The media lowers the bar as we prepare to enter Trump’s new world order

Not calling the president out for his statements is the new enabling

The media lowers the bar as we prepare to enter Trump’s new world order

President  Trump speaks during a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, March 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)(Credit: AP)

This article originally appeared on The Globalist.

TheGlobalistWe are accustomed by now to the unfathomable ability of President Trump to declare victory even amidst another bad defeat.

We are also beginning to get accustomed to the fact that U.S. media celebrate as a success every occasion when President Trump did not act more or less like an idiot.

It is hard for them to swallow the number of times when Trump has left the wider American public or the international community merely dumbfounded.

The bar gets lower by the day

In a dangerous reversal of the history of human evolution, the Tweeter-in-Chief continues to lower the bar of what passes these days for presidential behavior or becoming the Office of the President.

That such a man is arguably still the most powerful man in the world points to the significance of the “checks and balances” challenge which U.S. society and U.S. institutions face.

So far, it seems, they are still given to all too self-congratulatory referrals on that account. The proof of the pudding will come in the eating. It’s no longer the time for the self-glorifying penchant of American society and politics.

The golden moments

It has come to this: As long as Trump does not mock the disabled, calls Mexicans rapists or insults the parents of a fallen soldier, Donald Trump is golden.

Golden in his buddy-buddy dance in Riyadh with reprehensibly misogynistic reactionaries, aka Saudi royals. And as golden as the tacky Trump signs that adorn his buildings (or more correctly, the buildings that he lends his name to, for a steep licensing fee, of course).

Defending the indefensible

It is one thing for Mr. Trump to lower the standards of what goes for American propriety. It is quite another for an all too compliant U.S. media to ape the man.

That is why it is so frightening when the U.S. media seem to insinuate, egged on by ever-so-balanced pundits and a vast army of Republican Trump-apologists, that Mr. Trump’s first trip abroad as President was a continuation of steady U.S. foreign policy.

They can’t beat the truth

Truth tellers they are not. When they refuse to label it an unmitigated disaster, they are indeed engaging in FAKE news, not that Mr. Trump or his followers would call it that.

This is indicative of an unfortunate trait of U.S. society — to refuse to criticize the office holder in the vain hope of protecting the nation and its reputation. (The latter, it should be obvious, can only be protected by criticizing the man).

The Trump transformation

To be sure, the ripple effects of that disaster are not simply transitory. They are profound and possibly irreversible.

How else may it be explained that German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a woman known to be deliberate and reserved in her choice of words, noted after the G-7 meeting that this was a new era where historical alliances may no longer be relied upon?

How else may it be interpreted that her major opponent in the forthcoming German elections was far less diplomatic in describing Mr. Trump’s behavior as unacceptable to the German people.

The image is the message: An America apart

This was not about Mr. Trump’s alleged description of Germany as being “bad, very bad” or his childish, separate ride in a golf cart behind the six other leaders at the Taormina summit as they were taking a short walking tour.

This was and is about the emergence of a new world order. This was and is about a watershed moment in post-World War II history, where the “free world” no longer is defined by its economic ideology (capitalism) and those “unfree” are no longer labeled as Communist.

US as a floater between liberal and illiberal

This new world consists of open democratic, pluralistic societies on the one hand, and closed undemocratic plutocracies on the other.

And Trump’s United States curiously, unbelievably floating in between.

Europe’s moment

So how can Europe make sense of all of this? It all starts with the rebuilding of a strong French/German relationship.

In post-World War II Europe, the most important relationship and eventually personal friendship developed between French President Charles de Gaulle and German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer.

Kisses — and beyond

At the signing of the Élysée Treaty of friendship between France and Germany on January 22, 1963, de Gaulle said:

My heart overflows and my soul is grateful that I have signed this treaty with the chancellor. No-one on this planet can fail to appreciate the immense importance of this act. It not only turns the page on a long and bloody era of fighting and war, but also opens the door to a new future for Germany, for France, for Europe and therefore for the world!

German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer humbly responded by saying: “General, you have spoken so eloquently that I cannot add anything to your words.”

De Gaulle then hugged the reserved Adenauer and planted a kiss on his cheek, which took Adenauer off guard. He quickly recovered and kissed de Gaulle on the other cheek.

Chancellor Merkel and Emmanuel Macron have their own redo opportunity now. Theirs can be a joint economic agenda as well as a new vision for an invigorated Europe.

In the end, what matters for Europe’s future is the Franco-German relationship. Rather than being a high brow “condominium” dominating the others, the benefit of that relationship for all EU nations is that, between Germany and France, most of the tensions and the varying positions found on the continent are fully reflected.

Stephan Richter is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Globalist, the daily online magazine, and a columnist in newspapers around the world. He is also the presenter of the Marketplace Globalist Quiz, which is aired on public radio stations all across the United States. In addition, Mr. Richter is a keynote speaker at international conferences — and the author of the 1992 book, “Clinton: What Europe and the United States Can Expect.” Follow him on Twitter @theglobalist.

The media neglected to cover climate change last year — when it was most important

As President Trump decides whether or not to pull out of the Paris deal, the impacts haven’t been discussed

The media neglected to cover climate change last year — when it was most important
(Credit: AP/Ian Joughin)
This article originally appeared on Media Matters.

In 2016, evening newscasts and Sunday shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC, as well as Fox News’ “Fox News Sunday,” collectively decreased their total coverage of climate change by 66 percent compared to 2015, even though there were a host of important climate-related stories, including the announcement of 2015 as the hottest year on record, the signing of the Paris climate agreement, and numerous climate-related extreme weather events. There were also two presidential candidates to cover, and they held diametrically opposed positions on the Clean Power Plan, the Paris climate agreement, and even on whether climate change is a real, human-caused phenomenon. Apart from PBS, the networks also failed to devote significant coverage to climate-related policies, but they still found the time to uncritically air climate denial — the majority of which came from now-President Donald Trump and his team.

Total Climate coverage on broadcast networks cratered in 2016

Combined climate coverage on ABC, CBS, NBC, and “Fox News Sunday” decreased significantly from 2015 to 2016, despite ample opportunity to cover climate change

In 2016, ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox Broadcasting Co.’s “Fox News Sunday”* aired a combined 50 minutes of climate coverage on their evening and Sunday news programs, which was 96 minutes less than in 2015 — a drop of about 66 percent.*Fox Broadcast Co. does not air a nightly news program

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As was the case in 2015, ABC aired the least amount of climate coverage in 2016, covering the topic for just six minutes, about seven minutes less than in 2015. All the other major networks also significantly reduced their coverage from the previous year, with NBC showing the biggest decrease (from 50 minutes in 2015 to 10 minutes in 2016), followed by Fox (39 minutes in 2015 to seven minutes in 2016) and CBS (from 45 minutes in 2015 to 27 minutes in 2016).

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Networks had ample opportunity to cover climate change in 2016

Despite the pronounced decline in climate coverage, the networks had ample opportunity to cover climate change in 2016. As The New York Times reported, in 2016, climate change took on “a prominence it has never before had in a presidential general election” given the stark contrast between the candidates’ views. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump had a long track record of climate denial and differed with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton on a range of important climate issues, including the Paris climate agreement, the Clean Power Plan, and the continued use of coal as an energy source, with Trump pledging that he would put coal miners “back to work” and Clinton proposing a plan that would help coal communities transition to clean energy. Additionally, there were also a host of non-election climate stories worthy of coverage in 2016, including extreme weather events tied to climate change, like Hurricane Matthew and the record-breaking rainfall and flooding in Louisiana (which the American Red Cross described as “the worst natural disaster to strike the United States since Superstorm Sandy”); the signing of the Paris climate agreement and the U.N. climate summit in Morocco; the official announcement from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that 2015 was the hottest year on record by far; and investigations by state attorneys general into whether ExxonMobil committed fraud by misleading the public on climate change. [The New York Times, 8/1/16; Media Matters, 5/26/16; The Huffington Post, 9/8/16; DonaldJTrump.com, 9/15/16; Media Matters, 3/15/16, 10/7/168/17/16; The Huffington Post, 4/22/16; The Guardian, 4/22/16; InsideClimate News, 11/3/16; The New York Times, 1/20/16; InsideClimate News, 12/28/16]

ABC, CBS, NBC, And Fox failed to discuss climate-related ramifications of a Clinton or Trump presidency until after the election

ABC, CBS, NBC, and “Fox News Sunday” did not air a single segment informing viewers of what to expect on climate change and climate-related policies or issues under a Trump or Clinton administration. While these outlets did devote a significant amount of coverage to Trump’s presidency, airing 25 segments informing viewers about the ramifications or actions of a Trump administration as they relate to climate change, all of these segments aired after the election. Examples of post-election coverage include a “PBS NewsHour” segment about Trump’s selection of Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Pruitt’s history of climate denial and ties to the fossil fuel industry; a “CBS Evening News” segment about Trump appointing climate denier Myron Ebell to his EPA transition team; and an “NBC Nightly News” report on Trump’s promise to roll back President Barack Obama’s executive actions on climate change. [PBS NewsHour, 12/7/16; CBS Evening News, 11/15/16; NBC Nightly News, 11/9/16**]

**We included citations of specific shows when we described the content of a segment. We did not include show citations for general tallies. We linked to episodes that were available online but listed only the date for those that were not.

“PBS NewsHour” was the only show to discuss climate ramifications of a Clinton or Trump presidency prior to the election

“PBS NewsHour”*** was the only show in our study that examined what impact a Trump or a Clinton presidency would have on climate-related issues and policies before the election. On the September 7 edition of “PBS NewsHour”, correspondent William Brangham discussed “what a Clinton or Trump administration might mean with regards to climate change” with The New York Times’ Coral Davenport and The Washington Post’s Chris Mooney. And a September 22 segment explored “what the early days of a Trump presidency might look like” and featured Judy Woodruff interviewing Evan Osnos of The New Yorker about whether Trump would renounce the Paris climate agreement. [PBS NewsHour, 9/22/169/7/16]

***Unlike the nightly news shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC that air for a half hour seven days a week, “PBS NewsHour” airs five days a week and is a half hour longer.

Tyndall report found no discussion of climate change in issues coverage during campaign

The Tyndall Report, which tracks the broadcast networks’ weeknight newscasts, analyzed election-related issues coverage on the major networks’ weeknight newscasts and found no issues coverage devoted to climate change in 2016 up through October 25. The Tyndall Report defines election-related issues coverage as that which “takes a public policy, outlines the societal problem that needs to be addressed, describes the candidates’ platform positions and proposed solutions, and evaluates their efficacy.” [The Intercept, 2/24/17; Media Matters, 10/26/16; Tyndall Report, 10/25/16]

Networks aired a disproportionate amount of climate coverage after Election Day

In the roughly 45 weeks before the November 8 election, the networks aired a total of 55 segments about climate change — roughly one per week. After the election, the networks aired 32 climate-related segments over approximately seven weeks till the end of the year — about five stories per week.

Networks ignored links between climate change and national security and rarely addressed economic and public health impacts, but some detailed impacts on extreme weather and plants and wildlife

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Networks did not air a single segment on link to national security

Numerous military and intelligence organizations have sounded the alarm on climate change’s connection to national security. A September 2016 report prepared by the National Intelligence Council and coordinated with the U.S. intelligence community stated, “Climate change and its resulting effects are likely to pose wide-ranging national security challenges for the United States and other countries over the next 20 years.” And following Trump’s election victory, “a bipartisan group of defense experts and former military leaders sent Trump’s transition team a briefing book urging the president-elect to consider climate change as a grave threat to national security,” E&E News reported. Yet the national security implications of climate change never came up in any of the networks’ climate coverage for 2016. [Media Matters, 1/13/17; Scientific American, 11/15/16]

PBS was the only network to address economic impacts of climate change

PBS was the only network to report on the economic impacts of climate change. Two segments about Washington state’s carbon tax ballot initiative that aired on the April 21 and October 20 editions of “PBS NewsHour” featured the president of the Washington State Labor Council explaining that Washington’s shellfish industry “has left the state and gone to Hawaii because the acid levels in the ocean has risen so much.” And on the November 17 edition of “PBS NewsHour”, correspondent William Brangham reported that 365 American companies “have written to the president-elect imploring him to uphold the Paris accords and warning — quote — ‘Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk.’” [PBS NewsHour, 4/21/16, 10/20/16, 11/17/16]

Networks rarely addressed how climate change impacts public health

The World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Climate Assessment have all concluded that climate change has a significant influence on human health and disease. And as 2016 saw the first local spread of the Zika virus in the continental United States, Climate Signals found that “climate change creates new risks for human exposure to vector-borne diseases such as Zika, particularly in the United States where rising heat and humidity are increasing the number of days annually in which disease vectors thrive.” However, only two segments on “NBC Nightly News” dealt with the link between climate change and public health — no other network covered the issue. In a January 18 report about the spread of Zika, correspondent Tom Costello noted, “Researchers are also studying whether climate change and El Nino are causing certain mosquitoes populations to grow.” And a July 4 report about a massive algae bloom creating a toxic emergency in Florida featured correspondent Gabe Gutierrez explaining, “The debate is raging over what`s to blame for this latest growth, but scientists say there are many factors including population growth and climate change.” [World Health Organization, accessed 3/21/17; CDC.gov, accessed 3/21/17; National Climate Assessment, accessed 3/21/17; Climate Signals, 8/23/16; NBC Nightly News, 1/18/16, 7/4/16]

CBS and ABC rarely covered climate link to extreme weather, while NBC and Fox ignored it completely

2016 saw no shortages of extreme weather events influenced by climate change, with Hurricane Matthew making landfall on the East Coast; wildfires — which have become a consistent threat thanks, in part, to climate change — charring more than 100,000 acres in seven states in the Southeast; and record rainfall and flooding in Louisiana causing what the American Red Cross called “the worst natural disaster to strike the United States since Superstorm Sandy.” Yet NBC and Fox never addressed the link between climate change and extreme weather, while CBS did so in four segments and ABC did so in just one segment. By contrast, “PBS NewsHour” aired eight segments dealing with the link between climate change and extreme weather. [The Weather Channel, 10/9/16; Media Matters, 10/6/16; The New York Times, 11/29/16; Climate Central, 11/23/16; Media Matters, 8/17/16]

PBS led the networks in stories detailing climate impacts on plants and wildlife

PBS provided the most coverage of climate impacts on plants and wildlife (six segments), followed by CBS and NBC (three segments each), and ABC (one segment). Examples of this reporting included a “Climate Diaries” segment on “CBS Evening News” about how climate change is “taking a toll on endangered mountain gorillas” in Central Africa by making their food supply less predictable and forcing human populations searching for water into their territory and an “NBC Nightly News” segment about how Yellowstone grizzlies are threatened because one of their food sources — seeds from whitebark pine trees — has been decimated by climate change. Another example was a “PBS NewsHour” segment reporting that “two-fifths of bees, butterflies, and related pollinating species are heading toward extinction” thanks to “a range of factors, ranging from pesticide use to climate change to habitat loss.” [CBS Evening News, 11/17/16; NBC Nightly News, 5/22/16; PBS NewsHour, 2/26/16]

Specific climate-related policies received sparse coverage outside of PBS

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The Clean Power Plan was almost completely ignored on Sunday shows and received sparse coverage on Nightly News shows

The broadcast networks provided scant coverage of the Clean Power Plan even though Trump had promised during the campaign to eliminate the policy. The Clean Power Plan establishes the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants and serves as the linchpin of President Obama’s program to meet the nation’s emissions reduction obligation under the Paris agreement. “Fox News Sunday” was the only Sunday show to feature a climate-related segment on the Clean Power Plan, in which Washington Post editorial writer Charles Lane claimed that the Democrats’ focus on the plan is an example of how “environmentalism in a crucial way worked against the Democratic Party this year,” because Trump carried coal-dependent states in the election. But contrary to Lane’s claim, numerous polls conducted in the run-up to the election indicated that a majority of Americans consider climate change an important issue and favor government action to address it. On nightly news shows, ABC was the only network that did not air a climate-related segment on the plan, while PBS NewsHour covered the Clean Power Plan the most (seven segments), followed by CBS Evening News (three segments) and “NBC Nightly News” (two segments). [DonaldJTrump.com, 9/15/16; The White House, 8/3/15; The New York Times, 3/2/16; Fox News Sunday, 11/13/16; Media Matters, 11/29/16]

PBS far outpaced networks in coverage of U.N. climate agreement and summits

In 2016, world leaders met on Earth Day for the signing ceremony of the Paris climate agreement reached by 195 nations and later again in Morocco for talks about implementing the climate accord. In Trump’s first major speech on energy policy, in May, he vowed that he would “cancel” the Paris climate agreement. But after the election he told The New York Times, “I have an open mind to it.” Despite these developments, PBS was the only network to devote significant coverage to the U.N. climate agreement and U.N. climate-related summits, doing so in 21 segments, while CBS aired five segments, NBC and ABC aired just three, and Fox aired just two. [USA Today, 4/22/16; The New York Times, 12/12/15; InsideClimate News, 11/3/16; BBC.com, 5/27/16; DonaldJTrump.com, 5/26/16; The New York Times, 11/23/16]

CBS, NBC and Fox addressed the climate impacts of the Keystone XL Pipeline only once, while ABC and PBS failed to do so at all

During the campaign, Clinton and Trump staked out opposing positions on whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport tar sands oil that is 17 percent dirtier than average and would “increase emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases linked to global warming” from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast. Yet there was a dearth of coverage on Keystone XL’s link to climate change, with CBS, NBC, and Fox each airing just one segment that connected Keystone XL to climate change and ABC and PBS ignoring the topic completely. The networks also ignored Keystone XL more broadly — airing just four additional non-climate-related segments on the pipeline. [Business Insider, 9/25/16; Media Matters, 1/15/15]

Fox was the only network to cover the Dakota Access Pipeline in a climate context

The Standing Rock Sioux and other Native American tribes, as well as environmental activists, protested against the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline in 2016, citing, among other concerns, the impact a continued buildup of oil infrastructure would have on climate change. Yet Fox was the sole network to cover the Dakota Access pipeline in a climate context. On the December 11 edition of “Fox News Sunday”, host Chris Wallace previewed his upcoming interview with Trump by saying that he would “ask [Trump] to clear up exactly where he stands on climate change.” After returning from a commercial break, Wallace said to the Trump, “Let me ask you a couple specific questions. Will you still pull out of the Paris climate agreement, which has been signed by more than 100 countries to reduce carbon emissions? Will you restart the Dakota Access pipeline, which the Army just stopped?” To which Trump replied that he was “studying” the Paris climate agreement and would “have [Dakota Access] solved very quickly” when he takes office. ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS did air multiple segments on the Dakota Access pipeline (airing eight, 10, four, and 10 segments, respectively), but none of these segments linked it to climate change. [MPR News, 12/7/16; Time, 12/1/16, 10/28/16; Fox News Sunday, 12/11/16]

Major networks completely ignored the “Exxon Knew” story

Reports from InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times revealed that Exxon’s own scientists had confirmed by the early 1980s that fossil fuel pollution was causing climate change, yet Exxon-funded organizations helped manufacture doubt about the causes of climate change for decades afterward in what became known as the “Exxon knew” scandal. The reports prompted the attorneys general in New York, California, and Massachusetts to each launch investigations of Exxon, as well as countersuits from Exxon and subpoenas from members of Congress in defense of Exxon. Yet none of the networks covered any of these developments over the course of 2016. [Media Matters, 9/1/16; InsideClimate News, 12/28/16]

CBS, Fox and PBS uncritically aired climate science denial in 2016 — all of which came from Trump or Trump officials

CBS, Fox and PBS aired a combined five segments that included unrebutted climate science denial in 2016 — all from Trump or Trump officials

In 2016, “CBS Evening News”, “PBS NewsHour”, and “Fox News Sunday” aired a combined five segments that misled audiences by featuring climate science denial. Half of “Fox News Sunday”’s climate-related segments included climate denial. In every instance, it was Trump or Trump officials promoting denial.

  • On the September 27 edition of “CBS Evening News”, correspondent Julianna Goldman fact-checked a portion of the September 26 presidential debate in which Clinton stated, “Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. I think it’s real,” and Trump interjected, “I did not. I did not. . . . I do not say that.” Goldman noted that Trump had in fact tweeted that climate change is a hoax, but she did not fact-check the veracity of Trump’s statement that climate change was a hoax. [CBS Evening News, 9/27/16; Media Matters, 5/26/16]
  • On the November 9 edition of “PBS NewsHour”, during a segment on world leaders’ reactions to Trump’s election victory, correspondent Margaret Warner reported, “Also in question is America’s participation in the Paris climate accord. Trump has called climate change a hoax, and while it would take four years to formally pull out of the agreement, there are no sanctions in place for ignoring it.” And in a report on the ways in which Trump would dismantle environmental policy on the November 17 edition of “PBS NewsHour”, correspondent William Brangham stated, “Trump has repeatedly expressed his own skepticism about climate change, like in this 2012 tweet, when he said: ‘The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive.’ Two years later, he wrote: ‘Global warming is an expensive hoax.’” In neither instance did the correspondent note that Trump’s statements are at odds with the scientific consensus that climate change is real and human-caused. [PBS NewsHour, 11/9/16, 11/17/16]
  • Shortly after Trump’s interview with The New York Times in which he stated that he had an “open mind” on climate change and the Paris climate agreement, “Fox News Sunday”’s Chris Wallace asked Trump’s incoming chief of staff, Reince Priebus, how flexible Trump would be on his campaign promises. Priebus answered that as “far as this issue on climate change — the only thing he was saying after being asked a few questions about it is, look, he’ll have an open mind about it but he has his default position, which [is that] most of it is a bunch of bunk, but he’ll have an open mind and listen to people.” Priebus then moved on to discuss the potential nomination of Jim Mattis as defense secretary before Wallace concluded the interview. And during Wallace’s interview with Trump on the December 11 edition of “Fox News Sunday”, Trump declared that “nobody really knows” whether human-induced climate change is happening. Wallace didn’t challenge Trump’s claim that blatantly misrepresents the consensus of the world’s leading scientific institutions that human activities such as burning fossil fuels are the main cause of global warming. [The New York Times, 11/23/16; Fox News Sunday, 11/27/16, 12/11/16; NASA.gov, accessed 3/21/17]

Other nightly news segments on PBS, CBS and NBC also included climate science denial, but reporters pushed back on those claims, noting that they conflicted with established climate science

Segments on PBS, CBS, and NBC nightly news shows also included climate denial, but reporters noted that that these statements were at odds with established climate science.

  • In a segment about Trump selecting Scott Pruitt as his nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency on the December 8 edition of “PBS NewsHour”, anchor Judy Woodruff reported, “Pruitt is in sync with President-elect Trump on a range of issues, including his skepticism about man-made global warming. Writing in the National Review this year, he said: ‘That debate is far from settled. Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming.’ In fact, the vast majority of scientists agree that human activity contributes to global warming, all of which underscores questions about whether a Trump administration will refuse to abide by the Paris accords on greenhouse gas emissions.” And on the December 14 edition of “PBS NewsHour”, Woodruff asked Sean Spicer, who was then communications director for the Republican National Committee, “Does the president-elect still believe, as he said on the campaign trail, that the science behind climate change is still not settled, in other words, something that most climate scientists say is absolutely correct?” Spicer replied by denying the consensus on human-caused climate change, stating that Trump “understands that there’s elements of man, mankind, that affect climate, but the exact impact of it and what has to be done to change that is something there is some dispute about within the community, not just science, but within the industry.” [PBS NewsHour, 12/8/16, 12/14/16]
  • A November 15 CBS Evening News segment on the appointment of climate denier Myron Ebell to Trump’s EPA transition team featured footage of Trump calling climate change a “hoax,” followed by correspondent Chip Reid stating, “President-elect Donald Trump has left little doubt where he stands on the issue of climate change. He wants a dramatic increase in the production of coal and oil, which he says will create jobs. And his EPA transition team is being led by Myron Ebell, a leading climate change skeptic. Ebell, who is not a scientist, disagrees with the overwhelming majority of climate scientists who say the driving force behind the warming planet is the burning of fossil fuels.” [CBS Evening News, 11/15/16]
  • The December 14 edition of ABC’s “World News Tonight” featured footage of Trump transition official Anthony Scaramucci denying climate change by arguing, “There was overwhelming science that the Earth was flat. … We get a lot of things wrong in the scientific community.” Correspondent Brian Ross introduced Scaramucci’s comments as “a Trump transition official continu[ing] the public assault on established science.” [ABC’s World News Tonight, 11/14/16]

Because hosts or correspondents on these programs noted that the statements in question contradicted mainstream climate science, they were not counted as denial in our study.

Climate scientists were completely absent from ABC’s “World News Tonight” . . . again

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For the second consecutive year, ABC’s “World News Tonight” did not feature a single scientist in its climate coverage

ABC’s “World News Tonight” did not feature a single scientist in its climate coverage for the second year in a row. By contrast, “NBC Nightly News” and “CBS Evening News” featured five and six scientists, respectively, and PBS NewsHour featured 18.

Sunday shows did not feature a single scientist in climate-related coverage

After featuring just two scientists over a five-year period from 2009 to 2013, the Sunday shows featured seven scientists in 2014 alone, and then backslid in 2015, quoting or interviewing just two scientists (4 percent of all Sunday show guests). In 2016, that backslide continued, with the Sunday shows featuring no scientists in their climate-related coverage.

PBS and CBS frequently aired coverage related to climate-related scientific research, while NBC and ABC did so less often

PBS and CBS far outpaced their counterparts in the number of segments focusing on climate-related scientific research that they aired on nightly news shows. “PBS NewsHour” aired 10 segments on climate-related scientific research, including a segment that featured scientists explaining climate change’s influence on wildfires in Southern California and flooding in Louisiana; “CBS Evening News” aired seven segments on climate-related research, including a segment featuring interviews with scientists who discovered unprecedented rates of sea ice melt in the Arctic Circle. Conversely, “NBC Nightly News” aired just three segments on climate-related research, and ABC’s World News Tonight aired just two. None of the Sunday shows featured any segments on climate-related scientific research. [PBS NewsHour, 8/17/16; CBS Evening News, 3/4/16]

Sunday shows’ climate coverage dropped by 85 percent

Every network’s Sunday show significantly decreased its climate coverage

After dropping slightly from a high of 81 minutes of coverage in 2014 to 73 minutes in 2015, the Sunday shows’ climate coverage dropped 85 percent to just 11 minutes of coverage in 2016 — the third-lowest amount in the eight-year time frame Media Matters has examined. Every network saw significant declines in Sunday show coverage, with Fox leading the way (down 32 minutes from the previous year), followed by NBC (down 17 minutes), CBS (down 10 minutes), and ABC (down four minutes).

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Bernie Sanders brought up climate change four times as much as hosts did on ABC, CBS and NBC Sunday shows

On every Sunday show except “Fox News Sunday”, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., brought up climate change significantly more often than the hosts themselves did. ABC’s This Week, CBS’ “Face the Nation”, and NBC’s “Meet the Press” aired a combined five segments in which the hosts brought up climate change, while Bernie Sanders brought up climate change 21 times during his appearances on those shows. Because our study counted only those segments where a media figure brought up or discussed climate change, those 21 segments were not counted in this study’s overall network tallies.

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Nightly news shows on ABC, CBS and NBC aired roughly half as much climate coverage as they did in 2015

“NBC Nightly News” and “CBS Evening News” significantly decreased climate coverage, and ABC once again lagged behind network counterparts

The nightly news shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC collectively decreased their climate coverage from approximately 73 minutes in 2015 to just over 39 minutes in 2016 — a drop of 46 percent. “NBC Nightly News” had the biggest drop in climate coverage, decreasing by about 22 minutes, followed by “CBS Evening News”, which had a drop of approximately nine minutes. ABC’s “World News Tonight”, which aired significantly less climate coverage than its competitors in 2014 and 2015, once again continued its downward trend, dropping even further from roughly seven minutes of climate coverage in 2015 to just four minutes in 2016.

For second year in a row, PBS aired more climate coverage than all other nightly news programs combined

For the second consecutive year, “PBS NewsHour” aired more segments addressing climate change than the other nightly news shows combined. “PBS NewsHour” aired 46 climate-related segments, while ABC (five), CBS (19), and NBC (12) aired a combined 36 climate-related nightly news segments. However, PBS NewsHour’s climate coverage decreased from 2015, when the network aired 58 climate-related segments.

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CBS and NBC nightly news shows have stepped up climate coverage in early months of 2017

In 2017 so far, “CBS Evening News” has already aired more than half the amount of climate coverage it did in all of 2016

In the first few months of 2017, “CBS Evening News” has already aired about 17 minutes of climate-related coverage, just eight minutes less than the show aired for all of 2016. In fact, “CBS Evening News” aired nearly half as much climate coverage as it did in all of 2016 in just one week of 2017; this coverage was during a series of climate-related reports from Antarctica for its “Climate Diaries” series. [Media Matters, 2/13/17]

In early months of 2017, “NBC Nightly News” has already aired nearly half as much climate coverage as it did in all of 2016

In just over two months, “NBC Nightly News” has already aired about five minutes of climate-related coverage, roughly half as much as the show aired for all of 2016.

Methodology

This report analyzes coverage of “climate change” or “global warming” between January 1, 2016, and December 31, 2016, on four Sunday news shows (ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, NBC’s Meet the Press, and Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday) and four nightly news programs (ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, and PBS NewsHour) based on Nexis transcripts. Fox Broadcasting Co. airs Fox News Sunday but does not air a nightly news equivalent; Fox News is a separate cable channel. PBS NewsHour is a half-hour longer than its network nightly news counterparts, but it airs five days a week, compared to seven days a week for the other nightly news shows (PBS NewsHour Weekend was not included in this analysis). In one instance, Nexis categorized a segment that did not mention “climate change” or “global warming” as being about climate change; because the segment provided other clear indications that it was indeed about climate change, it was included. To identify the number of segments networks aired on the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, we used the search terms Keystone w/20 pipe! And Dakota w/20 pipe!.

Our analysis includes any segment devoted to climate change, as well as any substantial mention (more than one paragraph of a news transcript or a definitive statement by a media figure) about climate change impacts or actions. The study did not include instances in which a non-media figure brought up climate change without being prompted to do so by a media figure unless the media figure subsequently addressed climate change. We defined media figures as hosts, anchors, correspondents, and recurring guest panelists. The study also does not include teasers if they were for segments that aired later on the same program. We acquired time stamps from iQ media and applied them generously for nightly news segments when the overall topic was related to climate change. For instance, if a nightly news segment about an extreme weather event mentioned climate change briefly, the entire segment was counted as climate coverage. However, if a significant portion of the segment was not related to climate change, such as a report on the pope giving a speech about climate change, immigration, religious freedom, and outreach to Cuba, only the portions of the segment that discussed climate change were counted. For the Sunday shows, which often feature wide-ranging discussions on multiple topics, we used only the relevant portion of such conversations. All coverage figures have been rounded to the nearest minute. Because PBS NewsHour is an hour-long show and the other networks’ nightly news programs are half-hour shows, our analysis compared PBS NewsHour’s climate coverage to other nightly news programs’ coverage in terms of topics covered and number of segments, but not in terms of number of minutes.

Research intern Katherine Hess and Sarah Wasko contributed to this study.

http://www.salon.com/2017/05/31/how-broadcast-networks-covered-climate-change-in-2016_partner/?source=newsletter

Pepe the Frog dead at 12

In a move against the racist trolls who use his cartoon, Pepe’s creator has murdered the controversial amphibian

Pepe the Frog, mascot of the alt-right, dead at 12
Pepe the Frog(Credit: Getty/Josh Edelson)

Pepe the Frog, the cartoon anthropomorphic amphibian adopted by members of the alt-right for use in hundreds of racist and pro-Trump memes, died at the age of 12 on Saturday. Pepe’s creator, indie comic-book artist Matt Furie, killed the character in a cartoon published on Free Comic Books Day of “World’s Greatest Comics.”

Born in 2005 in Furie’s web-published comic book, “Boy’s Club,” Pepe spent his early years as a wholly apolitical, if perhaps crude and cantankerous, creature often seen on Myspace. In 2008 Pepe began to appear in a series of memes produced across a number of platforms, with many reflecting the character’s original spirit.

Early in the run-up to the 2016 elections, however, the burgeoning troll culture of the darker corners of message-board site 4chan adopted the grinning frog, spinning his once-harmless visage into material for its often racist, often misogynist, often hateful memes. In time, he became a popular mascot of the younger, nastier side of then-candidate Donald Trump’s wide-ranging group of supporters.

Furie, a self-identified progressive did his best to fight this rising trend, but to little avail. In 2016 the Anti-Defamation League classified the frog as a hate symbol and elements of the Pepe meme have been used by members of the Trump-controlled executive branch.

In response to his creation’s now extensive involvement in the alt-right, Furie staged a wake for his character. A cause of death is not known at this time. Pepe is survived by an army of hateful, web-based dude bros, who will no doubt continue to employ his appearance in memes to come.

http://www.salon.com/2017/05/08/pepe-the-frog-meme-racist-creator-dead/?source=newsletter

The bad art of the non sequitur: Gibberish is the White House’s new normal

We’re expected to live in a universe which is not only post-truth but altogether post-language and post-meaning

The bad art of the non sequitur: Gibberish is the White House's new normal
(Credit: Reuters/Carlo Allegri)
This piece originally appeared on BillMoyers.com.

Once upon a time, there were presidents for whom English seemed their native language. Barack Obama most recently. He deliberated. At a press conference or in an interview — just about whenever he wasn’t speaking from a text — his pauses were as common as other people’s “uh’s.” He was not pausing because his vocabulary was impoverished. He was pausing to put words into sequence. He was putting phrases together with care, word by word, trying out words before uttering them, checking to feel out what they would sound like once uttered. It was important to him because he did not want to be misunderstood. President Obama valued precision, in no small part because he knew he lived in a world where every last presidential word was a speech act, a declaration with consequence, so that the very statement that the sky was blue, say, would be scoured for evidence that the president was declaring a policy on the nature of nature.

That was then. Now we have a president who, when he speaks, spatters the air with unfinished chunks, many of which do not qualify as sentences, and which do not follow from previous chunks. He does not release words into a stream of consciousness but into a heap. He heaps words on top of words, to overwhelm meaning with vague gestures. He does not think, he lurches.

Here are some examples from TIME’s transcript of their cover story made out of their phone interview with the president of the United States. I have italicized the non sequiturs, incomplete propositions, indefinite pronouns and other obscurities that amount to verbal mud.

Scherer: So you don’t feel like Comey’s testimony in any way takes away from the credibility of the tweets you put out, even with the quotes?

Trump: No, I have, look. I have articles saying it happened. But you have to take a look at what they, they just went out at a news conference.

Scherer: Mitch McConnell has said he’d rather you stop tweeting, that he sees it as a distraction.

Trump: Mitch will speak for himself. Mitch is a wonderful man. Mitch should speak for himself.

Trump: Now the problem, the thing is, I’m not sure they are watching anything other than that, let’s see members of Donald Trump transition team, possibly, oh this just came out.

Trump: I took a lot of heat when I said Brexit was going to pass. Don’t forget, Obama said that UK will go to the back of the line, and I talked about Sweden, and may have been somewhat different, but the following day, two days later, they had a massive riot in Sweden, exactly what I was talking about, I was right about that.

Trump: And then TIME magazine, which treats me horribly, but obviously I sell, I assume this is going to be a cover too, have I set the record? I guess, right? Covers, nobody’s had more covers.

Trump: But the real story here is, who released Gen. Flynn’s name? Who released, who released my conversations with Australia, and who released my conversation with Mexico? To me, Michael, that’s the story, these leakers, they are disgusting. These are horrible people.

Scherer: And apparently there is an investigation into that as well.

Trump: Well should be, because that’s where the whole, who would think that you are speaking to the head of Mexico, the head of Australia, or Gen. Flynn, who was, they are not supposed to release that. That is the most confidential stuff. Classified. That’s classified. You go to prison when you release stuff like that. And who would release that? The real story is, they have to work, intelligence has to work on finding out who are the leakers. Because you know what? When things get involved with North Korea and all the problems we have there, in the Middle East, I mean, that information cannot be leaked out, and it will be by this, this same, and these people were here in the Obama years, because he had plenty of leakers also.

Trump: I inherited a mess in the Middle East, and a mess with North Korea, I inherited a mess with jobs, despite the statistics, you know, my statistics are even better, but they are not the real statistics because you have millions of people that can’t get a job, OK. And I inherited a mess on trade. I mean we have many, you can go up and down the ladder. But that’s the story. Hey look, in the meantime, I guess, I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m president, and you’re not. You know. Say hello to everybody, OK?

So it goes.

Now, TIME’s cover headline for this mishmash is pointed as well as clever: “Is Truth Dead?” — clever, at any rate, in the eyes of readers old enough to remember the 1966 prototype: “Is God Dead?” A still more pointed treatment is that of Ellie Shechet at Jezebel — a redaction, or what be called reporting by subtraction. In the words of headline, “We Redacted Everything That’s Not a Verifiably True Statement From Trump’s Time Interview About Truth.” Unsurprisingly, Jezebel ended up having to edit the transcript so that the passages blacked out were lengthier than the words left in.

But the problem is not just that Trump lies, or that he lies about having lied. The problem is not just that he distracts — for example, changing the subject from his entanglements with Russians to the leakers who leak stories about his entanglements with Russians. The problem is that he insinuates more than he argues. He disdains not only evidence but logic. He asserts by indirection. This is bubble-think. It makes a sort of sense only if you’re trapped in the bubble with him.

What explains this? Is Donald Trump the heir of generations of avant-garde poetry?

Probably not. What’s more likely is that he is deranged. It is a peculiar sort of derangement. It is the derangement of a man who is used to getting what he wants, and arranging his mental universe so as to convince himself that what he has gotten is what he wanted. His operating theory is that he makes things so because he is powerful. His power is such that he is not subject to laws of ordinary grammar.

These bursts of speech are like the announcements that shriek “TRUMP” from the walls of many of his hotels. They do not signify ownership. They signify…something. Whatever. They add up to a haze of indefinite implication. They constitute, in our contemporary discourse, a brand. They signify that Trump has something to do with this building. Something. If you’re privy to the code, you know that there’s a licensing arrangement. Trump has been paid to grant the use of his name. If you think it’s a good thing to be associated with his name, then he has some water, some steaks, some vodka — even a “university” — to offer you.

Trump has moved the sign system of modern capitalism toward a whole new capitalist art form — the free-floating name that describes nothing. Trump has peeled language away from meaning.

He has brought to fruition the title of the 1984 Talking Heads album: “Stop Making Sense.” His regime is a nonstop exercise of “Let’s Pretend.”

His con game requires the bending of millions of knees. Americans are invited to willingly suspend disbelief, play dumb and collude in his cynicism. We agree not to notice the nonstop gibberish that spreads from the Oval Office outward. We agree to brag about our democracy when the president of the United States is responsible neither to logic, nor to evidence, nor to the American people, nor to the English language. We are expected to live in an alternative universe which is not only post-truth but altogether post-language and post-meaning. Any journalist, any talking head, any pundit, any commentator, any politician who pretends that Donald Trump makes sense has volunteered to go to work in the tailor shop where his invisible clothes are weaved.

Todd Gitlin teaches at Columbia University, writes regularly for BillMoyers.com and Tablet, and is the author, most recently, of Occupy Nation: The Roots, the Spirit, and the Promise of Occupy Wall Street.

Robert Reich: 7 warning signs present when tyrants try to hijack democracies

They attack the motives of anyone who opposes them, including judges

Robert Reich: 7 warning signs present when tyrants try to hijack democracies
(Credit: Getty/Alex Wong)
This originally appeared on Robert Reich’s blog.

As tyrants take control of democracies, they typically do the following seven things.

1. They exaggerate their mandate to govern, claiming, for example, that they won an election by a “landslide” even after losing the popular vote. They criticize any finding that they or co-conspirators stole the election. And they repeatedly claim “massive voter fraud” in the absence of any evidence, in order to have an excuse to restrict voting by opponents in subsequent elections.

2.They turn the public against journalists or media outlets that criticize them, calling them “deceitful” and “scum,” and telling the public that the press is a “public enemy.” They hold few, if any, press conferences and prefer to communicate with the public directly through mass rallies and unfiltered statements (or what we might now call “tweets”).

3. They repeatedly lie to the public, even when confronted with the facts. Repeated enough, these lies cause some of the public to doubt the truth and believe fictions that support the tyrants’ goals.

4.They blame economic stresses on immigrants or racial or religious minorities and foment public bias or even violence against them. They threaten mass deportations, “registries” of religious minorities and the banning of refugees.

5. They attack the motives of anyone who opposes them, including judges. They attribute acts of domestic violence to “enemies within” and use such events as excuses to beef up internal security and limit civil liberties.

6.They appoint family members to high positions of authority. They appoint their own personal security force rather than a security detail accountable to the public. And they put generals into top civilian posts.

7. They keep their personal finances secret and draw no distinction between personal property and public property, profiteering from their public office.

Consider yourself warned.

Robert Reich, one of the nation’s leading experts on work and the economy, is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. Time Magazine has named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written 13 books, including his latest best-seller, “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future;” “The Work of Nations,” which has been translated into 22 languages; and his newest, an e-book, “Beyond Outrage.” His syndicated columns, television appearances, and public radio commentaries reach millions of people each week. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, and Chairman of the citizen’s group Common Cause. His new movie “Inequality for All” is in Theaters. His widely-read blog can be found at www.robertreich.org.

Milo Yiannopoulos isn’t ready for “Real Time” and it shows

Bill Maher’s public service:

Most people have no idea who Milo is, except that he claims to be “Dangerous.” Friday night, Bill Maher showed them

Bill Maher's public service: Milo Yiannopoulos isn't ready for "Real Time" and it shows
(Credit: Getty/Drew Angerer/HBO/Salon)

When it was announced that this week’s episode of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” would feature so-called “right-wing provocateur” Milo Yiannopoulos, some people freaked out. Many seemed to believe that bringing Yiannopoulos on the show would legitimize a noxious professional troll, as if that horse hadn’t already escaped the barn when America elected one president.

Journalist Jeremy Scahill, co-founding editor of The Intercept, canceled his own booking in protest. In his one-on-one segment with Maher at the top of the show, Yiannopoulos called that approach out: “If you don’t show up to debate, you lose.” On one hand, not every debate is worth sitting in the makeup chair for. (I’ve seen the Milo show; I’ve seen better.) But Yiannopoulos isn’t leading a political movement; he’s an attention-seeking troll. They don’t feed on legitimacy, but rather scandal and outrage, which Scahill helped deliver. For my part, I was irritated that I’d have to sit through an interview with this guy before getting to Leah Remini’s Scientology Dirt Bag, so it’s not like I had a high horse to climb off of.

It’s easy to forget, if you don’t live on the Internet, that most people in America — and quite possibly most “Real Time” home viewers — likely have no idea who Milo is or if they should care about him at all. (Third *NSync alum from the right?) If their first up-close exposure to Milo Yiannopoulos, C-Lister Famous for Something or Other, was last night’s “Real Time,” I can’t imagine they now understand what all the fuss is about.

Yiannopoulos came out quite saucy and self-satisfied — ain’t I a stinker? — so Maher, ever the comedy veteran, heckled him right out of the gate: “You look like Bruno.” Milo pouted, and then turned his exaggerated frown into a smirk after a beat. “You know I told [the make-up artist] to dial down the contouring.”

Despite their flirty greetings, Maher didn’t let Milo off easy. They agreed on a few things, like how liberals are too easily offended, but throughout the interview, Milo seemed squirmy, a bit flustered and obviously outmatched by his host. Maher wasn’t interested in gossiping about Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer and Sarah Silverman, whom Milo lamely joked were funny before they “contracted feminism.” In fact, he dismissed most of Milo’s low-hanging outrage-bait as just kind of stupid.

Maher’s challenge here was not being cast as Principal Skinner arguing with Bart Simpson, and for the most part, he succeeded. “You’re wrong about certain things,” Maher tells him flatly, giving examples from Milo’s own spiels: “Black Lives Matter is a hate group. There’s no such thing as white privilege.”

Maher, a consistent atheist, also dinged Yiannopoulos for “bullshit stupid thinking” when Milo gave Catholicism a pass he doesn’t extend to other religions.

Yiannopoulos insisted that he’s funny and that his jokes “build bridges.” All he cares about, he claimed, is free speech and free expression, which he described as “now a conservative position.”

“I’m the guy who always defends jokes, right up to the point where they pointlessly hurt people,” Maher said, bringing up the campaign of vicious harassment against “Ghostbusters” star Leslie Jones that got Yiannopoulos banned from Twitter.

Milo’s defense was a mess of facile talking points. “I like to think of myself as a virtuous troll,” he said. He also claimed, “What actually hurts people is murder, violence. Mean words don’t hurt people.”

“Which some people would say you’ve incited,” countered Maher, though he didn’t give any concrete examples.

“They would be idiots,” said Yiannopoulos.

For a couple of years in the 1980s, my family lived in Germany, where Nazi symbols were, for very understandable reasons, forbidden. As an earnest 7-year-old who read a lot of children’s literature set during World War II, it freaked me out to see swastikas scratched and inked into naughty graffiti, presented with as much gravity and political intent as butts-and-boobs doodles were back home. Little kids test social boundaries all the time. They’re drawn to the illicit — like giggling over Nazi symbols, which they know are bad but don’t quite understand — because that which is frightening for abstract reasons can also be thrilling, even titillating. Part of growing up — as I hope the kid at my Catholic school who was responsible for that graffiti did, eventually — is learning how one kid’s abstract illicit thrills can be another person’s concrete and dangerous threats, and adjusting your behavior accordingly.

Yiannopoulos is an intriguing conundrum because even though he’s an out gay man in his 30s, not a doodling child, he refuses to connect his own flippant denigration of gay people as hyper-sexed, druggy and untrustworthy — abstract jokes he’s in on — to the concrete threat of discrimination or even violence that LGBT people face from those who may feel emboldened or justified by those attitudes. Maybe he feels those fears are idiotic. Most of his fans are likely in it for the dark thrill of an illicit giggle alone: the permission to laugh at a gay joke because a gay man made it. But how grotesque of a spotlight-chaser does one have to be to ignore the possibility of the fan that isn’t? And how narcissistic is it to forcibly extend that “in on the joke” intimacy to those who haven’t issued an invitation first, like women, black people or Muslims?

On one hand, it’s a pity Maher didn’t have time to delve that deep into a discussion of the philosophy of “j/k lol” with Yiannopoulos. On the other hand, it’s not like Milo said anything on “Real Time” that indicated he’d be up for a challenging intellectual discussion about where the line is, and what it’s used for.

Throughout the segment, Milo demonstrated that as far as provocateurs go, he’s nowhere near Maher’s level. You can disagree with Maher’s positions on politics and religion, but he’s a pro who can back a gag or a flat statement up with reason and consistency. Milo’s a snarky brunch friend on a second round of Bloodies for people who don’t have snarky brunch friends. (Get off Gab once in a while and buy a round, fanboys! You can get your fill of Lena Dunham jokes in person.) He’s managed to build a public speaking and publishing career on little more than being shameless, disgusting and reasonably attractive at the same time. America, land of opportunity!

Maher closed the segment by scolding his audience. “Stop taking the bait, liberals!” he cried. “You’re all freaking out about this fucking impish British fag! You schoolgirls!”

Maher’s using his words as a blunt instrument here, but the sentiment’s not wrong. Exposing Yiannopoulos as a lightweight “famous for doing nothing” vacuous Twitter celeb on TV — as Maher just did — is likely going to be more effective at limiting his cachet and influence than inadvertently building up his illicit, underground cred through outrage. Pushing a malignant thing like Milo Yiannopoulos out into the spotlight isn’t necessarily normalizing it. Sometimes the cliché is true, and sunlight really is the best disinfectant.

Let’s consider the evidence that Trump is a traitor

trump-cia-speechedited

None dare call it treason:

Has Trump’s entire team been compromised by Putin? If so, everyone who continues to support him is complicit 

On Monday evening, national security adviser Michael Flynn was forced to resign after supposedly losing the “trust” of President Donald Trump by failing to adequately and fully explain his phone conversations with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential election.

As The New York Times explained on Wednesday, FBI agents apparently concluded that Flynn had not been “entirely forthcoming” in describing a phone call he had with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States. That set in motion “a chain of events that cost Mr. Flynn his job and thrust Mr. Trump’s fledgling administration into a fresh crisis.”

As the Times report elaborated, Trump “took his time” deciding what to do about Flynn’s dishonesty and was none too eager to fire him.

But other aides [such as other than press secretary Sean Spicer] privately said that Mr. Trump, while annoyed at Mr. Flynn, might not have pushed him out had the situation not attracted such attention from the news media. Instead, according to three people close to Mr. Trump, the president made the decision to cast aside Mr. Flynn in a flash, the catalyst being a news alert of a coming article about the matter.

“Yeah, it’s time,” Mr. Trump told one of his advisers.

Flynn is not alone. Other Trump operatives are also under investigation by the FBI for potentially illegal contact with senior Russian intelligence operatives.

This information is not new. The New York Times and other American news media outlets were aware of reports about Russian tampering in the 2016 election as well as an ongoing federal investigation of Trump, his advisers and other representatives. Instead of sharing this information with the American people during the election campaign, the Times and other publications chose to exercise “restraint” and “caution.” Decades of bullying by the right-wing media and movement conservatives would pay great dividends.

Afraid of showing any so-called liberal bias, the corporate news media demonstrated little restraint in its obsessive reporting about the nonstory that was Hillary Clinton’s emails. This, in conjunction with other factors, almost certainly cost her the election.

In all, the Republican Party and its voters have abandoned their Cold War bona fides and their (somewhat exaggerated) reputation as die-hard enemies of Russia and the former Soviet Union. To borrow from the language of spy craft, it would seem that they have been “flipped” by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Despite mounting evidence suggesting that Trump’s administration has been compromised by Russia, his public continues to back him. The Republican Party and its leadership have largely chosen to support Trump in a type of political suicide mission because they see him as an opportunity to force their agenda on the American people and reverse or undo by the social progress made by the New Deal, the civil rights movement, feminism, the LGBT movement and other forces of progressive change.

In the midst of these not so new “revelations” about Michael Flynn and other members of Trump’s inner circle, the news media is now fixated on the Nixonian question: “What did the president know and when did he know it?” This question ought to not be treated like a mystery. The answer should be readily apparent because it is a direct reflection of Trump’s political and personal values.

Trump has repeatedly shown that he is a fascist authoritarian who admires political strongmen and autocrats such as Putin. In keeping with that leadership style, Trump has surrounded himself with family members and other advisers so as to insulate himself from criticism — and also to neuter any political rivals. In violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, Trump is also using the office of the presidency to personally enrich himself, his family members and other members of his inner circle, such as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Donald Trump also has a longtime pattern of open admiration for gangsters and organized crime.

In sum, Trump’s presidency has many of the traits of a criminal enterprise and a financial shakedown operation, masquerading as a democratically elected government.

Flynn resigned because he got caught, not because of what he did. White House press secretary Sean Spicer confirmed this with his statement during Tuesday’s press briefing that Flynn did “nothing wrong or inappropriate.” In response to this most recent scandal, Trump and his surrogates are now trying to focus on “the leaks,” rather than the potential crimes that may have been committed. Like most political strongmen, Trump values secrecy and loyalty above all else. Those things must be maintained at all costs, even if that means that a given member of the ruling cabal might occasionally have to fall on his or her own sword.

Based on the increasing evidence of communication between his inner circle and Russian operatives, it appears plausible that Trump either actively knew about Flynn’s actions (and perhaps even directed them) or chose to look away while actively benefiting from them. Either choice should disqualify him from the presidency.

In an earlier essay for Salon, I argued that for a variety of reasons that Trump can be considered a traitor to the United States. By that standard, his voters and other supporters who do not denounce him are also traitors, and any Republican officials who continue to back Trump are traitors as well. Recent revelations about Flynn and the still unknown extent of contact between other Trump advisers and Russian agents serve to only reinforce the truth of my earlier claim.

Republicans and other conservatives behave as though they have a monopoly on patriotism and exclusive claims to being “real Americans.” Now is the time for them to test that commitment. Do Republicans and other conservatives love power more than their country? I fear I know the answer. I ask the question in the hope that I am wrong.

None dare call it treason: As the Flynn scandal widens, let’s consider the evidence that Trump is a traitor

Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a politics staff writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at Chaunceydevega.com. He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.