Considering Common Sense

The best qualification of a prophet is to have a good memory, George Savile wrote three hundred years ago.  In musing about prophecy, of course, Savile was talking about the 17th century's equivalent of forecasting.  Little did he know that prophecy's 21st century versions would rank survey skills, algorithm writings and wrangling big data way above recall in their descriptions of the job. 

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Covering the Presidency as Performance Art: What Price Are We Paying?

Survivor, The Bachelor, Real Housewives, Keeping up with the Kardashians, Jersey Shore.  Cringe-worthy or not, reality TV hits continue to pull in viewers.  So does White House in Chaos, President Trump's latest show.  It's available on every news network 24/7.  What's more, Americans don't need to buy a premium subscription to watch, although at this point it should be clear the price the country is paying.

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Donald Trump and the Press: Somewhere Old Bolsheviks are Smiling

"The press should be not only a collective propagandist and a collective agitator," Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov wrote in 1901, "but also a collective organizer of the masses."  Ulyanov, also known as Vladimir Lenin, couldn't have penned a better description of Donald Trump's media strategy today.  

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What #MeToo Tells Us About National Leadership

#Metoo is dramatically affecting how people understand sexual harassment and power.  But it isn't only about courageous women and abuses.  It also carries a message about national leadership, particularly when CEOs seek to claim the nation's top job.

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The President and his Intelligence Chiefs: When Breaking News Falls Short

President Trump’s attack on his intelligence chiefs following their worldwide threat briefing to Congress last month wasn’t supposed to be a comedy skit.  Intended or not, the performance ranks among the best Laurel and Hardy impersonations in years.  As National Intelligence Director, Dan Coats, playing the guileless Laurel, briefed Capitol Hill, Trump, the mercurial Hardy, lambasted the spies as naïve, passive and seriously under-trained.  The only thing missing was Hardy’s classic line: “Well, Coats, here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me in.”

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Playing Games with the Census: Why Business Should Pay Attention

There's nothing new about fooling around with the numbers.  Joseph Stalin, the Bolshevik dictator who put the capital "T" in totalitarian, knew 100 years ago that information was power.  From borscht to ballistic missiles, Stalin manipulated the Soviet Union's statistics on everything.  It should be no surprise, therefore, that President Trump -- whose own relationship with the truth also is only coincidental -- would try to play the same game in 2019. 

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"Dark Money," the Media and the Integrity of American Democracy

As a case study of Montana politics, the documentary "Dark Money" explores the impact on the state's elections of the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United.  It also raises a question: What role do the corporations dominating the American media landscape have in maintaining the integrity of our democracy?  

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China's Billion Dollar Bet on Remaking the News: It's Not Just Slicker Propaganda

In 1958 the late Harold Isaacs, a foreign-correspondent-turned-political-scientist, wrote a book about American views of China and India examining popular attitudes toward the two societies.  His research, an imaginative use of surveys and interviews, found that, from the man on the street to foreign policy experts, impressions of both countries lagged far behind their realities.  As he considered future relations between the East's rising powers and the West, Isaacs worried about the effects of outdated perceptions, calling them, poetically, "scratches on our minds."  A new study on the expanding international reach of China's news media by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Paris-based NGO that defends freedom of the press, suggests his worry is as relevant today as it was 60 years ago.

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When Lies Metastasize: A Meditation on the Media and Democracy

The effects of lying and misrepresentation aren't limited to their source.  Coming from the Oval Office, they can effect not only how issues are understood, but also how politics works.  The Trump White House is a prime example.

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What's Next After Singapore? Ask TV Critics, Not the Foreign Policy Experts

Washington's foreign policy experts are struggling to explain President Trump's foreign policy.  In a White House that has substituted reality TV for real politique, it's time to bring in the media critics who are far more likely to understand what happens in an administration that is all show and no substance.

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Donald Trump

Divine Providence for Fools, Drunkards and the United States of America

God has a special providence, Otto von Bismarck once purportedly said, for fools, drunkards and the United States of America.   Apocryphal or not, the 150-year-old quote attributed to Germany's famed Iron Chancellor conjures the kind of divine help that anyone paying attention to current events could only wish for today.

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Forrest Gump and 2020: Can Americans Pick Out Fake News?

Profound observations can come in small packages.  The eponymous movie Forrest Gumpdelivered one of the best.  Stupid is as stupid does.  The title character's one-liner couldn't be more relevant to the 2020 presidential election.  As Moscow renews its attack on American democracy, to choose intelligently among the candidates' voters must analyze not only their slogans and promises but also the growing onslaught of fake news.  The challenge isn't in doubt.  The question is, will Americans be able to do the job?

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Dilemma of Chinese Censorship: Hollywood's Problem Isn't Only in China

China demands Hollywood moviemakers toe the political line when they create their blockbuster candidates for the Chinese market and for their part, the studio bosses comply.  But kowtowing to Beijing’s censors seems highly likely to become a requirement outside China as well.  How far will Hollywood go? 

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The Propagandists and their Enablers: The News Media's Parallel Universes

It takes an unusual mind, the English mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead once wrote, to undertake the analysis of the obvious.  Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation and Radicalization in American Politics -- a book that explains how the media are accelerating the country's spiral into national crisis -- actually is the work of three unusual minds.  Their thinking couldn't be more relevant or troubling in demonstrating how news coverage of the Trump presidency is deepening the divisions among Americans by the day.

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Kent Michael Harrington

Analyst, Journalist, Author and National Security Affairs Expert

Kremlin Oligarchs and Silicon Valley: It's Not Only About the Money

The testimony by U.S. intelligence chiefs before Congress in their worldwide threat briefing last month made no bones about it:  Following its successful covert political attack on the 2016 election, Moscow's effort to subvert American democracy is continuing full steam.  The threat assessment was unambiguous.  Social media is in Russia's bulls-eye.  It's hardly a surprise.

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Is Broadcast and Cable Journalism Helping Trump Bury the News?

Attorney General Barr made a stab at stand-up with his press conference last week when he rolled out the Mueller report, but his attempt to mimic a classic from The Daily Showdidn't come close to its star's old routine: Jon Stewart playing the news desk anchor, suddenly goggle-eyed, finger pointing and hollering, "Squirrel!"

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The Kremlin and the News: Why are Broadcast and Cable Ignoring Putin's 2020 Campaign?

President Trump didn't bother to talk to Vladimir Putin about Russia's preparations to interfere in the 2020 presidential election two weeks ago when he telephoned the Kremlin.  Instead, Trump said, the two had a good laugh over the hoax that Putin did anything even remotely offensive in 2016.  As for the intelligence community's warning that Moscow is gearing up its attack on the 2020 campaign, Trump was categorical.  "We didn't discuss that." 

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