Tag Archives: journalism

Megyn Kelly Has Got to Go

New Orleans    If you live by the sword, you will die by the sword.   That’s a very old saying.  Megyn Kelly seems poised to understand that even if the proverbial pen is mightier than the sword – or at least used to be – you can still fall the same way.

It is not a spoiler alert to say that I’m not a Megyn Kelly fan.  Almost a decade ago, I was interviewed by her.  The producer who convinced me to go on the show had sworn to all that is holy that certain subjects would be out of bounds, as I had required.  Mainly, having left ACORN in the USA at that time, I would refuse to comment on anything involving the leaders and staff at that time.   The original interviewer was supposed to be someone else, but in a last-minute substitution “from the top,” Fox executives, now famous in the #MeToo era, had decided the story was high profile enough that they wanted to showcase their new rising star.  Needless to say, she jumped outside the lines of our agreement to suit herself.  My aggravation with her and her style is memorialized forever in “The Organizer” documentary.

But, enough about me and Megyn.  She made her career by being a flamethrower and conservative agitator willing to step on anyone to move forward at Fox.  She had one or two moments when she even pretended to be a journalist rather than a personality, like a put down of Karl Rove and his diminished credibility on an election night broadcast.  But, when it wasn’t all about her, she was a hardliner.

And, as the current controversy establishes over her defending and representing monocultural whites and their ability to wear blackface regardless of the well-known history of racism involved with the practice, she’s a racist as well.  A columnist for the Washington Post listed a number of examples in case anyone might have thought this was just a momentary slipup on the air.

  • Fox News apologized after her show used a caption referring to first lady Michelle Obama as “Obama’s Baby Mama.”
  • Kelly claimed that a black teenager pinned to the ground in her bathing suit by a police officer was “no saint.”
  • She argued that Sandra Bland, a black woman found hanging in her jail cell three days after being arrested in a traffic stop, would still be alive had she just obeyed police.
  • She accused the black community of having a “thug mentality” that considered it “cool” to “sort of hate the cops, and hang out — and be somebody who doesn’t necessarily prize being there for your family.”
  • She claimed that Jesus Christ, a Jewish man born in Bethlehem, and Santa Claus, a fictional character, were white.

None of her record leaves any room for doubt.  NBC shares the blame of course.  They were willing to overlook her many extremes to try to make a devils’ bargain with conservative viewers and give her a king’s ransom of a paycheck.

She lost them viewers.  She lost them credibility.  She made a career out of walking over the line of common sense and good judgment.  She lived by the sword, and she fell the same way.

Unfortunately, she may be on the way out at NBC, but someone will hire her, so these are notes to remember, because she’s not gone yet.


Fake News and a Field Guide to Lies

fake-newsNew Orleans You have to love headline news about fake news.  Usually fake news is in the stories, not the headlines.  We all have to appreciate the irony contained in articles in almost any newspaper, especially opinion pieces, about fake news when there is no disclosure of inherent biases contained in any of them.  Nonetheless, it is a real and ageless problem.  What do we do about outright lies that take on lives of their own and move public opinion and often become impossible to ever pry loose?

            Admittedly, I’m jaded about this.  For all of the journalists and columnists now trying to act high and mighty because of their fears about the Trump ascension and the host of different tribes in his movement, it seems a case of “whose ox is being gored.”  Don’t make me go into the total fakery involved in contentions around voter fraud versus voter registration errors once again.  Finally, most commentators have sorted this out, but for conservatives in the USA, it’s too little, too late, since so much of this has seeped into the ideological fabric of the right, when it was always a lie, just never called out in a timely fashion, and without defenders when ACORN and others were attacked and decimated.

            Nonetheless, let’s swallow our bitterness hard, and say, better late than never.  Facebook thus far seems to be talking out of both sides of its mouth without a real plan that they are willing to throw money and muscle at, as they vacillate between concerns about free speech and the damage of fake news.  Studies indicate that Facebook is a much louder microphone for all of this than Twitter, but they are all swimming in the same stew of privileging eyeballs and advertising regardless of adverse impacts and real harm to millions.

            But, even if they make progress in some directions, ferreting out the facts in all of the news may be harder than any are willing to admit.  Reading neuroscientist Daniel Levitin’s A Field Guide to Lies:  Critical Thinking in the Information Age was a fascinating look at both how easy in our fast moving world it is easy to be fooled if we’re not paying close attention, as well as how determined many of the actors in business and politics are to fool us, and I’m not talking about basement hackers in Russia or scammers in Nigeria.   Some of the bits on advanced math and reasoning might not be helpful to the average bear, but his points on how we are often manipulated by fake facts hidden in preposterous math or deceptive charts and graphs lacking any qualifications or context were excellent and sound a solid cautionary note about how difficult separating facts from fiction may be for many.

            Once again though we have to confront the fact that power plays with fact and fiction.  We do not yet have an accurate count on the number of people who were effectively disenfranchised by the wave of Republican-led voter suppression laws state by state in the recent election, but we know it is in the millions.  We have to weigh all of those unjustly deprived of their votes, particularly among low-and-moderate income and minority families against the right’s argument that even if there are only a handful of actual, proven cases of voter fraud in the US annually they still justify the barriers to voting even if they rob millions of their right to vote.

            Let’s hope the search for truth is not a temporary project or a finger pointing exercise but a real and objective effort to level the playing field with facts rather than fiction.