Last week involved a shooting at YouTube, numerous scandals involving EPA director Scott Pruitt, and surprising new sanctions placed on Russian oligarchs, and yet, none of that makes it into what’s being discussed below. Does that mean, perhaps, that the week was too busy? Read on and make the decision for yourself.
When the News Is News
What Happened: If your local news sounds like something you’ve heard somewhere before … Well, you might be watching a station owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group.
What Really Happened: That Sinclair Broadcast Group is a, shall we say, controversial entity is hardly a new thing; even those who don’t remember 2004’s John Kerry Swift Boat documentary might recall, say, John Oliver’s piece on Last Week Tonight last year or stories calling Sinclair “the most dangerous US company you have never heard of.” Folks even knew it forced TV stations to air right-wing material, just as they knew it had hired former Donald Trump campaign spokesman Borys Epshteyn as its chief political analyst, with his segments being pushed on TV stations over the concerns of those working at the stations. So, maybe last week’s Sinclair news shouldn’t have been a surprise. And yet, this report still seemed somewhat shocking.
The Deadspin story—and especially that video—made it clear just how much Sinclair is manipulating the narrative and dictating coverage, and plenty of people noticed. (Again.) Including some unlikely figures.
There’s a reason this is a big deal, of course.
With its methods out in the open—and seeing more sunlight by the day—Sinclair was definitely not acting in any way suspiciously about the subject in communications to its staff.
Much of the response from critics had a tone of, “Well, why don’t the reporters and anchors just quit?” Even beyond the simple fact of, “It’s never easy to find a new job,” it turns out it might not be that easy to leave a Sinclair.
Perhaps he’s right not to be worried, especially when you consider who’s loving all of this.
The Takeaway: Well, if you can’t beat ’em, buy ads from ’em. That’s one way of using the market to fight back.
Tweet What You Mean, Mean What You Tweet
What Happened: In the second media story of the week, it turns out that sometimes a tweet is a good indicator of someone’s stance. Who knew?
What Really Happened: Perhaps you missed the upset recently about The Atlantic hiring a writer named Kevin Williamson. The magazine hired the writer—who has said that women who get abortions should be hanged and called Laverne Cox an “effigy of a woman” —praising his “power, contrariness, wit, and smart construction,” and calling him “ideologically interesting.”
Last week, Williamson and The Atlantic parted ways.
The memo from editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg, laying out the reasons for Williamson’s departure, was … interesting.
Some read between the lines for what was actually being said…
…whereas others imagined the conversations between The Atlantic and Williamson behind the scenes.
There is, of course, only one way to properly explain the situation.
The Takeaway: Pour one out for Kevin Williamson’s time at The Atlantic, then… We hardly knew ye.
We Have Always Been at Trade War with Eurasia
What Happened: Apparently, making unexpected decisions that affect international relations with trading partners has repercussions.
What Really Happened: In an astonishing break from tradition, it now appears that a President Trump tweet from last month was, in fact, foreshadowing of what was to come. Remember this?
“Trade wars are good, and easy to win,” it turns out, was an indicator of Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, and the chaos they caused. Unpopular with US allies and resulting in layoffs, they had already provoked reaction from the European Union, and then, last week, the other shoe dropped.
OK, so that’s definitely not good. But at least the president isn’t planning anything to make it worse…
The Takeaway: But wait, maybe this is more of that fourth dimensional chess that Trump is so fond of playing.
(Of course, such a plan would’ve worked better had Trump not broken his silence on Stormy Daniels on the very same day…)
Facebook Has Changed Its Relationship Status to ‘It’s Complicated’
What Happened: Things went from bad to worse for Mark Zuckerberg’s company this week on … honestly, almost every front imaginable.
What Really Happened: We’re now a couple of weeks into the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal, so let’s check in and see how things are going over at everyone’s favorite social network, shall we?
Oh. So, according to Facebook head honcho Mark Zuckerberg, the company removed “more than 270 pages and accounts operated by a Russian organization called the Internet Research Agency (IRA).” Facebook’s chief security officer, Alex Stamous, wrote a blog post that went more in depth, adding that the social network removed 70 Facebook accounts, 65 Instagram accounts, and 138 Facebook Pages controlled by the IRA. “Many of the Pages also ran ads, all of which have been removed,” Stamous wrote. “Of the Pages that had content, the vast majority of them (95 percent) were in Russian—targeted either at people living in Russia or Russian-speakers around the world including from neighboring countries like Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine.”
The deletions, of course, didn’t go unnoticed by Russia.
Yes, 87 million accounts instead of 50 million. That impressive leap came from an official Facebook statement that also included this nugget about the fact that people’s phone numbers were searchable on the site: “Given the scale and sophistication of the activity we’ve seen, we believe most people on Facebook could have had their public profile scraped in this way.” But… that’s got to be the extent of the bad news for the company, right?
The Takeaway: Suddenly, Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress next week seems like it’s going to be even more fascinating to watch, if not necessarily revealing.
Marilyn Monroe Wrecks the Internet, Indirectly
What Happened: Does anyone deserve anything at its best? Last week, Twitter really wanted to know.
What Really Happened: Let’s end this week with something lighter: a meme that took over Twitter, seemingly inexplicably. It might have started with this tweet, at the end of the week before:
But before too long, it seemed as if all of Twitter was prepared to compare worsts and bests—and it wasn’t always the most obvious examples.
All this from a famous quote that, it turns out, Marilyn Monroe never actually said.
The Takeaway: This sums up our feelings on the matter pretty succinctly.