Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Response to Falling Asleep Again

(See: Just Above Sunset: Falling Asleep Again)

Here's two things that have been pissing me off today:

As a (former?) journalist, some of those years working for so-called "Mainstream Media", I get annoyed when I hear someone talking about media going wild with glee over some story or another, when most of the time, it's not really a reporter in the media showing glee, but the media reporting on someone else going wild with glee, or whatever. Often, although not always, when somebody calls into question some objective reporter's objectivity, that somebody is whistling through his hat, so to speak.

For example, here's Jack Mirkinson, Senior Media Editor for The Huffington Post, in a piece for Salon entitled “Why can’t we take out these bastards?”: Why the media’s apocalyptic Paris response should be making you very nervous: Following the horrific events in Paris, establishment press figures have been united in one thing: A call for war":
“Why can’t we take out these bastards?” CNN’s Jim Acosta asked President Obama at a press conference on Monday. Acosta’s language may have been rougher than some might have used, but he was speaking for a press corps whose thirst for an apocalyptic confrontation with ISIS has been let loose by last Friday’s attacks in Paris. ... 
Listen to the language being used here. “Kill as many of them as you possibly can.” “Take out these bastards.” This is the hyper-macho language of some two-bit action movie, not a foreign policy strategy. It’s also evidence of the way that a supposedly “objective” press can reinforce one very narrow view of the world through its own ideological insularity.
Wouldn't one expect that a "Media Editor", and especially a "Senior Media Editor", even if only for such a non-professional outlet as The Huffington Post, would not jump to the conclusion that a reporter who asks a question of the president of the United States in a presidential news conference "was speaking for [the] press corps", much less a press corps "whose thirst for an apocalyptic confrontation with ISIS has been let loose by last Friday’s attacks in Paris"?

Back in the old days, presumably before Mirkinson was born, it would have been assumed that such a reporter, in this case, Jim Acosta, was playing Devil's Advocate. Maybe Mirkinson read somewhere about Acosta's question, instead of watching the video of it on TV, in which case I suppose maybe he can be excused thinking this -- but no, he can't. He should know better.

As far as I can tell, Mirkinson isn't used to watching TV news. In fact, after he wakes up, he first reads in on AP and Reuters, and then a few other things. But then...
For the rest of the day, Twitter is the ruler of everything. I think that’s not an uncommon thing for people in our line of work to say. It’s really trumped everything else. When I started this job almost four years ago, I wasn’t even on Twitter and I barely used it as a source. But then, gradually, it took over my entire brain. There are a lot of really annoying things about Twitter. It can have a propensity for real shallowness and attention deficit disorder, but in terms of having to cover any kind of news there’s really no substitute for the amount of information that it brings you.
As for TV?
I love Scandal like nobody’s business. ... I’m also watching Parks and Rec, I like Brooklyn Nine-Nine a lot, and I just started watching Cosmos. I went through this whole phase recently where I was watching a lot of BBC nature documentaries. And another crucial staple of my media diet is musicals, whether of the filmic or theatrical variety. I’m trying to watch less TV and watch more movies. Basically I'm trying to regain my attention span. I think sitting around all day and watching a billion tweets go by can do a real number on your ability to concentrate.
I guess his job as "Media Editor" doesn't include "News Media"? Being addicted to Twitter helps explain his lack of knowing what a TV White House correspondent is doing when he asks a question of the president, but doesn't quite explain why he blathers on about it as if he does know -- and in public.

And yeah, I understand Mirkinson isn't the only media critic to land on this trope, but I only pick on him because I assume "he speaks" for all those others who don't know what they're talking about.

By the way, here's the text of Acosta's question, at the same link as the video above:
“And I think a lot of Americans have this frustration that they see that the United States has the greatest military in the world, it has the backing of nearly every other country in the world when it comes to taking on ISIS. I guess the question is – and if you’ll forgive the language – is why can’t we take out these bastards?”
As you can probably see from his evoking "a lot of Americans", he's emulating the language of some random "frustrated American", probably but not necessarily a conservative, who would ask that question and would likely use that exact word. I don't know if there's something Mirkinson knows about Acosta that the rest of us don't, but from the face of it, it cannot be assumed that CNN's Senior White House Correspondent is "speaking for the press corps", or even that he is speaking for himself

Yes, the president seemed annoyed with the question, which is understandable, since, firstly, he seemed very tired, and secondly, as he said, he just answered it several times, but I think Acosta was just trying to get Obama to answer it in the terms that the average Joe on the street would understand. 

Yeah, it didn't work, but at least he tried.

And to slightly change the subject, this is from Washington Post's Greg Sargent:
Ted Cruz has warned that “ISIS plans to bring these acts of terror to America,” and he has called for Muslim Syrian refugees to be barred from entering the United States. Jeb Bush has similarly said that our focus should be on Christian refugees. This drew a very sharp response today from President Obama, who decried the notion of a “religious test for which person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted,” adding that “we don’t have religious tests to our compassion.”
As well he should.

And before all these governors (mostly Republicans, apparently, including Nathan Deal, of my own state of Georgia) who are thinking of barring refugees from their states give their final answer, maybe they should revisit some of the darker corners of American history:
The MS St. Louis was a German ocean liner most notable for a single voyage in 1939, in which her captain, Gustav Schröder, tried to find homes for 908 Jewish refugees from Germany, after they were denied entry to Cuba, the United States and Canada, until finally accepted in various European countries, which were later engulfed in World War II. 
Historians have estimated that, after their return to Europe, approximately a quarter of the ship's passengers died in death camps. The event was the subject of a 1974 book, Voyage of the Damned, by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witts. It was adapted for a 1976 US film of the same title.
The ship took off from Hamburg in May 13, 1939, headed for Cuba:
The vessel under command of Captain Gustav Schröder was carrying 937 refugees seeking asylum from Nazi persecution. ... 
The journey to Cuba was a joyous affair. The passengers aboard the St. Louis were "treated with contempt before they boarded, but once on the ship they were treated like privileged tourists."... 
Upon the ship's arrival in Cuba, the Cuban government, headed by President Federico Laredo Brú, refused to accept the foreign refugees. Although passengers had previously purchased legal visas, they could not enter Cuba either as tourists ... or as refugees seeking political asylum. On May 5, 1939, four months before World War II began, Havana abandoned its former pragmatic immigration policy ... Permits and visas issued before May 5 were invalidated retroactively." None of the passengers were aware that the Cuban government had retroactively invalidated their landing permits.
After a few passengers who had proper papers were allowed to disembark, and after Cordell Hull, U.S. Secretary of State, and Henry Morgenthau, Secretary of the Treasury, via telephone, failed to persuade Cuban officials to change their minds about the rest, the ship headed for Florida.
Some histories recount that on June 4, 1939, Schröder believed he was being prevented from trying to land St. Louis on the Florida shore. Reports from that time were conflicting. According to the authors Rabbi Ted Falcon and David Blatner in Judaism for Dummies, when the "St Louis was turned away from Cuba ... America not only refused their entry but even fired a warning shot to keep them away from Florida's shores". Legally the refugees could not enter the US on tourist visas, as they had no return addresses. The US had passed the Immigration Act of 1924 that restricted numbers of new immigrants from eastern and southern Europe. 
Schröder said he circled off the coast of Florida after leaving Cuba, hoping for permission to enter the United States. At one point, he considered running aground along the coast to allow the refugees to escape. He was shadowed by US Coast Guard vessels that prevented such a move. US Coast Guard historians maintain the two cutters involved were not ordered to turn away St. Louis, but dispatched "out of concern for those on board". Ultimately the United States did not provide for entry of the refugees.
There were some academics and clergy in Canada who tried to persuade Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King to intervene and grant sanctuary, but in the end, he refused, and Captain Schröder, seemingly out of options, returned the ship to Europe.
As the situation of the vessel deteriorated, he personally negotiated and schemed to find them a safe haven. (At one point he formulated plans to wreck the ship on the British coast to force the passengers to be taken as refugees.) He refused to return the ship to Germany until all the passengers had been given entry to some other country. US officials worked with Britain and European nations to find refuge for the travelers in Europe. The ship returned to Europe, docking at Antwerp, Belgium, on June 17, 1939 with 907 passengers. 
The United Kingdom agreed to take 288 of the passengers (31.76%), who disembarked and traveled to the UK via other steamers. After much negotiation by Schröder, the remaining 619 passengers were allowed to disembark at Antwerp; 224 were accepted by France (24.70%), 214 by Belgium (23.59%), and 181 by the Netherlands (19.96%). 
Without any passengers, the ship returned to Hamburg. The following year, after the Nazi German invasions of Belgium and France in May 1940, all the Jews in those countries were at renewed risk, including the recent refugees.
Researchers later determined that, of the 620 returned passengers, 254 died in the Holocaust.

But it's probably just as well that none of them ended up in my own state of Georgia, since for all we know, one of them might have been a Nazi.

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