Camouflaged “news” outlets: Is Oregon next?

Fake news. Biased news. Slanted news. Real news. What’s the difference? It’s getting harder to tell them apart.

Maine knows that. Now Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Wisconsin are about to confront the same confusion.

Maine became a test site for camouflaged news in 2018 when a “news” website of anonymous origin, the Maine Examiner, popped up.

Leaked Email: Ben Chin Says Lewiston Voters “Bunch of Racists”According to a legitimate news outlet, The Bangor (ME) Daily News, the website gained attention in the run-up to a December 2018 mayoral runoff in Lewiston, ME. when it posted several negative articles about the progressive candidate, Ben Chin. One article contained real, leaked campaign emails in which Chin said he encountered “a bunch of racists” while campaigning. Chin lost the election, partly because of the Examiner’s reporting.

(It later turned out that the emails were leaked to Chin’s Republican opponent, Shane Bouchard, by a woman working as a mole in Chin’s campaign who was having an affair with Bouchard. Bouchard resigned as mayor in March 2019 after the woman leaked some of his text messages. They included one in which he described elderly black people as “antique farm equipment”  and another in which he appeared to compare a meeting with his fellow Republicans to a Ku Klux Klan gathering. And you thought only states like New York and Illinois had juicy political scandals)

A top Maine Republican Party official later admitted to state ethics watchdogs that he was behind the Maine Examiner.

Progressive Democrats in Maine lambasted the Examiner’s deceptions, but national progressives and Democrats are apparently preparing to emulate the Examiner’s approach.

Priorities USA, a Democratic Super PAC, is planning to put $100 million into a project to flood swing states — many of which have lost their local papers — with stories favorable to the Democratic agenda, Vice News reported on July 24, 2019.

Four “news” outlets staffed by Democratic operatives will publish state-specific information across social media in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Wisconsin, Vice News said.

Priorities USA Communication Director Josh Schwerin tried to gloss over the sabotage effort with a disingenuous statement that Priorities’ “news” was a necessary response to the sharp decline in local news outlets.

“This should be covered by local news, but local news is dying,” Schwerin told VICE News. “Our hope is that we can help fill that hole a bit with paid media…”

What’s not clear is whether the true sponsor of Priorities’ “news” coverage will be completely or partially hidden, as is the case with a conservative-leaning national “news” site called The Free Telegraph.

Only if a viewer clicks on a barely discernable “About” at the bottom of the site is it revealed The Free Telegraph “is a conservative news and commentary platform made possible through the generous support of the Republican Governors Association.”

Then there’s Virginia, home of the Dogwood, “your source for Virginia news.”

Home - The Dogwood

If readers click on “About,” they get this: “As the number of local news outlets declines in Virginia and across the country and the amount of digital information surges, it’s hard to know where to turn. We want to fill the gap – and your social feeds – with content that is thoughtful, engaging, inspiring and motivating. We’ll bring you the story behind the story and explore how our readers’ lives are impacted by the news of the day. Our reporting is honest, to-the-point and in the service of our readers.”

If readers want to know who’s behind the news site, they can click on this: Owned by For What It’s Worth Media, Inc.. This will tell them something similar to Priorities USA’s stated rationale for its jump into the news business: “As the number of local news outlets declines across the country and the amount of digital information surges, it’s hard to know where to turn. We want to fill the gap – and your social feeds – with content that is thoughtful, inspiring and motivating.”

What the Dogwood doesn’t say is it also wants to fill the gap with progressive-leaning “news” coverage. Nor does it say that progressive non-profit digital organization, Acronym, has pledged to invest $1 million in the Dogwood and says it plans to invest in other state-based news properties, which could include states such as Arizona, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

If you prefer your news with a more conservative bent, there’s The California Republican. Here you can read a story about how the Washington, D.C. chapter of Antifa sent a message to Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz by chasing him out of a restaurant, telling the Texas senator that he is “not safe” or an item headlined, “In-N-Out boycott fails miserably in Central Valley.” You can even read about signings by Fresno State’s football program.

But you won’t know the identity of the site’s publisher unless you see the barely visible text at the bottom of the home page, “Paid for by the Devin Nunes Campaign Committee – FEC ID #C00370056.” Nunes is a Republican representative of California’s 22nd District in Congress.

With a steadily shrinking cadre of legitimate news staff and outlets and the rise of political actors willing to play fast and loose with ethics, could Oregon be far behind in this race to the bottom in camouflaged “news reporting”?

Gov. Ralph Northam’s Permanent Record

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”

 1 Corinthians 13:11

permanent-record

\Remember when you were in school and got caught doing something wrong?

Some authority figure would say in a deep, threatening tone, “This is going on your permanent record.” Blemished forever, you thought.

But at some point later in life you realized they were bluffing. There was no permanent record. You could reinvent yourself, put the past behind you, or at least those school years of sometimes questionable behavior.

The fact was, just like a boat doesn’t care about its wake, nobody cared about your youth, except, perhaps, for a few buddies who lived through it with you.

Not any more.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, now 59 years old, is painfully aware of that.

The recent emergence of a photo on Northam’s 1984 yearbook page at Eastern Virginia Medical School— featuring one person in blackface and one person in a Ku Klux Klan-style robe and hood — spurred a cascade of righteous condemnation and demands from both sides of the aisle, including just about all the deeply moral 2020 Democratic hopefuls, that Northam resign,

”The photo of Ralph Northam’s yearbook that surfaced yesterday is both racist and inexcusable,” brayed the Democratic Governors Association in a statement. “It is time for Gov. Northam to step aside and allow Virginia to move forward.”

“We now know what Ralph Northam did when he thought no one was watching,” announced Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. “The person in that photo can’t be trusted to lead. Governor Northam must resign immediately.”

In this case, the damning photo surfaced because one or more of Northam’s former classmates, outraged about some pro-abortion comments he made, tipped off Big League Politics, a conservative website.  More common, however, is the discovery in the online sewer of some long-ago questionable behavior or contentious remark.

And now the media universe is even more fired up.

On Feb. 7, Virginia’s Attorney General, Mark Herring, who’s third in line for the governorship, revealed that he and some friends “put on wigs and brown makeup” when they dressed as rappers at a University of Virginia party in 1980 when he was 19 years old. The mob is salivating over that transgression.

Feb. 7 also brought news that the State Senate’s top Republican, 72-year-old Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr., had been managing editor 51 years ago of a 1968 Virginia Military Institute yearbook containing racist slurs and photographs, some including blackface.

Ferreting out youthful indiscretions is clearly now the name of the game in political journalism.

It sells papers and drives the curious to online news, stirs up a firestorm of outrage on social media and offers opportunities for political grandstanding.

It’s clear there’s a market for long-ago and forgotten, but potentially salacious or accusatory, stuff dug up by political parties and their partisan and activist allies.

But it raises serious questions about exactly how much culpability should be assigned to the actions of young people decades later, whether some youthful indiscretions have a right to be forgotten.

What’s a person‘s moral responsibility for actions of the past? Should somebody whose adult life has been honorable and well-intentioned be found wanting for youthful errors?

“Before the internet, young people who made mistakes—from embarrassing statements to minor crimes—that ended up in the public record eventually benefitted from ‘privacy-by-obscurity,” John Simpson, privacy project director at Consumer Watchdog, a progressive non-profit, said recently.  “Those things slipped out of the general consciousness of the public. Now, a youthful offense can remain at the top of search results indefinitely.”

Some theorists liken moral responsibility to a metaphorical ledger of life. “To be blameworthy is to have a debit on one’s ledger, and to be praiseworthy is to have a credit on one’s ledger…and entries on one’s ledger are made in permanent ink,” Andrew C. Khoury and Benjamin Matheson explained in the Journal of the American Philosophical Association.

But Khoury and Matheson argue that blameworthiness, unlike diamonds, should not be forever.

Whether a person deserves blame for a past action, or not, depends on many things – most of all on “how far and how deeply the individual has changed,” they say. In other words, blameworthiness can diminish through time.

An adult, as research shows, is not necessarily blameworthy for her actions as a child because the adult shares none of distinctive psychological states (e.g. beliefs, desires, or intentions) of the child, and these distinctive psychological features were essential to her committing an inappropriate act, Khoury and Matheson say.

Jonathan Last, an editor of The Weekly Standard, has pointed out that America’s juvenile justice system operates on the same principle, thatyoung people should not be held to the same standards of moral culpability as adults, that they aren’t fully capable of understanding the consequences of their actions.

“Personality is subject to a lifelong series of relatively small changes—particularly in adolescence and early adulthood, but continuing even into older age,” reported a study, Personality Stability From Age 14 to Age 77 Years“(This) can lead to personality in older age being quite different from personality in childhood.”

Or, as Khoury wrote, “..when confronted with the issue of moral responsibility for actions long since passed, we need to not only consider the nature of the past transgression but also how far and how deeply the individual has changed.”

The mob, particularly social media vigilantes, will likely continue to ignore all this. But they should remember the proverb, ‘Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”

 

 

 

Renaming Portland’s Lynch Schools: the abandonment of reason

lynch_school_1900

It’s not right. It’s not wise.

It’s just not fair to the students at Lynch Meadows, Lynch Wood and Lynch View elementary schools in Portland’s Centennial District.

The three schools are set to lose the “Lynch” in their names before the next school year because the District decided the name “Lynch” is an epithet.  Many newer families coming into the district associate the name with America’s violent racial history, Centennial Superintendent Paul Coakley told The Oregonian.

This is (supposedly) adult educators gone mad.

What’s next? Renaming public buildings with names such as White ( lacks tolerance of diversity), Young (implies ageism), Jackson (he owned slaves,, you know), Wilson (a president who re-segregated the federal civil service) or Johnson (President Andrew Johnson obstructed political and civil rights for blacks after the Civil War, contributing to failure of Reconstruction.)

The overly censorious policing of language in order to spare sensitive young minds does the children no good. Instead of protecting the delicate young souls, it lays the foundation for later insistence on trigger warnings, objections to micro-aggressions, the shouting down of controversial speakers, and the unfortunate spread of presentism, the tendency to interpret past events in terms of modern values and concepts.

The correct response by the Centennial School District was not to cater to misconceptions about the word by abolishing its use, but to educate the schoolchildren about the historical roots of the use of the Lynch name at the schools and the philanthropic spirit of the Lynch family, and, yes, that the word “lynch” in America is also associated with the killing of black people, often by racist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan.

As Jeremy Montgomery, whose son attends Lynch View Elementary School, told KATU, education would be a better solution. “See, I didn’t even know that (the schools were named after a charitable family). If people were more open to that and knew that, I couldn’t see it being a problem at all,” he said.

Tom Singerhouse, who went to Lynch View more than 50 years ago, expressed a similar view to KATU, saying teachers should be teaching their students about the significance of the Lynch family.

Lynch Wood Elementary’s website already provides a history lesson about the school’s name. Take a look (below). It’s fascinating reading and would be a good basis for a valuable history lesson with the schools’ students. They’d certainly learn a lot more than they would from deleting “Lynch” from their school’s name.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

                        A History of Lynch Schools

A booklet produced by the Civic Leadership Class of 1964

The name “Lynch School” dates back to 1900 when a one room school was built on the present site of the Lynch School at S.E. 162nd Avenue and Division Street, says a website a reprint of a booklet produced by the Civic Leadership Class of 1964.

According to the booklet, on March 13, 1900, Patrick and Catherine Lynch donated one acre of ground located at Section Line Road (Division) and Barker Road (162nd Ave.) on which was built a new one room school pictured on the front of this booklet.

This is the origin of the name “Lynch.” The Lynch farm originally consisted of 160.3 acres granted to Patrick and Catherine Lynch on August 1, 1874, under the Homestead Act passed by Congress in 1862. The original deed granted the land to the Lynch family and was signed by Ulysses S. Grant, President of the United States. Although the property included land on both sides of Section Line Road, the farm home was located across Division Street in the vicinity of The Hut, a restaurant now situated at 167th and Division.

The deed to the property donated to the Lynch School District in 1900 describes the location of the survey markers marking the boundary of the property as being located three inches below the wheel ruts in the adjoining roads. The stone markers had chiseled grooves on the top side for identification purposes. The stone marking the corner of the property at S.E. Division 10″ x 15″ x 22″ set flat side down 3″ below surface of gravel in the north wheel rut of graveled Section Line Road and tamped firmly in place”.

The area around the Lynch School was entirely devoted to agriculture in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Threshing was a community undertaking and many boys missed school because they were needed at harvest time.

The original one room Lynch School which started with fifteen to twenty students increased in number until in 1914 there were about fifty students in the one room school. Some say there were as many as sixty for the one and only teacher. Some of the former students of those “good old days” say that the only way the teacher could handle all eight grades was to divide up her time so each class had a recitation period. She would start in the morning with the first grade, and would by afternoon, finally get around to the eighth grade.

Meanwhile, the rest of the classes were working on assigned work. Of course, some activities and classes were jointly carried on together, such as music, writing practice, and practicing for school plays. In 1915 a large multiple purpose room, which served as an auditorium and meeting place for community functions was built onto the existing one room school. Folding doors were extended during the day making it into two classrooms giving the school a grand total of three rooms.

The Lynch P.T.A. was first organized in 1917 and undertook as its main project, the serving of hot soup and chocolate at lunch time. Residents who remember those days, say it was prepared at the W.B. Steel home where the Big Dollar Shopping Center is now located. Several of the boys would be asked to go over and carry back the kettles of soup and cocoa along with a pail or two of water before lunch.

 

 

Black student demands to erase history at the University of Oregon: just say no.

DeadyHall

The University of Oregon’s first building opened on Oct. 16, 1876. It was named Deady Hall for Judge Matthew Deady in 1893.

On November 17, 2015, the University of Oregon’s Black Student Task Force sent a list of twelve demands to four top university administrators.

The group asserted that “the historical structural violence and direct incidents of cultural insensitivity and racism” on campus create an environment that prevents black students from succeeding.

In order to create “a healthy and positive campus climate” for black students, the Black Student Task Force said:

“We…DEMAND that you work with us and implement the following list of programs:

  • Change the names of all of the KKK related buildings on campus. DEADY Hall will be the first building to be renamed.
  • We cannot and should not be subjugated to walk in any buildings that have been named after people that have vehemently worked against the Black plight, and plight of everyone working to achieve an equitable society.
  • Allowing buildings to be named after members who support these views is in direct conflict with the university’s goal to keep black students safe on campus.
  • We demand this change be implemented by Fall 2016”

University President Michael Schill appointed a committee of administrators, faculty, and students to develop criteria for evaluating whether to strip the names off Deady Hall and Dunn Hall, part of Hamilton residence hall, because of their association with racist actions in Oregon in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Once the criteria were established, Schill assembled a panel of three historians to research the history of Matthew P. Deady and Frederick S. Dunn to guide his decision-making.

The historians recently released an exhaustive, extensively footnoted 34-page report.

The report described the complex lives of both men, lives filled with negatives, positives, ambiguity and contradictions.

Deady, though a territorial legislator, constitutional convention delegate and presiding officer, and U.S. District Judge for thirty-four years, supported slavery.

Dunn, though he graduated from the University of Oregon, spent the vast majority of his career there and enjoyed a national reputation as a classics scholar, was also a prominent member of the Ku Klux Klan and led the Eugene chapter.

Based on the historians’ report, there is no question that both men held views and engaged in activities that would be considered loathsome today.

But that does that mean their names should be summarily erased from history at the University of Oregon.

To surrender to the Black Students Task Force’s demands would be to embrace presentism in all its intellectual weakness, to endorse interpreting historical events without any reference to the context or complexity of the time.

If there’s one thing students should learn in college, it’s that It makes no sense to see the world entirely in the present tense.

In looking at history, it is critical to acknowledge the degree to which our position and experiences color how we look at bygone days, places and people.

Presentism “…encourages a kind of moral complacency and self-congratulation,” said Lynn Hunt, president of the American Historical Association. “Interpreting the past in terms of present concerns usually leads us to find ourselves morally superior…,”

Many of our forbears espoused racial views that are today considered abhorrent, including people we still consider exemplars of the American experience.

In addition, somebody’s historical goodness and worth should not be based on just one criteria.

“…making race the only basis of judgment…does violence to the spirit of historical investigation, because it reduces complex individuals to game show contestants who must simply pass or fail a single test,” says David Greenberg, a professor of history and journalism and media studies at Rutgers University.

In April 2016, Schill and Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Yvette Alex-Assensoh published a letter to the campus community saying, “…we recognize that we can and must do more as an institution to meet the needs of Black students”, but made no commitments on the building renaming issue.

When Schill does make a decision, I earnestly hope he will just say no.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let the dogs out: the assault on Steve Scalise

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-LA, has had a reputation throughout his political career for being open to talking with just about anybody, regardless of their ideological persuasion. Horrors!

In today’s hyper-partisan world, that’s apparently a bad thing.

“I live in a rather special world,” influential film critic Pauline Kael commented after the 1972 presidential election. “I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken.”

The provincialism and narrow-mindedness of that observation came to mind in thinking about the Steve Scalise controversy. Progressives in the media and government were all too ready to accept the controversial allegation from a left-leaning blogger and attack Scalise in a frenzy because they wouldn’t, or couldn’t, think outside their echo-chamber of like thinkers.

But consider the source, and wonder whether the media have failed the public.

The melee started when a left-leaning blogger, Lamar White Jr., posted that twelve years ago a Louisiana state legislator, Steve Scalise, addressed the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO) about a tax and spending ballot measure.

Lamar White

Lamar White

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-LA

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-LA

White later said he learned about the incident after getting a tip from Robert Reed, the son and campaign manager of a Democrat who lost to Scalise in a 2008 special election to fill an open House seat in Louisiana.

White said he verified the tip by checking Reed’s source, a post on Stormfront, a race-baiting website run by white nationalists and other racial extremists.

Stormfront logo

Stormfront logo

When the media discovered White’s allegation, they leapt at the story, apparently without bothering to do much fact-checking. The progressive posse, eager to believe the worst about a conservative, went ballistic.

Because EURO was founded by David Duke, a prominent former Ku Klux Klan leader, critics excoriated Scalise for even talking to a racist group, no matter the topic, even though Scalise said he had no recollection of speaking at the EURO conference.

The national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) enthusiastically bashed Scalise, now House Majority Whip, with a guilt- by-association pronouncement.

DCCC National Press Secretary, Josh Schwerin

DCCC National Press Secretary, Josh Schwerin

“Steve Scalise chose to cheerlead for a group of KKK members and neo-Nazis at a white supremacist rally and now his fellow House Republican Leaders can’t even speak up and say he was wrong,” said DCCC National Press Secretary Josh Schwerin. “Republicans in Congress might talk about improving their terrible standing with non-white voters, but it’s clear their leadership has a history of embracing anti-Semitic, racist hate groups.”

Rep. Sean Maloney (D-N.Y.), piled on, calling for Scalise to resign from the Republican House Leadership team.

Alexandra Petri, author of the Washington Post’s ComPost blog, said, “Why would you possibly think speaking at this event was a good idea? Why would you think attending this event was a good idea?”

Similarly, Eugene Robinson wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post titled, “The GOP has a bad habit of appealing to avowed racists”.

“Here’s some advice for House Majority Whip Steve Scalise that also applies to the Republican Party in general: If you don’t want to be associated in any way with white supremacists and neo-Nazis, then stay away from them,” Robinson said.

Robinson went on, “Do not give a speech to a racist organization founded by former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke, as Scalise did when he was a Louisiana state legislator before running for Congress.”

This has just gone too far.

Now it’s apparently not only wrong to say something that’s offensive to progressives or something provocative that might challenge preconceptions and “trigger” discomfort, but it’s impermissible for politicians to address people progressives don’t agree with.

No wonder we have political gridlock if electeds are rebuked for even talking with people who have a different point of view.

What makes this whole thing even more bizarre is that Louisiana’s Times-Picayune newspaper now reports that Scalise may not, in fact, have spoken at the Euro event.

On Dec. 31, the paper said the man who arranged Scalise’s appearance at the event he addressed now says Scalise didn’t attend the EURO conference, but rather a small meeting of the Jefferson Heights Civic Association that was held in the same hotel conference room earlier the same day.

Wouldn’t it be something if all this sturm and drang has been over nothing.