Monday, November 14, 2016


If you're going to cover Donald Trump's decision to make Steve Bannon his chief White House strategist, you at least have to explain why that choice makes a lot of people very nervous. The Washington Post's Jose DelReal, for instance, gets to the point:
The announcement has produced intense hand-wringing in Washington and sharp denunciations from political observers and strategists critical of Breitbart News's close association with the alt-right, a fringe conservative movement saturated with racially insensitive rhetoric and elements of outright white nationalism.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a hate-watch group, has accused Breitbart of explicitly embracing ethno-nationalism. After Bannon's elevation was announced, the law center tweeted several controversial stories written by Breitbart under Bannon's control, including a piece published two weeks after a mass killing at a black church in Charleston, S.C., last year: “Hoist it high and proud: the confederate flag proclaims a glorious heritage.”
The story goes on to quote denunciations of Bannon's racism from the Anti-Defamation League, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and former John McCain campaign strategist John Weaver, among others. If you read this story, you understand what the concerns are.

Now consider the disgracefully incomplete report that appeared on NPR's All Things Considered yesterday. Host Michel Martin talked with Domenico Montanaro, NPR's lead politcal editor, about Bannon's appointment and the appointment of Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus as Trump's chief of staff. Here's what Martin and Montanaro said about Bannon:
MONTANARO: ... Of course, Bannon will still sort of be, you know, chief inspiration (laughter) at the White House. And that could mean that if things go wrong - you know, Bannon is no fan of the Republican leadership in Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell, that he'll have sort of the - you know, the macho back for Donald Trump in order to fight back, if need be.

MARTIN: Well, let's talk a little bit more, though, about Steve Bannon. He came into the campaign late but seemed to have a very large effect. Many people attribute the conspiracy theories that were pushed - about Hillary Clinton's health, for example, which were also fanned on the Breitbart website that Bannon led. Can you talk a little bit more about him?

MONTANARO: Yeah. Unquestionably, he's a take-no-prisoners operative. You know, a former Hollywood producer, a Goldman Sachs managing director as well. He ran the website Breitbart, as you said, which has, you know, become kind of synonymous with the alt-right and certainly, like I said, no fan of the establishment Republicans. And establishment Republicans are no fan of them, so they're going to have to figure out a way to get along.
Um, there's going to be more about that alt-right business, isn't there?

Nope. Martin and Montanaro are through with that. All they can focus on is the possible political infighting:
MARTIN: Well, what about that - again, as you mentioned earlier, and as I think many people who follow this certainly know, that Donald Trump certainly had tensions with the Republican Party. What about his relationship with Reince Priebus?

MONTANARO: Yeah. I mean, I think that between Priebus and Bannon, you know, they've had a bit of a detente. I mean, Priebus was - it was important for Priebus to be behind the Trump campaign so that the RNC staff could supplement much of what the campaign was able to do. And frankly, Trump and Bannon owe a lot to Priebus and the RNC organization.
I'm excerpting, but you can listen to the whole thing here. It's appalling.

NPR's coverage of the election and its aftermath has been awful in recent days -- endless interviews with see-no-evil flacks and loyalists (on both sides), supplemented by voter-in-the-street interviews that repeat the same points you already know from the media's other voter-in-the-street interviews. The belief on NPR seems to be that the media should just let advocates for each side talk, and never seriously interrogate them. I'd compare it to the CNN strategy of hiring loyalist operatives like Corey Lewandowski (and Donna Brazile) for commentary, but on CNN at least those operatives argue with one another. NPR's preferred approach seems to be letting loyalists come on one at a time, and allowing them to spin and spin and spin.

At a time when basic American freedoms are under threat, and unfavored groups are at serious risk, I want to be told about the dangers. I want to hear about more than political power games -- and I don't want to hear one spin doctor after another telling me that everything's going to be all right.


And if you think the presence of supposedly cooler heads will inevitably put a check on Steve Bannon, consider this from the Washington Post story quoted above:
Some of the Trump campaign's most controversial moves in the final months of the campaign were attributed to Bannon, who is known for his combative and unfiltered style. When Trump, before the second presidential debate, invited several women who had accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct to hold a news conference, Bannon stood in the back of the room smiling broadly.
But an earlier Post story told us that the decision to make those women part of the debate wasn't Bannon's alone:
The gambit to give Bill Clinton’s accusers prime seats [at the debate] was devised by Trump campaign chief executive Stephen K. Bannon and Jared Kushner, the candidate’s son-in-law, and approved personally by Trump.
Yes, Kushner was in on that. If you're thinking that the non-bomb-throwers are going to restrain Bannon, think again.


Lit3Bolt said...

NPR is the captive voice of whoever controls the gov't. Thus, they are a mainstream Right outlet now. Not that this craven tongue-bath will save them from having their funding cut. Time for more fundraisers lasting unto eternity!

Yastreblyansky said...

This morning the NPR project goes on with interview of the American Greatness blog publisher, Chris Buskirk, who seemed to be literally saying that Bannon's record at Breitbart has no relation to what he might do at the White House. Because Breitbart is a different kind of business. Bannon used to be in the racism business and now he's in the governing business. Like arguing, I don't know, that Francis Coppola's films don't predict what kind of wine he produces, which they really presumably don't.

There's really something in that in the way CEOs think. Different jobs, different widgets, but it's all just widgets and profits in the end. But really, in this case? It's so weird.

Victor said...

What remains of our "Fourth Estate" is afraid of being called a "Fifth Column" for the lefties - as conservatives have increasingly done to great success since Nixon - and giving t-RUMP even more reason to point them out to his "deplorables," so they're going to walk around on egg shells, hoping not to get in the glow of the mob's torchlights.

Steve M. said...

That Buskirk interview wasn't as bad as the Martin/Montanaro piece, but it was the kind of piece I was referring to in the rest of post -- see-no-evil flacks allowed to drone on about how everything will be fine, with minimal pushback.

As for the Coppola analogy, I was thinking something more along the lines of, "Well, we know what kind of feature films Francis makes, but this is a miniseries for HBO. Totally different!" Breitbart's moving from politics to politics. He's moving from manipulation of public opinion in the interest of attaining certain societal goals to ... the same.

Unknown said...

"If you're thinking that the non-bomb-throwers are going to restrain Bannon, think again." Restrain? They are all bomb throwers. The question is whose bombs will hit its targets? Maybe each other?

Ok said...

Ever since NPR got ACORNEd they've been going downhill. Why do they even have to have Fox flacks on?

Green Eagle said...

"The Southern Poverty Law Center, a hate-watch group, has accused Breitbart of explicitly embracing ethno-nationalism."

So that's what we are allowed to call Nazism now.

EWRunning said...

Yeah, I gave up on Michel Martin the weekend after the first Comey letter when she earnestly interviewed Alberto Gonzalez on proper procedures in the Department of Justice. I sent a comment asking if, when coming up with (discredited) former Attorney's General to interview she had given any thought to Edwin Meese, or even using a Ouija board to contact the spirit of John Mitchell. Strangely, I never heard back from them.

Gary said...

NPR - Nice Polite Republican Whitewashing of an anti-Semite who has announced he wants to unite White Nationalist parties worldwide.

Mytwords said...

Back in 2006, I started blogging on NPR's slow drift to the right. I did it almost daily for about 5 years and then lost heart, it was that awful -