Almost half of Republicans polled say courts should shut down “biased” news

Alex Jones fans promote his “CNN is ISIS” meme.

If one phrase captures the willful irresponsibility of the alt-right, it’s “CNN is ISIS.” Back in June, Alex Jones and his Infowars show offered $1,000 to anyone who could get that slogan onto TV, either by holding up a sign or wearing it on a shirt. It’s a nonsense statement. No one actually thinks CNN is connected to the Islamic State, or that they are even comparably bad, but saying you think so expresses an attitude. That attitude is “I’m willing to say whatever, especially if it drives libs crazy.” “CNN is ISIS” is the gleeful refrain of a lifestyle that has freed itself from truth.

As stupid as it is, though, it also captures an animosity toward the press that is real among supporters of Donald Trump. The president himself has called the media an enemy of the American people and now refers to any bad press—including leaks—as “fake news.” He encouraged crowds at his rallies to boo reporters during the campaign, and he continues to do so at various public events. But all this mindless hatred wouldn’t affect the public’s support for a free and independent press, would it? That’s just too deeply ingrained in the American system.

Enter The Economist, who found in a joint poll with YouGov that 45% of respondents who identified as Republicans approved of “permitting the courts to shut down news media outlets for publishing or broadcasting stories that are biased or inaccurate.” Seriously, look at this:

In the same poll, 71% of Republicans said they trusted Donald Trump more than the New York Times. That’s astonishing. Even if you think the Times is biased, the number of inaccuracies it prints in a year does not approach the number of falsehoods President Trump uttered in his first week. Even his supporters admonish us to take Trump seriously but not literally, which is a polite way of saying he does not speak with any regard for the truth. Calling this man more trustworthy than America’s paper of record is like saying your dog is smarter than the faculty of Yale.

Now is a good time to remember that polls don’t necessarily tell us what people think so much as what they want to think—the idea of themselves they take on, suddenly, when a pollster asks them to express their beliefs. Probably, 71% of Republicans don’t reach for the newspaper and then decide they’ll get a more reliable report from President Trump. When you ask them to choose between the two, though, they want to convey their support for him by saying Trump is better.

This phenomenon probably also accounts for the terrifying plurality of Republicans who said courts should restrict the free press. The overwhelming favorite among the general pool of respondents to that question is “haven’t heard enough to say.” It’s good they haven’t heard enough, since no one is really talking about it. I wouldn’t need much background on that one to feel confidently against it, but it’s not as though the 28% who said they favored the idea are out there trying to make it happen. It’s more likely they heard a pollster ask about it and said okay, whatever. But Christ merciful and lambent, that’s a scary question.

Commissioners sign petition, deny bias, postpone decision

In the years after World War I, the Missoula Mercantile building moved three tons of huckleberry fudge a day.

The Missoula Mercantile, which once moved three tons of huckleberry fudge per day.

Bad news for business travelers: Missoula’s Historic Preservation Commission has put off deciding whether to let developers knock down the Missoula Mercantile Building and build a Residence Inn. It met for four hours last week. In addition to public comment that compared HomeBase Montana to ISIS, the commission addressed the recommendation of City Attorney Jim Nugent, who advised four members to recuse themselves for bias.

“I am still in shock that somehow we’ve been found guilty without any due process whatsoever,” commission vice chair Steve Adler told The Missoulian. I find him guilty of exaggeration. Nugent issued no verdict, because he held no trial. He did tell four commissioners that the city could be vulnerable to a lawsuit if the they didn’t recuse. Nugent’s office discovered that Adler, an architect, worked on his own plan to develop residential condominiums in the Mercantile building. He also signed a Save the Merc petition and liked various postings from a group of the same name on Facebook. So did commission chair Mike Monsos and commissioners Kate Kolwicz and Cheryl Cote.

First of all, alliteration on the Historic Preservation Commission has gotten way out of hand. Second, and perhaps even more importantly: Did you guys think signing petitions and liking Facebook posts from parties to a permit dispute that you’re adjudicating was appropriate? I am scared the answer is yes. Now’s a good time to remember that Missoula’s commissioners of historic preservation are all volunteers, and we’ve asked them to stop putting plaques on mansions just long enough to intercede in multimillion-dollar development deal.

This may not be a job for amateur government, but it has fallen to the amateurs’ lot. We installed these people, and we will foot the bill if their predictable errors in judgment trigger a lawsuit. You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. Official motto: Your local newspaper that has an editor.

Friday links! Our shared inheritance edition

A reeve directs serfs on a feudal demesne, circa 1310.

A reeve directs serfs on a feudal demesne, circa 1310.

Much of my week has centered on a lawsuit. It’s not a trial; it’s a binding arbitration, and I am neither the plaintiff nor the defendant. But I appeared as a witness, with all the logistical wrangling that entails. In the process, I developed a sense of just how tenaciously we come to contest anything we contest formally. Once we hold an advantage—be it a parcel of money, a position in a market, or an inherited privilege—we become loath to share it with anyone, even in situations where sharing would seem completely reasonable if lawyers weren’t present. Today is Friday, and we cling to our inheritances fiercely when someone tries to take them from us. Won’t you put property ahead of propriety with me?

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Citing “strategic bulk purchases,” Times will not put Cruz book on bestseller list

Book game

Book game

Ted Cruz’s memoir, A Time for Truth: Reigniting the Promise of America, sold 11,854 copies in its first week—more than 18 of the 20 titles on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list. But the Times has declined to include A Time for Truth in its list, citing evidence of “strategic bulk purchases” intended to manipulate sales. Apparently the gray lady has an algorithm for that, and they’re standing by it, even as the Cruz campaign cries foul. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal and Publisher’s Weekly have included the book on their own lists—the latter, as the Washington Post notes, “in fourth place between books from former Playboy bunny Holly Madison and enthusiastic facial-expression-maker Aziz Ansari.”

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Here’s what’s wrong with the Daily Kos



Thanks to Facebook’s policy of allowing entities my friends have “liked” to post articles to my news feed, I saw this story in the Daily Kos, headlined “Teen Kills 4; Judge LITERALLY Lets Him Off Because He Is Rich!” First of all, you will know your objective news sources by their uses of exclamation points and capital letters in headlines. Second, you’ll be glad to hear that a Texas judge did not literally let off 16 year-old drunk driver Ethan Couch, because he was not literally on a hook. Certainly, Couch being sentenced to probation after he killed four pedestrians while driving with a blood alcohol content of .24 is infuriating, especially in context of the defense’s claim that he had lived a life of such privilege as to not understand the consequences of his actions. But there is a difference between the local CBS report and the one in the Daily Kos, and that difference seems to be between news and something else.

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