Mainstream Media in the Age of trump


It’s ok, because if you publish a partisan propaganda statement full of lies from the President, but put it in the Opinion section, you don’t need to fact check anything.


More of this please:


If a Democrat was President and the market was tanking the way it is just before an election, CNBC and FOX News would be wall to wall blaming Dem policies. Now? Crickets.


This article is pretty amazing. Matt Yglesias has been batting 1.000 lately:

Since there are exactly two significant political parties in the United States, it’s natural to think of them as essentially mirror images of each other.

But they’re not, and one critical difference is that the Republican Party benefits from the operation of mass-market propaganda broadcasts that completely abjure the principles of journalism.

[J]ournalists take their cues about what’s important from partisan media outlets and partisan social media.

Thus, the frenzies of partisan attention around “deplorables” and “lock her up” served to focus on controversies that, while not objectively significant. are perhaps particularly resonant to people who don’t have firm ideological convictions.

Meanwhile, similar policy-neutral issues like Trump’s insecure cellphone, his preposterous claim to be too busy to visit the troops, or even his apparent track record of tax fraud don’t get progressives worked into a lather in the same way.

This is a natural tactical advantage that, moreover, serves a particular strategic advantage given the Republican Party’s devotion to plutocratic principles on taxation and health insurance that have only a very meager constituency among the mass public.


Halloween Costumes, Cultural Appropriation, and Racism.

I instinctively read that as ‘Laura Ingraham.’ Whoops!


Yeah I was thinking of posting that as well. I also liked this Ezra Klein article, though it’s longer:

It’s because everything around us has changed — our business models, the way people read us, the way we compete with each other, the way we’re manipulated — and we’re not keeping up. Instead, we’re getting played by the outrage merchants and con artists and trolls and polarizers who understand this new world better. President Trump is the most successful media hacker out there, but he’s not the only one.

We’re being used to fracture American democracy, and I don’t think we know how to stop it.


I think Yglesias’s ‘crazy’ vs. ‘deplorable’ comparison is instructive, though.

Calling people ‘crazy’ can be spun as a sort of benign thing – ‘you’d have to be crazy to vote for a Democrat!’ – you know, New York bluster, all that crap. ‘Deplorables’ is much more of a considered word. Which is why I like it, by the way. I think Hillary was absolutely right. But it doesn’t slide off as easily as ‘crazy’ does.

And that’s the thing about Trump – he phrases things in this casual, ‘I’m-a-big-talking-New-Yawker’ way that makes it easy to ignore. That’s why his mountain of lies can be written off by supporters or even neutrals as ‘bluster,’ ‘he’s just a gifted BS artist,’ ‘exaggeration’ and so forth.

The very fact that Trump is so careless with language actually makes it harder to tar him with any one thing he says. 'Grab ‘em by the pussy,’ ‘they’re rapists,’ and ‘on both sides’ have probably stuck the most of anything.


Blackface is weird in that real blackface is super racist, in that it is intentionally designed to portray a ridiculous caricature of black people.

The lady dressing like Diana Ross seems different from that though. It doesn’t seem like it’s the same as blackface.


I actually agree but:

  • the public sphere is a bad place for that kind of nuance in conversations
  • Given the current climate around race, it’s better to err on the side of caution. Very little of value is lost by not letting white people do innocuous blackface
  • I’m also okay with saying that “blackface is not a thing white people can do” as one of the priveleges that we sacrifice for historical injustice


I feel like it confuses the issue though, by obfuscating what is actually bad about the historical use of blackface in minstrel shows. It seems like it limits the ability of society to celebrate black people.

Like the woman dressed as Diana Ross. That wasn’t meant to be insulting to Ross, was it? I thought it was meant to be complimentary.

So I’m not suggesting that this kind of simplification is bad because it’s unfair to white people. As you say, there’s no real sacrifice they are making.

But i think that the oversimplification may be harmful to black people, and their place in society.

To clarify though, I’m not taking about blackface, which is objectively offensive. It’s more that i think things like the woman dressed like Diana Ross isn’t blackface are all.

Halloween Costumes, Cultural Appropriation, and Racism.

Maybe one could dress as Diana Ross without coloring one’s face?


Essentially, yes.

I have a lot more to say about this topic, but I might create a new thread.


re: the diana ross thing

Racists aren’t allowed to run around with white sheets anymore, but they do other things… halfway things that you aren’t sure of. So you’re careful. They make their snide comments, and you occasionally decide to punch back. Other times you hear it and let it go because hey, you’re busy, you’re outnumbered, they look scary, you need them for something. But you hear it and you wonder whether the person meant to offend. Sometimes people are just careless, casual racists, and sometimes people are malicious about it. The second I don’t like to forgive. The thing is it’s hard to tell which is which.


Is it racist if my son wears a Black Panther halloween costume? He just likes Black Panther. Is it only racist if he paints his face? If he wants to be Thanos he’ll paint his face purple, but to be T’Challa he can’t?

I’m sure the answer is “Yes” but it’s really hard to explain this to a kid. They’ve asked me about race, without knowing it, basically asking why the other kids look different (my school district is like 50/50 white/non white). I just said people come in all shapes, sizes, and colors and what you look like is what you look like. That made sense to them, I suppose because they play Minecraft and Terraria where you can change your character’s appearance. But if they want to be a character who’s not white, I can’t let them because it’s racist, how do I explain that to a little kid?

True story: I have adopted brothers from Cuba, so they’re not white. The youngest one is 11, he’s 5 years older than my son. My son idolizes his uncle. When he makes characters in games he gives them brown skin and black curly hair because he wants them to look like his cool uncle that plays with him. I’m sure in the age of Twitter, at some point, this will be misinterpreted as racist. But it’s not.


I think that part of the problem is that it is inexplicable.
Some of these things aren’t actually racist, by any logical measure. They just have things in common with racist things, and thus they REMIND people of racism, and then they become a target for anger at racism… but I think it’s a misplaced target.

Maybe I’m mistaken, but I’ve always thought that traditional blackface was offensive, not simply because it was depicting a black person… but because it was depicting a horrific caricature of a black person, suggesting that they are sub-human beasts.


I thought it had at least something to do with the fact that white people in blackface portrayed black people on stage / in film because black people weren’t allowed on stage / in film. E.g Othello, Khartoum, etc.


I think the racist component (by modern standards) arose during the Vaudeville era when white performers used blackface to perform “humorous” stereotyped caricatures of black people. I vaguely recall seeing some black and white snippets of white vaudeville performers in blackface running around shouting “Oh Lordy” and behaving in foolish/childish ways. I believe that’s when the direct connection between blackface and racist portrayals of African Americans was emphasized, if not started.



If you really want to get into what blackface means you have to get into the history of the minstrel show, which is extremely complex in its own right.

I think the Othello example is interesting in that it comes out of a completely different theatrical tradition. Until recently I imagine there weren’t many black Shakespearean actors, and so you put on makeup to play a Moor (Moors, I assume, might also have had a paler complexion than Subsaharan Africans, if that makes any difference). Nowadays, of course, there are lots of great non-Caucasian Shakespearean actors. It’s also somewhat in line with the tradition of total artifice whereby women were originally portrayed by boys, not actresses, though that died out centuries ago. (Mostly: Mark Rylance did Twelfth Night in drag a few years back.)

There are lots of outliers and edge cases. One of Fred Astaire’s greatest dance numbers, ‘Bojangles of Harlem,’ is performed in blackface, but because it’s styled as a respectful homage to a dance legend, and also because Astaire’s performance is so technically amazing, it gets a bit of a pass. Then there’s the whole history of yellowface. Were Asian characters portrayed by white actors (Mr. Moto, etc.) because they enforced racist stereotypes or because there weren’t many bankable Asian actors at the time? I’d say both/and rather than either/or. Meanwhile, Kingsley evidently had enough Indian (or Indian-adjacent) blood to play Gandhi without raising eyebrows, but what about Linda Hunt’s amazing Oscar-winning turn in Year of Living Dangerously? Drag and yellowface!

And in the middle of it all, of course, is Mickey Rooney, making every Audrey Hepburn fan shudder every time they put on Breakfast at Tiffany’s…