News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to MinneKota@gmail.com

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Bob Mercer charges press with dishonesty


Bob Mercer writes that after reviewing the national press's coverage of Donald Trump,  he finds that it has been dishonest.  He says,  "Trump was, and is, right, in the allegations, the accusations, that some news organizations were, and are, dishonest in their treatment of him."

His basis:  "He brought some of this upon himself, but I’ve carefully read and I’ve carefully listened to some of the news accounts: Some of those some clearly went against him. Opinion from national news outlets replaced news reporting."

And he lights into the process that decides what is to be covered:  "I have often thought we have little objectivity, or none, in news. We as reporters and editors make choices — what we cover, what we don’t cover — and that isn’t objectivity."

That matter of how editors decide what is to be covered is a difficult one.  There are criteria for evaluating what makes an event or person newsworthy.

  • Prominence
  • Proximity
  • Timeliness
  • Uniqueness
  • Consequence
  • Human interest
Editors make decisions on what relates to their particular audience in deciding coverage.  It is true, in many markets editors gear coverage to the desires of their advertisers and the predominant political attitudes of their readers.  But the overall process of deciding what is newsworthy is not all that arbitrary. Cable news sometimes demonstrates a desperation in trying to fill a 24-hour news cycle.  And some networks, such as Fox news,  operate from a particular political stance.  But for most of the major national media,  the coverage is based upon professional evaluations of the significance of what it is covering.

Bob Mercer takes particular issue with the use of the first 100-days of an administration as a gauge of how well it is doing in carrying out its political goals.  Mercer points out that Trump deprecated the hundred-day measure and pushed back against it.  But FactCheck.Org points out the facts behind the application of that 100-day measure to Trump:

As a candidate, Donald Trump issued a “100-day action plan to Make America Great Again.” It contained 28 promises, and Trump says he is “mostly there on most items.” But is he? Our review of his action plan found he has kept some promises, broken a few, and there are many that are still a work in progress. 
Once in office, Trump criticized “the ridiculous standard of the first 100 days.” He even questioned who within his campaign came up with a “100-day action plan.” He recently told the Associated Press “somebody put out the concept of a hundred-day plan,” even though Trump himself unveiled the 100-day plan at a campaign appearance on Oct. 22, 2016, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

We take no position on the significance or merits of the 100-day milestone, which dates to the days of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In a fireside chat on July 24, 1933, FDR spoke of “the crowding events” of the first 100 days of a special congressional session called to counter the effects of the Great Depression, as explained by Penn State political science professor Robert Speel.
The question of honesty is troublesome.  Trump constantly proclaimed what he would do his first day in office and during his first hundred days, making threats and accusations against his opponents.  What is dishonest about tracking how he is carrying out his expressed intentions.

But the matter of dishonesty is one that Trump has created for the press to handle.  In the history of the U.S., no person of national prominence has been as blatantly and consistently dishonest as Donald Trump.  The Washington Post Fact Checker has found that during his first 100 days in office,  Trump has issued false or misleading claims 492 times.  


A public interest group is raising funds to hire experienced journalists and analysts to compile a daily list of everything Trump has said and done during his campaign and his presidency.  Trump has changed the U.S., and many people think it needs a documented record of what happened to it so that future generations can understand how a democracy fails.   Why did it adopt malicious dishonesty as a routine aspect of governance?

Some news organizations have opposed Trump,  but they have documented the reasons why.  His record as a "businessman" and a political candidate is consistently one of deceit, incompetence, and abject dishonesty.  Terming the press dishonest for exposing dishonesty is difficult to get the mind around.

But it is a crucial symptom of what happened to America.  


Thursday, May 4, 2017

The biggest threat to higher education--and democracy-- is business



I have been hard on some fellow professors in the past.  Some of the most vile humans I have come across, in the magnitude of Donald Trump, have been professors.  As an officer in professional faculty organizations,  I have dealt with them.  Some professors have egos that are much larger then their intellects and find it difficult to refrain from stroking their nasty egos in public--acts which often show a meagerness of mind but an abundance of self absorption.  They are simply assholes but nevertheless are found competent in their chosen discipline.  The ones that I rage against the most are the ones who practice academic dishonesty:  plagiarism,  fabricating or misrepresenting data,  misrepresenting their accomplishments, and other acts of mendacity.  They harm the profession and do damage to their students, their colleagues, their institutions, and the country.  However, the profession has standards and measures to use for eliminating these people from the profession, and I fully support their implementation and use.   I have participated in such actions.

On the other hand,  most professors are people of competence, integrity, and industry. I have been proud of their professionalism. They work hard for their students and to meet the requirements of research, scholarship, and service required by institutions to hold the rank of professor.  And often, they work effectively despite attempts by administrators to manage them.  The idea of running colleges like businesses instead of organizations in which the members have shared responsibilities has created an overlay of practices that are more befitting of a sales force  for vacuum cleaners than of an intellectual enterprise.  Instead of setting standards of performance that individuals strive for,  many administrations pit professors against each other in competition for promotion and tenure.  Some professors fall into the trap.  Most, however, maintain the role they have chosen, to learn and teach and stay true to what it means "to profess" a discipline.  That desire to stay true to the academic tradition has saved institutions from abject fraud and made it possible for students to obtain real educations.

However, there are professors who fall into the corporate mindset and become the instruments of a subversive value system.  I made a mistake by placing trust in some who betrayed their profession and engaged in a campaign to oust a professor who had incurred the wrath of the corporate-driven segment that purports to run our universities.  The mistake I made was in not maintaining my skepticism about the integrity of higher education boards of directors and their administrative lackeys.

It began when Ward Churchill,  a well-known professor of Native American studies,  wrote an essay the day after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in which he referred to the people who occupied those buildings as "little Eichmans,"  a reference to a key facilitator of the Holocaust.  The point of his essay, titled "Some People Push Back," was that the attack on the Trade Center and the Pentagon was an act of war in response to the massacre of a half million children in Iraq by American forces and the corporate structure which supported them.  Using a phrase from Holocaust historian Hannah Arendt,  he called the corporate technocrats who were aiding and abetting the war on Iraq "little Eichmans," the term Arendt used to describe the good Germans who did the same for the Holocaust.  His contention was that 9/11 was American foreign policy "coming home to roost."  At the time,  the essay received little attention.  

About four years later, some academics brought the essay to the attention of media types such as Bill O'Reilly, who expressed raging offense at the "little Eichman" designation and began the call for Ward Churchill's firing from the University of Colorado.  They were in a fury because they thought that Churchill had insulted the memory of innocent victims of terrorism.  However,  CU officials recognized that Churchill could not be fired for using his protected rights of free speech,  so they looked for other pretexts to dismiss him.

An academic opponent of Churchill's had made complaints about his scholarship previously, but they were ignored.  They were then grasped as a means to go after him and he was charged with academic misconduct.   A committee of faculty was assembled to investigate the charges  against him, and it recommended his dismissal.  Churchhill was fired, but fought the case against him in the courts.  He won the case to get his job back, as the circuit court found that his comments on 9/11 were the actual reason for his firing.  However, he lost on appeal and the Supreme Court declined to hear his case.  

The mistake I made, as did many professors, was to think that if the committee composed of his professor peers found Churchill guilty of scholarly fraud,  it must be so.  We put  our trust in academic due process, believing that the thorough examination of the evidence and a critical discussion of it by experienced professors would arrive at the truth.  What we did not understand is that the Investigative Committee which issued the report was not comprised of people who were well qualified to examine the scholarship in Churchill's particular field of study.  Some had declared opposition to Churchill. The committee was stacked to create findings against him in retaliation for his exercise of free speech.

However,  Churchill's fellow professors in Colorado understood this.  The Colorado Conference of the American Association of University Professors undertook a critical examination of the report which supported Churchill's firing. It found that the committee and its findings were contrived and that it committed the very acts of "plagiarism, fabrication and falsification of evidence" that they accused him of committing. 

In the executive summary of its report,  the Colorado Conference observed:


  1. As this report will demonstrate, the allegations against Churchill for fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism are almost entirely false or misleading; the slivers that remain standing are trivial in the extreme, given the volume of Churchill’s work and the high regard in which it is held by other experts in the field. Few scholars’ work would survive under the microscope held to Churchill’s work. In our opinion, the members of the IC would be condemned as academic frauds if their report were subjected to the scrutiny that they applied to Churchill’s work—and if they had said “little Eichmanns.” 
    According to experts in the field of American Indian Studies, the IC report, upon which disciplinary recommendations against Churchill were based, is an extended series of falsifications and fabrications offered in the name of correcting the scholarly record. 
Colorado's universities are among the best and most productive in the world.  But that is because of the abilities and integrity of its faculty,  despite the actions of politicians and the lackeys they hire to run them.  The University of Colorado at Boulder has a reputation for being a party school, but at the same time is a prestigious leader in the arts and sciences,  as is its sister institutions.  It's administration has racked up some serious demerits, however.  The handling of the firing of Ward Churchill is one of them.  

CU also hired on  its faculty another leader in Native American studies,  Vine DeLoria, Jr.  He taught law and history there from 1990 to 2000, when he retired.    During the period  of time around 2001, a football scandal hit the campus.   The universities football coaches had recruiting parties which hired escort services from Denver and at which a number of coeds charged they were sexually molested and raped.  It had a woman place kicker on its football team who said that she had been raped by  teammates.  The coach responded by belittling her abilities as a player.  The University tried to make the business look like trivial incidents that occur occasionally.  However, when the University of Colorado wished to recognize Deloria's work  with an honorary degree and a special citation,  he rejected it.  He said, "It is no honor to be connected to these people."

The American university system is an asset that has driven the nation to its position of prominence.  Its advancements rest on the accomplishments of thinkers who were provided a venue for carrying on their work with the establishment of the land grant colleges.  However, the history of that system, as with the history of the University of Colorado,  is studded with attempts by commercial interests to subvert the universities into schemes of greed and wealth.  Recent history in South Dakota with the EB-5 and Gear Up scandals demonstrates further how business interests try to pervert universities to their own uses.  

As long as there are professors such as the Colorado Conference of the American Association of University Professors to confront and expose the nefarious at work in their system,  the universities will be good places to study and to work.   But when business and political interests have their way,  the universities become a danger.  Universities cannot be run like businesses.  When they do,  they become intellectual and moral failures that destroy democracy and the spirit to advance humanity.  During this time,  professors of integrity have a strenuous job to conserve the true meaning of higher education.  Let's hope they keep working.  The business mentality would prefer that they didn't.  





  

Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States

NVBBETA