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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When Fantasies Replace Facts: It’s Time for a Myth Buster on the News


Scholars who delve into the intellectual intricacies of political theory generally don’t make the roster of on-air pundits. For news producers booking talent, Jeffrey Barash, a professor at the University of Picardie in France, should be an exception. In looking at what makes radical ideologies tick, Barash has examined how Europe’s 20th-century fascists stripped ethics and values from what they said and did to build all-powerful states where politics became nothing more than a tool to manipulate. The result, Barash wrote, steadily blurred the boundaries between facts and fabrications until, as the falsehoods grew, reality disappeared. 


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"Moving to a Finite Earth Economy": What Climate Change Demands and Why

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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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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"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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Shuttering the Newseum: It's Time for Big Media to Step Up


The decision last month to shutter the Newseum, a Washington, D.C., fixture since 1997, couldn't come at a worse time for journalists, or for Americans who should understand why their job and the First Amendment matter. The Newseum's sponsor, the Freedom Forum, says it will push on. It has a laudable goal: to educate the public about a free press.


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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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CNN Channels Churchill: Confronting Trump's Bodyguard of Lies


"In wartime," Winton Churchill told Franklin Roosevelt and Josef Stalin at their conference in Tehran in 1943, "truth is so precious that she should always be surrounded by a bodyguard of lies." Vladimir Putin can take credit for demonstrating that Churchill's admonition applies just as well in American politics today.

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Truth as the First Casualty: When News Ignores the Facts


The first casualty when war comes is truth. Senator Hiram Johnson, an isolationist, said this in 1917 when he was bemoaning America's entry into World War I. Little could the senator have imagined that a century later his observation would apply just as well to American politics. He might also have been surprised to see that the news organizations most people seek out to find the truth are helping to drive up the body count.


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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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Watching the Impeachment From Moscow: What Would Arkady Renko Say?


Arkady Renko would have understood it all. We know this police investigator from Moscow, Russia, thanks to the brilliant writing of Martin Cruz Smith. Forty years ago, his best-selling novel Gorky Park introduced the indefatigably honest homicide detective as the Soviet Union died. In The Siberian Dilemma, Smith's latest entry of eight books, Renko copes with the criminal politics and corruption that infects Vladimir Putin's Russia. One thing is certain: If Renko has been watching the impeachment of Donald Trump, he knows exactly the kind of White House he sees.

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Kent Michael Harrington

Analyst, Journalist, Author and National Security Affairs Expert

Surveillance Is the Business Model of the Internet. What's Coming Next?


National security made strange bedfellows last week when Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer and his Republican colleague Senator Tom Cotton wrote to acting national intelligence director Joseph Maguire. Their letter raised national security concerns about TikTok, the widely popular video-sharing app. The issue — the company's possible transfer of personal data to the Chinese government — should make TikTok's American fans sit up and take note. For teens, young adults, and their parents who use the app, however, odds are, if they even noticed, the news provoked a yawn.


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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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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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Donald Trump

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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What Matters Most: Impeachment, Democracy, or "Dancing With the Stars"?


Classic literature never fails to find new readers because its ideas and expressions capture something enduring about the human experience. No one could have made the point better last week than Representative Devin Nunes, the ranking Republican member on the House Intelligence Committee, who is leading the GOP's defense of President Trump in the impeachment inquiry. Nunes produced a 21st-century version of a 19th-century classic: the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, straight from Alice in Wonderland.


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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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MediaVillage

President Trump and Typhoid Mary: When Lies Become Epidemic


With his 2020 election campaign officially in gear, President Trump is attacking opponents on all fronts, escalating his disregard for facts, truth and political values.  Like the latest measles cases, his demagoguery -- last month Trump leveled a treason charge against The New York Times and threatened a Time reporter with jail -- is most often a one-day story.  It shouldn't be.  Parroted by party sycophants and right-wing propagandists and echo chambers, Trump's authoritarian outbursts are epidemic.  It's time the media industry treated them that way.


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Memo to Democrats: Here's How to Add a Real Debate


With one primary campaign debate down and eleven more to go, the commentariat already is picking winners and losers among the Democratic Party's two dozen presidential hopefuls.  Like actors after a Broadway opening night, the Democrats on stage in Miami last month have poured over the reviews.  The voters should ignore them.  If the two evenings and the after-action analysis have revealed anything about the candidates' qualifications to be President, it's purely accidental.  Count on their debates in Detroit on July 30-31 to be just the same.

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"Moving to a Finite Earth Economy": What Climate Change Demands and Why


"Men argue, nature acts," Voltaire wrote 300 years ago. The French philosopher couldn't have described the emerging crisis better, as communities, companies, and countries struggle to deal with climate change today. The global debate over how to respond is for good reason: No matter the scale of the issue, from the rising sea level to carbon sequestration, the responses required will be costly, complicated, and, in many cases, controversial.  But, like the crisis, the actions needed also are increasingly clear, as David Houle and Bob Leonard lay out in Moving to a Finite Earth Economy — Crew Manual.

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When Local News Dies: A Walk in Mount Adnah Cemetery


The microburst hit Annisquam on a late afternoon last month. A surprise from a line of summer thunderstorms, its winds clocked over 100 miles per hour. Under driving rain, power lines fell, trees uprooted, windows blew in, shingles flew, fences came down. Across Lobster Cove, the village harbor off Cape Ann's Ipswich Bay, 25 sailboats flipped at their moorings. A tour boat from Gloucester taking shelter in the cove ran aground.


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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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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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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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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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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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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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