Most weekends, I avoid the news. I may catch up on Sundays, reading some of the longer magazine features I set to the side during the week. But, all in all, I claim as much utter leisure on the weekend as I can.
And so I’ve been diving into two stories that crossed some sort of Rubicon while I was away. As with most things in this extremely dumb era of American politics, I learned about the recent news cycle flare-ups through the exit door: by hearing about the president’s latest temper tantrums on Twitter.
The first story concerns the “big Caravan of People from Honduras.” More than 1,000 people are wending through Mexico right now. They left Honduras in late March, fleeing an impoverished country bent under the will of a corrupt president who’s sown unrest and violence in the wake of his re-election. Adolfo Flores at BuzzFeed has embedded with the group.
In the U.S., our president is using this micro-exodus as the latest stand-in for the xenophobia he’s exhibited for decades. Blending the interminable talk of “the Wall,” DACA legislation, NAFTA, international aid and Mexico-U.S. relations, this story is one to watch in April.
The official presidential statement: “The big Caravan of People from Honduras, now coming across Mexico and heading to our “Weak Laws” Border, had better be stopped before it gets there. Cash cow NAFTA is in play, as is foreign aid to Honduras and the countries that allow this to happen. Congress MUST ACT NOW!”
The president’s Twitter presence is a specter in daily life. The crooked cadence cascades like coffin nails across our eyes. It’s a persistent reminder of the absolute idiocy in this country, a national id on a meth bender.
The kicker is that his shameful administration “backed the re-election of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez despite widespread misgivings about the vote count, as Reuters reports, prompting the opposition candidate to describe his bid for the presidency as a ‘lost cause.'”
The second story is one that I’ve been following for about year, ever since Sinclair Broadcasting announced its plan to purchase Tribune Media for just about $4 billion. Over the weekend, this incredible video montage seared across social media. It’s alarming.
Sinclair news anchors apparently repeated the same lines on-air, essentially parroting Trump’s “fake news” horseshit. It strikes most as another example of a sprawling corporate behemoth exerting its will through downward pressure and paranoia.
How America’s largest local TV owner turned its news anchors into soldiers in Trump’s war on the media: https://t.co/iLVtKRQycL pic.twitter.com/dMdSGellH3
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) March 31, 2018
“The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media.”
“Some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias.”
“This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.”
As Annenberg School professor Victor Pickard writes, “This is yet another pathology in the US media system that could get much, much worse.”
Part of the problem with the Tribune Media deal is that it’s being synced with a cozy relationship with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. In recent months, Pai has systemically deregulated core tenets of broadcast media ownership in the U.S.
Once the deal is formally complete, Sinclair would expand its reach from 39 percent of American households to 70 percent. (Consider for a moment the 63 million voters who cast their lot with Trump/Pence in 2016.)
This brings us around to the idea of “regulatory capture,” referenced by Pickard in past news stories, in which “a government regulatory body begins to internalize the logic and value systems of the industries it purportedly regulates. Over time it begins to harmonize its actions with the commercial imperatives of the corporations it’s meant to oversee.”
I haven’t the time to survey Sinclair’s hundreds of stations that aired the “false news” PSA, but it’s not hard to imagine how the Honduran “caravan” news might play — if indeed it does at all.