Category Archives: Media & Journalism

Donald Trump, by Gage Skidmore

Trump spends his whole day blind because he’s too vain to wear glasses.

I’ve got a busy day ahead, so we’ll make this fast.

I want to make two quick points about this New York Times article: How Trump Reshaped the Presidency in Over 11,000 Tweets.

1. Back when I was in journalism classes, everyone was very excited about the advances in the internet that would allow interesting, dynamic layouts and graphics for articles. We could make text fade in, fade out, slide around. We could add all kinds of nifty charts and graphics that would pop up, slide out of the way, blahblahblah.

Now, these many years later, I vehemently loath all that shit. Just put the text on the page and get out of my way. Like, yes, include a chart or a photo if it’s germane to the article, but if it floats, slides, fades, wraps, blinks, colors itself, or whatever, just make it go away for the love of little dogs with heart-shaped spots, please stop making me play visual dodge ball with your article.

I would pay extremely good money to get my hands of the stats for these “dynamic” articles, because I bet all that garbage isn’t keeping readers on the page.

2. Donald Trump is probably legally blind most of the time. From the article:

Once Mr. Trump arrives in the West Wing — usually after 10 a.m. — Dan Scavino, the White House social media director, takes control of the Twitter account, tweeting as @realDonaldTrump from his own phone or computer. Mr. Trump rarely tweets in front of others, those close to him say, because he does not like to wear the reading glasses he needs to see the screen.

Instead, the president dictates tweets to Mr. Scavino, who sits in a closet-size room just off the Oval Office until Mr. Trump calls out “Scavino!” Often, he prints out suggested tweets in extra-large fonts for the president to sign off on. (A single-page article that Mr. Scavino recently printed out for him ran to six pages after the fonts were enlarged, according to one person who saw it.)

I know how this works. I have extremely bad vision. Without glasses or contacts, my world is a pastel-colored blur. I couldn’t get through my day without glasses or contacts. I wouldn’t be able to read a single thing, I wouldn’t be able to see where I was going, I wouldn’t be able to recognize most people until they spoke – and even then, it might be dicey if I didn’t know them well.

This is how the president spends his day.

Look, there’s nothing wrong with being blind. Lots of people are and they do just fine. There’s nothing wrong with having terrible vision. That’s why we invented contacts and glasses. But the president of the United States is stumbling through his entire day blind as a goddamn bat because he’s too vain to wear his glasses. How many mistakes does he make in a day because of this?

This is like the least important problem with Trump as president, probably, but I’m pointing it out because it’s just so very Trump. He’s stumbling around blind and incompetent and it’s no one’s fault but his own, and he’s just bullshitting his way through it, and that is this con artist’s whole frickin’ life.

Image credit: Donald Trump, by Gage Skidmore.

5 Things to Read Today

YouTube, social media, Trump & more

Reading list! Here’s a couple of articles about the effect of social media campaigns – specifically Russian and other state-actor influence operations – on real world attitudes, a thing I’m slightly dubious about, plus fun reading about Trump’s prenup with Marla Maples, YouTube’s desperate attempts to get itself out of trouble, and more.

🚫 New York Times: YouTube to Remove Thousands of Videos Pushing Extreme Views
YouTube’s having a hell of a time lately, as they should, because their policies suck.

📱 Politico: Russia’s manipulation of Twitter was far vaster than believed
So, I’m a bit hesitant to add this story because I think the research it’s based on got debunked yesterday, which calls this story into question. But I’m putting it in because I’ve been a little dubious of the actual effect of the Russian interference operations for awhile. Not dubious of them happening – clearly they did. I’m just not sure it had the massive effect that some people like to claim it did. I think maybe we want to believe Russian influence operations had a huge effect because we don’t want to face the idea that we did this to ourselves. Also, people tend to over estimate the effect online movements have on the real world, particularly where Twitter is involved. So, y’know. Grain of salt where this sort of thing is concerned.

📱 Zeit Online: Digital Incendiaries
This story is more solid than Politico’s – based on better research, etc. Still, I remain somewhat dubious. You can influence the discourse on a social platform, but how does that translate to real life? I work in marketing, specifically social media marketing, and as I like to say at work, “But does it convert?” What’s the ROI on this activity, and can it be proven in real numbers? I’m not saying this stuff doesn’t have an effect. Clearly it does, and if I didn’t believe that I wouldn’t be working in SMM. I’m just a bit hesitant to buy the size of the effect it’s having, and that the effect is entirely due to bots and Russian trolls on Twitter.

⚖️ ABC News: State Dept. panel to redefine human rights based on ‘natural law and natural rights’
Friendly reminder that Trump’s entire administration is staffed by monsters and nightmares.

🇳🇱 The Guardian: Dutch girl was not ‘legally euthanised’ and died at home
You might have seen this story getting passed around on Facebook and Twitter, that the Netherlands euthanized a 17 year old girl due to her “unbearable suffering,” and FYI, the story is inaccurate. The girl requested euthanasia and was turned down because she was so young. After that, apparently she voluntarily refused food and further medical treatment until she passed away at home.

👰 Vanity Fair: “Marla Was Under Duress”: Revealed in His Marla Maples Prenup, Donald Trump’s Draconian Art of the Marriage Deal
Here’s a deep dive into Trump’s prenup agreement with Marla Maples. It’s, uh, it’s a ride.

🎞️ FilmJoy: Movies with Mikey: Does The Matrix Hold Up?
Mikey tackles The Matrix. I love his videos – they’re fantastic and if you’ve never seen them before, feel free to dive in and watch the entire Movies with Mikey playlist.


YouTube, climate change, & fiber

Here’s a handful of things that caught my interest yesterday.

Social Media

Today: Bryan Carmody, Russian troll farms, Facebook, impeachment, & the 2020 campaigns

Today in shit I’m pissed/worried about, we’ve got the cops probably illegally screwing over journalist Bryan Carmody, some plans we’ve just discovered from Russian troll farms that show they’re targeting the racial divides in America, a bit about regulating Facebook (and other social platforms) and what that might look like, the powers the House gets when they start impeachment inquiries, and the 2020 campaign ad wars.

📰 CNN: In San Francisco, an attack on press freedoms and echoes of autocracy
In a whole bunch of states there are laws called “shield laws” that protect journalists from revealing their sources. California is one of those states.

Quick primer: Journalists mostly get news from sources, and sometimes those sources are breaking the law when they give journalists information. Even when they’re not breaking the law, sources can face serious consequences for giving information to journalists, up to and including the loss of their lives. Journalists have an ethical duty to protect their sources. This is how journalists end up in jail for refusing to reveal sources sometimes.

In states with shield laws (I think… 30? states have shield laws on the record? Something like that.) journalists are legally protected from being forced to reveal their sources.

So back on May 10, San Francisco cops raided the home of journalist Bryan Carmody and seized all his equipment in an attempt to discover his source on a story he wrote about the weird death of San Fran public defender Jeffrey Adachi. The raid was probably conducted with an illegal search warrant that the cops may have gotten by lying to the judge they got it from, among other problems with the situation.

If you love the idea of a free press, you should be up in arms about this happening.

🇷🇺 Vox: Secret documents show Russian plot to stoke racial violence in America
Russian troll farms are trying to use America’s racial tensions to incite violence in America, with the end goal of forcing a collapse of America.

Oh, pshaw, you say, with a dismissive wave of your hand. America won’t “collapse.”

Are you not paying attention? America is already collapsing. America has been in collapse for like 30+ years now. Get your heads out of your asses. This shit is real. It is not hyperbole. Get it together, America.

We are under attack. Russia is coming for us. So are other state actors. They’re using our own ignorance and biases against us and it is working.

📱 TechCrunch: What does ‘regulating Facebook’ mean? Here’s an example
Yes, social media needs to be regulated, including Facebook. Maybe especially Facebook. See above.

Lots of “social” platforms, as well as platforms like Google, with their search results and various algorithms, are passing along tons of outright disinformation. This isn’t about censorship; this is about stopping the spread of propaganda.

Right now Facebook and their ilk are refusing to moderate their platforms to stop the spread of various forms of propaganda and misinformation. When they’re called on it they sheepishly tuck their hands in their pockets and say Well, shucks, folks, that’s not our responsibility, that’s yours, and sure, they’re not entirely wrong there. Some of this is on us.

But not all of it, and certainly not the entire burden of it.

Regulate social media, people. Stop letting them get away with lying to us and allowing their platforms to be used for propaganda crusades just so they can make advertising money.

⚖️ Lawfare: What Powers Does a Formal Impeachment Inquiry Give the House?
House Democrats are muttering about impeachment again, as they should be.

I’ve said in the past that I didn’t think the House should impeach if they can’t get a conviction, but I’ve since changed my mind. I think Trump’s gonna beat Democrats to death with impeachment either way, so they might as well drag his ass through the hearings.

Also, when they fire up the impeachment engines, they get access to some extra legal powers. Here’s a look at what those are.

📱 Vox: Trump’s 2020 campaign is buying a whole lot of Facebook ads
The campaign ad wars are heating up, and Facebook is the front lines. Keep an eye on the posts you see in your newsfeed, and think critically about anything you see with the “sponsored” tag.

Jeff Bezos, By Steve Jurvetson

The National Enquirer apparently tried to blackmail Jeff Bezos & others

Jeff Bezos, By Steve Jurvetson
Photo Credit: Jeff Bezos, by Steve Jurvetson. (Source and licensing.)

Back on Jan. 9, Jeff Bezos and his soon-to-be former wife announced they were divorcing. Shortly after that, the National Enquirer published “reports” of Bezos’ affair, complete with text messages and claims of dirty photos.

Bezos apparently got to wondering how the National Enquirer got his texts and photos, so he hired all-star security consultant and author Gavin de Becker and his firm to investigate. And once the investigation started turning up dirt, the National Enquirer’s parent company, AMI, owned by David Pecker, apparently tried to blackmail Bezos by threatening to publish his dick pics.

But of course, publishing photos of Jeff Bezos’ wiener is only embarrassing – it’s not going to actually hurt him. He’s a powerful, ridiculously rich straight white dude involved in a pretty tame affair. The National Enquirer can’t actually hurt him with dirty pics, so yesterday Bezos published a blog post to Medium basically telling the National Enquirer, “🖕🖕🖕,” and published their emails to boot.

Once that happened, journalist Ronan Farrow announced, “Hey, the National Enquirer tried to blackmail me, too, along with some other prominent journalists.” Those journalists included folks at the Daily Beast and the AP.

Some links:

So, yeah, turns out, the National Enquirer? Hella shady. But of course, we already knew that.

Some more links:

The National Enquirer, for their part, says, “Nuh-uh!” and promises to investigate the situation, for whatever that’s worth. 🙄

One last quick thing. This morning Paul Krugman tweeted, “I never expected to see Jeff Bezos emerge as a hero of democracy. But he has. A profile in moral courage.”

I saw a few other folks tweeting similar sentiments last night and this morning, so I don’t mean to pick on Krugman in particular, here, but let’s tone this kind of “moral hero, profile in courage” bullshit down a bit, eh?

Bezos has umpteen gazillion dollars and more power than god. A few dick pics being made public were never going to hurt him. Also, he’s in charge of Amazon, a company that is a mass-consumerist hellscape that treats its employees like garbage.

I mean, good on Bezos for not buckling to blackmail and bringing it to light and all, but let’s not pretend that he’s some saint or anything.


Hey, so remember how last week BuzzFeed News published a big bombshell article, and then the spokesperson for the Mueller investigation was all, “That’s not completely accurate,” and the rest of the media, all the rightwingers, and half of the left spent the week dunking on BuzzFeed?

BuzzFeed’s got some receipts and they’re publishing.

Rudy Giuliani claims the Moscow tower was barely more than a notion. “There were no drafts. Nothing in the file.” Documents obtained by BuzzFeed News tell a different story.