Category Archives: media crap

The fight against fake news isn’t a ploy to ruin Trump.

A month ago, Buzzfeed actually published news–ironically, an expose of a false-news set of stories aimed at perpetrating the supposed story that then candidate Hillary Clinton, among many Washington insiders, was part of a child-sex and human trafficking ring. The stories were ridiculous–only slightly more believable than the old Bat Boy stories they used to run in the Weekly World News.

At one point, the story dropped to Bat Boy level, showing a raid on Hillary’s property that resulted in the confiscation of damning emails…which were taken out of said property in, well, paper bags. (The police should be careful, though, because carrying all those emails without proper back support could result in severe injury.)

These articles gained legs in spite of the fact that not a single member of any law enforcement agency anywhere had confirmed any part of the story. As a result, a gun-toting man decided to show up–toting the gun–to do some investigating of his own at Comet Ping Pong, a pizzeria in Northwest DC. With a gun. Because the best way to investigate is to wave a gun in everyone’s face.

Let’s stop here for a moment. Considering the fact that people have actively despised Hillary Clinton for almost a quarter century, if she and Anthony Weiner (proud SUNY Plattsburgh graduate, doncha know?) were involved in a giant ring to have sex with and sell children, don’t you think someone would’ve leaked that along the way? Don’t you think someplace, a law enforcement agency would’ve been maybe involved, even just a little?

Anthony Weiner: I had a class with that guy. Political Science, not photography. Or sex ed.

Anthony Weiner: I had a class with that guy. Political Science, not photography. Or sex ed.

There are other stories, too. This opinion piece in Newsweek recounts how much actual news people ignored to believe that the Democratic National Committee conspired to fix the election for Secretary Clinton. For instance, they ignored the fact that once Hillary became the presumptive nominee–in May–the job of the DNC is to help get her elected. Which is what the Sanders people accused it of doing.

This is Senator Sanders' Dick Cheney face

This is Senator Sanders’ Dick Cheney face

It’s funny, but then Bernie Sanders’ folks claimed the election was being rigged, that wasn’t horrible. It was for Donald Trump.

That said, Trump is the candidate whose minion, Roger Stone, threatened to publish the convention hotel rooms of delegates who didn’t vote right. Stone didn’t work directly for Trump at the time, but Trump said nothing to guide Stone to the idea that winning elections through hardcore intimidation is, you know, un-American.

Roger Stone, a man who thinks intimidation is a great way to win an election in our representative democracy

Roger Stone, a man who thinks intimidation is a great way to win an election in our representative democracy

But let’s take Trump out of it. Let’s say President X lacks scruples. Let’s say, for instance, that after the Nevada caucus, his followers thought he fix was in and started threatening the Nevada state party chair–and her grandchildren. And he says nothing to tell them we don’t do it that way in this country. Let’s say that guy is President.

If that guy can ride a predictable and–based on the Buzzfeed story–very small group of Twitter users and blogs to threaten an enemy. if that President were to decide to ask supporters to plant a false story that a specific business is ground zero for (dun, dun, dunnnn) evil(!), that would be a pretty effective way to silence opponents.

There they are. Evil! Puuuuuure and simple!

There they are. Evil! Puuuuuure and simple!

As many have seen, once social media judgement is made, you can’t unring that bell.

This isn’t an assertion that President-elect Trump or Senator Bernie Sanders, who supporters threatened the Nevada State Party chair’s grandchildren–have done this.

But if it only takes a few Twitter followers and then some coordinated blog posts, and if people don’t bother to check with law enforcement before coming to judgement, how hard is it to resist using that machine to break your enemy?

As consumers of news, we have the responsibility to check news stories to make sure they pass the sniff test. If there are raids going on, are there actual statements from the police? Have you even heard of the source? Does it have a sketchy name like Global Associated News? (Seriously, this guy is more believable.)

Peoples’ lives are ruined by crap like this. And it’s going to get worse. Because if you cross the people with the keys to this machine, you’re toast.

That’s a real nice little life you got there. It would be a shame if something were to happen to it…

 

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Girls are victims of societal expectations; why aren’t boys?

Steroids have been a big topic in the sports world this week. You can’t talk about the Hall of Fame any more without talking about steroids and who did, didn’t, and might have. The Guardians of Baseball™ have determined that anyone who cheated, might have cheated, or is suspected cheating by sportswriter Murray Chass is a lying, cheating scumbag who must be voted off the island. Then there was Alex Rodriguez (A-Roid…get it? Get it?).

This post isn’t about the Hall of Fame (the section process makes the place a joke) or A-Rod and how the Yankees just got $25 million of money to spend on this year’s roster. It’s about boys and girls and expectations and cultural standards. And the idea came after seeing this picture.

And the first thing I thought of when I looked at He-Man was, “you would need a whole convoy to carry all the steroids.” And that’s what’s different about boys. We’ve devoted a lot of collective hand-wringing to girls and weight. Enough so that when a fit mother of three posted a picture of herself with her kids and the caption “What’s your excuse?” she was reviled for fat shaming. We’ve got multiple campaigns talking about how it’s wrong the way media portrays women. And when a girl resorts to puking herself to lose weight, she’s a victim.

EVIL!

Now, put yourself in the shoes of a teenaged boy. Boys are no less confused and perplexed by being a teen than girls are. They aren’t immune to the peer pressure. And they can be just as mercilessly excluded socially. And there’s just as much pressure to meet ridiculous standards. All of it just manifests differently.

Put another way, the most insidious thing about steroids in baseball isn’t the devaluing of precious home run or batting records. It’s not how Roger Clemens wagged his finger and proclaimed his innocence. It’s not the elimination of the pure game of baseball when stolen bases are king and 20 home runs in a season is a lot. It’s the pressure on young men who feel the need to do what everyone else is doing to compete.

And it’s not just in baseball. For all the negative press baseball gets about steroids, it has among the most aggressive anti-doping standards in American professional sports. It was Lyle Alzado, who played in the National Football League, who died early, largely because of steroid abuse. Alzado played in the 1970s and 1980s, before Barry Bonds ever sniffed a syringe. Look at an NFL or college game today and tell me looks less freakish the Bonds’ upper body toward the end of his career.

The subhead says “Former NFL star Lyle Alzado now admits to massive use of steroids and human growth hormone–and believes they caused his inoperable brain cancer.”

And that’s where society puts inappropriate pressure on boys.

I can’t entirely blame athletes who juice for cheating. After all, if the perception is that everyone else is doing it and it’s your job to perform on a field of play, then the lines blur. If everyone else is cheating, is it really cheating, or is it just the new reality.

And if you’re a high school boy and you excel at your sport, you receive praise and glory for it, then get into high school and people start passing you, and maybe some of them are juicing, aren’t you going to feel that same pressure. These aren’t grown men at this point, they’re boys.

In an environment where even Little League players train at boot camps and start positioning to get ahead, get more playing time, and get on a high school team, the pressure to go along to succeed is as intense for boys as the pressure to look good is for girls.

I’m emphatically not saying that care isn’t required in how society shapes the way girls see themselves. I’m saying it’s not a girls-only issue. It goes across the board. And while there’s currently a backlash against the unrealistic expectations placed on girls, there’s no such backlash for boys. It’s not a girls or boys problem. It extends across the spectrum. And the damage done by human growth hormone and the damage done by Photoshop are both symptoms of a society that places increasingly unrealistic demands on adults and children.


Why Phil Robertson is wrong about God and gays

Lots of people in the entertainment industry have said really stupid things. If I stopped watching their work because of it, I’d have almost nothing left to watch. But if I watched Duck Dynasty now, I’d stop, and it’s not because of what Phil Robertson said in his now-infamous GQ interview. It’s because of this:

They’re full of murder, envy, strife, hatred. They are insolent, arrogant, god haters, they are heartless, they are faithless, they are senseless, they are ruthless, they invent ways of doing evil.

The problem with that quote–and others like it, often from Christian Republicans–is that it’s being said about people I know and value. I don’t know Phil Robertson, but I know a number of gay people who have been very good to me and to my family. And when you say those things about those people, it’s an issue.

This is why Republicans and Christians lose when they trot out the anti-gay rhetoric. They’re insulting friends and family members. And then they want support. It doesn’t work that way.

At some point in the change in my viewpoint about gays, I thought about what I’d say if my son or daughter came home and announced they were gay. I can’t view them as an abomination. He’s my son; she’s my daughter. They are not abominations.

And to grab a quote from Matthew 7:11, if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him? Put another way, if I can’t sever my relationship with my kids over something like that, why should I believe God would?

Sorry, Henry, you accepted Jesus as your savior and produced fruit just like the Good Book says to, and you were bold and courageous, just like I said you should be, but you had the hots for guys, so off to hell with you! Plus, as a heavenly Creator, I was never that fond of interior decorating and show tunes.

Something tells me not. There’s also something in the letter to the Romans where Paul writes that he dare not even judge himself. If that’s the case, if the guy who wrote much of the New Testament doesn’t even judge himself, why would anyone feel confident judging someone else based solely on who they sleep with?

Jesus never dealt with gay people, but when he was confronted with whores–people many would say occupy the same moral ground as the gays–he didn’t condemn them. When he was confronted with a woman so hated by other women that she had to get her water at noon, when no one else was at the well, he treated her with love and affection.

And when the religious leaders, who were pushing the same type of law that would condemn gays, brought him a whore to stone to death, not only did he make a point of not condemning her, he pointed out to her accusers that many of them had done the same things and they weren’t fit to condemn her.

In short, if God so loved the world that he gave his only son to save the world, rather than to judge it, he can’t hate fags any more than I can hate one of my own children.

So just knock it off, Phil.


Carl Pierson’s political beliefs didn’t drive him to shoot, and shame on you if you insist otherwise

The first time I saw that Carl Pierson, the perpetrator in the latest Colorado school shooting, was a socialist was on the liberal message board Democratic Underground. To be fair, the only other places I’ve seen the words socialist attached to him are places that benefit politically by calling attention to his political beliefs.

The Denver Post has said that Pierson ridiculed Republicans on his Facebook page, and that he was politically aligned with Keynesian economic policy. It’s a decent, but untested (at this point) bet that if he’d been politically conservative, considerable wondering would occur about how far the trail of blood extended back to Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Fox News. (And, to be fair, a lot of conservatives are probably vocalizing the same curiosity about blood trails and Rachel Maddow, Alan Grayson [who Pierson paraphrased on Facebook], and MSNBC.)

But this isn’t about whether Carl Pierson’s political beliefs and the people who agree with him are responsible for his actions. It’s not really about him at all.

It’s about us.

It’s about how Carl Pierson’s actions aren’t going to be about Carl Pierson. It’s about how every tragedy from September 11 to Sandy Hook to this becomes a political football. The simple fact is, Carl Pierson’s political beliefs didn’t handle a shotgun last week. He did. A disillusioned teenaged boy with a history of threatening behavior got a shotgun–something not typically included in gun-control discussions, by the way–and used it to handle a disagreement.

One of the things many of the people on Democratic Underground are proud of is going into a place of business and seeing Fox News on television and demanding that it be changed. Alan Grayson, a hero of the politically engaged liberal is famous (or infamous) for saying that Republican’s want you to die quickly if you get sick.

On the other hand, Rush Limbaugh called a woman a slut, primarily because she disagreed with him politically. (He doesn’t say that if she’s conservative.) This is a man with a talent for making me angry at him when I agree with him.

The simple fact of the matter is morality is not a value of political stance. No political position has a monopoly on moral righteousness. Money from political allies corrupts MSNBC’s Ed Schulz as much as Rush or Glenn Beck. Sometimes unions care as little about their members as management. And sometimes the demands of either side pass over into a form of political fundamentalism that stifles freedom and real solutions.

Your worth as a person isn’t based on your position on gay marriage, abortion, gun rights, or the proper name of the Washington DC NFL football team. People of good will disagree on these things. But people of good will find a way to find common ground even with people who confound them politically.

In an environment in which political purists reduce “the other side” to something less than human, it shouldn’t be a surprise that shootings are sometimes politically motivated.

Next time one of the shootings happens, before you look at TV for the culprit, look in the mirror first.


Channel “fat talk” to empower you. Don’t necessarily dismiss it.

My name is Chris Hamilton and I’m a fatty.

Hi, Chris.

Okay, I’m not really fat. Not now. But I used to be. I still eat like a fat guy, far too often, though. And I can still do the Goonies dance with the belly I have, but not like I used to.

I was so fat that Weird Al once wrote a parody based on me. I was soooooooo fat that–

Dude, what the hell? That’s kind of offensive, don’t you think? There’s a lot of people you’re hurting with this stupid post.

Actually, this post came from something I saw on Facebook, in which Special K rallied against fat talk, specifically the way women talk about themselves when they weigh more than they think they should. The post said it was good that Special K was calling out fat talk, but “this is just a bit hypocritical coming from a food company that runs ads that ask “What will you gain when you lose?”

Ummm, no, it’s not really hypocritical. But we’re so messed up about weight–specifically weight and women–that you can’t talk about it and even Weird Al’s send-up of Michael Jackson seems questionable.

I once weighed more than 50 pounds more than I do. I was fat. Really, really fat. I was fatter than fat Barney.

I bring up fat Barney because of the context of that episode. Fat Barney was fat because he was unhappy. Really, really unhappy. He decided to make a change, and–in a cartoonish way–the fat went away. It took minutes on television. It took months for me.

Women–and men, for that matter–shouldn’t beat themselves up for being fat. On this, we probably agree. And if you’re happy and overweight, God bless you. It’s a free country. But carrying the weight I was carrying wasn’t healthy. It wasn’t good for me. And it was a mean thing that prompted me to change.

My knees hurt because of the weight I was carrying, to the point where I had to brace myself when I walked up the stairs. So I did what everyone would do–I went to the doctor. And the doctor sent me to physical therapy. And the physical therapist looked at me with disgust when I said I really would do the exercises and that she would never see me again.

That was the inspiration I needed. That, and visions of myself as the guy tooling around on a Hoveround scooter in sweats because I was too heavy to walk and find pants that fit. And the fact that my thigh draped over my calf went I sat in a chair with my legs bent under me. All that scared me.

To be clear, it’s not okay to deride people for being fat. But it is okay to be clear about the health issues around being overweight. And it’s okay to suggest alternatives. For me, it was exercise, starting with walking, then P90X, then a lot of different things.

And it might not have happened if I hadn’t seen that look of disgust in the physical therapist’s eyes.

So while “fat talk” probably isn’t useful, neither is it appropriate to pretend that, as Michael Moore once suggested, that fit people are fit because they hit the gene lottery and that it’s not worth trying to change. For the record, I didn’t change because of some mythical lottery and the unfairness of it all. I changed because I hauled my ass out of bed every morning and worked out.

If you’re overweight and you don’t feel good about it, the answer isn’t to pretend you should. The answer is to use the power you have to change it. You can do it better now than at any other time in history. The information is there. There are more healthy food choices. And you can work out be walking or biking, or even doing a 30-minute workout in the comfort of your own home.

If you don’t want to be fat, don’t be fat. There’s nothing wrong with taking up your power in life and exercising it.


What ads to do women…hell, to all of us

The post appeared on my Facebook feed, just daring me to click it. 5 Minutes of What the Media Does to Women, it said. I’ve seen this stuff before–how women you’d think are knockouts in person are digitally altered to meet some mythical definition of perfection. Among the women being digitally modified are Jessica Alba, Cindy Crawford, and Kate Winslet. (Winslet objected and does not typically allow her image to be digitally altered.)

Combined with the seductive ad message that more and newer is always better, the changes give women a standard to aspire to that’s literally impossible to achieve. Let’s face it, if Jessica Alba needs work, you probably need a lot of work.

The messages in ads literally reduce women to objects–to a random assortment of body parts. To pieces of the product they’re selling. Sure, no one’s putting a gun to their head and some of them make a lot of money to do it.

In a free country, if you want to dress up like a Budweiser can, and you get paid for it, that’s allowed. It’s probably even effective. But at what price? I thought it was a load of garbage until the woman making the presentation, Jean Killbourne said that dehumanizing people is one of the first steps in making them less than human when you seek to kill them. It’s what we do to the enemy in war.

Maybe you buy that and maybe you don’t, but the inclusion of subtle messages in ads can’t be denied. Check out this ad, aimed at teenaged girls, displayed in the same presentation.

babyPhatt

Do you see it? The subtle touch of placing the cat over the model’s crotch. With the words baby phat? It’s pretty obvious–and obscene. It’s telling girls, barely teenaged girls, that (1) they have to be pretty hot and tastey (phat) and that (2) they are primarily there for sex.

As a guy, I have to be honest. To paraphrase the great Ray Barone, I like breasts and a nice butt, too (I’m siiiiiiick!). But who needs Barbie? In the episode of How I Met Your Mother where Robin and Barney break up, they go to hell as their relationship crashes. Robin stops making herself up and Barney gets fat. Google ugly Robin Scherbatsky and you’ll see this picture.

The “ugly” woman on the right is Cobie Smulders. And in that picture, she’s still attractive. But given how we see things, that’s what passes for ugly.

The whole point of advertising is to make us yearn for the unattainable. If you doubt that, watch Mad Men. One of the ads the characters come up with is for Jaguar–Finally, something beautiful you can truly own. Except you can’t truly own beautiful, because the second you own it, you’re no longer a potential comfortable. There always has to something more beautiful. “Ugly” Robin becomes ugly because regular Robin looks like this. And no one, not even Cobie Smulders looks like that on a regular basis.

To use a line from Mad Men, ads create want. Whether it’s that new car or tablet, or just to look decent. They’re there to make you want things you don’t need.

And it’s not just with women and beauty. It’s with men and success. After all, if you really love your wife, you’ll get her a Lexus for Christmas this year. Then she’ll get all mooney-eyed and realized you love her. And if you can’t afford a Lexus, well, they don’t exactly say what you are, but it’s an exact rhyme with loser.

And if you don’t wear the right sneakers or have the latest tablet or drive a luxury car, that also qualifies you for loserdom.

And we’re subjected to that message from the very first time we turn on TV.

What to do about it? I don’t know. Laws aren’t the answer. Maybe turning off the TV. Even watching on Netflix or DVR reduces the number of times you’re told you have to be more than you possibly can be.

There are a lot of things that might be feeding our growing dependence on drugs that fight depression and anxiety. Chemicals in food. High-pressure jobs. And maybe this constant drum beat that we aren’t good enough, no matter what.

Just a note, if you have a car, you’re in far better shape than the vast majority of the people on this planet. Even if it’s the last piece of crap sky blue Cadillac on the lot. But there’s no money in telling you that.


The difficult case of Jameis Winston

First things first. If Jameis Winston, the quarterback for the top-ranked Florida State Seminoles football team and probable Heisman Trophy winner, raped a woman, he deserves whatever justice goes with that action, preferably a long stay in a prison. That’s the safest thing I will say in this piece. From here, it gets risky.

I don’t know if Winston raped a woman and neither do you. If you look at the history of male athletes and female fans, there’s an inclination to say that where there’s smoke, there’s probably fire. Boys play sports to get girls. And when the authorities around them start to look the other way sometimes those boys start to feel entitled to whatever they want. And that includes girls.

So it’s easy to side with the potential victim in this case. Rape violates its victim at the most personal level possible and reduces that victim to nothing more than a sex organ. And when the accused is someone popular, someone who can help a team win a championship, if the accuser goes public, her life will become double hell, once for being raped and a second time for the threats of those trying to protect the rapist.

But what about the other side? What if Jameis Winston or <insert the next guy here> didn’t rape the victim? It happens. It happened with the Duke lacrosse team. The team, a bunch of privileged white guys playing a rich, white man’s sport, was accused of gang raping a black woman. And public opinion sided with her. After all, they were athletes. They were privileged. There were more of them than her.

Except that they didn’t do it. And the accuser, Crystal Mangum, was recently convicted of murder.

But wait, you say, you can’t generalize that. The woman who accused Jameis Winston isn’t Crystal Mangum and she deserves her day in court. How dare you presume she wasn’t victimized!

Point taken. But Jameis Winston isn’t Lawrence Phillips, whose history of rape rivals anyone who used to work for Cardinal Mahony of the Catholic Church.

But Jameis Winston and every other young male athlete needs to understand the environment in which they live. It’s an environment in which a segment of the population will automatically assume guilt if they’re ever accused. So, it would be best if they were to (1) not rape anyone, but also (2) be careful about the situations they put themselves in. Because to the extent that any woman will make something up, you’re a high-profile target. So you should take care about the situations you put yourself in and how you present yourself.

But wait a minute, isn’t that kind of like saying that if you don’t want to be raped, you shouldn’t wear provocative clothing?

Again, I want to repeat, I don’t know what happened with Jameis Winston and his unnamed accuser. And neither do you. And this is a dicey subject at best, where it’s really easy to wander into slut-shaming or assuming that any man accused of rape must be guilty.

It’s a case that should be judged solely on its merits, without either side being convicted in the court of public opinion until the facts are known.

Part of me wants to say that in cases like this, neither name should be released until the case is over. This isn’t about sides. It’s about what happened between two people. It should be adjudicated without the Red Sox-Yankees side-taking exercise.

Unfortunately, not naming either party won’t work either, because it becomes very easy to sweep everything under the rug when there’s no public knowledge. Ask the victims of the Catholic Church about that.

So we’re stuck with no good solution. In some minds, Winston’s accuser will be a good-digging whore. And in some, Winston will be another privileged rapist who got away with it.

About the only thing that can be said with certainty is that every time an athletic department sweeps allegations of sexual misconduct under the rug, it’s that much harder to really figure out what happened the last time. And any time a woman falsely accuses a man of rape–and it does sometimes happen–it’s that much harder of the next woman who really is raped.