Lying Dog Face Pony Soldier

So said Democratic candidate for President Joe Biden this week.  It is a slip up that disqualifies him for public office.  Any public office.  Would you want a mayor or school board member so out of control they can't even insult people right? Or a register of wills?

Calling a young woman names on the campaign trail is always ill-advised, just as a general rule.  Making up your own insults can show cleverness.  But insults that come out of nowhere and make no sense show something else: cognitive problems.  

The entire media should be screaming about Joe Biden's weird comment to a polite and rational question.  But they are not.  This and many other reasons explain why mainstream media outlets do not have the credibility of yore.


Agenda-Free TV

Facebook is down.
Massive power outage in parts of the country.
Virginia gun rights rally.
Hurricane Dorian.
Live breaking news without an agenda.

Steve Lookner has gained a cult following in the livestream world. His YouTube channel, Agenda-Free TV, covers breaking news happening in the United States and outside of it.  Increasingly, it is news being missed by larger media outlets that focus on Russiagate or impeachment obsessively. 

When Facebook and WhatsApp went down for half of the United States, Agenda-Free TV was the only outlet covering it.  At the beginning of the China Virus outbreak, Steve saw its importance and began daily coverage - a week before other news outlets.

His value to the information marketplace is critical thinking and a wide net.  When Steve Lookner covers a topic in the news, he gathers information from vetted sources and frequently rejects information if the claims can’t be substantiated elsewhere.  When viewers bring new information to his attention, he puts it through analysis as to whether it fits with other information, whether it is from a verified source, whether the source has first-hand knowledge or an expertise in the area or if it just doesn’t make sense.

An excellent example is how he covers the China Virus.  He cites official Chinese statistics while noting the comments from epidemiologists in other countries who suspect the number of sick are much higher.  What he doesn't do is create a sensational headline with panic-inducing infection rates.  It would be so easy to do.  Very reputable scientists and doctors have given estimates that the China Virus infected ten times the official Chinese count.  But Steve won't do it.  It gives him credibility.

As a host, Steve Lookner is like a homeroom teacher for restless seniors about to graduate. He's always setting boundaries and reminding us why we are there when we veer too far off course.  Yet he is likable.  So much so,  he gets viewers who just want to see what he is up to.  That's when he gets complaints about the news he chooses to cover.  "What is Steve upset about now?" asks my husband only half sarcastically.  

And they do complain. Exasperated, Steve tells everyone they are not obliged to watch.  They can just turn it off if they don't like what he is covering, he reminds them.  It speaks to his appeal to his audience that they would watch him despite his topic.

He has strict rules for his audience:  no trolling, no conspiracies, manners at all times.  If you violate one of these rules too much, you are put on time-out.  Yes, that’s right.  Which is how this senior citizen was put on a time-out for hurricane jokes.  If you continue to act up, you can be banned for the day or permanently.  He doesn’t put up with racism or fake news or conspiracies.

Interestingly, Agenda-Free TV has not covered the impeachment trial.  Frankly, that is a relief.  Every news outlet in the country is pointed in the same direction at the same time.  After two years of Russiagate ending with a doddering Special Prosecutor's testimony of nothing, basically; a fresh angle on current events is needed and refreshing.


The Tulsi Strategy

Got to hand it to Tulsi Gabbard, she is scary and smart.

The punditry is yammering on about how her lawsuit against Hilary Clinton can't be won when that is not the point.

Tulsi's goal is the document discovery that will come along with the trial.

When you file a lawsuit, you get a chance to ask for copies of any records, bank statements, writings, phone calls, emails or anything else to make your case.  The same applies if you are being sued.

By filing a lawsuit, Tulsi Gabbard is giving herself the power to review Hilary Clinton's life.  That is her endgame.  She probably already has a target in mind.  And I'll bet she will never agree to settle.

Hilary Clinton is playing a 90s game.  She really thought that Tulsi Gabbard would just outrage and then simmer down after a while.  Nope. Lee Atwater did this kind of garbage in the 80s.  It is not a new play.

What Hilary Clinton doesn't understand is the Information Age.  She is no longer doing battle with one person while supported by her media friends.  Everyone on Earth can weigh into the discussion now.  Her message cannot be predictably chewed into cud by the predictable writers of the major media outlets.  She has to answer to more people now.  There is no more control of the medium, by anyone.  Clinton's reporter pals can't steer the message anymore.  She doesn't see the new reality.

So now Tulsi Gabbard is going to tear Clinton apart slowly over the next few years.  Drip by drip, Clinton's relevance will disappear.  And she can't even see it.


The Frontrunner Curse

Have you noticed that whoever the press puts forward as the presumptive winner of a Presidential primary, loses?

At the start of his Presidential run, Jeb Bush was the anointed candidate.  At least by the press.  And they were wrong.  The same with Hilary Clinton in the 2008 Presidential election.  In this Presidential primary, the media has picked one candidate after another.  And each one failed.  

It almost looks like the coveted place to be when running for President is in the background.  Popular enough to get on the debate stage, smart or lucky enough not to say anything stupid, without a Klan robe in your attic, and you have a much better chance of becoming your party's nominee than any early hoopla will give you.

The media focus on Presidential elections is about ratings.  So rather than choose a multi-faceted, nuanced style of reporting, the mass media covers the leadership and vision competition for our nation like it was a football game.  Up the field! Sacked! Good! Bad!  No critical thinking required.

It would be one thing if this approach gave good results, but it does not.  It does not predict anything well, and certainly does not inform voters.  It leads to an attachment to premature predictions and warped reporting to not look stupid when they turn out to be wrong. 

The football approach to political analysis hurts the Presidential candidates the talking heads are trying to prop up.  As in, they don't win. There could be many reasons for this: declaring a frontrunner too early may just invite tougher vetting in general.  So just announcing a Presidential candidate may invite a scrutiny no one could survive.  Maybe voters just get mad that someone is telling what to do.  It also could get all the other candidates to shoot at one target: the presumptive frontrunner.

When will they realize this? Probably never.  Football games do not reflect Presidential elections, but it takes out the work a reporter has to do.