

I remember hearing some longtime Twin Cities journalists talk about Nick Coleman leaving the Star/Tribune.  “He was a great, old-time newspaperman”, one of them said.  “One of the best”.

Why, I asked.

What followed was an explanation I can’t possibly reproduce here – but it boiled down to Coleman epitomizing what an old-school “ink-stained wretch” was supposed to look, act and write like.

And I thought “this is the Nick Coleman who made an outsized contribution to the decline and fall of journalism.  If he didn’t like you, he’d just make s**t up; he’d conjure up community groups from his imagination,  or make up facts when he didn’t know enough to dig, ask or wait for the real ones.  And he played a bigger-than-average role in the financial ruination of the field he, and the journos who reminisce about him, try to earn a living in.

But no matter.  Journalists are like those hold each other to a standard that only they understand, and really only makes sense, or matters, really, to them.

And so Nick Coleman is a hero, while journalists who actually do what journalists are supposed to do but don’t know the secret handshake get mocked and derided by the bus drivers.  Er, circus geeks.

Damn.  I mean journos.


Along those lines, Journos like to tells themselves their mission nis to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”.

It’s pretty inevitably b******t.  Most reporters spend their careers covering city council meetings and one-car crashes and writing obits and, today, probably selling ads to help their outlet get by.   Their biases are irrelevant, because their beats are all about the mundanities of civic and public life that are just too boring for partisanship.

But Jimmy Breslin, like Studs Terkel and Jim Klobuchar and, heaven help us, Nick Coleman, was on a different plane.  A columnist as well as a reporter, or maybe a reporter who got to have opinions, a pioneer in what they used to call “New Journalism” – subjective, advocacy-oriented, opinionated, journalism that put white and black hats on its subjects…

…rather than letting the reader do it for themselves.

To journos – and consumers of a certain outlook – it was brilliant, pioneering stuff.  And it certainly did pioneer the idea of the journalist as the crusader rather than the crier, the seeker of goals rather than the reporter of facts – as the ones who could comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.  As being able to fight, as one of Breslin’s obituary writers said, for the little guy.

I found out Breslin’s regard for the little guy, straight from the horse’s mouth.  I met Breslin once, back in 1986.  He was doing a book tour, back when book tours meant traveling the country and doing radio live in the studio; I booked him on the Don Vogel show.

This was in the wake of one of Bernard Goetz’s trials.  Vogel asked him a question about Goetz – an electrician who’d been mugged, over and over, and reacted famously by shooting a group of muggers in the subway with an unregistered gun (only celebrities and politicians could get handgun license in New York – and that’s still pretty much true).

Breslin oozed contempt for Goetz.   It was sneering, visceral, hateful – as if the thought that a mere hoi polloi’s life was worth defending itself violated the public order.

But Goetz wasn’t “the little guy” to Breslin or the “journalism” establishment who aped him.  The criminals – with whom the purveyors of the myth of New York in the sixties and seventies had long since made fitful peace – were the little guys; not predators, not even pests; part of a zen-like symbiosis that one had to tolerate to “be a New Yorker”.

To the likes of Breslin and his many many imitators.

He was there for the right little guys.

Like most journos.

But never let it be said I speak ill of the dead.  Breslin did write one thing in his long career that rocked me back on my heels; the piece he wrote about the surgery he underwent a few decades back for an aneurysm.   Positively brilliant.  I can’t find it, but I will keep looking.

NPR On Al Capone’s Vault Trump’s Tax Return

On “Morning Edition”.

NPR Reporter:  “…if it weren’t for the “Alternative Minimum Tax”, Trump would have paid a net tax rate of 3%”.

NPR Anchor:  “Right – but there was an alternative minimum tax, and he paid a net rate of about 25% – considerably higher than Barack Obama and double what Bernie Sanders paid.  So why the pointless “what if?”   You’re “reporting” a complete nothingburger, here.”

(UPDATE:  The anchor never said any of that.  It was just a dream.  The “reporter’s” line is pretty accurate, though).

Tradition!

There’s an ugly, stupid fringe on the edge of all political movements.

Of course, in remembering the deaths of Ronald Reagan, Tony Snow, Gerald Ford, Antonin Scalia and others, it’s seemed like that deranged fringe cuts very close to the center of the Democrat party.

But for one of their own?

Alan Colmes was always the weaker half of the “Hannity and Colmes” line-up.  I suspect that was by design.  Television and radio shows featuring two equals tend to make wonky audiences happy, and bore everyone else silly.    Alan Colmes, I suspect, was supposed to be the New York Generals, to Sean Hannity’s Harlem Globetrotters; the Mister Electricity to Hannity’s Crusher.

Also, and more importantly, he was a human being.

Anyway – that fringe, isolated crank liberal site, Salon, gives Colmes the same treatment Janeane Garofalo and Rosie O’Donnell give departed conservative figures in this incredibly nasty, snarky little obit:

And while one should usually view tributes to the recently departed with a forgiving cynicism[well, no – “one should” ideally not – Ed] in this case they are all too believable: Colmes was the most absurd, useless, and mocked television personality in America for many years, precisely because he was nice. In the context of Fox News, being a nice guy—and a “liberal” nice guy at that—meant being a buffoon, and a patsy. Colmes not only played the part to perfection—he defined it.

Salon “writer” Isaac Chotiner continues the left’s noxious, toxic habit of whizzing on graves.

What a wonderful world.

Focus

You’d never know it from watching/reading the WaPo, the NYTimes, NPR and the big three – but the American public trusts used car salesmen more than journalists.

Nope – not making it up:  According to an Emerson College, poll, the public trusts the Trump about a quarter more than the mainstream media:

The Trump administration is more trusted than the news media among voters, according to a new Emerson College poll.

The administration is considered truthful by 49 percent of registered voters and untruthful by 48 percent.

But the news media is less trusted than the administration, with 53 percent calling it untruthful and just 39 percent finding it honest.

Question:  what are the other 39% thinking of?

Today’s Facts, A Year Ago: Fake News Edition

The Daily Caller notes that the “database” used by the liberal media to try to create hysteria about mass shootings, overstates the number of such incidents by at least an order of magnitude:

The website “Mass Shooting Tracker” (MST) has been regularly used by news outlets, like The Washington Post and PBS, to claim “mass shootings” occur much more frequently than they actually do. MST uses an alternative definition of “mass shooting” that greatly overstates their frequency relative to the commonly-accepted definition used by law enforcement and academics.

MST openly acknowledges it uses the alternate definition to “punch a hole in the NRA argument.”…MST’s defines a mass shooting as any shooting where four or more people are injured or killed, not counting the shooter. This isn’t an official definition taken from law enforcement or academia, but appears to be originally created by anti-gun activists on Reddit.

Of course, it’s something that Shot In The Dark readers knew well over a year ago.

Fake News, Fake Leadership

Congress’s Democrat brain trust jumped on the news that former National Security Advisor Flynn had tweeted he was a scapegoat.

They were obliging enough to do it on video:

And who can blame ’em?  It was in the NYTimes and the WaPo.

Of course, it was fake news.  When it’s political and it’s in the Times or the WaPo, one should assume it’s fake, and verify.

It didn’t pass the stink test, of course.   When it comes to this administration, it almost never will.

Challenge Accepted

Chris “The Ken Doll Of News” Cuomo doesn’t like being called a “fake newsman“:

“I see being called ‘fake news’ as the equivalent of the N-word for journalists, the equivalent of calling an Italian any of the ugly words that people have for that ethnicity,” Cuomo said on SiriusXM.

“That’s what ‘fake news’ is to a journalist,” the CNN host continued. “It’s an ugly insult, and you better be right if you’re going to charge a journalist with lying on purpose.”

For startes, Mr. Como – no.  It’s not the same as the N-word.  The N-word is bestowed for no more reason than someone’s skin color.

“Fake News” is earned.  It’s earned by putting agenda before fact.   As the mainstream media has been making a habit of doing, and justifying doing, for decades, but more lately than ever.

 

“I Will Gladly Present You The Data Next Tuesday, If You Accept My Conclusion Today”

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

When you read a science report claiming that 2016 was the hottest year on record, you might expect that you will get numbers. And you would be wrong.

 “Note to the New York Times: ‘trouncing’ and ‘blown past’ are phrases appropriate to sports reporting, not science reporting. Except that no sports reporter would dare write an article in which he never bothers to give you the score of the big game. . . . It’s almost like they’re hiding something. And that is indeed what we find.”

 Summary: Increase is one-hundredth of a degree but the Margin of Error is a tenth of a degree. So it’s all bullshit.  No, worry, these are “alternative facts” but since it’s the Left doing it, that makes it alright. 

 Joe Doakes

Narrative Uber Alles.

We Tried To Warn You

All you identity-politicians?  We tried to warn you; if your worldview is built around building up your own identity segment by punching down – which, in this day and age, inevitably ends up punching down on blue-collar white guys, a constituency that has only Larry the Cable Guy to speak for it – eventually those blue collar white guys are going to play identity politics right back.

Protesters?  Yeah, we kinda hinted that walking around dressed like lady parts was gonna backfire on you.  And it did.

And news media?  Your serial dishonesty – not every one of you, but the dominant social current in your trade?

For example – your crushing silence about the scope and sweep of Barack Obama’s executive orders?

John Podhoretz’s admonition is particularly relevant because so many of these Obama-era precedents did not get the left’s “creeping fascism” sense tingling at the time. To rend garments over these actions now only because the Trump White House is undertaking them is not just unwise; it’s insulting.

The whole thing – by Noah Rothman – is worth a read.

Poke The Rat

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

New York Times writes about Milo Yiannopoulos’ new bookFirst line of the story says Milo is “infamous” and a “Donald J. Trump” supporter. 

 Infamous – as in “a day that will live in infamy?”  He’s that bad?  Care to give us any examples, show us any bodies?  Guess not.

 And who the Hell is Donald J. Trump?  Is that the new President’s son?  Nephew?  Look, if you’re talking about the guy who just got elected President, why not call him that?  Identity would be certain and you could skip the middle initial, because there’d be no possibility any reader would confuse him with any other ‘President-elect Donald Trump.’

 Setting the tone of disapproval in the very first sentence is letting readers know we’re talking about a Bad Person that some publisher has unaccountably decided to publish.  Horrifying!  Other publishers didn’t want the book – might offend older and religious conservatives.  No wonder there’s controversy, as well there should be, from all right-thinking persons.  Oh, and one little detail that didn’t make the story . . . . it’s the #1 New Release on Amazon, presently ranking up there with Fahrenheit 451 in Censorship and Politics.  

 Hasn’t even been released yet, doesn’t come out until March, and it’s selling like hotcakes. Astonishing that a publisher might be willing to print a best seller.  What were they thinking?

 I’ve read some of Milo’s stuff.  He’s a gay British guy with a Greek last name so you might assume he’s a typical Liberal twit but no, he’s funny and completely unafraid to say what ordinary Joes like me are thinking.  I’ve never paid $13.99 for a Kindle book before.  This just might be the start, if for no other reason than to poke a stick in the eye of the New York Times.

 Joe Doakes

Remember when dissent was a virtue…

…well, some of it is, again.

Milo, and most of you, and me?  We’re not the right kind of dissent.

Journalism Without Limits!

Well, the title is a little misleading.  Where I wrote “without limits”, I guess I what I meant was “no bottom to the barrel”.

Because in the arc of downfall for the City Pages, from its heady days in the eighties publishing James Lileks, and its journalistic peak in the nineties, where they ran a lot of excellent reporting, the CP just keeps falling.

And every time I think “they can’t possibly get any worse as reporters?”   They somehow pull it off.

I didn’t think they could get any worse than Dan Haugen’s factual malaprops – but sure enough, Kevin Hoffman was right there with the onanistic panty-sniffing disguised as high-school-caliber schadefreud.  From thence, we’ve had a couple years of the ongoing gift of hilarity that is Corey Zurowski’s writing, which has been its own reward.

So given that the City Pages seems to have no lower limit, I’ll refrain from saying Pete Kotz’s piece about the GOP’s pushback on cities trying to jam down $15 minimum wage laws bespeaks any descent below any journalistic or factual pale.

Because there’s always more ground below the barrel.

But oh, lord – it’s getting worse.

Continue reading

Layers And Layers Of Gatekeepers, Part MMMLXVIII

SCENE:  Mitch BERG is leaving a downtown Saint Paul bar after happy hour with friends.  

As he fumbles for his keys by his car, MyLyssa SILBERMAN, reporter for National Public Radio’s Saint Paul bureau, steps out of an organic tax accountant office.  Dressed in a hemp power skirt, her brunette-but-slightly-prematurely-gray hair cut into the style known as “ELCA Hair”, she wrinkles her nose on encountering BERG.

SILBERMAN:  Er, hello, Merg.

BERG:  MyLyssa.  A pleasure (He finds his car key)

SILBERMAN:  You and your show and blog are “fake news”

BERG:  Huh.  You don’t say.  Why’s that?

SILBERMAN:  You don’t have a staff of fact-checkers.

BERG:  .Like the Washington Post.

SILBERMAN:  Exactly.  The Washington Post has layers and layers of gatekeepers and factcheckers, all trained at Ivy League journalism schools to the highest standard of the journalistic craft.

BERG:  The WaPo ran a story last week about Russian hackers trying to bring down the Vermont power grid.  Until it turned out it wasn’t; just some malware on a laptop that wasn’t connected to any grid other than an AC plug.  Then they revised the story, and tried to re-focus it under the radar while going “um, nothing to see here” about their earlier claim that Russians  were trying to bring down the US power supply.

SILBERMAN:  Right.  The fact-checking worked.

BERG:  The “fact-checking” was entirely external to the Washington Post.  They were “fact-checked” by their audience and the rest of the media.  No different than my blog.

SILBERMAN:  No, Merg.  That’s false.  And I’ll tell you why.

BERG:  OK.  You do that.

SILBERMAN:  The person who pushed “publish” on the online revision?

BERG:  Yes…?

SILBERMAN:  And the person who started the printing presses?

BERG:  Right?  Yes?

SILBERMAN:  They were Washington Post employees.  Without them, the correction would have never gotten out.

BERG:  Huh .

SILBERMAN:  Also, you are a white male.  (Looks at bare wrist)  Oh, look at the time.  (Steps back into accountants office).

BERG:  (Rolls eyes, climbs into car)

And SCENE.

The Best Threat Money Can Fabricate

I’ll say it here and now:  “right wing terrorism” is a boogeyman that the left has been floating out there for decades to try to create a sense of urgency and alarm among their base.

There certainly has been some terror associated with the…well, not “the right”, per se; more like “the non-left”.  The “Klan” has nothing to do with mainstream American conservatism, much less the GOP, and never has.  Tim McVeigh was neither conservative nor Christian.  And by the time of the Murragh building bombing, even that wave of activity, whatever it was, was on the wane.

But with Donald Trump, a GOP Congress, 2/3 of America’s state legislative chambers in GOP hands, and a solid conservative Cabinet waiting to take office in less than three weeks, the left has been stepping up its efforts to create hysteria about “right wing” boogeymen under everyone’s couches – whatever the cost.

Cut to the “A and E Network’s recently-aborted documentary about The Klan.

Well, no.  Not about “the Klan”.  About a Venice, California-based documentary maker’s narrative about what “The Klan” was supposed to be like, whatever it took (emphasis added by me):

The KKK leaders who were interviewed by Variety detailed how they were wooed with promises the program would capture the truth about life in the organization; encouraged not to file taxes on cash payments for agreeing to participate in the filming; presented with pre-scripted fictional story scenarios; instructed what to say on camera; asked to misrepresent their actual identities, motivations and relationships with others, and re-enacted camera shoots repeatedly until the production team was satisfied.

The production team even paid for material and equipment to construct and burn wooden crosses and Nazi swastikas, according to multiple sources including Richard Nichols, who is one of the featured subjects of the documentary series as the Grand Dragon of a KKK cell known as the Tennessee White Knights of the Invisible Empire. He also said he was encouraged by a producer to use the epithet “nigger” in interviews.

“We were betrayed by the producers and A&E,” said Nichols. “It was all made up—pretty much everything we said and did was fake and because that is what the film people told us to do and say.

Rest assured, it’s not just a couple of hack producers for a hack cable network.  “Journo-list 2.0”, wherever and whatever and whoever it is, and the leadership of the American left itself are layout out this narrative from the top, and pushing it through the entire media.

What Is Best In Life?

In the TV series MASH, there was an episode featuring a statistician – an Army officer who predicted how many men would be killed or wounded given the parameters of an upcoming battle.    To the statistician character, it was all about numbers – “just business, nothing personal”, to invoke a line from a different seventies production.  To surgeon Hawkeye Pierce, the character who had to try to patch together the actual men behind the numbers, is was in fact personal.

At the end of the episode, losing his temper at the statistician, after showing the geek through the operating room, Pierce yells “the thing I hate about you isn’t that you’re good at your job.  I hate you for liking it so much”.

I have a similar reaction to people who try to boil all human behavior down into numbers, statistics and analytical models.

If blogs existed 50-60 years ago, a story like this would be accompanied by a photo like this. Good thing this is 2016, right?

Now, before you launch into some misguided jape about conservatives hating science, remember – part of my day job is, well, boiling down human behavior into numbers, stats and patterns.  A bigger part, at least for me, is finding the qualitative answer behind the numbers.

But I digress.  Among the many joys of this past election – the potential for a safe SCOTUS, a solid cabinet, no Hillary, no leasing of US foreign policy to the Saudis and Qataris – was the complete collapse of analytics in predicting (and, via our media, shaping) this past election.

The ana­lyt­ic­al mod­els for both sides poin­ted to a Clin­ton vic­tory, al­beit not a run­away. The Clin­ton cam­paign and su­per PACs had sev­er­al of the most highly re­garded polling firms in the Demo­crat­ic Party, yet in the places that ended up mat­ter­ing, very little if any polling was done. So while 2016 wasn’t a vic­tory for tra­di­tion­al polling, it cer­tainly took a lot of the luster from ana­lyt­ics. In the end, big data mattered very little.

While tinkering with stats can be fun, I’ve long loathed notion that all of human behavior can be boiled down into numbers.   And I’ll admit, the schadenfreud when the geeks fail to do so is glorious.

The Strib’s New Editorial Writer

Allison Sherry added this opinion column – essentially, a piece of delated-PR for the Angie Craig campaign – in Monday’s Strib:

Incoming Republican U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis made his career as a provocative talk-radio personality who seemed to relish holding court on the fringes of the political mainstream.

On any given day, he could offer up inflammatory comments about slavery or assert that unmarried women just want government to pay for their birth control.

Now Lewis faces the biggest test of his political career as he must rapidly transition from radio provocateur into a full-time member of Congress.

Sherry is a new member of the Strib’s ignominious “columnist’s row”, so it’s to be expected she’ll start her beat by reprising Angie Craig’s campaign chanting points – which the Strib considers “sources”, by the way.

Lewis seems to get it, though:

“I’m not an expert, though I played one on the radio for 20 years,” Lewis said in the basement of the Capitol complex, fidgeting with a bottle of water. “It is humbling and sobering when all of [a] sudden you see Rep. Jason Lewis on things.”

Ms. Sherry seems well fitted to follow in Nick Coleman’s steps.

In a more serious vein:  why would the Strib be running what is basically a hit piece on the new Congressman, before he’s even sworn in?

Easy.  Angie Craig is already fundraising for a rematch.  To the DFL and Strib, the 2018 race is already underway.

CORRECTION:  It seems Ms. Sherry is actually not a columnist, but one of the Strib’s reporters.

I regret the error.

Confirmation Bias

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

It might be funny to write a letter to the editor.

 I’ll claim to be a left-handed Black Transgender Lesbian.  The story will be about my struggle, how I was oppressed by Conservative teachers in college, passed over in employment so they could hire Whites, afraid to speak my mind at work because everyone there was a Republican and they’re notorious for being petty and vindictive, how traumatized I felt when Trump won and I realized my life was in danger.

 I bet I could get it published to rave reviews.  “So Brave.” 

 Then I’ll use the “find and replace” function to change “Black” to “White” and “Republican” to “Democrat,” change the whole thing mirror image, send it to the people who raved about the first column to see what they think.  My guess is they’ll hate it.  “Racist.”

 Can one person be both brave and racist?  Apparently so, if the analyst relies on the most superficial sorting.

 I could be a success like this guy.  

 Joe Doakes

To paraphrase PT Barnum, nobody every got their Letter to the Editor scuppered for not playing to the media’s prejudices.

The Problem With Liberal Media Talking About “Fake News”

The left-leaning mainstream media – which has in the life of this blog:

…is wondering why people don’t trust it.

Perhaps because of paragraphs like this (emphasis added by me):

“What I think is so unsettling about the fake news cries now is that their audience has already sort of bought into this idea that journalism has no credibility or legitimacy,” said Angelo Carusone, the president of Media Matters, a liberal group that polices the news media for bias. “Therefore, by applying that term to credible outlets, it becomes much more believable.”

Media Matters is a Soros-funded propaganda mill.  It is a “media watchdog” only to the extent that an attack-PR firm is a watchdog of anything; relentlessly scouring media for congruence with liberal chanting points with all the grace of a German funk band.

Others see a larger effort to slander the basic journalistic function of fact-checking. Nonpartisan websites like Snopes and Factcheck.org have found themselves maligned when they have disproved stories that had been flattering to conservatives.

Neither is non-partisan.

While I think good reporting is essential to a representative Republic, I think our current mainstream media will not be the ones to perform any kind of “good reporting”.   The sooner it goes out of business, the better for democracy.