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White House Bars NYT, CNN, and Politico from Briefing (nytimes.com)
660 points by ComputerGuru on Feb 24, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 384 comments

For anyone who has actually watched these press briefings in their entirety: Does anyone else think these are pretty much the worst way to get to the bottom of issues? Here's how it seems to work:

* The press secretary (or President, or whoever) makes a statement

* He or she chooses a journalist to ask a question

* Journalist asks question

* Press secretary answers question in as much or as little detail as he/she wants

* Press secretary calls another journalist

* This goes on for maybe 20-30 minutes, and it's over.

How does this even help at all? It's not like the press secretary is going to answer a question that he/she doesn't want to answer anyway.

These press briefings provide direct, multilateral, and unmoderated access to the Presidential Administration by the Press Corps. They are incredibly important to holding the administration to account for policy.

Can the administration spin their own narrative? Sure, but they can't directly control or audit the questions asked.

Depends on if they start excluding organizations and lining up softballs from cranks.

TRUMP: Wait. Let's see. Who's -- I want to find a friendly reporter.


TRUMP: Are you a friendly reporter? Watch how friendly he is. Wait. Wait. Watch how friendly he is. Go ahead.

a few minutes later, with a different reporter:

TRUMP: Now, that's what I call a nice question. That is very -- who are you with?


I thought your comment was a joke at first glance, because I often make jokes in this format.

It's an actual transcript. I'm a little flabbergasted.

The price good people pay for indifference to public affairs (ie populism, corruption and Electoral College ineptitude) is to be ruled by evil simians.


This is exactly the strategy the WH is starting to employ.

Look at Russian tactics against the press in 2006-2007 and you can predict the WH next move. They are stealing from their playbook.

Revoke. Replace. Erode.

There is a good write up on how Putin manages his media relations and uses it as a "powerful weapon" [1].

[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/04/ho...

I hear there are two new administration approved newspapers: The Truth and The News. (Известия)

And it's very well known that there is no news in the Truth, and no truth in the News.

"Stealing"? Vladimir let Donald borrow the book and make photocopies, and he's happy to explain all the parts that are not clear.

Vlad also showed off his bling to The Donald that he stole from Robert Kraft.

Maybe Infowars will get the president on the record about Pizzagate.

Alex Jones loves Donald Trump. He's unlikely to hold him to account for anything, except maybe not being paranoid enough, until his audience drops and new ideas come crawling out of whatever hole Alex keeps them in.

I would say he's a joke, but it's way creepier than that.

What is the next move?

Masha Gessen's outstanding piece from November is holding up pretty well: http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2016/11/10/trump-election-autoc...

"The national press is likely to be among the first institutional victims of Trumpism. There is no law that requires the presidential administration to hold daily briefings, none that guarantees media access to the White House. Many journalists may soon face a dilemma long familiar to those of us who have worked under autocracies: fall in line or forfeit access."

I don't see anything about next moves in either. The only thing I could get from the first one is that Trump will produce a lot of bullshit. That's not exactly next move, he's doing it for years now. The second one mostly devoted to mocking Trump's first press-conference, still no next moves.

The linked piece says much more than that, of course.

More words, same content.

Right. Because last I heard Trump just nationalized CNN and had state-controlled oil monopoly buy NYT and replace all previous editorship with his cronies.

You mean softballs like:

- Golf, what does it do for you?

- How does your golf game hold up next to Tiger’s?

- What has enchanted you the most from serving in this office?

- In this fatherless world, where did you learn to love?

- Are you ready to call yourself the ‘comeback kid’?

- You definitely have some impressive accomplishments….And more than a lot of presidents who manage to get reelected. My question is, is it enough?

- Have you given up on the Republicans?

- I’m wondering if you think that [Republican presidential candidates are] uninformed, out of touch, or irresponsible?

All actual questions press asked Obama: http://dailycaller.com/2017/02/15/13-hard-hitting-questions-...

Reporters can ask whatever they want, including stupid/uninteresting questions, that's the point.

But limiting who can attend is only a move to signal they don't want hard questions and if you ask them you get banned.

Nobody wants hard questions, as such, but I agree it would be good for the President to allow diversity of viewpoints be represented in the press pool. I'm just saying journalists being soft and submissive towards the government with which they are politically aligned is not exactly the new thing that Trump threatens to unleash on us - it has happened many times before.

Allowing only those who are soft to ask questions is new.

Are you sure? Here is the report about closed sessions with reporters that Obama held:


It's not that some of the press was excluded, it's not that only "trusted" media was invited, it's that they agreed to not even report on what they talked about or who they met with. I think private meetings with no mention of them and reporting based on this as if they arrived to it by themselves and not were instructed by the administration is much cozier relationship than just being invited or not invited in one briefing.

If that's all they could find after eight years in office, you're making the opposite point to the one you think you're making.

Why that would be all? Of course it's not all. It's just one random article that I've seen couple of days ago, I didn't make a full survey of whole 8 years. It is enough though to establish the fact that the some of the press did field softball questions to Obama - in addition to publicly gushing about how awesome he is - which fact should be obvious to anybody who paid any attention through his tenure.

You didn't read the article did you? Most of these questions were asked in TV interviews which are generally very favorable to the President.

You didn't read the article did you?

The guidelines ask us

Please don't insinuate that someone hasn't read an article. "Did you even read the article? It mentions that" can be shortened to "The article mentions that." https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

Are they generally favorable to Trump too?

No, I meant the softballs coming from the Skype seats.

(yes yes, there have been reasonable questions from the Skype seats too)

This is exactly why journalism today is mostly lacking in integrity: journos having to cozy up to and not offend officials to maintain access. Without viable, advarasial news, society is headed towards a precipice of greater corruption and authoritarianism because the press failed to hold leaders accountable for their actions.

yes but all Presidents do this, including Obama

Please name a news organization that was allowed to attend press conferences by Obama, then later banned because he didn't like what they had to say.

edit: Since you won't be able to find one by Obama, how about any president in the last 50 years?

>The administration has taken increasing steps in recent weeks and months to isolate the TV network, with some Capitol Hill veterans recalling no such similar steps by any president since Richard Nixon’s retaliation against The New York Times and The Washington Post during Watergate.

>“The point is this, and it really needs to be made: Fox is not just another television network,” said Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), a close Obama ally. “Fox has become the official/semi-official voice for the Republican Party, in opposition to the president. And I think calling them out is the only way to delegitimize them as political propaganda.”


Why would you post a link which proves my point for me?

>The effort hasn’t been a total blackout; White House press secretary Robert Gibbs still calls on Fox News reporter Major Garrett at press briefings

Obama decided not to go on some Fox talk shows one time which apparently hurt their feelings. It would be truly shocking if we had a president who wasn't nice to the press like that.

Thank god ours constantly reassures reporters that he would never have them killed, even though he hates them and thinks they are disgusting, and he has to remind us that he thinks people who kill reporters are bad people. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxI04hcgRNg

He did not ban them from press conferences, in fact his press secretary called on their reporters.

>White House press secretary Robert Gibbs still calls on Fox News reporter Major Garrett at press briefings

So they were still invited to the briefings and still called on.

>Obama last month granted five interviews to Sunday political shows to discuss healthcare reform, but he did not sit down with Fox

That's the worst he did.

>And there is no evidence of any joint strategy by Democrats at either side of Pennsylvania Avenue to coordinate their efforts against Fox.

No additional steps or coordinated effort was made to exclude Fox.

To call this the same thing is disingenuous and incorrect.

You cannot be serious.

Suggesting this is somehow equivalent is way off the mark, at best it is grasping for straws.

Trump not sitting down with MSNBC to discuss immigration would be equivalent. Barring media outlets is completely unprecedented, because we have freedom of the press in the United States.

Obama had tried to do the same thing with Fox News.


The difference in this case is how wildly inaccurate their reporting has been. Nearly everyday they're misrepresenting what President Trump has said, and sometimes they outright lie. It borders on hysteria. Which is ridiculous, because if they didn't ratchet everything up to 11, they could make serious points against Trump.

For instance in the latest Sweden nontroversy, Trump misspoke when he tried to make reference to a report he saw on the Tucker Carlson show. Instead of having articles that would point out that a President should speak more clearly and that we expect more from him, instead they stated that he made up a terror attack! Really?! Instead of making a point that we could all agree with, they made themselves look bad to those of us who are non-partisans.

So the Treasury department tried to stop Fox from attending a meeting once, but didn't actually do it because it was wrong.

And he didn't go on a Fox Sunday news show one time.

Not really helping your case here.

They don't lie about him, they don't have to; they represent him as he represents himself. He says something out loud and they describe it, it's not their fault he changes his mind about what he wishes he had said after the fact.

He has taken to blatantly and explicitly lying about simple verifiable facts, and doubling down on those lies when challenged. How should the press deal with that besides calling it what it is? Why should they give him the benefit of the doubt after that?

The Obama feud with Fox News was heavily inflated by Fox News [1].

[1] http://www.mediaite.com/columnists/foxs-white-house-bans-fox...

You are making a false equivalency [1]. Every president has to manage relations with the press but Trump's press relations are not normal.

[1] http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-trump-battles-pres...

Obama complained about Fox news, but he never acted like this.

Who constantly questioned his legitimacy as president, made up the "terrorist fist jab", and gave him shit for asking for fucking dijon mustard.

so what? why should he give any airtime to a media company that has blatantly slandered him, propagated toxic vitriol, and vehemently opposed him?

Then why should Obama have given any airtime to Fox? Why should the next democratic president? And now you see the problem: suppressing journalism that you don't agree with is a fucking dangerous precedent.

It's two fold: 1) I agree the President shouldn't suppress journalism so long as it's respectful as that could set a "dangerous" precedent. 2) CNN has been one of the major proponents of the Trump is Hitler/bigot/racist/xenophobe/x_____ist/phobe AND the bullshit, racist, anti-white people narrative started under Obama's watch and they have set a dangerous precedent of abusing their size and power to lead half the country into civil unrest and make them believe that Trump is to blame for all of their problems.

I think you mean that it sets a "dangerous president", as in #unpresidented [1].

[1] http://www.snopes.com/trump-sends-unpresidented-tweet/

Obama didn't exclude news organizations because he didn't like them when he was president as far as I'm aware and if he did I'm going to be just as mad at him as I am at Trump.

did Obama call on conservative leaning publications? I'm pretty sure he favored the ones in the front row, the ones that favored him.

Yes, he did call on conservative leaning publications. Your vague memories are incorrect.

December 2012: Several journalists reported that MSNBC hosts were meeting privately with President Obama to discuss the impending “fiscal cliff” fight. May 2013: NPR’s Ari Shapiro reported that President Obama was meeting privately with “lefty columnists,” but hastened to add that there was “nothing nefarious” about it. November 2013: President Obama met again with liberal journalists, as Obamacare struggled with the failure of healthcare.gov and other problems. March 2015: Politico’s media reporter, Hadas Gold, reported that “a group of journalists and columnists,” all on the left, met privately with President Obama, but the White House refused to say “who else was at the meeting or what was discussed.”

Where have you copy-pasted this list from and what is it's relevance?

I'm sure if you were at all open to his point, you could really figure it out.

Why bother posting the comment at all if you don't actually want to discuss it?

To be fair, your initial response was not particularly conducive to continuing the conversation. Why would they choose to respond to someone who is apparently antagonistic?

Which initial response?

My first comment in this thread was responding to a baseless comment about someone's own memory, so I didn't feel the need to put a lot of effort providing sources.

My first reply to billfor was a question asking for clarification on his comment.

I don't see in what way I'm being antagonistic. As to why would they choose to respond, I don't know, but they did choose to, so I don't see why asking for clarification is such a bad thing.

Apologies for not looking far enough up the thread. I am referring to this comment:

Where have you copy-pasted this list from and what is it's relevance?

Perhaps it wasn't your intent, but this can easily be read as "you're just copy/pasting stuff that doesn't have anything to do with the conversation". With contentious topics, extra care needs to be taken to ensure constructive conversation.

It's very clear that it is copy-pasted from somewhere, just from the formatting of the text, so I was honestly wondering where it was from. As it is it's just an unsourced block of text without any commentary about what they meant to show by it or even if it is accurate.

>this can easily be read as "you're just copy/pasting stuff that doesn't have anything to do with the conversation".

Good, because that is what I meant. Until they can show the source of that information and can explain why they posted it I have no way of knowing if it has anything to do with the conversation.

>With contentious topics, extra care needs to be taken to ensure constructive conversation.

I do not consider just copying blocks of text at someone without any attempt at elaboration a constructive conversation. I asked a valid clarifying question and I feel no need to beat around the bush. Nothing in my comment was unnecessary or aggressive. Read it literally, as that is the way it was written.

If you no longer think the person you're engaging with is interested in constructive discussion, it does absolutely no good to make it worse by raising the level of antagonism. If you're interested in rehabilitating it, you need to make it abundantly clear that that's what you're doing. Otherwise, just leave it be.

Given the nature of internet forums with text being the only medium, you do need to take extra care to ensure the best possible reading of your comments. I wasn't the only one to read your comment in a negative way (as another commenter posted as well), and your comment didn't elicit the response from 'billfor that you were looking for. The bar needs to be higher. Although it happens much too often, HN isn't intended for battle or point-scoring debate: it's intended for substantive, constructive discussion.

Similarly, at this point I don't think I've done an adequate job in presenting what I've intended, so I'll leave it at that.

>it does absolutely no good to make it worse by raising the level of antagonism.

I do not believe I did so. Again: I asked an honest question to which I honestly want to know the answer.

Apparently, the only link that comes up in a search is:

http://redstatewatcher.com/article.asp?id=64995 "Media outrage at White House briefing is more 'Fake News' - Look ..."

Awesome! Thank you, I appreciate it. Looks like that's just a rehost of a Brietbart article.

Seems like some of the events disagree with the collation article:

>On Thursday, Fox News’ Ed Henry tweeted that MSNBC hosts Ed Schultz and Lawrence O’Donnell, as well as Ezra Klein of the Washington Post and Fox News’ Juan Williams, had been invited for a private off-the-record chat with President Obama.

So not exactly the "lefty" conspiracy painted in the root article.

He may have inferred from your tone a common algorithm:

1. Ask to clarify meaning when the meaning requires only superficial analysis. 2. Ask for sources. 3. Dispute illegitimate sources, while clarifying which sources are acceptable, without ability to see bias in "legitimate" sources. 4. Await response, assuming it will be hostile. 5. Respond with other hostile algorithm.

>Ask to clarify meaning when the meaning requires only superficial analysis.

A block of text of potentially real, potentially fabricated dates and events without any clarifying text doesn't really fit this description.

I mean, if we want to throw arguments into algorithms I can just as easily point to:

1. Throw out dubious claims and/or unrelated/incorrect facts 2. Claim dishonesty when claims are not accepted on face value 3. Resist any attempts at clarification of argument 4. Claim opponent is disingenuous and declare victory.

So... you did understand what he said, and are assuming he's hostile? This seems to contradict that you were asking honest feedback.

What? No, I don't understand what he said. It was a list of dates and events that I don't know are true or accurate, without any context of why he commented them. I was referring to you when I said

>Claim dishonesty when claims are not accepted on face value

I made no claim that I wish you accepted at face value. So as far as i understand, you must be referring to bills claim. Otherwise, to which claim are you referring?

Assuming it is bills claim to ehich you refer, if you don't understand the context, how can it be a claim?

> but they can't directly control or audit the questions asked

That's exactly what's happening - they're skipping the reporters and now excluding the news organization entirely.

Now if only an actual Press Corps existed in this country.

> How does this even help at all?

It's basically (when run the traditional way) a means for the press corps to apply pressure, if an issue is either emergent or common, a substantive question is likely to be asked and answered on it, and followup can occur on other forums, which are less public and provide less pressure on their own, but far more fertile when the issued been raised based on the public questions and responses (or lack of response) and stories based on that are out or imminent.

OTOH, if you bar outlets that tend to ask bothersome questions from the briefing in favor of friendly outlets, that breaks down.

It's worth reading about why these things exist [1]. The ability to ask questions is powerful whether or not they are answered [2].

[1] https://www.whitehousehistory.org/the-president-the-press-an... [2] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/longterm/water...

You're right in that this does not significantly block NYT, etc.'s ability to gather news (btw you can check the transcripts online: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings) but it's an important symbolic gesture by the White House.

Here's a cool post of how the 49 seats assignments have changed over time: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/03/25/ho...

Blocking only NYT might not change things significantly, but showing that they will ban anyone who asks difficult questions means the ones who are left will think twice. The ones who keep "misbehaving" will also get banned. That will change things for everyone trying to get news.

The banned parties should make an alternative venue that asks questions of shadow governments. It will be more interesting and erode the Presidents power to choose how to address the people by overshadowing his useless PR and making the other governments easier to imagine.

Also fun, but I didn't mean a cutout of trump.. an actual clinton or sanders, or anyone who has some backing to run next term can build a shadow cabinet and start answering the NYTs questions.

That's an esoteric use of "shadow government".

It's typically used to mean a secret cabal that holds the real power.

I took him to mean "shadow" as how it's used in the term "shadow cabinet" in parliamentary democracies, particularly the UK.

Exactly. I would expect the UK's media to use the shadow cabinet to take back the floor.

If the only questions that are asked are softballs, then the only clips that CNN, etc, can air from the press conferences are well-prepared, pat answers. Which will tend to make the administration look better, rather than spluttering and indignant.

I agree its not optimal, but at least the president gets challenging questions from time to time and his reaction will be analyzed by the press and people. If they choose not to answer that is also an answer. if they choose to ignore hard questions, that is also an answer. in case of Trump he gets tripped up and starts blatantly lying and blaming everyone else. it works

It's not useless at all. Banning CNN and other relatively hostile or left leaning news corps is not really meant to protect Trump from them. After all, their readership is likely in large part against Trump already.

No, the move is a warning to the news organizations who stay. It's a message that they will be kicked out if they don't push stuff that the administration likes.

I don't think that is even the issue. It is essential for him and his followers to brand media as the enemy. As long as they are angry and against him it works for him, ie his followers see any negative repirting as hit jobs by spoiled liberal journos. They don't realize that they are helping him with all the outraging.

Note that TIME and the AP refused to take part if others were excluded.

in todays non-televised press meeting, not in future press briefings.

You're right, the press briefings are absolutely useless. That said, the message sent by this is not a good one.

No, it isn't a good message at all.

In fact, I'd say it's downright ominous.

FCC is in the middle of legalizing regional monopolies, DEA is busy banning Kratom in the middle of the worst opiate crisis in decades, and the White House is barring media outlets from press briefings.

it doesn't even sound like I'm talking about America, right? something is very, very wrong.

> FCC is in the middle of legalizing regional monopolies, DEA is busy banning Kratom in the middle of the worst opiate crisis in decades, and the White House is barring media outlets from press briefings.

Actually everything except the press ban sounds pretty much like the American I can remember since my teenage years. What do you think happened during the crack epidemic? The rules to prevent these large media monopolies have been eroding since the 90s.

Honestly, it's like the Trump administration is trying to undo any social and economic progress since the 80s.

When did the US become so complacent to shit policy? We've tried war on drugs before, IT DOES NOT WORK. We created 'bad hombres' down there.

The crack epidemic was another racially and politically motivated solution.

The fact we still use a law, to this day, that was created to cause destruction to hippie/black communities and break down protests against the war is absurd.

And anyone, in 2017, that still considers drug use a law enforcement issue is out of touch with reality and science.

So fuck the Republican party right now.

I find them useful and interesting despite their flaws.

I guess I can see that if you find "how does the press secretary avoid saying anything of substance today?" interesting.

People see the press ask questions and be ignored or be given responses that have nothing to do with what was asked and some of them take note. Not allowing the press because you disagree with them is a step away from only allowing government approved press. Welcome to the way things are/were in Nazi Germany, North Korea, Venezuela, Soviet Russia, and other great places to share company with.

Freedom of the press being curtailed to such an extent has /always/ signaled worse things to come in literally every historic precedent, ever.

Coming from a republic in which the president is irrelevant and governance is entirely parliamentary in practice, I think it's highly refreshing to see a press secretary publically shooting the sh*t with journalists in this fashion.

The alternative means of getting questions from the public to leaders is to have self-interested politicians grandstanding, asking questions of politicians who are experts in not answering them. It's pointless.

They're not perfect, but these press briefings are far less stage-managed and more honest than any other public forum in which questions are asked, imo.

"Asked about X, press secretary didn't provide more details." is still interesting information. Well... during more normal times anyways.

I do agree it could be more transparent and useful than a reality show however.

Indeed. Refusals to answer, evasions, and lies are also valuable information.

Yep, the best investigative stories involve catching people in their own lies. Reminds me of that comical quote by Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds, "I love rumors! Facts can be so misleading, where rumors, true or false, are often revealing."

> Indeed. Refusals to answer, evasions, and lies are also valuable information.

And people who ask those questions too frequently will be weeded out just like NYT, CNN, and Politico.

The goal is to only get the questions the President wants asked to be asked.

There won't be many "didn't provide more details" type questions if people want to retain access.

I view press briefings (in almost all contexts) as a platform for the speaker to get their message out. That the press gets to ask questions just helps advise the speaker on where there is uncertainty/ambiguity in their statements.

Under a "normal" administration, they are a pretty good way to get the official story, but journalism still requires investigation.

This article was an interesting view on the Putin's annual press conferences. Similar flow to what you described.


I've always been jealous of the prime minister's question time. Members of Parliament ask tough questions and demand follow-up, plus it's the prime minister answering instead of a press secretary. I'm sure the prime minister is less enthusiastic about it than I am, but since he is subject to votes of no confidence, he doesn't have much of a choice.

The president will never do something similar in front of Congress, but wouldn't it be great?

> It's not like the press secretary is going to answer a question that he/she doesn't want to answer anyway.

Even when the press secretary refuses to answer a question, it is good because it draws attention to the topic at hand and this helps drive public awareness for important issues. Denial of comments is often as revealing as plain answers. Actually it is pretty good when they refuse to comment on something because you can make this a part of a larger article on a subject and then quote their refusal to comment. This helps make pressure on a sensitive topic way after the press event is done and then in the end some answers might be provided if sufficient attention is focused.

The Press Secretary is the "Official" voice of the White House, and thus is accountable for WH's actions. Now, if nobody knows what was officially said, the WH can deny it and there will be no record of it.

I understand that the current press secretary/briefings are pretty much useless. But they are officially recorded as being useless, which is very important for accountability. Seems like another stunt for the current administration to play fast and loose with facts.

The press meetings are televised...there will be video record of what was said.

What matters more is what was not said on account of questions not asked. Even an evasion or an alternative fact carries information in its being offered in response.

Thanks for bringing this up! I would rather expect an anonymous set of questions go up on into a ballot and picked up randomly for the Press Secretary to answer. A follow-up could be decided extempore based on who asked the question.

I feel like the modern Press Briefing in the USA is a form of the completely useless Canadian "Question Period."

As a former Speaker commented, "there's a reason it's called Question Period and not Answer Period".

Yes, but this isn't about improving on press briefings, it's about making them even worse.

I agree- they are useless. We should have a Monthly state of the union where the President is directly answerable to Public via Periscope/Facebook/Twitter. There are no distribution costs on the Internet so Press will eventually be disintermediated.

(Responding to my own comment) I guess Churchill would say, "Democracy, the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried." That doesn't mean we can't improve. Press briefings just seem broken.

Menkin is better on democracy.

That's a reasonable question, but also a distraction from the topic of equal access.

I agree. I'd like to see more and more frequent policy debates between the parties even when the election might be years away.

I'm finding I'm having a hard time reconciling the current climate - not necessarily at his supporters (or the opposite), but just at how polar opposite everyone seems to be on this.

For me, I see these organizations as not treating him poorly, but actually willing to call out things he is not being factual on.

But at the same time, maybe I'm being biased against him.

I want the discourse, but I'm just struggling to understand how the views can be so strongly split from one extreme to the other, and what that means moving forward.

> But at the same time, maybe I'm being biased against him.

You're exhibiting the classic -- "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt."

But you really need to avoid being paralyzed by indecisiveness.

There are mountains of evidence that Trump and his cronies lie all the time. There are videos of them saying contradicting things -- straight from the horses mouth as the saying goes. No need to `struggle`.

I would go much farther than that. The attitude being exhibited here is "mind so open your brains fall out".

The "prior probability" of human nature is called history. You can't look at every event as if it's happening in isolation. This fetishization of the middle ground is intellectually lazy.

> intellectually lazy

EXACTLY! It's so easy to use "I want to be neutral" as an excuse for not weighing the evidence.

Thank you for saying that!

>But you really need to avoid being paralyzed by indecisiveness.

Hardly an excuse to make bad decisions. Howe is being genuinely unsure a bad thing?

At this point, an unbiased observer who just looks at, say, NYT would likely come to the conclusion that one of the following statements must be true: a) President Trump is a pathalogical liar or b) The NYT is a pathological liar when talking about Trump.

There is no middle ground where NYT is being fair, and Trump is being reasonable. This means that any reasonable person with a position on this issue must take at least one of the two extremes.

It's -possible- this is an intentional strategy: people who want to believe the administration are peeled away from news media that aren't 100% in line with the administration's agenda. If you like Trump and want to believe what he says, reading the NYT has got to be an exercise in frustration.

Once all remaining supporters don't watch any media that isn't Trump Approved(TM), they're locked in permanently.

There is another potential strategy: attack the concept of honesty. If we get to a point where a significant portion of the population believes everyone, media and Trump, are lying then Trump has much more reign to do what he wants because any reporting on it will instinctively be branded as a lie. So will Trump's defense, but the net result is still a win over believed reporting on <bad thing>.

> attack the concept of honesty.

This. When others are lying, they make a “decent” effort to hide that fact, while Trump doesn't even try. The resulting confusion, when everyone is fighting over who lied about what, is one of his most effective weapons. People are distracted, cachink, goal achieved.

What makes things difficult is that the legitimacy of corporate media was seriously in question before Trump was elected. There seems to have been massive collusion between the mainstream media & the DNC to keep Bernie Sanders a fringe candidate. And it's tough to say "the mainstream media is rigged, but a president saying so openly is bad."

"Massive" is overselling it, unless there's a large body of evidence that I missed (which, given my preoccupation with Trump, would not be impossible).

Trump did not force the media to be douche canoes for years on years.

Not did the media force Trump to lie continuously, yet here we are.

It's the annihilation of truth and its terrifying.

I genuinely believe that we are entering the "disinformation age".

While I'm firmly in category A I'm not sure that is a fair comparison because the NYT is a huge organization that could very well have employees set on spreading as much biased, misleading or overblown news they could to hurt Trump politically. Also there is the news part of the NYT and the editorial which could have different quality.

I'm not saying you're wrong, just that it might not be that simple.

It's good that you question yourself constantly - it's the only path to wisdom that I know of. But the downside of skepticism is procrastination and refusal to make unpleasant decisions.

When you are faced with Hobson's choice (between unpleasant alternatives), a phenomenon economists call loss aversion inclines us to postpone decisions whose knowable outcomes are likely to be unpleasant. This actually makes things worse, but as the various alternatives remain relatively similar there's an excuse to keep dithering and hope things will somehow change by themselves.

You're not alone in this. Note in weeks and months to come how trivial matters will become every more frequently blown up in the news as people grope for an extrinsic solution to the brewing political conflict.

You are being Gaslighted[1], that's why you express doubt about your own feelings/bias.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting

Gaslight movie 1944 :(

In our FPTP voting system, a two party system naturally emerges. And during times of hardship, instead of a middle-ground being found like would occur in a multiparty system, things become even more partisan and contentious. It's a fundamental facet of our political system, and won't ever change by using the political system. The political momentum needed is just too great.

Exactly. I heard it well put the other day: "Trump didn't cause the current political divisiveness. The current political devisions caused Trump."

I have a feeling this is How Things Work in societies. Similar theories exist about time traveling to the past to kill Hitler: the nationalist population of Germany will then elect the same personality in a different person and we'll still get the same atrocious WWII.

You have to make changes in The Little Guys, The Average People to actually effect change. This is where community comes in: get to know people, hang out with them, openly discuss your opinions on basic rights.

I feel like once in my life I was able to do exactly this, but I don't want to hijack the thread for that story.

Extremism & partisanship does naturally occur, and is seen in every country. However, instead of keeping those groups on the fringe like some political systems do, the American political system amplifies those groups. The majority of people don't like Trump. The majority of people didn't like Clinton. Yet our political system made those our choices. If we want to change our government, we need to find a way to make it capable of changing over time to reflect its people.

Please share your story!

I was called for jury selection. I'd forgotten about the summons and failed to show up the first two days, so I called the clerk who said that as long as I showed up on the third day, I wouldn't suffer any consequences. They had me at the bottom of the list so I sat there all day making small talk with potential jurors. I discovered that the first two days had seen few (if any) selections and there was speculation from both attorneys that they'd probably need to call another round of potential jurors.

I found out in the first ten minutes of waiting that our case would be a murder trial. I expressed my opinion many times throughout the day that I could never give someone the death penalty simply because humans make mistakes. Not the defendant, but those collecting evidence and providing testimony. There'd been recent news at the time about a few cases that had been overturned years later - rape cases with better DNA testing, manslaughter cases with new evidence, that kind of thing. My peers dwindled throughout the day and we heard from the deputies guarding us that selection had picked up and just maybe there wouldn't been the need for another set of potential jurors. I was the last in the room, the deputy received word that the last person before me was selected and completed the jury pool, but I needed to hang around because the judge wanted to speak to me. He arrived with both lawyers in tow, I expressed my apologies and was dismissed.

The defense attorney was a former client of my computer hardware business. (The relationship was known to the court.) Because of my familiarity with the lawyer, and because I'd been there during jury selection, I followed the case in the local news. The accused denied he was the perpetrator and maintained his innocence. His lawyer, my acquaintance, argued that his client was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was mistakenly identified as the assailant. (The details about whether this meant he was indeed near the scene elude me, but it's not important to my point.)

I was disappointed to find out the man was convicted. Perhaps the jury was afraid of releasing a criminal back onto the streets. I was relieved that he was given life in prison instead of the death penalty. Six months later, new evidence came to light, the right man was arrested, and our poor innocent soul was released.

Perhaps even if he'd been given the death penalty, he wouldn't have been executed in six months. But what if it had taken years or decades to discover the new evidence? I feel certain that my discussions with other potential jurors kept this man from receiving the death penalty.

If you think about it a two party system has a tendency to make the parties move towards the center in general. If a party gets much more extreme than the populace then they will lose easily against an opponent just a little more moderate than them. Trump's views seem a little more extreme than the general populace but if you look at it he didn't even win the popular vote.

> If you think about it a two party system has a tendency to make the parties move towards the center in general.

No, it doesn't.

> If a party gets much more extreme than the populace then they will lose easily against an opponent just a little more moderate than them.

This requires lots of assumptions that may not be true in the real world. First, it assumes a party in power can't shift the electorate by suppressing voting rights of its opponents. Second, it either ignores propensity to vote effects, or assumes a unimodal distribution of preferences so that moderation not only brings you closer to the median voter but also doesn't make people who are closer to your position less likely to vote; whereas a two-party system over time promotes a bimodal distribution where moving away from one of those peaks, even toward the center between them, reduces enthusiasm and votes recieved.) It also ignores communication assymetries and their relation to money, and therefore support from moneyed interests.

There are a lot of things to pulls the two parties back out from the middle again and I'm aware that practically it's not like both parties are actually centrist. Maybe I should've been more clear but my intent was saying that a two party system leads to more centrist parties than a multi-party system. I honestly think that multi-party systems might be better but I also think that two party systems aren't completely aweful

> Maybe I should've been more clear but my intent was saying that a two party system leads to more centrist parties than a multi-party system.

It might result in more centrist parties (though I've never seen a convincing comparativr argument or evidence; median voter theorem is fine and all for the abstract idealized world it applies to but ignores pretty much every significant aspect of real-world political dynamics), but even so it doesn't seem to lead to more centrist governments.

> I honestly think that multi-party systems might be better but I also think that two party systems aren't completely aweful

Among democracies, degree of proportionality of representation is pretty directly correlated with popular satisfaction with government, and smaller numbers of parties are correlated with poorer proportionality; from the perspective of providing people the government they want, two-party systems turn out to mostly be, empirically, pretty awful, and the US's particular implementation near the bottom of the barrel among established democracies.

> Among democracies, degree of proportionality of representation is pretty directly correlated with popular satisfaction with government

While dual or multiple parties can affect this, the degree of representation currently in the US is currently more of detriment to finding a middle ground.

The average member of the lower house has around 650K constituents more then any senator did at our founding. The US Constitution was suppose to allow the House to grow and expand as the country did, however Congress passes a law setting the limit of members to the House almost a century ago.

If we multiply the House by 10, each member represents 65K we are still within the Constitution and will get closer to what you are stating then a complete overhaul. This has the effect of give more representation to people and makes it more likely to get to a middle ground. As an example a district votes 60% for one party in the current system results in 40% being unheard. With a 10x, keeping in mind it wouldn't really work entirely we have, 6 members that agree with the 60% and 4 members that agree with the 40%. It's not going to be that exact but hopefully you get the idea. This is going to decrease the power of each member of the lower house to state "Mandate" and force getting closer to middle ground.

In the 60/40 example it is mostly likely gerrymandered or a state with a single member in the House which results in no general election. The district is already assumed to win the general and thus the primary becomes the real election which is nominally 50% of the a general election. So in the current system 30% of the 650K in our example district effectively elect the member to House. Given typical 50% voter turnout we then can say that basically say that about 15% of of a district pick the representation. So in our example 98K are represented fully and 552K people are under represented. By scaling that back we would probably have less gerrymandered districts but even in this extreme we have 10K people vs 55K people and may even be able to increase voter turnout since a vote actually matters at this point. In my district my vote is worthless, I still vote in primary and general, but I live someplace more gerrymandered than the 60/40 it's closer to 80/20.

On the other hand, in America both parties have moved to the right at a clip. The Nixon administration was to the left of Obama (and Clinton) on a good number of the most high-profile social and economic issues we face today. This country's "center" is firmly in the right-authoritarian section of a political compass.

That's true, except both of our parties have been taken over by corporations & the system makes a third party candidate almost always unviable. It's an illusion of choice where the people always lose, and the system didn't work in a way that can recover.

Obviously you have less choices than the in the two party system but it also means that the choices need to appeal to a broader subset of the audience. Third parties don't win but they can make one of the main parties lose so if there is a really popular third party one of the main parties would probably just absorb most of their ideas into their main platform. I'm not saying that the two party system is perfect (or even good), just that the parties have to fight for votes has a tendency to move the parties to where the voters are.

It's not just FPTP. FPTP creates the two party system, but something else creates partisanship (as evidenced by numerous other countries that have FPTP and two parties, but they're nowhere near as diverged).

My theory is that what creates partisanship in US is primaries. It might sound counter-intuitive, but hear me out.

In the system without primaries, the candidates that run in general elections are decided through inner party politics, in which only party functionaries participate. Said functionaries generally wield influence proportionate to the amount of time they spent within that system, and they constantly fight each other for power and influence. Since they don't have to explain themselves to the voters in the process, ideological concerns are secondary to influence. Furthermore, because of how byzantine such systems can get, you get a lot of compromise and power sharing happening on all levels - and any functionary has to go through multiple levels to get to the point where they can contest for general election nominations, so they are well-conditioned in power sharing / compromise arrangements, and consider them natural.

This system naturally rewards more moderate politicians that are capable of such compromises, and sideline more extreme (ideologically pure) ones that might not compromise for the sake of ideology. So by the time the voters have their say, they usually pick between two moderates. Overall, the parties remain relatively close, with a lot of overlap on their respective moderate/centrist flanks.

Now consider what happens when you add primaries open to the voters (even if it's just registered party voters). On one hand, voters don't participate in the routine, day-to-day party politicking - they show up to vote once per cycle, and that's that. On the other hand, because primaries are perceived as less important than the general, the turnout bar is higher, and only the more motivated voters show up at all. These voters tend to be more extreme, because ideology is a strong motivator to vote, and comparatively fewer centrists/moderates feel strongly about their centrism. Thus, you get electorate that 1) is more towards the extreme end for the party, and 2) is not inclined to compromise or power share.

Now your candidates need to pander to that electorate in order to win the primaries and advance to the general. Initially, it wouldn't make that much of a difference, because embracing the extreme views becomes a detractor in the general - so long as parties remain close, moderates from either party can swing easily, and so it's important to both attract as many moderate voters as possible from the other party, and to not let your own moderate voters defect. However, there needs to be some pandering in the primaries, and so the rhetoric there becomes a bit more extreme - and the parties start slowly drifting apart.

And this becomes a positive feedback loop. As more extreme positions get gradually normalized, party platforms drift apart, and those stuck in the middle are forced to sort themselves out. At the same time, because of increasing distance, each party sees the other as more hostile, which drives more heated rhetoric that further promotes more extreme sentiments. A lot of it becomes less about policy rationalizations, and more about emotional appeal (just look at most of the arguments surrounding abortion today, and compare to the same 40 years ago).

This, in turn, decreases the utility of pandering to moderates in the general. Once parties are sufficiently far apart, most moderates will start voting for extremists in their own party over moderates in another party (even if they hold their nose). So the risk of pushing away your own moderates by adopting extreme views in the primary is reduced substantially, and at the same time the moderates from the other party are no longer a viable target demographic. At this point, primaries become a race to embrace more and more extreme politics, because whoever does it best moves on to the general. This accelerates the loop further.

The other aspect that I think plays into it is the desire of people to "belong". When parties are close, ideology matters less, and it's possible to self-identify with one of the parties while not adopting large parts of its platform - and, for that matter, the platforms themselves are much more vague and have fewer uncompromising points in them. But when the parties spin apart ideologically, and ideology itself becomes more prominent in party identification, there's a trend for people who initially joined the party because one of its positions to adopt its other positions as well, as a single ideological packet. So, for example, 40 years ago, someone might be a Democrat because it was a pro-labor and pro-union party (and they didn't really care about the rest); and another, because it was a pro-civil rights party (and they didn't really care about the rest); and so on.

But today, most members subscribe to most or all of these positions, with deviation on even one of them often seen as ideological betrayal, triggering a rejection response (all those labels like "RINO" or "Fox News liberal"). The resulting ideological packages aren't even particularly coherent - consider a triad of taxation, gun control and abortion for an example of seemingly unrelated things that have an extreme correlation today - and largely represent the amalgamation of ideas that parties acquired in their historical evolution. But because each package has so many "wedge" issues, their broad acceptance pretty much guarantees polarization in the electorate, because at least one, and often many, are strongly emotional. So for a Republican, the notion of compromising with a "baby murderer", for example, becomes unthinkable. And for a Democrat, the notion of compromising with someone who "denies the right of LGBT to exist" is unthinkable. And they both carry those concepts to their respective primaries, and elect such candidates that promise to be as hardline as possible in the ideological struggle against those unthinkables.

The worst part of all this is that it's not a problem that can be easily solved unilaterally. If a faction in one of the parties realizes that this all is not in our long-term advantage, and decides to dial its rhetoric down, it'll get hammered in the primaries. And if it manages to advance to the general, it will often get punished by partisans from its own side (either not showing up at all, or showing up to vote for some independent or third party "alternative candidates"), and lose to the other party that remained true to its partisans.

Same thing goes for cooperation and compromising after election. Because elected representatives have to contend with primaries, they cannot be seen as too weak, otherwise the partisans in their own party will throw them out as not sufficiently ideologically pure (again, "RINO" etc) and replace with hardliners, like Tea Party did in 2010. So the advantages from cooperation across party lines are diminished to the point where it basically stops altogether, and anything and everything becomes a straight party line vote. Partisanship defines politics in all respects: everything that is legal is fair game to stop, or at least frustrate, the other party, because you know they will do the same to you when it's their turn. To maximize the gains from a political victory (in terms of ability to push your ideological agenda) in such a system, you need to mercilessly steamroll over the opposition when you're the majority party, and obstruct as much as you can when you're the minority.

I think we're already in that endgame. Republicans have arrived here first, with the Tea Party. Democrats are now learning that this approach works best, the rules being what they are, and are adopting similar tactics. The inevitable outcome is complete deadlock of the government, with occasional bursts of frenzied activity when one party happens to take over both legislative chambers and the presidency (as seen currently), to cram as much as possible in while they can.

The only legitimate way out, so far as I can see, is to rewrite the rules. But it needs to apply to both parties at once to be effective, it can't be a unilateral attempt. So most likely we're talking about a revision of the electoral system here. A true proportional representation, or at least some sort of transferable vote, would make centrism more viable, and push the extremes back into the fringe. But such a revision is made extremely hard by the existing rules (it would probably take a constitutional amendment), and there will be considerable resistance from the partisans who would stand to lose political power in it.

Which means that the current dysfunction will continue until a truly major crisis breaks the system to the point where it can be rebooted.

BTW, this model makes a falsifiable prediction: that any system with FPTP and primaries (and specifically "one member, one vote" primaries) will have runaway partisanship. So if there's a country out there that has FPTP and broad primaries, and doesn't have an increasing trend of partisanship, then that would disprove the theory, or at least poke a big hole in it.

I haven't really looked at all other countries to verify if this is the case, and I would appreciate if other people more familiar with their respective political systems could do so.

So far as I can tell, based on my limited reading, UK and Canada have FPTP, but they don't have primaries similar to the likes of US, or (in case of UK) didn't until very recently.

I find your ideas intriguing and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

I observed and wrote about this polarizing phenomenon about 2 years when the protest in HK broke out:


Still, I can't believe it has grown so out of proportion in the U.S as well.

they chose a side during the election. I have no pity on them but I am not happy with the current Administrations solution to that issue. They should have let them attend and just ignore them. Fortunately there were more than enough agencies left to be representative

These news organizations vacated all responsible journalism for eight years, ignoring for the most part two of their own being chased down by an Administration for asking the wrong questions and setting the IRS after another who dared ask on TV the wrong question. Yet all they did was side with that Administration and for the most part they still do.

Trump for all his wrongs is using the bully pulpit to call them out. That is not standard Washington and this is why the elites and their paid for press are scared. Both parties are afraid that they have someone who won't bend to their will.

Now if he would just get some sense in his head. Damn it is state rights when it comes to bathrooms but not pot? Really?

The HN ranking algorithm buried this post really quickly.

Right now it has 466 points, 229 comments, is 1 hour old, and ranked at #32.

For comparision, https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13725093 has 197 points, 39 comments, is 4 hours old, and ranked at #13.

Does anyone know why the ranking algorithm demoted this article and not the other (even though this one is younger and more popular)? I know it applies penalties for certain sites and if an article is deemed "controversial" (more comments than votes), but I don't think either would trigger here.

Trump apologists downvoting/flagging. They seem to have infested HN to a greater degree than other tech sites for some reason.

Or paid upvotes.

I doubt the algorithm did it. It was probably ranked down by the moderators as too political and not tech enough.

more stuff algorithm stuff here


There's also an "overheated discussion detection" algorithm that takes into account comment rate, which I'm sure got triggered for this submission.

People could be flagging this too

Amount of downvotes on posts?

Only the AP choose to not attend out of solidarity? Shame on ABC, CBS, and the rest.

I just saw a video of Jake Tapper talking about reporters working together and possibly protesting the White House briefings and how not going doesn't necessarily solve the problem. He suggests that going to the briefings to ask tough questions is more important for the press to do than protesting by not going. I probably wouldn't have thought of it in these terms before hearing his interview, but I won't hold it against the other news organizations (as long as they are going and holding the white house accountable for this decision).


Well, on the other hand, some (relatively) honest reporters should be there to record the latest alt-truths spun by this administration. I don't want to hear "Nah, that's totally not what Trump meant yesterday, despite he literally said that, and if you've been listening to Breitbart you would understand it. Oh and there's no other source!"

That's very noble of the AP, but I would imagine that though those organizations must feel as though they must attend their press briefings out of duty to their readership. I think as long as they're willing to treat their trade with the dutifulness it deserves, those organizations do not deserve shame for this.

In all fairness, did they know it happened? I'll reserve judgement.

The narrative from the New York Times and CNN claims that they did know. However, I was unable to find a statement from either Time Magazine or the Associated Press.

The issue is slightly confused by the fact that the New York Times newspaper was barred from entry, (which refers to itself as "The Times" in this article) while Time Magazine (of Time Inc/Time Warner, no relation to the New York Times) chose not to attend. CNN adds [1] that the Los Angeles Times was also barred from attendance.


If AP and Time knew and skipped out, they definitely knew as well.

It would've had to be a game-time decision by an individual reporter- I would give those organizations a little time to figure out what they want to do in response. This just happened.

I could imagine a scenario where the NYT et al were kept from the door, and the others had already entered. I'm not defending, I'm just trying to be reasonable.

Aren't they paid to know when things happen?

Time also did not attend. They deserve credit as well.

Time magazine as well FWIW.

AP and Time magazine.

I don't recall the NYT, CNN or Politico refusing to attend when Obama kicked the Washington Times and NY Post out.


Shame on them too?

I'll save everyone the click: It's a false equivalence. Three reporters (total) were dropped from a plane flight, once.

Being held here by yummyfajitas as equivalent to barring whole organisations from a press conference.

Also this event occurred before Obama was President...

Not only are the practical aspects of the two situations different, but on top of that comparing the official actions of a sitting President versus those of a non-incumbent candidate make it even more falsely equivalent.

> The campaign says that a limited number of seats forced it to make the tough decision of which journalists would be permitted to follow the Democratic presidential candidate in the last four days of the campaign

That seems like a much more limited kicking-out than what our current administration is doing, and the constraints of an airplane seem much more limiting than those of the white house's press room.

> Oct. 31, 2008

> Barack Obama's campaign has booted from its airplane three reporters who work for newspapers that have endorsed John McCain.

Yeah, totally same thing.

To be clear, you are comparing being banned from official White House press briefings to being refused a seat on Air Force one for four days for campaign coverage.

Not even Air Force One, because this was during Obama's 2008 campaign before he was President. Just some personally chartered flight.

I don't think it was right, but it's not nearly the same. Obama was a candidate then, not the president.

Kicking them off the plane is not equivalent to kicking them out of official Press Briefings.

It's still limiting access. Is what Obama did not bad at all, or just not as bad as what Trump's team did to NYT, CNN et al?

Well, it's better than strapping them to the wing...

That is: Given limited seats on the plane, what else are they going to do? Put the reporters on the plane, and make Obama walk?

Do you not see a problem with cutting people who just so happen to work for newspapers that endorsed his opponent? On the balance, would cutting those people improve or degrade the quality of media coverage of Obama, compared to cutting reporters who are already on his side?

You're comparing seats on a campaign airplane to the White House Press Corps?

You comparing the actions of a non-sitting candidate for President to the actual President. I don't think they are equivalent.

They weren't kicked out from the normal White House press briefing. I'm sure you know that from reading the article.

Apples and Oranges.

Plane Seats vs Press Briefing

Campaign Trail vs Whitehouse

Attending an airplane?

The reporting on this is a bit hazy right now, according to CNN it was not a formal briefing but a "press gaggle" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Press_gaggle) and the CNN reporter was barred by a WH staffer because the organization's name "was not on the list" (http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2017/02/24/cnn-blocked-fr...).

This is a mostly symbolic gesture (these organizations still have their assigned seats in the room) but is very much against WH press tradition. Coupled with Trump's strong words at the Convention this is a sign for these organizations to tune down their criticism of the President.

This country appears to be on a very dangerous path. I don't remotely deny Trump and his administration's responsibility and complicity for taking us down this path, but given how widely understood his issues are within mainstream discourse, I wanted to take a step back and critically look at the not-Trump aspects.

Firstly, Trump needs to be understood in context as the outsider who none of the establishment took seriously, who disrespected everyone and touched every third rail of US politics, who railed against a corrupt system and argued to burn it all down. And 46% of voters bought that and won him 85% of US counties and the presidency.

And ever since, a vast "bipartisan" swath of US media and civic institutions, the deep state and many members of the elites of both political parties have been edging towards outright hysteria, active #Resistance, bureaucratic mutiny and widespread media/celebrity/talking-head delegitimization of Trump's presidency on a level that is utterly unprecedented in modern US history. The level of abject, contemptful hostility from ostensibly "objective" media outlets like the NYT has been breathtaking.

Many, many stories have been exaggerated, slanted and framed in ways that cast Trump as some comic-book villain/Manchurian candidate/Hiter-in-wait beyond any basis in fact or contextualization within existing/recent US policy.

I want to just be clear that I don't support Trump or his policies, I've voted and volunteered for Obama/Bernie and other Democrats, but what I see occurring is a ratcheting up of tensions towards outright war between Trump and the existing establishment of this country. And that in fact is exactly the way Trump actually can justify cutting off media access and purging the ranks of the IC after all the leaks. Bannon and Trump want a war against the establishment, because they know how much of the country is disgusted by the establishment and wants someone to use them as a punching bag.

Trump himself should be like a relatively harmless pathogen within our government's co-equal constitutional immune system - perhaps even an excuse to strengthen legislative and judicial oversight that's been badly lacking in recent years of executive overreach. Instead we're witnessing the fourth estate and military/spook bureaucracy go to war with Trump, which is exactly the sort of non-credible/illegitimate opposition that can enable him to actually consolidate more public support and power.

Trump's tactic is clear as it is effective. He behaves exactly as ridiculously as the press makes him out to. The press look like they are exaggerating and making him look bad because if they report true facts, those true facts are so ridiculous that people assume they are the product of bias.

Trump really did say he wanted to murder the children of terrorists. He really did say the press is the enemy of the American people. He really did trash American war heroes who were captured in combat. Et cetera, ad nauseum.

How do you write a story about that without making it seem biased? Nobody would believe he said those things. It must be an exaggeration. It must be unfair reporting. And look, that's what he's claiming. That must be it.

But you can actually watch him speak and it's horrifying. What will it take for people to accept he's an actual threat to the country? Will he have to grow a tiny mustache before you believe he's Hitler-in-wait? He'll just muddy the waters by explicitly lying and blame media bias no matter how bad the things really are.

Maybe in 4 years when we have an election and he refuses to step down because the election was illegitimate -- he actually won, the media lied about the vote totals, millions of illegal voters tipped the scales -- after having replaced the entire national security/military apparatus with rabid loyalists.

Perhaps a terrorist attack will happen and he'll execute a power grab, declare the courts irrelevant or martial law during these trying times where national security is the utmost concern.

Maybe then people will accept it. Or maybe they'll say "how do we know? There must be something to what he's saying, I'm sure he's not really that sinister. The media is biased too, we had better listen to both sides I'm sure the truth is somewhere in the middle. "

> How do you write a story about that without making it seem biased? Nobody would believe he said those things. It must be an exaggeration. It must be unfair reporting. And look, that's what he's claiming. That must be it. > But you can actually watch him speak and it's horrifying

I wonder if the appropriate response can be found in the medium. Use video instead of words. Rather than writing about Trump or quoting him, perhaps we need more video news, showing him saying the things he says. Make the 'story' from the editing...

Have you watched his press conferences and speeches? Just watched the live feed - no commentary?

He really does call the press an enemy of the people. He really does repeat factually incorrect statements over and over even after he was corrected. I've talked to a lot of people who have espoused the "It can't really be this bad - the media must be exaggerating". Trumps own words quickly casts away that delusion. Seriously go watch the live feeds at the next press conference.

He made a big point of complaining about this characterization at CPAC. He says he loves the media, welcomes criticism, isn't against negative stories, but is against fake news, making up sources, making up stories.

You don't have to believe that this is happening at the NYT to agree with the principle of what he's saying, that those who wage disinformation campaigns against the American people are the enemy of the people. Maybe you believe this is Trump. Maybe you believe this is the mainstream media. Maybe you believe it's the Russians, but somebody here is lying, and they are absolutely the enemy of the people.

The President should be nuanced enough to be aware that calling the press an "Enemey of the people" is something tin pot dictators do on the eve of their ascension to power. The phrase is deliberately inflammatory.

If this were all just an honest mistake he wouldn't have repeated it over and over.

He said clearly that he wasn't talking about the entire press, just the people who lie to to the public. If he's the liar, he's ironically talking about himself. If the mainstream media is intentionally lying to deceive people for political purposes, then he would be negligent not to speak against it.

So I'm not disagreeing with you. But this really comes down to the question of who is lying.

Nobody had to cast Trump as a "comic-book villain". He did that himself. He ticks every single box on the authoritarian checklist. He's combative and hateful against nearly everyone except Russia and he is demonstrably ignorant and/or misinformed.

These are objective facts. The difference in 2017 is that facts no longer matter. His people are clear in that they value their beliefs more than they value facts.

Title is misleading. Press was blocked from a single press briefing. I do not see anything in the article about briefings going forward.

Can someone change the title so it's less sensationalized?

Edit: thanks to the moderator for removing the "s" and making the word "Briefing" singular to accurately reflect the article.

I think even a single briefing is a scandal.

Consider the words of Admiral McRaven (who coordinated the raid which took down Osama Bin Ladin):

> Donald Trump's war on media is 'biggest threat to democracy'


"He only did it once" is not a valid defense if you consider even doing it once as a fundamental assault on the Fouth Estate https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_Estate

I completely agree. My request can be satisfied by simply removing the "s" from "briefings" to make it singular. As far as I know, this has only occurred at a single briefing.

It's still unprecedented. This has never happened before in America.

False. Obama held several "private sessions", often inviting only left-leaning journalists [0]. I think people are conflating "press gaggle" with official press briefings.


"According to a source who saw the group leaving the Roosevelt Room, where the meeting was held, those present included John Harwood of CNBC and The New York Times, Juan Williams of The Hill and Fox News, and Washington Post columnists Eugene Robinson and Jonathan Capehart."

Fox New is Left leaning?

Fair criticism, however, it's very clear this will become the new norm moving forward after Trump's remarks this morning - http://nypost.com/2017/02/24/trump-doubles-down-on-fight-wit...

+1 for this. My initial reaction was my word, major outlets are barred from press briefings?

Ok, we removed the errant plural.

So you think this briefing was just a "special edition" or something?

According to The Hill, these organizations were also barred - BBC, Daily Mail, The Hill, Buzzfeed, LA Times


The LA Times?--not exactly a heavy hitter or even terribly liberal.

They must have just banned anybody with the word "Time" in their name.

The BBC and the Daily Mail? My goodness.

This country has gone mad. The Trump supporters will justify and applaud everything he does while he burns down the world.

Why even pretend we have a democracy anymore? Trump and his WH are busy eroding and suprressing every form of free speech and I can't think of a single thing him or the Republicans stand for that actually helps people.

Well, I guess it's time to up my subscription level to the NYT.

Not only are they barring news agencies they don't like from press briefings, they're bringing in radio talk hosts in the form of submitted video to fill the gap. Completely insane.

> Breitbart News, the One America News Network and The Washington Times, all with conservative leanings. Journalists from ABC, CBS, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and Fox News also attended.

The sentence is misleading and normalizes something that is very dangerous: The WSJ and Fox absolutely have conservative leanings. IMHO, WSJ, at least their editorial page, and Fox are propaganda outlets. (To be clear, I despise propaganda of all stripes; the conservative side is far more powerful these days - there is no left-wing propaganda outlet with a fraction of the power of Fox and the WSJ (or Rush Limbaugh and the rest of conservative talk). Huffington Post is maybe the biggest, but I don't read them enough to know if they qualify as propaganda. Publications like Common Dreams or Tom Paine are laughable as competition.)

  Reporters from Time magazine and The Associated Press, who were set
  to be allowed in, chose not to attend the briefing in protest
  of the White House’s actions.
Kudos to them for taking a stand.

Respected, principled journalists must support each other. When only propagandists and conspiracy nuts show up that will be a powerful indictment.

I am with you on HuffingtonPost but they also have so much fake news on their site that it is hard for me to know which one is Outbrain and which one is HuffPo. I am also afraid they will go out of business because of these practices.

> I am also afraid they will go out of business because of these practices.

Propaganda is a very good business - better than the real thing these days. Look at who are the leaders by far on cable and talk radio, and in the business community.

This is not the action a strong, secure ruler would take. This signals that they're afraid of what they may ask and how their readers may react.

What does this accomplish that ignoring the reporters in question would not?

The president is not a "ruler"

He thinks of himself a dictator and is banning all of the papers who keep outing his administration scandals and Russia ties.

The more he goes on Twitter blaming the FBI and the NYT of leaking fake info, the more true it most likely is.

He didn't fire Flynn because the NYT pulled some random story out of their ass.

I was going to do a Ask HN, but will jump on this thread. What's the better subscription to get, NYTimes or WSJ?

I have a subscription to the WSJ. I also subscribe to The Economist. You can read the NYT for free easily, although if I were willing to spend more money I would gladly support their work, but I already spent over $300 in annual subscriptions.

I also like how the economist and the WSJ apps have weekly and daily editions respectively. The NYT app is one continuously updating feed.


There was a time not so long ago when part of the argument for why we were better than the Russians was that we had a free press and they didn't.

You might still be able to see Russia from parts of the U.S., but it's getting harder and harder to see the moral high ground from here.

This story is being actively buried, fyi. [edit: confirmed that it's being flagged. Guess all is normal.]

Do you have a link?

Does anyone else find this article confusing or misleading?

"Organizations allowed in included Breitbart News, the One America News Network and The Washington Times, all with conservative leanings. Journalists from ABC, CBS, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and Fox News also attended."

So, we're the only outlets allowed in the "conservative leaning" ones or the not-so conservative ABC and CBS as well?

> Aides to Mr. Spicer only allowed in reporters from a handpicked group of news organizations that, the White House said, had been previously confirmed

from the paragraph before your first quote. My parsing of it is that the hand picked news orgs were breitbart et. al. and the ones that weren't hand picked were still allowed in as long as they were not specifically banned. awkward writing though so who knows.

GOOD! Maybe the press will start doing their job of digging for truth instead of pandering in order to get "access".

Considering NYT, CNN and Politico were all implicated via wikileaks for directly colluding with the Hillary campaign I don't blame Trump one bit. The mainstream media needs to be reigned in an not represent one single political party in this whole current mess, but it's not the government's job to do it.

> Organizations allowed in included Breitbart News, the One America News Network and The Washington Times, all with conservative leanings. Journalists from ABC, CBS, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and Fox News also attended.

I wonder if the message conveyed would be different if we rephrase it another way:

> Organizations allowed in included ABC, CBS, The Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg. Journalists from Breitbart News, the One America News Network, The Washington Times and Fox News, all with conservative leanings, also attended.

Also, I think NYT is playing with the word "allow" here. By saying "Organizations allowed in included X, Y, Z. ... A, B, C also attended", this gives the false impression that A, B, C are somewhat "not allowed" by separating the list into "allowed" and "also attended". This is obviously false since they attended it.

Congratulations on burying the lede. Nowhere in the article's phrasing is an intent to mislead. It clearly states that some organizations were not allowed to attend --- which is the real story here --- and some were allowed to attend.

Now I wonder, if my aunt had balls, would she be my uncle?

Is there a historic precedent for this?


It's not a 100% precise match, but I'd look dimly on anyone trying to argue it's completely different somehow. Reverse the affiliations and you'd almost think it was written today. (Almost.)

I know many won't actually click through to read the linked article, so I think it's important to cite this here in the comments:

> The effort hasn’t been a total blackout; White House press secretary Robert Gibbs still calls on Fox News reporter Major Garrett at press briefings, but the Obama White House is clearly targeting the network that it believes is biased.

> In a weekend interview with The New York Times, White House spokeswoman Anita Dunn said the administration would “treat them the way we would treat an opponent.”

A similar situation, and not "completely different", but not exactly the same, either.

It's not that similar. Fox wasn't barred from the briefings. It's just that folks weren't willing to be personally interviewed by them or go on their panel shows. The latter requires active engagement from the establishment, as people have to do a lot of prep work for interviews; the former is just another reporter in the scrum.

Wow. I would have read that in 2009 and thought that it was totally fine. Reading it now I see quotes like "calling them out is the only way to delegitimize them as political propaganda" and I'm extremely against the notion.

That article was a great dose of perspective, thanks for digging it out.

This article also mentions another case:

> no such similar steps by any president since Richard Nixon’s retaliation against The New York Times and The Washington Post during Watergate

The Obama administration attempted to freeze out Fox News, although it wasn't so explicit. To the credit of the rest of the press, they revolted enough that they backed down.

Not even close to the same thing. Not even in the same ball park.

They did bar them from attending some press briefings. Again, it wasn't as explicit, and it didn't come on the heels of such explicit aggression towards the media in general, but it very much was in the same ballpark.

> They did bar them from attending some press briefings.

[citation needed]

> They did bar them from attending some press briefings

Citation is still needed

From the article;

“Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties,” Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The Times, said in a statement.

Venezuela, Turkey, Hungary, maybe?

Not that I'm aware of. Obama clearly disliked Fox News[0] but never went so far as to ban them.


A quick google search suggests Obama did the same thing.


> Obama did the same thing


> Barack Obama's campaign has booted from its airplane three reporters who work for newspapers that have endorsed John McCain.

> The campaign says that a limited number of seats forced it to make the tough decision of which journalists would be permitted to follow the Democratic presidential candidate in the last four days of the campaign, but the papers are calling foul, claiming they were targeted for their editorial-page positions and kicked off while nonpolitical publications like Glamour and Jet magazines remained on board.

This action is about the press briefings. What are you talking about? Do you have something specific in mind?

How about these then:


Obama vs. Free Press: White House Claims Ban on News Photographers Actually a ‘Win’ for Transparency

Your link doesn't match your title, so what's up with that? But in any case, wasn't that wrong too—the thing you linked to about leakers and whistleblowers? I don't think I understand what you mean with how about these then. (Unless you genuinely do mean it as whataboutism, in which case it doesn't seem to me like a valid point.)

Keep in mind that the 24-hour news cycle is a relatively new 21st century thing, so comparisons about information control to earlier times isn't straightforward. Monitoring every action of a politician is much more intense than previously.

It doesn't make the actions in the link right, but it's important to keep that context in mind.

That's hardly equivalent.

you're right.

Trump should have just reduced the amount of chairs available and warned the folks he liked, like Obama did.


God forbid a president do something straight forward without making up reasons as to why it is a noble action.

I agree it's wrong, but I'm not willing to give a pass to another president because he worded it differently and achieved the same ousting.

Check the date on that article. He wasn't president.

Obama wasn't president when this happened. This wasn't Air Force One they couldn't fly on. Limited space without the logistical capacity to bring in another plane seems a perfectly valid excuse to me.

There is significant difference between the press crew that travels with a candidate during the campaign and an official white house press briefing.

> I'm not willing to give a pass to another president because he worded it differently and achieved the same ousting.

Obama was a presidential candidate when that occurred, not a president.

Are you comparing seats on a plane to seats in a press briefing room?

So, like Obama doing the same?

Or like countless other times, sans the mock-outrage (and the real outrage stemming out of ignorance)?



Reporters Say Obama White House 'Most Secretive' Ever Forty-one percent of White House scribes say George W. Bush's administration was more open.


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