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J.D. Vance

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

On July 1, right-wing "Hillbilly Elegy" author J.D. Vance announced that he is seeking the GOP nomination for Ohio's 2022 U.S. Senate race, and some pundits have mentioned him as a possible presidential candidate for 2024. When it came out in 2016, "Hillbilly Elegy" was widely read — even by liberals and progressives, who wanted to hear what Vance had to say about social and economic problems in rural Appalachia. But recently, the 36-year-old Vance has been sounding more and more like a Trumpian culture warrior, and Never Trump conservative Tim Miller notes how much of a "culture war it boy" Vance has become in a hilarious but scathing video posted on YouTube and The Bulwark on July 1.

Although Miller is conservative, he isn't far-right and has been a blistering critic of former President Donald Trump. In 2020, Miller left the Republican Party after many years and endorsed now-President Joe Biden in the presidential election. And his Vance video slams the "Hillbilly Elegy" author right away, with Miller asking, "Did Hollywood help propel a new race-baiting, culture-war 'it boy' to political stardom?"

"This is J.D. Vance," Miller explains in the video. "He looks like a cross between Elmer Fudd and three babies in a trench coat. And he's running for Senate in Ohio, with his eyes on a future presidential bid."

2016 was not only the year "Hillbilly Elegy" was released — it was also the year in which Trump defeated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in that year's presidential election, losing the popular vote but picking up more electoral votes. Miller recalls that Vance was anti-Trump in 2016 but has since flip-flopped and become very Trumpian rhetorically.

"You may have seen his Netflix movie 'Hillbilly Elegy,' which was based on his critically acclaimed book," Miller observes with biting sarcasm. "It was lauded as a nuanced portrait of the Trump-supporting White working class that was all too often tarnished as racist or backwards. And back then, J.D. played reviewers like a fiddle. He texted his agent saying that Trump winning would be terrible for the country, but good for book sales. Everyone from Seth Meyers to Bill Gates used J.D.'s story to help them understand this crazy species that they'd never encountered in the wild: the Trump voter."

Miller slams Vance as a shameless opportunist, saying, "Now, Vance is parlaying that media success into politics, and the former Trump skeptic has taken a dark turn. These days, he's a Trumpstan, and he's relying on racial resentment to reach the very voters that he was supposedly shining a more empathetic and nuanced light on. His Twitter feed has turned into kind of a Trumpian cosplay, but without any of the former tweeter-in-chief's je ne sais quoi."

Vance recently resorted to fake outrage after Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley, during a congressional hearing, said he "wanted to understand White rage."

"In response," Miller observes in his video, "J.D. rage-tweeted, 'The conservative [American]s you trash are disproportionately bleeding for this country.' Ah, so only angry White men serve in the military. Boy, that's some subtle stuff there, bro. I wonder if the audience picked up on the dog whistle."

But as much as Miller lambasts Vance in his video, he also expresses regret — pointing out that instead of pandering to White racists, he could be genuinely shedding light on the economic problems of White rural America.

Indeed, a major void was left after the death of journalist/author Joe Bageant, the self-described "redneck leftist" who specialized in liberal commentary on economic pain among rural Whites. Bageant, who died of cancer in 2011, is best remembered for his book Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War.

Miller, with frustration, explains, "Here's the worst part about J.D.'s new shtick: The points he's made over the years about liberal elites looking down on and ignoring the forgotten hillbillies were right. They do do that! J.D. could have been a model for a new, more empowering kind of politics. But instead of changing the way politicians address White working-class problems, he's using the same demagogic bullshit about race and crime and gays that every populist asshole has been employing since the AIDS crisis and Jim Crow. And instead of telling them the truth, he's going with his dad to Trump's conspiracy-election-fraud jamboree and going along with Big Lie BS."

Watch the video below:

Tim Miller's NOT MY PARTY | Will JD Vance Find Political Stardom? www.youtube.com

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Rep. Bennie Thompson

Photo by Customs and Border Protection (Public domain)

Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) Friday afternoon announced the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack has issued subpoenas to 14 Republicans from seven states who submitted the forged and "bogus" Electoral College certificates falsely claiming Donald Trump and not Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election in their states.

The Chairman appeared to suggest the existence of a conspiracy as well, noting the "the planning and coordination of efforts," saying "these so-called alternate electors met," and may know "who was behind that scheme."

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Chris Cuomo

News Literacy Week 2022, an annual awareness event started by the News Literacy Project, a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to making everyone “smart, active consumers of news and information and equal and engaged participants in a democracy” has closed out. From January 24 to 28, classes, webinars, and Twitter chats taught students and adults how to root out misinformation when consuming news media.
There’s no downplaying the importance of understanding what is accurate in the media. These days, news literacy is a survival tactic. One study estimated that at least 800 people died because they embraced a COVID falsehood — and that inquiry was conducted in the earliest months of the pandemic. About 67 percent of the unvaccinated believe at least one COVID-19 myth, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
It’s not that accurate information isn’t available; people are rejecting reports of vaccine efficacy and safety because they distrust the news media. A third of Americans polled by Gallup said they have no trust at all in mass media; another 27 percent don’t have much at all.
Getting people to believe information presented to them depends more on trust than it does on the actual data being shared. That is, improving trust isn’t an issue of improving reporting. It’s an issue of improving relationships with one’s audience.
And that’s the real news problem right now; some celebrity anchors at cable news outlets are doing little to strengthen their relationships with their audiences and a lot to strengthen their relationships with government officials.
The most obvious example is how CNN terminated Prime Time anchor Chris Cuomo last month for his failure to disclose the entirety of his role in advising his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on the sexual harassment accusation that unfolded in Albany, a scandal that eventually led to Andrew Cuomo’s resignation.
But there are others. Just this month, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol revealed that another anchor on another cable news network, Laura Ingraham of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, texted then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows last January, advising Meadows how Trump should react to reports of possible armed protests at state capitols around the country. This revelation followed the story that Sean Hannity, host of the eponymous news hour at Fox News, also texted Meadows with advice last year.
And while he didn't advise a government official, CNN anchor Don Lemon revealed information not available to the public when he texted embattled Empire actor Jussie Smollett to tip him off about the Chicago Police Department’s wavering faith in his story about an assault. That’s from Smollett’s own sworn testimony.
When English philosopher Edmund Burke joked about the press being the Fourth Estate — in addition to the First, Second and Third (the clergy, nobility and commoners, respectively) — his point was that, despite their influence on each other, these “estates” — bastions of power — are supposed to be separate.
The Fourth Estate will always be an essential counterweight to government. But, since Donald Trump was elected in 2016, we’ve been so focused on stopping an executive branch from pressing the press to support an administration's agenda — either by belittling journalists or threatening to arrest them for doing their jobs — that we’ve ignored the ways that it affects and influences other Estates, and not necessarily through its reporting.
That is, we have news personalities-cum-reporters who are influencing government policy — and not telling us about it until it’s too late.
The United States has fostered an incredible closeness between the Second Estate — which in 2021 and 2022 would be political leaders — and the Fourth Estate. About a year ago, an Axios reporter had to be reassigned because she was dating one of President Biden’s press secretaries. Last year, James Bennet, the former editorial page editor of the New York Times and brother of Colorado Senator and 2020 Presidential candidate Michael Bennet, had to recuse himself publicly from the Gray Lady’s endorsement process. In 2013, the Washington Post reported at least eight marriages between Obama officials and established journalists.
To be clear, there aren’t any accusations that anyone just mentioned engaged in anything other than ethical behavior. But I, for one, don’t believe that James and Michael Bennet didn’t discuss Michael’s campaign. I don’t think the Axios reporter and her West Wing-employed boyfriend — or any journalists and their federally employed spouses, for that matter — didn’t share facts that the public will never know. Such is the nature of family and intimacy.
And as long as those conversations don’t affect the coverage of any news events, there’s nothing specifically, technically wrong with them. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t damaging.
As these stories show, when we don’t know about these advisor roles, at least not until someone other than the journalist in question exposes them, it causes a further erosion of trust in news media.
What’s foolish about the Cuomo, Ingraham, Hannity, and Lemon improprieties is that they don't necessarily need to be the problem they’ve become. Cuomo’s show contained opinion content like 46 percent of CNN’s programming. An active debate rages on as to whether Fox News is all opinion and whether or not it can rightly even be called opinion journalism since its shows are so studded with inaccuracies and lies.
What that means is that Cuomo, Ingraham, Hannity, and Lemon are allowed to take a stand as opinion journalists; Cuomo and Lemon never really worked under a mandate of objectivity and Ingraham and Hannity likely wouldn’t honor it if they did. Indeed, a certain subjectivity — and explaining how it developed for the journalist — is part of an opinion journalist’s craft. To me, little of these consulting roles would be problematic if any of these anchors had just disclosed them and the ways they advised the people they cover.
But they didn’t. Instead, the advice they dispensed to government employees and celebrities was disclosed by a third party and news of it contributes to the public’s distrust in the media. While personal PR advisory connections between journalists and politicians haven’t been pinpointed as a source of distrust, they may have an effect. Almost two-thirds of respondents in a Pew Research poll said they attributed what they deemed unfair coverage to a political agenda on the part of the news organization. No one has rigorously examined the ways in which individual journalists can swing institutional opinion so it may be part of the reason why consumers are suspicious of news.
Cleaning up ex post facto is both a violation of journalistic ethics and ineffective. Apologies and corrections after the fact don't always improve media trust. In other credibility contests, like courtroom battles, statements against one’s interests enhance a person’s believability. But that’s not necessarily true of news; a 2015 study found that corrections don’t automatically enhance a news outlet’s credibility.
It’s a new adage for the 21st century: It’s not the consulting; it’s the cover-up. Journalists need to disclose their connections to government officials — up front — to help maintain trust in news media. Lives depend on it.

Chandra Bozelko did time in a maximum-security facility in Connecticut. While inside she became the first incarcerated person with a regular byline in a publication outside of the facility. Her “Prison Diaries" column ran in The New Haven Independent, and she later established a blog under the same name that earned several professional awards. Her columns now appear regularly in The National Memo.


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