By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Tag: Maine

Biden calls out Trump’s Nazi rhetoric — but the media can’t get past ‘both sides’

Photo (cc) 2021 by Alex Kent/Tennessee Lookout

President Biden delivered an excellent speech Friday on the threat to democracy posed by Donald Trump and his supporters. He even used the N-word (Nazi) to describe Trump’s rhetoric in referring to his opponents as “vermin” and to refer to immigrants as “destroying the blood of our country.” If you missed Biden’s address, Heather Cox Richardson has a detailed overview.

But will it matter? Of course not. One of Trump’s go-to tactics when confronted with harsh truths is to childishly assert, “I know you are, but what am I?” So of course Trump’s response to Biden’s Valley Forge event was to hold a rally and accuse Biden of “fearmongering.” It worked because the first rule of media is to cover both sides. The tease on The New York Times’ homepage right now says:

Clashing Over Jan. 6, Trump and Biden Show Reality Is at Stake in 2024

Former President Trump and President Biden are framing the election as a battle for democracy — with Mr. Trump casting Mr. Biden as the true menace.

The actual headline is a little better, adding “brazenly” to Trump’s claim. And the story is better still, calling Trump “the only president to try to overthrow an American election” and adding: “Mr. Trump’s strategy aims to upend a world in which he has publicly called for suspending the Constitution, vowed to turn political opponents into legal targets and suggested that the nation’s top military general should be executed.” Good and true stuff. But wow, that tease.

Today, as we all know, is the third anniversary of the failed insurrection that Trump fomented. I may have written this before, but I remember returning to our car after a long hike in the Middlesex Fells and turning on public radio. The station was carrying the feed from the “PBS NewsHour,” and the first thing I heard was Judy Woodruff freaking out. What had happened? Were the Republicans pulling some sort of ridiculous stunt?

I soon learned the truth. As Biden reminded us Friday, a Trumpist mob, carrying Trump and Confederate flags, had invaded the Capitol. Gallows had been constructed to hang Mike Pence. (Mere symbolism? I don’t think so. What do you suppose would have happened if they’d actually got hold of him?) Angry Trumpers roamed the corridors, looking for Nancy Pelosi. Again, what do you suppose would have happened if they’d found her? Police officers were injured, and some died in the aftermath.

Now we’re waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether Colorado, Maine and possibly other states can keep Trump off the ballot under the 14th Amendment, which bars officials who “engaged in insurrection” from serving. As I wrote earlier this week, this is where the question belongs. But I don’t trust the court, dominated as it is by two justices who occupy what are essentially stolen seats (Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett) and a third (Clarence Thomas) who is so corrupt that he ought to be off the bench and consulting with his lawyers.

But it’s all we’ve got. “Democracy is still a sacred cause,” Biden told his audience in Valley Forge. I wish I shared his optimism that we are capable of preserving it.

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Another mass shooting underscores why people are turning away from news

The front page of today’s Portland Press Herald

Earlier this week, the Pew Research Center reported the results of a survey that found news consumption fell significantly between 2016 and 2022: “In 2016, 51% of U.S. adults said they followed the news all or most of the time. But that share fell to 38% in 2022, the most recent time we asked this question.”

Now we are in a moment of real horror and crisis. From war in Ukraine to Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel to the retaliatory response that’s now under way; from chaos in Washington to another terrible mass shooting, this time in Lewiston, Maine — it’s no wonder that people are tuning out. Who can process all this?

With the shooter in Lewiston still at large, it’s a good time to take another look at “The Breaking News Consumer’s Handbook,” compiled in 2013 after an earlier mass shooting. Given that initial reports are often wrong, there’s little reason to watch the story unfold in real time. Catch the top of the hour if you must, but otherwise wait for something more comprehensive and vetted.

And here are some Maine-based sources of coverage:

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In Maine, a newspaper is revived as a nonprofit

Terrific column by Bill Nemitz in the Portland Press Herald about how residents in the tiny Maine town of Harpswell revived their newspaper, the Harpswell Anchor, as a nonprofit.

“The November issue of the new-and-improved Harpswell Anchor will be its sixth,” Nemitz writes. “And by all indications, the 24-page tabloid isn’t just surviving. It’s thriving.”

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