I was with Anonymous, and you came to me for info on OpCartel.
Then you ran an article stating the kidnapping as fact, which, as is now better established, it actually was.
At the time, I wrote to you, regarding the question of whether such a thing should be reported as fact, “Obviously if I were functioning as a journalist, that wouldn’t be sufficient.”
Barrett Brown Later you expressed regret on Twitter that you’d reported it as fact.
Barrett Brown A few days after that you wrote another article with Ravi in which you note that there’s been contradictory information about all this, etc, and it’s all quite a mystery, though you never get around to stating that you yourself reported it as fact, and did so after talking to some of the same people I did, whom I’d directed you to.
Barrett Brown Then, based on ideas you note to have seen on Twitter, you claim me to be the “self-appointed Anonymous spokesman”, which is not actually a fact, as I’d noted for months and months, in magazine articles and TV interviews, etc; and suggest that my “book contract to write about Anonymous” is relevant to my attempt to do something with whatever materials I could get from the Mexican Anons.
Barrett Brown Technically I did have that contract, but it was to serve as co-writer on a book about Gregg Housh, the guy who originally asked me to help deal with the press, and his own life and history with Anonymous, as could have been determined rather easily from the book announcements and articles from other reporters who actually did manage to determine that. And that might well have made it clear that I obviously had little to gain in that instance from things I did myself.
Also, this passage: “Why, some might wonder, would Mr. Brown, presumably a real person using his a real name, go public with this information, given the risk?” … seems to imply that you’re not entirely certain that I’m a real person with a real name, even though I was, at that time, a journalist who’d written for a large number of publications, in addition to the work I was doing for free, like trying to get NYT to pay closer attention to Palantir and Archimedes and other firms I’d been researching which later went on to undermine the 2016 election.
Anyway, I went to prison, got out, and found that Adrian Chen was somehow now writing about these same subjects.
[Link to 2014 piece on Adrian Chen showing his attempts to buy stolen emails from hackers, whom he’d later criticize without noting this]
Anyway, I hope you’ll try to be more careful in the future. Also if there’s someone at The New York Times who might be interested in a heads-up, I’ve found several demonstrable errors in his work — aside the half-dozen articles he wrote about me, some of which he admitted not to believe in a recording I’ve made public — and I’m in talks with The New Yorker today to give them a chance to do an internal review of his work for them, since I’m writing at length about it in my upcoming book from FSG.
Also: [Excerpt from the convo we had when he approached * me for info in 2011]
*** 5:37 PM [redacted]: Ha — I can understand your frustration, but the NYT’s news sense and yours will not always align. me: That’s true. ***
That’s for fucking well sure, isn’t it?
October 2011 — The Original Exchange
[redacted]: Hey , hope you’re well.
[redacted]: Just wondering if this Mexico thing today is bullshit. Have you heard anything?
me: it’s not at all bullshit
5:19 PM [redacted]: I mean the rumour that a woman has been released by the Zetas.
me: I don’t know about it being a woman, necessarily, but the release did apparently occur, but not in response to the op; the person was not known by the Zetas to be the Anon
5:20 PM This person can tell you more
I’m not sure what other details I can give out at this point
[redacted]: Who is that person?
The email address, I mean
5:21 PM me: a Mexican Anon whom I’ve been working with on this
5:22 PM [redacted]: Can you tell me, off the record, any details about the person who was taken? I’m not going to publish even the hint of a detail, as I don’t want to endanger a life. But it would help in researching.
me: and perhaps more as other informants come to me as a result of the media coverage
I cannot, you’ll have to ask this Mexican Anon
5:23 PM [redacted]: What evidence have you seen that the kidnap really happened?
5:24 PM me: None, nor would I have expected to as we have no intention of providing a chance that the person could be identified
however, this other person might be able to tell you more.
[redacted]: But if the person couldn’t be identified, how could the Zetas respond to the threat?
5:25 PM me: These Anons assumed that the Zetas knew who it was
But obviously they had no way of knowing the exact situation
5:27 PM [redacted]: So, just to clarify: an Anon was taken by the Zetas. The video was released, then the Anon was released, but because the Anon was never identified it is not clear if it is linked to the op.
me: That’s basically it, yes. But you really should check with [redacted]
5:28 PM [redacted]: I definitely will, thanks for the email address.
me: no problem
[redacted]: I’m going to ask a stupid question.
If no one has any evidence a person was kidnapped, how do you know a person was kidnapped?
5:29 PM me: I’m relying on the account of someone I’ve known and worked with in the past and whom I believe to be telling the truth based on the nature of her responses as well as other details I can’t go into due to the present situation
5:30 PM Obviously if I were functioning as a journalist, that wouldn’t be sufficient. But in this case…
5:31 PM We already have journalists looking too fucking closely into who the person is, including a review of Mexican records, and as such we’re very reluctant to assist them in finding out more.
[redacted]: But a responsible journalist won’t run the name.
So what difference does it make?
5:32 PM me: If you take a few minutes to think about the process by which such a name would come up and the nature of the situation in Mexico, and concede that mistakes occur in journalism, you can probably guess.
5:33 PM me: Again, this would be of greater concern to me if the U.S. media bothered to pay attention to those larger issues on which I have already produced evidence.
As it is, we don’t really need the trust of the media insomuch as that most of our operations are fait accompli when reported
5:34 PM So, we are confronted with the decision between risking someone’s life and proving that a person exists to reporters with whom we already have an ambivalent relationship
[redacted]: I can see your argument.
5:35 PM But if you take me, for example, I don’t think I’ve ever done anything that might make you think I’m not trustworthy with sensitive information.
me: At any rate, even I have few details on this, so even if I wanted to — and of course I’d be happy to have this confirmed rather than have my outlets deem me untrustworthy — there’s nothing I could do.
5:36 PM No, you’re the exact opposite.
The Times can be trusted to withhold even information that is of public concern.
5:37 PM [redacted]: Ha — I can understand your frustration, but the NYT’s news sense and yours will not always align.
me: That’s true.
[redacted]: But sometimes it will, obviously.
5:38 PM me: But again, I have few details to provide anyway, so I don’t want to waste your time on that particular issue.
5:39 PM [redacted]: Fair enough. Any details whatsoever — however minor — would be appreciated if you are so minded.
me: Nothing more I can say about the kidnapping victim. I suggest you talk to [redacted] about it.
[Note: Despite consistent explanations to the Times and other outlets that no one was in a position to confirm the kidnappings, they were reported as fact by the paper — a decision the reporter later expressed regret for on his Twitter account, thereby helping to spawn a narrative to the effect that the original claims were now somehow under dispute. They were later claimed to be a hoax by at least one outlet, Gawker. Months later, Anonymous Veracruz participants would reveal to the Mexican press why they were initially reluctant to provide identifying details about the kidnap victim, who had spoken via webcam with several prominent activists after being released — that he had been involved in selling marijuana and his kidnapping stemmed from a dispute with a “minor” Zeta operative]
“When I started to write about Nepali women’s lack of rights to their own bodies and their land, people called me a ‘bad girl’,” says Lokshari.
“Now those same people ask me to teach their daughters to be like me.”
Standing on stage to collect her N-Peace Award, Lokshari Kunwar is one of 18 winners of UNDP’s flagship prize-giving initiative, fighting for women’s voices to be heard during and after conflict. The room is noticeably moved by her impassioned recount of her journey towards becoming a human rights defender.
Lokshari is one of few women journalists reporting on cases of armed conflict, gender-based violence, and human rights violations in Kailali district. In this area in the far west of Nepal, unequal land distribution is considered a driving factor behind the decade long conflict. As poor people’s livelihoods depend largely on land resources, the inequality in land ownership and accessibility can become a significant cause of tensions between marginalized groups and landowners. Women in particular have been disproportionately affected. Only around twenty percent of women have some form of legal ownership rights over land in Nepal, and instances of gender-based violence are high, despite (and arguably due to) a lack of formal reports.
With this year’s International Women’s Day theme focusing on innovation, it is important to remember that this buzzword does not just mean pushing for advancements in technology and science. Innovation also involves trying to approach things from different angles, understanding alternative perspectives, and disrupting “business-as-usual” attitudes. By considering innovative approaches, we might be able to arrive at inclusive, sustainable development – faster.
In high-pressured, conflict situations, peace is still largely considered a top-level, political or military process, spearheaded by men who in patriarchal societies are more likely to be leaders. This way of negotiating peace agreements falls somewhat short of addressing the broader, nuanced issues faced by people affected by conflict at the grassroots-level of society.
Women offer that different perspective
In cases like Somalia, for example, men elders reportedly focused on political power and settlement, while women focused on economic development, education, justice, and reconciliation — all critical elements of a sustained peace. Women are more likely to take a holistic approach and advocate for marginalized groups: the disabled, elderly, and those from different religious, cultural, or social backgrounds, as well as fellow women.
Lokshari’s career spanning 15 years has seen much success. She used the money that had been reserved for her dowry to set up the newspaper Morning Bell, and her work has been recognized by the Nepali Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizens, and the Press Council Nepal.
But support from the community did not emerge at the beginning. For her activism and for the reports she published, she once lost all her front teeth after a particularly violent attack. One major challenge is that women are often not perceived to have the skills, knowledge, or social status needed to bring about change in post-conflict environments. Through speaking out, they also challenge entrenched gender norms, often at great personal risk.
In a recent survey, 66.7 percent of respondents reported that they had been increasingly invited to take part in peace processes after winning an N-Peace Award. By shining a spotlight on the achievements of particularly inspirational champions like Lokshari, initiatives such as N-Peace do much to help change the current narrative on women as peacebuilders. Through advocacy and capacity-building training, N-Peace strengthens their ability to continue fighting for what they believe in, and — importantly – encourages opportunities for them to advance women’s leadership.
Today, Lokshari has become a role model for other women in her community
“It makes me feel that all the struggles were worth it. This Award gives me a lot of positive energy,” she says.
Among other winners honored for their achievements are Dr Cynthia Maung, a maternal healthcare doctor working with refugees on the Thai-Myanmar border, Mary Akrami who is negotiating for issues affecting women to be addressed by Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, and Mahira Miyanji who is working to establish free education for women and girls in Lyari, Pakistan. Civil society organizations supporting the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Asia are also celebrated.
To find answers for accelerating more inclusive and sustainable peace in societies, it is women like these who we should increasingly be turning to.
Journalism has become a dirty word in the Western canon. Journalists consistently face scrutiny, animosity, and suspicion from readers and critics alike.
The current administration carries a portion of the blame after popularizing the phrase “fake news” and attempting to destabilize public trust in the fourth estate. But, the greatest weight of responsibility rests on the shoulders of established news organizations that have repeatedly been found guilty of moral compromise, plagiarism, inaccuracy, and corporate and political bias. This trend developed as news organizations were acquired by private citizens and corporations alike with profit-driven aims that steam-rolled the ethical obligations of the press.
In his 2005 article, The Problem of the Media, Robert McChesney addresses this very issue. He discusses how the failings of the press began over a century ago. While privatizing the news industry originally prevented government manipulation of the free media, it also made news organizations vulnerable to the economic interests of their owners.
As companies identified their niches, ratings and sales figures increasingly dictated the stories that organizations would cover, the emphasis of importance on certain stories over others, and the angles with which they reported. Over the last century, these practices mutated into sensationalism, overt bias, and journalistic neglect to report on events inconvenient to the owners or their political affiliates. Networks such as Fox News, or CNN pander to the political interests of their audiences and, in some cases, to the interests of public officials with ties to media corporations.
As corporate interests and government corruption have infected mainstream media, it’s no wonder that public faith in journalism has fallen to such low regard. In their latest Gallup Poll, the Knight Foundation found that over 42% of U.S. adults, across all political affiliations, have lost faith in news media for these very failings, and these errors will continue so long as the actions of major news media are determined by quarterly gains.
The only means by which we can save the reputation of news media is to free it from the corporate shackles major news networks have resigned themselves to. As McChesney writes:
“A commitment to anything remotely resembling bona fide democracy requires a vastly superior journalism, and we can only realistically expect such journalism if sweeping changes in media policies and structures make it a rational expectation.”
A call has been sounded for journalists to reject the current media structures and develop new, reputable organizations focused on accuracy and transparency once more. In response, dozens of independent news networks have emerged to combat the overt commercialism of larger media conglomerates. Publications such as Propublica, De Correspondent, and Reuters derive their funding from individual subscribers, independent grants, and non-profit trusts in order to maintain their freedom from corporate and political interests.
As new methods of independent funding continue to be discovered, the lost freedom of the press is slowly being recovered. While we may currently struggle to press on amidst a grim landscape of corruption, hope is on the horizon.
The recent appointment of surprise new editor-in-chief of British Vogue, Edward Enninful, has given the ‘Fashion Bible’ a new lease of life. Last month saw the release of his first issue and it’s safe to say he’s here to make a statement.
Earlier this year in April, the news broke. Edward Enninful was to replace Alexandra Shulman as editor-in-chief of British Vogue, after her “Vrexit” from 25 years editing the magazine.
Ghanaian-born and raised in London, the 45-year-old formerly held the position of fashion and creative director for W Magazine; whilst his fashion-packed CV includes both Italian and American Vogue, not to mention countless high-fashion campaigns.
From an early age, Enninful made it clear he isn't here to play. He became the youngest ever to be a director for an international publication, when he was promoted to fashion director at i-D magazine, at just 18-years-old.
At the 2014 British Fashion Awards he received the Isabella Blow award for ‘Fashion Creator’, and received an OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) forhis services to diversify the fashion industry.
Fast-forward to December 2017 and the release of his first issue of British Vogue — not only did Edward Enninful become the editor-in-chief of one of the greatest fashion publications of all times, but he became the first black, gay and male man to do so; marking a huge shift in the industries paradigm.
“[Edward is] an influential figure in the communities of fashion, Hollywood and music which shape the cultural zeitgeist” — Condé Nast International’s Chairman and Chief Executive, Jonathan Newhouse
As a modern editor, with a focus on modern times, there’s no denying we’re about to witness changes.
Out with the old & in with the new:
The Times called it a “posh girl exodus” when a number of figures left Vogue following the exit of Alexandra Shulman, including Lucinda Chambers who has held her role as fashion director for 25 years.
When Schulman published an image of the Vogue editorial staff in her final issue, it caused some backlash over the diversity of the team (or lack of,) with one of those criticisms coming from the almighty Naomi Campbell:
In comes Edward, who for starters, has hired Naomi Campbell herself, Steve McQueen, Kate Moss and Adwoa Aboah as contributing editors; just a few names in this whole team shake-up.
Finding a digital voice:
Edward launched Snapchat Discover for British Vogue, bringing them further into the digital realm. By publishing regular content on this new channel three times a week, as a kind of ‘special edition,’ Vogue’s “online presence will likely get much stronger as it becomes distinct from its paper counterpart,” claims acting fashion editor at London Evening Standard, Hannah Rochell.
Diversity, diversity, diversity:
Enninful has stressed his new and ‘inclusive’ vision for the magazine, claiming he wants Vogue to feel “a bit like a shop that you are not scared to walk in to.”
His debut December issue expresses just that: featuring a 14-page shoot with its cover star (and just recently winner of model of the year at the 2017 British Fashion Award)Adwoa Aboah, discussing both diversity in fashion and what it means to be black and British in 2017.
“My Vogue is about being inclusive, it’s about diversity. Showing different women, different body shapes, different races, class. To be tackling gender — Edward Enninful.
So it’s fair to say Enninful has provided the magazine, (and consequently the industry) a perhaps much-needed shake up. As he continues his position as editor-in-chief, I’m sure we’ll see much more innovative and diverse material from this current and contemporary era of British fashion.
How Our Journalists & Academics Have Become the Contractors of Hysteria
This year is only 3 months old and already it has bestowed us with a fresh lineup of outrage worthy events that have plastered themselves across every social media platform available to us.
I’m talking about the two internet sensations that have become impossible not to see for anyone with a smartphone and an internet connection.
The first major incident that really generated some outrage thus far has been the infamous Gillette Ad, which has had the internet awash for days with the relentless, scathing opinions of social media pundits both decrying and supporting Gillette’s position on toxic masculinity. Whilst this was a one minute and forty-nine-second video clip that managed to cleave the internet into a multitude of warring, vicious and cannibalistic camps; the real protagonist of this year’s outrage belongs to a slightly more recent event.
This being the interaction between a group of Covington Catholic Schoolboys, a Native American Elder, and a group of radical Black Israelites in Washington Square. If that synopsis doesn’t immediately ring bells then the following picture definitely will:
The original video that made this image so infamous is actually a very small excerpt from a wider situation. This excerpt; which is exactly 1 minute and 36 seconds long was sprayed across the internet, depicting a group of boys wearing Make America Great Again hats mobbing, sneering and smirking at a Native American Indian Elder who seems to be engaged in a form of sacred ritual. In a vacuum, the image looks disgusting. It looks like an arrogant, smug teenage boy displaying the most abhorrent chauvinism and disrespect possible. It looks like a bunch of privileged white kids spitting on indigenous culture. But things are not always as they seem.
Consult the video below:
In the video, before the infamous scene of the excerpt we can see a group of radical Black Israelites harassing the boys in a way that certainly quantifies provocation. However, it is entirely up to you to decide the moral pervasiveness of the actions displayed in the video.
If you run a quick search on google regarding the event, the sheer number of different stories surrounding the events that transpired in the square have been shocking, to say the least. But almost every article that has been published in the wake of the relatively minor occurrence seems to have one terrifying thing in common:
Journalists are no longer trying to find out objective truths. Social media platforms and the desire to direct traffic, attention and ultimately; money to certain news outlets have transmuted “journalists” into ideological contractors that are paid to dissect information into an easily digestible narrative that can be neatly placed into a political category.
They are all possessed by an ideological goal: and they are willing to do anything to make the “facts” fit into the story that they so desperately need to tell.
In the hours following the release of the video of the internet many news outlets including The New York Times and Washington Post were quick to lash out with accusatory statements attacking and defaming the boys from Covington Catholic School. Whilst it is of critical importance to criticise the ugly heads of bigotry, racism, and intolerance wherever they may appear, it’s slightly more important to make sure that the findings are correct in the first place. And in this case, as in so many others; that never happened. As aforementioned, journalists from what used to be the pinnacle of journalistic integrity: The New York Times, didn’t even bother to spend 20 minutes looking for context before publishing an op-ed defaming the young man, now known as Nick Sandmann, as the “embodiment of white patriarchy”.
But it doesn’t just stop there. Numerous high profile academics and authors have called for the public shaming and doxing of a 16-year-old boy. Including renowned author Reza Aslan taking to Twitter to ask his followers whether they have seen a “more punchable face”.
The following VOX even managed to consult an Education Professor to create a story that works neatly into the narrative that they sought to portray. Once again, regardless of the larger context.
The silence of Nick Sandmann On Friday, students from Kentucky’s Covington Catholic High School encountered a Native American elder at the March for…www.vox.com
How is it that academics, intellectuals, and journalists whose official role in society is to scrutinise, doubt and double check the narratives we take for granted, have been able to fall victim such childish and vile misbehavior. Reza Aslan and other prominent media figures such as Kathy Griffin (below) have not only called for the shaming and defamation of school children, they have also called for actions of violence.
Whilst these seemingly malicious incidents continue to appear in news media and will continue to be permeated into our lives in a way that calls for our so easily obtained outrage, it is unfortunately now up to the news reader to run a sceptical eye over anything that seems immediately emotionally volatile. The fact that intellectuals, journalists and academics, the very people who are supposed to protect us from misinformation, are so easily manipulated into acts of outrage, demonstrates that something is deeply rotten in the state of media. In a vacuum, the things that we engage with on our news feeds are so good at creating an emotional response, it begs to question, is that their very purpose?
These events are not a sign of the times. Our reaction to them is.
Accusations of intolerance, sexism, and endless other -isms have become the new currency for social media in the world of digital speech, as journalists have allowed themselves to become the contractors of outrage.
It is the feeling of simultaneous outrage and confusion that keeps us so fervently engaged with our devices. And so, as stated by Colin Horgan:
“Confusion is what keeps us coming back, what keeps us addicted, and what keeps us asking for more.”
However, I think that whilst confusion is an essential component to our current addiction; it is a fundamentally baser drive that compels us to continually engage with social media. It is our ability to be outraged that keeps us so closely connected to our devices because devices are no longer merely inanimate objects that we use to browse the internet, they are keepers of our beliefs and the broadcasters of our identity in the ever-expanding digital world.
Thomas Mitchelhill |Philosopher |Political Analyst |Existence Enthusiast
Trumpism limped out of this week badly bruised while the resistance left with one hand held high in victory and the other tweeting #NetNeutrality, #ProtectMueller, and #StopGOPTaxScam.
Decency (and black women voters) won the battle in Alabama, but the resistance against the GOP’s agenda is far from over.
Internet freedom took a blow with the repeal of net neutrality, and the GOP’s tax cuts looked primed to pass.
New developments pushed Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation forward while the GOP’s propaganda machine continued to try and pull it backward.
With the Trump administration hard at work rolling back meaningful policies, the incoming GOP tax cut vote, and the prospect of Republicans moving to undermine Mueller’s investigation looming over the win in Alabama, the American people head into the holidays victorious, hopeful, determined, and ready for whatever battle is to come.
And from what we saw this week, there are many more battles to come…
Here’s a complete breakdown of Donald Trump’s 47th week as POTUS:
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Dozen Diet Coke Donnie
Over the weekend, The New York Times published a long-form exposé detailing Trump’s day-to-day life in the White House. It dove into his cable news addiction, the fact he drinks a dozen diet coke’s a day, and confirmation that the President does indeed see his presidency as a reality TV show:
Before taking office, Mr. Trump told top aides to think of each presidential day as an episode in a television show in which he vanquishes rivals. People close to him estimate that Mr. Trump spends at least four hours a day, and sometimes as much as twice that, in front of a television, sometimes with the volume muted, marinating in the no-holds-barred wars of cable news and eager to fire back.
To an extent that would stun outsiders, Mr. Trump, the most talked-about human on the planet, is still delighted when he sees his name in the headlines. And he is on a perpetual quest to see it there. One former top adviser said Mr. Trump grew uncomfortable after two or three days of peace and could not handle watching the news without seeing himself on it.
Trump’s unhealthy ego wasn’t the only thing revealed in this piece. The article touches on a meeting between President Trump, Chief of Staff John Kelly, White House Counsel Donald F. McGahn, and Fox News Anchor Jeanine Pirro on November 1st where they discussed the Uranium One conspiracy theory. A few days before the meeting, she called for Mueller’s investigation to be ended and called on Hillary Clinton to be “locked up.”
Since then, she’s been President Trump’s #1 propagandist in the dangerous anti-Mueller crusade, and by far the most extreme anchor on Fox News. Trump, of course, disputed this reporting.
First off, we know he watches CNN and MSNBC because he tweets in response to Morning Joe and Jake Tapper’s show constantly. Also, Trump has tweeted over a dozen times about Don Lemon’s various segments.
And yes…there really is a tweet for EVERYTHING.
As if the people of Alabama needed another reason not to vote for alleged pedophile Roy Moore, there was another damning report.
The problem with that premise is, well, the amendments after the 10th are extremely crucial to our democracy…
Last week, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) called on President Trump to resign due to his sexual assault allegations. Over the weekend, Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) called on President Trump to resign as well. These lawmakers referenced Senator Al Franken’s resignation announcement as a basis to call on the President to do the same. And ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley made a noteworthy break from the administration’s stance of calling Trump’s accusers liars. Haley stated that President Trump’s accusers “should be heard.” And heard they were…
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The U.S. government just gave trophy hunters the green light to slaughter endangered African elephants. This reckless…
In this new post-#MeToo reality, women have been empowered to come forward in droves to speak out against sexual assault and expose their perpetrators. Sensing the paradigm shift of empowerment, Samantha Holvey, Jessica Leeds and Rachel Crooks (three of President Trump’s accusers) came together on Monday and hit the press circuit to speak out about their experiences of sexual misconduct.
Important to note that these are just 3 of the more than a dozen women who have accused Donald Trump of sexually harassing or groping them.
The world that once called them liars and shunned them to silence was no more. Their appearances immediately made waves. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) who was the first to call on her colleague Al Franken to resign, called on President Trump to do the same.
As we saw the following morning, President Trump heard her loud and clear…
NBC News reported that Mueller is focusing on Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and is scrutinizing what occurred between January 26th and February 13th of this year. Given what occurred between those dates, this indicates Mueller is gunning for obstruction of justice. Mueller’s key finding will be whether or not Trump knew that Flynn had lied to the FBI before he told Comey to back off Flynn.
Trump-Russia expert Natasha Bertrand of Business Insider reported the following:
America was gearing up for the Alabama Senate election where an alleged pedophile faced off against a former prosecutor of KKK members…The choice was clear. But Roy Moore’s wife made a final attempt to convince voters her husband isn’t a racist:
President Trump recorded a robocall for Roy Moore, and President Obama recorded one for Doug Jones. The polls on Monday were scattered, with one poll having Jones up 10 points and another having him down 9. No one knew for sure what would happen. One thing that was for certain, no matter who Alabama elected, the stain of supporting an alleged pedophile would remain on the GOP for the foreseeable future.
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No Moore Bigotry And Misogyny
The day everyone was waiting for had arrived. The stakes couldn’t have been higher.
President Trump sent out his final endorsement of the alleged pedophile as voters headed to the polls.
One part of Trump’s tweet was right. The people of Alabama did do the right thing. Throughout the day one thing was clear: turnout was high. That had people on the right rightfully worried. The day wouldn’t end without at least one more embarrassment from a Roy Moore surrogate:
As the results began to pour in, before major news orgs began calling it, Rantt’s newsroom was very confident Jones would take it. When he did, there was nothing but joy on Twitter. Including from our team.
So how’d he do it? Jones over-performed in the highly populated counties, and those wide margins carried him onto victory while Moore couldn’t pull the votes from rural counties necessary for a win. Low GOP turnout and high Dem turnout turned the tide for Jones. Most importantly, Black women voted nearly unanimously for Jones.
Jones ended up winning by a margin too wide for a recount (0.5% margin required for a recount in Alabama).
Jones camp was thrilled.
Moore camp was in denial (they still haven’t conceded).
Donald Trump (or whoever wrote this tweet) managed not to send out something petty about the race.
This was a fantastic win for the Democrats and the nation. Alabama is a ruby-red state. The fact that a Democrat won there is historic. Turns out that being an alleged pedophile running on blatant indecency and bigotry isn’t a winning game plan. Steve Bannon better rethink his strategy.
Earlier in the day, President Trump, a man who bragged about sexual assault on tape and has been accused by over a dozen women of doing so, sent out a tweet that very well may be the most objectively disgusting and misogynistic tweet he’s ever composed.
Just beyond words. This man’s indecency knows no bounds. We know what he was alluding to. Senator Gillibrand responded:
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) chimed in.
The White House tried to deflect that the tweet wasn’t as disgusting as it was.
More than 50 Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to the House Oversight Committee asking them to investigate the sexual misconduct allegations against President Trump.
Speaking of sexual misconduct, right-wing extremist Mike Cernovich was trying to forge a smear against Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
Schumer calls cops after forged sex scandal charge
The former staffer told me in a phone interview that she did not author the document, that none of the charges ring…
Prompted by a Fox News article, one of Trump’s lawyers Jay Sekulow called on a second special counsel to investigate bias in the Trump-Russia investigation. This was the first sign this week that Trump and the GOP are planning to undermine the Trump-Russia investigation in a major way.
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The Breitbartization Of The GOP
The day before Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein was set to appear before the House Judiciary Committee, the DOJ released FBI agent Peter Strzok’s text messages to Congress in what seemed like yet another attempt to put Mueller’s team’s credibility into question. The texts had a few anti-Trump texts like calling Trump an “idiot,” but that itself is not nearly enough to discredit an entire investigation, but nevertheless, the GOP persists. Not to mention that Strzok also held negative views of Chelsea Clinton, President Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder, current Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Bernie Sanders.
All irrelevant, with no evidence these views had any impact on his investigative work. And it definitely does not tarnish Mueller’s credibility, who immediately fired Strzok upon discovering the text messages this past summer. Nonetheless, Rep. Jim Jordan and other Republicans at the hearing echoed the propaganda from Breitbart and Fox News, desperately trying to help the President obstruct justice.
To be fair, some in the GOP understand that these texts are a nothingburger and don’t taint Mueller’s credibility, but have also signaled support for a potential review of Mueller’s team (which I think they’re gearing up towards rather than a outright firing).
Omarosa Manigault Newman was fired by Chief of Staff John Kelly after they got into an argument at the White House. Omarosa has had a bond with Donald Trump since the Apprentice days, but her time in the White House was marred with inaction and tension with Trump’s staff. After her firing, Omarosa reportedly tried to barge into the White House residence to make her case to Trump himself but tripped the alarm and was escorted out.
Trump Jr. was facing yet another grilling in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Jr.’s recently revealed correspondence with Wikileaks was most likely part of the hearing.
Not to mention, the congressional investigators likely followed up on what the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya,at the Trump Tower meeting told them about what happened. Deputy Managing Editor Remy Anne reports:
On the day before he is scheduled to appear in front of Congress, Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, while testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee, revealed that Donald Trump Jr. asked her if she had any evidence of illegal donations to the Clinton Foundation, during the now infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting.
According to Veselnitskaya, she did not have this evidence, and when she said as much, Trump Jr. seemed to lose interest in the meeting.
If true, this information further supports the widely accepted understanding that Trump Jr. took this meeting with the intention of receiving incriminating information on his father’s political rival. However, it also brings into question whether he violated federal election law, which states that it is illegal for an American to solicit such information from a foreign national.
President Trump’s unpopularity continues…
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A Death Star To Internet Freedom
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai might be one of the most hated people in America right now. In a 3–2 vote, the Republican-appointed Chairman basked in his move to repeal net neutrality. The people, however, were outraged. This move is widely unpopular, with 83% of Americans opposed to it and only 1 in 5 Republicans in favor of it. As Rantt News Managing Editor Kaz Weida reports:
Net neutrality is the concept that there should be equal opportunity for all websites and content providers so the little guy isn’t forced into “a pay to play” situation. To show you how this works, we’ll take an example of something that’s already happening under Chairman Pai’s leadership.
AT&T, who purchased DIRECTV in 2015, began informing customers in 2016 that they could stream DIRECTV NOW on mobile devices without eating into their data cap. Tom Wheeler argued that such an action gave DIRECTV content a virtual fast lane and unfair advantage over other providers like Netflix. Customers might prefer Netflix original content like Stranger Things, but they would be less likely to stream it if AT&T was their provider. Under Chairman Pai’s leadership, the FCC dropped their complaint against AT&T on this matter in February, but the debate lingers.
Are you beginning to see the problem?
This will not only be detrimental to entrepreneurs, it would trickle down to the consumer. Also, another effect we haven’t spoken on is the potential for slower internet in various states. As Ms. Weida pointed out in a separate piece:
States with better, faster internet have better voter turnout. And those same states tend to lean left. Take a look.
What is the GOP constantly trying to suppress? Voter turnout.
After Pai sent out an awkward video essentially mocking people who were angry over the move, Luke Skywalker himself (Mark Hamill) decided to take on the real-life empire.
There’s still hope. Congress can reverse this.
Trump Jr. thought he was slick.
Representative Blake Farenthold said he will not seek re-election amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
In the midst of news that Rupert Murdoch was selling part of 21st Century Fox to Disney, President Trump checked in to make sure that he wouldn’t be losing his propaganda arm Fox News. (Important to note that the Trump administration has moved to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger to force a sale of CNN…)
One of Trump’s judicial nominees who never tried a case was grilled on his inexperience.
A truly disturbing report from the Washington Post outlined how resistant the President has been to the Intelligence Community’s findings that Russia interfered in our elections. It touches on the fact that the President has been not only in denial regarding Russia’s interference, he has been eager to lift sanctions on Russia and has tried on many occasions (more times than previously reported). Trump has been briefed on the specific instructions Putin used to interfere in our democracy and STILL tries to push policies favorable to the Russian President. But perhaps the most disturbing component of this report is how Trump’s daily briefings are being diluted to protect his gentle ego:
U.S. officials declined to discuss whether the stream of recent intelligence on Russia has been shared with Trump. Current and former officials said that his daily intelligence update — known as the president’s daily brief, or PDB — is often structured to avoid upsetting him.
Russia-related intelligence that might draw Trump’s ire is in some cases included only in the written assessment and not raised orally, said a former senior intelligence official familiar with the matter. In other cases, Trump’s main briefer — a veteran CIA analyst — adjusts the order of his presentation and text, aiming to soften the impact.
Speaking of Trump-Russia, President Trump called Putin:
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After the loss of Roy Moore and the impending inclusion of yet another Democratic Senator chipping into their majority, Republicans rushed to finalize their tax cuts package. The GOP tax plan seemed primed for passage on Friday as Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) went from a no to a yes after the Child Tax credit saw an increase.
This tax plan has been widely viewed as simply a bone being thrown to their donors, as multiple GOP Senators have said themselves. With the individual mandate repeal still included, 13 million people would be set to lose healthcare according to the CBO. It still contains a corporate tax cut from 35% to 21% and a tax cut on the top bracket from 39.6% to 37%. Analysts have panned this bill as one that disproportionally aids the rich at the expense of the poor.
With the vote expected the following week, over the weekend activists took to Twitter to try and mobilize opposition.
By the end of the weekend, we learned that Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who has been battling brain cancer, would miss the vote.
This news, plus the backlash of a potential sweetheart deal for Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), the fate of the tax cuts are still yet to be determined. But as we’ve seen in the past, the Republican Party is capable of anything, no matter how depraved it may be.
The Trump administration made a very authoritarian-like demand of the Center for Disease Control…
The data firm Cambridge Analytica that worked with Donald Trump’s campaign has turned over their employees’ emails to Robert Mueller’s team. This is important because Steve Bannon and GOP megadonor Robert Mercer have been involved with the company. Cambridge Analytica may be under heightened scrutiny due to their outreach to Wikileaks for assistance in organizing Hillary Clinton’s stolen emails.
Jared Kushner’s legal team is seeking to hire a crisis PR firm, which is further evidence that Kushner’s indictment is incoming.
When asked whether he would pardon Michael Flynn, President Trump said “I don’t want to talk about pardons with Michael Flynn yet…We’ll see what happens, let’s see.”
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As the weekend progressed, Democratic Representative Jackie Speier bolstered the already mounting speculation that Donald Trump was going to fire Robert Mueller before the end of the year.
This rightfully raised alarms, as Twitter exploded. Right-wing propaganda was beginning to reach new extreme levels of absurdity, and House Republicans like Jim Jordan began to echo them…
After Robert Mueller surprised Trump officials in interviews with tens of thousands of transition emails he obtained, including some from Jared Kushner, the Trump transition team tried to falsely claim that Robert Mueller obtained them unlawfully. Fox News pushed that narrative…which was quickly dismantled by Mueller’s team and legal experts.
When it comes to the firing of Mueller, I had a different take than Robert Mueller being fired by the end of the year. I went full Seth Abramson (minus the sometimes dubious claims) and published a thread on the topic. My main argument was that Trump has lived in a bubble, believing he will be exonerated and it’s far more likely that the House will launch an initiative to try and undermine the investigation by the end of the year rather than an outright firing.
By the end of that night, my theory was confirmed. The House had acted as expected…
And Trump does indeed have unrealistic expectations of exoneration.
We’ll know more after Trump’s lawyers and Mueller’s team meet in the coming days. All we can predict right now with 100% certainty is that Trump will likely be unpredictable.
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• Stunt man Johann Ofner is killed in a workplace accident during the filming of a music video in Brisbane on January 23. • New MEAA Musicians director Bow Campbell joins MEAA. • Equity member Ray Meagher, best known as Alf on Home and Away, is awarded an Order of Australia Medal in the Australia Day honours. • The MEAA flag flies high in a sea of rainbow flags at the Melbourne Midsumma Festival Pride march in St Kilda. • A massive backlash from the journalistic community in response to a blog post by MEAA member Ginger Gorman forces publisher Mamamia to remove an article from its website following accusations of plagiarism.
• Dozens of Equity and ECS members take up the opportunity to comment to a parliamentary inquiry into the future of the film and TV industry through an online submission tool set up by MEAA. • MEAA tells the Fair Work Commission it will vigorously oppose a new attempt by screen producers to remove a raft of basic workplace rights for actors and other workers in the film and television industries. • Campaign launched by MEAA on behalf of Manus Island detainees journalist Behrouz Boochani, actor Mehdi Savari and cartoonist Eaten Fish. Dozens of writers, journalists, and performers sign an open letter calling for the men to be brought to Australia. • MEAA member Peter Grace wins an Oscar for best sound mixing on Hacksaw Ridge.
• MEAA calls for a total rethink of metadata retention laws, after a Senate committee hears that ASIO has been using Journalism Information Warrants to secretly trawl through the metadata of journalists and media organisations in the hunt for their confidential sources. • A new restructure of production for the ABC’s news services results in 42 people being earmarked for redundancy. • Dancers at the Australian Ballet talk tough in negotiations with management over a new enterprise bargaining agreement, dangling the prospect of industrial action if their demands are not met. • MEAA members at Melbourne & Olympic Parks celebrate a new collective agreement that gives priority to staff who are directly hired over agency temps. • MEAA condemns One Nation leader Pauline Hanson for banning ABC journalists from attending her WA election night function on March 11. • Journalists at Private Media, which publishes Crikey, Smart Company and The Mandarin, win a 30% penalty rate for early starts, setting a new precedent for other digital media organisations to follow. • MEAA welcomes the axing of the controversial Catalyst Fund, established by former Arts Minister George Brandis, but calls for the full restoration of the $105 million stripped from the Australia Council in the 2015 Budget.
• Fairfax Media announces another $30 million in cuts to its Sydney and Melbourne newsrooms. Meetings of MEAA members in both cities also roundly reject attempts by management to impose ideological direction and to interfere with masthead independence. • The Australian entertainment world is shocked by the sudden death of satirist, writer, actor and director John Clarke of a heart attack on April 9. Clarke was an Equity member for more than four decades after arriving in Australia from New Zealand in the mid-1970s. • The Fair Work Ombudsman investigates unpaid work at the Australian Grand Prix after MEAA exposes a potential breach of the Fair Work Act after hundreds of casual workers were sent a text message offering them the “opportunity” to work for free. • MEAA’s new CommsPro membership for people working in public relations and communications is launched with a “great debate” in Sydney over the future of journalism. • News Corp editorial staff in Brisbane pass a unanimous vote of no confidence in senior management following news of a restructure of the business, including photography and production, that would result in significant numbers of staff being made redundant. • Further pressure grows on the government’s metadata laws after revelations that an Australian Federal Police officer accessed a journalist’s telecommunications data without being granted the necessary Journalists Information Warrant. • Equity joins the campaign to maintain local content quotas for children’s drama after the free-to-air networks combine forces to lobby for the quotas to be abolished.
• To coincide with World Press Freedom Day on May 3, MEAA releases its annual report into the state of press freedom in Australia, titled The Chilling Effect. • The same day, Fairfax Media vote to take industrial action for seven days in protest at the company’s decision to axe the equivalent of 125 full-time equivalent editorial positions, or 25% of its metropolitan daily journalists. The action means none of the company’s federal parliamentary staff are available to cover the Budget on May 9. More than 10,000 members of the public sign a petition supporting the journalists. • The journalism world is saddened by the death of ABC broadcaster Mark Colvin, a MEAA member for 33 years. We also farewell legendary football commentator Lou Richards, a great friend of the Australian Journalists’ Association over the years. • MEAA’s submission to the Senate inquiry into the future of the film and TV industry calls for government leadership through standardised production and location offset rebates, the restoration of funding to the Screen Australia agency, and a revamp of local content rules to rope in streaming video platforms. • The casts of Barracuda, The Family Law and Cleverman win the 7th annual Equity Ensemble Awards on May 22. • MEAA joins the international campaign to call for the withdrawal of criminal defamation charges against two East Timorese journalists over a story that was published about the nation’s prime minister. Among those offering support is Peter Greste. As a result, Prime Minister Rui Maria de Araujo writes to the court not to convict the two journalists and they are cleared. • On May 18, MEAA celebrates 25 years since the amalgamation that formed the present day union. • MEAA appears before a Senate Select Committee inquiry into the future of public interest journalism. The inquiry was established in the wake of the Fairfax Media job cuts.
• Concerns for the future of jobs at Network Ten after the debt-stricken company is placed into voluntary administration. • MEAA member Julie Davis, a ticket attendant at the Melbourne Cricket Ground who is wheelchair-bound, successfully wins an undercover car parking space following a union campaign over her unsafe working conditions. • Consultation begins for a new screen industry workplace health and safety code. The extensive code will be the first significant overhaul of safety in the sector for well over a decade.
• Equity opens a survey of sexual harassment, criminal misconduct and bullying in the Australian theatre industry. • Dozens of people who worked on the Melbourne Grand Prix become potential recipients of back pay after intervention by MEAA about the employment by labour hire giant Adecco of “volunteer” staff. • MEAA’s National Media Section committee calls on the Walkley Advisory Board to reconsider its decision drop the category for international reporting. • MEAA Equity members Adele Perovic, Noni Hazlehurst and Justine Clarke and MEAA crew member Dan Oliver give evidence at a July 20 hearing of the House of Representatives inquiry into the sustainability of the film and TV industry. They to urge greater government support and leadership in the sector. • Jo Chandler is named freelancer of the year at the mid-year Walkley Awards in Sydney on July 26. • MEAA’s submission to the Senate inquiry into the future of public interest journalism warns that governments can no longer stand on the sidelines but must step in to support independent journalism to preserve democracy.
• MEAA writes to the Fair Work Ombudsman about a potential breach of workplace laws through the use of unpaid workers by the Virgin Australia Supercars Championships. • An injection of 32 fresh faces are elected to MEAA’s Federal Council following the elections held in July. In other changes, Marcus Strom is elected President of the Media section after the retirement of Stuart Washington. • Eliza Goetze, from the Bundaberg News Mail is announced as the inaugural winner of the Caroline Jones, Women in Media, Young Journalist’s Award. • MEAA condemns as a “dangerous step” a proposed inquiry into the ABC announced by One Nation today as the trade-off for support for the government’s media reform package. • Launch of a ‘Good Jobs Charter for Digital Media’ to push for a fair set of workplace standards in this fast growing sector. • The Equity and ECS sections of MEAA join with the industry bodies for live performance and screen to back a yes vote in the marriage equality postal survey. “We believe the time has come for the Marriage Act to be reformed to allow same sex couples to marry,” they say in a joint statement. • MEAA calls on the Turnbull government not to stand in the way of the proposed acquisition of Network Ten by CBS so that months of uncertainty for employees can end.
• MEAA helps to host a visit to Australia by East Timorese journalist Raimundos Oki, who spends a week at Fairfax Media in Sydney with funding from the Balibo Five-Roger East Fellowship. • On Equal Pay Day on September 4, MEAA calls for concrete action from media organisations to close the gender gap which is 23.3% in print and publishing and 22.2% for in broadcasting, well above the national average. The action required includes transparency about gender pay, family-friendly workplaces, and the dedication of annual merit pools to fixing the problem of unfair pay. • Home and Away crew win significant back pay after MEAA members took action when they noticed return travel payment when on location had not been passed on by Channel Seven. • Federal Parliament passes legislation removing the two-out-of-three media ownership rule which had been in place since the early-1990s. “This is a poor day for media diversity,” says MEAA. “The last important protection — the two-out-of-three rule — has been abandoned and there is nothing in its place.” • The Make It Australian campaign is launched around the country on September 18, bringing together MEAA, Screen Producers Australia, the Australian Writers’ Guild and the Australian Directors’ Guild to fight for the future of the screen industry. More than 700 people take a selfie in support of the campaign. • One of the nation’s most prolific and highly regarded performers, Ken Blackburn, is announced as the recipient of the 2017 Equity NZ Lifetime Achievement Award.
• The film industry is changed forever after Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein’s fall from grace over numerous allegations from female actors of sexual harassment and assault. The fallout will spread to Australia later in the year. • In response to growing concerns and complaints about the attributed re-use of journalists’ work online, MEAA asks freelancers to take part in a survey about their own experiences of being plagiarised as part of a campaign to stamp out the practice. • Members of MEAA’s Equity and Crew sections head to Canberra on October 18 to lobby politicians to support the Make It Australian campaign for the film and TV industry’s future. Actors Bryan Brown, Sigrid Thornton, Sean Keenan, and Matt Day, actor-director-writer Leah Purcell, sound technician Ben Osmo, production designer Fiona Donovan and special effects expert Dan Oliver represent MEAA in the delegation. About 1200 people send emails to politicians as a result. • Queensland police raid the offices of the ABC in Brisbane on October 25 in an attempt to identify the source of leaked Cabinet documents. MEAA says this is an “outrageous attack on press freedom”. • The newly-elected Labour government in New Zealand announces it will repeal the ‘Hobbit Law’ which classifies all film workers as “independent contractors”, unable to bargain collectively and receive other benefits associated with being an employee. • About 250 people attend the first Women in Media national conference on the Gold Coast on October 27 and 28 with the theme ‘Media is changing … you can too!’
• MEAA and Screen Producers Australia issue a joint statement on November 1 declaring zero tolerance for sexual harassment. The statement follows the exposure of high-profile cases of sexual misconduct in film and the media, including Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. • Media Monitoring company Isentia makes 29 jobs redundant and relocates the positions to the Philippines in a decision that follows a sharp fall in revenues. • Anger as dozens of suburban newspaper journalists in Sydney and Melbourne will find themselves jobless just weeks before Christmas in yet another round of cost-cutting by the two largest publishers. Fairfax shutters six suburban mastheads in Sydney and sheds more staff at The Weekly Review in Melbourne, while News makes a 20% reduction to the editorial staff of its Leader group in Melbourne. • Former Australian Journalists’ Association Victorian President, Gold Walkley winner and journalism academic Philip Chubb, dies on November 9 after a battle with cancer, aged 66. • Crew members at Opera Australia overwhelmingly vote up their new agreements, locking in pay rises of 2%, 2.5% and 3%. Members fought to maintain conditions, and most importantly limited the ‘non rep’ agreement to its original purpose — musicals, regional, and outdoor opera. • ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie confirms a sweeping restructure of the broadcaster to focus on multi-platform content, but questions remain about the impact this will have on staff. • MEAA formally complains to the prime ministers of Australia and Papua New Guinea after journalist and refugee Behrouz Boochani is arrested on November 24 during protests on Manus Island. “The actions and statements of PNG police confirm that Boochani was targeted during the police operation on Manus. That is a clear assault on press freedom,” says MEAA chief executive Paul Murphy. • Comedienne, actor, advocate and activist Noeline Brown is presented with the 2017 Australian Equity Lifetime Achievement Award. • MEAA welcomes the announcement of an inquiry by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission into the impact of social media giants like Facebook and Google on media advertising and journalism. • Following a call from Women In Media national convenor Tracey Spicer for women to come forward with stories of sexual harassment and bullying, a major expose is published of years of offensive behaviour of former TV host Don Burke. • Michael Bachelard and Kate Geraghty win the Gold Walkley Award for 2017, while the former political editor of The Age, Michael Gordon, is honoured for Most Outstanding Contribution to Journalism. • Fairfax Media and HuffPost call it quits on their Australian joint venture, throwing most of the Australian editorial staff out of work. Staff had repeatedly asked for information about the local edition’s future but were told nothing until the announcement, an act which MEAA describes as “disrespectful”.
• MEAA Crew members are big winners at the AACTA Awards industry luncheon: for a second year in a row, Katherine Brown and Troy Follington are part of the team that won the AACTA for Best Hair and; Fiona Donovan, takes out the award for Best Production Design in Television; and Paul Brincat and Shanti Burn are winners for Best Sound in Television. Equity member Osamah Sami is a joint winner of the AACTA for Best Original Screenplay for Ali’s Wedding, in which he is also the lead male actor. • MEAA welcomes the announcement on December 4 of an inquiry by Australian Competition and Consumer Commission into the impact social media giants Facebook and Google are having on media advertising and journalism. • On December 7, legislation is passed by Federal Parliament making same sex marriage legal in Australia, following the 62% vote in favour from the postal survey on the issue. • The report of the House of Representatives inquiry into the future of the film and TV industry is released with both good and bad news for MEAA members. It recommends almost doubling the film location tax offset to 30%, but a 25% cut to the feature film production offset. It also puts in doubt children’s content quotas for commercial free-to-air TV. • The Entertainment, Crew & Sport section honours three screen industry stalwarts and union activists with special awards. Ray Brown, key grip on dozens of films and TV series including Crocodile Dundee and The Matrix, is made a lifetime member, while Julie Deakins and Jenny Ward receive Gold Honour Badges. • Equity announces the collaboration of all state theatre companies to develop more effective processes to combat sexual harassment and bullying. It follows an Equity survey of 1124 performers and theatre workers which found at least 40% had experienced or witnessed sexual harassment.
In this era of inconsistently defined “fake news”, where partisan actors see Silicon Valley’s influence as a new means for social control, it should come as no surprise that a billion-dollar online platform like YouTube folds to the PR pressure when the outrage mobs start calling for institutional crackdowns against press freedoms. When it comes to their neutrality principles or their partisan prestige, such companies choose the prestige every single time.
After years of Big Tech being subjected to political testimonies, media scrutiny and activist demands for increased gatekeeping of the news — which began after presidential candidate Hillary Clinton credited “malicious propaganda” for her loss during the 2016 election — it was revealed this week YouTube will roll-out new features set to further editorialise the platform in accordance with their mainstream standards. As reported by BuzzFeed News, audiences will now be forced to see “information panels” drafted by YouTube’s “verified fact-checking partners” when searching for videos on “sensitive topics”, according to statements provided by a YouTube spokesperson.
“These panels will show up on pages of search results rather than on individual videos,” the spokesperson claims, noting the feature is currently being trial tested across India and will subsequently be rolled out globally. “To be clear: videos containing misinformation can still appear in the search results, but YouTube will generate these disclaimers when a query involves sensitive topics, with the intent to inform viewers as the company deals with the spread of misinformation on the platform.”
The feature, currently available to nearly 250 million users, will condemn videos through warnings of “Hoax Alert!” and all-caps “FAKE” to deter users from watching the content. For any common-sense user thinking in the context of medical-lifestyle content (such as the anti-vaccination movement), there’s an argument YouTube has a moral obligation to suppress propaganda harming communities through pseudo-scientific junk.
When journalist Pranav Dixit asked what kind of content would be flagged, YouTube immediately responded by citing the conflict within India and Pakistan — meaning the site will actively signify which political content is deemed legitimate and certified by their interpretation.
“As part of our ongoing efforts to build a better news experience on YouTube,” the spokesperson continued, “we are expanding our information panels to bring fact checks from eligible publishers to YouTube.” These approved fact-checking partners officially remain unlisted, providing users with no context as to who is overseeing content as permissible. BuzzFeed claims the platform is using the same fact-checking partners as Facebook, which includes the likes of Snopes, Politifact and, before its termination, The Weekly Standard (a neoconservative magazine with no fact-checking experience).
It was also revealed this fact-checking is effectively more of a flagging system whereby platform algorithms and site administrators can simply link users to Wikipedia articles on the topics they’re watching as though it’s an adequate form of counter-research. Given this isn’t the first of YouTube’s fact-checking effort, we’re able to see a pattern of big tech platforms allowing reactionary responses to substitute meaningful knowledge.
In 2018, our publication exposed the faux-transparency behind YouTube’s flagging of “state-sponsored content”. This was a policy change where the YouTube platform flags videos as potentially biased if there’s knowledge of foreign government funding. This didn’t remove the videos from the public space, but simply branded the video with a warning to inform users of potential conflicts of interests.
In theory, this isn’t at all objectionable. Users should know how their news is funded. In practice, however, the policy only seemed to flag content from the Russian government, a hot-button target for neo-McCarthy talking points in the American discourse, whereas content from Qatar’s Al Jazeera, Britain’s BBC or China’s CCTV remained untouched. This was eventually reversed after several reports noted the inconsistency.
What remains a problem is their refusal to flag content with private sector conflicts of interests, such as MSNBC, CNN and Fox News, where commercials from military aircraft and weapons manufacturers such as Boeing, Raytheon, Big Pharma, IPS giants and other industries work as effective bribes which could influence reporting. Even outlets like The Washington Post, owned by Amazon’s billionaire tech leader turned newspaper mogul Jeff Bezos, remain untouched by the flagging system when their Amazon coverage shows a clear potential for conflicting interests. It’s all an old-fashioned interpretation where state funding is a hazard, private funding is just business as usual.
This is the fundamental problem with handing gatekeeping powers to a tech aristocracy. Despite having seemingly biased opinions on the media-political landscape, administrators seem to have either no knowledge of the landscape they’re cracking down on, no time to issue a careful response or no interest in serving a community outside their profit interests. These efforts deserve more consideration than a simple link to Wikipedia and a one-word brand fit for SJW cringe compilations starring Ben Shapiro.
This stunt will only backfire on YouTube as an insufficient amount of context from unaccountable overseers will just drive dangerous radicals further down the hole of reactionary opinions. If the mainstream establishment is suppressing it, they’ll think it must be of serious value. It should be on the users themselves to debunk laughable information from spreading, limiting enforcement to legitimate harm against the people — whether it’s targetted harassment, legitimate radicalisation towards violent movements or defamation where lies are proven to harm individuals. Everything else, including heavily disagreeable politics, is just the price of freedom.
Thanks for reading! This article was originally published for TrigTent.com, a bipartisan media platform for political and social commentary, truly diverse viewpoints and facts that don’t kowtow to political correctness.
Bailey Steen is a journalist, graphic designer and film critic residing in the heart of Australia. You can also find his work right here on Medium and publications such as Janks Reviews.
For updates, feel free to follow @atheist_cvnt on his various social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Gab. You can also contact through email@example.com for personal or business reasons.
(This piece was first published on the Postcards for Peace blog on 13th March, 2019.)
Journalists are so engrossed in chasing stories, following up with sources, and working long hours that they rarely get the time to sit back and reflect on how their journalistic voice is shaped by their position, privilege and politics. Their gaze is directed outward as their job is to report on events unfolding in the universe, and help their audience make sense of what is happening and the multiple actors shaping that reality.
What would it be like to have journalists pause for a few moments and shift this gaze inward? What might they learn about themselves through this process? Once they become more aware of how their nationality, geographic location, race, skin colour, education, gender and sexual orientation inform their worldview, how can they integrate this self-knowledge into their journalistic practice?
These are some of the questions that animate the work of Beirut-based Jenny Gustafsson and Angela Saade who jointly run ‘Switch Perspective’, an initiative that works closely with journalists, bloggers, photographers, filmmakers, social media campaigners and communication officers in non-profit organizations towards developing what they call “media free of stereotypes.”
They organize two-day trainings for professionals in Lebanon, and three-week workshops for professionals in Lebanon, France and Germany, with a strong thematic focus on migration. Their purpose is to foster a culture of critical thinking and self-analysis among media professionals. They have conducted four local trainings and two international workshops. The participants have included people of Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinian, German, French, Polish, Spanish, American, Dutch, Iranian, Moroccan and Algerian heritage.
“For as long as I have known, the media is biased. It reinforces stereotypes and power inequalities in the world by amplifying the voices of those who already have an established voice,” says Gustafsson, a journalist who grew up in Sweden but has made Lebanon her home since 2009. With an academic background in political science, she has reported on migration, development and cultural traditions from places as diverse as Saudi Arabia, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Libya, Algeria, Tajikistan, Guatemala and Honduras. She is also the co-founder of Mashallah News, a digital platform highlighting urban popular culture and social issues from across the Middle East.
“Looking at my own life has made me aware of my privileges. I am a woman, I am not from an elite socio-economic background but I am White and my Swedish passport opens up doors that are not available to others. There are so many Western journalists reporting from Asia, Africa and South America but very few from these countries having a voice in big mainstream international news outlets. The Western, Orientalist world-view is setting the agenda for the rest of the world,” says Gustafsson.
She tries to use her privilege to tell stories that can challenge stereotypes. When she reports from places usually designated as conflict zones, she offers narratives that foreground beauty, agency and compassion instead of exoticizing or fetishizing the people there. A recent story of hers talks about a Muslim man in Kolkata who is the caretaker of a Jewish synagogue. Yet another is about a community of men in Saudi Arabia who don’t conform to traditional media representations of Arab men because they wear flowers in their hair.
Saade is trained as an anthropologist. Migration is not a distant topic for her. Though she spent her early childhood in Lebanon, she was forced to leave for France with her family during the 1975–1990 civil war. She speaks Arabic, English, Spanish and French. She is the co-founder of Jibal and Tabadol, both of which are organizations concerned with social justice, cultural diversity and anti-discrimination.
“With the different terrorist attacks that happened in France, I found that even my activist friends who were sensitive to the topic of stereotypes and power dynamics in society were highly affected by the way Islam and migrants were being portrayed in media,” says Saade. Her personal experience as a refugee, and her intimate experience of French as well as Lebanese society have contributed to how she thinks about journalism. She finds these trainings and workshops rewarding because participants have expressed gratitude for the opportunity to learn about their internalized racism and Islamophobia through reflective practice and peer sharing.
“I felt the need for a deeper change not only in terms of the words we use but also in terms of how we approach issues. I wanted to bring media practitioners together to think constructively because they have the potential to highlight injustices, empower people, and affirm that reality is more complex than it might seem,” says Saade.
They are aware that attitudinal shifts can take a long time, and results may not be seen in the span of two days or three weeks. Nevertheless, they want to continue doing this work. There are plans to bring out a publication that would document their content and pedagogical approach so that other facilitators can offer similar workshops and trainings. They are also looking for funding to start an exchange programme involving journalists from Lebanon and Bangladesh because knowledge sharing among these professionals from the global south can significantly intervene in correcting the lopsided world order that is reinforced by media.
TheStreet joins BuzzFeed, HuffPost, Vice and others in a scramble to stop the bleeding from digital advertising, Digiday reports:
The Jim Cramer-founded publication laid off 10 editorial staffers last Thursday, its third round of layoffs in the past 14 months, after moves into video and branded content failed to turn around advertising revenues. Most of the layoffs fell on the ad-supported side of edit, according to sources. The cuts now leave TheStreet and its sister publication, The Deal, with less than 40 editorial staffers, according to one of those people.
Companies across digital media are reaching a moment of truth, one that’s been coming for the 10+ years they’ve failed to turn a profit. But while other publications are now pivoting to video, TheStreet’s already been there, done that, and it didn’t work. According to Digiday, “while video views have grown substantially, according to former employees, boosted by the liberal use of autoplay, consumer advertising revenue grew just 2 percent during the most recent quarter, per the company filing.”
Instead, it’s banking on the value it provides to readers, focusing on events and subscriptions. I think this is a smart move for a niche publication with a dedicated audience, and it’s the approach places like Digiday and The Information rely on. It lets TheStreet focus on how to better serve readers, and it relieves the pressure of constantly chasing the newest trend in advertising. It won’t be the right approach for every outlet, but narrowing focus to a paying audience is at least the start for a different approach.