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“Heads She Loses, Tails She Loses”: Clinton Coverage Goes Off The Rails — Again

“She shouts,” complained Washington Post editor Bob Woodward last week on MSNBC, deducting points for Clinton’s speaking style. “There is something unrelaxed about the way she is communicating, and I think that just jumps off the television screen.”

“Has nobody told her that the microphone works?” quipped Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough, who led a lengthy discussion about Clinton’s voice (the “tone issue”). Scarborough and his guests dissected Clinton’s “screaming,” and how she is supposedly being “feisty” and acting “not natural.”

Over on Fox, Geraldo Rivera suggested Clinton “scream[s]” because she “may be hard of hearing.” CNBC’s Larry Kudlow bemoaned her “shrieking.”

During last week’s debate, Bob Cusack, editor of The Hilltweeted, “When Hillary Clinton raises her voice, she loses.” (Cusack later deleted the tweet and apologized.) During a discussion on CNN about Clinton’s volume, David Gergen stressed, “Hillary was so angry compared to Sanders.”

The New York Times’ debate coverage pushed the same “angry” narrative, detailing “The ferocity of Mrs. Clinton’s remarks,” and how she appeared “tense and even angry at times,” “particularly sensitive,” and was “going on the offensive.” (By contrast, her opponent “largely kept his cool.”)

Media message received: Clinton is loud and cantankerous!

But it’s not just awkward gender stereotypes that are in play these days. It’s a much larger pattern of thumb-on-the-scale coverage and commentary. Just look at what seemed to be the press’ insatiable appetite to frame Clinton’s Iowa caucus win last week as an unnerving loss. Pundits also inaccurately claimed that she had to rely on a series of coin tosses to secure a victory.

As I’ve noted before, these anti-Clinton guttural roars from the press have become predictable, cyclical events, where pundits and reporters wind themselves up with righteous indignation and shift into pile-on mode regardless of the facts on the ground. (And the GOP cheers.) The angry eruptions now arrive like clockwork, but that doesn’t make them any less baffling. Nor does that make it any easier to figure out why the political press corps has decided to wage war on the Democratic frontrunner. (And publicly admit that they’re doing it.)

Sure, the usual nutty anti-Clinton stuff is tumbling off the right-wing media branches, with Fox News suggesting her campaign was nothing more than “bra burning,” while other conservatives mocked her “grating” voice.

But what’s happening inside the confines of the mainstream media is more troubling. Rush Limbaugh advertising his insecurities about powerful women isn’t exactly breaking news. Watching Beltway reporters and pundits reveal their creeping contempt for Clinton and wrapping it in condescension during a heated primary season is disturbing. And for some, it might trigger bouts of déjà vu.

It was fitting that the extended examination of Clinton’s “tone” last week unfolded on Morning Joe. As Think Progress noted, that show served as a hotbed for weird gender discussions when Clinton ran for president in 2008: “Scarborough often referenced the ‘Clinton cackle’ and another panelist cracked a joke that Clinton reminded everyone of their ‘first wife in probate court.'” (The crack about probate court got lots of laughs from Scarborough’s all-male panel at the time.)

The toxic put-downs during the heated Democratic primary in 2008 were everywhere. (i.e. Candidate Clinton was a “hellish housewife.”) At the time, Salon’s Rebecca Traister detected among male pundits “a nearly pornographic investment in Clinton’s demise.”

And that was not an understatementFrom Dr. Dianne Bystrom, director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University:

She was referred to as a “white bitch” on MSNBC and CNN; a blood-sucking “vampire” on Fox; the “wicked witch of the west” on CNN; and “everyone’s first wife standing outside of probate court,” a “she devil” and the castrating Lorena Bobbitt, all on MSNBC.

That Clinton was unfairly roughed up by the press in 2008 isn’t really a question for debate anymore. Even the man who campaigned against her, President Obama, recently noted that “there were times where I think the media probably was a little unfair to her” during their Democratic primary battle.

I wonder if Obama thinks the press is once again being unfair with its primary coverage.

For example, as the press continues to focus on the issue of Clinton’s speaking fees as a private citizen, the New York Times reported, “The former secretary of state has for months struggled to justify how sharing her views on global affairs could possibly fetch $225,000 a pop from banks. ”

The former secretary of state can’t justify her large speaking fee, even though former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, and former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, among others, have all pocketed large, six-figure speaking fees?

Author Carl Bernstein said at CNN, “Now, you’ve got a situation with these transcripts, a little bit like Richard Nixon and his tapes that he stonewalled on and wouldn’t release.”

Over the past week, media outlets have been trying to explain how Clinton’s hard-fought win in Iowa wasn’t really a win.

During the run-up to the vote, Iowa was often described as a state that Clinton absolutely had to win (electorally, it wasn’t). And so then when she won, what did some in the press do? They claimed she didn’t really win Iowa, and if she did it was because of lucky coin tosses.

False and false.

“Even if he doesn’t actually win, this feels like a win for @BernieSanders,” tweeted Associated Press reporter Lisa Lerer the night of the Iowa vote, echoing a widespread media talking point. The New York Times repeatedly referred to her Iowa victory as a “tie.”

Note the contrast: In 2012, when Mitt Romney claimed to have won the Iowa Republican caucus by just eight votes, The New York Times announced unequivocally that Romney had, in fact, won Iowa. (Weeks later a recount concluded Rick Santorum won the caucus by 34 votes.)

Why was Iowa dubbed a loss by so many for Clinton? Because Sanders “was nowhere a few months ago,” as CNN’s Wolf Blitzer put it the night of the vote.

Actually, if you go back to last September and October, polls showed the Iowa race was in flux and occasionally veered within the margin of error. More recently, CNN’s final Iowa poll before the caucus had Clinton trailing by eight points in that state. So the idea a close Iowa finish was “surprising,” or constituted a Clinton collapse, doesn’t add up.

Meanwhile, did you notice that when the Clinton campaign accurately predicted that it had the votes to win the caucus, members of the press were quick to mock the move. Even after Iowa officials declared her the winner, the Clinton campaign was attacked as being “disingenuous” for saying she was the winner.

And then there was the weird embrace of the coin toss story, which was fitting, since so much of the Clinton campaign coverage these days seems to revolve around a very simple premise: Heads she loses, tails she loses.

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America, February 8, 2016

February 13, 2016 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, Mainstream Media, Political Reporters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The More We See”: Trayvon Martin Or George Zimmerman, Who’s The Real Thug?

With George Zimmerman out on bail last week after his latest run-in with police, it seems an opportune time to discuss the second killing of Trayvon Martin.

The first, of course, has been discussed ad infinitum since Zimmerman shot the unarmed 17-year-old to death last year. But then Trayvon was killed again. The conservative noise machine engaged in a ritual execution of his character and worth, setting out with breathtaking indifference to facts and callous disregard for simple decency to murder the memory of a dead child.

Geraldo Rivera blamed him for his own death because he wore a hooded sweatshirt — in the rain, yet. Glenn Beck’s website suggested he might have been an arsonist, kidnapper or killer. Rush Limbaugh made jokes about “Trayvon Martin Luther King.”

Some conservative readers even chastised me for referring to him as a “child” or a “boy” though at 17, he was legally both. Makes him seem too sympathetic, they said. One man assured me, absent any evidence or, apparently, any need of it, that contrary to reports, Trayvon was not walking to where he was staying that day but was in fact “casing” the neighborhood.

One woman forwarded a chain email depicting a tough-looking, light-skinned African-American man with tattoos on his face. It was headlined: “The Real Trayvon Martin,” which it wasn’t. It was actually a then-32-year-old rapper who calls himself The Game. But the message was clear: Trayvon was a scary black man who deserved what he got.

I sent that woman an image of Trayvon from the Zimmerman trial. It shows him lying open-eyed and dead on the grass. “This is the real Trayvon,” I wrote.

It was a waste of time. “They’re both pictures of Trayvon,” she insisted. So deeply, bizarrely invested was she in the idea of Trayvon as thug that she could not distinguish between a fair-skinned man with tattoos, and a brown boy with no visible markings. Literally, they all look alike to her.

And once again, a conservative movement which argues with airy assurance that American racism died long ago, disproves its thesis with its actions.

Here, someone wants it pointed out that Trayvon Martin was not an angel. Well, he wasn’t. He took pictures flipping the bird. He used marijuana. He was suspended from school at the time of his shooting. Obviously, he needed guidance. The same is true of many boys. Indeed, it is rumored that there are even white children who use marijuana.

But here’s the thing: Why did some of us need Trayvon to be an angel in the first place? Why did they feel such a pressing urgency to magnify — and manufacture — his failings? Why was it so important to them to make him unworthy of sympathy?

It is a question that assumes new potency the more we see of George Zimmerman. On the day he shot Trayvon, this hero of the conservative noise machine, this righteous white Hispanic man who was, they say, just standing his ground, already had a record that included an accusation he attacked an undercover police officer. That same year — 2005 — a woman sought a restraining order against him, alleging domestic violence.

In September, Zimmerman had a fresh run-in with police over a domestic violence accusation by his estranged wife. In this latest episode, a girlfriend said he pulled a gun on her. In court, she said that once, he even tried to choke her.

Granted, none of these charges has been adjudicated, but there is certainly a pattern here. It ought to give decent people pause and the conservative noise machine shame — assuming it is capable of that emotion. That pattern paints in neon the machine’s willful blindness, the reflexive alacrity with which it assigns the thug label to the black kid — and innocence to the white man.

Well, look again. George Zimmerman seems awfully darn thuggish to me.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Featured Post, The National Memo, November 25, 2013

November 26, 2013 Posted by | George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Fear Now A License To Kill”: To Those On The Right, People Are Not Racists If They Harm Someone Based On Fear Instead Of Hate

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, or so say conservatives who use the absolute sovereignty of outlook to justify a belief in such perverse ideas as global warming is a hoax, that Saddam Hussein really did have weapons of mass destruction and that President Obama is a foreign born secret Muslim.

It now appears everyone is also entitled to their own fears, which they are at liberty to act upon after George Zimmerman was cleared of all charges for acting on his when he singled out a Skittles and soda-packing Trayvon Martin as a threat to public safety and then tragically shot him dead in the confrontation that followed.

After all, as Geraldo Rivera told the audience of Fox and Friends after the verdict was announced: “You dress like a thug, people are going to treat you like a thug.”

As a matter of fact, Rivera is quite sure that if any of the six women on the Florida jury that cleared Zimmerman of all charges were in the shooter’s shoes that dark and stormy night they, too, would have done exactly at Zimmerman did.

“I submit that if they were armed, they would have shot and killed Trayvon Martin a lot sooner than George Zimmerman did,” said Rivera referring to the jurors. “This is self-defense.”

I guess I’d better tell my son to get rid of all those hooded sweatshirts he has or else he, too, might fall victim to some gun-toting vigilante like George Zimmerman.

It’s not so much the verdict itself that is so shocking and so sad.  Intellectually, I can understand the decision those six women on the jury came to when faced with the sketchy evidence presented and the constraints imposed on them by the limitations of Florida law.

I also wonder if prosecutors made a strategic mistake not going for a lesser charge (such as aggravated assault or reckless endangerment) given the lack of a credible eyewitness and the burden of proof over motive, which may then have left the jury no choice but to set Zimmerman free.

Still, I can’t help agreeing with Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson when he said the fact Zimmerman “recklessly initiated the tragic encounter was enough to establish, at a minimum, guilt of manslaughter.”

Zimmerman’s actions were what started the tragic train of events that resulted in the death of a human being in the first place, and he ought to pay some price for that. Such culpability is the theory that causes the driver of the getaway car to be charged with first degree murder alongside the shooter even though he didn’t pull the trigger that killed the bank guard.

But what I cannot abide, however, is the cynical gloating by the right wing that’s followed once the final verdict was read.

After Zimmerman was set free, the right wing media played its usual role, which was to denounce liberals for waging what they claimed was a racially-motivated “witch hunt” of Zimmerman while at the same time cynically exploiting and inciting the very same racial fears and resentments in their mostly white audience that almost certainly played a key role in Martin’s tragic death.

This is evident in the way efforts by the Department of Justice to ensure protests about the Zimmerman verdict remained peaceful have been portrayed in the right wing media as the government unfairly siding with the black Martin against the white Zimmerman throughout the trial, perpetuating the all too familiar Fox News narrative that the Obama administration is out to persecute white people for the benefit of minorities.

Racists, of course, are convinced there isn’t a racist bone in their body and they bitterly resent whenever anyone says different. But that is mostly because racists habitually define racism too narrowly, limiting bigotry to the rage or physical violence that emerges out of sheer malevolence.

But what about the fear that might reside in someone like a George Zimmerman, who would single out Martin and instinctively see him as a potential threat based on nothing more sinister than a racial stereotype – a prejudice.

To those on the right, people are not racists if they harm someone like Trayvon Martin based on fear instead of hate, even if that fear has racial origins.  All of us have a right to defend ourselves from danger, says the right, even against the imaginary dangers of a young black boy walking home with nothing more lethal than candy and soda.

But according to Daily Beast, this fear of black people had been brewing inside George Zimmerman for some time. Over eight years, Zimmerman made at least 46 calls to the police department in Sanford before those two fateful calls on February 26, 2012, shortly before he confronted and then fatally shot Martin, said the Daily Beast.

All told, the police log of Zimmerman’s calls “paint a picture of an extremely vigilant neighbor,” the Daily Beast reports, whose calls “make him sound more like a curmudgeon than a vigilante” protecting the gated community where he lived and where he shot Martin.

But starting in 2011, the Daily Beast says Zimmerman’s calls began to focus on what he considered to be “suspicious” characters in the neighborhood – “almost all of whom were young black males.”

According to the log in the Daily Beast:

On April 22, 2011, Zimmerman called to report a black male about “7-9” years old, four feet tall, with a “skinny build” and short black hair. There is no indication in the police report of the reason for Zimmerman’s suspicion of the boy.

On Aug. 3 of last year, Zimmerman reported a black male who he believed was “involved in recent” burglaries in the neighborhood.

And on Oct. 1 he reported two black male suspects “20-30” years old, in a white Chevrolet Impala. He told police he did “not recognize” the men or their vehicle and that he was concerned because of the recent burglaries.

The conservative National Review is willing to concede Zimmerman showed “poor judgment” in tailing Martin despite urgent pleas from the 911 dispatcher to leave Martin alone.

But the magazine strongly denies Zimmerman displays any of the behavior of “a bullying white racist circa 1955” when it overlooks the obvious racial profiling that started the tragic sequence of events to begin with. In fact, the magazine’s editors doubt Zimmerman harbored any racial ill-will at all as they pontificate about how glad they are “that people in America are still tried in the courts rather than by left-wing protesters or by the media” who they say waged a “long campaign of defamation against him outside the courtroom.”

To the National Review and to most of Zimmerman’s defenders on the right the only fact that matters is that Martin hit Zimmerman during the altercation that occurred once Martin noticed Zimmerman was following him, and probably lashed out at what he perceived to be a threat.

This fact is all that is required to make this case “a simple matter of self-defense,” says the National Review, despite what it criticized as the “enormous firestorm and campaign of race-hustling political intimidation” waged against Zimmerman.

Zimmerman was innocent in the eyes of his defenders on the right because he honestly believed the Skittles-wielding Martin to be dangerous. And what made Martin dangerous to Zimmerman was the fact he was black and, in the racist view of Geraldo Rivera, because Martin wore the uniform of a “thug.”

If the verdict is not more shocking to more people perhaps it’s because, as the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson put it: “Our society considers young black men to be dangerous, interchangeable, expendable, guilty until proven innocent.”

That is the way many right wing conservatives like Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly do in fact see young black men as they feed on the racial fears of their audience that America “is a changing country; the demographics are changing; it’s not a traditional America anymore;” and the “white establishment” is the minority.

And they vent their familiar white racist outrage at liberals who would dare to punish someone like George Zimmerman for acting on those fears when he killed a 17 year-old boy who did nothing wrong but look “suspicious” to the man who shot him.

 

By: Ted Frier, Open Salon Blog, July 16, 2013

July 21, 2013 Posted by | Racism, Zimmerman Trial | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Explaining Away The Violence”: Is The Hoodie The New Miniskirt?

Is the hoodie the new miniskirt? Of all the politically – and emotionally – loaded details of the George Zimmerman case, the matter of Trayvon Martin’s hoodie may be the most telling.

Martin, after all, was not just a black teenager walking in a gated community where he did not live. He was wearing a hoodie – which, Zimmerman’s defenders note, is somehow akin to carrying a machete in terms of sheer provocation.

Fox’s Geraldo Rivera apparently thinks so, noting that “if you dress like a thug, people are going to treat you like a thug.” And singer Ted Nugent, who is prone to provocative behavior and comments himself, called Martin a “Skittles hoodie boy,” referring also to Martin’s recent candy purchase.

It sounds bizarre to those of us who have worn hoodies (when you grow up in Buffalo, a hooded sweatshirt is just another necessary element to the three layer rule of keeping warm and dry during the winter, and also the fall and spring). When I was a kid, the style was to wear a blue hooded sweatshirt underneath an open denim jacket (how cool were we?!!).

And before the whole Martin–Zimmerman case, the most prominent hoodie–wearer, at least to football fans, was New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. He’s irritating, to be sure, and has even acquired the nickname “hoodie,” but no one has suggested he’s a symbol of violence or crime because of his clothing.

But women get it, because we have been told from an early age that what we wear could get us assaulted – and that if we are assaulted, people will think it’s our fault because of what we were wearing. If a female is walking down the street in a miniskirt (or whatever someone else might find provocative) and is sexually assaulted, part of the equation is – what was she wearing? And why was she wearing that? What other possible reason could she have for wearing a miniskirt other than that she was inviting rape or sexual assault? The old analogy still holds: would a defense attorney rip apart a male victim of a mugging who had been walking down a dark street wearing a natty suit and expensive watch, practically asking to be robbed?

The underlying premise – that wearing revealing clothing or a hoodie automatically makes one suspect, and therefore complicit in one’s own attack – is troubling. What’s even more offensive is the idea that some Taliban–type control group gets to decide how certain groups of people should dress in order to stay safe. Sometimes a hoodie is just a hoodie.

 

By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, July 17, 2013

July 18, 2013 Posted by | Zimmerman Trial | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Arm Your Kindergarteners”: More Guns, Fewer Hoodies

The debate over the shooting death of Trayvon Martin seems to be devolving into an argument about the right to wear hoodies, but it really does not appear to be a promising development.

Congress, which never draws any serious conclusions from terrible tragedies involving gunplay, did have time on Wednesday to fight about whether Representative Bobby Rush of Chicago violated the House dress code when he took off his suit jacket, revealing a gray sweater he was wearing underneath, and pulled the hood up over his head.

You may remember that Geraldo Rivera took measure of the Martin case and determined that the moral was: young men, throw out your hoodies. Even Rivera’s son said he was embarrassed. But, hey, we’re talking about it. Mission accomplished.

“Just because someone wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum,” Congressman Rush said, before he was hustled off for violating the rule against wearing hats on the House floor.

This is pretty much par for the course. Whenever there is a terrible shooting incident somewhere in America, our politicians talk about everything except whether the tragedy could have been avoided if the gunman had not been allowed to carry a firearm.

You would think that this would be a great time to address the question of handgun proliferation, but it has hardly come up in Washington at all. This is because most politicians are terrified of the National Rifle Association. Also, the small band of gun control advocates are busy with slightly less sweeping issues, such as their ongoing but still utterly futile effort to make it illegal to sell a weapon to anyone on the terror watch list.

The only serious debate Congress is likely to have this year on the subject of guns involves whether to allow people with concealed weapons permits to carry their handguns into other states.

Say you were from — oh, maybe Florida, where George Zimmerman was carrying a legal, loaded pistol while he was driving around his gated community, looking for suspicious characters. In Florida, even non-Floridians can get a concealed carry permit. You can get the application online. From the Department of Agriculture. (“Fresh from Florida.”)

Under a bill sponsored by Senator Mark Begich, Democrat of Alaska, you could take your Florida permit and your Florida loaded handgun and travel anyplace in the country, including the states where the police investigate every permit application, and say yes to relatively few. “If this law existed today, George Zimmerman could carry a loaded hidden handgun in Times Square. Today,” said Dan Gross, the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

And that would be the moderate version.

Senators John Thune of South Dakota and David Vitter of Louisiana have a competing bill that would relieve residents of states like Vermont and Arizona — which don’t require concealed weapons permits at all — from the cumbersome process of actually putting in some paperwork before they tote their handguns to, say, California or New Jersey. Under this one, Jared Loughner, who shot Representative Gabrielle Giffords, a judge, a small child and four other innocent Arizonans, could have brought his loaded handgun to Times Square.

There is a serious trend toward states letting their residents carry concealed weapons with no more background check than you need to carry a concealed nutcracker. All of this is based on the gun rights lobby’s argument that the more armed law-abiding people we have on our streets, the safer everybody will be. Under this line of thinking, George Zimmerman’s gated community was safer because Zimmerman was driving around with his legal gun. You can bet that future Trayvon Martins who go to the store to buy Skittles after dark will seriously consider increasing their own safety by packing heat. The next confrontation along these lines may well involve a pair of legally armed individuals, legally responding to perceived, albeit nonexistent, threats by sending a bullet through somebody’s living room window and hitting a senior citizen watching the evening weather report.

The Violence Policy Center has a list of 11 police officers and 391 private citizens who have been killed over the last five years by people carrying concealed weapons for which they had a permit. That includes a man in Florida who killed four women, including his estranged wife, in a restaurant in 2010 and another Floridian who opened fire at Thanksgiving, killing four relatives.

You would think all of this would cause states to stop and rethink. But no. And, personally, I’m worn down from arguing. Florida, follow your own star. Arizona, arm your kindergarteners. Just stop trying to impose your values on places where the thinking is dramatically different.

 Really, just leave us alone. If you don’t like our rules, don’t come here. Is that too much to ask?

 

By: Gail Collins, Op Ed Columnist, The New York Times, March 28, 2012

March 29, 2012 Posted by | Civil Rights, Violence | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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