May 2017 Archives

It amuses me to see conservatives complaining about liberal bias--from Republicans. For example,
Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) "who is not known for having the keenest intellect on Capitol Hill," wrote on Facebook that "the media was [sic] never this critical to President Obama, the recent Harvard study proves that the media has [sic] applied a completely different standard to President Trump." [The "different standard" in Trump's case was that they puffed up his early candidacy into a newsworthy event with billions of dollars' worth of free publicity, but that's another story.]

"Duncan, like many on the right, sees a recent study of the mainstream coverage of Trump's first 100 days in office," the piece continues, "as solid proof that the media treat Trump unfairly:"

It looked at news reports "in the print editions of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, the main newscasts of CBS, CNN, Fox News, and NBC, and three European news outlets," and found that 80 percent of Trump's coverage by those outlets was negative - significantly higher than the shares for Barack Obama (41 percent negative), George W. Bush (57 percent) and Bill Clinton (60 percent) at this point in their presidencies. Conservative publications greeted the report with headlines like, "Harvard Study Confirms Media Bias Against Trump," and "Harvard Report: There Is A Huge Anti-Trump Bias In Corporate Media."

"The obvious response," the piece observes, "is that the vast majority of stories about famine, natural disasters, and genital warts are negative, and that doesn't imply a bias on the part of those writing them:"

Trump's young presidency has been a train wreck, his White House has been mired in largely self-inflicted scandals and his legislative agenda has so far gotten nowhere in Congress. And Trump, unlike his predecessors, has a penchant for impulsively tweeting dubious claims and inflammatory nonsense. [...]

Ironically, the Shorenstein study did find significant bias at one media outlet: Fox News was a lone outlier in that almost half of its Trump coverage was positive. Looking back at 100 days marked by chaos and failure, it's hard to imagine what a truly fair and balanced news outlet possibly could have covered in order to run so many positive segments.

As the study itself notes, "the fact that Trump has received more negative coverage than his predecessor is hardly surprising:"

The early days of his presidency have been marked by far more missteps and miss-hits, often self-inflicted, than any presidency in memory, perhaps ever.

What's truly atypical about Trump's coverage is that it's sharply negative despite the fact that he's the source of nearly two-thirds of the sound bites surrounding his coverage.

"Trump's first 100 days were a landmark," the study continues, partly because "Trump did most of the talking:"

He was the featured speaker in nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of his coverage. Members of the administration, including his press secretary, accounted for 11 percent of the sound bites. Other Republicans, including Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, accounted for 4 percent. Altogether, Republicans, inside and outside the administration, accounted for 80 percent of what newsmakers said about the Trump presidency. [emphasis added] Democrats did not have a large voice in Trump's coverage, accounting for only 6 percent of the sound bites. Participants in anti-Trump protests and demonstrations accounted for an additional 3 percent.

One can hardly fault the "liberal" media for the fact that quoting Trump and other Republicans is considered to constitute negative news.

The Advocate points out that today's sci-fi is odd in its adherence to strict gender norms. A notable example is "The Wachowski sisters' remarkable Netflix series, Sense8:"

The cluster of eight we follow is diversity itself -- a Kenyan, a German, an Indian, an Icelander, people of color, a Brazilian gay man, and a Bay Area transgender woman. In nearly every episode, a cluster character denounces humanity's unfortunate propensity to fear and oppress those we see as different, as the "Other."

And yet...

Not a single genderqueer person anywhere. Not in this cluster. Not in the others. Not in any character they interact with. [...] Apparently gender difference is the Other that must not speak its name. And this is from a team where not one but both siblings have bravely and publicly transitioned to be trans women. Et tu, Lana and Lilly?

Moreover, all of this occurs in science fiction, a genre invented to let creative imaginations run wild with possibility. Apparently veering from the gender binary is not among the possible. And in this, Sense8 is hardly alone.

Despite citing the example of Jaye Davidson in the Stargate film (1994), the piece expresses no small amount of dismay:

In short, even our best creative minds are simply unable to imagine, under any circumstances, on any world, in any galaxy, in any alien form, a character who is nonbinary and/or profoundly gender-nonconforming (no, please do not feed me Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan on Star Trek: The Next Generation). [...] Perhaps for a truly genderqueer sci-fi character we must wait for Taylor on Showtime's series Billions to don a space suit and launch a hedge fund on Tatooine.

Surely all that imaginative power can envision the realm of gender and sexuality as imaginatively as aliens, spaceships, and superpowers?

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