2017 continues to break all norms. In most years, the four-day weekend starting with Thanksgiving is a very slow news time. In a normal holiday news cycle, Friday through Sunday would have been spent talking about people out shopping and the start of the Christmas season. Not this year. Here’s a quick look at what happened in the media over the weekend.
“Piegate” … The controversy over whether or not White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders baked a pie for her family’s Thanksgiving celebration is probably the most 2017 “controversy” ever. To recap, on Thanksgiving, Sanders tweeted a photo of a chocolate pecan pie with the text: “I dont cook much these days, but managed this Chocolate Pecan Pie for Thanksgiving at the family farm!” That sent the media into a frenzy, with American Urban Radio Network’s April D. Ryan tweeting in reply: “Show it to us on a table.” That nonstory, frankly, got a lot more coverage than it deserved. And yes, the MSM is really calling it PIEGATE.
“Fact”-checking abortion with opinion … PolitiFact often uses expert opinion as concrete fact when performing “fact”-checks. That’s why I’ve started calling it PolitOpinion. This time, the “fact”-checkers examined the claim by Roy Moore’s wife that Alabama Democrat candidate for Senate Doug Jones supports “full-term abortion.” NewsBusters methodically goes through her claim, Jones’ answer to Chuck Todd that he wouldn’t support a 20-week abortion ban, and PolitiFact’s assertion that the term is “disconnected from reality,” citing Harvard “experts.” The only people “disconnected from reality” are the “smart set” in Washington and Cambridge.
Men just want to sleep with Mom and kill Dad? … This “hot take” on sexual harassment at the New York Times flames out quickly. According to author Stephen Marche, the reason men can’t control themselves is that predatory nature is inextricably linked to masculine evolution. To buttress his argument, he offers a dubious paraphrase of Freud on the Oedipus complex: “If you let boys be boys, they will murder their fathers and sleep with their mothers.” Seriously? Give us a break.
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NY Times normalizes a “Nazi sympathizer” … Over the weekend, the New York Times published a human interest story about — wait for it — the “Nazi sympathizer next door.” The portrait showed how Tony and Maria Hovater of New Carlisle, Ohio, are a seemingly normal married couple next door, even though Mr. Hovater is a self-described white nationalist. There is no doubt in my mind that the intention was to scare Middle Americans about their neighbors and to make it seem like there’s a Nazi lurking behind every red-state white guy’s front door. That is NOT how progressives took it.
Tremendous backlash … The response to the article was as swift as it was fierce. Here’s how the Times explained it in an editor’s note added to the story after publication: “This article has drawn significant feedback, most of it sharply critical. Read a response from The Times’s national editor here. And the reporter offers his thoughts on covering white nationalists here.”
How to make it better … CRTV’s editorial director, Jenn Taylor, messaged me with her thoughts on how the Times could have stopped the controversy before it even started: “What the Times and some of its critics don’t get is that it’s all about framing. It’s not that you shouldn’t profile a neo-Nazi. But it’s the context and backdrop that you give the profile that matter most and stop it from appearing utterly sympathetic. With the right context, juxtaposing this profile with the words of people who lost family to Nazis or even the family of the woman killed in Charlottesville, this would have been more effective, more powerful, and less subject to valid criticism.”
“Nazi Bob” pizza guy … Like many such stories, the Nazi-next-door narrative comes in waves. A week before the Times piece, the Boston Globe’s Matt Viser wrote about a Pennsylvania “pizza delivery guy [who] is also ‘Nazi Bob.’” The story is in the same vein as the Times piece but seemingly went less noticed. TL,DR: live your life in fear, because you never know which one of your neighbors is a Nazi.
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Robert Eno is the editor of the WTF MSM!? newsletter and director of retention for Blaze Media.