It’s time for Turkey to free Rasool. VICE founder and CEO Shane Smith joins VICE News colleagues in calling for the release of journalist Mohammed Rasool, who continues to be detained by Turkish authorities on baseless allegations of assisting a terrorist organization while reporting for VICE News.
Spread the word: Write to your members of congress and parliament, and continue using the hashtag #FreeRasool.
Read “US urges Turkey to uphold due process in journalist case” – http://bit.ly/1QPP94r
By now, we all know that there’s been another school shooting, this time at Umpqua Community College in southern Oregon. But for what seemed like a very long time this afternoon, that was all we knew. Further details were hard to come by, which posed a challenge to the many journalists who were tasked with reporting on what had—and hadn’t—happened. If you, like me, were toggling between the three main cable news networks this afternoon as they struggled to report the story in a virtual information void, you saw three different and distinct journalistic strategies at work: circumspection, observation, and pontification. Here’s what I glimpsed, and here’s where I saw it.
Shepard Smith anchors Fox News’ coverage of the story this afternoon, and he and Fox correspondent Trace Gallagher are doing their best to refrain from spreading rumors and falsehoods in the absence of any verified information. “We have confirmed the shooter is no longer an active threat. We don’t know if he’s the only shooter,” says Gallagher, who proceeds to note that, in the absence of reliable casualty data from the police, it would be irresponsible to speculate on the number of victims. This is good work from Fox here.
At this point Fox evidently knows very little. The network has no cameras on the scene and no access to other stations’ live feeds, so it’s forced to go low-tech. A breaking-news article from a newspaper called The Union is called up on a big screen, and Smith is literally reading the article out loud, following along with his finger as the camera zooms in on the text. Once this grows tiresome, Smith walks to the other side of the studio, where a map of the Umpqua Community College campus has been magnified to fill an entire wall. “So the best info that we have at this moment, just about an hour after the first reports came in, is that it started here at Snyder Hall and move on to the Science building,” says Smith as he points at the map, which looks like it was hastily downloaded from the UCC website. “This is about the extent of the information we have at this point.” He lingers on Snyder Hall, as if grabbing for something solid to anchor himself in a torrent. Soon, there’s some new information: “Our information specialist says that [the Umpqua Community College] website is down at the moment.”
Over the last week, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Joe Biden and Al Gore were two of the leading candidates in the 2016 presidential race—charismatic, principled leaders that voters wanted, nah, demanded, lead our nation for the next eight years.
After all, political reporters swooned last week at the news that Al Gore might make another run for the presidency. Reuters chased the BuzzFeed scoop, as did ABC News, the Christian Science Monitor, and other outlets. But severalaccounts quickly downplayed such a possibility, with a Gore spokeswoman saying there was “no truth” to it. The disappointment of reporters was palpable, not because the press likes Gore—they actually despise him with a passion—but because he is a known quantity on the campaign trail who, when milked, produces excellent copy.
The Gore episode (and the Biden one, which we’ll get to in a minute) inadvertently illustrated the press corps’ deepest prejudice. It’s not for liberals or conservatives—or even for declared candidates. What reporters lust for are contenders capable of generating usable story material, and these contenders are almost always the candidates who enjoy high voter recognition, often for a previous run for the presidency. Mitt Romney likewise moved the press corps from exhilaration to despondency in January when he flirted with a third run for the White House. The press wasn’t hankering for a Romney campaign any more than it was hankering for a Gore campaign. But their political longevity has produced giant flumes of coverage over the years, and that coverage can be captured and reused by reporters to write new stories. Veterans of previous Gore and Romney campaign are the greatest beneficiaries whenever rumor or scuttlebutt has it that either intends another run: a spin of the Rolodex, a few phone calls, and voilà, the reporter’s old notes are refreshed and a new news story is created.
The press corps’ preference for thoroughbreds—have not Mitt Romney’s presidential musings gotten more coverage this year than those of announced candidate George Pataki?—helps explain the disdain reporters have long-shot candidates. By necessity, presidential campaign coverage this far out from the general election must be of the horserace variety. The leaders must be handicapped only if to cull the field to a manageable size. No newspaper, magazine, TV network or Web site has the resources to cover in depth every declared candidate. A reporter could, I suppose, write a series of compelling story about James Webb or George Pataki if he put his mind to it. But who would read it? Few journalists are willing to write about the presidential candidates who can’t possibly win unless it’s to point out that the candidates can’t possibly win and that their every gesticulation is futile. Still fewer outlets are willing to run such coverage.
The ideal candidate in the press corps’ view is a veteran candidate who has kept his (or her) place high in the news since his last campaign. For Campaign 2016, the ideal candidate is Hillary Clinton, a previous loser in the presidential derbies who is always giving reporters new material to write about. Better to write in depth about one controversial Clinton email, the political reporter knows, than the entire policy platform of a Lincoln Chafee.
This ideal-candidate formula isn’t perfect. Long-shots sometimes have a way of becoming ideal candidates, even if they haven’t run before and sun-bathed in the news. During this campaign cycle, Bernie Sanders has turned the formula inside out. He’s neither run before nor been much of a newsmaker outside of his progressive mini-circles. The press has begrudgingly elevated his status from long-shot to contender because of his success in the polls and his skill at drawing crowds. Another outlier, Donald Trump, whom the press keeps predicting will pop and crash, has earned his way to contender status by virtue of his polling numbers. Given its druthers, the press would like to snub him and his gauche ways because there seems no way the current system could elect him president. But the press has proved powerless to suppress him. As with Sanders, the press must cover Trump because he has achieved notoriety that can’t be ignored.
Hello! Here’s what you need to know for Tuesday.
1. US President Barack Obama on Monday proposed the toughest plan yet to limit carbon dioxide emissions, calling for power plants to cut emissions by 32% by 2030, compared with 2005 levels.
2. The world’s most powerful storm of the year, Super Typhoon Soudelor, left a trail of destruction across the Northern Marianas Sunday night and is now churning toward southern Japan, Taiwan, and China.
3. China has unveiled new rules that ban traders from borrowing and repaying stocks on the same day in an effort to crack down on the short-shelling of shares.
4. The Athens Stock Exchange index fell more than 22% on Monday when it reopened for the first time in five weeks.
6. Apple is reportedly in talks to launch its own mobile virtual network operator in the United States and Europe, which would allow customers to pay Apple directly for data, calls, and texts, instead of paying a carrier every month.
7. US airline Delta banned the shipment of lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros, and buffalo trophies on flights worldwide following backlash over the killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe by an American dentist.
8. Two people were killed and more than a dozen injured when a circus tent collapsed in New Hampshire during a storm Monday night.
9. King Salman of Saudi Arabia cut his month-long beach vacation in southern France short, leaving after just eight days due to an uproar over the closure of part of a public beach in front of the king’s villa.
10. A friendly hitchhiking robot, which had already successfully made it through the Netherlands, Germany, and Canada, ended its American tour early after it was destroyed in Philadelphia.
And finally …
We take Jon Stewart for granted now, and expect way too much from him. Stop and thank him for restoring our sanity
It’s strange thinking that people my brother’s age who have just graduated from college remember Jon Stewart and “The Daily Show” always being a political institution. It’s hard to explain to them just how big a deal Stewart’s sudden rise was back during the Bush years, what a shock it was to see Craig Kilborn’s tacky random-riffs-on-the-headlines show turn into the most credible source of news for the millennial generation, why Stewart’s impending retirement feels so momentous and sad.
I’m one of the college kids who in 2003 and 2004 grabbed onto what seemed like certain cultural anchors of sanity in what felt like a world gone mad. I remember the sense of despair as the Bush administration systematically took apart the social safety net, as Serious Pundit after Serious Pundit queued up to take their turn explaining why we absolutely had to cave into the neocons’ desire for a pointless war in Iraq, as every day revealed a new headline emphasizing that America was firmly in the hands of the religious right and the establishment left was enthusiastically welcoming our wingnut overlords.
Good satire then was like water in the desert. We were thirsty for any reminder that we hadn’t gone crazy, the world had, that the policies of our leaders were in fact as monstrous and deranged as they seemed to be. That things were not OK. The Onion, “The Daily Show,” “Arrested Development” — those were the comic voices that defined my coming of age, and I remember them all coming from a stance of incredulity, of “Can you believe this shit is really happening?”
Yes, nowadays everyone is sick of clickbait headlines saying “Jon Stewart demolishes this” and “Jon Stewart annihilates that” and “Jon Stewart eviscerates this random dude and makes a jump rope from his entrails.” But those headlines are a hangover from Jon Stewart breaking onto the public scene when we all really were stunned by how regularly and how effectively he made fools of people far more respectable than he was.
The guy who played the villain in “Death to Smoochy” became the thorn in the side to the president of the United States. The guy who came on after the prank call puppets killed CNN’s “Crossfire” just by coming onto the show and telling everyone how intellectually and morally bankrupt it was. Op-Ed after Op-Ed cranked out expressing shock that young people saw a comedian as their “most trusted name in news.”
On election night in 2004 more of us tuned in to Comedy Central than to “legitimate” news sources, because none of the legitimate news sources would openly voice the one truth about the election — that the fact that the election was even close after the disasters in Fallujah and the exposé of Abu Ghraib and the lie about Saddam’s WMD proved that our country was mad.
When the results came in for Bush on the night of Nov. 2, 2004, the Serious Pundits — Democrats and Republicans — gathered together to analyze “values voters” and pontificate about how, if you thought about it from the right perspective, it made perfect sense to reelect a warmonger who’d sent thousands of American soldiers to pointless deaths just in case John Kerry might legalize gay marriage.
Jon Stewart didn’t. He tore up his index cards, slumped over in defeat, and wept.
It’s hard to think back to what it was like in a world where the mainstream media really did have the power to memory-hole stories like Bill Cosby’s lawsuit because they made advertisers uncomfortable. The pace of change is accelerating: The media landscape of only 10 years ago feels as foreign now as Walter Cronkite telling all of America “That’s the way it is” felt then.
It feels weird today, in a world of a thousand contending voices on Twitter and Tumblr and YouTube, to talk about how much it meant that there was one dude back then telling the truth. That there was someone in the mainstream media willing to kick a hole in the pusillanimous civil consensus of the respectable pundits, someone willing to call bullshit on the whole rotten circus, to reject the asinine convention that the party in power had to be given token respect simply because they were in power and to openly call them out as evil lunatics.
Jon Stewart felt like a Messiah. People told him he should run for president himself and were half-serious when they said it. (They made a movie about the concept with Robin Williams.) He felt real in a way that people who made a living talking about politics hardly ever feel.
And he kept denying the laurels we tried to heap on him. He repeatedly defaulted to saying he was “only a comedian,” that he, unlike the people he criticized, was an entertainer and not a scholar or politician or professional analyst and should not be taken seriously.
People have criticized that stance as a way to dodge accountability, to have it both ways — to get to call powerful people out while denying that he himself wielded power.
And they’re right. But Stewart was also right.