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What Not to Expect When You’re Expecting

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Your first OBGYN visit

“On your first visit to the OBGYN, you will receive information about the facilities, the birth team, and undergo an ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy and take measurements of the fetus. You’ll also meet with a physician and get the chance to ask lots of questions!” — From a guide to labor and birth

What not to expect:
You stride purposefully up to the front desk, flashing your positive pregnancy test like a backstage pass. “Welcome,” the intake administrator says. “There’s no paperwork. We received all your records electronically because electronic delivery of information simply isn’t that hard.”

The door next to the desk opens and a PA beckons you, saying, “The doctor will see you now because this is the exact time you scheduled with us.”

The ultrasound shows you the clear and unmistakable shape of a baby, not just a gray smudge.

The doctor, who has been with you throughout the visit, gives you some information about pregnancy. “Stay out of hot tubs and Jacuzzis and so forth. They’re too hot for the baby,” the doctor says.

“What about, like, people who are pregnant on the equator? It’s hot there, right? Don’t they give birth just fine?” you say.

The doctor’s mouth falls open in shock. “My God, that’s an excellent question. I never thought about that.” The doctor leans forward conspiratorially and says, “Between you and me, I’m pretty sure the no deli meat rule is also bullshit. Why don’t we finish up this appointment at Jimmy John’s? My treat.”

Later, at Jimmy John’s, while you’re both eating Italian subs, the doctor says, “Here’s my cell phone number. Call me directly for future appointments and questions. You don’t even need to come to the office; we can do the visits here.”

“Here at Jimmy John’s?” you ask.

“Yep. And don’t worry about the subs — they’re covered by your insurance.”

Installing the car seat

“Make sure the seat is tightly secured, allowing no more than one inch of movement from side to side or front to back when grasped at the bottom. Your local fire department performs car seat inspections. Nine out of ten car seats are installed incorrectly!” — From a guide to labor and birth

What not to expect:
You drive to the fire station. Nine other cars are having car seat inspections done. Firefighters are shaking their heads in disgust. Future parents are hanging their heads in shame. Everyone has installed their car seat incorrectly.

A firefighter approaches your vehicle and begins inspection. You wait. The firefighter looks surprised, shocked. “O’Malley, O’Hanlihan, Murphy,” the firefighter calls to several other firefighters nearby. “You gotta come see this.” The other three come over and look. They emerge from your back seat with the same shocked look on their faces. One of them turns to you. “I’m Captain Firefighter Murphy,” the captain says. “That car seat is installed perfectly.”

“Sometimes we let people slide down the pole, Cap,” one of the other firefighters says. “Maybe we could—”

“No,” says Captain Murphy. “I’ve got a different idea.”

Not only do you get to slide down the pole, but you also get to ride in the fire truck! All the firefighters are in the truck, too. They’re leaning out the doorways and windows and banging on the sides in jubilation. The nine failing cars watch while the fire truck drives in circles around the station. The lights are flashing, the siren is on. You’re on the top of the truck. You’re spraying the hose up in the air. You’re wearing a firefighter’s helmet.

You get to keep the helmet as a memento.

Going to the hospital for delivery

“It’s time to go to the hospital when your contractions follow the 5-1-1 rule. Five minutes apart, lasting at least one minute, for at least one hour. Your water breaking is another sign it’s time to go to the hospital but remember this only occurs in one out of ten pregnancies. Make sure to pack your hospital bag with comfy clothes, snacks, your birth plan, and an extra-long phone charging cord before your due date so it’s ready to grab on your way out the door.” — From a guide to labor and birth

What not to expect:
You are in the kitchen making firehouse chili when your water breaks. You turn off the stove and grab your hospital bag that is packed with comfy clothes, your birth plan, an extra-long phone charging cord, and several foot-long Jimmy John’s subs that are covered by insurance.

On the way to the hospital, you exceed the speed limit and are pulled over by a cop.

“My water broke!” you shout out the window as the officer approaches your car.

The cop is on the radio in an instant. “I’m gonna need all units — repeat, all units — to converge for an escort to the hospital. The full parade, folks, double time.” The cop leans down to speak to you through your window. “We’re gonna get you there. You ready?”

“Should I follow you?” you ask.

The cop winks and says, “I think you know how to handle these roads. You lead. Just punch it, and we’ll take care of the rest.”

So you punch it. Your tires squeal and leave streaks on the blacktop. You’re flying down the road. Cop cars pour out of side streets to meet you, lights on and sirens blaring. At every side street you pass, more and more cops join the pack you’re leading. They’re blocking intersections and holding back traffic for you, and you’ve got the pedal all the way to the floor. You didn’t know your Camry could even go this fast, but it’s driving smooth, and that rattling noise you’d been ignoring appears to be gone.

Finally, you make the skidding turn that brings you to the entrance of the labor and delivery section of the hospital. One hundred cop cars come screaming in behind you. The doctor is waiting at the door with a wheelchair and a nurse; the cops called ahead and told them you were coming. You get out of your car, and the nurse takes your bag. “Get those subs in a refrigerator, stat,” the doctor says to the nurse while helping you into the wheelchair. The doctor feels your stomach then addresses you and the police escort waiting behind you. “Thanks to your speed, this baby will be born in about five minutes with no discomfort.” The crowd of police cheer.

The doctor leans down and looks you in the eye. “No need to worry anymore. You did everything exactly right.”

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Right-wing media is stoking anti-immigration hysteria again. The rest of the media needs to fight back this time.

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In the vacuum left behind by Donald Trump, the ringleaders of the right-wing media ecosystem are finding new and old ways to keep stoking white hysteria.

They’ve already found one winner: reprising the toxic, racist, anti-immigrant rhetoric that brought Trump to power in the first place, but which had ebbed as Trump turned to other grievances instead.

Cue Tucker Carlson, stoking racialized fear the other night on Fox News, charging that under Joe Biden’s immigration policies “an MS-13 member arrested for drug dealing with previous convictions for say, theft, extortion, grand larceny” could be released “maybe into your neighborhood.”

Cue Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, darkly warning that immigrants will “swamp the voting power of all of you Americans out there who still know the country’s traditions, constitution and history,” and “overthrow everything we love about America.”

Cue the former Trump ICE appointee prophesying to a receptive “Fox & Friends” host that “people will die, people will be raped, people will be victimized by criminals that shouldn’t even be here.”

Cue Stephen Miller, the architect of Trump’s most heartless anti-immigrant policies, telling Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo that “the legislation put forward by Biden and congressional Democrats would fundamentally erase the very essence of America’s nationhood”; and bemoaning “the cruelty and inhumanity of Joe Biden’s immigration policies” with Ingraham.

It’s filthy stuff — visceral appeals to the very worst elements of American pathology. It reduces immigration to one issue: race. It feeds fear and hatred. It incites violence.

We’ve seen it before. Throughout the 2016 election campaign, the mainstream media gave Trump seemingly unlimited, unrebutted airtime and bandwidth, even though — or perhaps because — he used the kind of language that had been considered outside the bounds of political discourse.

And two years later, the media dutifully succumbed to hysteria about “caravans” of migrants that Trump insisted were an existential threat to the country — until of course they were not, as soon as the midterm elections were over.

So the big question now is: Will the mainstream media will once again allow right-wing demagogues to establish the framing for immigration coverage? Or, after all that has transpired, have newsroom leaders finally realized that their obligation is to be on the lookout for the next big lie and, rather than enable it, figure out how to counter it and then do so insistently and enthusiastically?

With Biden slowing deportations and pushing for the biggest overhaul in immigration reform since the 1980s, reporters have countless opportunities to engage in thoughtful, nuanced coverage of a tremendously complex issue that has profound moral and practical implications for every community in the country. It’s a huge and important story. And it’s a government story, not a politics story.

Rather than get distracted by the ginned-up panic of racists and the click-baity conflicts at the border, journalists need to tell the real, complex stories of immigrants and immigration. They need to encourage honest, fact-based debate. And they need to remind people that immigration strengthens the nation and defines us as a people. Newsrooms need to embrace the narrative of inclusion, rather than the narrative of invasion.

And although it’s tempting to simply ignore what’s going on at Fox News and other toxic propaganda outlets, the rest of the media needs to call out their vile attempts to spread hate and dissension through lies.


On one recent night in particular, inspired by a hyperbolic misreading of new interim instructions for ICE personnel, Carlson and Ingraham telegraphed their grotesque game plan.

The plan is to make their viewers think about immigration as an invasion of Black and brown criminals. It’s to make them fear for their safety, their children’s safety, their homes, their neighborhoods, their quality of life and even their form of government. It’s to make them feel personally victimized. It’s to get them to blame Democrats for their problems. And right now, for good measure, it’s about turning around the charge of insurrection and projecting it on their enemies.

On that one night, Feb. 8, Carlson started off by stating inaccurately that the “Biden administration is releasing thousands of foreign nationals living here illegally into American neighborhoods without bothering to test them for the coronavirus.”

Carlson also complained that “taxpayers are paying for foreign nationals who should be deported to live in hotel rooms.”

Ironically, it’s actually the Jewish Family Service charity that is arranging for hotel rooms — so that the asylum-seekers can observe San Diego’s 10-day virus quarantine order. But whatever.

Carlson continued:

Well, it means, for example, that an MS-13 member arrested for drug dealing with previous convictions for say, theft, extortion, grand larceny, would have to be released back into the United States, maybe into your neighborhood, even if he had been deported many times before. That’s not some crazy hypothetical, by the way. Things like that will happen.

The new instructions to ICE agents actually called for a greater focus on deporting people who had ”proven themselves to be public safety threats,” including gang members.

In Carlson’s telling, the administration’s intent is “to hurt the United States as profoundly as possible”:

How does all of that conceivably help you as an American, as someone who pays for all of this stuff? Well, of course, it doesn’t help you. But helping you is not the point. No one is even pretending the point of this was to help you. It’s the opposite. The point is to punish you.

When we release people who break our laws without even bothering to test them for the virus, the same virus we’ve used as a pretext for wrecking your life, what we’re really saying in the clearest possible terms is: We don’t like you.

This isn’t a policy. It’s an act of aggression. It’s designed to humiliate you and demoralize you.

And his jaw-dropping conclusion:

Reckless and destructive immigration policy is the penalty you are paying for your white supremacy.

Your “white supremacy,” he told his audience, is making you a victim. It’s putting you in danger.

Ingraham, if you can believe it, was even more unhinged. It’s part of a plot to take over the government, she warned:

Folks, this is one big bienvenidos MS-13, a billboard flashing — might as well be — across Central America and beyond. Biden’s open-borders zealots have what they want. Big business, they get their slave labor. And the social justice warriors, the far-left squad types, they have their new population that can be molded and formed into Socialist Party faithful.

Eventually, they hope to swamp the voting power of all of you Americans out there who still know the country’s traditions, constitution and history.

We aren’t insurrectionists, she argued: They are!

Democrats are arguing that Trump welcomed and incited a violent incursion into the Capitol. When it is they who are enticing illegals to bust through our borders, exploit our resources and commit crimes. And we’re not talking about a few hundred, we’re talking hundreds of thousands, eventually millions, if the Democrats have their way.

There is an insurrection taking place against America all right. It’s been going on for years in the deepest depth of the D.C. swamp. And now its figurehead resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This insurrection seeks to overthrow everything we love about America by defaming it, silencing it and even prosecuting it. This is an organized mob funded by billionaires. It’s supported by celebrities, and it’s aided and abetted by propagandistic news organizations every single step of the way.

These insurrectionists have stormed our schools with BLM indoctrinators. They shuttered our classrooms by empowering union heavies. They’ve overwhelmed small businesses with idiotic, stupid lockdowns. They’ve robbed Americans of good paying oil and gas jobs with obscene climate change dictates. They’ve ripped down historical markers from Washington to Lincoln. They’ve terrorized patriotic Americans who are now afraid to just speak their minds.

I admit I don’t listen to the Fox News night crew very often, but my sense is that the prospect of nonwhite people being allowed into this country again sets them off, binds their grievances and inspires them to spew evil lunacy like nothing else.

And it’s not just the night crew. Earlier that same day, Steve Doocy on “Fox & Friends” interviewed Chuck Jenkins — a sheriff from Frederick County, Maryland, just north of Washington — who warned that “Americans will not be safe,” and said, “This is going to be disastrous, dangerous. It’s going to impact every county, every city, every community in this country. This is total lawlessness.”

Two days later, Harris Faulkner interviewed Rep. Chip Roy, Republican of Texas, who said Biden’s immigration policies are “endangering American citizens” — as well as “creating distractions and other channels to move vast qualities of fentanyl and dangerous narcotics into the United States.”

Doocy also had on Tom Homan, the former acting director of ICE in the Trump administration. “Be clear what’s happening here,” Homan said. “President Biden has declared the entire country a sanctuary jurisdiction” — “Yeah,” Doocy interjected — “which means more tragedy is going to come. mark my words. people will die. People will be raped. People will be victimized by criminals that shouldn’t even be here.”

And it continues. On Monday, Sen. Lindsey Graham told Sean Hannity that Biden’s policies “will lead to caravan after caravan. By June of this year, if the Biden administration continues to dismantle the wall and change the Trump policies of asylum, we will have one million people hit the border.”

“This is madness!” Stephen Miller told Bartiromo on Sunday. “These illegal immigrants are being put in harm’s way all because of a policy choice Joe Biden made to restore ‘catch and release.’ That is cruel, that is inhumane, and we are seeing the results of that right now,” he told Ingraham on Tuesday.

And Trump himself is expected to engage in anti-immigration rhetoric when he speaks on Sunday at the Conservative Political Action Committee meeting in Orlando.

Dump the political reporters

Immigration is the perfect fit for Fox News and the right-wing propaganda media ecosystem. It’s a complex, multi-faceted issue that Fox and the others can “reduce to code language for race,” then make visceral by calling up “the longstanding fear of the other, as defined by race,” Thomas Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), told me.

“The rest of the media needs to contextualize much more,” he said.

When it comes to meeting that challenge, the good news is that many newsrooms around the country have immigration beats staffed with talented reporters who understand the issue in all its complexities, and reject the dehumanization implicit in anti-immigrant hysteria.

The bad news is that newsroom leaders still let their political staffs cover the issue, often much more prominently.

When what really matters is finding solutions, not gamesmanship, it’s past time to get the political reporters off the story, and let the beat reporters do their jobs.

As part of an international study of how the media covers migration, Bill Orme wrote for the Ethical Journalism Network about the tension between the different reporting staffs in the U.S.:

Many [immigration] beat reporters have distinguished themselves with insightful, empathetic coverage of issues ranging from assimilation challenges to the legal netherworld of U.S. immigration courts to the systematic deportation of long-term residents for minor criminal offenses. Yet when immigration becomes a headline issue in a presidential campaign, the topic is often assigned to political reporters, rather than beat specialists, reflecting in some ways the accurate news judgment that this political story has little to do with demographic realities. The focus of that coverage is on the potential electoral consequences of the immigration debate, and on the political personalities who are most prominently focused on the issue, rather than on the substance of the issue itself.

Migratory Notes and the Columbia Journalism Review surveyed the field in early 2020.  Brendan Fitzgerald wrote about the great work immigration beat reporters were doing:

In 2019, news outlets detailed the origins of America’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy and the ways in which it fractured families. They revealed the sprawl of private detention facilities, the prevalence of ICE’s use of isolation cells, and the mechanisms by which domestic law enforcement agencies monitor immigrants, as well as the journalists who cover them. And they showed the unique vulnerabilities sewn into the fabric of everyday life for immigrants in the U.S.

Among the standout reporting during the Trump years that people have called to my attention:

  • ProPublica correspondent Ginger Thompson’s heartbreaking report on children being separated from their parents at the border, which featured audio of a 6-year-old inside a Texas detention center crying and pleading for help.
  • This American Life’s Pulitzer-Prize winning episode from the frontlines of the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” asylum policy including a makeshift refugee camp, and first-person accounts from the officers who sent them there to wait in the first place.
  • The work of NBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff, whose June 2018 visit to a former Walmart in Texas used to warehouse migrant boys led to two years of reporting on child separation, and a book.
  • Migratory Notes, a weekly newsletter that launched just days after Trump took office and issued the first travel ban, and that has provided an invaluable roundup of immigration-related stories ever since.
  • By contrast, political reporters focused endlessly on Trump’s words. And it wasn’t until August 2019, when a Trump-inspired white nationalist opened fire on Latino families at an El Paso Walmart, that political reporters explicitly linked Trump’s rhetoric to reality. Reporters who had previously offered up unrebutted stenography suddenly noticed that in the prior two years, when discussing immigration at political rallies, Trump had said “invasion” at least 19 times; “animal” 34 times; and “killer” nearly three dozen times.

Going forward, the political-reporter approach — an obsessions with minor incremental developments, and an insistence that there two sides to every issue and clearly identified winners and losers — is particularly ill-suited to the coverage of immigration.

Consider, for instance, that the dominant Republican position has changed dramatically over the years — not because the underlying realities have changed but because the rhetoric of the party’s leaders has become so hysterical.

“If you look back to 1986, the last time there was real immigration reform, you saw so much of it being pushed by Republicans,” said Daniela Gerson, a journalism professor at California State University, Northridge, and a co-founder of Migratory Notes. “The shift has just been incredible under Trump, over the last four years.”

As the party of big business, Republicans used to see immigrant labor as a key to economic growth. Ronald Reagan’s rhetoric about immigration was inclusive — in fact he saw immigration as central to the nation’s exceptionalism. His idealized “city on the hill” was “teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace — a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors, and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”

So what exactly do Republican leaders believe now, and why? What do their funders think? Political reporters don’t really ask those interesting questions, they just assume there is a conflict and cover that.

Political reporters also often frame the immigration issue as a “winner” for Republicans, despite much evidence to the contrary.

Politico recently reported about Democratic “anxiety” surrounding Biden’s immigration actions, noting that “in a recent Morning Consult poll of the popularity of Biden’s executive actions, the immigration-oriented actions tended to be the least popular.” But that was only in contrast to the other, even more popular executive actions. The poll actually showed support margins of 55 to 31 percent for re-evaluating Trump’s immigration policies; 51-38 for ending border wall construction; and 48-39 for ending the Muslim ban. Expanding the refugee cap from 15,000 to 125,000 was the only order in negative polling terrain, 48-39.

A recent Quinnipiac poll found that 74 percent of Americans say undocumented immigrants who are currently living in the United States should be allowed to stay

In 2020 electoral contests in the South where immigration was a major issue, Republicans lost sheriff’s elections to candidates who vowed not to collude with ICE.

But the biggest problem with reporters who focus on politics rather than policy is that they look at the growing number of migrants headed for the border, and the need to shelter migrant children, and rather than write about what a humane nation should do about it,  their big conclusion is: “The risks of an early political backlash for Biden are growing.”

Embracing complexity

While Fox News and mainstream political reporters see a one-dimensional story with winner and loser, in real life immigration is a complex issue to cover because, as Saenz told me, it’s all about the “balancing of different interests.”

“It should be like 50 different debates,” Saenz said. He helped me think through some of them:

For instance, one debate should be about undocumented immigrants who have lived in this country for decades. That’s a very different debate from what you do with someone who has just arrived. Similarly, the right approach for people seeking political asylum is not necessarily the same for as for economic refugees.

One familiar debate is about how to treat the Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and went to school here. But what about people who entered with temporary protected status?

There are also a whole set of issues around due process and the workings of the immigration court system — all of which vary enormously based on whether someone is claiming asylum, and why, and from where, and whether they’re newly arrived or have been here a long time, and so on.

What about immigrants who have criminal convictions? For some people that’s the easiest call: You send them back. But what if they arrived here as children? And what if they became criminalized here? Is it fair to send them back to terrorize the countries of their birth? Arguably, sending hardened criminals of Central American origin back to Central America has destabilized the entire region and led to the migration crisis of today.

Consider detention. When is it appropriate, for whom, under what circumstances and for how long? What is the role of private detention facilities?

How should the future flow of immigration be controlled? Should the priority be to provide needed labor? To unite families? A hybrid? How do we evaluate per-country quotas?

And the reality is that there has be some enforcement going forward. Can ICE and the Border Patrol be reformed, and if so, how? What sort of independent oversight is reasonable?

How should we manage the border? Is surveillance a better solution than a wall? What should interior enforcement be like? What happens when arrests disrupt families, communities and workplaces?

When the Columbia Journalism Review asked immigration beat reporters what issues deserved more coverage, they suggested the undocumented population from Asia, the immigration courts, and the massive immigration processing backlog and its effects on people’s lives.

Gerson, the founder of Migratory Notes, said that it’s “important to give voice to people’s concerns about immigrants” and hear them out. She’s right about that.

But Saenz noted: “The media doesn’t help itself when it goes to right-wing extremists and portrays them as if they are reasonable policy thinkers who have a reasonable point of view, when they are objectively right-wing freaks.” He’s right about that, too.

Holding Biden to account

Counter-programming Fox News and writing about immigration with sensitivity and nuance is not, by any stretch, the same thing as becoming a Biden booster. The goal should be fact-based reporting and accountability.

The mainstream media went way too easy on Barack Obama, allowing the focus on politics — and his big promises about immigration reform — to obscure his real legacy, which was deporting more undocumented immigrants than Bush or Trump ever did.

The Biden administration is already disappointing some pro-immigration activists. The ACLU’s Naureen Shah recently wrote that “for now it has chosen to continue giving ICE officers significant discretion to conduct operations that harm our communities and tear families apart.”

The situation Trump left behind — with refugees in camps in Mexico, children still separated from parents, radicalized ICE agents and an enormous backup in every category — is not something that can be cleaned up easily or quickly.

But to his credit, Biden isn’t oversimplifying the issue. In fact, at a CNN town hall on Feb. 17, he discussed its complexity:

There’s a whole range of things that relate to immigration, including the whole idea how you deal with — you know, what confuses people, is you talk about refugees, you talk about undocumented, you talk about people who are seeking asylum, and you talk about people who are coming … from camps or being held around the world.

And there are four different criteria for being able to come to the United States.  The vast majority of the people, those 11 million undocumented, they’re not Hispanics; they’re people who came on a visa — who was able to buy a ticket to get in a plane, and didn’t go home. They didn’t come across the Rio Grande swimming.

He summed up his overarching immigration philosophy by saying that “everyone is entitled to be treated with decency, with dignity.  Everyone is entitled to that. And we don’t do that enough.”

For instance, he said:

For the first time in American history, if you’re seeking asylum — meaning you’re being persecuted, you’re seeking asylum — you can’t do it from the United States…

Come with me into Sierra Leone. Come with me into parts of Lebanon. Come with me around the world and see people piled up in camps, kids dying, no way out, refugees fleeing from persecution. We, the United States, used to do our part.

The onus on journalists going forward is to avoid the simple take — especially as refugees start to make their way to the border in higher numbers, which is widely expected.

“That conflict works really well for the media,” Gerson said. “But reporters should try and tell a more complete immigration story.”

The post Right-wing media is stoking anti-immigration hysteria again. The rest of the media needs to fight back this time. appeared first on Press Watch.

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Limbaugh obituaries show the mainstream media still fawning over the people who poisoned politics

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The leaders of our elite newsrooms had a whole year to figure out how they were going to frame Rush Limbaugh’s life.

He announced he was dying of lung cancer last February, right before Donald Trump gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. It was a striking moment, symbolic of how thoroughly Limbaugh’s moral rot had infected the body politic, all the way to the presidency and its most hallowed traditions.

In the ensuing months, even the most stubbornly aloof mainstream news organizations began to publicly acknowledge Trump as a liar, a failure, a loser, and an inciter of division and violence.

But calling out the hatred and bigotry that are now firmly established as the central tenets of the modern Republican Party remains a step too far. Our newsroom leaders still cannot bring themselves to declare that the hysteria and conspiracy theories that once inhabited only the lunatic fringes of our political discourse – until Rush Limbaugh, and then Donald Trump, came along – don’t merit respect, but banishment, rejection, and denial.

And that is why, even with a year to prewrite and edit, major media outlets on Wednesday published obituaries celebrating Limbaugh’s extraordinary success as a “conservative provocateur.” They whitewashed his once-unimaginably vile and divisive demagoguery as “comic bombast.” They hailed him as “the voice of American conservatism,” when what really matters about Rush Limbaugh is that he spread hatred more effectively and lucratively than any American before him. He didn’t hide his bigotry, and, thanks to him,  neither, eventually, did the Republican Party.

Even if you are trying to avoid hyperbole, it’s not hard to come up with a top for a defensible Limbaugh obit. You could write something like:

He pushed the national political discourse far to the right, giving voice to racism, misogyny and conspiracy theories that became central to the rise of Trump and the radicalization of the Republican Party.

Heck, you could simply publish some of the horrible things he said, fairly high up in the story.

But instead, too many mainstream-media obituaries reflected admiration for the guy, starting with the headlines.

Rush Limbaugh, conservative radio provocateur and cultural phenomenon, dies at 70, proclaimed the Washington Post. Veteran reporter Marc Fisher wrote that Limbaugh  “deployed comic bombast and relentless bashing of liberals, feminists and environmentalists to become the nation’s most popular radio talk-show host and lead the Republican Party into a politics of anger and obstruction.”

As Daily Beast media reporter Max Tani tweeted: “i imagine many people did not find the bombast to be comical.” No kidding.

Fischer basically subscribed to Limbaugh’s own assessment of his achievements:

He saw himself as a teacher, polemicist, media critic and GOP strategist, but above all as an entertainer and salesman. Mr. Limbaugh mocked Democrats and liberals, touted a traditional Midwestern, moralistic patriotism and presented himself on the air as a biting but jovial know-it-all who pontificated “with half my brain tied behind my back just to make it fair,” as he often said.

Fisher euphemistically described Limbaugh’s grotesque villainization of his political enemies as “demonizing liberals and pushing conservative elected officials to hard lines on issues such as immigration, government spending and denial of global warming.”

And he belittled Limbaugh’s critics as humorless:

Although critics of the show spent decades decrying it as offensive, even cruel, his fans defended Mr. Limbaugh’s insults as more funny than slashing. He won attention from far beyond his radio audience with barbs aimed at gays; Blacks; liberals; feminists, whom he sometimes called “feminazis”; and environmentalists, whom he derided as “tree-huggers.”

The Associated Press obituary, by Matt Sedensky, due to appear in countless newspapers, was headlined Rush Limbaugh, ‘voice of American conservatism,’ has died. (That was the AP’s own characterization, despite the quote marks. The story quoted Ronald Reagan calling him “the number one voice for conservatism,” which is a bit different.) The lead paragraph was effusive:

Rush Limbaugh, the talk radio host who ripped into liberals and laid waste to political correctness with a gleeful malice that made him one of the most powerful voices in politics, influencing the rightward push of American conservatism and the rise of Donald Trump, died Wednesday. He was 70.

So was the third:

Unflinchingly conservative, wildly partisan, bombastically self-promoting and larger than life, Limbaugh galvanized listeners for more than 30 years with his talent for sarcastic, insult-laced commentary.

So was the eighth:

Limbaugh took as a badge of honor the title “most dangerous man in America.” He said he was the “truth detector,” the “doctor of democracy,” a “lover of mankind,” a “harmless, lovable little fuzz ball” and an “all-around good guy.” He claimed he had “talent on loan from God.”

It wasn’t until the ninth paragraph that you read about Limbaugh calling his enemies “feminazis” and “faggots.”  It wasn’t until the tenth that you got a taste of his incredible cruelty:

When actor Michael J. Fox, suffering from Parkinson’s disease, appeared in a Democratic campaign commercial, Limbaugh mocked his tremors. When a Washington advocate for the homeless killed himself, he cracked jokes. As the AIDS epidemic raged in the 1980s, he made the dying a punchline. He called 12-year-old Chelsea Clinton a dog.

Even then, the article only referred to “accusations” of bigotry and racism – until, way down toward the end, there was an indication of his real legacy, from a critic, of course:

“What he did was to bring a paranoia and really mean, nasty rhetoric and hyperpartisanship into the mainstream,” said Martin Kaplan, a University of Southern California professor who is an expert on the intersection of politics and entertainment and a frequent critic of Limbaugh. “The kind of antagonism and vituperativeness that characterized him instantly became acceptable everywhere.”

At NPR, David Folkenflik’s obit anemically referred to Limbaugh as a “conservative broadcaster… who entertained millions and propelled waves of Republican politicians.”

Maybe some news organizations were caught by surprise — although I don’t know how that could be.

At the Los Angeles Times, the original obituary describing Limbaugh as a “controversial and widely influential conservative radio personality,” was eventually updated, with Dorany Pineda noting Limbaugh’s sway over Republican leaders and concluding that “In ways both big and small, it was Limbaugh who arose as the architect of the deep political and cultural divides in America that came into full focus during the Trump era.”

The first version of the obituary posted by the New York Times, by Robert McFadden was dramatically revised three or four hours later, with the additional byline of media writer Michael Grynbaum. The headline calling Limbaugh “Talk Radio’s Conservative Provocateur” was changed to say that he had “Turned Talk Radio Into a Right-Wing Attack Machine.” Limbaugh was no longer “a divisive darling of the right,” thank goodness. Instead, the Times wrote:

He became a singular figure in the American media, fomenting mistrust, grievances and even hatred on the right for Americans who did not share their views, and he pushed baseless claims and toxic rumors long before Twitter and Reddit became havens for such disinformation. In politics, he was not only an ally of Mr. Trump but also a precursor, combining media fame, right-wing scare tactics and over-the-top showmanship to build an enormous fan base and mount attacks on truth and facts.

His conspiracy theories ranged from baldfaced lies about Barack Obama’s birthplace — the president “has yet to have to prove that he’s a citizen,” he said falsely in 2009 — to claims that Mr. Obama’s 2009 health care bill would empower “death panels” and “euthanize” elderly Americans. In the wake of last year’s election, he amplified Mr. Trump’s groundless claims of voter fraud; on President Biden’s Inauguration Day, during one of his final broadcasts, he insisted to listeners that the new administration had “not legitimately won it.”

But even that was euphemistic. For the real story, you had to read Nick Robins-Early and Christopher Mathias’s obituary on HuffPost, running under the headline “Rush Limbaugh, Bigoted King Of Talk Radio, Dies At 70.”

They made an overwhelming case in support of the headline:

Once, after arguing with a Black man who called into his show, he told the caller to “take that bone out of your nose and call me back.“ Another time, Limbaugh asked his audience, “Have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?” while discussing the Black civil rights activist and politician. Limbaugh once ludicrously asserted that “if any race of people should not have guilt about slavery, it’s Caucasians.” He invited a guest on air who sang “Barack, the Magic Negro” to the tune of “Puff, the Magic Dragon.” In 2016, he read an essay on air that had been penned by a well-known white supremacist.

Limbaugh’s radio career was also one long exercise in misogyny, perhaps best summed up by his thesis that “feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society.”

Nearly every marginalized group or minority bore the brunt of Limbaugh’s bigotry. Once, while speaking about the genocide of America’s indigenous peoples, Limbaugh said, “Holocaust 90 million Indians? Only 4 million left? They all have casinos, what’s to complain about?”

Limbaugh frequently mirrored white nationalist talking points when discussing Latino immigrants, whom he described as lazy and dependent on the government. He called migrants at America’s southern border an “invasion.”

An opponent of marriage equality — which he suggested was “perverted” and “depraved” — Limbaugh argued in 2016 that legalizing gay marriage would lead to bestiality. “What happens if you love your dog?” he said. He once referred to transgender people as being mentally ill.

Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, Limbaugh also frequently denigrated those who were HIV positive, saying the best way to stop the spread of the virus was to “not ask another man to bend over and make love at the exit point.” He spoke out against federal funding to fight the virus too, calling it the “only federally protected virus.”

There’s no denying Limbaugh was a giant, and that his life makes a helluva story. But his legacy is not a media empire, it’s his extraordinary influence on the rise of far-right, white-supremacist, reality-denying, nationalism. He, as much as anyone, brought us Trump, the constant lying, the virulent racism and misogyny, the hostility toward governing, the corruption, and ultimately Covid denialism and insurrection.

The Limbaugh obituaries are a good test of whether mainstream news organizations are ready to call out the radical, hate-filled hysteria that pre-existed and survives Trump, or whether they are going to go back to normalizing it. The early signs are not good.

The post Limbaugh obituaries show the mainstream media still fawning over the people who poisoned politics appeared first on Press Watch.

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1105 days ago
"The Limbaugh obituaries are a good test of whether mainstream news organizations are ready to call out the radical, hate-filled hysteria that pre-existed and survives Trump, or whether they are going to go back to normalizing it. The early signs are not good."
San Francisco, CA

Fixing Racial Bias in Journalism

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For her series Counternarratives, artist and media critic Alexandra Bell takes newspaper articles and layouts from the NY Times that demonstrate racial bias and fixes them. For example, Bell took the notorious double profile of Michael Brown and his killer Darren Wilson and placed the focus entirely on Brown:

Counternarratives Alexandra Bell

In this video, Bell explains her process:

I think everything is about race. Black communities, gay communities, immigrant communities feel a lot of media representations to be inadequate, biased. There’s a lot of reporting around police violence and black men, and I realized a lot of the arguments that we were having were about depictions. I started to wonder how different would it be if I swapped images or changed some of the text.

See also Kendra Pierre-Louis’ recent article for Nieman Lab: It’s time to change the way the media reports on protests. Here are some ideas.

Tags: Alexandra Bell   art   journalism   Kendra Pierre-Louis   NY Times   racism   video
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Clair de Lune in the moonlight

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NASA recently published this visualization of sunrises and sunsets on the Moon set to the strains of Claude Debussy’s most famous work, Clair de Lune.

The visuals were composed like a nature documentary, with clean cuts and a mostly stationary virtual camera. The viewer follows the Sun throughout a lunar day, seeing sunrises and then sunsets over prominent features on the Moon. The sprawling ray system surrounding Copernicus crater, for example, is revealed beneath receding shadows at sunrise and later slips back into darkness as night encroaches.

A lovely way to spend five minutes. (thx, gina)

Tags: Claude Debussy   Moon   music   video
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2021 days ago
*kisses fingers*
San Francisco, CA

I Was Going to Vote Democrat This November Until All This Incivility Forced Me Back On the Trump Train


First off, let me say that, although I voted for President Trump and the GOP in 2016 — and have voted Republican in every election since 2000 — I disagree with them about a lot of things. For example, I don’t like all the tweeting. So I guess you could say I’m one of those heartland swing voters the Democrats should be reaching out to this fall. Instead, they’re totally blowing it with all this nastiness they keep spewing at the president and his administration. Because for me, it all comes down to the issues.

Take healthcare. Sure, I was disappointed that Trump, who said when he campaigned for president that it would be “easy” to replace Obamacare with “something terrific,” never got around to it. Unfortunately, I found myself and my family uninsured — so I was ready and willing to listen to Democrat proposals on how to fix our broken healthcare system. But then Snoop Dogg dropped his “Lavender” video, in which he pretends to shoot a clown who looked like the President, and that was that.

Now look, I like healthcare as much as anyone else, and I’m concerned about my wife’s untreated carcinoma, but Snoop went way over the line. Sorry, I just can’t reward that incivility by pulling the lever for Democrats at the ballot box.

And take the opioids.

During the campaign, Trump said he’d “spend the money” to fix the problem. But in my small town, and all over my state for that matter, the bodies keep piling up. I’m afraid that my two teenage sons are going to become statistics in this human crisis, joining thousands upon thousands of Americans whose lives have been tragically cut short by this powerfully-addictive drug. So when a Democrat running for the US Congress in my district pointed out that Trump hadn’t kept his promise and noted the opioid crisis is actually worse today than when he took office — I actually listened. She said she wouldn’t have done the tax cut, but used that money to fund drug programs — which made some sense. But then one night shortly after, I was watching the Tonys, and Robert DeNiro dropped an f-bomb on the President. Sorry, Robert — you blew it! You just lost my vote, pal.

Then there are the jobs.

After I was laid off at Harley-Davidson, where I’d worked for 17 years, and where my father worked, I started to think Democrats might have a point about how Trump’s starting a ruinous trade war with most of the world was maybe not the best plan to grow our economy. But then that restaurant in northern Virginia kicked Sarah Huckabee Sanders out. I mean, seriously?

I don’t have to tell you that I don’t like being unemployed and hate the fact that I’m about to default on my mortgage and be forced to declare bankruptcy. But the idea that the President’s press secretary and her family can’t enjoy a simple meal of heirloom tomato salad with cornbread croutons followed by a brace of herb-roasted quail in peace? That’s unacceptable. You messed up again, Dems.

In conclusion, I’m obviously not crazy about being unemployed and uninsured, and the thought of having to someday soon bury my cancer-stricken wife and my opioid-addicted children keeps me up at night at the homeless shelter. Still, I just can’t bring myself to vote for a party that makes violent rap videos, defiles broadway award shows, and bans the president and his low-ranking cabinet members — who never, ever have an unkind or harsh word to say about anyone — from upscale, farm-to-table restaurants.

So I’ve made my decision. This fall, I’m not voting for healthcare, jobs, or action on the opioid crisis — I’m voting for bringing back civility to our politics. I’m voting Republican.

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