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The Death Of Journalism In Post-Factual America

December 1st, 2016

trump-vs-media “NBC Poll” from a pro-Trump fake news site called The Real Strategy

NEIL GABLER: Just as Trump has shredded our values, our nation and our democracy, he has shredded the media. In this, as in his politics, he is only the latest avatar of a process that began long before his candidacy. Just as the sainted Ronald Reagan created an unbridgeable chasm between rich and poor that the Republicans would later exploit against Democrats, conservatives delegitimized mainstream journalism so that they could fill the vacuum.

Retiring conservative talk show host Charlie Sykes complained that after years of bashing from the right wing, the mainstream media no longer could perform their function as reporters, observers, fact dispensers, and even truth tellers, and he said we needed them. Like Goebbels before them, conservatives understood that they had to create their own facts, their own truths, their own reality. They have done so, and in so doing effectively destroyed the very idea of objectivity. Trump can lie constantly only because white America has accepted an Orwellian sense of truth — the truth pulled inside out.

With Trump’s election, I think that the ideal of an objective, truthful journalism is dead, never to be revived. Like Nixon and Sarah Palin before him, Trump ran against the media, boomeranging off the public’s contempt for the press. He ran against what he regarded as media elitism and bias, and he ran on the idea that the press disdained working-class white America. Among the many now-widening divides in the country, this is a big one, the divide between the media and working-class whites, because it creates a Wild West of information – a media ecology in which nothing can be believed except what you already believe.

With the mainstream media so delegitimized — a delegitimization for which they bear a good deal of blame, not having had the courage to take on lies and expose false equivalencies — they have very little role to play going forward in our politics. I suspect most of them will surrender to Trumpism — if they were able to normalize Trump as a candidate, they will no doubt normalize him as president. Cable news may even welcome him as a continuous entertainment and ratings booster. And in any case, like Reagan, he is bulletproof. The media cannot touch him, even if they wanted to. Presumably, there will be some courageous guerillas in the mainstream press, a kind of Resistance, who will try to fact-check him. But there will be few of them, and they will be whistling in the wind. Trump, like all dictators, is his own truth. MORE

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NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When U Can’t

November 28th, 2016

carrie_fisher__princess_leia_by_dave_daring-d5laxr7
Artwork by DAVID DARING

FRESH AIR: Carrie Fisher was an insecure 19-year-old when she appeared as Princess Leia in the first Star Wars movie, a role that would come to define her career. She tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross that despite becoming romantically involved with her older, married co-star, Harrison Ford, she often felt isolated on set. “I didn’t have anyone to confide in,” she says. “I had no friends, and I couldn’t talk about [the affair with Ford] because he was married.” Instead, Fisher began recording her thoughts and experiences in a journal. After the film wrapped, she put the diary away and forgot about it. Decades later, the diary resurfaced during a remodeling project. Now Fisher has turned that diary into a memoir called The Princess Diarist. The book revisits the making of the first Star Wars film, and includes excerpts from the journal she wrote at the time. The actress says she was determined to share her26025989 experiences with others, even if parts of the journal feel very personal.”I think I do overshare,” Fisher says. “It’s my way of trying to understand myself. … It creates community when you talk about private things.” On telling Harrison Ford she was going to go public with the affair: “I said, ‘I found the journals that I kept during the first movie and I’m probably going to publish them.’ And he just sort of raised his finger and said, ‘Lawyer!’ And then I said, ‘No, I won’t write anything that you don’t want. I mean, I’ll show it to you before and you can take anything out that you want taken out. I don’t want to make you uncomfortable,’ which I, of course, have. Unduly uncomfortable…I sent it to him … [and] I never heard back, so I can’t imagine that he was comfortable with everything that was in it. But it’s not like it’s negative about him — it’s just a personal story that’s been a secret for a long time.” MORE

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johnny-cash-folsom-prison-blues-by-jon-langford-copy
“Folsom Prison Blues” by JON LANGFORD

FRESH AIR: Today, we take a look back at the Man in Black, who spoke with Terry Gross in 1997.Cash began recording albums and performing in the 1950s. His long romance with wife June Carter Cash, celebrated in the 2005 biopic Walk the Line, spanned five decades — from their early touring days to their rise as one of America’s most popular country-music couples. Cash recorded over 1,500 songs in his career, including such classic hits as “I Walk the Line,” “Ring of Fire” and “A Boy Named Sue.” He played several of his most popular songs, including “Folsom Prison Blues,” at that maximum security facility in 1968. The album based on that performance hit the top slot on the country-music charts and revitalized Cash’s career.In the 1990s, Cash worked with rock producer Rick Rubin. The two collaborated on several critically acclaimed Grammy-winning albums — two of which have been released since Cash’s death in 2003. MORE

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WES ANDERSON: H&M Christmas Ad

November 28th, 2016

NME: Anderson has directed this year’s Christmas advert from clothing retailers H&M. The short film, titled Come Together, stars Adrien Brody (who previously teamed up with Anderson for The Darjeeling Limited, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Fantastic Mr. Fox) and sees the actor playing a train driver delayed by snow and preparing a festive surprise for his travellers. “This story may resonate more than ever at a time in the world where we could all do with giving a stranger a hug,” Brody says of the clip. MORE

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ALBUM REVIEW: NINETEEN THIRTEEN’S Music For Time Travel & The Dream EP

November 28th, 2016

3360508_origPhoto by DOUG SEYMOUR

Closer to dream merchants than a band, NINETEEN THIRTEEN is comprised of ex-Violent Femmes drummer Victor DeLorenzo and classically trained cellist Janet Schiff, aided by a revolving cast of esteemed studio session players. Named after the year Schiff’s beloved cello was milled in Transylvania more than a century ago, NINETEEN THIRTEEN traffics in a kind of jazzy, retro-futuristic ambient noir of their own devising, mapping out a twilit sonic space where Brian Eno’s Music For Airports lays down with Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue. Think neon signs blinking ominously behind a semi-opaque curtain of music-for-time-travelmanhole steam. The crisp slap of wingtips on wet sidewalks. The dull hum of underground trains and sirens in the distance. Everyone wears famous blue raincoats and fedoras. Everyone smokes. Everybody knows the war is over, everybody knows the good guys lost.

There are two extant recordings, an LP called Music For Time Travel, released late last summer, and an EP called The Dream, released earlier this month, that comes billed as a tribute to Eno. Music For Time Travel is a series of prismatic snippets that vibe like soundtracks for imaginary films about secret wars and spies in skinny suits and vampires with diamonds on the souls of their shoes. If you listen closely, you can almost hear the black turtlenecks and Ray Bans in the warm thrum of upright bass, the pristine shuffle of snare, and the lowing moan of the cello. The highlight is a mesmerizing version of Gershwin’s aria “Summertime,” featuring the Valkyrie-like vocals of Monia and the dancing skeleton bass of legendary sideman Rob Wasserman (Lou Reed, Van Morrison, Elvis Costello), who, sad to say, passed away back in June.

Good as Music For Time Travel is, The Dream is a giant step forward. The music not only vividly evokes distinctive moods, but sustains them long after lesser combo’s would have abandoned ship.img-5012_orig“Arco Pizzicato” — built upon a slap-back echo drumbeat, a shivering cello, and dark washes of keyboard that recede into the infinite — clocks in at nine minutes-plus. Likewise, the album closing “#1913 Dream” — a ghostly lullaby of sprawling pneumatic drones prodded along by a gorgeously muted pinging — also clocks in at nine minutes plus but never ceases to enchant the ear. The spectral murk of “Walk Light” sounds like a marching band playing the halftime festivities of doomsday. The otherwordly “A Dream You Can’t Remember” straddles the fulcrum of the sinister and the sublime, with DeLorenzo’s son Malachi vamping ominously on bass. Highly recommended, The Dream is bewitching beginning to end. – JONATHAN VALANIA

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CINEMA: Sadchester

November 26th, 2016

manchester_by_the_sea

 

THE NEW YORKER: Not that Kenneth Lonergan, who wrote and directed the movie, is deliberately making things hard for us to grasp. Rather, he proceeds on the assumption that things are hard, some irreparably so, and that it’s the job of a film not to smooth them over. That is why “Manchester by the Sea” becomes a litany of human error, with the tragic parts nicked and grazed by semi-comedy. We get minor misunderstandings, as when Joe’s best friend, the robust and reliable George (C. J. Wilson), has to shout to his wife across a crowded wake. We get dreadful mistimings, worthy of a farce, as when medics try and fail to fold the wheels of a gurney so that it can be loaded into an ambulance. Worst of all, we get stupid little mistakes, near-nothings, with consequences so vast that they reduce a life to ashes.

The town of the title is deftly sketched, both in its colors—you can’t always tell where the gray of the ocean ends and the winter air begins—and in the smallness of its scale. Everybody seems to know of one another. “That’s the Lee Chandler?” and “The very one,” people say, when Lee returns to sort out Joe’s affairs, and the lawyer who reads the will, in his office, wears a sweater and no tie. To Lee’s alarm, he is named as the legal guardian of Patrick (Lucas Hedges), Joe’s son, who is sixteen, and has absolutely no wish to move to Boston. “All my friends are here, I’ve got two girlfriends, I’m in a band,” he says to Lee. “You’re a janitor in Quincy.” Patrick thinks of moving in with his mother (Gretchen Mol), not far away, but she has the glassy brittleness of an ex-drunk, and one lunch with her and her pious new husband (Matthew Broderick) is enough to scotch that plan.

Much of the story, then, involves Lee keeping company with Patrick—driving him around, to school or to band practice, and watching him tack back and forth between girls. Many scenes are funnier than you’d expect (“This could be good for both of us,” Patrick says, trying to set Lee up with one of the girls’ mothers), and Hedges is convincing as the kid, who seems to be handling grief suspiciously well. Indeed, his only false note is a crying jag, as the sneers and grins of his natural cockiness yield to implausible sobs. If you feel ashamed to be laughing, then Lonergan has got you exactly where he wants you—stirred and confounded, casting around for breaks in the cloud of sadness. Hollywood likes to insist that by meeting one special person, be it lover, alien, or friend, you can heal and be healed in turn. Lonergan tends to the wounds that never close, and although “Manchester by the Sea” concludes in peace, it’s the peace of compromise and exhaustion, as if family existence were a type of civil war. MORE

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The Only Fidel Castro Obit You Will Ever Need

November 26th, 2016

viva_fidel_by_theironlion
Artwork by THE IRON LION

MIAMI HERALD: On Dec. 2, 1956, Castro, Guevara and 80 followers reached the shore of Cuba’s Oriente province in a battered American cabin cruiser, the Granma, wretchedly seasick after a seven-day voyage. The men leaped into hip-deep mud and struggled through a mangrove swamp to reach land. Most were killed or captured in the first hours.

Only 16 made it safely to the 4,500-foot ridges of the Sierra Maestra. There they began a guerrilla campaign to oust Batista, who was backed by a 40,000-strong security force equipped with tanks, artillery and U.S.-supplied warplanes. Castro’s force, however, slowly began to grow. He recruited peasants as guerrilla fighters and organized intellectuals and middle-class followers into an urban underground railroad of funds and supplies.

His recruiting was aided immeasurably by his skills at propaganda and psychological warfare. Castro’s greatest ploy was luring a New York Times correspondent named Herbert Matthews to his mountain camp. Though the rebels had barely 20 bedraggled men, Castro marched the same group past Matthews several times and also staged the arrival of “messengers” reporting the movement of other (nonexistent) units. Matthews, convinced Castro controlled a huge army, wrote: “From the look of things, General Batista cannot possibly hope to suppress the Castro revolt.” A wave of favorable coverage followed in the foreign press, and with it, international support.

During the war, Castro’s already profound anti-U.S. feelings deepened when he saw American-supplied bombers used against his positions. “The Americans will pay dearly,” he wrote to Celia Sánchez at the time. “When this war is over, a much longer and bigger war will begin for me: the war I will make against them. I realize that this will be my true destiny.” MORE

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THE GODFATHER OF GRUNGE: Q&A With Butch Vig, Garbage Drummer/Producer Extraordinaire

November 23rd, 2016

butch-vig-by-autumn-dewildePhoto by AUTUMN DEWILDE

EDITOR’S NOTE: A considerably shorter version of this interview appeared in the November 10th edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Enjoy.

meAVATAR2BY JONATHAN VALANIA FOR THE INQUIRER The Smart Studios Story documents the rise and fall of the legendary recording studio founded by acclaimed producer Butch Vig and his partner Steve Marker, where they recorded Smashing Pumpkins, Garbage, Death Cab For Cutie and, most importantly, Nirvana’s Nevermind. The film tracks the evolution of Smart Studios from its humble DIY beginnings as a glorified punk rock treehouse with free beer to the center of the alt-rock universe in the 90s only to close in 2010 as the age of the big, expensive analog studios gave way to digital home recording. In the interim, Vig has produced albums by the Foo Fighters, Goo Goo Dolls and Against Me! and reactivated Garbage, which went on hiatus in 2005. Recently, The Smart Studios Story has embarked on a screening tour around the country, which stopped in Philadelphia at PhilaMOCA earlier this month. In advance of the Philly screening, we spoke with Butch Vig from his home in Los Angeles where he was gearing up for a tour in support of Garbage’s surprisingly vital sixth album, Strange Little Birds.

PHAWKER: One of your earliest musical endeavors was contributing a track to the slumber_party_massacresoundtrack of Hollywood slasher pic Slumber Party Massacre? Is this true? How did it happen?

BUTCH VIG: That’s true. Long story short, I was in film school and a bunch of my fellow students moved out to Hollywood. One became David Lynch’s cinematographer, and another is Jerry Bruckheimer’s editor. Another friend from Wisconsin was working on Slumber Party Massacre. It’s just in the scene where somebody is walking down the beach with a boom-box and gets an axe in the back, but we were thrilled to be a part of it.

PHAWKER: Judging by the documentary, the Midwest indie-rock scene seemed more about D.I.Y than adhering to some specific punk-rock orthodoxy. Is that true?

BUTCH VIG: Yeah it is. We were never elitist about any kind of music that we worked with or anything. One of the reasons we did so many hardcore punk bands is there was a thriving scene at the time. As soon as you get a couple bands coming into Smart they would just tell their friends. We never advertised and it was all word of mouth. Anyone who wanted to book time there could. It was good learning ground for me because I learned how to record everything, even though I didn’t really know what I was doing. You had to figure it out by the seat of your pants.

PHAWKER: Cheap beer seemed to have played a central role in these proceedings as it seemed to do with many aspects of life in the Midwest, can you speak to that a little bit?

BUTCH VIG: Growing up in Wisconsin that’s part of the M.O, that’s what people do. They go the_smashing_pumpkins-gish-frontal1to the local tavern on the corner. There was a local tavern right across from the studio called The Friendly, which was not always that friendly actually, because there were a lot of blue-collar rednecks there. There was a point when we had a coke machine in the studio upstairs, and it had eight or ten slots, and we had Coke in only one and the rest had cheap beer that we put in there. We made it free, we put duct tape in so if you put fifty cents in or whatever it would drop right back down so the beer would drop down and you could take the money out of the coin return and put the money back in.

PHAWKER: In Billy Corgan, leader of the Smashing Pumpkins, you found a kindred spirit who was willing to meticulously craft an album even if that meant spending days getting a drum sound right or a guitar tone right or recording 45 takes of a vocal.

BUTCH VIG: I found a kindred spirit in Billy in the sense that he wanted to make an amazing sounding record. Now it’s so easy to make things sound perfect, to tighten things up and edit, drums or guitars or whatever and fix vocals, back then you had to play it. As good as they were, we recorded a lot and we did a lot of takes. Making Gish was the first time I ever had a proper budget. Before then I’d done hundreds of records in a couple days. I think we had about 30 days to record and mix Gish, and to me, that was like Steely Dan time.

PHAWKER: Is it true that you were only able to convince Kurt Cobain to double track his vocals by telling him that John Lennon used to do that?

BUTCH VIG: That’s true, because he just felt like it was fake, and as much as I knew, I told the band that, that I wanted to double some things, I wanted to go back and overdub some things, because we need to make this sound on a record, when someone wakes up in the morning and this is playing on their little alarm clock radio, we need to make the record sound as intense there as if you were standing in front of the band playing live in a room.

PHAWKER: In the wake of the overwhelming success of Nevermind and perhaps nirvana_nevermind_responding to the holier than thou underground types that were complaining that the album’s production values represent some kind of sellout of punk rock purity, Cobain told writer Michael Azerrad “looking back on the production of Nevermind, I’m embarrassed by it now. It’s closer to a Motley Crue record than it is a punk rock record.” How did you respond to reading that that?

BUTCH VIG: I remember reading it at the time and it bummed me out because when we finished the record, the band was over the moon with how it sounded. They worked really hard to get that record super tight but what happened was when you sold fifteen million records you cannot maintain your punk credibility and say “Man, I’m so glad we sold fifteen million records.” You have to walk away from it. He had to diss it, in a way, for himself and how he was perceived by the public. I wish he was around today because I have a feeling he would have gone back to love it.

PHAWKER: The Nevermind sessions at Smart started in April of 1990. It was just supposed to be a little indie record for Sub Pop. After a number of the tracks were recorded, the sessions stopped when Cobain blew his voice out on “Lithium.” The plan was that they were going to come back and finish the record there but instead they sort of used those tracks as a bargaining chip to get a major label deal — and at that point “Smells like Teen Spirit” was not even written. So if he hadn’t blown his voice, the album probably would have been finished at Smart, without “Smells like Teen Spirit,” and would have become just another hip little indie record on Sub Pop instead of the generation-defining zeitgeist-embodying blockbuster we all know and love?

BUTCH VIG: Correct.

PHAWKER: So, moving forward, you form Garbage with Smart Studios co-owner Steve Marker, which was a big break from the punk sound of the music you had become famous for producing.

BUTCH VIG: Well, by the time I started Garbage, and by the time anybody heard of Nirvana or Smashing Pumpkins, I had done, I swear to god, strange_little_birdsa thousand punk rock records, and I was getting tired of just guitar, bass, and drums, especially after Nevermind took off. I started getting calls, people thought I had some magic formula and if I could just plug that into, whoever it was, whether it was a singer/songwriter or a blues artist or a hair metal band, I knew how to change them into an alternative grunge band and I wasn’t interested in doing that.

PHAWKER: After a lengthy hiatus, Garbage is about to embark on a tour in support of a new and intriguing record called Strange Little Birds.

BUTCH VIG: Yeah, it’s gotten a lot of great press despite being such a dark album, it’s definitely the darkest album that we’ve made. I think there’s something about it that has resonated with people. Part of it is that we took some of the rock and roll out of it, the album is much more sort of cinematic and atmospheric, and I think the music works, arrangement wise, really well with Shirley singing and her lyrics. She has sung some of the most powerful performances she’s yet recorded on Strange Little Birds. I think you can hear that, there’s an immediacy and an emotional vulnerability to the performances out there that we would have fussed over more in the past in Garbage, but at this point in smart-studios-tourour career we’re trying to leave things alone and be a little more spontaneous with them and I think that translated a lot to the vibe on the record.

PHAWKER: Smart Studio closes in 2010 because…?

BUTCH VIG: The music business has changed and so has recording technology, the D.I.Y. attitude has taken on a whole new meaning because someone can record on their laptop in their bedroom, so why pay $100 dollars to go in the studio when they can keep that money in their pocket. The studio got used less and less, and we couldn’t get anybody. We were literally offering 100$ dollars a day to come in and track, just pay for the assistant engineer and you can use the studio and it just wasn’t getting used. Between insurance and keeping overhead and heating and bills and all that kind of stuff, we couldn’t let it sit there with closed doors, so we finally decided to pull the plug and sell it.

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WORTH REPEATING: Why The Electoral College Should Deny Donald Trump The Presidency

November 22nd, 2016

idiocracynow

 

THE ATLANTIC: Were the electors to meet on December 19 and decide that Donald Trump is unfit to be president, all hell would break loose. Trump’s supporters, and even some who opposed him, would say the election had been stolen. Their worst fears about America’s “rigged” system of government would be confirmed. The president who the electors chose—even if it were Hillary Clinton, who beat Trump by over a million votes—would lack legitimacy in the eyes of much of the public. It’s unclear whether such a president could effectively govern. Violence might break out. Moreover, once the precedent was set, future electors would become more likely to act independently again. The process of choosing them would grow fraught. America’s entire system of presidential elections would grow unstable.

It’s a terrifying prospect. The prospect of a Trump presidency, however, is terrifying too, terrifying in unprecedented ways. Which is why, for the first time in modern American history, there’s a plausible case for urging the electors to vote their consciences. The case is not overwhelming. But it’s not absurd. It all depends on how dangerous you think President Trump would be. Could the danger posed by electing Trump exceed the enormous danger posed by stopping him? It could, for four reasons.

The first is climate change. Trump has repeatedly called it a “hoax.” He’s vowed to “cancel” America’s obligations under the climate agreement signed last year in Paris, which might lead other nations to do the same, and to undo the restrictions on emissions from coal-fired power plants instituted by the Obama administration. According to a study by Lux Research, America’s annual carbon emissions, which would have dropped under a Clinton presidency, will rise sharply under Trump. And if emissions don’t drop, an article this spring in the journal Nature predicts that 13 million Americans who live in coastal areas could find their communities uninhabitable over the next century. Half of Florida’s population would be at risk.

The second reason to think that allowing a Trump presidency might be more dangerous than overturning it is the threat of nuclear war. At several points over the last 70 years, presidents have faced decisions that could have trigged nuclear catastrophe. Harry Truman considered dropping atomic bombs on North Korea in 1950. John F. Kennedy famously said during the Cuban missile crisis that the chances of war with the Soviet Union were “between 1 in 3 and even.” According to Israeli historian Dmitry Adamsky, the Reagan administration’s 1983 war game, Able Archer, which the Soviets misinterpreted as preparation for an American attack, “almost became a prelude to a preventative nuclear strike.” As Jeffrey Goldberg has noted, North Korea—the most bellicose and erratic regime on earth–may have nuclear missiles that can reach the US mainland by the end of Trump’s second term. Which increases the chances that he could face his own moment of nuclear reckoning. In August, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough reported that, during a private meeting with a “foreign policy expert,” Trump had asked the expert “three times, in an hour briefing, ‘Why can’t we use nuclear weapons?’” In March, Trump asked Chris Matthews, “Somebody hits us within ISIS — you wouldn’t fight back with a nuke?” Trump has also repeatedly declared his desire to be “unpredictable” when it comes to the use of nuclear weapons.

The president can launch nuclear weapons within minutes, on his own authority. In the words of former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden, “The system is designed for speed and decisiveness. It’s not designed to debate the decision.” Trump is famous for his impulsivity (his self-destructive late night tweets almost cost him the presidential race), his policy ignorance (he twice during the campaign seemed unaware that the US has nuclear weapons on air, land and sea) and his dismissive attitude toward experts (in November he boasted that, “I know more about ISIS than the generals do.”) Which is why 50 former Republican national security officials warned in August that he “would be the most reckless president in American history.” MORE

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MUST SEE TEE VEE: Whiskers R We

November 22nd, 2016



NEW YORK MAGAZINE:
Check out all the kittens available for adoption during the Whiskers R We Thanksgiving Catacopia Adoption Drive, but watch out for Carl — he will claw your sofa and he voted for Jill Stein. Butternut will gaslight you, Pearl is a ghost with unfinished business, and Cassandra will fart and you’ll get the blame. So, typical cat stuff. MORE

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MEDIA: The Fake News Industrial Complex And The Confederacy Of Dunces That Is Making It Rich

November 21st, 2016

idiocraqcyshepfairey

 

WASHINGTON POST: At a time of continuing discussion over the role that hyperpartisan websites, fake news and social media play in the divided America of 2016, LibertyWritersNews illustrates how websites can use Facebook to tap into a surging ideology, quickly go from nothing to influencing millions of people and make big profits in the process. Six months ago, Wade and his business partner, Ben Goldman, were unemployed restaurant workers. Now they’re at the helm of a website that gained 300,000 Facebook followers in October alone and say they are making so much money that they feel uncomfortable talking about it because they don’t want people to start asking for loans.

Instead, Wade hums a hip-hop song and starts a new post as readers keep reading, sharing and sending in personal messages. One comes from a woman who frequently contacts his page. “YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE I TRUST TO REPORT THE TRUTH,” is one of the things she has written, and Wade doesn’t need to look at her Facebook profile to have a clear sense of who she is. White. Working class. Midwestern. “And the economy screwed her.”

He writes another headline, “THE TRUTH IS OUT! The Media Doesn’t Want You To See What Hillary Did After Losing… .”idiocracy3

“Nothing in this article is anti-media, but I’ve used this headline a thousand times,” he says. “Violence and chaos and aggressive wording is what people are attracted to.”
Wade, left, and Goldman have little else in their apartment aside from their laptops. (Stuart Palley for The Washington Post)

“Our audience does not trust the mainstream media,” Goldman, 26, says a little later as Wade keeps typing. “It’s definitely easier to hook them with that.”

“There’s not a ton of thought put into it,” Wade says. “Other than it frames the story so it gets a click.”

“True,” Goldman says.

“We’re the new yellow journalists,” Wade will say after a day and night when the number of people following LibertyWritersNews on Facebook will swell by more than 20,000. “We’re the people on the side of the street yelling that the world is about to end.” […]

Goldman sits on the couch, logs onto an advertiser’s website and looks up how much money they’ve nonetheless made.

“Super great election sales,” he says. “There were some days where we were getting $13, $14 per 1,000 views.” Between June and August, they say, when they had fewer than 150,000 Facebook followers, they made between $10,000 and $40,000 every month running advertisements that, among other things, promised acne solutions, Viagra alternatives, ways to remove lip lines, cracked feet, “deep fat,” and “the 13 sexiest and most naked celebrity selfies.” Then the political drama deepened, and their audience expanded fivefold, and now Goldman sometimes thinks that what he made in the last six months would have taken him 20 years waiting tables at his old job. MORE

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NEW YORK TIMES: Facebook, in Cross Hairs After Election, Is Said to Question Its Influence

BUZZFEED: Renegade Facebook Employees Form Task Force To Battle Fake News

BUZZFEED: How The 2016 Election Blew Up In Facebook’s Facespectrum-of-debate1-chomsky

NEW YORK TIMES: How Fake News Goes Viral

BUZZFEED: This Analysis Shows How Fake Election News Stories Outperformed Real News On Facebook

ENDGADGET: Clickbait, Fake News And The Power Of Feeling

RELATED: Earlier this month, BuzzFeed News’ Craig Silverman analyzed engagement (likes, comments, shares, etc.) across Facebook and identified the most popular real and fake articles across three distinct periods: February to April, May to July and August to Election Day. With this analysis, Silverman was able to show that the 20 most popular fake posts were “engaged with” (Facebook’s term for likes, shares and so on) 8.71 million times in the lead up to the election, compared to just 2.97 million times in February to April. Mainstream news showed the opposite pattern: Starting at 12.4 million, and falling to 7.37 million in the final period — 1.34 million less than the fake news. The overall number of engagements is fairly steady, too, suggesting that, at least to some extent, Facebook users were sharing fake news instead of real stories. MORE

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Q&A: With Sharon Jones, The New Queen Of Soul

November 18th, 2016

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EDITOR’S NOTE: To mark the sad and tragically premature passing of Sharon Jones we present this reprise edition of our 2011 Q&A with her. Good night, Miss Jones wherever you are.

meAVATAR2.jpgBY JONATHAN VALANIA The first time Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings came to town, back in January of ’08, there was a prevailing giddiness in the air at the TLA, a palpable sense that we were lucky enough to attend a very auspicious occasion, above and beyond the usual concert experience. A sense that we were all active participants in poetic justice, and by ponying up for a ticket and selling out the joint, a long-neglected talent was getting her turn in the sun. As Sharon Jones would be the first to tell you, record executives have long told her that despite having pipes of gold, she was too short, too wide, and, come the ripe old age of 25, too old to fit the Whitney Houston cookie cutter, and thus consigned her to the B-list exile of part time jobs and night club gigs, through which she gamely trudged yeoman-like for years. Until now. The now being two years after Amy Winehouse made the world safe for gutsy, take-me-as-I-am retro-soul with her break out hit, “Rehab”, from the Grammy-nominated Back To Black — for which she employed Sharon Jones’ backing band, The Dap Kings. Some have gone so far as to suggest that Amy Winehouse is the new Pat Boone — a blander, whiter face put on something considered too raw and black for white audiences to embrace en masse.

The only problem with that Internet meme is that — setting aside for second that Winehouse is exotic enough in appearance to be of indeterminate race to the casual observer — it completely ignores the charismatic power of the writing on Back To Black. “Rehab” is one of those songs that rings everyone’s bell. Song like that don’t come around often, and no matter what she puts up her nose or bang into her arms — annotated daily in the British tabloids in excruciating photographic detail — it does not change the fundamental fact: she rang the bell.

Nothing on Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings’ splendid 100 Days, 100 Nights quite manages that nearly impossible feat — despite Jones’ gutbucket authenticity and the Dap Kings’ evanescent hints of the Booker T’s MG’s, Smokey Robinson’s Miracles, James Brown Fabulous Flames and Otis Redding at his most bittersweet. All of which sjdk_press_composite_creditdulce-1.jpgwere on display that night at TLA. Jones was regal and fierce, truly a force to be reckoned with, literally shining like a diamond in her sparkly vintage dress. The eight-piece Dap Kings lived up to their name, each sporting a stylish vintage suit and never once stepping out of the pocket — not when they played it nice and easy, nor when they played it nice and rough, as Tina Turner used to say.

Hard to split the exact difference between soul and funk — and for that matter the blues —  without somebody getting their feelings hurt. Except to say that with funk, much like disco, it does require a certain degree of knowing the right moves and wearing the right clothes. With soul, I suppose, its universal and, I suspect, eternal appeal will be that it only asks that you have one — a soul, that is, and when an act like Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings fire it up, you respond in kind simply because you are alive, and as such you invariably hurt, because everybody hurts. That’s the blues. But tonight, you are here, and I am here, and we are all together. And that is worth celebrating — righteously so — because for this brief and shining moment, nothing can hurt us. That’s what soul music is. Either that or, gospel music wearing sexy underwear under its robes. Fortunately we just happen to have Sharon Jones on the phone, so let’s ask her…


PHAWKER:
I’m curious what your personal definition of soul music is?

SHARON JONES: My personal definition of soul music is music that you feel in the heart, in the soul. It has nothing to do with color. Music that really gets in there so that people can groove with it, love it, and enjoy it. Soul music is like the roots, it started from the time of slavery when people were humming, or doing things to keep their mind off the pain of what they were going through. That went on and eventually became blues and evolved into gospel singing.  That’s were all this originated, inside the heart.

PHAWKER: I’m fascinated by this stint that you had as a prison guard. How long did that last?

SHARON JONES: Only two years, it didn’t last long. It went from ’88 to ’90, and believe it or not out of those two years, nine of those months I hurt myself so I went out on leave. The job wasn’t meant for me since it took sjdk_press_composite_creditdulce-1.jpgme away from my singing. It was fun, but they told me they owned me. Nobody owned me. I resigned. When I went in, the little box they had me in had bars. I was sitting there, looking through bars like I was a prisoner.

PHAWKER: What was the worst day on that job, the worst thing you ever saw?
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SH*T MY UNCLE SAYS: #NotMyPresident

November 18th, 2016

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BY WILLIAM C. HENRY I just heard President Obama say that, “the people have spoken and Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States.” I don’t know about you, but I happen to SMUSbelieve that those 16 words constitute what may be the most bizarre — if not downright deceitful — example of absurd contradiction in the history of American politics. I mean, just who the hell does he think he’s kidding?! Unlike yourself apparently, Mr. President, I believe in the democratic concept of all persons’ votes counting equally. I don’t believe that a vote cast in Iowa should be considered more important than one cast in California. I don’t believe that a vote cast in Wyoming should count more than one cast in Pennsylvania. But that’s the way it is with this phony and corrupt Electoral College system of ours that obviously you’ve not seen fit to do much about over the past eight years.

Accordingly, whereas the only reasons the Republican party had for hindering, opposing and obstructing wherever and whenever possible every beneficial program proposed by the Barack Hussein Obama Presidency were, a) the origin and pronunciation of his first, middle and last names, and b) the mere fact that he was an intelligent black man occupying the highest office in the land, I hereby openly and unapologetically declare that I will not support or even acknowledge, a) a literal fraud, b) a complete hypocrite, c) a congenital liar, d) an inveterate racist and bigot,e) a contriving and conniving fear monger and panderer, f) a silver-spooned multiple bankruptee and, g) a candidate who clearly did NOT garner a MAJORITY of the votes cast on and before November 8th, as a legitimate President-elect (or President) of the United States! As far as I’m concerned Trump is and will remain The Illegitimate President-elect (or President) Trump or T.I.P.T. (the author’s chosen acronym which he intends to use “liberally” here and in future columns), period!
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CINEMA: There’s No Place Like Home

November 18th, 2016

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BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK (2016, directed by Ang Lee, 110 minutes, U.S.)

Buskirk AvatarBY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC Ang Lee’s latest exemplifies the sort of intimate drama on a grand scale in which the director specializes. With Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, based on the best-selling novel by Ben Fountain, Lee again dazzles us with visceral, ambitious visuals, but the story at its heart seems just as simplistic as the empty patriotism against which the film rails.

It is brilliantly constructed, a time capsule set in the early years of our 21st century war on Iraq, with the scene at Texas Stadium being a microcosm of America’s attitudes to the war and those who fight it. Much like Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Birdman, we are guided around backstage and through the stadium as varied types and attitudes push themselves into our path, all seen through the eyes of the decorated hero of the title, played with a certain blank-eyed wonder by young British actor Joe Alwyn in his film debut. Billy has been part of a promotional tour, seemingly to promote the war effort but he remains haunted by the battlefield events that earned him his medals on what he describes as “the worst day of his life.” Flashbacks drag us slowly towards those events as a the circus of American life cheers and courses around him and his uniformed squad.

If our soldier in the middle of this whirlwind is a little blank it may be because the director wants him to be our strapped-in seat for the tour de force supposedly delivered by the ground-breaking one hundred gazillion frame per second technology that was used for the film. (It seemed barely perceptible seen at the conventional frame rate it will have on its regular run. And why this crazy chase for frame rates? Did anyone complain they didn’t like The Godfather because the picture wasn’t clear enough?) It fact, more than any Ang Lee film, its pro-troop perspective seems designed to be inoffensive and simplistic as a mass audience commercially demands.

At points the film is both hyper-realistic and preposterous. The stadium atmosphere is incredibly believable yet does the Texas stadium really contain a gang of army-hating drunks who are going to make gay slurs at the soldiers during the game? The halftime show with Destiny’s Child (seen only from behind and played by actors) has a real “you are there” quality, but would the choreographers give the soldiers their directions seconds before they were to hit stage?

Some bits go for pure fantasy. Billy finds time for love at the stadium with a ripe-as-a-melon swoony-eyed Cowboy cheerleader. In a more serious bit Steve Martin plays the fictional Cowboys team owner who makes a case for a certain retail patriotism but the film’s over-written screenplay (by first-timer Jean-Christophe Castelli) sets up all these little skits a bit too schematically to finesse any of his points.

Throw in Billy’s tragic, facially-scarred anti-war sister (Kristen Stewart emphasizing her general glumness) it’s no surprise that the camaraderie of the platoon is made the most inviting path for Billy. In battle Billy was led by a captain played by Vin Diesel, who is one of those types plentiful in war films, the Zen warrior: part soldier, part comparative religions major. When I say “comradeship” I mean Diesel is a captain who literally grabs each soldier by the shoulders, looks them square in the eye and tells them he loves them before going into battle. With the madhouse U.S. society has become, of course the only sane thing is to go back to war. For your buddies! This might have been that mindset in 2006, but is that the mindset now? I’m not saying that Ang Lee’s film was funded by the U.S. Army, but if it had been I imagine they’d be very pleased by the results. Lee’s Billy Lynn may purport to honor the men but by continuing to celebrate the ennobling qualities of war it does more than its part to create them too.

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